The huge open air tent could be seen from almost anywhere in the Marketplace. Long swaths of red brocade with gold threads woven in geometric patterns hung from a high center pole then out to the edges, shading the merchants and shoppers beneath. Solid red panels with gold edges ran horizontally above the brocade panels, suspended on loosely tied ropes. Spaces between the hanging panels allowed some light to filter through while a stiff breeze would set all the panels fluttering. The stone tile floor was inset with simple outlines, separating the vendor areas from the traffic through the tent. The floor curved up at the edges of the tent creating a subtle bowl shape to the area. As they entered, Twila stopped to look at one of the walls on the right that was covered in scraps of parchment.
"This is the trade wall," she explained to Faith. "When people don't want to pay the huge fees to use the auction house, they will post what they have for sale or trade or what they want to buy here."
Faith scanned the many scraps stuck to the wall.
"What are essenses?" she asked. "It seems a lot of people are buying and selling those."
"Magical essenses, used for crafting. They are funny little things, they remind me of fish scales. They are small and thin and mostly transparent and usually have some sort of symbol on them. You can sell them to people who craft for a lot of money, 200-500 platimum each, or save them up and use them to pay a crafter to make you things. I guess you could learn to craft yourself, but I can't see why you'd bother. It takes a LOT of training to be able to do it right and you destroy a lot of those essenses that could have made you money."
"Where do you get them?"
"Usually in the bottom of chests. People tend to hoard them. Make sure to look for them when you get stuff from a job. You can also take magical items like armor and weapons you don't want to the crafting hall and deconstruct them and get a few essenses back." She gave a little sigh. "I don't see any tools for sale today. I'll just buy some from the vendor."
Inside the market big top, small colorful tents, stalls and crude counters were set up all around. A huge rounded stone sat in the very center, with four curved beams attached to it supporting the central post for the tent. The central post was hung with banners that had Everbright lanterns attatched their pointed ends, providing additional light inside the tent. The vendors called out their wares, trying to entice the wandering shoppers to stop and take a look.
"Scrolls! Magical scrolls for sale. Arcane scrolls everyone needs!"
"Bolts! Arrows! Shurikens! Repair kits! Thieves Tools! Best prices right here!"
"Reagents! Get your reagents here. Can't cast spells without the right reagents!"
"Potions for any ailment! Poison removal, curse removal, healing potions! Jump! Tumble!"
"Get your wands here! Magic Missle, Mage Armor, Burning Hands and more! Wands for sale!"
Twila stopped at the man hawking thieves tools and bought a set from him. Faith wandered over to the stall with the potions. The multi-colored potions lined up on the counter looked extremely inviting. She wanted to buy something.
"Hello, young lady! What can I get for you today?" asked the elf man standing behind a counter made up of crates.
"I... I'm not sure. I'm sort of new here," she said, feeling stupid.
"We were all new once, my dear. Now, everyone needs a few things, so let's get you set up." He glanced at her outfit, loose trousers that tied at the ankles and a wraparound, belted shirt of lightweight cotton. "Are you a mage or a monk?"
"I would recommend these for you to start."
He separated out a red bottle, a green bottle and a black bottle. He held up the red one.
"Everyone needs these basics. Cure moderate wounds potion. This will help when you are injured. The green one removes poison and makes you immune to any more poison for a while and the black one will remove curses."
"I'd recommend twenty of the cure potions and ten of each of the others to start with," he answered. "You can always come back when you need more."
Faith paid for the potions and unbuckled her bag of holding from her waist. She never ceased to be surprised at how many things would fit into that bag. She placed her new potions in separate compartments so she could find them when she needed them quickly.
"Did you haggle with him?" Twila asked over her shoulder.
"Ask for a better price."
"Now, Miss Blackgrove, you know I give Essory prices. Same price to everyone, as fair as I can be," the elf said.
"Well Jalin, you might be the last one. Seems everyone has gone back to gouging since the Merchant's Guild fell apart."
Jalin's face darkened.
"Makes no sense. Admitus never smuggled a day in his life and I'll never believe he did. He was set up and taken out of the picture. Now everyone's lost their minds," he stared off into the distance a few seconds, eyebrows knitted together as he thought about the injustice of the whole affair. Then he forced a pleasant smile. "So, what's up next at the Bogwater Theater, Miss Blackgrove?"
It was Twila's turn to sigh.
"Something all intellectual about a beholder coming to terms with his mortality. It's a musical. They should finish dress rehearsals this week, if they can get the beholder to stop being a diva. Apparently he keeps flinging his co-actors across the Bogwater with his telekenesis when they mess up. I told Papa using a real beholder was a bad idea..."
Jalin laughed. "Well, it sounds lively. I think I'll let it run a week or two before I go to see it myself. Can I restock any of your potions, Miss Blackgrove?"
"No, thanks. I'm still have enough of the ones I bought before I left for Korthos Island."
"Well, it was nice chatting with you," he politely took his leave of the girls and started his chant again. "Potions! Be a more powerful mage! Jump higher! Best prices in Stormreach!"
"Let's get your account set up at the bank," Twila suggested and the two of them headed up another curved bridge towards an impressively large building. Twila walked to the left side of the bridge and pointed down at a row of expensive-looking houses.
"See this mansion, the one that takes up a whole block? That's the old Essory mansion. It's not Lordsmarch Palace, but it's probably the nicest private home in Stormreach. That's where Thysmac grew up, poor little rich boy. " She dropped her voice to a whisper. "The Coin Lords have leased it to the Agents of Argonessen."
"Argonessen as in... the country where dragons live?"
"Yep, dragons," answered Twila, eyebrows raised. "Something big is going on around here."
"How do dragons fit in a human-sized house, even a mansion like that?" Faith was confused.
Twila giggled, something that always made Faith laugh too. Twila's laugh was contagious.
"You silly, they don't wander around Stormreach in dragon form. They can shapeshift into anything they want!"
"So, you mean like... they might be anything from rats to mind flayers?" Faith hated asking dumb questions but she couldn't help it. She wanted to know.
Twila nearly doubled over with laughter.
"Well, yes, I guess. From what my parents have said though, they usually shift into elf form. We are one of the longer-lived races and of course, very beautiful," she struck a pose and tossed her hair back with a hand in a conceited gesture. Faith laughed. Twila let out another peal of laughter as they reached the end of the bridge and walked into the bank.