Stealing an artifact is easy enough. However, Sonbri finds some unexpected trouble trying to sell the old magical item.
| One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve | Thirteen |
My heart beat fast, dancing quickly against my ribs. It was dim, shapes filling my vision as I crept along, but I dared not light my torch. Stepping lightly, my footsteps still echoed heavily in the damp cavern.
From out of the corner of my eye, something glinted. A coin or hilt of a sword catching the light just right. I headed in that direction, something putrid filling my nostrils. I avoided what looked like bones and moved past the pile of forgotten treasures.
What I sought lay behind, tucked between rocks and nearly hidden away. Cradling the object, I marveled at it a moment. It was light and milky and perfectly spherical. There were lines etched into the surface that my fingers couldn’t quite feel, patterns I couldn’t make sense of.
Tucking the object away, I crept back the way I had come, careful not to touch anything else.
“It sure is a rock.”
I snatched back the sphere, clutching it with white knuckles. “You promised if I found it, you’d pay me well.”
“That was before I knew it was just a rock.” The man at the stall stuck his pinky finger up his nose and dug around, flicking away his findings and wiping his fingers on his apron. I recoiled when he held out his hand for the object again, saying, “But I can take it off your hands if you don’t want it.”
“No,” tucking it back in my coin purse, I straightened up. “I’ll find someone else to buy it.”
Turning away, I frowned. I felt cheated. That man had promised me good coin for sneaking into that cave. It was a haunted cave, and I had risked a lot to get this – what? A rock?
I could only hope for better luck next time.
My face was haggard, sullenly staring back at me from the shop window. This place was my last hope, no one wanted to part with their coin for such a tiny, etched rock. Moonstone, one of them had called it. But the lines damaged it. No one wanted it.
The peeling letters above me read ‘Curios and Curiosities’ in red and gold. It must have been a very old shop, because while at one time it might have been a vibrant and welcoming sign, it was faded and creepy now.
Steeling myself, I entered. Inside was yellow and bright, air thick with dust motes dancing in shafts of light from the big shop window. Strange carvings and odd sculptures took up most of the shelves, a section dedicated to hand-bound books of all sort. One looked quilted along the spine, but I didn’t get much of an opportunity to look.
A tall, mysterious woman appeared in front of me as I surveyed the shop, coming from between the shelves. She greeted me with a warm smile that made my stomach do somersaults.
“Hello,” she said, curtsying to me. “How may I help you?”
Her perfume wafted toward me, an airy scent. I blushed, fumbling with my coin purse to retrieve the moonstone. Clearing my throat, I presented the sphere to the lady and stammered, “This, it’s a rock.”
Her smile deepened and I cursed my fluttering bisexual heart. She was so beautiful! And I was such a bumbling fool around other women! She flicked dark curls away from her face and leaned in to look at the moonstone with beautiful, brown eyes. Her mouth twisted in a frown after a moment and she grabbed my wrist in a surprising flash.
She hissed some words and darkness crept into my vision.
I sat up quickly and hit my head sharply against something wooden and hard, bouncing back to the cot below. My forehead throbbed in pain as I rolled out of the enclave my cot was stuck in and I yelped in surprise when the floor was further away than expected.
Rubbing at my face, I surveyed the room. There were neat little cots stuffed into holes in the walls, stacked three high, and two doors across from them. Nothing else was in the small, dim room. I ventured a guess at the doors and stepped through one. It led to a closet. I quickly backtracked and opened the other door – and what greeted me was that beautiful face.
“You!” I said sharply, pointing at the lady.
Surprised, she answered, “Me?” She looked cheeky as she stood with one hand on her hip, the other pressed to her chest.
“You tricked me!” I would not let her charm disarm me again.
“I did no such thing. You fainted.”
“You used magic,” I hissed, reaching for the blades I always kept on me. They weren’t there. Panicked, my fingers scrabbled along my now-empty belt. Everything was gone!
“Your coins are safe,” she said with a giggle, “And your knives.”
I glared, feeling vulnerable. “But you still used magic.”
“I never said I didn’t.”
“Then it was an attack!”
“It was not,” she sighed. “Honestly! I wouldn’t harm a fly.”
I stared hard and she held out her fist. “What’s this?” I asked, distrusting her.
“Your rock.” When I snatched it from her when she turned her palm to me, she smiled. “Now, what’s so special about it, again?”
Frowning, I surveyed at the moonstone. It appeared the same as before, no new dents or scratches. Just the same etched lines.
“You’re the one that tried to take it from me,” I said defensively, clutching the stone close to my heart. “I just wanted to sell it.”
“Sell it!” She gave a startled laugh. “You couldn’t get money for that!”
For some reason, her mirth made me clutch the moonstone closer. “Then what is it? And why use magic on me?”
Putting her finger to her lips, she looked me in the eye and said, “Patience.”
I quieted. Something about the way she spoke commanded me to calm. More magic?
“Come, you need to eat.”
Nodding, I followed her when she turned. Her dark curls bounced around her shoulders and down her back as she walked. She led me down a hall and into another room beside a set of stairs. Peeking down, I saw the shop below.
“Are you coming?”
I turned back to her and nodded. I was enraptured.
“What’s it for?”
I stared down at the food in front of me. She had said her name was Midon, but I wasn’t sure if I trusted it. She had also told me about how the shop had been passed to her by her father when he’d fallen ill, and that at one time, Midon, her mother, and her father had slept in that one room.
But I was finished listening to pleasantries. Something about her was so enchanting that it was almost impossible to tear away from her silk-spun stories.
Midon sighed. “It’s a catalyst.”
“What’s that mean?”
She traced patterns into the wooden table with a long nail. It took a long moment of silence before she sat forward and met my eyes. “It means it’s useless except to the witch who made it.”
I slumped. “So no one will ever buy it?”
“Well…” She bit her lip.
“I could buy it.”
“You said it would be useless.”
“Yes,” said Midon, standing and brushing crumbs from her dress. “It would be.”
“Then why?” I watched as she took my plate, now-finished, from in front of me and began washing it. “Why buy something useless?”
“I run a strange shop,” she said after a moment, keeping her back to me. “I collect odds and ends. I collect things that most people don’t see value in.”
“But–” She turned to stare at me, and my mouth snapped shut.
“That stone is useless.” She turned to me, wiping her hands. “But it’s not worthless.”
She nodded, a new kind of smile on her face and a light blush dusting her cheeks. “I’ll buy it off you.”
Yes! I sat up straighter, ready to do business, but she put up her hand.
She said, “I want something as a supplement.”
Staring at this mysterious woman, I wondered what it might be. My soul? My firstborn child? Weren’t those things that witches loved? Finally, I asked, “What supplement is that?”
Her blush deepened and she did a cute spin on the spot, looking over her shoulder at me. “Well, I’m taking a magical item off your hands, so it has to be an appropriate exchange. I could part with at least ten gold coin, but I still want something more.”
I nodded, understanding nothing of how witches worked. “What do you want?”
I greeted her proposal with silence. What else could I do? Witches worked in mysterious ways, maybe she would steal my soul with the kiss. Another part of me, the foolish girl in me, wanted to test the waters. Would a kiss lead elsewhere?
I swallowed. “Well… I don’t know…”
“Oh, please say yes!”
I stood nervously at the counter downstairs, fiddling with the moonstone. I didn’t know if I wanted to part with it just yet, but I couldn’t place just why I wanted to keep it. It was just hard to part with. Perhaps it was enchanted, to keep from getting lost among rubble again.
My thoughts were interrupted by Midon slapping down a handful of coin on the counter, the noise ringing in my ears a moment.
“Here,” she said, watching me through thick lashes. “I’m going to need a name for my records.”
“Oh.” I hadn’t thought of that. “Sonbri Baar.”
She jotted the name down in a logbook, then paused, staring at her handwriting. Then, turning to me, she asked, “The same Sonbri Baar that stole Soulsilver, Chalice of the Fallen?”
I was glad she had returned my knives. My fingers itched to unsheath them, but I held steady.
She grinned. “You are, aren’t you!” Her voice dropped to a whisper even though we were alone in the shop, saying, “If that was such an easy steal, no wonder you stole my heart!”
I blushed, taken aback. She came from behind the counter and stood in front of me. Her fingers brushed my cheeks and I swallowed the lump in my throat, fingers closing around the hilt of the closest knives. However, I dared not draw them hastily.
“You have your coin,” she said, clearing her throat and gesturing to where the ten gold pieces sat on the counter. “Now, about that kiss?” One perfect eyebrow arched with her question and my heart fluttered in my chest.
I nodded, and she leaned in. Hair tickled my face.
We kissed, meeting in the middle. It was gentle and brief, but I melted against her, my fears forgotten in the moment.
The world was ablaze when I stepped outside, purse a little heavier with coin. The street was awash with the setting sun, painting streaks of fire and gold along the cobblestones. It was a beautiful day for a good sale; I had just sold my last stolen item for the day.
The man who ran the shop was a slob, but that didn’t stop me from setting foot inside with new things to exchange with him. He was still my best customer, finger up his nose or not.
With enough for dinner and a room for the night, I was blissfully unaware of my stalker until the blazing fire was extinguished and the cool night settled in, crickets chirping in the bushes around me as I wandered to the Inn.
She barked my name from behind, and I spun just in time to see the silver flash of a blade.