Street Magic - By Tamora Pierce Page 0,1

magical supplies, precious metals, rare woods like ebony and sandalwood, jewelry, and precious and semiprecious stones. Briar's miniature trees, which were not only works of art but were also shaped to draw particular magical influences to a home, belonged in Golden House.

By the time Briar had made arrangements for a stall there, he'd had to rush to be home for supper. Today he wanted a good look at Chammur's wealthiest marketplace.

As he approached the two muscular guards at the door, he smiled impishly at them. They stirred, wary. He knew he looked like a student, perhaps, or even a merchant's son, in clothes that were very well made by his friends in Summersea. He was even wearing boots. The guards had no real reason to bar him from entering, no matter how loudly their instincts might shout that he had the air of a thief.

"Hands," one of them said when Briar would have strolled by.

He held them out, palm-down, and sighed. The guard who had spoken looked for jailhouse tattoos, and saw a riot of leafy vines that went from under Briar's nails up to his wrists. The guard blinked, looked into Briar's eyes, looked at his hands again, and nudged his partner. The other man looked at Briar's hands, blinked, met the boy's eyes, then stared at those vines again.

Briar was used to it. At one time he had indeed had prison tattoos, a black ink X etched into the web of skin between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. In most countries, they marked two arrests and convictions for theft. When Briar turned thirteen, he'd gotten tired of being turned away from places or followed in them. Without consulting Rosethorn, he'd brewed some vegetable dyes and borrowed his friend Sandry's best needles. His plan had been to create a flowering vine tattoo to blot out the telltale Xs. He had not realized that vegetable dyes, exposed to his green magic, might not stay under his control. The final, colorful result blotted out the jailhouse tattoos as surely as if those crude black Xs had never existed. The new designs also made Briar's hands into miniature, often-changing gardens that were far more conspicuous than his old tattoos.

"Hey, they moved – and they're moving under the fingernails," one guard exclaimed, pointing. He looked at Briar. "Don't that hurt?"

"No," Briar said patiently, used to the reaction and the comment. "But my arms do when I have to keep holding them out like this."

Both guards scowled and waved him into the souk. Briar tucked his gaudy hands in his pockets and wandered into the main aisle. He avoided the stalls that peddled precious woods and gums. There was enough living power in those things still to hurt, especially when a touch would show him the original tree in all its splendor. He walked by the gold and copper aisles with only a glance. His friend Daja, a metal mage, would have plunged in here. One day he would explore and write her about it, but not today.

He turned down Pearl Alley, going from stall to stall, examining bowls of pearls with an expert's eye. Every color and size imaginable was here, from tiny white seeds destined as trimming to black orbs the size of his thumbnail, for use as ornaments or ingredients for magic. The neighboring aisle brought him to sapphires of every color. Rubies came next, then emeralds, then opals.

At no point did Briar take his memorable hands from his pockets. Every stall was supervised by an alert shopkeeper and by one or two guards. They had reason to be wary. Briar guessed that one in five shoppers might be a thief, working alone, with a partner or two, or even with the better class of gang here in Chammur Newtown. He couldn't have said what told him someone was not on the straight, but he trusted his instincts.

He particularly suspected those young men and women who were his age or just a bit older. A number of them sported a small yellow metal nose ring from which hung a roughly shaped garnet the size of a pomegranate seed. Still others wore a distinctive costume, white tunic over black breeches or skirts. The jewelry was high-priced for a gang mark – Briar's old gang had just wound a strip of blue cloth around their biceps – but the nose ring and pendant looked like a gang mark all the same, and the black and white clothes had to be gang

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