The air was thick with the scent of men and spices under the broad market tent that dominated the settlement of camp followers. Braziers offered meat, most probably horse, served piping hot on rods of oak. Barrels of ale and spirits, certainly watered down, were drained at a dear price that rose each day. There were women as well, and the cost to lie with them remained affordable. There was no scarcity of whores of all kinds in the rebel camp.
The men who crowded the rugs and tables that encircled the center ring of the tent paid the steep prices for food and drink with a grumble, yet they paid. The tedium of garrison life and the increasing cold of the coming winter forced them to find distractions within the souks and bordellos of the nomadic village of merchant tents that had come to rest beyond the log ramparts of the siege fort. The anticipation of battle to come—a battle many of them might not survive—made a man think more of the pleasures of the day than a full purse in a future he might not be alive to see.
“Cimmerian, I would speak to you,” Danix said, touching the broad shoulder of a man seated on the ground at the edge of the open ring.
“Conan cannot hear you, captain,” said M’ollo, a swarthy Turan with a braided topknot that reached the small of his back.
“Your words are drowned out by the tinkle of that harlot’s chimes,” laughed Lugan, a Nemedian with a thick brush of white blond hair and a puckered scar where his right eye had been.
“Damn you, I have work for you and your brigands.” Danix gripped Conan’s shoulder once more, fingers pressing deeper into the hard flesh.
Conan tossed the last of his copper coins at the feet of the dancing girl. She stooped to pick them up without interruption to the rhythm of her movements. She offered him a flash of white teeth as well as a brief sight of her womanly virtues as she bent to snatch at the sand for the talents strewn there.