Chapter 4 – To Catch a Thief
There has always been a labour shortage in Crater. Originally the Merchant Council tried to employ men to work the mines. Production was not able to meet demand. So they had to turn to less savory methods. Slavery. Not in the true sense of the word. At first they simply paid to take on criminals of other nations. They promised those men and women that they could earn off their debt. Even then the quotas fell short. At some point they stopped scrutinising who could enter the lower depths of the city and instead simply focused on who could leave. – Tinkers Note # Zephyr strolled down the center of the street. To each side of him traders called out to the hustle and bustle of the crowd. A siren’s call to a sea of men, women and children alike. For the market was the heart of Shanty. Made up of nearly one hundred cramped alleyways and streets; Like veins and arteries. The people were the lifeblood of course. For when they were not spilling their own sweat in the mines they joined their families to barter what little they had. A whiff in the air caught Zephyr’s attention. He followed his nose until he found where the aroma came from. A man had set up a cart in which he roasted mushrooms on. They were skewed on a stick and wrapped up in purple nettle. Zephyr tossed a man one of his precious copper coins in exchange for a kebab. The nettle had a sweet herby flavour whilst the mushroom felt meaty as he bit into it. Though it had been some time since he had tasted actual meat, it was scarce and people made a living hunting even rats. Shanty was built upon the very floor of Crater which meant none of the streets were truly flat. The market square was built atop rock formations that made up stairs like an amphitheatre except they were always going up and down instead of a steady gradient. Zephyr sat on an unbroken slab as he enjoyed his meal. He watched the world go by whilst he ate. Buyers and sellers alike moved amongst the crowd. It was rare for someone to make a living purely by trading goods but some people managed it. Those were the ones with proper stores or carts. The lucky ones. Zephyr thought to himself. He considered anyone that avoided labour in the cramped, closely packed caverns of the mines to be fortunate. He finished his last bite then jumped to his feet and continued on his tour of the market. Wares were spread across rags, rugs and even the odd table or two. They were not true merchants here. Unlike the bastards from the city proper. Zephyr mulled. Each of the pedlars was a member of a household simply trying to get by. They exchanged food harvested from the land which existed inside of Crater, it was surprising but life found a way down here. There were several waterfalls that flowed into the chasm in which growth bloomed around. Wallgrass, insects, lizards and fungus were all the staples of a healthy diet here. There were also items that fell from above. Scraps from their masters. The necklace Zephyr owned was one such treasure. Zephyr made his way out of the food area and into the bits and bobs section. He had to navigate as he made his way against the flow. It felt like he was a rock wading through a stream. Many of the pedlars eyed him suspiciously. A youth on his own was usually up to mischief. He stopped at one hawker to check out the merchandise. A fork, two hammers, half a dozen nails and one good knife. Not a bad haul. The woman behind the stall gave him a narrow gaze until he jiggled the few coins he had in his pocket. The noise summoned a smile upon the haggard looking woman.