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He stepped out of the library with Turq on his head to a rare day where it wasn't raining in the afternoon. The clouds even deigned to show an expanse of blue sky. He walked to the bakery.
Reon was at the counter today. The baker smiled at him and Turq. "What's it going to be today?"
"Ten loaves of black-seed and the same of the steamed." The regular loaves of bread in the bakery weighed one kilogar each. Twenty kilogar of bread would be enough for the whole of the week, probably.
Reon lifted a brow as he started packaging the order. "What army are you feeding?"
"Some of the children from the orphanage pick fruits for me." Defi was still prohibited from strenuous activity.
He thought Markar, who was currently going by the name Arac, requested the lessons for him and his sister. He was surprised there were four children on the docks two days ago. Markar/Arac grumbled that the others just tagged along. Still, it was not a number that was difficult for a teaching cla.s.s.
"Are you adopting more? Aire and Lergen would be pleased."
"More? Who did I adopt in the first place?"
Reon chuckled. "Lergen said you were a good influence."
Considering that the traps he had taught the orphanage children during the smuggler's siege were being used in games and tricks against various townspeople, Defi was certain Lergen had been joking.
The baker lopped a few slices off black-seed bread and wrapped them separately before handing everything to Defi. "Two klaud for the lot. And someone told me Old Frema's set up her stall today. You should try her fried liver. It can't be missed."
The stalls in the official marketplace were semi-permanent wooden constructions. There were regulars there but outside the weekly market many of the stalls were empty and anyone could rent them from the town hall.
Defi spotted Old Frema's stall right away. There were several people around it, despite the nearly empty streets. The sizzling sound and a pleasant scent of oil wafted around him as he neared.
Liver was something that Ontrean warriors ate for strength, as well as part of the ritual thanking the downed prey for their sacrifice. It was eaten by hunters fresh from the kill, sliced and toasted over the fire.
With Reon's recommendation, Defi was curious how liver was cooked in Ascharon.
"Want it on your bread?"
Defi looked up from where he was contemplating the sizzling slices of liver on a flat piece of metal installed over the flameless stove.
"Are you Old Frema?"
The woman looked amused. "I am."
She did not look old at all. Despite the pure white of her hair, Defi doubted if there was even ten years between his age and hers.
She didn't give an explanation though. She gestured at the wrapped slices Reon had given him inquisitively. Defi handed them over in the name of satisfying his curiosity.
He watched as a slice was flipped using a flat piece of wood that had been polished thin. Old Frema nodded in satisfaction and slid the liver onto a piece of bread, then drizzled a rose-colored sauce over it.
Defi accepted it as she extended the bread and liver to him. The scent was strong, exceedingly familiar, the scent of a successful hunt. "Boar liver?"
"Rockboars are active a bit early this year." She confirmed. "Winter's likely to be long."
"Are there many rockboars near the town?"
Defi bit into the black-seed bread and liver. The earthy taste of liver and the citrusy-sweet tang of the sauce spread magnificently over his tongue, soft and melting, rich and delectable. The bread saved him from drowning in the taste, adding dimension and texture to the bite.
It was definitely better tasting than hunter fare. He came back to his senses only after the four slices of black-seed bread were gone.
Frema was smiling slightly at him. He hadn't heard her answer to his question at all. "Half-klaud, young sir."
"That's cheap, for boar liver." Defi ignored his embarra.s.sment at having been visibly entranced by food.
There were few hunters in the Lowpool. Meat that was not seafood always sold at a premium. Four slices of boar liver, uncooked, could have gone for twice or thrice the amount she was asking.
She shrugged. "I hunt my own meat. I set the price."
He hummed, considering the slices still cooking on the metal plate. "Does it taste good when cold?"
"Oi," said one of the other customers, a laugh in his words. "Leave some for us, eh?"
"It's best hot," Frema flipped two slices into a coa.r.s.e paper wrapper. "Two per person only, if they want to take it home."
Defi paid for the six slices of liver. Looking at the small package, he was suddenly struck with homesickness. His feet led him to the blacksmith shop.
There were three blacksmiths in the Lowpool. The single shop in the central area was a joint collaboration by all of them. Between the three of them, they covered most of the needs of the Lowpool, from nails to kitchen utensils to weapons, even a few pieces of armor.
In front of the store, on display, was a full suit of metal armor, from head to toe crafted beautifully, standing regally as testament to the skill of the smiths.
He put his package of bread on a flat surface and circled the metallic armor, fascinated.
Ontrea had never made such extensive metal armors. Cloth and leather treated with alchemy had never let them down before. The flexible styles of the combat arts also meant a suit of metal would only hinder the warriors.
He knew from his reading that full-plate armor was outdated in Ascharon even half a century ago. On the soldiers of Major il Vons, he'd only seen them wear metal protection on their torso, arms, and legs. Not so all-embracing as to fully cover their bodies.
"Want to buy it?"
The look of incredulity Defi shot the speaker only made the man laugh.
"You seemed so interested, I thought it was a viable question."
"An interest in history," Defi said.
"Then what would the scholar be needing from a smith? I am Charol, current keeper of this shop and apprentice blacksmith. You must be the slime owner who bought the Garge homestead."
He was used to people in town a.s.sociating him with Turq and the homestead by now, courtesy of the smuggler incident and the actions of Agreine who was now gone from the Lowpool.
An apprentice? The man did look young, but the neatly trimmed beard and the patterned flowing coat did not give the impression of a blacksmith at all.
Defi glanced at the other's hands. The man may hide them in wide sleeves, but the calluses were evident to his eyes.
"Defi," he confirmed Charol's supposition. "I'm just looking. Do many want to buy the armor?"
"Some. There are a few that want to display it in their houses." Charol's lips twisted in faint disdain.
Defi looked at the functional looking armor, only mildly decorated, though the pauldrons were shaped into realistic depictions of snarling bears. The work was to show the craft of the blacksmith, and it was too plain for display. "How old is it?"
Charol nodded in agreement, despite Defi not saying anything that needed to be agreed with. "A good armor for display should have some history, some stories to tell. It should be used. If not, then it has to be from a famous smith. Why buy something like this, which is only a decade old and has never seen battle, from an unknown blacksmith besides? People like that deserve the laughs they're going to get."
He set dark eyes on Defi. "If you want practical armor, the segmented pieces are the lightest and best armor you can get on the market today. Segmented armor, with each piece inscribed with Emblems, is customizable depending on preference and the price you can afford. The Emblems needed for them are reasonable and will keep you safer. If you think you can get by with cheap pieces of armor, don't come to us and complain about the prices after you're dead."
"Will you tell me about the polearms you make?" Defi headed off the displeased rant he could see building in Charol's eyes.
Charol paused, huffed, then waved him over as he moved toward an inconspicuous doorway. Defi found that there was a second display room beyond the first. It was filled with weapons, with a few breastplates and cuira.s.ses among them. "There are two journeymen in town right now, and they both want to be weapon smiths. Weapon-making is a lucrative profession for a smith at the moment, but who wants their shop to scare the townspeople? This room contains all the weapons our journeymen have made that the masters deemed adequate for market."
Defi immediately made for the pole weapons displayed on a rack.
Halberds were a standard weapon of the imperial army, and there were several in various style. Glaives, with larger blades than halberds, were also popular.
Defi hefted a spear. It was well-balanced and light but the head was too small. In fact, all the spears had too-small heads for the combat styles of Ontrea.
He picked up a halberd, the double blades on the weapon appearing suitable. He swung it twice. Natanel was proof that a halberd could be used in the spear arts of Ontrea. It wasn't quite the same, but similar enough. He put it back on the rack.
He had only one style for a weapon that was similar to the glaives of Ascharon, and he had no mastery in it. The blade of a glaive in Ontrea was single-edged, and a glaive-user moved differently from the user of a double-edged polearm.
There were only two in the shop.
Of the three weapons, it felt the most familiar. He twirled the less ostentatious glaive in one hand, faintly sentimental, remembering the yells of the instructor as his students put too many flourishes into their movements.
"For an added fee, we also make custom weapons." Charol's voice snapped him out of his reverie.
Defi returned the glaive to its place. He repeated his earlier words. "Just looking."
The smith apprentice made a skeptical sound. "You looked too serious to be just looking."
Defi was silent for a moment. "How much?"
"For the spears, they're ordinary, one crescent apiece. The halberd metals are slightly special, and the shafts are specially treated. These are better than army standard. Ten crescents for the one you handled. The glaive, it's not as popular a personal weapon as the sword, but the metal and shaft is the same quality as the halberds. I can sell you that one for twelve crescents."
"Aren't these display items?"
"Yes, but the glaive has been there for five years. Not very decorative, so even the ones who want a display won't buy it. If you need the shaft replaced, we'll do it for free."
With Defi having already bought a one-year quartel cask, he only had forty crescents to his name.
He considered the glaive again. The Water-Edge style that used a glaive weapon was less powerful than the Falling Star Spear. But didn't he already determine that he wasn't a fit for the Falling Star?
"Any art is powerful in the hands of the right user," he murmured.
He didn't answer and placed twelve crescents in Charol's hands before he could change his mind.
Better have it and not use it, than not have it and need it.
Charol wrapped the glaive in cloth. "Thank you for your patronage, come again."
Defi secured the glaive on his back. He rolled his shoulders and ignored the part of him that was relieved at having a weapon to hold.