• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 12
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An offering

Looking up momentarily from the gleaming scales, the weighman cast his rheumy eyes over the villagers gathered on the cracked dirt path in front of his station and, tonguing his rotten gums, noted plenty of regulars amongst the human puddle.

His was a very specific service in the marketplace but knowing the exact weight of one’s wares had been made necessary by decree, so wiry hands would drop coins – clipped copper scraps occasionally accompanied by a spotless silver circle, unmarked barring smudges from incredulous thumbs – into a shoddy tray and fussily place sacks of grain, a basket of beets, a bundle of worn hides, a pouch of shot, a newborn lamb or a bloody bag of offal into the blackened bronze crucible of the weighman’s altar before a few suffocating moments passed and a soft rasp not unlike a knife shearing through old leather would deliver judgement.

Stood next to the crude market gate and waiting their turn at the back of the crowd, however, were two figures new to the weighman. Screwing up his eyes into tiny raindrop-grey slits, he saw two men of average build dressed in long, black priestly robes and dark eyeglasses, one of whom was carrying some kind of sack. Both wore impassive expressions and stared directly forward.

The weighman’s skin prickled with a dread sensation he could not place, but the heavy chime of coins in his tray broke the spell.
An hour passed and the weighman’s unease, a sense of clammy yet ephemeral hands clawing at his collar, grew as the two men neared the station.

Upon their turn, they took the step up simultaneously, heavy tacked boots


An offering

thudding into dry wood. Closer up, their aloof expressions were clearly masking great strain. Their jaws were clenched and the flesh of their faces was waxy and beaded with sweat.

The weighman’s fear was briefly replaced with curiosity as the taller man held up their sack – not so much a sack as fine large purse woven from an unusual azure material – but returned twice-fold as the man, struggling with the bag’s apparent weight, roughly deposited his burden into the bowl.

A stench unlike anything the weighman had known in a long life surrounded by disease and mould and dirt and guts flooded his nostrils and his breath caught in his throat. He slowly leaned forward, peering past the rim of the bag, and instinctively choked back a sob. Trembling, he checked the dial.