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"How much could'ya sell it for?"
Melfina simply shakes her head. Typical Gamblor. "The answer depends on who you ask. Not much more than a regular spellbook to most, quite a lot to collectors, and priceless to the few who understand its potential."
"Well start scribing up some copies then!!"
Gamblor plops down some paper, uncaps an ink bottle, picks up a quill, and crams it into her hand. "Come on! Start scribing some gold!" He makes her dip the quill into the bottle.
"St... stop it Gamblor!" She manages to say amidst her laughter, "It's not possible! The techniques were lost. The the inks can be mixed, and the paper made, but to put it together as a spellbook. It just can't be done. Not anymore."
Melfina has spent countless hours studying spellbooks. Their history and construction. Basic spellbooks were easy enough to make. Even apprentices could make them. But it takes greater and greater skill to add various enhancements. Allowing the mana to flow gentler or being more forgiving on the precision required to cast a spell were just a couple of these features. And any mage of any skill would be able to identify the specific enhancements each book had by feeling it's unique resonance.
The Lost Knowledge tomes were special. They all shared the same resonance, and one that no scribe had ever been able to replicate. Stranger still was the fact that all attempts in copying these tomes not only failed in making another Tome, but failed in producing a mana focus altogether. They books were just books. They were useless in spell casting. And the last, and greatest mystery, was the text was only comprehensible while a Tome was being held. Scribes attempted to copy the notes inside, only to find that they had been writing random, meaningless letters.
"It's enchanted so it can't be copied. Whatever they did back then, we don't know how to do it anymore. That's why they were named Tomes of Lost Knowledge." Sadly, they were named more so for the loss of knowledge for creating powerful mana focuses, rather than for knowledge contained inside. "The only known copy for the past hundred years or so, before I found this one, was in the Luna Library. It was destroyed in the Dragon War."
"Tal'keesh didn't like books?"
"Records. She wanted to destroy all of Luna's records. Of taxes, loans, trends – economic or otherwise. Records can't be rebuilt like walls can. Luna's still in recovery. The Tome of Lost Knowledge was just collateral damage."
The Dragon War. Over before it had scarcely begun, yet it changed everything.
The old king had a glorious reign. A fearsome combination of resources, ideas, and the will to see them through, brought about a level of prosperity Luna had never seen. His ideas built Luna up, and his ideas tore it back down. You cannot challenge the gods and expect the challenge to go unanswered.
The old king began proclaiming that it was Luna that could grant true wealth, and that the God of Wealth was obsolete. The words were spoken and Tal'Keesh responded. Dragon and god, she descended on Luna with fury and flame, both fueling her army's spirit and melting Luna's resolve.
The war began during the Gathering of Light, and it was the strength of the Order of Light that forged the defenders as one. The final battle was a sight to behold. With the Defenders of Virtue lighting the way, Luna's residents rose up beside them in defense of their home. Spirits defiant, they fought with honor. The God of Wealth fell, but at a heavy cost. Her bones were kept as both trophy and warning, and Luna would be forever changed.
"Well, the king died for his sins. Too bad the war ended with that fool Aedilwulf proclaiming the end of Luna's kings, only to proclaim himself Archduke. It's the same thing!"
"Don't forget the war also created that treasure of yours."
All he can do is shrug his shoulders and grin. "What greater treasure can there be than that of a Dragon God. Dragon. God. You laugh now, but you'll see."
Melfina just rolls her eyes and pushes him toward the exit. "Come on, time for you to get on your way."
"Where'd your fancy new guard go, Queen I-Can't-Look-Out-For-Myself."
"He guards West Luna, not just me. Go and leave already and get my supplies."
"Whatever you say, my Queen."
Before Melfina can respond, a melodic voice chimes in, "Queen? How long have you been a queen?"
Gamblor's eyes widen and he quickly backs away from the new arrival. "Cadence! It wasn't my fault!"
The beautiful voice came from an equally beautiful body. The gentle waves of her long, auburn hair gently cling to her stunning figure. Golden brown eyes crackle with a fire that comes from a life of equal parts glamour and adventure as only a bard can live.
"You're lucky I'm here on business, Gamblor." She glares with a fearsome, yet cute, glare that Melfina knows she could never pull off. "You can make it up to me tonight. I'll be playing in Luna, sweetie."
Gamblor looks up through the ceiling. "Look at that. The day sure has gone by fast. I have another stop to make. Good day ladies," he says, somehow managing to wink at both of them at the same time. He makes his way out, keeping as far as possible from Cadence as he passes by.
"Hi Melfina, how are you? Sorry I have to do this to you, but a job's a job, and Lord Luna pays well." Cadence extends her arm, handing Melfina an envelope, the emblem embossed into the sealing wax is that of Lord Luna. The arrow point strikes fear into her heart.
"Yeah I know." Melfina puts the envelope straight into her pocket. They both know what it is. Lord Luna always uses Cadence to deliver bills and invoices.
"Well if you need any money, you could always capture the Dungeon Slaughterer, his reward's at five-thousand gold."
I wonder if St… wait…
"That's it? For all that he did, he's only the price of a spellbook! They must not want to catch him too badly."
"I'm sure they're just trying to save on reward money. The longer he's free, the higher it'll go."
"…and where do you find good prices on swords?" comes Stark's voice from off in the distance.
A very familiar and chipper voice responds, "Oh, you just have to shop around for that. It seems like everyone sells weapons, and there is no telling who has the best quality and best deals until you see it for yourself. The best swords go quick, so you have to check daily."
The guard captain walks into the shop with a very vibrantly dressed man. The next trend will most likely be blinding white cloth and armor, adorned with flowing patterns of gold and lime green. Tom always seems to start new fashion trends. "Tom! How have you been?" says Melfina with a warm smile.
"I've been doing excellent, as usual. It's a beautiful day for finding deals. And I continue to do so at your lovely establishment," he says with a smile that believes the world couldn't be any more perfect. "I'm here to pick up the usual."
"Naturally," she nods her head at one of her favorite regulars. "It's already here waiting for you. Scrolls and runes, bagged and ready."
"You're the best!" Tom says. And then turning to Cadence, "I can always count on her."
"She's a wonder alright. Stopping by the inn tonight, cutie?"
"I wouldn't miss it for all the gold in Luna."
Cadence flashes a smile, says her good-byes, and heads off.
"For all those times you've thrown in a little something extra, here, I picked up a gift in Moonglow. For your shop."
Oh no… I hope he doesn't expect me to display it. His taste is so… Luna. She opens up the bag and is pleasantly surprised to see holiday mistletoe that makes a kissing sound if someone walks beneath it. "It's from MAGIC!"
"Of course. No one else does it better. They have the manpower, and the resources. It's quite a company." Magical Add-ons, Gadgets, and Intriguing Charms sells only the best quality, and often unique, house add-ons. From bottomless trash barrels and teleport tiles to night sight earrings and mood rings. Some of their products have become a home construction standard. "I'd be terrified to compete with them. Buying and selling. That's the way to go. No wandering dangerous wilds and slaying dangerous beasts, and no wondering if someone is selling better quality products at a cheaper price. I buy from those who want to sell, and sell to those who want to buy. Everyone wins!"
"I do appreciate your business, Tom."
"Just keep the scrolls coming. I'll be seeing you. Items don't buy themselves!"
Movement in the corner of her eye reminds her of Stark's presence. "I hope you know more Tom's and less Gamblor's."
"Oh, Gamblor is harmless," she says dismissively.
"There's something about him I don't like." Stark says as he goes back to his duty.
The shop quiets down, and her pocket grows heavy. She pulls it out the letter and breaks the seal. She can't get herself to read past the heading. It's in her own handwriting. The ink still wet on her contract with Lord Luna, and already the debt was being dangled in her face. He was her first customer. She can't help but sigh.
Lord Luna pays well.
* * *
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