Stiletti of Vendici
“- but Signore Amato, I assure you -”
The youth’s platitudes were cut short as the withered old man behind the counter hawked and spat onto the flags.
“Assume me all you like, signore, doesn’t mean I’m going to pay you for this flotsam. Scrape it off the docks yourself, did you?”
The young man gave a nervous giggle, tugging at the sleeves of the fine jacket he wore. It was dark, made of thin leather slashed with crimson, but didn’t quite fit him – it seemed to have been made for a slightly thinner figure, one with longer arms.
“Not at all! A goodman from Padulan claimed to have discovered a cache, and I made him an offer. Even I recognised the dwarven amulet-” he extended one finger and pushed at a brassy pendant on a worn leather thong, "- though I cannot read the runes myself. Between that and the… more obvious cases – " here a nod to a long wand of dark wood, inlaid with what looked like bone, “- I was certain I had some that would interest you. But if you’d rather I took my wares to the Clearing House…?”
The balding figure in the darkness of market stall sucked between his teeth, emitting the universal sound of the unconvinced merchant.
“Look, I grant you the rod’s a caduceus. No doubts there. And sure, the talisman’s probably still good. But the rest?”
He stirred an overlong finger through the pile of curios on the heavily-stained, well-pitted counter, pushing what looked like an arrowhead made of black glass to one side.
“Right, you know what, I’ll take it off your hands. I’ll give you a dozen eagles.”
The well-dressed youth paled.
“Twelve florins? The amulet’s worth seven or eight, and the caduceus twice that!”
“I suppose I could stretch to fifteen. Seen as you had them off a goodman from Padulan, you know?”, the merchant grinned.
This time the youth flinched.
“Listen old man, there’s at least half a dozen active cyphers here – sure, maybe they’re not all of the very highest quality -”
“- or provenance -”
“- or provenance, granted, but then there’s a good handful of spent ones that could be bewitched again. I was told you’ve the connections to get that done, but I need the money sooner rather than later. I’d consider going as low as twenty-five.”
“Twelve, but I’ll throw in this little trinket here.” One bony hand disappeared under the counter, emerging with a rough sphere of terracotta the size of an apricot clutched in its long digits. “Seen as you seem like the type to… hah… make a swift exit, you might get some use out of this.”
The youth’s eyes were glued to the little ball.
“What does it do?”
“It’ll fill a room with smoke. Thick, black stuff, but odorless. Lets you get out of a tight spot, and not stick out in the crowd afterwards.”
The young man licked his lips, shifted his weight from one heeled boot to the other.
“It’s not that alchemical stuff, is it? I heard -”
“- never mind what you heard. Most of what you hear about blackpowder’s rubbish. This is good stuff, from a trusted source.”
“Right, fifteen eagles and the smoke-cypher.”
“Thirteen, the cypher, and a dozen scudi. You’ll want the smaller ones so as not to draw attention if you’re just buying a cup of wine, draws less attention. Not -” the merchant grinned in triumph, “- that I’m saying you’re a man who’s trying to avoid attention. Final offer.”
Cyphers – items bewitched, enchanted, somehow magicked into producing astounding effects – are rare in Vendici, although not as rare as the mages who make them. All manner of objects can be made to produce a dizzying array of results, though they are typically made of rare, or at least old, material. More common forms include old Imperial artefacts, dwarven metalwork carved with powerful runes, and wands of exotic wood, though these are by no means the only designs in circulation. Most crumble to dust once their arcane charge has been expended, though some hold enough of a magical residue to maintain their form long enough to be returned for re-enchantment.