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The Merchant's Wares

Copyright C.L. Yona 2000

The battle had been over for almost an hour now. Soon the beleaguered caravan would be able to continue on its way. The caravan master looked over at a pile containing the bodies of the deceased attackers: an odd mix of humans, half-breed orcs, and even some sort of troll. The trap had been well set, and the ambushers well equipped, although now their goods had become part of the caravan. By all rights the attack should have worked, but the predators had not counted on the almost supernatural fighting ability possessed by the two brothers he had hired to be part of the guarding crew. By Saarsha’s Pouting Lips, the master mused, even he had had no idea the two were gifted with such fighting prowess. ‘Twas a blessing from the goddess herself, no doubt. It had to be a sign that this trip would survive these increasingly dangerous roads.

The master’s eyes roved until he saw his saviors. The healer he had wisely brought along was tending to both of them. As he watched, she stood up from whatever she had been doing to the leg of Donel – or was that one Ronel, it was hard to tell, the two looked like blasted mirror images of one another. She stretched, pressing her hands to her back as she arched towards her rear. She looked exhausted, and the master could hardly find fault with that. Three guards had been slain from the attack, two outright and one as she worked feverishly but fruitlessly to stop the geyser of blood shooting from his neck. Only a few had escaped unscathed, including the her. A decent healer, he mused, but not worth a salt lick to the ocean in a fight. In fact, one of the twins had taken a spear in his flank as he crushed the head of an attacker menacing the healer – Alilandry, that was her name. He watched her return to work. So earnest, that one. Almost seemed to be treating wounds as if it were her own personal form of combat.

The master’s head snapped around as he heard the approach of horses from the road behind him. Turning, he saw his guards wearily reach for their weapons as one, then two, figures on horseback came into view, riding over the crest of a small hill. Even from a distance, he noted the disparity in their size – one was rather small, while the other would dwarf even the twins. They didn’t look menacing, and as they drew nearer he could see that they were dressed too well to be bandits. He gave an order to stand down, and as the members of the caravan gladly relaxed, Alilandry was suddenly at his side. Her clothing and her face were streaked with the blood of others, and her eyes looked far too old to be sitting in her youthful face.

"I’ve done all I can do for now, Reth. Donel’s leg could probably use some rest, he should probably ride in one of the wagons." She leaned heavily on her oaken staff as she spoke. "I wish I could have done more . . . I wish I could have saved Grent."

Reth nodded as his eyes never left the two figures now drawing up to him. "You did a fine job, Ali. I was right to hire you." Unconsciously dropping his hand to the hilt of his blade, he addressed the newcomers. "Greetings. Dangerous times for travelers to be moving in a pair, no?"

The smaller of the two, astride an incredibly shaggy mountain pony – Reth hadn’t seen one of those in years – laughed and ran a hand through his hair, revealing pointed ears. "Indeed! That’s what my friend Nikich is for. For some reason, most just don’t want to fight with him."

The massive man shrugged impassively. Reth wondered silently how much use a big target like that would be worth against an archer in hiding, but kept his thoughts to himself. These two were probably looking for protection now, wanting to latch on to the caravan. If the big one could fight half as well as either of the twins, he could be useful. The bastard sword he had on his back look large enough to cleave a horse in twain with a single blow.

"What is it I can do for you . . ." Reth trailed off.

"Xythis," said the little man. "Xythis Canabar. And you could introduce me to the lovely lady next to you."

Reth started, belatedly remembering Ali. "This is Alilandry. She’s working as the healer on this trip."

Ali blushed and inclined her head. "Well met," she murmured. "I’ll leave you to discuss matters."

Xythis leaned forward, waving his hands. "No, no! A healer? Well, our timing is fortuitous indeed. My companion and I, like your caravan master here, are traders. We specialize in the odd and obscure, the bizarre and the beneficial, the holy and helpful, the wondrous and the weird. We’ve been to every corner of this world and a few corners elsewhere. And we might just have some things you need. With . ." he paused until the caravan master offered his name, "With Reth’s permission, I’d like to show the two of you a few things. Sound reasonable?"

As Ali and Reth nodded, the two men swung off their horses, Xythis with a cloth sack in hand . . ..

The Merchant’s Wares:

Laen needle: This needle is made from a sliver of laen. It is about 3 inches in length with a point so sharp it is almost invisible to the naked eye and a hole bored in the rear through which materials can be threaded. As long as the needle is used for the purpose it was designed – a medical tool – it will never become dull. If it is used for other things (weapon, lockpick) the possible damage is up to the GM’s discretion. A laen needle adds +15 to a character’s surgery skill and +10 to any second aid skill that requires a needle.

Web Spheres: Much like the balls contained in the ‘Grandmother Alletta’s Wonderful Bath Oils’ box (see The Merchant’s Wares in the January 2000 issue of The Guild Companion), web spheres are roughly the size of the average sling stone. They are a milky white in color. Each sphere is actually a large amount of spider webs that have been magically compacted into this more portable size. When a sphere impacts on a surface with sufficient force (a throw with more effort than a toss would be enough) the web sphere will expand to its full size of 4 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet. If there is an object in the center of the expansion area (i.e. the sphere strikes a person or creature) the same volume of webs will still be produced, with corresponding bulges in the outer edges of the web square. The webs are ropy and thick, averaging about the size of a human forearm in circumference. They are also excessively sticky. Anyone trying to pull free or to break a web strand must make a medium maneuver modified by his or her strength bonus x2 for each strand. They are resistant to sawing and their springiness make hacking through them difficult. The webs are highly flammable and dissolve on contact with anything containing alcohol. The webs created will begin to deteriorate 4 hours after release and will be completely gone in 6 hours.

Arachnages: A most unusual product stemming from a goodwill treaty between a tribe of wood elves and a group of intelligent spiders, Arachnages resemble a roll of cloth bandages. While they are bandages, they are woven with spidersilk, intricately woven. They are incredibly light, with an entire roll weighing only an ounce or two. A full roll of Arachnages will contain 20 individual pieces, each about 6 inches long by 3 inches wide. Each bandage will instantly stop 1 level worth of bleeding severity. Multiple Arachnages can be applied to the same wound, one at a time. 3 rounds after application, the Arachnage will melt away.

Arachnage rolls are always found carefully wrapped in some sort of liquid-proof casing. If a roll gets wet the bandages will melt away almost instantaneously. They are lightly sticky to the touch and are a crisp, clean-looking white in color.

Medic’s Kit:: A handy bag for just about anyone, this satchel is roughly rectangular in shape. Slightly smaller than the average backpack, it has a small opening at the top which can be closed with a drawstring. It only holds what can normally fit inside it – in other words, it does not transcend dimensional space like a Bag of Holding. However, if the possessor places his or her hand at the opening, any object placed inside can be instantly summoned to hand by naming it. For instance, if the Kit were stuffed with numerous potions of varying types and the healer wanted a harfy potion, he or she would just have to stick a hand in and say, "Harfy potion." No rummaging necessary. Helpful if you need those bandages RIGHT NOW.

Kraget’s Defender: Kraget was a good alchemist, but a lousy warrior. For those times when he did have to venture out with a weapon, Kraget preferred this one. A +5 staff with a +1 essence adder, this teakwood shaft also allows the wielder to receive the full DB bonus when all OB is used to parry against 1-handed weapons, as opposed to the half usually granted. The weapon must be full parried to get this effect.

Spell Augmentor: Almost always found in the form of a bracer, a spell augmentor is a good friend to any spellcaster. When worn for at least one full day, the augmentor increases the casting level of the wearer by the item’s bonus. This applies with regards to range and duration, and works for any realm of magic. For example, Beamon, a 2nd level ranger wearing a +1 augmentor, casts Nightvision off his Path Mastery list. Normally the spell would last for 20 minutes, but because of the augmentor the duration is 30 minutes, as if Beamon were a 3rd level ranger. In addition, the RR against any spell cast is measured against the level including the augmentor. If a 2nd level shaman wearing a +1 augmentor cast a Dark Stunning from the Evil Channeling list at Beamon, he would have to make a RR against a 3rd level spell. Note that the augmentor only effects spells cast by the wearer – it does not have any effect on RR’s required for incoming spells, and it does not effect level in any non-magical sense whatsoever.

Spell augmentors are found in 3 power levels. The first, and most common, are +1. Much more difficult to find is the +2 variety. The highest known augmentor is the +3, exceedingly rare. Augmentors are powerful items, and the creation of such magic is a tricky business. Because of the difficulty involved in making them, many augmentors are flawed. A +1 augmentor has a 10% chance of being flawed, a +2 carries a 30% risk, and the +3 has a 50% chance of being not quite right. All flawed augmentors still function with their spell level bonus, but in addition have a problem determined from the below table.

Roll a d100 to determine:

1-10: Pangs: After wearing the augmentor for 2 days, the wearer will notice an increase in his or her food needs. The daily food requirement will double, and failure to meet the increase will result in light-headedness, sluggishness, etc. There may also be a corresponding weight gain, for while the food desire has increased, the metabolism of the victim has not. If the augmentor is removed for one full day, the pangs will cease.

11-20: Stutter: After one full day of wearing the augmentor, the spellcaster has a 2% chance (non-cumulative) of stuttering during the somatic part of a spell being cast. This roll should be made apart from the usual potential Spell Failure roll. If the caster fails, they lose the spell and the power points. If the augmentor is removed for 2 full days, the stutter will vanish. It will not show up in any other aspect of the caster’s normal speech.

21-30: Blemish: After one full day of wearing the augmentor, a wart will begin to grow on the wearer’s right cheek. It will continue to grow for 4 days until it reaches it’s full size, about as large as a sling stone. After that it will sprout 2 large, bristly hairs. The wart is resistant to cutting and requires a successful hard maneuver using Second Aid skill. If removed, the wart will grow back overnight and the number of hairs will double. If tested, the wart will show as magical. If the augmentor is removed and kept off, the wart will slowly dry up and shrivel, dropping off in 3 days time. If the augmentor is worn again, the whole thing starts over.

31-40: Neutralizer: After being worn for one full day, the augmentor will attempt to permanently neutralize one of the wearer’s other magic items. The item should be randomly chosen and gets to make a RR versus 20th level. The level of the item under attack will be the level of its creator – in lieu of that, roll 2d10 and add them together to figure a defense level. The augmentor will attempt this each time it is removed and then worn again. Note that unless the item affected is some sort of active magic, it is very unlikely the wearer will know what has happened. If the augmentor neutralizes a healing potion, the results won’t be realized until the potion in quaffed and nothing happens.

41-50: Rainbow: The first time the wearer sleeps with the augmentor on, he or she will wake up to discover that every hair on his or her body will have changed to a randomly determined color. This will happen every night. The colors are not limited to usual hair hues and can be anything the GM chooses (try neon ones to ruin those stalk and hide maneuvers). If the augmentor is removed the ex-wearer’s natural hair color will return in 3 days, with the final color staying until then.

51-65: Radiant: The augmentor glows with a somewhat ghastly green light. While not noticeable in the daylight, at night it glows brightly enough to read by. Wrapping thin cloth around it will only slightly muffle the light; material heavy enough to fully smother it will need to be bulky and possibly result in some sort of movement penalties as far as the arm is concerned. The light will blink out if the augmentor is removed.

66: Power Burn: As per the physical flaw Power Burn in Talent Law, the wearing suffers one concussion hit of damage for every one power point expended. Taking off the augmentor immediately causes the power burn to cease, but does not restore concussion hits (they have to be healed with magic or time).

67-70: Stone Feet: After wearing the augmentor for one full day, the character will lose 10% of their movement rate. This is not readily apparent and there is no pain or achiness that accompanies it. Aside from the player noticing it, the only way the character will discern the loss of stride is by making a very hard maneuver roll modified by their Observation skill. This roll should be made once a day, but only if the character is up and moving. If the character sits on horseback all day, the roll should not be made.

71-80: Hesitation: After a 24 hour period of wearing the augmentor, the wearer will suffer a deduction of 20% from their initiative rolls in combat. After each combat a very hard maneuver roll modified by observation skill should be made. If successful, the character should be informed that they seem to be hesitating, or hitching, each time. It is possible for someone else to see this happening to the wearer but that person would have to be specifically watching them and make a hard maneuver roll modified by Observation skill. The flaw vanishes after 24 hours without wearing the bracer.

81-90: Susceptible: After 48 hours of wearing the augmentor, the wearer’s resistance to their non-base realms is lowered by -5. In the case of multi-realm casters, the non-used realm’s resistance is lowered by –10, and arch-mages suffer a –5 across the board. The penalties vanish 24 hours after removal.

91-99: Handedness As soon as the augmentor is put on, the wearer’s handedness changes. Righties become lefties, and so on. Those who were ambidextrous will suddenly have a handedness (choose randomly). The levels of hardship this will incur vary from individual to individual. The effects will last as long as the augmentor is worn and an additional 24 hours after it is removed.

100: The Slain: As per the special flaw The Slain in Talent Law, the wearer immediately becomes vulnerable to a randomly chosen race not of the wearer’s own. Whenever a critical is delivered by a member of that race, it is resolved as a Slaying critical. The effect lasts only as long as the augmentor is worn.

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