“Glad you joined the steering club,” Joseph said, “we will be there pretty soon. We’re crossing the dividing river right now.” Lighton was a small town in the Northern Territories, along with other towns spread across the upper continent; just south of Lighton was located the Southern Market. That was the closest to an economic center the Northern Territories possessed. There was a mountain range and a river in its skirts farther south of the Market, delineating the grounds of the Trade. It was called Southern Trade by the Northerners because it was located to their south; however, it received other names worldwide. The grounds of the Trade were fertile because it lay between three rivers; the Lidorow on the North, the Rimasne on the South, and the Thecapro on the West. It was also protected from the frigid environments and vicious winds from the North by the mountain ranges protruding in the landscape.
The Trade was culturally and economically rich. Many townspeople had fled there years ago, abandoning their town’s life and joining the cities. Several cities made up the Trade, each as vibrant and exotic as their neighbors’. It was a matter of fascination and gossip among the citizens in the Northern Territories to visit the Trade. Aimee walked to the wooden railings and peered down, she saw the vast expanses of coniferous land disappear in the horizon. Water was now gleaming with the reflection of the sun high above them. Soon enough, the water ended and fringes of barren land followed. She looked farther ahead of her and she could make out green plantation fields and the silhouettes of buildings. Her heart skipped a beat and she pointed out before her.
“The Trade father!” she exclaimed. “I cannot believe I am here.”
“We didn’t come to explore like customers or visitors,” Daniel snapped, “we’re here to do business.”
“Be more light-hearted son,” scolded Joseph, “I still remember your reaction when you were Aimee’s age. Need I tell her?”
Daniel blushed and crossed his arms, dropping his head to his chest. He remained silent while Aimee chattered animatedly the rest of the journey away with praises of the Trade and the wanderings she was looking forward to. Joseph chimed in once in a while to point out the best shops he had ever entered and promised Aimee that as soon as they docked, he would take her to the nearest bookstore for her to pick a book of her preference.
The docking place was already crowded with merchant boats and ship ranging from size, shape, and color. Everything was enthralling. Joseph steered to an empty one in dock five; Daniel jumped down from the ship to tie the Chaser to the mast, and then paid a child to look after their ship.
“Should I look for a cart to unload the Dust?” Daniel asked. His expression seemed to have changed; now he was actually smiling and excited at being here. It wasn’t all year round that he visited the Trade; it was only during the months when the Aurora Borealis’ activities were good enough for some profit. If they were lucky, he would frequent them five months out of a year; usually the equinoctial months, September, October, February, and March.
“Sure son, you know where,” Joseph watched as his sun disappeared among the traders that were also unloading their merchandise. It was truly a variety of people in here; everybody was talking in different languages. “Aimee, help me unload and we’ll get your book on the way. A good friend of mine owns a bookstore on our way to the Central Ground.”
Aimee did as told; she started dragging sack after sack of Dust out of the cabin and into the deck. Joseph set the plank to slide down the chests and sacks to Daniel, who was ready with a three-wheel cart. There was a handle to be pulled or pushed when someone slid into the empty slot.
“What is the Central Ground?” Aimee asked.
“Is it the most important ground of the Southern Trade,” Daniel happily explained, forgetting for a moment that he was still cross at Aimee, “it is the heart of the Trade, where everything happens. We have some contacts and buyers in there that are expecting us right now.”
Aimee worked quicker, eager to see the Central Grounds by herself. “Is this a safe place?” she wondered aloud.
“Safe if you keep your business to yourself only and do not meddle with anyone else’s,” Daniel said matter-of-factly. “These people are not here to play, they’re here to do business and make a living and they do take it seriously. Do not touch or damage their property if you’re not going to buy it, they will chop off your hand if you attempt to rob them.” His gaze had turned into sinister shades.
“It is not all too bad Aimee,” Joseph laughed, “just keep your thoughts to yourself and close to us. Nothing is going to happen to us if we travel together.”
“Yeah, there have been some accounts that young girls have gone missing from the Trade grounds because slave dealers take them away and sell them to faraway lands.” Daniel informed.
“That is horrid!” gasped Aimee. The thought of it make her shudder. “How can anybody do that to young girls who certainly have families that will miss them to death?”
“Business,” Daniel said, “you got to be ruthless or they’ll take advantage of you. Your looks are what they’re looking for; fair skin, light hair color, and exotic eye color. Watch out sister, I heard your type brings them monstrous amounts of money.” He eyed her malignantly.
“If you keep talking, your sister won’t leave this ship even if we force her,” Joseph said severely at a chucking Daniel. He then turned to Aimee with an affable smile, “don’t listen to all of what your brother says. He doesn’t even know what he is talking about! Nothing is as bad as he says it is, I think everybody here is a fairly easy-going and friendly community.”
“Thanks dad,” Aimee said, “and, I know that Daniel can act and talk really stupid sometimes.”
Joseph slid down the last sack and turned to pat Aimee on the shoulder, “but please, just to be sure and safe, keep close to us. I don’t want to lose you in your first day here.”
Aimee smiled warmly, “I will keep safe dad.”