23. The Vidian Civil Alliance

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AltusVillage, by sheer proximity, had at one time been KeetoTown's main source of farming trade. This was due to the fact that most other tribes willing to travel the distance were unable to keep their own wares fresh enough without the unreliable and often damaging aid of packed ice.

Over the seasons, those who were not governmental conspiracy theorists pondered whether the strength of Altus's crop trade with KeetoTown was what led to the farming tribe's demise. Greed and envy seemed the most likely reason, unlike the stories of vandal-hearted canines in which Dwain was often ostracized for spreading as fact.

However, it was the Hollow that now provided such fresh fruits and vegetables to Keeto's marketplace – a fact Regina often reflected on during their monthly trek to the high-walled City of Merchants. It was a revelation that sometimes filled her with sombre thoughts.

Today was no different.

But as she rode through the busy Keeton streets with Astral and Dwain that morning, it seemed market history and geography no longer seemed to matter.

"I can't take these." Moren Pendry nestled a balled fist into his slender ferret cheek. Before him, three sacks of turnips lay sprawled upon his outdoor market table. "I'm sorry, Ages, but your wares are no good here any longer."

"W – w – what do you mean you can't take – These turnips are of prime condition!" Astral exclaimed. "Picked – just this morning, for Goddess' sake! Check them yourself! There's absolutely nothing wrong with these turnips!"

"I can see that," said Pendry.

"Why, all the years I've traded my wares for your goods," Astral continued, "never before have you turned away such exquisite examples of – of – of—"

"I've been telling you for months now, each month we've done business, the last six months, about this," said Pendry. He shrugged heavy shoulders. "I'm unsure why you're so surprised."

"Mister Pendry, no other mammal provides this town such bountiful produce! If I am not to trade my goods with you, then I shall take my business—" Astral stopped and blinked at him. "–Months? Months? What's this about ... Telling me what for months?!"

Pendry cleared his throat and reached into a box beneath his vendors table. He presented a pawful of small, orb-shaped gems into Astral's sight. They were of different colors – each which matched a different sized orb.

"The Civil Alliance calls it Teg," he said.

"What are these, then?"

"New currency. Trading's no good anymore."

"Why? But, these resemble a child's marbles – simple vase fill!" Astral plucked a red one, about a half inch in size and diameter, out of Pendry's palm and inspected it between the wedge in his hoof. "Of all cursed things, why are they round?"

"The small green ones are the least amount at five—"

"Five what?" Astral asked.

"Teg," said Pendry. "Five teg."

"So, five green ones equal five teg?"

"No. One green one equals five teg."

"What? Nonsense. But there's just one of them. Why isn't it worth one teg?"

"Because it's worth five. Now then, blues are worth ten teg. Yellow at twenty, so on and so on. That red one you have there equals fifty, goes up to purple which equate about five-hundred," said Pendry. "Worth a pretty sight, mind you."

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