The crowd wasn’t as big as the vendor hall, but that didn’t comfort me much. At least I felt more in my element here. I’d never been to this particular market, but they all ran on similar rules. The elevator let us off on the second floor. This space wasn’t round like the one under Lake Eola; instead, this market was a substantial pentagonal prism. The people who’d come down with us walked straight to the edge of the floor. There was an arena in the middle of the first floor, similar to the one in Orlando. The second level had a large pentagon cut out at the center with railing all the way around so spectators could look down on the fights. The booths lining the walls still had plenty of room without pushing their customers up against the fight fans. Ruby went ahead of us, I gestured for Eli to go next, and I followed him. The elevator closed behind us, off to get the next group of newcomers.
Ruby knew what we were looking for, and she cut through the crowd as easily here as she had in the vendor hall. I envied that talent. I had to dedicate so much of my focus to keeping pace and watching Eli. I couldn’t take in what most of the kiosks were selling. Umbra wove the noise of our surroundings into a song. I didn’t know exactly how they did it, but it eased my nerves. As much as I loved music, I wouldn’t have been able to pick out all the sounds they used to form the beat. I doubted any human could do it. It made me wonder if Umbra had any relation to muses. They didn’t come to our plane of existence for long periods of time. However, when they did, they could manipulate light to make themselves visible to people if they wanted. It wasn’t the right time to talk to the living shadow about their origin. Ruby ducked into one of the booths to our left.
People were bumping each other back and forth, trying to look at all the items on the tables. The enchanter answered questions as quickly as he could, but there was no end in sight. All the merchants had to be feeling overwhelmed. This was more foot traffic than they ever got on a typical day. I saw one of the shoppers put something in his pocket. He tried to slip away from the table, but a screeching noise erupted from his pocket. Before most people could understand what was happening, a pair of vampires were in front of the thief. One of the vampires restrained him, and the other fished the trinket out of the man’s pocket. The enchanter nodded his thanks as the vampire placed the item back on the table. Then, they escorted the shoplifter toward the elevator. This wouldn’t be the last time they had to shuffle people out for breaking rules. Of course, they wouldn’t catch everything, but they would set enough examples to discourage other agitators.
There was no way for us to tell if the item we needed was among the mess that people were making of the tables. The novice supernaturals were touching things more carelessly than they should have, despite the signs warning against that on each of the booth’s four posts. The item labels were askew or missing altogether. The enchanter adopted a “caveat emptor” attitude about the situation. If someone accidentally activated a dangerous enchantment, they might learn their lesson. Ruby and Eli made room for us along the center table. We waited as someone bought a dog whistle or at least something that looked like a dog whistle. The enchanter noticed us, probably because we were the only ones not adding to the chaos. He ignored objects from other customers and came to us.
“You three look like you’re in the market for something specific. How can I help you?” the enchanter asked.
“Can you replicate the enchantment on this?” I asked, holding my necklace out for him to inspect. He took it from me, studied it, and looked at me with an intrigued expression.
“This is intricate. It would take me months to duplicate all the layering this necklace holds if I were working alone.”
“We don’t have a month,” Eli said.
“What if you weren’t working alone?” I asked, holding my hand out for my necklace back. He hesitated for the briefest of moments before handing it back.
“Any of you have a talent for Enchantments?” the salesman asked.
“No,” I said. I put my necklace back on.
“All right. There are two other top-notch enchanters in Atlanta. If you can convince them to work with me again, I think we’d be able to cut that time significantly,”
“How quickly can you do it with their help?” Eli asked.
“A couple of days.” The other customers watched our exchange as if they could learn a new language by paying close enough attention.
“Where can we find them?” I asked.
“Here ya go.” The enchanter handed me two business cards. I vanished them immediately. I didn’t want to risk losing them. I could summon them again once we were away from the crowd.
“Thank you,” I said before signaling for Ruby to lead us out.
I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as showing up at the other markets and telling the other enchanters to name their price. I was assuming this one wronged the two of them in some way based on his phrasing. If the three of them could produce an item as powerful as my necklace in a few days, that would be an alliance worth a little frustration. I hoped that Ruby’s considerable sway over bank accounts would be enough to convince them to work together. It wasn’t a guarantee. There’s always work for a talented and versatile enchanter. In a city like Atlanta, they probably weren’t stressed about finding more customers. Their marketability would only grow now that mundane people were learning about magic. The market for power amplifying items and items non-magic users could activate would be expanding soon enough.
A werewolf and vampire pair was waiting at the elevator with another rulebreaker gripped tightly between them. I wondered if they’d volunteered security duty or if they were recruited. The door opened to another set of wide-eyed tourists. They barely noticed we were there as they disembarked. An overworked-looking supernatural separated from the newbie and walked purposefully through the throng. The werewolf dragged their troublemaker onto the elevator, and we joined them. We couldn’t be choosy about riding up with riffraff. I wanted to get to the other two enchanters before lunch. Ruby ordered us an Uber. I was glad to avoid using her car. Eli seemed eager to go with us on this little quest, but I wasn’t ready to take that as a sign that he’d stick with us once he had his clairvoyant blocker.
The entrance to the next magical market was in a diner. The smell of some freshly cooked bacon was all the convincing we needed to sit down for breakfast. The market would still be there once we were full. If this one was as crowded as the last, I could use the extra fortification. I didn’t want to think about how quickly I would lose my patience going into another horde on an empty stomach. While we ate, my mind drifted to Ice coming back. If he was going to join Ruby and me on the run, he would need a blocker too. The Coven wouldn’t be happy to let him go. If we were lucky, we’d be able to get at least one of them by the time he got back. Between me, him, and Eli, we could handle any other thugs Mr. Newton might send before we were able to the other two blockers.