A Traveler's Transaction
rating: +3+x

You stumble through the snow towards the structures in the distance. Houses and other hopes on the horizon, you think. Almost like the good old times. It’s a clear day, and bitterly cold. While the clothing you currently wear stopped being adequate almost a week ago, the cold truly began to bite last afternoon. To venture further north, towards your destination, you’ll need actual winter clothing. Real gloves, boots, and other clothes made to hold warmth inside, rather than keep dust out. Some advice wouldn’t hurt either, I suppose.

You arrive at the village, miles away from the nearest signs of civilization. It looks large enough to house fifty people, maybe more. Pretty large for such a remote place. What do they do here? Hunt? Oh, there’s a lake. They probably fish, then. As you walk down a snowy street, a stern-looking individual meets your wandering gaze and begins to quickly walk towards you. Friend or foe? You start to raise an arm to wave, but she mistakes it for another greeting and shakes your right hand enthusiastically instead.

“Welcome! We don’t get many new faces around these parts. You’re from down south, right?”

She ignores your affirmative nod and continues speaking without a pause, as if she hadn’t asked a question.

“Your clothing has that airtight look to it, not to mention the dust. You’ll probably want something a tad more suited to the climate. You’ll want to go down this street and take the next left. The shop should be on your right. It’s got a big sign, you can’t miss it.”

She claps you on the back, leaving no room for thanks or any other response.

“Farewell, stranger! ”

You give her a grateful nod, and go on your way. At least something's on my side.


The door to the shop opens, and a shivering figure stumbles inside. After removing their icy goggles and pulling off their hood, they see the shopkeeper on their left and make their way towards him.

“Ah, you’re from the south, aren’t you? Guess you're looking for some winter gear?”

The traveler stops at the counter, and nods. Their body faces almost exactly north, and their head is barely turned towards the counter on the western side of the store. Only their eyes, which shimmer faintly yellow, look towards the shopkeeper’s goods. They seem somehow both completely implacable and yet totally defeated as their gaze roves over the wide variety of clothing and supplies. The traveler inspects necessities, such as coats, gloves, and food; but also ponders stranger goods, such as the array of unfamiliar weapons that seem rather excessive for a isolated fishing community.

“Cat got your tongue, or just not one for small talk?”

The traveler’s weary, determined stare now falls upon the shopkeeper himself. They gesture towards their own throat and shake their head twice. The shopkeeper tilts his head, and then it clicks.

“You’re mute?”

Nod.

“Ah, pardon me for my comment, then. Where is it that you are going? I can offer you-”

Their arm rises and points in the same direction as their body.

“Further north? We're on the edge of civilization as it is. Any inhabited place you're looking for is south, maybe south-east. I've got a map somewhere I can show you, if you like."

Silence. The traveler continues holding their arm out until the shopkeeper understands.

"I see. I don't know if you've heard, but there are creatures that live in the deep northern forests. Those monsters are the reason that you won't find many settlements near here, and also why we have those weapons I saw you staring at. It's dangerous to travel out there, especially alone. For your own safety, are you truly sure you-"

Nod.

"In that case, you’ll definitely need better equipment. I don’t suppose you have that much to barter with? I'm afraid I can’t exactly give food and gear away for-”

A chipped emerald is gently placed on the counter. For a moment, the shopkeeper joins the traveler in silence. A wry smile slowly creeps across the traveler's face.

"I’ll get you the best we have to offer.”

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