“Are you serious?”
“Yes. I would. I seriously would.”
A blonde haired and fair skinned Ascalonian girl reached into her pouch slung around her shoulder. She was happy to find that she had enough coin and gave it to the lady behind the booth, trading them for a carnival apple. She took a big bite and was pleased with how juicy her purchase was. Her attention returned to her friend and she continued her chastising.
“Ridiculous. I could never run away from home and join the circus. Of all things, Raizah…you’ve got adventure-sickness bad!” she exclaimed incredulously.
“That’s what you say, Jessa, but it’s because you’re able to leave with your parents on deliveries to neighboring towns. I’m always here. These massive city walls are the biggest jail cell one could find. I’m not even kidding,” Raizah responded. Her sun-kissed face scrunched in disgust and her short dark cherry colored hair was turned upward and sideways, swaying in the breeze, like a flame. Jessa laughed as she always did when her friend made that face. Raizah Flintbury had light freckles on the bridge of her nose that weren’t so noticeable until she pouted. Her friends insensitivity toward her need to leave the big city only made her sulk more.
“Well, if your mother would allow you to come with us, I’m sure my parents would have no problem with it,” Jessa offered. They continued slipping between stationary shoppers, who were transfixed at the prices being hollered above their heads. It was that time of year again, when the bulk of new stock and materials had reached their peak, so sales in the trading post were frequent. Raizah appreciated the offer, but knew it would never pass her mother’s cynical judgment.
“You know my mother. She’s too over-protective.”
Jessa’s smile faltered for a bit and she gently grabbed her friend’s wrist with a reassuring squeeze, “You can’t blame her for that, though…right?” Her face was now apologetic.
Raizah instantly reprimanded herself and felt a twinge in her chest. It had only been a short time since her father had passed away after fighting unknown symptoms for the past few months. He was a renowned Krytan blacksmith who was playing a large role in the development of Tyrian firearms. His father before him was an old man and an excellent blacksmith in Ebonhawke, who collected weaponry and spoils from battles against the charr. The fascination he had for charr technology led to him reverse-engineering some of their advancements, which not only lent new innovative processes to gun development in other regions, but also helped Ebonhawke bolster their defenses.
“Right,” she responded softly. In the commotion of the market, Jessa was unable to hear her, but she read her lips and nodded, pulling her friend off to complete their errands.
No matter how many times Raizah saw the gaping hole in her home district, it never became old. She dreamed up fantastical explanations in her head about how almost half of the district sunk into the earth. She imagined a terrifying winged serpent jutting forth from the fissure, roaring into the sky, screaming its promise of destruction. What would they all do if that were to happen? She thought how she would take her mother and run far away from there and never return. Sometimes she felt guilty that she daydreamed of such things happening, but she secretly wished for an excuse to find a new home. She was ever so tired of Divinity’s Reach.
The two girls reached a crossroad and Jessa turned to her friend and told her she’d stop by the shop later. She needed to deliver the things her mother sent her to market to purchase. Raizah nodded and kept her gaze dreamily into the sky. Before she knew it, she was home.
“Mother, I’m back!” she yelled into the shop. Home for them was literally ten feet above the shop’s floor. Her late father had left them with the gun store, which also served as a weapons trader. He also left them with a bit of debt. It was common to see the average warrior interested in trading a worn axe or longsword for the most current rifle they had in stock, and paying the difference in value. Raizah obtained intimate knowledge of firearms through her childhood and shared her father’s passion for the devices as well as much of his talent. She was now the gunsmith, handling all orders and repairs, while her mother tended to the finances and upkeep of their business.
The shop was a small place, with exotic artwork that Raizah’s Canthan mother had collected from childhood. There were two small rooms and a bit of closet space in the second story of the tiny building that served as bedrooms, but ever since her father passed, her mother made a point to have her daughter share a room with her. The loneliness was proving difficult for her to conquer.
“Welcome back, honey. Please do me a favor and watch the shop while I go to the market with Mrs. Chido.”
Raizah flinched as if she had stepped on a tack. “Mom! I told you Jessa and I were going to the observatory when we got back! I was just at the market, why didn’t you just have me get anything else you needed?!”
“I forgot a few things. Don’t be a brat, help your dear mother, eh? I promise I won’t take long. The observatory isn’t going anywhere,” she said waving her hand in a dismissive way as her petite frame scuttled down the stairs and out the door. “A nice woman stopped by earlier dropping off her husband’s hunting rifle, it’s on the counter. You can take a look at it while you wait for me!” her mother yelled, her voice trailing off in the distance.
“Great…” she mumbled, dropping her paper bag full of market items and trudging along the dusty wooden boards to her stool at the counter. “Okay…what do we have here?” She began to work on the rifle, disassembling it, and eyeing every component. She blew out dust and cleaned the residual gun powder from the chamber, oiled the spring-back, and checked the hammer’s connection to make sure it would fire correctly. She did all this without even reading the service slip that was attached to the written quote, detailing what was wrong with the device.
She turned around in her seat, opened a drawer, and was greeted by the jingle of varying sized pellets and ammunition. “Well hello my lovelies,” she whispered playfully before snatching the appropriate shell to test her work. She spun back around in her seat and the sight of a cloaked man standing immediately before her made her yelp in surprise. The shell flipped into the air and the man caught it.
“Hello,” he said flatly.
Raizah commanded her heart to calm itself. She swore the man could hear it in her chest. “Oh, I-I, uh, hi,” she stuttered, “I was talking…to the ammo earlier.”
“Excuse me?” he asked, not understanding. He set the shell on the counter in front of him.
“When I said ‘my lovelies’, I…” she paused at how strange her words probably sounded, and stopped herself from going any further, “…nevermind. How may I help you?”
“Where is the shopkeeper?” he seemed to look straight through her as if their exchange were a waste of his time.
“You’re looking at her.” Which he wasn’t.
“…Where is Flintbury?”
“I mean the old man. The man who crafted this,” the man yielded a pistol from his holster and laid it softly on the counter. “It’s damaged. It needs repair.”
Raizah fought the urge to roll her eyes, “That it does. Well…sorry to break it to you, but that old man was my old man. He…passed away a couple months ago.” She said carefully, her eyes finding a spot in the corner of the room to focus on. People always came into the shop looking for her father, and it hurt every time she had to share the news.
The man stood there silently for what seemed like hours before uttering another word.
“Did his wife take over repairs here?” he asked slowly. It was an awful attempt at sounding remorseful, Raizah thought.
“I took over the repairs-look, sir, can you please just tell me what’s wrong with the thing? Actually, better yet, let me look at it.” She snatched the pistol and disassembled it in a matter of seconds. The man seemed impressed, because he removed his hood revealing a furrowed brow and wild silver hair. Raizah stopped before completing the last step in her process and blinked. The customer looked young, and the combination of his dark skin and frosted hair made him look almost unnatural. She gazed at his face and could tell he was troubled beyond wielding a useless pistol. She quickly realized she was staring, snapped out of it, and continued her work.
“Um, yeah, okay. Looks like ice damage. Froze your recoil nicely and shattered it. Probably from a hard impact…also the inner lining of the chamber is cracked. That’s probably from a misfire…due to the coil damage.” She turned to grab a slip of parchment to write a quote for the parts she’d need to acquire for the repair. Raizah was about to speak again when she heard a different voice behind her.
“Hello, young lady,” a new man said. Raizah spun around and cocked her head to the side. He was decked out in full Seraph guard armor minus his helmet and smiled at her.
“Oh, hello-“ she started, and the man continued.
“My wife brought in my rifle earlier? It was brand new and I accidentally damaged it in my excitement to use it. Was practicing with it out in the fields with some of the guys. Using drakes as targets! It works like a dream, but I’m not sure why it gave up on me so quickly.”
“Yes! This is one of the newer models out…so far I’ve only heard good things about it. What you might want to do is keep it clean, maybe shake out leftover powder after using it extensively. You might also want to check up on what type of powder your ammunition supplier is using. The cheap stuff is too grainy and chunky. Here we have the finest powders you’ll find in Divinity’s Reach. If you’d like to give us a try!” Raizah beamed her brightest smile in her attempt to gain new business. The guard was obviously impressed and nodded emphatically.
“You got it! You sure know your stuff,” the man looked at the counter and saw the rifle practically shining on the counter. “You repaired it already?” he asked and she nodded. “Wow!”
“Yup, ready for you if you’re ready for it.” She took the man’s money and bowed her head slightly in thanks as he left the store. She suddenly realized that the silver haired man had vanished. A butterfly fluttered into the room and landed on a lantern that hung on the back wall. It instantly caught Raizah’s eye, and when she turned back to check outside if the man was still around, he had reappeared in the corner of the room. She stopped abruptly with squinted eyes.
It was obvious that he was avoiding the guard, but why? She didn’t really want to know. She was alone in the shop after all, and if he was a thief, she didn’t want any trouble from him. Her mother couldn’t afford to have a shady character like him run off with any of their wares. Raizah returned to her place behind the counter and rubbed her nose, but said nothing.
The man’s eyes burned through her and he re-approached the counter, setting the pistol back on the counter.
Raizah paused for a moment, then spoke, “Thirty gold coins,” she said. His eyes widened as if she had slapped him across the mouth.
“You can’t be serious,” he said. “That’s too much.”
“No, it really isn’t…see, this pistol is high quality. Not many people own this. Actually, I’m not sure who else besides you does…” she said softly. That’s strange, she thought to herself. She flipped the pistol and examined the front end. “Yeah, there it is. That insignia. It’s in old Krytan, it’s actually my grandfather’s symbol. That means this piece was specially crafted by either him or my father. I doubt you knew my grandpops, so…yes. Dad built this. It’s a classic and the parts are expensive. Thirty gold.”
For a moment, Raizah had forgotten that this man was just avoiding the Seraph guard. She swallowed at her boldness. I should have just said ten gold coins so he would hurry and leave, she thought. She waited for his response and he finally spoke, never once leaving her eyes. Never once blinking.
“Fine. Have it done tomorrow.”
She winced. There were a bunch of items on backorder that she had neglected for the past couple of days. “Two days,” she renegotiated with a nervous smile.
“…Fine,” he said and turned to leave, “Two days. Without fail…and it should work perfectly,” the temperature of his words chilled her to the bone. This was a serious matter, and his intense emerald gaze made her look down at the counter. As he left, he pulled his hood back over his silver hair. It was then she realized that when he entered the shop, and even as he exited, she never once heard his footsteps on their creaky floors. Jessa walked in just then, turned to look back at the man, and then back at Raizah with a questioning glance.
“Definitely…” she murmured, “Like clockwork.”