“This is for that happy little dwarf of yours, Jerry. Please let him know for me, darling,” the lady said, then she turned to me and returned the smile I gave. “And what can I do for you, stranger?”
“Jerry told me that I needed to see this amazing shop, but he failed to mention the charming young lady who ran it,” I said, leaning forward on the counter.
“Oh, stop,” she said, placing her hand just below her throat and blushing slightly.
I reached out and plucked a lollipop from the counter close to her arm. “Since I’m here though, I would love one of these.” Her blush deepened as my hand approached.
Although the flirtations were entertaining, after all the recent fighting I had been involved in, I figured I better get something to protect myself as well. “I also need something that I can wear to protect myself a bit better. Do you sell armor? Preferably something darker colored, to help me blend into the shadows.”
She raised a finger as if to say “wait one minute” and walked into the back. I could see her rustling through some items. When she returned, she carried a beautiful leather set of armor, jet black in color.
“Ooh, I like that . . . almost as much as that smile of yours,” I said. “How much would that be?”
“Oh darling, you really need to stop that,” she said, blushing anew. “This armor sells for three hundred gold pieces, but for you, two hundred.”
I balked inside. There’s no way leather armor would cost that much, so I was sure there had to be more to it. Leaning closer and smiling, I said, “That sounds like a great discount! What makes it worth so much?”
She rested her elbow on the counter and placed her chin in her hand. Her face inches from mine, she said, “I’m glad you asked, darling.” Reaching below the counter, she pulled out a small vial with a clear liquid in it, displaying it slightly above her head.
My eyebrow raised inquisitively. For all I knew, it could be a vial of water.
She had to stand upright so she could gently pop the cork. “This is acid, darling. I get these from the local alchemist, and they’re highly caustic.” She poured a few drops onto the armor. When it hit, it hissed for a second, then sizzled away. She wiped the area with an old rag and held up the armor for my inspection.
“Wow, that didn’t even leave a mark.”
“Yes, darling, this armor is enchanted to protect the wearer from acid.”
I wanted it. But I didn’t have the gold. “Here’s the thing, gorgeous. I don’t have that much gold.”
“Oh,” she said, her shoulders dipping dramatically.
“But I really want it. If I gave you fifty gold now, would you save it for me? I should be able to come up with some more gold soon.”
Her smile came back and she winked at me. “I don’t normally do that, but for you, I’ll make an exception.”
Reaching into my coin pouch, I counted out the coins, laying them on the table as I counted. Bearty folded up the armor and placed it under the counter, then gathered up the coin. When the transaction was finished, I laughed and pulled out some more coins. “Now could I get the more mundane version?”
She smiled. “Of course, darling, just wait right here.” Again she disappeared into the back room, and, after only a few seconds, returned with a regular set of leather armor. “I set this one aside just in case, darling, and I’m pretty sure it will fit you perfectly. Would you like to try it on?”
“Sure,” I said and started removing my tunic.
“What are you doing?!” she admonished.
With my shirt around my wrists, I looked at her and Jerry, who both stared at me incredulously. “I thought you asked me to try it on.”
“I did, darling, but I have a dressing room,” she said, pointing to a paper divider in the corner by the incense displays.
Slinging my shirt over my shoulder, I picked up the armor, winked at Bearty, and slipped into the dressing room. The armor was a little loose at the waist, but a belt would easily keep it in place. The leather had a darker brown tint, and was covered in numerous steel studs. When I finished dressing, I came out, spread my arms, and spun for her appraisal.
“Oh, very handsome, darling,” Bearty said.
“Thank you!” I waltzed back to the counter. “I appreciate your service, love,” I bowed low, “but now I am going to explore this marvelous city.”
She smiled and grabbed a fan. “Oh, please do come back, darling,” she said, fanning herself.
“Of course. I can’t wait to see your dazzling smile again,” I said, and turned to exit the store. I could hear her flustered muttering behind me before the door shut with a jingle. Jerry didn’t follow me out, so I assumed he had stayed to shop some more.
~ Michael C. Sahd, author of The Unfettered Child and Assassin Marked