Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 90
Black Magic Market
Claude was quite impressed by Maria's spells, if for no other reason than her judgement in picking them. Luminous Pearl was an excellent light source. The pearls weren't as bright as lightbulbs, but they outclassed candles and lamps several times over. And the fact that they used mana instead of material as their fuel source made them much more convenient.
Appraisal wasn't worth considering since he already had a superior version of the spell. Air Barrier had its merits, despite what Maria might believe. She hadn't been in a scruff like he had, nor did she have to be out in the wild much at all, so she didn't understand how vital a couple of minutes of protection against the elements were.
As for Chill, he had access to the diagram for Freeze's formation. He could only engrave it in his next hexagram since it was too complex for his first one, and still too much for him to use with a temporary engraving at his current level, however. Landes didn't tell him what could be done with the spell beyond its use in experiments however, so he didn't know the full extent of its use. Go figure, as far as Landes was concerned the only things in the world were his experiments…
Despite the limit of its scope, Claude didn't think Chill was as harmless as the Watch thought. With a proper mould, he could freeze water into a small dagger or knife, one which would melt away after he used it, leaving no trace of who made it or used it.
Breath of Water was just as useful as Air Barrier. Even if it was just for ten minutes, being able to breathe underwater opened up all sorts of possibilities. Hydrogenesis was a very simple spell in contrast. Claude suspected it condensed moisture in the air into liquid water, and he suspected the amount of moisture in the air was what limited how much could be drawn out.
Kindle was basically a personal firelighter.
Apart from Appraisal, he wanted to learn all of Maria's spells. He probably wouldn't engrave Chill into his second hexagram, but it was a useful stop-gap until he could use Freeze. Even if he didn't use them, just having them in his repertoire would be a massive improvement. Claude wasn't registered, so he couldn't buy the spells, and, even if he could, he didn't have the money.
He could only beg Maria to teach him. If she wanted, he was more than willing to trade the five spells about which he'd told her for them. If she didn't want them because they were forbidden, he could always offer her his 30 remaining shaliuns. The spells were worth far more to him than coins he couldn't even use.
"Would you be willing to teach me the spells? I'll teach you the five I know in trade," Claude offered sincerely.
"Why would you learn such useless spells? You even want to exchange your spells for them?!"
The baroness stared at him incredulously or a long moment, then burst out laughing.
Claude's stoic expression broke.
"Please don't laugh at me like that..."
Maria gasped for breath and had to fight for control of her lungs for several moments.
"I... wasn't mocking you... Pffft--" Her hands covered her mouth to muffle her laughter. "If I didn't believe you were a rookie before, I believe it now. You really don't even know the basics! I won't lie to you, I desperately want to learn those spells, but I can't afford them. You don't have the foggiest clue how much they are worth, " her face sombred as she spoke.
"What do you mean? You can just trade your spells for mine!" Claude said, somewhat anxious.
If she could pay 45 gold crowns for a crocodile, surely she could afford a few basic spells!
"You don't know how valuable your spells are," the baroness said sternly, "My spells are about ten crowns each. Your spells are not just far stronger, they're also forbidden, which makes them almost priceless on the magic black market.
"Take Magus' Hands as an example. You could easily sell it for 200 crowns. Of the other four, only Eye of Appraisal might be as cheap. Fine control, Decomposition, and Reconstruction can each sell for 250 easily. I can't afford them even if I sell all my jewellery."
What? Those common spells were worth that much? Then what about all the other spells Landes had noted down?
"I'm willing to trade them with you for your spells…" he continued pleadingly, but the baroness shook her head.
"I can't take advantage of you like that. I couldn't trade all seven of mine for just one of your spells."
"I insist," Claude pleaded again, "You can pick any one of my spells. You can chalk the difference up to my gratitude for your answers to my questions."
Maria stared at him for a long time, but saw nothing but sincerity, and finally nodded, a light smile on her lips.
"Alright. I'd like to learn Eye of Appraisal. The other four supplement one another and only really work at their best when used together. Eye of Appraisal is directly related to my Appraisal, and I might even be able to engrave it over Appraisal's formation."
The exchange was far more mundane than Claude had let his imagination conjure. The two parties simply drew the formations on pieces of paper along with a few notes and explanations, and exchanged them. Each side merely had to engrave the formation in their void space to check its authenticity, so there was no point in trying to swindle each other.
Maria drew eight diagrams. The extra one was Summoned Breeze, and, like its name suggested, it called forth a gentle breeze for a couple of minutes.
"That should leave only a 20 percent discount," the baroness said as she handed her sheets to Claude and took his.
"Could you tell me more about the magic black market, Milady?" Claude asked after pocketing the sheets.
"It's your typical black market, except it deals in stuff related to magic. Most of the people that use it are rogue magi like you. I've heard a couple of rumours that say the Siklos magi are running it from the shadows, but no one really knows. The kingdoms have tried to close it down countless times over the centuries, but it just vanishes like mist in the sun and reappears somewhere else a few months later. You won't get in without a guarantor from the inside."
"What do they exchange? Money, or magic materials?"
"Both, but they don't use normal coins. They use shaliuns--" The baroness took out a gold coin and plopped it on the table gently. "--These can only be made by magi. They don't wear over time; they always look like they are newly minted. You'll see a soft golden halo if you use Appraisal on it. Each is worth about 20 crowns, though the banks only give you two."
Wait, he had thirty shaliuns… that made him filthy stinking rich! But even more exciting, was the fact that he now had a way to get the materials he needed for an array.
"Could you be my guarantor?" Claude half-whispered.
"What? You want to auction off your spells?" Maria asked, a teasing smile creeping onto her face.
"No, I just want to expand my horizons," Claude answered just a little too quickly.
"Don't sell off your spells. You can't guarantee your safety if you put such valuable things out there. The kinds of people whose attention you'll attract can find you no matter where or how well you hide, and they won't be interested in paying for your spells. Not to mention the Watch won't miss such a high profile sale in their territory. They'll be on you faster than a maggot on a corpse."
"Thank you for the reminder, Milady. I really only want to find more spells. I only have five, and I don't have any more with me, so I need to look elsewhere for more. I'm hoping to find two combat spells to fill the remaining spots in my hexagram."
The baroness considered his words for a while, then shook her head.
"It won't be easy. Combat spells are very rare, even on the magic black market. And when they do, they're damn expensive, you won't have the money for them, unless you trade in your five spells, but then you're back to that issue we just discussed.
"And then there's the matter of the magic black market being in the royal capital. I'll take you for a tour if you ever come to the capital, but I doubt you'll find any useful spells. "
"Could I ask you to keep an eye out for anything when you go back, Milady? I'll trade you the other four spells if you can find any," Claude begged.
"Only if it's not too much trouble for me--" Maria put down her now-empty cup and stood up. "--Tea time's over. Come, let me show you my lab."