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The merchant had trapped the angel in a cage so small she was forced to wrap her wings around herself. She had drawn up her knees and buried her face in her arms so that only her hair could be seen. It held the sheen of pearl, and promised silken softness.
Kenan started to reach between the bars, but a whip suddenly stung his fingers.
"No touching!" The merchant coiled the whip back under his arm, but Kenan had no doubt that it would flick out again at any hint of another transgression.
"How much?" he asked.
The merchant studied him, calculating a price.
"She's going to waste away soon anyway," Kenan said. "She clearly hasn't the will to live on in that cage." Her arms were thin and her feathers dull and matted.
"Angels are a rare find," the merchant countered. "How often do you see one in the market?"
"That's because nobody in Hellsgate wants one. How about a trade?" Kenan tossed him a coin and was gratified to watch the merchant nearly drop his whip while fumbling to catch it.
On one side of the coin was the proud profile of a handsome woman; on the other, a nameShellay Dew Maraden. She had been a harder conquest than most. The merchant examined the coin, turned it over, then bit it lightly. His eyes brightened. "A tasty soul." He nodded toward the angel. "Take her."
Kenan knelt and undid the latch, which was coated with sticky sin to keep her inside. The cage door swung open, but the angel didn't move. "Come on," he said.
She didn't respond.
He sharpened his voice. "Come out, gutter-wing."
She lifted her head just enough for him to see the gleam of an angry eye.
"You won't get any cleaner in there," he said reasonably.
After a moment she crawled out of the cage, dragging a chain behind her. It was attached to a black iron collar around the angel's neck, and on the other end to a cuff. The merchant snapped his whip twice, picking up the cuff and then setting it at Kenan's feet.
The angel reached for it and the merchant lashed at her. She snatched her hand back and cradled it to her chest, transferring her glare to him. Kenan hastily picked up the cuff before she attacked the merchant, as she seemed inclined to.
"You can lead her with that," the merchant said. "Her wings have been clipped, so she won't fly away."
"Many sales," Kenan said in polite farewell.
The angel came to her feet slowly. She was nearly his height, and the grimy shift she wore came only to her knees. Her face was smudged, but he could tell that her skin was pale under the dirt and drawn too tight against her cheekbones. Her eyes were gray and still angry. Good, she'd kept her spirit. It might be all that kept her standingshe looked too weak otherwise.