Relayed over drinks by a woman with too-blue eyes and boots that never sound quite right on wooden floors.

There are a lot of rumors and half-truths about the crossroads markets, but little that can be said with certainty.  We do know the markets have been around since…forever. Even the old timers talk about it in permanent style, and some of them are still coming to terms with railroads and gunpowder. Go back as far as you can and you’ll find evidence of them wherever two or more factions meet on a regular basis. Sea and shore. River and road. Farm and city. Human and, well…not. Some of them are trade hubs built to last, roots put down for long term relations. Others are a bit more fluid, carrying commerce on their back or in their pockets.

They have a sort of freedom lacking in the rest of the world. Better individuals than I have argued about whether it is because the Music is stronger or weaker there, but the fact of the matter is that things are possible at a market that just flat out aren’t elsewhere. Trading fates and selling ephemerals, for example, though I don’t need to tell you that both come with problems of their own. And swapping Songs, naturally. The bread and butter of the market. Of course, every transaction has a price, and ignorance of consequences isn’t the same thing as insulation from them. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you shake.

All crossroads markets have the same rules, and they are pretty simple: all that can find their way here are welcome, no going back on a deal you shook on, no fighting, and the market stays independent. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you get yourself to the market, once you’re in you’re there. As long as you leave your fight at the door you’re welcome to drink, argue, buy, or sell to your heart’s content. Or whatever you might have instead of a heart…

Maybe they had to struggle to enforce those rules once upon a time. Maybe they had some sort of crew to keep things running smoothly. These days, the markets are so vital to our economy that other patrons usually take care of policing their own. Nobody wants to try to go it entirely alone, regardless of what their rhetoric might be. There are some things you just can’t manage on your own, some Songs too alien to play. We’re all in this together, after all.

Bah, but I’m drifting into politics, and that’s against my policy.