Garth arrived at the shop Sandi had pointed out to him the night before. This time it was open, and run by an elderly Shinta woman. At least he thought it was. Garth had a hard time identifying the gender of certain races, and the blue, lanky Shinta people didn’t have a big difference between one and the other. Pretty sure it was an old lady though.
The shop was boxlike and made from rough wood like the others, but it had the distinctive smell of books, and glowing wards on the door.
“Good afternoon.” The woman said from behind the counter as Garth entered. She frowned, her gaze settling on his ragged loincloth, then his expensive Status band before landing on his beaming face. “How can I help you?”
Garth looked around. The spells weren’t on display, just a handful of trinkets, earings, bracelets, jewelry, even what looked like a wand.
“Spells.” Garth said. “I’ve just got my Class and I’m looking for spells.”
“Any spell in particular?”
Oh, this woman just bit off more than she can chew, Garth thought, taking a deep breath.
“I need something that can armor me against attack or horny succubi if possible, a spell to control plants, definitely, a spell to alter plant’s genes, if you got one. A flying spell, a polymorphic spell, a spell to move things with my mind, a fireball spell, a spell that can bind a consciousness into a plant and let it roam around, or alternatively summon a plant monster. A spell to move my consciousness into a plant, a spell to turn myself into a plant, a spell to create finished products from base materials, a spell to turn my blood into acid-“
Garth stopped to refill his lungs.
“A spell to make fungus grow on a target, a spell to control the chemical output of a plant or fungus. A teleport spell, a scrying spell, a spell to calm people down, a spell to turn them on, a spell to control people’s minds, a spell to create illusions, a spell to make things shrink or grow, a spell to start fires, a spell to refine chemicals, a spell to make people fall asleep, a spell to-“
“Wait!” she shouted, a hand on her temple. “How much money do you have?”
“Oh, about four and a half grand.” Garth said, checking his balance. He was saving another hundred and fifty for another stay in the inn.
She sighed and rolled her eyes, going to the back of her store and coming back with a armload of books, setting them on the counter in front of him.
“These are the ones you can afford.” She said as Garth inspected them, his translator faithfully converting the alien writing into words he could understand.
Ogarth’s Force Armor – 1500 credits
Menendais’ Plant Design – 1000 credits
Menendais’ Control Plants -3000 credits
Konamai’s Fire bolt -1500 credits
Create fire -800 credits
“To be clear, you’ve got more in the back, I just can’t afford them?” Garth asked.
“Most of the things you asked for, yeah, Except for a few of the truly expensive or illegal ones in that list of yours. Most of them are way over five grand apiece. Force Armor and Fire bolt are just cheap because they’re common.”
“Why’s plant design cheap, then?” Garth asked.
“low rate of efficiency, difficult to practice, plus you gotta wait a year to see if it worked. It’s mostly a novelty to the private collector, but it's taking up space with my other books. Huge farms use it to make new cultivars, but they all have their own copies, and millions of acres, of course. You planning on starting a huge farm with only four grand?”
Garth grinned. Good idea. “Maybe.” He pointed at Control Plants. “This one lets me move plants, yeah? Not make them bloom faster or make them feel better after a rain, right?”
The old woman let out a dry laugh. “It’s a spell to create a pseudo muscular system in any plant, and control it as you wish.”
“Hmm…” This left Garth with a dilemma. He could spring for Control plants and Force Armor, giving him a method of attack and defence, and maybe some protection for dating Sandi. Not a bad choice all around.
OR… he could pick everything aside from control plants, and pick that up later. If he could find a way to get the money.
Suddenly, he remembered Brian’s plight and the steep prices of the inn.
Holy shit, a problem I can actually solve. Supply and demand.
“I’ll take Control Plants and Plant Design, please.”
“You want a box for em?” She asked as she took the stack back to the back.
“I’ll put ‘em in my Band.” Garth said, taking out four thousand gold credits. After playing around with the storage function a bit this morning, he’d figured out that it could store about a cubic yard of gear. Spellbooks, a wizard’s lifeline, were an optimal choice. Now he had to remember not to store anything that could spill or get sticky.
“Alright. Pleasure doing business with you, and good luck with your farm, I guess.” The old lady said, waving at him halfheartedly as he left. He would need a ton of money if he wanted to buy any more spellbooks, but he already had an idea for exactly how to go about it.
Garth opened the Control Plants book as he exited the shop. As if by unspoken agreement, Wilson perched on his head, steering him through the crowd as he flipped through the pages, eyes on the words hand-scrawled across the page. Thankfully the Status band seemed to translate that as well.
“So how much do you pay for raw lumber?” Garth asked the master carpenter, a dwarf sitting in a pile of wood shavings in the middle of a yard where men were busily throwing together frame after frame for quick-build cabins. The dwarf was rich, in charge of the biggest group of construction workers in the growing city and Garth had had a hell of a time working his way through all the man’s minions to speak directly to him.
He needed a little capital to start his business, and that meant he needed some quick cash. The date with Sandi and the conversation with the magic saleswoman - collector?- got him thinking about a hybrid of quick supplies paired with long term investments.
“We don’t pay for our lumber. We get it ourselves.” The Dwarf, one Higgurth Kole, spoke, a sour frown on his face. “You trying to steal my business?”
“It can’t be free, can it? Garth asked. All those men cutting down trees are men not building houses and making you money. I imagine you have to hire mercenaries as bodyguards when you travel, too?”
“We handle ourselves just fine.”
Tough nut, Garth thought.
“Tell you what. I’ll bet I could provide twice as much wood at half the price of one of your logging expeditions, in one day. If I'm wrong, you can have all the wood I own for free while I go consider other employment. ” Garth hit him with the hard sell.
The dwarf’s eyebrows rose for a moment before he scowled and shook his head.
“You couldn’t match the quality of the wood we bring back, grifter. Only the finest wood makes its way back.” Got him.
“So if I could match it, at that price and speed, you’d be interested?”
“You’re blowing smoke up my ass,” he said, but the dwarf’s posture said he was interested.
“What’s your favorite wood on Earth so far?”
“Nothing beats darkwood from back home, but I’m partial to oak.”
“Oak, huh,” Garth said, taking an acorn out of the bandolier across his chest. It had taken him a few hours to get every species he could think of, but the payoff was worth it.
“Fire in the hole!” Garth shouted, tossing it into the middle of the yard.
The earth shook as the little nut exploded into a full grown tree, its thick branches wildly thrashing the air from the recoil of its rapid growth. the men working in the yard stopped and gawked at the massive oak that'd sprouted in the center of their workplace.
“Kolath’s balls!” The dwarf shouted, falling off his chair, knocked back by the sudden gust of wind.
“Yeah, it’ll do that.”
“You bastard! It’ll take a day just to pull that damn thing out of my work yard,” Higgurth shouted, his face going red “And another to plug the hole it made! You’ve cost me money, you damn moron!”
Garth held up his hand and guided the mana in the atmosphere into the tree. Control Plants had come incredibly easy, probably on account of his class. Somehow it just made sense. He couldn’t make them move fast yet, but it just took a glance at the first chapter to allow him to understand the theory and try the spell. Once he read the entire book and got some practice, he’d be able to use plants as weapons.
Right now, making them move was plenty.
Garth’s temple ached as he weaved a latticework of strands of mana through the tree, allowing its cells to expand and contract to his whim.
Control Plants Proficiency has reached 20%!
In front of them, the oak gingerly peeled its roots out of the ground, smoothed out the dirt it had come from, then carefully laid itself on its side beside the rest of the man’s raw lumber.
“I think you’ll find the oak to be very high quality.” Garth said, glancing at the gaping dwarf. Higgurth sobered up quickly and gave him a calculating look, rubbing his hairy chin.
“Can you do the same with Darkwood, lad?”
“Then you’ve got a deal.”
“How much are you willing to pay per ton of darkwood, right now?”
They got to haggling.
“I bet you want something for your patrons to drink, but booze is practically worth its weight in gold to import around here.” Garth said to the manager of the Inn, a rather large Orc.
“What’s it to you?”
“How would you like to be the major shareholder in a well-established orchard that produces ten tons of apples a year, enough to keep your patrons drunk and happy on cider indefinitely?”
“Why, did you find one within five miles of the place?” the innkeeper asked with a sneer. They both knew there was nothing within sight of the outpost, and there wouldn’t be for years to come, as they had just begun expanding.
“There could be one.” Garth said, putting a handful of dirt in the orc’s cup.
The orc snarled and grabbed Garth’s neck, lifting him out of his seat at the bar, intent on pummeling him.
“Wait.” Garth croaked. “I wanna show you something.”
The innkeeper dropped his fist and Garth.
“Better be good.”
Garth reached into his bandolier and grabbed an apple seed, dropping one into the dirt. He’d held back on account of not wanting to make a mess, so the seedling sprung out of the ground and stopped growing at about four inches, nestled in the dirt.
“I could make you an entire orchard in a day.”
Garth wasn’t expecting the fist that impacted his nose, knocking him clear out of his seat. The only thing that stopped him from snapping his neck against the furniture was the back of another adventurer that cushioned his fall. Of course that came with its own set of problems.
The adventurer flung Garth aside with a backhand, making him feel like a pinball as he careened to the floor, gasping for breath. That did not go as well as expected.
“Get the fuck out of here! You obviously used Control Plants to hide the seedling in the dirt. You can forget about staying here too, fucknugget!”
Garth crawled to his feet, vision swimming. He eyed the glowering Innkeeper across the bar and wiped his bloody nose. Guess the guy wants a demonstration.
Garth popped open his bandolier and brought out another apple seed he’d gotten from a moldy husk in the trash. The apples had been brought in by an adventurer as a curiosity from an abandoned grocery store.
Garth flicked the tiny seed onto the nearest table, and the seedling began to grow, burrowing its roots down through the table as it sprang upward. Garth stood with his arms crossed, watching the young apple tree approach the high ceiling of the inn.
“It’s almost done.” Garth said, ignoring the innkeeper as the silent patrons watched with their mouths wide. The ones on the table backed away, sloshing their watered down swill as they retreated from the expanding roots.
A few seconds later, the tree burst into pink and white blossoms, then rapidly swelled with fruit. Garth reached out and plucked a single red apple from the tree perched on the round wooden table, taking a bite.
“hmm…” It wasn’t great since it was a cross pollination of a popular brand mixed with a crabapple, but it was still better than what they could get out here. With a little work, he could make an excellent clone.
“Not bad,” Garth said, nodding as he ate. “Is anyone else here sick of the endless grind? Did anyone else come out here to get away from the Inner Spheres and make something that you can give to your children, your grandchildren?”
“Did anyone come looking for an opportunity?” Garth scanned the room of silent aliens listening to him.
“Does anyone here want to skip twenty years of tending a farm and own a piece of land that produces tens of thousands of credits a year right now? If you stay here, there’s no loss in it for you. Nothing will happen, aside from what you already expected. A lifetime of building some meager living out of no-man’s-land. But come with me now and I’ll get you your first harvest in the next week.”
A few hands went up.
“Alright, let’s go.” Garth glanced at the Innkeeper and pulled out two hundred Credit coins, throwing them on the apple-tree laden table. “For the table.”
“You lost your chance.”
By the end of the day, a hundred or so aspiring alien farmers had plotted out a piece of land outside the walls, and Garth owned a twentieth of each one.