Book 2 of The Tradepoint Saga by J.J. Blacklocke
Survival has become a minefield for the remaining Vennans, with Gredin feeling beset from every side. Even simple tasks become complicated when you are stranded, unwanted, and running out of food.
Although many of the Vennan survivors accept Gredin as their new Voice and the leader of their fragile community, others – far too many for Gredin’s peace of mind – refuse, fueled by Tetralanna’s ongoing resentment and outspoken opposition. And the entire community is still profoundly grieving, withdrawn in the wake of their planet’s destruction.
Gredin struggles to shelter, feed, and lead the nine hundred traumatized Vennans, but unforeseen obstacles continue to arise, making each day a challenge. The Vennans’ supplies were only meant to last for four short days on Tradepoint. People are hungry and afraid. How can she comfort them and win their trust, with Tetralanna contradicting and undermining her at every turn?
And stubborn, accusing kinsmen aren’t her only immediate problem. The Vokastra, owners of Tradepoint, want the nine hundred Vennans gone. Now. And the Hesch, a tall, surly, bird-like race of traders, are still furious with Gredin for accidentally injuring their leader, Nitikikani. No apology will suffice. They ban the Vennans from their maartza, cutting them off from desperately needed supplies.
Still, all of that pales in importance when Gredin realizes that something worse is afoot. A mysterious malady has arisen, one that threatens to rob the Vennans of the very gyftes that give their lives purpose and their hearts hope. Preoccupied by that worry, Gredin fails to notice that she is being stalked by an entity determined to drag her down to ruin.
Or to her death.
“Completely enthralling, surprising at every turn, and satisfactory in the rising action, climax, and resolution. The richness of the narrative hasn’t dulled one bit. If anything, the intrigue is mounting.
And, despite how annoying they are, I’m happy to see the Beng make an appearance.” – Tory Hunter, Beta Reader
~ ~ ~
“Good day to you,” Burlon said, and set his bag of Polpethtira tradegoods just inside the door, to free his hands and avoid any potential confusion.
The Hesch continued working as if he wasn’t there.
So, they wanted to be coaxed, did they? Normally, he would have left them to stew in their own self-importance. But that was another luxury he could no longer afford. He wanted no enemies or lingering grudges…with the exception of the Beng. The Beng were always in a snit about something, and would be as cross as a nest of merjins for sectora to come, given the debt assigned to them. But they deserved it. The whole thing had been their fault.
Nitikikani, on the other hand, hadn’t even been in the Traders’ Market when Gredin blundered into him and injured him, in her hurry to escape the Beng. And so Burlon would set aside his pride and be the one to mend matters. Gredin could thank him later.
Walking forward, he said, “Sorry for interrupt. Vennan want–”
“Stop talk. Leave.”
He halted and, for good measure, retreated a pace. Crossing his palms, he inclined his head and said, “Two message I send. No reply. I come now just–”
“No talk. No trade. Go!”
Burlon’s temper flared to life. This was not how traders dealt with one another. Still, he was in the Hesch’s maartza as a supplicant, so he swallowed his annoyance. “I come bad time? Sorry. If want, I–”
One of the Hesch advanced on him, beak clacking. The other said, “Still talk? Maybe need Prett security, help find maartza door?”
“Hey!” Burlon objected and stood his ground. “Simple question! Hesch get my two message, no get my two message? Say. Then I go.”
The first Hesch now towered over him, and Burlon’s field of vision was dominated by gleaming black feathers and the rough-textured black and green gauze from which all Hesch clothing seemed to be fashioned. There was no actual contact between himself and the Hesch, but it was a near thing. He had never been so physically close to one.
The Hesch clacked its beak, and the sound was loud enough to make Burlon flinch.
Overhead lights flashed, indicating that someone else had entered the maartza. More Hesch? Not a happy thought.
Instead, a rumbling Prett voice announced, “Security.”
“You take this Vennan out,” the second Hesch said loudly. “Not welcome. Told go. He stay. Told again go. He stay. We no trade Vennan. We no talk Vennan. You take Vennan out Hesch maartza, tell no come back.”
Anger was rarely a Trader’s friend. Burlon spread his arms at his side and eased back a step, taking great care not to brush against the confrontational Hesch looming over him. “I go,” he said in Tradetalk, and added in Prett, for the benefit of the security guard, “I don’t want an incident. Just help me leave. And I have a bag on the floor, near the door. I need to take that with me, if you can lift it carefully for me.”
“Too much talk,” the far Hesch objected. “Go now!”
Step by cautious step, Burlon retreated toward the doorway. The overhead lights flashed, most likely marking the Prett security guard’s exit. When Burlon reached the threshold, his bag was gone – hopefully, into the custody of the guard. In any event, he couldn’t pause to investigate. The first Hesch advanced as Burlon retreated, as if to force him from the maartza.
The lights flashed again as he moved backward into the public aisle. The Hesch stopped at the threshold, its bead-like eyes glimmering in the light.
The security guard said softly, in Prett, “Come away, trader. Let them cool.”
It wasn’t bad advice. After two more backward steps, Burlon dared to turn his head and look away from the Hesch’s glare. The security guard was already heading down the aisle, carrying the bag containing the Polpethtiran tradegoods. Burlon started after him.
“You go, Vennan!” came a harsh shout from the Hesch maartza. “Hesch no want you here. Tell all Vennan trader stay away! No make Hesch call Security new time.”
It was mortifying. Traders strolling the aisle swiveled to stare. Someone in the F’lala maartza came to its entrance, no doubt to see what the commotion was about. Burlon could feel his cheeks flaming. But a shouting match would resolve nothing. He straightened his spine and followed the Prett security guard.
For the first time in his life, Burlon was glad to leave the Traders’ Market behind.
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