The magic store was, surprising absolutely no one, another drab grey building, built out of the ubiquitous grey stone. I wondered if the city was deliberately built that way, to promote depression, or if the trolls simply had the aesthetic sense of a blind mole. Personally, I had a feeling that if I tried to stay for more than a few days, I would start to paint the walls and the streets - with blood, if no other colours were available. Better not risk staying too long, I had no desire to get banned from another town.
Inside, it again looked rather different, but much more in line with my expectations: a counter and rows of shelves, reminiscent of a pharmacy back at home, something that made a lot of sense when I peeked through Lenore’s sight, the shelves were alight with complex magic, some of it focusing on the items on that shelf and in other cases it looked like wards to keep outsiders away or maybe keep the items controlled. Behind the counter, was another female troll, looking very similar to Surja, the owner of the herb-store back in Yaksha.
“Greetings, do you only sell or do you buy as well?” Adra asked while I was still looking around in wonder.
“Greetings, it depends what you have to sell. I have no need for some overpriced trinkets, sell those to the fool Adventurers.” the troll behind the counter answered, her voice sounding hoarse and rough.
Adra shook my shoulder, pulling me from my examination of the highly interesting wards the troll had set up, telling me it was my turn.
First, I handed over the Earthen Staff, curious what she’d make of it. I kept looking at her through Lenore’s sight, hoping to maybe glean some more tricks, as she looked rather experienced in her craft. I felt Lenore’s mind join with mine and together, we watched in breathless amazement as a highly complex formation of magic shot from the shopkeepers forehead, scanning over the staff in a systematic and careful manner. Together we were able to make sense of parts of it, the parts that were similar to the divination-based skill Inspect we used, but it was just a tiny part of a larger whole. But her scan allowed me to get an impression of a few of the runes used in the staff; not a complete picture but it was a start. They looked different from anything I had ever seen, but there was a slight resemblance to the runes of Darkness, especially the one meaning Magic. Both Lenore and I tried our very best to burn those images into our minds, knowing that it might be a starting point to replicate the staff in an elemental flavour more to our liking.
“Not a bad work, Motherstone as a core, supporting a solid rock shell with structural enhancement and power storage. Yes, I’d buy that thing. Do you have more for me?” she asked, looking first at me, then at Adra.
“Yes, but I’m not sure I want to sell it, maybe you could tell me your thoughts on this.” I told her, pulling a small shard of Eternal Ice from my bag.
“Ah, Eternal Ice. Another low-grade Elemental Crystal, yes, I’d buy that as well. But you wanted my thoughts, well, it is, as I said, a low-grade Elemental Crystal, similar to the core of that staff. Useful to power enchantments and such, or, if you are seriously suicidal, use it to directly fuel spells, but that’ll most likely kill you, trying to keep such power in check without the necessary enchantments and formations is nigh impossible and if you don’t, it’ll lash back, striking directly at your soul…” as she talked, she started to frown and when she petered off, she used a similar spell to the one used previously, only this time on me, undoubtedly trying to get a better look at me. I had expected something like that and was ready for it, shadows blooming from below my hood, obscuring my face and smothering the magic, not allowing her to learn anything about me. I had even been careful to keep the traces of Elemental Ice that accompanied my magic normally in check, using pure Darkness.
“Now, let’s not be impolite, please.” I asked, in a gentle voice after letting most of the shadows fade away, letting an outline of my face be seen through, almost as if I was wearing a veil.
“I apologize, just natural curiosity, something you can undoubtedly understand.” the shopkeeper apologized with a slight bow and smile, taking the tension out of the situation.
“It’s fine. So, the staff’s core is made out of a material equivalent to the Eternal Ice?” I asked, seeking confirmation.
“Yes, enchanted to allow a slow drain of power from the crystals, instead of destabilising the crystals, unleashing the whole power at once.” With the shopkeeper’s confirmation, I felt a bit like a fool and Lenore was hysterically laughing in her Hallow. It seemed that we had been even more lucky than I had believed previously and that my analogy with nuclear fission had been rather apt. With information, we could have used the crystals in a controlled manner, just as in a power plant, nuclear fission was used to create safe energy instead of the explosive, uncontrolled manner I had unleashed the power.
“Do you know how to enchant such a staff?” I asked, hatching a plan.
“With Eternal Ice? No, I don’t have that ability, I work in other elements.”
“But you have the information? Could I look at your books and such, as compensation for your previous rudeness? Just looking through them once, you can look over my shoulder as I do. I will even give you the answers you previously sought.” I suggested, hoping to get a good look, allowing me to look at the recording later. It wouldn’t be as good as having a reference book permanently with me, but again, I doubted that anyone would give away their knowledge without serious struggle.
The shopkeeper took a measuring look at me and I let the shadows concealing my face face, letting her see me without obstruction.
“In turn, I can show you the grimoire I received from an elder who taught me some truths about magic before sending me on my way.” I added, hoping to use the Grandmother’s reputation to my advantage. I could see the interest and surprise on her face and pulled the grimoire from my bag, letting her see and Inspect it.
The Grandmother’s reputation came through once more, the shopkeeper’s eyes went almost comically wide when inspecting the book and she nodded, gesturing for me to come behind the counter while almost reverently touching the grimoire.
“Why don’t I show you what I can access in the grimoire at this point - I’m afraid that it is not as much as I would like to; the Grandmother restricted how much it shows, depending on my mental and magical power.” I explained, while opening the grimoire, allowing the Shopkeeper to look over my shoulder, into the book. The soulbinding on the book made sure that only I could open the book but, at least with Lenore and Adra, others were able to read along with me, if I let them.
Over the last few weeks, there had been more pages unveiled, I had read them before, mostly rituals to gather and shape power but nothing that I had been able to use in a useful manner. The shopkeeper looked over the spells carefully, muttering under her breath as she went along. Sadly, there were only ten pages, filled with complex symbols and instructions, so it didn’t take too long, maybe half an hour - the information was that complicated.
“Interesting. It is obvious that the writer was greatly experienced. Let me show you my collection.” she told me, after I got to the last page.
Her collection was recorded on thin leather, not paper and I quickly noticed that it was far less complex and comprehensive compared to the grimoire, but Lenore and I were able to pierce some things together. It was a little difficult, because the enchantments were designed to work with another type of Astral Power. From the feeling I was getting, the Shopkeeper, or maybe someone else, was working in Earth and something vaguely reminiscent of my Blood-element, something that Lenore claimed was the element of Wood or vegetation, whatever you wanted to call it.
After the first page, I no longer tried to even understand what I was looking at, I merely made sure that I scanned every page carefully, so that I would have a recording of it later. Lenore tried to read along, but she was limited to what I was seeing, if she wanted to read. But the shopkeeper had a few books and I was scanning them all, over the course of the next hour. As I was doing that, I heard Adra and the shopkeeper haggle over the amount of money we would get for the staff but I was too focused on the pages to pay the end result any heed.