“Sir?” said a voice that was followed by a polite cough. “Would you like to make a purchase?”
I found myself holding the Greenfin mask, surrounded by children who had quieted, staring at me with piqued curiosity. There must have been a strange expression on my face. I blinked, pushing away the long lost memory that had taken my mind.
“Or do you need another moment to think it over?” The shopkeeper said.
I’d not thought about my time on the fishermen’s ship for decades. It was strange how I’d never heard of the Greenfin again.
I looked down at the dark green mask. It had one big bulging eye in the center and four wooden fins carved out on the sides. Thin slits that looked like gills gave the eyes space to see through. It was a terrible thing to look at.
“It’s ugly,” one of the boys said, who was clearly not blind.
“Ugly mask,” repeated the girl with the rabbit mask.
“Scary,” said the other boy.
“Very scary,” repeated the girl.
“Ugly and scary, huh?” I said, smiling. “I’ll take it.”
The kids all backed away, clutching tightly to their rabbit and fox masks, as if shocked by my choice. I nodded gravely. Perhaps they understood the importance of the decision. Only the foolish chose their symbols without thought.
The Mad King’s Red Tiger reminded his enemies of his power and ruthlessness. King Palmdelor’s Blue Bear was of strength and honor. The mercenary troop, the Mad Dogs, whose banner was the same as their name, was a reminder to all of their deadly and crazied fighting styles.
I wasn’t sure what exactly the Greenfin was supposed to represent yet, but I supposed it would serve its purpose for tonight. I hoped it would instill the same fright the children felt to all that saw me wear it. The parted out of my way as I paid for the mask and tied it raised above my head. I was not quite ready to wear it yet over my face just yet.
The mask cost ten coppers. Not cheap, but it didn’t break the bank either. However, for ten copper burnishes, you could have ten prize-winning mugs of Frozen Pumpkin Ale at my tavern. Back when I had a tavern in any case.
The thought turned my mood dark, and I wanted to be off on my business immediately. But there was still one more thing to purchase.
I needed a cape.
Yes, yes, I know, only fools wear capes, but I needed a bit of flash for my task. Most of the fabric stalls had already closed however, so it took some time to search for what I needed.
After making several circles through the festival square, I found a fine dark green cloak to match my mask. It had a hood and golden twine that tied over the shoulders, and the fabric held a stunning sheen that looked a whole lot more expensive than what I paid—which was the rest of my money—an amount that was a lot to me but nothing more than pocket change to the men I would be visiting.
Luckily, as long as they didn’t touch my cloak, it was unlikely they would be able to decipher its true value.
I left the festival grounds and made my way back towards Southbank. There were three neighborhoods in Southbank. Kerrytown was where the tavern was located. It was a small commercial hub, packed with restaurants and shops. Berrylane was a mostly residential area, made up of townhouses and inns.
Then there was Amberstale, where the banks and businesses and guardstower was located. It was also where the Superintendent of the Ward and his son made their residence. They had a large estate. The mansion inside was a milk-white structure of three floors, located only a block down from the guardstower. The house was newer than most and finely built. I’d passed by it on many occasions in the past.
The ward of Southbank was not the wealthiest in Meritas but it was a close fourth and rising. Middle class families and aspiring merchants had been making the move to the ward. Taxes were paid on time and collected easily. Like any ward, a portion of the tax revenues went to the Superintendent’s office, which managed the ward, and the rest went to the Duke of Meritas.
The wealthier the ward, the wealthier the Superintendent. I had never met the man, but I’d heard about him over the past year. He was the youngest of the Greengrass family. His oldest brother was a Count with lands far west of Meritas. His brother had inherited all of the family’s land, and little was expected of the youngest son. But Greengrass managed to secure relations and an official role in the city.
I had no problems with the Superintendent, and by most accounts he was an honorable man.
But the same could not be said of his son.
As I reached the edge of the market, where the crowds thinned to the darkness of empty alleys, I lowered the Greenfin over my face and tied the hooded cape around my shoulders.