Temeraire Narrows lingered at the table after the other companions had left. Nicodemus hung out nearby, keeping an eye on the halfling while he presented to El'Lirian the longbow he purchased for the elf prince.
"Ahh… my horned friend. I sssee you eyeing Darastrix'sss waresss. Anything you are interesssted in? "
"You're very observant, sir, as am I. I've noticed that your wares are of a higher quality than the run of the mill wandering trader. On my last excursion, a foul construct shattered one of my tools… A cunningly ground piece of glass that would allow me to see the tiniest of clues and markings."
Darastrix growls softly to himself, more a murmur of consideration than anything else, then rummages through his pack.
DM [If you can give me a perception roll. ]
The lizardman pulls out a small device about two inches in length that is shaped sort of like a funnel. It is smooth worked wood with bronze banding. "Thisss is a magnification box. One end hasss a sssmall piece of worked glassss, a lenssse I believe the technical term to be. Looking through the opposssite end caussse whatever you are looking at to appear three timesss asss large."
Temeraire gazes past the item itself, and sees tucked in the bag a long thin bladed sword, the make of which he has never seen before. More apothecary clay jugs. Two long decorative cylindrical containers. A glass eye. A few rolls of exotic colored fabric. Spice containers. The tiefling's eyes linger longingly at the blade in the bag, then he sighs as his hand rubs his light coinpouch.
"I ssee ssssomething hassss caught your fancccy… Thisss blade is called a katana. I acquired it on one of my travelsss to the landsss of Tu Yi far far to the eassst." Darastrix draws the long, slightly-curved blade out of his bag and unsheathes it half-way.
Temeraire swallows, then says, "My lady and I spent a good bit of gold to get here. Please don't take any affront… I see you are a most trustworthy merchant. Perhaps if we survive our trip to Tal'naar, we will return with enough wealth to equip ourselves." Temeraire says all that, but (more to the point) doesn't walk away.
"It isss unfortunate that you are ssshort on coin my friend." He says as he puts the magnification box back into his pack.
"It is truly beautiful craftsmanship. Both pieces are. Would you purchase very gently-used equipment, or take it to lower the cost?" He unbuckles his rapier belt and lays it on the table. "This was a gift from an obnoxious professor at the Collegium Osmundia. It's decent quality, but it's bad luck to use an unwanted gift, so I don't think I've ever actually stabbed anything with it."
Darastrix takes the rapier and examines it closely, eyeing down the blade looking for any imperfections. He balances the blade on a dull green-scaled finger. Laying the rapier back on the table he replies, "Aw a good quality blade. I'd be willing to take it off your handsss for the right price. How much are you looking to acquire for sssuch a blade?"
"Well, I don't know. I've already bought two pots of ointment. I really miss my magnifier – it was a thin round lens on the end of a stick. Yours is a little bulkier, but it might do."
"I could pay 20 gold crownsss for the rapier."
"Perhaps we could come to an arrangement about loot we discover on our travels? You would have the right of first refusal to purchase anything we can't use ourselves… We disconcerting outcasts have to stick together."
"An agreement of sssuch a nature could be beneficial to usss both. I can write up a contract to make it official." He pauses, then continues in his hissing monotone, "I can part with the katana for no lesss than 30 crownsss."
Temeraire whips his tail around with a flourish. "I would be happy to take such a contract to my friends, if the benefit to us was equitable. How much to include the magnifying box?" he asks, arching an eyebrow.
"Glasss bendersss are hard to come by essspecially one ssso talented asss who made thisss. 80 gold crownsss is the lowessst I could go for sssuch an item."
Temeraire scratches his chin and frowns. "I understand. I will sell you my rapier, then, and purchase this katana. May I give you a small deposit and ask you to hold the magnifying box until the next time we meet?"
"Yesss that can be arranged. There are not many on the lookout for sssuch an item. I will hold onto it until you have collected enough coin."
"So twenty gold crowns for the rapier," he pushes the blade forward a bit. "And twenty more crowns to pay for the katana. And an additional ten for deposit." Temeraire lays three stacks of ten gold crowns on the table beside the rapier.
"We have a deal my friend." Darastrix offers his scaly hand to shake on the deal.
Temeraire shakes his hand with a confident grip, unbothered by the clammy scales and clawish pressure. "We probably leave at dawn for Tal'naar, so I will talk to my friends before we leave, so we can sign your contract as soon as you have it ready." Temeraire buckles his new katana around his waist and turns to leave. He "accidentally" drops his coinpurse and one of the old Arkanian gold coins rolls out under Darastrix' chair.
"Oh my stars and garters, I'm so excited about this new sword, I must have the fumblefingers. Please pardon me!"
Darastrix's lizard eyes grow large as he sees the golden eye of Maluzar the Undying roll across the floor. "Aw my friend I'd be more wary of thossse fumblefingersss. Old coin like that could be worth a great…um…a bit more than your average golden crown. I wouldn't want my new partner to be gutted on the roadssside by a gang of cutthroat thievesss. If I may asssk how did you come about this gold?"
"Believe it or not, it was in an old pouch we found buried in an owlbear's nest. The elf there – you might recognize his bow – he really hates foul mutations like owlbears. It had nested under a shrine in Stonebridge, and we rooted it out of there."
"Interesting. Ssso you have more than one golden eye. Would you be willing to sssell any of them to thisss old traveler?"
"Sell… You mean, they're worth more than the gold I used to have?"
"Yesss, to the right collector of courssse. Even sssome of the banksss in the north might give you a bit more for them. I'll tell you what. Sssince we are partnersss of sssorts now', ol' Darassstrix will cut you a deal on them. I'll take the whole coin purse of the golden eyesss for five timesss what a golden crown isss worth."
Temeraire tries to twirl the coin on his fingers like a sleight-of-hand artist he saw once [9 SoH roll] but it clatters to the floor again. His excitement gets the better of him, and he can't really tell whether ol' Darastrix would go higher or not [9 Insight roll UGH]. He opens his pack and takes out the pouch with the rest of the golden eyes.
"Well…. we found fifty of them."
It is Darastrix' turn to be taken aback. The lizardman puts his dull green scaly hand over Temeraire's wrist and says, "Let'sss find a more private place away from prying eyesss before we conduct thisss deal."
"Certainly." He gives a meaningful glance to Nicodemus, gives him a bit of a signal for "coin" and "keep your eyes open" — then accompanies the lizardman.
Darastrix lifts his bag with ease — perhaps more ease than such a full bag would allow, but who knows how strong the lizardfolk really are? — and leads Temeraire Narrows through the kitchen to a room in the back. Rorge Firebeard wipes sweat from his brow as he stirs a large pot of stew. The dwarf gives them a quick nod as they pass. Darastrix opens the door to the back room and quickly ushers the tiefling inside. His eyes take a moment to adjust to the darkness, the smell of burning incense filling his nostrils. The room is wooden instead of stone. It is clearly one of the additions Rhian and Rorge have built onto the roadhouse. It is a small storage room filled with wooden logs for the cook fires, cast iron pots, small traps and cages for hunting game such as hares or pheasants. A well worn broom leans in the corner next to a stained threadbare <s>aaron</s> apron hanging from a peg. (a threadbare Aaron on a peg might be a weird tie-in to Regulators!)
An untidy bedroll lies in one corner. Darastrix drops his bag next to the bedroll, lights a candle and motions for the tiefling to sit down on a wooden crate next to a makeshift table. "I pay Rorge a little extra for thisss fine room," he says with a grin. "A busssinessssman like myssself enjoysss hisss privacy." He begins counting out golden crowns. He carefully slides 10 stacks each containing 25 golden crowns across the table.
Temeraire sits, curling his tail around the crate and sprawling his gangly legs out. He lets the gold sit untouched, not wanting to seem greedy. "Did you know Rorge and Rhian from their wandering days?"
"Unfortunately I never got to sssee them in action. I wasss probably ssstill wandering acrosss the Bloodgrasss Sssteppe of Asssor in thossse daysss." Darastrix leans in close, his face morphing into something insidious as the light from the candle dances shadows across his scaled face, and stares eerily at Temeraire with his blind white eye.
"Are you trying to unnerve a child of the Nine Hells!?" Temeraire asks in a ringing voice as his own pupil-less silver eyes glitter, the reddish tone of his skin glows, and the shadows squirm with tenebrous life around the two of them.
Darastrix either ignores Temeraire's nervous question or is oblivious that it was even asked. His mind seems to be elsewhere. After what seems like minutes pass, he leans back on his crate as a reptilian grin splits his face revealing rows of sharp teeth. "Ol' Darassstrix thinksss that you are a cut above the ressst, one that I can trussst. I have a proposssition for you. I will bessstow a powerful gift to you in return for your ssservicesss in retrieving something of great importance to me that I feel now may be lossst. What do you sssay my new friend?"
Temeraire's thaumaturgy subsides, and the room returns to its natural gloom. "I specialize in finding lost people and salvaging lost things. That's how I came across my lady-love, in fact. Is this something you yourself lost or… someone else?"
"It wasss sssomething of great persssonal interessst to me. I have been sssearching for one for yearsss and wasss finally able to acquire one after ssseveral arduousss transssactionsss. A trusssted go-between wasss sssupposssed to arrive here a week passst and hasss yet to ssshow. He hasss never been late before. I fear sssomething hasss happened essspecially with thessse sssavagesss roaming around burning villagesss to the ground."
"Is anyone else looking for your interesting possession? The leader of the savages is also looking for powerful relics."
"Not that I am aware of. Mossst wouldn't consssider it to be a relic."
"Where was your associate coming from with your acquisition?"
"He wasss traveling from the port city of Thamatur farther to the sssouth on the other ssside of the Ssstag Fensss. I know that he at leassst made it to Allden in wessstern Vrakisss asss I received a messsager raven from him letting me know of hisss arrival."
Temeraire winces as Darastrix mentions Allden. "The refugees are saying Allden has been overrun by the savages, aren't they?"
"Yesss sssome of the refugeesss here sssay that Allden isss under sssiege. They were lucky enough to essscape before the full war band arrived. My hope isss that Ambrossse wasss able to get out of Allden before the sssiege began."
"If… Ambrose, you said? If he got out, he might follow the North road and try and stay ahead of the ravagers, right? We have to go towards the North road anyway… I can look for him. But… And this is just speculation, of course… If they killed him, would these ravagers recognize your package as valuable? Or would they leave it behind in ignorance?"
"Yesss Ambrossse would have been traveling by wagon and would probably not have cut acrosss countryssside. He would have ssstuck to the roadsss. My posssesssion would not catch the eye of thievesss. It isss…a sssmall chunck of oily black ssstone."
"Like dragonglass from the Scorched Sands?”
Darastrix gives Temeraire a grin. "No not quite. Thisss ssstone isss oily to the touch and it ssseemsss to drink in the light. Sssome think it isss from the deep fathomsss of the seasss, otherssss sssay it fell from the ssstars, or isss part of the Ssshadow Moon itssself."
The tiefling's eyes widen in awe. "You think you've found one of the Stones of the Shadow Moon?? No wonder you're anxious! Describe Ambrose to me… Along with this gift that might help me find him."
"The ssstone isss a jagged junk of the oiliesst blackness. It isss the sssize of a sssmall chessst but itsss weight is clossse to fifty poundsss. Ambrossse isss hard to misss. He isss a big bald headed bear of a man. The ssside of hisss face is ssscarred by a nasssty acid burn. He hasss a hangmansss noossse tattooed around hisss neck."
"No, I don't imagine Mother left too many like that lying around." Temeraire retorts with a smirk. "If he's out there, the Princess and I will find him, or you'll know the reason why."
"In return for your ssservicesss and the expected recovery and return of my acquisssition I give you thisss gift." Darastrix slowly reaches into the folds of his cloak, retrieving a small item and laying it out on the makeshift table. It is a sinister looking door knocker. There is a small white stone embedded in the handle. Two empty sockets flank the small stone, they look as if they too would hold a similar stone.
"I could have guessed all night, Darastrix my friend, and not come up with something like this." Temeraire laces his fingers, cracks his knuckles, and then ever-so-gently reached to touch the bizarre metallic piece. "That face… I've never seen anything like it."
"Noooo you've never ssseen anything like thisss before. There isss nothing elssse like thisss anywhere in the world, from the frozen wassstesss of the Grimfrossst to the north, to the endlesss jungles of Tasssmysssisss to the sssouth, to the Jade Empire of Tu Yi to the eassst, to the Sssunlesss Sssea to the wessst. It possesses a mighty conjuration glammer." The lizardman pauses, letting a claw scrape over the empty holes before tapping the stone at the center.
"You take this sssmall white ssstone out of the handle and hide it in a place you would like to return to. When you have need, you place the door knocker on the ground and draw the outline of a door around it. Lassst you write on the door the name of the place where you left the ssstone. A real door will materialize in itsss place and will open to that place."
"Have you used it? Does it stay behind when you go through the door? Or can you pull it through behind you?”
"I have usssed it once before. Once you ssstep through the doorway it disssappearsss, leaving only the door knocker lying on the ground at your feet."
"Did you have to use it on solid ground, or could it be any sort of a floor?"
"It ssshould work on any sssurface." The lizardman pauses for a long, cold heartbeat. "If you are able to return my package, I will give you the remaining two ssstonesss that go with the door knocker."
Temeraire tucks the door knocker and the gold coins into his rucksack. "Darastrix, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." He shakes the scaly hand again. "We won't fail you."