The horse stared at him. Gench looked away. He’d never got the hang of animals. He felt they always had a look of contempt or dismissiveness about them whenever they looked at him, as if thinking Gench was the lesser beast. Sometimes, Gench thought they were probably right. ‘How much?’
The merchant looked up and down Gench. ‘More than you can afford.’
‘How do you know?’
The merchant spat into the straw at their feet. ‘I ought to tell you to piss off, cheeky young sod.’
‘Don’t talk to me like that.’ Gench stood up taller. ‘I am a qualified wizard.’
‘Bollocks! Where is your robe…? Where is your hat?’
‘I’ve had a… well, a rather awkward morning.’
‘Yes.’ Gench pulled the… well, he wasn’t actually sure it was a robe, or even meant as clothing, around him. ‘Now, how much for the horse?’
‘What? For that?’ Gench took a step closer to the horse.
The horse snorted.
Gench took a couple of steps back. ‘I’ll give you a hundred.’
The merchant spat again. He shook his head. ‘It’s a lovely little runner. They don’t make them like that any more.’ The merchant patted the horse’s flank. Dust flew. The merchant coughed. ‘Never raced or rallied.’ The merchant looked into Gench’s face. ‘Five hundred.’
‘Never raced or rallied? What does that mean?’ Gench wondered if it was good.
‘You know horse races?’
‘Well, a rally is a long race, but with more mud.’
‘Three hundred.’ Gench checked the purse was still there. He’d had time to snatch that from the bedroom floor, but not his robes or his official wizarding hat. Gench wondered what that said about him. The fact he’d chosen the gold over his clothes, his hat and even the reputation of the girl… whatever her name was…. Well, he supposed, maybe it was a sign that he was a proper wizard after all. He stared back at the merchant. ‘Three hundred and I won’t turn you into a frog.’
They both spat on their palms and shook.
The horse snorted and shat on the floor, right next to Gench’s bare foot.