As they walked through the market district the first thing that Srough noticed was how short nearly every other race was in comparison to her. She had originally thought that the people of Brackshore were particularly short even for humans, but that idea was soon dashed as she saw how much taller Val was when compared to the denizens of the market. Though what intrigued her most was not the size of the people before her, it was the diversity. As she tried to pick out the individuals in the crowd she was distracted by a small impact on her leg.
“Hey watch where you’re going would you?” A small yet annoyed voice called up to Srough.
When she looked down to find the source of the noise she was met with the odd sight of a pale white blob of a creature with four tentacle-like arms spreading upward to meet her. At the end of each stalk-like arm was an eye that was transfixed on her face. The entirety of the creature sat upon a perfectly polished stone that was rolling back and forth impatiently, “An obarian?” Srough narrowed her brow in confusion.
“Sure am, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late!” the creature mumbled up at her, it’s mouth hidden from Srough’s view. It then proceeded to roll atop its rock around her before speeding off down the street.
“This city is strange.” Srough remarked, “Chondricthian cities are only home to chondricthians, but here I see every race imaginable.”
“I mean a few races are less common, but yeah I wouldn’t be surprised if there was even another chondricthian here somewhere.” Val quickened her pace to match Srough’s long-legged stride.
“Pfft, only if they were banished.” Srough laughed with mirth, “Chondricthians are given the jobs best suited for them. There is no need for other races to fill in the gaps in my homeland. And since every chondricthian serves a purpose it’s unlikely for anyone with standing to integrate themselves into other societies.” Her voice was full of pride as she explained the superior chondricthian society.
“That’s a little narrow-minded don’t you think?” Kyron frowned, “I mean for one, I’ve never met a chondricthian mage. If you weren’t so nationalistic you’d probably learn a lot from the other races. And the other races could stand to learn a lot from you!”
The small debate was soon interrupted as the call of a nearby shopkeeper caught their attention, “We have all the supplies you could ever need! Our rations will get you where you’re going, guaranteed to last your whole trip! Stock up now!”
“Let’s see how much money we have.” Kyron reached for his coin purse while Val did the same.
While they began counting out the small silver coins Srough stepped into the shop, “Shopkeep! We’ll need a full week of rations for five people.” Even though there were only three of them Srough knew that a week’s worth of human rations would only last her two days if she was lucky. Their meals were just too small to satisfy her hunger.
“Alright, and that will run you,” The portly man running the shop fidgeted with his flat capped hat, “Five thousand vaylirs.”
Surprised by the price Srough began to explain, “Well, we’re on official business, I suppose you’ll have to talk to Magistrate Taylk about that.”
“Okay, maybe I should put this in terms your kind can understand, no coin, no food.” The keeper glared at her, “Understand?”
“Oh, that’s not how it works here. I see.” Srough mused turning back to look for Val and Kyron, “We only need five thousand for our rations.” She called over to them as they continued to count their coins.
“What?” Val exclaimed, “How much food are you trying to buy?” she stepped into the store looking around incredulously, “It’s usually about twenty-five vaylirs a head per day. That’s way overpriced.”
“What are you charging? Ten coins per bite?” Kyron grumpily asked the shopkeep.
“Not at all! I simply have taken the liberty of adding a security surcharge due to the transaction involving a monster dumb enough to think it’s a human.”
“Excuse me?” Srough looked at the shopkeeper in shock, “I would never want to be a human. You’re far too fragile.” She grinned showing off her pointed teeth.
“Now, let’s see if I can phrase this in terms your advanced mind can understand.” Srough continued her voice lowering into a growl, “If you refuse to assist my allies in a fair purchase then, we’ll have to take our business elsewhere.” She paused to let her threat sink in, “If you don't understand then I can put it in simpler terms.”
“Fine!” The shopkeep threw his hands in the air, “One thousand Vaylirs, but I won’t charge anything less”
“Now you’re talking.” Val said dropping a pouch of coins on the counter, “Very well handled Speaker Srough. Though to be honest, I was pretty sure you were about to draw your swords.”
“The thought did cross my mind.” Srough laughed as the shopkeep went to collect the package of rations, “But I insist, while we’re speaking your language just call me Srough. If I understand your tongue correctly, you only use titles on formal occasions?”
“Yes, that’s correct, but if I didn’t know any better I’d think the chondricthian was starting to think of you as a friend Val.” Kyron snickered poking at his friend.
“Well, as a matter of fact.” Srough started out before changing the subject, “Let’s get these rations loaded up.” The shopkeeper returned with a small pack of rations which would easily last a week.
“ I was planning on trying to buy some armor. I’m tired of getting stabbed.” Val said with a sideways grimace
“You weren’t tired of it at some point?” Kyron gave her a funny look, “I didn’t know you were a masochist.”
“Very funny” Val sighed, “Come on let’s get going.” She slung the pack of rations over her back rolling her eyes at Kyron’s jab.
“So we can just go get the other supplies we need and then we can head back to the ship and collect our horses,” Srough said with finality
“I suppose, all we really need is the armor right?” Kyron rubbed his jaw as they left the shop.
“Well, more importantly than armor, I actually need a new set of swords. I lost mine when I fell off that monster.” Val smiled apologetically, “But should be at the same place right?”
“There’s an armory shop just down the street, there’s the sign.” Kyon pointed to a wooden sign that creaked gently in the wind. On the sign, there was a blackened silhouette of an anvil and sword, and the shop’s name: The Blade and the Wind.
Following the street down towards the shop, Val began to consider what she was planning on getting. She didn’t have enough money to afford an elaborate plate mail or anything like that, and even if she could the heavy weight would hamper her agility.
When she walked inside the store she was immediately awed by the raw selection of armor and weapons the store held inside. But her attention was pulled from the armor she wished to buy when she saw a pitch black set of scale armor with a red stripe on the shoulder. “Kyron. Does this look familiar to you?” She said pointing to the stand.
“That’s the same armor the assassins' were wearing. Even down to the color accent.” His expression hardened, “We might have a problem here.”
“Anything I can help you folks with?” a young man greeted them from behind causing Kyron to jump, “That’s a fine set of armor you’re looking at.”
“Well, I was wondering if you produced this one in bulk.” Val started off slowly, not wanting to give away her position, “I was considering trying to armor the militia in my hometown with this style.”
“We used to.” The clerk said, “But a private investor bought the entirety of the line. We only have the display model left. It’s a good discount from being on display.”
“I think I’ll pass on that one. Thank you though. I actually need to look at your weapons first.” Val pointed towards the racks of glistening weapons on the back wall.
“Ah! Yes. One moment, allow me to go grab our fitting kit from the back.” He smiled and then ran off.
“Fitting kit?” Srough rolled her back and flicked her tail impatiently. Her narrow head tipping from side to side as she stretched out, “I thought you pointed at the weapons.”
“I’m just as confused as you.” Val admitted, “I thought I did too.”
They walked over to the wall of weapons and waited for the man to return. As he rounded the corner his long and unkempt black hair fell into his eyes causing him to stumble and nearly fall dropping the box he was carrying.
“Woah! Sorry about that” He laughed as he set the box by Val’s feet. “Here, the stuff in there will help us figure out what weapon is your best fit.”
“Oh, I already know that.” Val laughed, “I’m familiar with, and prefer a set of identical one-handed blades. One for each hand.”
“Just humor me. It’s part of the job anyway. Since you’re already familiar with paired blades I’m sure it’ll go that way for you.” He said pulling a set of small knives out of the box. “Each of these are made with a different weight and balance to give me a feel of what might work best for you.”
He then handed her a pair of identical knives, and Val took one in each hand. “Go on give them a twirl, I wanna see how you would move in a fight.” Val obliged the man and began to spin the daggers in her hand feeling their balance.
“These are really well balanced. But how will that tell you if I’m more suited to use two weapons.” Val said continuing her circular motions.
“It’s mostly a test of your dexterity. Try one of these next.” He said passing her a much larger knife. When Val closed her hands around it her arm was pulled down by its unexpected weight. When she quickly recovered from the weight the salesman looked impressed, “Seems you’re strong enough to use our heavier blades as well.”
“And why are you so keen on testing what she is capable of?” Srough said stepping towards the man, “If she wants the twin blades isn’t that what you should focus on selling her?”
“It’s a point of pride.” He explained, “While carrying steel forged by this business, her accomplishments and possible failures will reflect upon us. If we sell a weapon to the inexperienced and they get themselves killed then that reflects poorly on us.”
“Okay, fine,” Val said curtly beginning to show signs of impatience. “Any other knives you want me to hold.”
“No, but I do have a proposition for you. If you buy a greatsword from me, then I will give you your choice of complimentary twin blades to carry for free.” He then gestured to the back wall where every kind of sword imaginable hung on display.
“I thought you didn’t want people to embarrass your steel.” Val frowned, “I’ve never used a greatsword. And won’t you lose money on that sale?”
“Consider it an investment. I have a hunch that you’ll be able to learn the greatsword with ease. Just remember, The Blade and the Wind values our customers' hidden strengths.”
“Okay.” Val said slowly, “Give me a little bit to pick out the weapons and then I’ll meet you at the counter.” Val then walked over to the wall and began inspecting the blades hoping she could find the weapons becoming of her abilities.
She very quickly found a greatsword that she liked the look of, and picked it off the shelf. It was light enough that she could hold it with a single hand, but it was clear from the long hilt that it was meant for two hands. The guard and grip were a crimson red, and the blade itself had clean silver running the edge of the nearly four-foot blade. The crimson color continued up the blade encircled by the cutting edge on either side, before the blade quickly curved inward to its pointed tip.
After deciding that she like the greatsword, Val began to look for paired blades that she would like. Rather than searching by their look, she grabbed them off the shelf and felt the swords’ balance. Eventually, she found a sword that she liked the feel of but frowned when she lifted the partnered blade. “This one is heavier.”
“Oh yes!” The shopkeeper called out, “That’s what we’ve been calling a fraternal pair of twin blades. They’re forged in the same style, and design, but each one has it’s different uses. With your strength that pair would work well for you. Go ahead and unsheathe them.”
The lengthy swords were both curved with a single edge and a simple guard. The hilts were black with a red embroidery and capped with a flat pommel. All in all, they were identical in shape, but one blade held a plain steel color, and the heavier one was a deep blue color that seemed to glow softly.
“What’s the difference between them?” Val said eyeing the sapphire blade with intrigue.
“The blue one is made from a material that can hold a finer edge. You’ll find it easier to cleave through your targets with that one. And the steel one is simply faster, and perhaps a small bit more durable. The steel is better suited for blocking.”
“Alright, I’ll take these three then.” Val decided, “How much does it come to?”
“Eight thousand vaylirs. Though it would be ten thousand just for your pair of blades there.”
Val grimace, “Well, I guess I’ll be going without armor a while longer. I doubt I’ll be able to afford anything of use.” She then looked down eyeing her simple clothes. Plain white cloth, with patches over the holes that had formed over time.
Val finished her transaction and looked into her coin purse noting she had enough coin left for a few days meals but nothing more. She’d have to start saving up again when she got home. With the girl rearmed, the trio left the shop and returned to the boat, where the captain was waiting for them.
Leon lead their horses towards them with a smile on his face, “Glad to see the city didn’t swallow you whole. You three want a lift back to Kanazaval? Or is this where we say goodbye?”
“This is where we say goodbye.” Srough nodded, “We still have a long journey ahead of us before we can return home. Thank you for your assistance, Captain Leon.”
The captain stayed to talk with them while they loaded the rations into the saddlebags, and complemented Val on the sword strapped to her back, “I’m impressed you can carry a sword that big. I think it’s taller than my daughter.”
Val laughed as she stepped into the saddle of her horse, “It might be, but I prefer to use these kinds.” She gestured to her belt where the twin blades were fastened, “Easier to move with.”
And with that, the group said their final farewells to the captain and began to ride west away from the capital. Srough hoped they would be able to make the journey faster than the week they had estimated, but knew they were likely to be limited by the horses’ stamina and the need for rest. The trepidation of the delay shook her resolve, but she pushed it aside needing to keep a brave face to ensure her new human companions commitment.