Your boots crunch in the snow, down Magpie Alley way. Your guide, half your height and totally silent, snuffles exaggeratedly. The noise is deliberate theatre. You fix your gloves, adjust your hat. He, his feather-cloak and wicker snowshoes.
“So, what are you looking for, guvnor?” He asks.
“Just here to browse, goodsir.” You reply.
“Goodsir? That’s some unfamiliar politeness, from a human.”
He laughs in a reedy pitch and undoes the hair-woven scarf, lifting a bronze flask to his lips. They peel back and the teeth, like nails, bite into the bottle-neck. Whiskey goes in, and a little wisp of his breath comes out. You catch a little whiff and nearly wretch. Smells like dead pigeons.
On, down the lane. Snow falls in quiet curlicues.
He stops and turns. He produces a crow of iron and begins to pry at a wall with it. You look over your shoulder. Between the goldsmiths and the pawn-shop you are situated. You glance up at the three spheres hanging from the bar, as your guide pries free a stone.
There’s a hole in the wall, two feet wide and issuing vapours. Patterned cambric curtains hang, chains rattle. The smoke is tobacco and wood.
“In here?” You ask.
“In here. Mind your feet, guvnor, and touch nothing you don’t plan to buy.”
He squeezes in. You kneel and follow.
The Goblin Market
“AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE NOT WELCOME IN POLITE SOCIETY”, a voice like a bell rings over the bedlam.
There’s an answering cheer, a sound like animals in the woods.
Wooden stairs have appeared beneath your feet. The curtains part to show a swaying, hazy cavern. It seems as though the stones themselves are sozzled. Wine drips from the walls and pools around the paws and claws and occasional patent leather shoes.
There is a furred and scratching crowd down below you, where the wine pools. Among them are a few of the human kind. Gentlefolk and poor alike.
There are tall goblins, furred like cats and ugly in face. Short things like bats forced upright, galloping on their hands and slurping from the floor. Tiny men with long white ears and big pale eyes, scuttling and sweeping. Skinny things dancing with long limbs and donkey’s brays. The smell is unbelievable.
All around the stairs, leaning towers of detritus stand atop ancient hope chests and by armoires of doubtless provenance. Strange artefacts, things you’d probably label Egyptian, stacks and stacks of books in the arms of classical statues and at the feet of eerie little shrines.
Your guide scuttles down the stairs ahead of you and you follow.
“You believe in Christ?” You ask your guide, who is shedding his cloak.
He flings it over a statue covered in birdshit, labelled DIS PATER. Then, he scuttles behind it. A table covered in swaying fabrics and towers of bric-a-brac walks out, legs bending like it’s alive.
He springs up on it, and lays out a little sign: “SELLING ODDITIES”.
“After a fashion, I suppose. You believe in Mithras?” He asks, arranging the mess on his table.
“What’s that have to do with anything?”
“You asked me first.” He retorts.
“Listen, what are you selling, anyway?”
“Hang on, there’s a speech.” He coughs, and it sounds like someone grating a live cat.
“CAVEAT EMPTOR, Cicero said, and you be Emptor tonight, goodsir. You stand at the stall of Little Shuck, the Hob. Our nation of goblins shoes all shoes for prices, repairs the windows of good Christians, and sweeps the floors of sleeping witches.” He says.
He throws aside the hair scarf, and you get a good look at him. Two feet in height, hands deft, eyes like two black coals. A furred body, like a cat wearing a mask of an old man. He has small tweeds, sized right for himself.
“You practise that speech?” You ask.
“Just buy something, tall.” Shuck complains.
1d6 Oddities at the Hob’s Table
Giant’s Broom - A twelve foot tall broom. Sweeps tenfold more than an ordinary broom, and catches mice, rats, bugs and other floor-denizens safely in its massive bristles when it does so. Also, can easily sweep a normal person physically off their feet.
Witch-Shears - When you tell them to, these shears hang in the air, and when you tell them to, they cut. They can do both at once.
Dracobezoar - Coughed up by Y Ddraig Goch himself. Hot to the touch, tastes like coal, grey like iron. Eat this and you will literally shit fire, but all disease, pain, ache and poison will leave your body by the next morning.
Gyr-Carling’s Knitting - The knitting of the ogre-queen of witches. A black sweater a thumb’s thickness, made of Old Scratch’s chest hairs. Turns aside pointed implements, unless the Devil wants them to hit you. Smells like brimstone and goat sweat.
Innocence, Jarred - Lasts for about four hours, minus half an hour for each decade you’ve been alive. Returns you to an innocent state, allowing you to be kind, forgiving, and (crucially) protected by the angels, at least for the duration.
Ancien Cor Anglais - Solid horn and gold. A knockoff of Olifant, the horn of Roland, made by some wizard-knight in the 1100s. It ‘only’ deafens half the countryside for seven miles and knocks out anyone that blows it.
“That sweater is vile.”
“I think I’ll keep browsing.” You make a half wave, and he wiggles his fingers, grinning.
“Mind my advice!” He calls, as you walk away.
You stumble between two stalls supported on doric columns. One thing, a little like a sickly dog in a banker’s suit, is attempting to hawk a statue of a Babylonian winged bull to a young woman dressed richly. You nod to each other as you pass.
Beyond them, a tall, broad-bodied woman, almost human but for her twice-long arms, clawed hands, and deer’s nose, stands dressed in peasant’s dress from three centuries ago. Her eyes are large and dark, and her hair is ginger-brown, tousled and tangled.
You nod to her, she coughs and recites:
“CAVEAT EMPTOR, Cicero said, and you be Emptor now, love. You stand at the stall of Jinny Knifegrinder, the Bug-bear. Our nation of goblins frightens children into right behaviour, startles the lonely in the woods and warns others when witches be dancing at their Mass.”
Her voice is deep and low.
“I see. Well, good work, I think? What do you sell?”
Her table is covered in cloths, bowls, and huge sprigs of plant-life.
“Things from woods and witches, sir.” She says,.
1d6 Herbs at the Bugbear’s Stall
Aglaophotis Flowers - They look like peony’s flowers spun from threads of gold. They glitter gloriously. A dose wards off fever, demons and all witchcraft for one cycle of the moon.
Mandragora - A root that screams and kills all human listeners when harvested. Luckily, this one’s freshly picked. A key ingredient in ointments and potions which allow flight. I can sell you the recipe, too!
Irrwurz - A black fern. Whosoever steps on it immediately becomes lost, and cannot find the way back to where they came from. Preserved in a jar of formaldehyde. One jar contains the potent Tyrolian Irrwurz, which teleports you to the nearest swamp or knacker’s yard when touched.
Sanjeevani - Grows only on Ṛṣabhādri, the ox-shaped mountain stolen by Hanuman. A powerful medicinal herb, restoring 3d6 hitpoints and a limb per dose. I don’t advise trying any when you’ve all your health and limbs.
Apple of Gomorrah - Harvested from the great tree that now stands where that city once stood. A grey-black apple. When touched by a human hand, it bursts instantly into smoke, embers and flames, igniting all flammable nearby.
Raskovnik - The five-leafed clover grown in Bulgaria and Serbia. When it touches anything locked at all, the lock springs open. Normally harvested by walking prisoners through a field in leg irons, and waiting to see which goes free first.
“Hm. Thank you for showing me.” You say, moving to go.
“Merry Christmas, love.” She says, with a smile.
You turn away from the Bug-bear’s stall, and walk on.
Far beyond everyone, a huge alcove is cut into the stone of the wall, dressed in hanging brocades and gold tassel rope. A roaring cough echoes from within.
You tilt your head down and look. Below you, spread on a tartan blanket is another stall. It’s managed by a little creature, two feet tall, long like a ferret, but with human hands and eyes, and bright gingery fur. It wears a little cap and a rawhide belt with a pipe stuck in it. It looks up at you.
The little creature coughs and sprays a fine mist into the air. You pull your scarf up.
It speaks in a reedy gasp:
“CAVYAT EMTER, Cicero said, and yer Emter now, lad. You staun at the stall of Jock o’ Glaschu, the Wirry-cow. Our nation a’ goblins assist a’ drunks and ruffians, helps count the coins o misers, and frightens awa preening men o law and cloth.”
The little creature’s accent is that of a Scotsman.
“I imagine you have plenty of work, then.” You say. with a smirk.
“Hah! Bastard! Buy something!”
1d6 Acquired Goods, on the Wirry-cow’s Blanket
Gold Crucifix (Italian) - Never know when it might come in handy. One of the arms is a little bent ‘cause I dropped it when I ran off with it.
Cohuleen Druith - The magic silvery hood of a merrow (or undine, if you ask Paracelsus). It allows them to travel between the dry land and the deep seabed without fear of drowning in air, and it’ll let you do the same without fear of drowning in water. Though, be wary of the previous owner.
Giant’s Draught - A clay jar, sealed, containing a quart of beer from a giant’s barrel. One sip will have a tall fellow drunker than a New Year’s party. I recommend it for a New Year’s party!
Gnome’s Smoking Pipe - Hah! Gnomes! Silly little fellows would barely notice if you robbed their beard off their face. This pipe lets you smoke any rock or stone as if it were tobacco, bolstering the spirits and the bones. Smoking precious stones has been said to send people on spirit-trips to chthonic realms near Hell.
Huldra’s Charcoal - Special charcoal, made from the friendly partnership of a Huldra and a charcoal burner in deepest Sweden. Then I nicked it. Produces a smokeless yellow flame that casts back illusions and smells of sweet flowers.
Dwarf’s Hammer - Pretty-much indestructible. Grey-adamant, I think. Of course, she wants it back, so look out for a short woman called Guðrún, awright?
“Hm. Not for me, thank you. But good luck.”
“Don’t step in horse-shit.” He says, as a farewell.
On you go through the wine-stink and the humid air. Lots of people are breathing in here. A human, dressed as a beggar, passes you, clutching a staff with a golden bull’s head on the end.
He walks away from a hole carven into the wall. Inside, a creature sits, tall and blue, legs dangling. Two little eyes above a face entirely made of nose. It snuffles loudly, hesitantly.
A voice comes from the nostrils as you get near.
“CAVEAT EMPTOR, Cicero… etc. You stand by the wall-hole of Jack o’ Flour, the Kilmoulis. Our nation of goblins works hard for all millers, plays tricks on the lazy and is charged to steal food for the angels.”
“For the angels? Do they need to eat?”
“I suppose they enjoy it. Are you buying anything? My wares are unparalleled.” It snuffles, pointing behind itself.
1d6 Wizard’s Curios at the Kilmoulis’ Hole
A Scholomance Schoolbook - Written by the Devil himself. Contains all manner of grim sorceries and strange methods, like how to communicate with the dead or produce a ring of invisibility from frozen mercury.
A Skull from Baba Yaga’s Fence - Mount it by your door, and it will scream bloody murder when your enemies come nearby.
Merlin’s Spare Wand - The very same one on the Ace of Wands card. Old yew, dead but still growing leaves. Any sorcerer or witch who bears this is recognised, legally, as a demon, and can strike fear by merely pointing it.
John Dee’s Book of Angels - Written in Enochian, so I hope you can read it. Effectively, an address book for the Heavenly Host. Contains everything you need to invoke angels, so long as you are an occultist of means. The chapter on the Archangel Michael warns in strong terms not to summon him lest ye have Evil for him to smite.
Koschei's Cloak - One of the many items owned by old Koschei. Stolen by a lucky fellow in the fields of Poland just last year! No, Koschei isn’t dead, that soul in that egg was a decoy. You think he got called the Deathless by only having one soul stowed away? Anyway, the cloak protects you from all smoke and fire so long as you don’t swear while you’re wearing it - then it immolates!
Jack-o-Kent’s Boots - A pair of old leather boots, mud-caked and singed. The footsteps of the wearer leave them buried to the knee but unslowed by what they step on, and, should they dance a jig, their heels will crack stone and split them.
“These are some remarkable provenances.”
“What’s a proffynence?”
“Oh, nevermind. Merry Christmas.”
It sneezes like a gunshot.
You move off.
You’re stopped almost immediately, as a huge, broad-backed goblin, wearing a white kerchief round his neck, stumbles in your way. He’s carrying a whole bench like a tray. He’s bony, with grey skin, short-furred, and a horsey, toothy face.
“CAVEAT EMPTOR, Cicero said, and you be Emptor tonight, goodsir. You stand at’ stall of Rudefellow, the Brag. Our nation of goblins bedevils travellers, saves the lost and embarasses the well-off.”
“Well, the stall stands at me, surely?”
“Don’t get smart. Buy something, won’t you?”
He gestures with the bench, plaintively.
1d6 Bandit’s Friends, at the Brag’s Bench
Saltbox - An old fashioned +1 revolver, which fires in total silence with a bright white flash. When you’ve fired six shots from it, it has to be prayed over by a (Catholic) priest, or the next shot brings up a demon from Hell and a faery out from the Otherworld.
One of Jack’s Irons - A chain from the apparel of a famous bandit giant that haunts Yorkshire. Very hard to break, and whips and twitches to break the ankles and wrists of watchmen and bank-guards.
Hand of Glory - The pickled sinistral hand of a hanged man, set with a candle made from his very own tallow. When the candle’s lit, any who see you carrying it must save or be rendered completely immobile.
Tarnhat - A ushanka hat, sewn with tin charms and an iron plate, a cheap knockoff of the Tarnhelm. Allows invisibility to all humans, and can catch fire to instantly transfer your body and your soul (but not possessions or clothes) five miles in any direction.
Mask of an Honest Man - Smiling, yellow-lacquered birch. Rosy cheeks and dog-hair eyebrows. Put it on, and everyone sees you as just that - an honest man. Specifically, John Dodgson, 54, a miller from Coventry, born in 1348.
Letter of Marque, Scribed with Alder Leaves - A letter from the court of the Erlking, giving the bearer legal passage to plunder and rob on the roads of England and Wales, so long as they give every sixth shilling to the Fair-folk.
“Well, you know how your human-queen is a Hanoverian German?” Rudefellow says.
“Well, our faery-king is also a German. Isn’t that funny?”
“I suppose so.” You reply, unsure.
“Well, either buy or piss off.” He snaps.
“I’ll keep browsing.”
You piss off.
Out into the market again. You step over a little rivulet of wine in which little men and women, barely a foot tall, with gossamer wings, frolic and fly. Perhaps, a few months ago, you’d have been surprised by pixies.
You see that great yawning alcove again, and curiosity takes you.
Onwards towards the curtained alcove you go. A pair of Bug-bears clad in moss, sedge and the branches of yew trees play fiddle and pipes, sitting on the bench outside. They play a soothing song, by a table covered in chains, hooks, and pointed implements.
There’s a little bell. One of the musicians rings it with a bare and clawed foot when you approach.
You hear the stall’s owner approaching, grumbling deep as a bull as it pushes through the silken curtains.
The massive thing pushes out from his alcove, turning aside the curtain by the blade of a messer. Half a sail’s worth of damask and brocade follows out, cladding the huge creature in an open coat. A boot bigger than your head presses on wine-soaked cobbles.
He rather reminds you of the tiger you saw at London Zoo. Or of old Obaysch the Hippopotamus, in terms of frame. He’s wide around the waist, heavy of head, thick of limb, covered in silky, spiky fur, in shades of black and russet. His mouth is practically spilling fangs, and his rolling eyeballs are too human for comfort - brightly blue.
They roll to you and you stumble back a pace, bumping against a long-limbed goblin with a dog’s face hauling a crate. He barks a slur at you.
You step back into the thing’s reach. He yells:
“CAVEAT EMPTOR, CICERO SAID, AND YOU’RE EMPTOR. YOU STAND AT THE STALL OF REDBEARD THE OGRE. OUR NATION OF GOBLINS EATS THE FLESH OF MEN, KILLS GOOD CHRISTIANS ON THE ROAD, AND ENFORCES THE PEACE OF MARKET.”
After a pause, you respond with:
“Evening, Redbeard. You sell…?”
“RED TOOLS. KILLING THINGS.”
He sets down the messer and gestures widely with his massy hands.
1d6 Red Tools, at the Ogre’s Stall:
“Thankless Job”, a +1 1856 Burnside Carbine. This very modern tool drips with blood and accepts any bullet-sized bodypart in place of the gun’s usual unique cartridges. The gun’s report sounds like an American shouting curses.
“The False George” , a +1 awl-pike wrapped in holly and red ribbons. Deals an extra point of damage for each consecutive week you’ve missed Mass, but blunts and bends if you miss the feast of an important saint. The bite of its point causes fear in crocodiles, wyrms and all other reptiles of the Earth.
“I Shall Equalise”, a +1 Colt Walker Revolver with a poem carved into the horn grip. Does double damage to creatures with less than half or more than double your Hit Dice. Shiny and clean.
Kanabo, authentic, from far Japan. This is my cousin’s one and don’t tell anyone I’m selling it. Far too large for any ordinary fellow to use in a fight, but it can crush anything in one.
ULTIMA RATIO REGIS, a Prussian cannon. It’s infused with the power of royal disregard, and it breaks all laws in a hundred miles when lit and fired. Anyone witness to the firing is an accomplice, legally.
Excalibur - An Oakeshott Type XVII. Shines with an eerie light, wrapped in black damask silk. Set in the cross-bar is a gem of forest green that glints enticingly. You can hear the sharpness. It stings your eyes.
“Excuse me, Redbeard, I notice you’ve labelled this as Excalibur -” You begin.
The Ogre startles, and rushes from his alcove, eyes rolling in his head. The size of him throws a gust of wind afore him. He snatches up the wrapped blade, then yelps, sucking a cut finger. He chucks the sacred relic behind himself into the alcove.
You hear it embed into a wall.
“OOPS! WAN’T MEANT TO BE SEEING THAT. YOU DIDN’T SEE, IF ANYONE ASKS.”
He points a knife the length of your torso at you.
“Ah, yes, of course.”
You back away, to let swearing Redbeard struggle with his cut thumb, and wander off into the Market.
You find yourself suddenly in a quiet corner, shared only by a tall wooden shrine. It has a pair of oaken doors, and is covered in dribbly red candles. Inside are two statues, with nearly-human faces, metal antlers, enamel eyes and pointed ears. They carry staves and bows, real ones, placed in their wooden hands. Carven wolves sit by their feet, fangs dripping wine and water.
At their feet, sit their wares. It seems even the shrines sell things at this market.
Carved into the wood below them:
Caveat, inquit, Cicero, ET VOS HAC NOCTE ILLE EST. AD SANCTUM ERLKING ET NICNEVEN, DOMINUS ET DOMINA NOSTRA. Ejiciunt nos, sed amamus usque adhuc. NATIO EORUM SUNT PULCHER, GWYLLIO ET VENATIO. NIL NIHIL NON PENSITO VEL SEQUENTIA.
You narrow your eyes.
“Goodness, this Latin is abysmal.”
1d6 Negotiable Offerings, at the Shrine of Elf Royalty
Prester John’s Grail - A hobgoblet of iron. Drinking wine from it provides infinite courage to even the most shuddery poltroon.
Elfshot - A bundle of twenty stone-headed arrows. They vanish when you shoot them, and deal internal damage at the point they would’ve struck. They’re fletched with the Simurgh’s feathers.
Wild Hunter’s Dagger - Long, thin. Seems to be made of black glass. Wickedly sharp. When you cut someone with it, you know where they are exactly until the wound stops bleeding.
Prepared Evil Eye - A real eyeball, in chemical jelly. Does the cursing for you, when ordered, and it can’t be traced back to you! Indispensable to the modern occultist.
Glasses of Real Intent - When worn, those who look at the glasses become an open book to you. What they intend for all they see is known to you. Be careful what you learn.
Scrap from the Sail of Wade’s Boat - When burned, bears you across the sea as if held in the hands of a giant running at full tilt. It’s a bumpy, cold, and uncomfortable ride. Wade and his boat are in Hell, at the moment, and you can ask to be borne to him, if you desire.
You look left and right for the owner of the stall, then, giving up, you pick up the glasses and slip them into a pocket.
You walk back through the market, fighting through the bedlam one carefully applied shove and cane at a time. You nod to Little Shuck, who winks at you, and you mount the stairs, ascending from the sea of smoke and silks.
In the architrave, you thumb the glasses in your pocket.
You hastily glance back at the glaring statues.
You hurry out into the dark.
Brilliant! Well done!ReplyDelete
What an astounding piece of work - this is 4-5 times the amount of content I expected. And such creative items...ReplyDelete