AGNPH Stories

Shi'iaqu by Bébinn Heffernan


Story Notes:

I do not own anything portrayed here (Pokémon, Neopets, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, etc.) except for the setting, which is a D&D 3.5/Pathfinder setting I have been working on for the past couple years. Those are owned by their respective companies (Nintendo, Viacom, Hasbro, etc.).All original characters are the property of whomever created them. Their creators do not own Pokémon, either.

1-4: Let's Meet the Merch(s)

Chapter 4:

Let's Meet the Merch(s)

)10:02 24th day of Maturation: Week 1, Day 4 of Shi'iaqu's creation(

Takumi got up and grumbled. He'd never get used to going to bed and waking up in darkness, but the way he had his room set up light from the tunnels was an arm's length from his bed. He opened the door, letting the light from the lanterns affixed to the wall shine in, before stepping out of bed and getting dressed. As he dressed, he took quick stock of what he had - four daggers, a short sword, a spellbook with one page blasted out, and a robe of fire resistance he was going to need to fence.

He pulled the robe out and looked it over. Age hadn't damaged the robe, likely due to its enchanted nature, though the red portions looked newer than the faded orange sections, suggesting that the robe was originally red and had decorations in those shapes that disintegrated with age. The dusty ampoules placed on its shoulders and at the front of where the shins would be had long ago shattered, but the dewing water on the robe had nothing to do with it.

He took up the robe and spellbook, stepping out to hear Charles arguing with someone, and said someone snapping back. The words "demon" (from Charles) and "eyeblight" (from the person he was debating) echoed down the hall. Intrigued, Takumi got closer.

"...don't care a whit what you think, demon, I just want this damn thing ID'd!" demanded Charles.

"I don't render services to racist eyeblights, much less racist eyeblights smelling of the grave!" retorted the creature on the opposite end of the counter. Although he was dressed sharply, the goat's horns and pointed ears erupting from his head did not help his case before Charles, although most of the rest of his spry, pointed features pointed to "elf". Takumi had never seen such a creature before, but given his attitude he didn't want to ever again. Unfortunately, the creature noticed him, jerking his head to him. "Another eyeblight?!"

"I'd like you to stop calling us eyeblights, keeb," hissed Takumi, before moving on.

Charles pressed his distracted foe's advantage. "Listen here, you poor excuse for a demon, I need this identified and I don't trust that kid to do it without annihilating half the Cosmopubitan!"

Thasi, the apothecary, bristled at this, his sandstone hair almost standing on end as he aimed his crimson eyes right at Charles. "And I don't trust you to tell the truth, jealous eyeblight!"

"Why would I have inserted a disease in there, you imbecile?!" roared Charles, pounding on the counter, causing the portion of the slime he recovered yesterday to jiggle. "I would sooner make it blow up in your hands, demon!"

"I'm not doing it for you, kith." Thasi crossed his thin arms.

"I'm not a kithkin!"

"What a coincidence, I'm not a demon either, eyeblight!"

The noise of the argument faded as Takumi entered the next store. On the wall was a shingle written in a language Takumi did not understand; it looked like a bunch of lines. Beneath this, a graffito read, Pawnbroker: Ikarua Thornflower. Takumi entered.

Inside was Zera, sifting through a large pile of objects on the left. Cables were strung up all over the store, and attached to one was what looked like a small, spiny rock. Takumi was confused - until he saw the skinny legs and arms, the azure eyes, and the long nose. He realized the ropes were what let the creature move from disorganized pile to-- oh, wait, they were organized. Apparently the left side was stuff for sale and the right side was stuff being held in escrow, hence the right side's items being in baskets, crates, urns, and chests, each numbered.

Ikarua stopped at the bottom of the cable system, standing before Takumi. "Welcome ta my pawnshop," he said, a thick Japanese accent in his voice. "What'cha wanna buy or sell?"

"This place is a mess..." started Takumi.

"It has its charms, 'specially when you're pullin' metal weapons outta th' dirt," the creature shrugged. "Ain't as well crafted as an Eiganjo samurai's weapon, but whatever pays th' bills."

Takumi nodded and pulled up the robe. "I'm wanting to sell this."

Ikarua nodded and pulled out a loupe to examine the robe for any physical wear and tear besides aging. Finding none aside from the broken ampoules (which could be removed) he nodded. "Pawn or sell?"

"Sell," said Takumi. "Nobody I know of is going to use it."

"Right, then," he said. He once more examined the robe. "This thing looks like it's seen yomi and back."

"I found it wrapped around a decayed skeleton," replied Takumi.

"I don't see any actual damage to it, however, and..." He held the robe up to a torch, and the hissing sounds of water could be heard. Steam rose from the garment, and he pulled it away. No damage. "' enchantment is still good. So, what do ya want for it?"

"I was thinking nine and a fifth?"



"That would be reasonable if this thing didn't look ta predate th' creation of Kamigawa," retorted the creature. "I c'n do seven and nine, not nine and two."

"You're kidding me!" griped Takumi. "Have a heart!"

"7,912 ryu is my final offer," grimaced Ikarua. "Take it or leave it."

Takumi growled and accepted the money. "Have any daggers?"

Ikarua gestured towards the large piles of salable merchandise. "Find 'em yourself."

Takumi grumbled and approached the nearest pile. A closer inspection revealed that all the items were in their own various piles based on category, and so smaller weapons were kept away from larger weapons, which were kept away from even larger weapons still... The edged weapons were peace-bound expertly, tied tightly to their sheath to avoid injuring browsers. "May I remove the weapons from their sheaths to look at 'em?"

"As long as ya re-bind them if they're not ta yer likin' I don't give a kitsune-bito's tail," came the response. Takumi nodded and sifted through the arsenal, eventually picking out a kunai and an Arkansas toothpick, before drawing his attention to a pile of ring boxes. He peeked inside one to find a nondescript silver band. He reached to touch it, and felt a weak pushback from the ring. Figuring it may be useful, he shut the box and slipped it into his pocket, his back turned away from Ikarua, who was dealing with Zera buying a used holy symbol. He then got in line behind Zera, who settled up and left.

"Found two," Takumi said, setting them on the counter. Ikarua removed them from their sheaths and took them in hand. "They're not enchanted; I checked."

"You a thrower?" asked Ikarua.


The goblin examined them for a little longer and nodded. "Four wyrms for th' both'a 'em." Takumi happily paid this, and left the shop before Ikarua found out he'd been robbed. As he left, the weight in his knapsack reminded him he had a spellbook he had to get rid of as well, so he figured he'd head over to the local scrivener's to get it checked out.

The Scrivener's was marked by a shingle written in delicate common, nailed to the door, which had several (currently-inactive) runes on it. The door was of finer make than most, appearing to be reinforced to discourage breaking and entering and with an integral lock that, judging from its look, was too complicated for Takumi to pick. The shingle read Wolfram, Scrivener. Please knock.

Takumi rapped out a shave-and-a-haircut. The door opened, and he nervously entered. A bright blue glow emanated from above, providing enough light to read the many, many, many tomes of arcane lore on the shelves. The walls of the round room were covered in bookshelves, and sitting at a table in the middle of it all was a humanoid figure with a visor covering its eyes and face, its head looking down at the scroll it was penning.


The creature looked up, and Takumi realized that "visor" was actually part of its body! Two yellow-glowing eyes peeked out at him from cover of darkness as most of its chest and arms became more obvious, with flesh of wood and titanium and a spark of life Takumi rarely saw in creatures that were otherwise living. It stood, its feet clanking on the floor as it rose to greet its guest, several runes on its body barely visible in the dim moonlight. "Welcome to my abode," it said in a gravelly voice that sounded distinctly feminine. "I am Wolfram, and you...?"

"Uriah Porter," said Takumi. "I mean no offense, but I thought robots couldn't channel mana..."

Wolfram chuckled. "Make no mistake, I'm not a robot. I am a Warforged - a construct built for war. I was designed to offer as little resistance as possible to mana. Now, what did you need me for?"

"I came here to ask about this." He stepped forward and set the spellbook on the table, cringing a bit. Wolfram easily had two and a half feet on him, and he didn't want to risk ticking her off.

Wolfram picked the spellbook up and flipped through it from the back, looking more confused as she did so. When she saw the front page, however, she immediately understood. "Ah. How did you acquire this tome?"

"I found it on a bookshelf in a late wizard's hovel," he said. "Something attacked me as I went to retrieve it."

"Was it blue, with lights all over inside it?" she asked.

"Indeed," replied Takumi, his eyes fixated on the circular pearl in Wolfram's chest. He wasn't about to try practicing his thieving skills in this room.

"I know what it was, then," said Wolfram. "Somehow, the words in the spellbook achieved a measure of sentience and came to life, either due to age or, more likely, someone deliberately altered the intonation and signs to do so."

"Are you saying we fought a spell... that has life?" asked Takumi, incredulous.

"I'm saying exactly that." She shut the spellbook and handed it back, only for Takumi to push it back. "Why do you want me to have it?"

"I can't use it." He generated a small, faintly glowing light source in his hand, and the room grew brighter.

"Ah, a sorcerer. Well... I could use it, and I'm willing to pay more than that stingy rock Ikarua," she noted.

"Howzabout ninety-five?" he asked.

"You sound like you're pushing drugs," noted Wolfram.

"When your job is being an agent in the city's criminal element it comes with the territory."

"Present job, or last?"

"Last job. I still work for the Koutierr Rangers, just a little more overtly."

Wolfram thought about it for a moment, then pulled out a sack of coins and handed it to him. He turned over the spellbook to her, then left, counting the money. 95 wyrms.

Nodding, he returned home, testing the ring. The noise of the Cosmopubitan seemed to get a little quieter the moment he put the ring onto his right hand. For a moment, he thought the ring did nothing. However, when he tried to strap knives to his bandolier, the knives deflected away a little bit, as if by some unseen force. He pushed a little harder, and the knife was slipped into his bandolier.


Femi woke up, stretched, licked herself clean, and got dressed, leaving her dog behind to nap as she stepped out and wandered over to Rena's shop. Inside, the Kacheek was decorating her shelves with teddy bears, with several crystals on the shelves. She looked up. "Welcome!" she said, setting the bear in her hands down and having a seat behind a small liquor box that had been vandalized with "IRON MAN'S DIGNITY - FUCK THE CIVIL WAR!"

"Uhh... I was wondering if you had any healywands on sale?" asked Femi.

"Nope. I only sell the wand stuff, not the wands," said Rena, shrugging. "I sell both the wood for the outer layer, and the crystal for the center."

"Wands are cored with crystal?" asked Femi.

"Yup. A crystal's type affects how the spell or power in the wand acts," Rena explained. "It also affects how much you can use it before the crystal shatters."

Femi nodded, understanding. "Thanks for the primer. Do you know who would sell them?"

"Aristotle might," said Rena. "She's probably in the bar, it being Wednesday and all."

Femi thanked her and left, making a beeline for the bar. It was empty today, with the only two people inside being Sam (who was busy tapping a tierce) and a Kacheek wearing white and blue robes, a belt made from an uninterrupted chain around its midsection. Femi had learned the chain was the holy symbol of the goddess worshipped here, a divinity named Ansgre Trennel, and that she was part of a pantheon. This Kacheek was a light blue color, and at his belt hung a mace, the favored weapon of the goddess, and a lemniscate of chain, he faith's holy symbol. Right now he was sitting in a corner, sipping tonic water. She approached cautiously. The Kacheek looked up as she got close. "Welcome, child, to my own personal getaway from the church. I am Father Bram."

Femi was getting used to Kacheek social gender, so he flinched at the masculine voice. "Um, hi... Would you happen to have any healywands?"

"What sort of healywands?"

"Healywands. You know, fix pains?"

"Oh, healing wands. I actually do have one, but it's not full."

"I don't care; I need it to give Zera some backup."

"Zera? Oh, you must be part of one of the groups of new Rangers."

"Yupyup. May I see it?" she asked.

Father Bram pulled out a ornately-decorated wooden wand, carved to resemble a praying angel. "Here we are. Light wounds only, cored with bluelace agate to make its target a little more communicative for a bit."

"Do wand cores actually do that?"

"Aside from the standard quartz core, many cores have rider effects on their wand's targets. Bluelace agate's effect is relatively simple, and as such it's a very cheap and thus very common core. The more advanced the rider effect, the more taxing the core is on a wallet and on a wand's ability to channel mana."

As Bram continued his spiel, a frustrated Charles entered the bar and sat down, thinking about something. He'd visited Melchior in the interim, and on his back was an odd-looking pole weapon. It was easily 5' long, with a raised button on the side. At the top was a rigid oval structure with plenty of cotton padding that looked like it could open and close, with a protected hinge inside the weapon. After a few moments, Charles ordered a bowl of porridge.

"How much do you want for it?" asked Femi.

"A hundred and fifty wyrms should do. It's only got about ten uses left before the core shatters, so bear that in mind."

Femi reached for her coinpurse and paid. As she did so, she heard the sounds of stomping coming from somewhere. She took the wand and left with it, following the stomping, to find it ending in front of the pawnbroker's.

Wading through the crowd, Femi managed to get a look inside. On the floor, bleeding from three spots in his head, was Moon, his sword on the ground at his feet, blood on the tip. Ikarua was nursing a light chest wound, a zhuge nu on the counter beside him, three quarrels missing from its clip. Melchior was there, feeling for a pulse, then shook his head. Though, admittedly, three crossbow bolts in one's face is more than enough to cancel one's subscription to life. Especially when it looked like Moon drew first blood. (As any Spelunky or NetHack player will tell you, shopkeeps attack to kill first and foremost, a lesson Moon should have learned before he pulled his face-heel turn.)

The police arrived. Femi left to inform the rest of the party of Moon's demise.


"He did what?!"

Takumi was flabbergasted at what he heard. In the hours it took to find the rest of the party, news had gotten around about the circumstances surrounding Moon's death. Apparently incensed that Ikarua wasn't allowing Melchior to take broken weapons he disinterred and reforge them without paying large amounts of money, Moon marched into the pawnbroker's shop and threatened to kill him unless he let Melchior cart off his junk. Ikarua refused, so Moon swiped at him, intending to scar him. Ikarua responded to the deeper-than-expected wound by pulling out a repeating crossbow and putting three bolts into Moon's face as he prepared to attack again. Melchior heard the sound and arrived just as Moon fell to the ground, a victim of his own immaturity. The only good news was that Ikarua agreed to surrender some of his junk to Melchior after he assured him he would have beaten Moon unconscious himself had he known he was going to do this.

"What about his body?" asked Charles.

"Ikarua stripped it of gear to put it on sale. The cash went to me," said Femi, "since neither Ikarua nor Melchior wanted it."

"I asked about the body, not whatever was attached to it," countered Charles.

"It went to the morgue, idiot human," said Zera. "Maybe if those zombies you love so much hadn't chewed on your brain, you could use it."

"In any case, I don't need so much cash, so..." Femi handed out a hundred gold to everyone else, keeping the remainder for herself. "...take it."

"Thanks," said Zera.

The group was in Femi's room, which had a profound smell to it. Charles and Takumi were sitting on a simply-made couch in back, Zera was sitting on the hammock Femi used as a bed, and Femi was feeding her dog underneath the hammock. The couch was a log with a large chunk removed to make a seat, which was then cushioned with peat moss. The hammock was a large number of vines strung over two sturdy X frames.

"That leaves us with a problem," noted Takumi. "Moon was the toughest man we had. Without him, we won't have someone to take hits for us."

"He never took a hit for any of us, Takumi," pointed out Zera.

"We're going to need muscle, and soon," said Charles. "None of us can really stand toe-to-toe with a demon and live."

"Zera might," said Femi.

"I'd have a hard time healing others if that's the case, though. One good hit is all it takes," noted Zera. "I can't do double-duty."

Takumi slipped the extra 100 into his pocket. "Then what do you propose we do, hold an audition?"

"If that's what it takes, yes."
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