Salt water dribbled from the water baby. A little piece of the ocean it was the piece rarely seen, and only here by the curled tentacle beneath its china dolls mask. Ramos traced the cracks in that mask where they had grown green with age. He smiled, teeth together, and they were very good teeth all traded to him by those with nothing else to sell. The water babies could be made for many purposes and this one Pearly knew was attracted to lies. Old as the mask marked it still water babies were ruinously expensive, even one for such a simple task. But Ramos could afford it. Indeed he could have afforded one much younger, but his was a pet to him and there was something obscene about the way his fat finger traced those lines.
“There will be no trouble with the junker,” said Ramos. In Parquet where the cooking pot of people and places made for a common patois Ramos still spoke with a round Spanish accent, aping his betters high above. He spoke of the hermandad, the brotherhood, the company of men and women that supposedly enforced the laws of Parquet no matter how frequently they changed. Not that anyone called them that, not hereabouts. That was the name the Spanish had given to those that had protected pilgrims from the robber knights centuries before, Pearly knew. Now they were near entirely made up of Prussians - Prussians that inducted other Prussians as they were washed ashore. Junker, ‘little lords’, was the patois that flattered them. More scathingly the Prussian hermandad were Hermans; that they liked less.
“Not that we are do anything wrong,” said Pearly.
Ramos raised his free hand to make a dismissive gesture, “But no, most certainly.”
Between them lay bones. Bones clean, polished by the progress through the beast from whose regenerating tentacles the tips were harvested to make the water babies. And these bones intact (and so possessed of a certain energy). The witches of the brujeria that tended to the beast, married it by some manner Pearly had heard, jealously kept such things to their selves. Possession of such bones was risky. But Pearly needed them. For Pearly worked tricks, and she was not alone in this, but to work the little magick there had to be the energy to empower them. And if there were darker ways then murder and mayhem were not to Pearly’s taste. The bones looked to be all Ramos claimed, she did not doubt they were exactly as had been promised. Ramos was a man that could obtain many things and his business relied on delivering on such promises, and for that there was always a price.
“I am impressed, patron” Pearly flattered fat Ramos.
He knew she did, but cooed a little anyway. He said, “You understand that I find such things for you as your reputation is not one to cause... notice, might I say, with your tricks?”
“They are to find something, for someone else, a client.”
The water baby did not stir. Satisfied Ramos pushed the bones towards her before licking his fingers, enjoying the faint vinegar trace they left, a sign of the energy within them. “Tell me, the pain I believe that accompanies such tricks? Is it true that when one endures enough it becomes instead something to be... desired?”
That was the danger with working the tricks. Not easy to learn, difficult to master, and its process at times excruciating, but yes one could become addicted to it. Pearly had always promised herself she would stop with the magick when the need for it overcame the revulsion. She had no fear of that yet. She could stop working the magick tomorrow if she wished. She could give up any time. Only not today, not when she had a client, and the prices being what they were?
Ramos beamed, “And now, alas, the price?”
For Pearly had to come up with the first, before having to pay that other.