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"Right, right, it just doesn't make any sense! Why would anyone assemble something like that in Dungeon Deceit!"
Gamblor nods his head on cue and maintains just the right amount of eye contact with the spice merchant.
"I mean a giant chessboard! What business does that have in one of the dungeons of the Anti-Virtues! If I wanted to play chess, I could stay right here!"
As if you were the one actually there. "It is Deceit after all. Its very name suggests confusion." Gamblor replies, trying to keep his response as vague and non-committal as possible.
"That is very true. Let me buy you another drink."
This spice merchant was obviously repeating tales from other travelers and pretending they were his own. He didn't seem like the adventuring type. But listening to stories never hurt anyone. He just wanted some attention, and someone to share a mug with. Gamblor wasn't about to turn down a free mug of ale. He already finished three.
The serving girl comes back with two mugs, and the spice merchant puts coins on the table. She picks them up, smiles appreciatively at Gamblor, then goes on her way when he responds with a polite smile and nod of his head. She was only fishing for tips. And even if she wasn't, this wasn't the place to mess around with the serving girls.
The Sunlight's Nectar was owned by the head banker of Luna. She was powerful and her connections ran deep. The potential trouble wasn't worth it. Things were changing around here, and he wasn't sure how to take it. He used to like coming here, in part, because of Lord Luna's views against the City of Light. And yet he allowed this place to be built and whatever foothold that meant.
The other reason to keep away from any potential trouble was that this tavern was right next door to Melfina's place. He now had the perfect place to pass the time and wait for her if something came up. He'd be here frequently. And well, he didn't want a bad reputation to reach her ears.
Gamblor takes a sip from his mug. Leah sure doesn't skimp on quality. Great ale could be added to the list. If he had known that the ever suspicious paladin had been gone for over a month already, he would have tried out this place sooner. It was too new, and didn't have a cozy broken in feel yet, but it only needed some time.
"So what's the next stop?" The spice merchant loved to talk, so a short and simple question was all that was needed to get him going again.
"Off to the west, to the League! Trade is opening up there, and I want to make sure I'm in on it."
"You haven't heard? There's a big change happening," he said with his speech noticeably slower than when Gamblor first sat down with him. "They're looking to trade new goods to find, and hire people with skills, and pay lots. You look strong and healthy, you might want to look into it yourself."
"I may just do that."
"Oh, but don't tell anyone else." He leans closer. "Better to be ahead of the competition than be better than the competition."
"Agreed." Gamblor raises his mug. "To the League."
"To the League!" They tap their mugs together and drink deeply.
Gamblor looks around to see if anyone else heard. He didn't know how everyone around here felt about the League. The traffic from their brothel business was a recent issue with the West Luna Guard, or so he had heard.
A glance reveals no looks of annoyance or anger from the other patrons. Not that there were many. West Luna was still a small place. Not big enough to really be called a city. But having its own tavern was a good start.
What would be even better is a cardhouse, Gamblor thought. If I could save up enough, maybe I could open one up. But he knew that was never going to happen. He was good at acquiring gold, but not so good at holding on to it.
Gamblor takes a look at the clock on the wall, and realizes that Melfina's over an hour late. "It's been fun, my friend, but I have to leave now. The next mug is on me." lGamblor didn't even know his name, and didn't particularly care to, but on of the off chance the merchant would remember him, four mugs for the price of one was worth it.
Where is that girl. She's never this late. Usually it was the scribe that was mad for his never being on time. Maybe something was wrong.
It takes only a moment to walk from The Sunlight's Nectar to The Magic Arts and Crafts, and inside, he sees Melfina sitting pretty in her seat and not even bothering to look up and acknowledge his presence.
She still takes no notice of him.
"Oh," she says quietly, never moving her eyes from her book. She lifts a sheet of paper into the air. "Here. This is what I need."
"Oh, no, no, no. I'm not working for you if you're going to treat me like some servant," he replies. She feels his glare and finally takes her gaze away from the book.
Melfina blushes. It was cute. "Oh sorry."
"Oh you better be. I can find work somewhere else where they'll appreciate my skills."
"I said I'm sorry!" She looks like she means it. "I just haven't had much time to read this, and there's just so much information here! The secret to making necro books is in here somewhere. But Ossian was so... thorough... when it came to his notes. It's really hard to not get distracted."
"Did you know that the Demon War was started because mages thought it was a good idea to drain deamons of their blood? That's what the summon deamon spell was used for back then. It looks like the blood was useful in reagent farming and healing. Because of the war, it is expressly forbidden for any mage to summon a deamon for anything other than combat. If someone repeatedly summoned me for the express purpose of draining my blood, I'd want to go to war too."
"Look at you. Sympathizing with deamons. There's hope for you yet," he winks at her.
Gamblor ducks a paper ball as it flies through the air.
"Shut up! That was a major change in how mages viewed the spell. And besides, they're smart creatures. Too bad we can't summon them for their knowledge anymore."
"This has really caught your eye. Maybe if we had an appointment to drain my blood instead of giving me a list of stuff you need, you'd actually show up on time. Who knows, maybe my blood can cure you of your forgetfulness."
"Ewww, that's gross."
He laughs. "I think it's time to leave. I'm glad you've found something you find fun for a change. That constant cloud above your head was getting ugly."
"Thanks Gamblor. And don't forget I pay you good money, so don't go looking for ways to cut costs when you're working for me."
She knew he was thief. And he knew that she knew. But when she hired him, he was to do things the legal way. And he was fine with that. When it came to his trade, almost everyone was fair game. He followed The Code, and would never steal from another thief. But it wasn't enough for him. He needed to be true to someone, and she was it. The only good thing about having that annoying paladin around was that he knew she was well protected. Now that he was gone, he guessed he'd have to hang around a bit more. She'd find a way to get into trouble sooner or later.
"Me? Oh, I'd never." He grins.
"She you soon. You should come down to the tavern with me next time."
"I'll think about it."
Things were changing around here, but everything would be all right in the end.
* * *
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