Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 49
The things on the wooden shelves were as disorganised as usual. But Claude had come to get something with value others couldn't tell. He picked up every item and scrutinised it carefully before putting it down again. His carousel lasted so long Borkal eventually call out to him to finish up, sick of waiting.
He could not look through each item individually, there were simply too many. He'd already run through a hundred items, and covered just three small shelves. Not to mention the time, he was also running out of mental energy, rapidly. There was also the fact that he would become suspect if he kept this up. Wakri didn't know about magical items, but he was an astute merchant. If he realised Claude was searching for something intently, he would milk him dry for anything he chose to buy.
He told Borkal he could go -- he himself still had to look for a toy for his little brother -- then retreated to a corner of the shop and swept his eyes across the shelves as he concentrated, willing his mental energy into motion. He hoped something would react, though what reaction he might get, he didn't know.
The first shelf remained unmoved, but two items on the second reacted. The first glowed a soft green, the other darkened slightly. The third shelf had its own reaction; two blue pulses splashed off its surface.
Claude immediately let go of his concentration and clutched up the reactants. The item that had glowed a soft green was a small wooden plaque. It had an odd appearance, a black-brown surface of the plainest hue, and it was oily. It reminded Claude somewhat of the lock pendants that were an occasional find back on earth, but those were made of jade, gold or silver.
The second was a dagger -- again of the plainest appearances, save for a bone scabbard. It must have belonged to a sailor. He had probably lost it during a duel of pawned it in hard times. Either way, it had been with the shop for some years -- a layer of dust covered one of its sides.
The third was a quill holder. It had the shape of a leaping fish, mouth open to hold the quill. The world had countless writing utensils, but quills and pencils reigned supreme. Quills much resembled their earthen namesakes in function, but much more pens in appearance. They were copper- or silver-tipped painted wooden sticks, essentially.
The quill holder was quite small for its function, but was much more intricate-designed. Its base splashed dramatically like the ocean surface, out of which leapt the fish. No doubt it was intended for use aboard ship, most likely by the captain. It even had two screw holes by which it could be fastened to the desk, so as to not fly off its place in rough waters.
Claude did not spend much time on the three items, however. He instead swept his intent gaze across the shelves once more, confirming he had missed nothing, then walked to the storeroom to find Wakri.
His three friends awaited him outside by an overturned flipper. It was a small boat, about four or five metres in length, and two across. Fore and stern curled up. They were used mainly as lifeboats on ships. Each could carry 20, or even 30, people. Most of the proper merchant ships had a crew of 50-60, and would carry 2 flippers.
This flipper, thus, was quite large, at five metres and some 2.8 across. It had a hole below the water line and four boards were severely cracked too close to the water for comfort.
"Probably hit a reed?" Claude half-asked, "Were they blind? How can you miss a reef? Or anything else big enough to do that? On second thought, rowing would not give them enough force to suffer that kind of damage from a collision."
"It's a reef, alright. You remember the merchant vessel that reefed third month of this year? It's one of that one's flippers. The crew were so panicked they dropped this one right on the reef, full of men.
"Luckily Flying Spear saw the ship and came to help. The poor sods were stuck in town for two months. I think they left, cargo and all, on the next ship to pass by. Only the ship's hull is left, and it's rotting away quickly."
"Can it still be fixed? Wouldn't you have to replace most of the hull? It might even be more expensive than just getting a new one."
"Don't even bring it up. It was a mistake buying this thing!" Wakri barked, kicking the ship as he came out of the shop behind Claude, "The damned bastards who sold it to me had it upright so I could only see the hole. I thought I would only need to swap out the sections of board there and it would be right as rain. I only saw the other problems when I flipped it over later to get to work!"
"How much did you pay?" Eriksson asked.
"...A crown," Wakri murmured.
He'd expected to repair it for about another crown, and to sell it for three, making him a nice half-cost profit. With the extra cracked boards, however… Even if he took it apart and sold the pieces for all they were worth, he would, at best, get three thales, more likely just two. If he factored in the labour, he would definitely not get more than 2 thales out of it.
"Your purchase will be one thale and five riyas," Wakri said, still holding Claude's shopping, "I give you a good price since you're a regular."
Borkal jumped, "We came because we trust you! What is this about one thale and three riyas? Do you want us to never come again?"
Claude didn't know what to do with the two. He was fine with Wakri's price, but then he knew they were magic items, and thus worth far more than anyone might think. Borkal, however, did not, and was convinced the price was all but robbery for such simple odds and ends.
"He's right," Eriksson chirped in, looked at the dagger, "It's just a normal dagger, why would you even want to buy it?" he asked Claude, "You could get a brand new one from the sailors for just two riyas!"
Wakri smiled bitterly, "You can't put it that way. The dagger looks normal, sure, but it's an antique."
"Seven riyas at best!" Eriksson retorted, snatching it from Wakri's hand and unsheathing the small blade, "It's only a common mithril dagger. If Hans can make an even better one for just a thale."
Borkal stared at Claude.
"Why do you want a fishbone dagger?"
"You know my dad doesn't like weapons. We don't even have a short-sword or a hunting knife. I had to borrow Wero's knife and Eyke's dagger on the island. I thought that since I have a musket now, I need a knife."
Wakri suddenly felt desperate. His father bought the dagger from an old sailor. This was the first time someone showed any interest in it.
"Fine, fine!" he said, finally, "Seven riyas."
He bet his father paid less for it, so he was still making a profit. Better to earn a little than nothing at all.
"And the plaque and quill holder?" Borkal pushed.
"This should be for ship's use," Eriksson commented as he plucked the quill holder from Wakri's hands as well. "It's old, and Bark's bookstore sells one very similar for just three riyas. And the plaque isn't in the best of shape. I remember the merchant ship of which I saw the inside one time had door plaques very similar to this one. It can't be that expensive either."
"Fine! I'll give them to you for another three riyas! Deal?"
Claude smiled and nodded.
Wakri turned to head back into the shop with the money Claude just gave him, but Eriksson stopped him.
"How much for the flipper?"
"What?" Wakri flipped around smartly on his heels.
"One cro--. No, four thales!." Wakri half-shouted.
Wakri felt the urge to slap himself on the face. Why did he tell the brats about the flipper? His story was blown. He could have earned more, at least enough to cover the cost.