Raksha slipped into the city before the humid day could cool into night. She paused only to assure the gate sentinels that she was no one to take note of. Raksha pressed a small purse into the guard’s hand. Confident in the power of gold, she turned towards the sagging roofs and narrow alleys of the Burrows.
The Burrows, named proudly by its inhabitants and with derision by everyone else, was a a district set on the riverside of the large city. Its mess of stacked shops, tenements, and doxie dens leaned over the narrow, half-cobbled streets so severely the buildings touched in places. Where the walls didn’t, the residents strung ropes and creaking foot bridges for ease of travel. The swinging overpasses, while perilous, kept one’s feet from the mud and worse.
Raksha slipped under a particularly low bridge and down a staircase, careful of the dirty water pooling at its corners. The doorknob turned under her fingers.
The inside of the pawnshop was a mess of stacked books and old weapons. Yellowed glass cases displayed tarnished silver and scratched gemstones. She smiled when the stocky man behind the counter scowled up at her. The day’s take was spread over the already cluttered counter in dull stacks of coins. “Closed.” He said when recognized the face beneath her hood.
She held up the bag still hooked over her shoulder. “You sure? Got something for you Ourik.”
Despite his sour expression Ourik gestured her over with two fingers.”Lock the door first. You always bring trouble.”
Ourik shifted the counter’s stacked contents to make room for Raksha’s goods. He didn’t put the money away, they’d worked together before. The bag gave a muffled clink when she set it down.
“Found it below ruins at the north border. No heat and the thing is pristine. Not a scratch.” Raksha peeled the layers of course cloth from the parcel with reverent fingers. She pulled the final bit of sackcloth away and the pawnbroker’s shop filled with soft morning light.
Raksha enjoyed Ourik’s open-mouthed astonishment. The diamond was the size of plum, and far larger than anything in the store’s dingy cases. Its size was nothing compared to the effect in the air. The motes of dust around them lit up like stars.
The stone’s faceted surface didn’t shine, but everything in its presence seemed to. Even Raksha’s fingers seemed to glow with warm dusky light as they hovered around the prize. She smiled, chest swelling as the store was transformed by the glimmering motes.
“Raksha.” The broker breathed her name like it was a curse. The dust still shimmered around them, sending bits of light across his face. “What have you done?”
“What?” Raksha was shaken from her pride. She pulled the small bits of cloth back around the stone, shielding it from his unexpected reaction. “You’ve dealt with special items before.”
The light dulled from the shop, the dust in the air invisible once more. Ourik drew his palm across his forehead. “Ruins in the north?”
Raksha nodded, the crease between her brows deepening as she frowned. “The place was abandoned. You saw what it did, its obviously valuable, you should be able to turn it around easily.” Meaning she should get a good sum, such was the relationship between thief and broker.
Ourik helped her wrap the stone away and slipped it back into the sack. “A dawnstone is priceless.”
Raksha’s eyes brightened as if the stone had been unfurled anew. She pushed the stowed gem across the counter towards him, upsetting a stack of coins. “How much then?”
“Priceless, Raksha. There is no amount that can be paid for something like that. Best to take that thing and put it back where you found it.” He stepped away from her and the stone.
Raksha shouldered the bag but did not move her feet. She watched him “What’s a dawnstone? And why wont you buy one?”
“Because I don’t. Get out, take that thing with you.” Ourik hastily gathered his own coin and began shuffling around the store, checking window latches and blowing out the dusty lanterns.
“Its worth at least few crowns I’m sure.” Raksha begged, disliking the sodden feel of turned luck. “Ourik, please, I spent everything else getting back here.”
“Its worth kingdoms.” He growled and unlocked the front door. “More than that. Lives. A dawnstone will bring all sorts, and everyone one of them will pay dearly for it. For all that it shines, that thing brings death.”
“I’d be content with gold.” Raksha said, feet still planted stubbornly next to the counter. He still hadn’t told her what the damn thing was. Though the stone still rested heavy against her side, Raksha’s prize was stolen.
“You’re a burrow’s graverobber. The only thing you’ll get for it is trouble.” He opened the door, and a bit of dirty water trickled onto the floorboards. “Go, take it back, and then forget where you found it.”
Raksha clenched her jaw, weighing her options. “I’ll go.” She said finally.
She didn’t look at Ourik as he left, or back when the door slammed behind her. Water trickled down from the ropes and lines of the makeshift bridges. She had no shelter, no food, and no prospects because she’d managed to find the only priceless diamond in existence.
“But I’m not taking it back.” She said to the empty street. Raksha took a breath and started walking. She’d heard what Ourik had said, someone had to want this thing.
Behind her, in the alley of the broker’s shop, a thin shadow slipped from the stone and began to follow the thief.