“Healing! Free healing!” Autumn yelled into the crowd, cursing the lack of Elaine’s presence. Just by being around, Elaine had moneybags lining up down the market aisle, most of the cash-holders wanting to meet the famous Sentinel, with the rest having legitimate injuries that needed tending to.
By herself? Autumn didn’t do nearly as well. She was running headfirst into the problem that Elaine had warned her about – low-level Light healers couldn’t do much, so coin-dispensers tended not to visit them.
Autumn was trying Elaine’s trick. Somehow, she’d stumbled upon a fantastic method for getting the sweet clanking of coins into her jar, all while having the poor former owners of said coins smiling all along.
“Is your healing truly free?” A bounty bringer came up to Autumn, who [Merchant’s Appraisal]ed her lightning-fast.
A heavy pouch on her waist – but it was all wrong. The little shapes and bulges being made from the contents didn’t match the outline of coins at all. Decoy purse! Autumn approved of deceiving thieves, but not merchants. Nooo.
Her clothes were high-quality, but well-worn. A light breeze blew through, ruffling her clothes a hair. One part of her tunic didn’t move quite the right way, revealing a second pouch tucked into her clothing.
Yet, that tiny glimpse was all Autumn needed to get a good estimate of exactly how many coins this particular supplicant could bestow upon her.
Autumn would get her purse filled, one way or another.
This wasn’t a big fish, but it wasn’t a small one either.
First! The hook! Get the tasty fish with the golden scales – err, purse – interested.
“Yup! Completely and totally free.” Autumn said, internally smiling as she got the sentence out without stammering or losing her cool once.
She’d practiced saying that with her dad at home, needing hundreds of attempts and repetitions before she could say it in a smooth, natural, believable way.
The phrase itself was a violation of Rule 1 – Always, always, always get paid. Yet, it was needed. Lure the target in, then shake them down for everything that would rattle loose.
Of course, nobody believed Autumn was giving away free healing. It boggled the mind of even the most naïve of targets.
Autumn mentally revised that.
Of the most naïve of targets that still had any money worth getting.
“I’m in it for the experience. Hard to level up my class.” She explained, watching the guardian of the green’s face carefully. A tiny amount of sympathy showed, but not enough.
“My master left on a trip, and abandoned me to my own devices.” Autumn added in, putting on a sad face.
Lying was bad. It was a sure-fire way to destroy one’s reputation as a merchant. It didn’t matter if the lie was a terrible backstories, faking freshness, to flat-out selling defective goods. Autumn could make a few quick coins today – and never make another coin again, not with a destroyed reputation.
Honesty was best.
It didn’t mean she couldn’t present things in the best light possible for herself! Elaine had technically run off again on some mission-or-another, and she’d been gone a few weeks now. Autumn wasn’t worried....
Ok, Autumn was worried. It wasn’t like Elaine to be gone this long on one of her missions.
The custodian of cash’s face took on a more sympathetic look. Yes! I’ve got her!
“I’m doing this for free in hopes of getting enough levels to make it on my own.” Autumn said. “Also, since I can’t promise I can fix you, it would be wrong of me to charge. However, if I manage, a small donation to keep me going helps. Whatever you want to pay!” Autumn said, inevitably slipping from her “pity story” tone of voice, into her “sales” tone of voice.
She mentally cursed. She was working on it, but she’d been working at keeping the “pity story” tone of voice during her pitches. Ah well, it looked like she was fine.
“Hmmmm. Ok, thank you.” The minder of the moola said, turning and leaving.
“Tax collectors!” Autumn cursed as she slumped in her stool. Another one that got away. Her money! Her precious money – oh, and experience – was walking away! Drat.
A heavy hand landed on her shoulder.
“You should probably read some of the scrolls Elaine left for you, hmmm?” Autumn’s dad, Neptune, said.
Autumn slumped her shoulders, glancing down at where the scroll she was currently on was.
“I should, but...” She trailed off, not quite sure how to articulate her concerns, why she didn’t want to read it right now.
“It’s not a betrayal to read them. Nor is thinking she’s dead.” Neptune said. “Heck, part of her instructions to you, her apprentice, was to read them when she wasn’t around. Have you been doing that?” Neptune asked her with a Look that said he knew exactly how much she’d been reading them – or how little.
“Well, I’m still confused about this one part...” Autumn said, trying to defend herself.
“Then read a different part. I know medicine builds on itself, but you can read a different thing, and get more questions for when Elaine gets back.” Neptune said. “Think of how happy Elaine will be!”
Autumn frowned, then brightened up.
She’d have ALL THE QUESTIONS for when Elaine got back! She might even level!
“Right! I’m on it!” Autumn said, pulling out a different scroll with gusto, and diving into it.
She could try to get some more suckers with silver, but digging into medicine sounded more fun at the moment.
She unraveled the scroll, and started to read.
Impact and Symptoms of each type of organ failure.
Dry stuff – but learning it would bring Autumn one step closer to her goal of a swimming pool full of coins.
“Working hard?” An amused voice said, and Autumn snapped her head up, information about collapsed lungs and breathing patterns fleeing her mind.
“Yup!” She said, recognizing the golden goose from earlier. In tow was a sulky-looking boy, without a single coin on him. Autumn categorized him as “totally broke”, then dismissed him from her attention.
However, the potential payment patron was with penniless, so Autumn took a second look.
“My kid hurt his hand. Can you take a look?” The bounty bringer asked me.
“Of course!” Autumn’s [Money to be Made] skill was alerting her. She’d considered ditching the skill, because it really only went off when it was blindingly obvious that a sale could be made.
Autumn extended her hand, and gave an encouraging smile towards Broko. He slowly unfolded his arms, and presented a slightly mangled hand towards Autumn, who started looking at it with a critical eye.
She didn’t have anything for the pain, so she tried to minimize the amount of poking and prodding she did. Still, two of the fingers were somewhat mangled. Autumn sighed in relief. It was something she could handle.
She hated money walking away once she diagnosed the problem – and it wasn’t something she could fix. Autumn swore she could hear the sweet clanking of coins bouncing against each other when bacon bringers bailed.
“Right, hold on a minute.” Autumn said, diving into another pack, and grabbing some bandages.“Ok, this is going to hurt a bit.” She said, as she ‘massaged’ the fingers roughly into the right position, keeping a poker face as bone scraped against bone. Destitute winced, but didn’t try to pull his hand back.
Autumn grabbed the two mauled fingers - “ring” and “middle” Elaine called them – and wrapped each one with the neighboring finger, before using a skill of hers.
“[Speedy Recovery]” Autumn said out loud, because how else would the Capital Conferrers know that she was also performing a limited, exclusive skill, that would normally cost money?
Autumn felt the fingers in her grip slightly rearrange themselves, and she silently cast the spell a few more times. No need to display that she couldn’t do it in a single shot.
After a half-dozen casts, she let go, and put on her sweetest smile.
“Just give it a week of rest in the bandages, and you should be all set!” She said. “The extra fingers are wrapped to give it support, and while it’s probably good now, we wouldn’t want to stress it and cause a problem by starting too early.” Autumn said.
She’d screwed that up once, and it’d sucked. The ingrate had come back, yelling and screaming, and the only reason a wrecking ball hadn’t gone through Autumn’s reputation is Elaine had shown up the next day, back from a mission of hers. He hadn’t dared kick up a fuss with Sentinel Dawn sitting RIGHT THERE.
Autumn sighed. She missed Elaine.
Back to the good part!
Autumn rapidly looked over her most generous gold giver, rapidly evaluating dozens of factors while [Merchant’s Calculation] ran, all while speaking to her.
“As you know, I’m a free healing service. Always have been! It’s good for my experience. With that being said, a few coins donated towards me helps me keep going.” Autumn said, going over her daily-edited and rehearsed speech, modifying it for what she thought this particular loot leaver would like. “If you could donate just 17 coins, that would mean the world to me.” Autumn said, [Merchant’s Calculation] coming back with the number.
It evaluated dozens of different factors that Autumn knew about, from the quality and wear of her clothes, the town they were in, the location in the marketplace, the likely size of her household and family, a blind guess of how generous she was, the goods she was carrying, and most importantly of all, the size of her purse, how many coins were left in it, and a strong guess on how much shopping she had left to do in the day.
It was the moment of truth as the Moola Mom pursed her lips, running her own calculations, looking between Autumn and Impoverished, before giving her a curt nod and dropping the coins in Autumn’s eagerly outstretched hand, who promptly whisked them away to her secure coin storage.
“Thank you so much!” Autumn said, playing up the “thankful kid” angle. “Please come again, and tell your friends! I’m good for scrapes you don’t want mom to know about.” Autumn said, telling the last bit in a whisper to pauper.
Rule 25. “Everyone can get money in the future.” Her patient had no money – today. He couldn’t donate anything – today.
Future patient? Future Autumn? There could be money there, and sowing good seeds today could reap a bountiful harvest in the future. Autumn was young. She could take the long view.
She happily waved off the pair, as a runner arrived.
“Are you Autumn? Daughter of Neptune?” He asked, looking between a letter and her, confusion visible on his face.
Nobody sent expensive letters cross-country for a kid after all.
Not unless you had as much money as Sentinel Dawn, and equally little sense in spending it.
“Yes! That’s me! Gimme gimme!” Autumn said, grabbing a handful of coins and thrusting them at the runner. Tips weren’t needed, but they were polite, and a good way to get good service, and Autumn didn’t care how many coins she spent, not if it meant getting Elaine’s letter faster.
[Merchant’s Calculation] told her that she was handing over 20 coins, but Autumn ignored it. The runner handed the letter over, and Autumn eagerly tore into it.
I’m safe and sound! They didn’t pay me extra, but I found a way to make a few extra coins anyways. Buying land in a new town. Should be profitable.
I hope you’re keeping up with your studies. I’ll be checking when I next come back!
You might hear about a new town popping up. DO NOT MOVE HERE. The land’s poisoned, and that’s bad for business. Also, you’re a Light healer, and while I shouldn’t need to remind you, I just know you’re seeing coins and rods, and ignoring my warnings. You’re a Light healer, which means your ability to deal with toxins and poisons that are here are practically non-existent. Trust me.
Even if you class up first, wait for me. I need to check that your skills can handle this, it’s a nasty one. You won’t realize a problem until you need to spend dozens of rods on a cure.
With that being said, guard and soldier supplies are likely to spike in price soon. Might want to get ahead of the curve on that. Food might also become more expensive, although sticking around the capital might be a poor choice.
Best of luck. Stay safe until I can get back! Study hard. Poke Markus or Caecilius if you have any questions, they should be able to help you.
Autumn’s face went through a whole range of emotions reading the letter. Happiness that Elaine was safe. Despair that she didn’t get paid extra. Pride that she somehow managed to wrangle some profit out of it anyways – and that clearly her lessons were sinking in, if Elaine was starting to look for profitable opportunities.
Deflected guilt that she’d gotten back to her studies before she’d gotten the letter – how had she known Autumn was slacking!?
The rest? The rest was going over Autumn’s head, and was far more complex than she was willing to deal with.
“Dad? Hey dad?” She asked, tugging on his sleeve.
Neptune finished up his sale, and turned to Autumn.
“Yeah?” He asked her.
“Elaine sent a letter. Not sure what to make of it.” Autumn said, handing the letter to Neptune.
He read it with a frown.
“Right. What do you think we should do?” He asked Autumn.
“Try to figure out what’s going on, because Elaine doesn’t know business at all.” Autumn promptly replied. “For all I know, Elaine thinks there’s more food coming, and wants us to buy it when prices are low.”
Neptune barked a laugh out.
“That would be like her, you’re right. Let’s focus on what is here though. A new town. What does a new town need?” Neptune asked, going into tutor mode.
Autumn thought about it.
“People?” She hazarded.
“Yes, and?” Neptune prompted.
“Buildings need stone.” Autumn said. “But I never heard of stone being bought in large quantities.”
“Because it’s not. It usually goes from the quarry to the building site, and the front lines have their own dedicated quarries. For that matter, most of the buildings probably will come from those quarries.” Neptune said.
Autumn kept thinking about it, pitching other ideas, only for Neptune to correct her, or encourage her.
Finally she snapped her fingers.
“Metal! Iron!” Autumn said. “Need it for all manner of tools, and there’s going to be a ton of soldiers retiring to become farmers! They’re all going to need metal for their tools! Is there an iron mine near the frontlines?” She asked, only for Neptune to give her a huge smile and ruffle her hair.
“Nope! They funnel everything through the capital, where they outfit the soldiers before sending them to the frontlines. They also run supplies through here. Iron’s the perfect thing to buy! Also, if Elaine’s somehow correct about soldier supplies, metal’s a key component. Plus, it’s not food! What’s wrong with stockpiling food?” Neptune asked Autumn.
Autumn rolled her eyes.
“Rule 31. Don’t stockpile anything that’ll get you ripped apart by a mob.” She recited. “Drugs, dangerous animals, and food in a famine, plague, or drought are all good examples.” She continued, going past the rule and reciting part of her teachings.
“Very good! Right, this is your chance. How reliable is Elaine? How good is our information? And how much do you want to put on this?” Neptune asked Autumn.
Autumn didn’t hesitate.