Chapter 11.1: Salt Market

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Bayburg. Kingdom of Pent

The Salt Market stank of fish

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The Salt Market stank of fish. And too many disgusting people. 

The City of Bayburg owed its existence to the sea. Cod, lobster and clawfish. Oysters and urchins. From the fishermen who harvested them to the merchants who sold them and the people that ate them, the Salt Trade—as the fishing industry was called in this part of Pent—formed the foundation of life.

It was late morning, the sun still two hours before zenith, but as the roads grew busier with the growing day, merchants folded back canvas tent flaps and laid out merchandise for the day's trade.

"What are you going to write about for Master Aarren's lessons?" asked Georgana Waters to her friend Josafina Clarke.

Josafina shrugged, her wavy red hair tumbling off her shoulders. "Who cares? I'm so bored with Master Aarren's lectures."

Georgana locked her elbow around her friend's and giggled as they negotiated the busy thoroughfare. The air was heavy with the odor of the day's catch. Displays of lobster and clawfish lined the passage and patrons bartered with traders in bellowing voices.

"That's because you're the smartest in the class, Josie, and everyone knows it."

Josie shrugged.

"It's too bad you never got your K-Plan scores," Georgana said. "I wanted to see how well you'd do." 

It was a gnawing source of irritation for Josie that she, and about half of her classmates, had not received her K-Plan scores. They should either give everyone their results, or no one. It is isn't fair only half of us get to know. 

"My father says it's a privilege Lord Greenborne gives us the opportunity to learn from an actual master. Pent is the only kingdom in the realm that pays for the education of its commoners."

Josie rolled her eyes. "Sounds like my father. He practically worships Jeffrey Greenborne." Josie shifted a brown package from one arm to the other. "Now that I'm promised to Walden Mooseberry, I guess I don't need a commoner's education." At first, the idea of marrying into nobility had sounded like every commoner's dream born into life. But as the time drew near, the flavor of her arranged marriage, not matter what the rewards, was increasingly sour.

Georgana, however,  loved everything about the nobility. She scrunched her face in jealousy and tugged her stringy brown hair into a ponytail. 

"So you've been seeing him?"

"No!" said Josie. "But he sent me a letter this morning." She produced a folded parchment from her cloak.

"Can I read it?"

Josie lifted an eyebrow. "I don't know. Can you?"

"I know how to read!" 

Jeffrey Greenborne's education reform was only half a year old and neither of the girls had spent a single day in an academy prior. Josie, however, had been taught to read by her fatherwhen she was still young. Letters, on the other hand, came more stubbornly for her friend.

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