|The Merchant's Wares #2|
Copyright C. L. Yona, 1999
The Royal Hairdresser exited the room at a pace near a run and cut sharply to her right. A wise move, as a pewter jug thudded heavily against the wall across from the doorway, a location her head had recently vacated. She spared a backwards glance to see if she was being chased; vile barbarian, she thought; and cried out in pain and surprise as she slammed against a wall.
As she bounced back and fell rather ungracefully to the floor near the still skittering jug ; mind those scissors! - she realized that she hadn't hit a stone wall, but a rather large man. Extremely large. Ridiculously large. Castle Vontange's corridors were by no means narrow, especially in this, the Northern Tower, but this man looked cramped by the confines. He gazed at her impassively, with perhaps a touch of amusement.
Almost before she had stopped her motion from her fall, a smallish figure darted from behind the massive man. Before she could fully comprehend what was happening, the little man had her on her feet and was squeezing her past her earlier impediment.
"Now, now, miss, you've had a bit of a bump! Pray, did you just leave the quarters of Alastrina Bladebreaker of the Steppedwellers?"
"Bladebreaker? Room breaker is more like it! Why, I . . ." she fell silent as she realized she was already heading down the tower stairs and that her escort was no longer with her. "Barbarians!" she muttered as she headed towards more civilized folk.
The two men stepped into the doorway together and were greeted by another airborne jug. This was gracefully plucked in mid-flight by the larger man, who calmly examined the vessel before dropping it over his shoulder. The smaller man held up his hands in a placating gesture before any more missiles could be launched.
"Please, Miss Bladebreaker, allow me to assure you that my companion and I mean you no harm."
Before them appeared a most unusual scene. A well-appointed bedroom stood in total disarray. The massive bed was missing its sheets. On the other hand, the wardrobe in the corner seemed to have sheets to spare. Clothes were strewn haphazardly. Remains of several plates were loosely clustered in one corner and the wall above showed signs of impact.
Standing in the center of the carnage with yet another jug primed to be flung was an enraged woman. She stood tall and muscular, long honey-brown hair plaited in a thick braid. Her dark eyes narrowed as she considered the two men before her. The massive one who had easily caught her last missile eyed her warily, but otherwise seemed relaxed, non-threatening. The smaller one with the pointed ears watched her expectantly. Alastrina let her arm fall, dropping the jug to the floor. Sighing, she turned and walked to the window. Her voice, heavy with the accent common to the Steppedwellers, sounded tired and faded. "Aye. Who do you represent, and what do you want?"
The little man looked puzzled, spreading his arms in a placating gesture. "We represent
nobody but ourselves, Miss Bladebreaker."
Now it was Alastrina's turn to be confused. Looking back at the pair she said, "You're not from the castle? You're not here to cut my hair. You're not a retainer, or a noble, or some other horse-flop out to get me?" Her gaze wandered back out the window for a moment, imagining she could see the wide-open plains beyond the mountains that surrounded the town.
"No, miss." The small man thudded his fist to his heart in the way of her people, a motion she echoed almost unconsciously. "We're not from the castle, not from Anadorn at all."
Her face clouded, became suspicious. "Are you with the Count, then? The one from Merlethis?" Eyes flicked left and right, but, as she knew all too well, weapons in this be-damned pile of rocks were few and far-between. Her gaze settled on the little one.
A shake of the head. "No, miss. Nikich and I, this big fellow here is Nikich, and my name is Xythis Canabar, we're traders. We were out on the Steppes, and your father suggested you might wish to sample our wares. We specialize in the odd and obscure, the bizarre and beneficial, the holy and helpful, the wondrous and weird. We've been to every corner of this world, and a few corners elsewhere. And we might just have what you need! You sound as if you have some problems here." As he finished speaking, Xythis produced a flat cloth sack.
Alastrina's eyes rested on the sack for a second, then she shrugged. "Problems? Besides that the Queen seems to hate me? That her eldest son, with whom I was sent here to possibly marry, shares her outlook? That the King, as fair a man as he has been when I have been able to see him, is too busy for me these days? That I hear noises in the night, that I have terrible nightmares, that I feel eyes on me always." Tears of frustration welled in her eyes and she struggled to keep her voice down. "That I, Alastrina Bladebreaker, a warrior who knew no equal in her tribe but honored her father's wish to come to this horrible, pent-in pit, is allowed no weapon? That there are no weapons at all in this blasted castle, a condition most unnatural!" She walked over and faced Xythis, towering over him. Her voice, when she spoke again, held only a slight waver. "I fear for my life in this place, merchant. I'm no coward, but I need a way to defend myself." She walked over to a cabinet and produced a necklace that was fairly choked with fire opals and demon tongues, an odd jewel that came from mines far below the Steppes. "Can we do business?"
Xythis, looking at the necklace and licking his lips, made a small gesture to Nikich. The big man righted a table, snagged a couple of chairs. Settling into one of the seats, Xythis placed his sack on the table. "Now, let's do some business . . ."
The Merchant's Wares
Kraget's Dreamless Pillow - A normal-sized bed pillow stuffed with goosedown, the only distinguishing feature of the item is a number of irregularly placed icons of a closed eye, stitched in red. When the user sleeps with the pillow directly under his or her head, he or she will experience a sound, dreamless sleep. Trancing while meditating is not possible when in contact with the pillow. In addition, the user gains a +10 to all RR's against any sort of spells that deal with the potential manipulation of the mind, and a +30 (non-cumulative with the other bonus) against spells from all of the Evil Mentalism base lists. The pillow does not provide any bonuses or penalties to waking and/or awareness. The pillow can be washed and mended, but if 1/10th or more of the original goosedown is lost, the enchantment is broken.
Bath Brushes: There are two of these available. Both are about a foot and a half in length, fashioned in sandalwood and carved well, if not particularly ornately. Both feature oval heads filled with softened bristles taken from boars. In fact, both will function quite well as bath brushes. However, each had another aspect. The first features a slim blade encased within the handle. The hilt unscrews to reveal a single edged knife of about 8 inches (-5 on the dagger table). The second brush is magical in nature and requires attunement for proper usage. To access the power, the attuned user must tap the head of the brush three times and speak the word "defender." This will allow the brush to transform into a mace (+5 magical). It will remain a mace until the process is reversed ("defender", then three taps). The brush/mace can transform twice every 24 hours.
Bath Oil Balls: These small balls, about the size of a sling bullet (or your average d20) come very carefully packed in a brightly painted wooden box, which exclaims, "Grandmother Alletta's Wonderful Bath Oils." The box, held shut with a simple metal butterfly clasp, measures about 2 inches by 3 inches by 1 inch deep. Inside, the silk-lined box is broken into 4 compartments, each large enough to contain 4 of the bath oil balls. The balls come in 4 colors - red, blue, clear, and green. The outer skin of the balls are from an aquatic tuber, resistant to cutting but will break on impact with a hard surface. The effects of the different colors are as follows:
Lyacyth's Shawl: Worn over the shoulders, this finely woven shawl is elegant enough to include as formal wear, reaching down to about the waist. In fact, Lyacyth's Shawl is a cleverly bundled net. The full width of the shawl is held in place by black threads which can be easily snapped, allowing the piece to expand to its full size of 3 feet by 7 feet. The ends are lightly weighted, enough to aid in the net's entangling capability while not being too heavy on the wearer. To return the released net back to the shawl form, a successful maneuver must be made using sewing/weaving skill. Skill in deploying the net can be placed as a Combat Maneuvers Skill or as Weapon: Thrown Skill, per the GM's discretion.
Allaria's Scintillating Persuader: This green dress adapts to the wearer's size, and if left hanging in a wardrobe or closet with other dresses, it will assume the basic style of the other clothing. It is impervious to stains and repels dirt and other grime. It will appear as superior to the other clothing in style, material, and design, and will slowly fluctuate between different shades of green while worn. The wearer gains a +10 to her appearance while wearing the dress, and another +10 to seduction skill. The dress will lose all special abilities if torn, but will regain these powers if mended. After mending, the repair job will fade and disappear.
Assassin's Forks: These 5 pointed star-shaped metal weapons, about 4 inches in diameter, come as a pair. For appearance, the two interlock to act as a hair clip, best used near the top of a thick braid. When separated, the user has two short-range missile weapons. Use the dagger table with these modifiers:
|1' - 10'||0|
|11' - 20'||-15|
|20' - 30'||-35|
They are not effective over 30 feet or as a hand to hand weapon.
Loyal Footstool: Outwardly, this appears to me nothing more than a well-crafted footstool, one you would find in any well-appointed bedroom or waiting room. The 4 legs end in carved clawfeet, and the top is upholstered. When the attuned user gives the command phrase ("d'lethe haa'then," Elvish for "protect me, loyal one"), the stool transforms, in one round, to a large attack dog (think a breed comparative to a rottweiler or a mastiff). This hound will protect the summoner fanatically and will not allow that person to leave its sight. The dog will remain for 1 hour after summoning unless it is killed, at which point it will revert to an ordinary footstool and may never be summoned again. Any wounds suffered will be healed by the time the creature can be summoned again. The dog may be summoned once every 24 hours. If there is no danger, the dog will be affectionate with the summoner and tolerant of those that it perceives as no threat to its master. The dog does not need to eat, but will accept food from its master (and ONLY it's master). If the footstool is damaged, the dog cannot be summoned until repairs are completed by a master craftsman.
THE SCENARIO: Alastrina has the right to be a bit paranoid, because something is quite rotten in the land of Anadorn. Her father, chieftain of the plains-people known as Steppedwellers, had good intentions when he sent his oldest daughter to the castle of Aradorn at the request of his King. (nominally - Steppedwellers were notoriously difficult to directly govern) Besides being one of his better warriors, Alastrina possesses a shrewd mind and is quite a natural beauty. Her father realized that a marriage between Alastrina and the King's eldest son Halleth would mean only good things for his people. However, he's dropped his daughter into a political mess.
The King is a fair man, but his plan of joining Halleth with Alastrina is purely for the good of the realm. The plains cover much of the western part of Aradorn, and with the Steppedwellers as his trusted allies he could divert troops from the western borders for usage elsewhere. But the King has quite a few headaches these days. Foremost stand the Queen and Halleth, both of whom oppose the potential match. The Queen sees Alastrina as a barbarian many stations below her son, and she has influenced her eldest son's way of thinking. Both strive to make the chieftain's daughter's life as difficult as possible. Neither has been moved to the point of attempted murder yet, but that's being taken care of by others. The lone daughter, Princess Feleia, is only 12 and wildly jealous of Alastrina's beauty.
There is a visitor from the land to the north, Merlethis. The Count Elleck sees Alastrina as a
perfect opportunity to incite the Steppedwellers against the King. He is carefully trying to find someone who would be in a position to make an attempt on Alastrina's life - a cook, a guard, etc. In public he is overly polite to her, but she can see through his veneer.
There are also three rival factions looking to overthrow the crown. They are led by 3 different Dukes of the realm, all lusting for power. All agree with the thinking of Count Elleck in regards to the effect that the death of Alastrina would have. Duke Froen has hired assassins from the local Black Hand Guild. Duke Sten has employed an evil mentalist. Finally, Duke Arsken is an accomplished summoner, and will use his own abilities. All three are working independently of one another, with only rumors of each other's actions.
Alastrina's only friend through all this is the King's second son, Rek. Thoroughly smitten, Rek will do his best to defend her while trying to win her heart. Alastrina tries to keep him at arm's length romantically, realizing that a union with the crown prince would better benefit her people. Besides, she can whip Rek's tail in a fight.
Drop a party into the middle of the mix, perhaps at the behest of Alastrina's father, and make them utilize those diplomatic skills.
C. L. Yona
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