A Night Market Chat

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At night, the Alexandrian marketplaces take on a distinctly different tone than the market during the day. Under the light of the sun, hawkers sell various fruits, meats, bright cloths, wares, trinkets, and whatever else one might set their mind to. But once the sun goes down, the traditional vendors return home to their families, making room for those selling stranger, more exotic wares.

Incenses imported from all parts of the world hang in the air, the merchants hoping to draw customers in with enticing, alien aromas, lending the market a heady, surreal mystique. A mixture of firelight and magical glows give the stalls an entirely different sort of color, no less beautiful than at any time during the day.

Standing in front of an apothecary's stall is a tall half-elf, dressed in leathers with a fur lining. His pale hair is allowed to hang loosely around his head, a simple braid falling in front of his right ear. It seems that he's engaging in some sort of haggling with the merchant, tone level but firm.

A hooded figure strides with purpose through the market, his cloak trailing behind him in the frigid night air. Lucius bites his lip and stares at the ground as he weaves through the crowd, either intentionally ignoring or otherwise oblivious to the exotic, brightly lit stalls. In his haste, he nearly collides with the half-elf haggling in front of the apothecary stall and takes an uncertain step back. "Excuse me, sir, I meant no offense." The words come naturally, as if by instinct alone, but his tone and expression are visibly strained.

The conversation becomes clearer as Lucius approaches. The half-elf is arguing with a human, a middle-aged man with graying hair. "Dalin," the half-elf says, voice firm but trying to sound reasonable. "We both know that this is worth three times as much. Just collecting these is dangerous work," he reminds the man, holding up a leather pouch, "much less using them."

Dalin looks indignant. "Whatever you're thinking, wild man, I assure you they're for legitimate --"

"Dalin, I don't care," the half-elf sighs. "I'm sure you do. But that isn't the point. The point..."

The point is lost, of course, when Lucius almost bumps into the other man, causing him to take a step back and turn to look at the newcomer. Which, in turn, exposes several new features. The first, and perhaps most noticeable, are the earthen brown tattoos covering the visible part of the man's chest and neck, seeming to run further than what his clothes allow to be seen.

And the second is the very prominent burn scar on the left side of his face, leaving the skin as lined and craggy as the bark of an oak.

"No offense taken," the other man offers in turn, bowing his head agreeably. "Assuming..." He reaches down, patting his coin pouch, the metal jingling. "Still there. So, no offense taken."

Looking to Dalin once more, he shrugs. "On second thought? I'll take my product somewhere else."

"Oh, sir, I wouldn't — " Lucius abruptly halts mid-sentence as he gets a better look at the half-sil for the first time. His eyes widen, and he takes another half-step backward. After an awkward silence, he clears his throat.

"It's none of my business, I'm sure, but do you mean to sell a quantity of rare herbs or materials? I believe such items are of great interest to some adventurers, who would be more than willing to pay a fair price in exchange. I might know a few of them myself," he states quietly. Though he addresses the half-sil, Lucius appears unable to meet his eyes and instead stares at the visible tattoos on his upper body.

The half-elf's smile widens even more, giving Dalin a smug look before turning his full attention to the other man, stepping a bit away from the apothecary stall. Naturally, he doesn't miss where Lucius's gaze is focused, making no attempt to cover up the ink, though his hair falls naturally in front of the scarred portion of his face, helping conceal some of the worst of the damage. "You're half-correct," he explains. "You're right about what I'm selling," he explains. "But wrong about it not being your business, if you know where there's a buyer worth my time." He offers a hand, tone jovial. "Niklas."

Lucius accepts the handshake and offers a tight smile in return. "A pleasure, Niklas. My name's Lucius, but you may call me Luke as well." Resting his other hand on his chin, Lucius also begins to move away from Dalin's stall.

"For specific referrals, I'd have to know the exact nature of your goods," he observes. "I cannot guarantee a sale, and I'm sure any buyers would be inclined to make their own appraisals of whatever it is you seek to sell. Though, regardless, I wish you every success in finding compensation for your hard work."

"A pleasure to meet you as well, Luke," Niklas offers. "Friends can call me Nik." He holds out the pouch, untying the leather thong to show the other man his wares. Inside are a number of plants, apparently all of the same species, the leaves, berries, and stems all separated into neat, individual bundles. "Deadly nightshade," he explains, as if it were no big deal. "Prized by apothecaries and healers. Relieves nausea, cramps, spasms. Reduces anxiety. Helps with problems of the heart." A glance at Dalin once more. "Among other uses, of course. Which is why assholes like him think they can cheat the people who find it. Smug bastard."

Luke peers into the pouch and murmurs appreciatively. "I myself know little about this, uh, plant," he admits, "but from the uses you've described, it certainly seems like a valuable material to have in stock. I imagine it would have to be an essential ingredient in at least a few potions recipes."

After a moment's pause, he continues, "Xasany has a room at the Fernwood, where I also happen to live. Deadly nightshade sounds exactly like something she'd be interested in buying. She collects herbs herself, if memory serves. Incidentally, how does one go about gathering deadly nightshade? I believe you might have mentioned it can be rather dangerous."

GAME: Niklas rolls Heal: (11)+8: 19

Nik offers a small shrug. "Most people merely know that too much of it can kill, which is what most people *need* to know of it. There's a reason that healers rarely tell you what's in their tinctures and tonics. Half of it sounds revolting, and half of it sounds deadly. If it doesn't, they're probably a charlatan, selling sugar water with coloring."

The invitation back to the inn gets teh smallest glimmer in the man's eye, something about it amusing him, but he doesn't comment on it for the moment. Instead, he answers the question put to him about the gathering of nightshade. Leaning in conspiratorially, voice dropping to a whisper, he moves close to Luke's ear, offering his answer to 'how does one go about gathering deadly nightshade?': "Carefully." Which is all he seems to have to say on the matter, if the grin is any measure.

Considering his companion once more, he says, "You were in a hurry back there. And you seem quite -- anxious." Reaching into a belt pouch, he pulls out a small vial, handing it over. "Tincture of nightshade," he explains. "eases anxiety. Among other things. And I assure you, it tastes terrible, so you can know that it's real." Whether Luke take it or not, though, he presses forward. "Were you running *to* something, or from it?"

Luke accepts the offered vial and bows his head in thanks. "That's very kind of you, Nik. I'll be sure to make the most of this," he replies, and glances up at the half-sil's scar. He looks away rather quickly. "To answer your question," he sighs, "I do not feel at ease around fire of any kind."

He narrows his eyes slightly. "I fail to comprehend why this is the case. When I was a child, I once had a close call with fire, but I'm hardly the only one who has experienced anything similar. And yet the flames haunt me, in my dreams as well as my waking hours." Luke shakes his head. "To be honest, I'm quite fortunate that this has yet to complicate any of my missions, though I suspect it's only a matter of time. It's only a matter of time," he repeats regretfully.

Nik gives a slow nod, listening to Lucius's explanation. "Sensible," he assures. "Fire is one of Dana's most potent forces. Destruction, creation, transformation. All of it fueled by fire. Fire is to be respected for that power. It seems to me," he muses, "that you're simply giving it the healthy respect due of one with few defenses against it. Even animals flee fire," he reminds.

The surreptitious glance at his scar again causes the half-elf to laugh, reaching up to push aside the hair he normally allows to cover it, tucking it behind his ear. "Lightning," he explains to the other man. "Struck a tree I was standing near as a child. Dana's way of showing me my calling. Forcibly," he chuckles, "since I was content to ignore her up to that point. Truthfully, on some days even as an adult," he admits. "I'm still a sucker for a soft bed and a hot bath."

Lucius nods. "Much good can come from bad. You seem to have made the most of the lessons you learned from that experience. And it also seems that it's in our nature to fear fire," he concludes. "Knowing that is surprisingly helpful, somehow. This should help too," he adds, looking at the vial of nightshade one last time before pocketing it.

"You've gifted me doubly with both knowledge and substance. I hardly know how to thank you, Niklas." He finally meets the half-sil's eyes and grins, the tension in his expression melting away. "If my services could ever be of help, you need but ask."

"To be fair," Nik responds, "I provided a potential customer an effective explanation of why he should buy my wares, and a sample of what I'm offering. But if you choose to see it another way, I'll not argue," he laughs. "I may be slightly more resistant than others to Dana's forces, but I'm as susceptible to flattery as any man, I suppose. Though you do raise an interesting point --"

Looking to Luke, he asks, "What exactly is it that you *do*? What services are you offering?" A moment's consideration, and he adds, "Or have I misunderstood the reason for the invitation to your inn?" Genuine amusement there, though he doesn't seem entirely serious. "Hopefully you offer reasonable rates. My last buyer just fell through, you see..."

Luke tilts his head to the side in evident confusion. "Well, I'm an adventurer, I suppose," he replies carefully. "I accept commissions from the Guild, but in the same vein, if there is a private matter you would see addressed, I'd be happy to help you to the best of my ability, of course. To be honest, I used the expression without much thought, as a figure of speech, and I think it wasn't clear what exactly I meant." He scratches the back of his head.

"As for the inn, I'd hoped to introduce you to my friend. I just happen to rent a room there as well." He blinks slowly. "Regarding payment, I'd be happy to mediate between Xasany and yourself, though I believe that would hardly be necessary and can personally vouch for her character. Oh, and if this tincture of deadly nightshade proves effective, I look forward to placing another order with you," he explains quickly, rubbing his chin with one hand.

At that, Nik laughs merrily, a full-throated thing that causes more than one person in the market to jump a little at whatever less-than-reputable transaction they happen to be making. "I see," he chuckles, bringing himself back under control. "Well, then it seems I'm the one in luck," he assures. "The services of an adventurer are always welcome." He reaches out, clapping the other man lightly on the shoulder. "Come," he says. "Let's go meet your herbalist friend and see what kind of agreement we can come to, hmm?" He nods in the direction they were heading anyway, though there's still the occasional chuckle from the man at the thought of Lucius's answer.