The low mound at Risgan’s feet was anything but ordinary to his trained eye. Underneath it had the look of treasure. It is said that grave-robbing was bad for the soul, likely to incur the wrath of the spirits. But Risgan was not of this belief, nor an entertainer of superstition; it was bad for business. Without hesitation, he swung his pickaxe hard on the packed earth. His trim leather hunting breeches creaked with the effort. Standing atop his pile made him seem taller than usual in his low black boots. His square chin, brawny arms and untroubled stance had a queer way of looking quixotic in this deserted quarter with only fallen, moss-covered columns to his left and a collapsed lichen-ridden domed prayer hall to his right. The air, sticky and sweltering, lent to the atmosphere of antiquity and moulder. Flung to a side in the dirt were scalpel, scoop, wire brush, bodkin, bone horn: certain accoutrements of his trade, along with his diamond scratcher for measuring gem hardness, and a polished truncheon of gibbeth femur useful for surprising bandits, whom he encountered often in his trade.
The club had served good purpose—an instrument of finality in settling previous ‘disagreements’ with wizards and unruly clients. One could never be too careful at out-of-town fairs or in the company of disreputable relic coveters or dealers. Only yesterday he had been impelled to ward off the thrusts of two petty thieves in a back alley whose overzealous confidence had earned them a quick beating, thanks to his trusty club. And the day before, a squawking dealer had occupied his time for an hour squabbling over a price of a simple amethyst. In terms of his finds, recently he had discovered an amphora of withered dry olives with impressive inscriptions dating back to 401 CD, certainly a prize to a historian—yet hardly worth the ten mezks of its material value. In a nearby crypt, he had discovered a mouldering wristband of a Karkarian which gave off an offensive stench and an eerie whine when he twirled it from his index finger. Interesting, but hardly saleworthy. And then, an ostler’s whip whose poor workmanship was only outmatched by the black scavenger beetles that inhabited its handle.