Valeria led Chow Chow by his bridle and tried to follow the very idiosyncratic directions that Bea had given her. Between all of the introductions at the Purplebottom house, and the miscommunications about the particularities of Bea and Valeria’s relationship, and then the statue, her head already felt like it was spinning, and these directions didn’t help.
Turn right at the inn with the picture of of a grinning imp on the sign. Not the Grinning imp pub, though. That’s different. I think its called the Merry Mark. Unless it’s not there any more.
There was a page and a half like that.
But Bea had insisted that she needed new armor, and that this was the shop for it.
Valeria had argued that she could get another few months out of her banded armor, but Bea had said that the mail shirt smelled terrifying from their time in the jungle. Valeria supposed she was probably right, although she did see what was so bad about a bit of reek in her armor. The rotting leather made the backing nice and flexible.
“Focus,” she whispered to herself, looking around for what the directions described as a statue of a man that looks sort of like a bear, if you squint.
She found it, she thought, and took a left.
Half an hour later she was either thoroughly lost or in the right spot. She couldn’t tell. There was a store in front of her, but the sign on the front was missing.
“Stay, Chow Chow,” she said, petting his big muzzle. She stepped inside.
The building was tall, stone, and without windows — unless you craned your neck and peered up 4 stories or so. The ground floor had no sign and a featureless door. It looked plain, a little imposing, and, all told, kind of boring.
As soon as Valeria entered she saw rows and rows of tall shelves, candelabras and strange globes hanging from the (two-story-tall) ceiling, and heard the floating sounds of music.
Directly in front of her was the floating orb of a strange & terrifying creature: round, purple, with a carved-out, empty cavity in the center and a dozen stalks extending from the sides and top of the orb. A beholder!
But … an unmoving and silent beholder. After a moment, Valeria realized it was stuffed and mounted on a stout pole.
“Who is it?” calls a voice from the stacks. A heavily built and bearded human steps out from the crowded shelves of the shop. “Who visits the Old Xoblob Shop? Are ye friend, or foe?”
“A friend of a friend, actually,” Valeria says. “I am Valeria Janglemancer, Knight of Edrick and first of her order. I was sent here by Bea Purplebottom to find a new set of armor. She insisted this was the place for it. Are you…Xoblob?”
The burly man blinks, then bursts out laughing.
“HAHAHAAA—! Me, Xoblob? Nono, but many new friends make that mistake! This is Xoblob!” he says, poking the stuffed and mounted beholder with a wand.
Xoblob — what used to be Xoblob? — spins around on its pole.
“I be Dandalus,” he says, gingerly putting a meaty hand on one of Valeria’s shoulders, “and any friend of Miss Purplebottom’s is a friend of mine. She used to come here for mushroom caps and rare skin flakes! A most curious gal. I hear she’s out there wandering the wide urth these days, a real magician’s magician.”
Dandalus and Valeria move through the shop of curios, past gems that sparkle and whisper, gloves and glowing daggers, and mounted skulls — their eyesockets are empty, but Valeria gets the sense they are following her around all the same.
“Armor! Armor,” mutters Dandalus. “I’m more of a relics & curiosities man, but … I might have something that will fit you. Old, old stuff, from the goblin frontier, mind ye. The time of the Arch-Dukedom Wars, which I’m sure ye know all about.”
Dandalus leads Valeria past shelves of books and into a cramped corridor. They pass half a dozen mounted suits of armor — all much too large for a goblin like Valeria — and wind up in yet another cramped and crowded room. Dandalus starts to go through a chest, pulling out gauntlets and codpieces and various pieces of various armors.
“Ah!” he says at last. “Here we go. Ehhh, tell me, little knight … ye do have the gold to buy a proper suit of knight’s armor, yea?”
“Oh, yes,” Valeria says. “My friend, Ervendio, he says I have one thousand, two hundred and ninety three gold pieces. He’s an Elf, so he’s quite good at that sort of thing. You can have all of it, if you’d like. I’ve never seen much point to the stuff. Although I suppose I should keep a few gold pieces to give to Bertram. He’s a gnome, you see, and he does all the cooking. So whatever you think is fair, I guess.”
Valeria looks around, making eye contact for one uncomfortable moment with a jeweled skull. “Speaking of Bertram, I might send him here,” she says. “He’s a wizard, when he isn’t being a spy, and I think he would like this place.”
“Bertram,” mutters Dandalus. “Spy. Yes, yes, he should certainly see my shop. Send him in!”
But even though he sounds cheerful, Dandalus is putting armor pieces back into the chest.
“I wouldn’t want to sell such a suit piecemeal, ye know. And 1200 gold, well … I could recommend you a nice blacksmith. Some standard armor, to get you started.”
Dandalus squints at Valeria, at her trident. “Although interesting trades are always considered.”
“Oh! I had thought that was quite a lot! Hmm, well, I have some gemstones. And there’s always my inheritance. My father said it was for my education, but I’m twenty years old and my education ended years ago. That would bring it to about forty-six hundred gold pieces. And as for the rest…a trade?”
Valeria notices him eying her trident and takes a step back. “The trident was given to me by someone…important. I couldn’t trade it away,” she says. “Maybe, though..”
Valeria walks back to the front of the store and out to the street. “Sit, Chow Chow,” she says, and then slides her hand under his saddle. She pulls out a single platinum piece.
Back in the shop, Valeria holds the platinum piece out to Dandelus. “This is Herbert,” she says. “He used to be part of set, but others all picked on him because he sings. My uncle Teks gave him to me when I was young, to separate them. He’s been with me a very long time, and I would miss him, but he always asks me to spend him. He says its his purpose. I always said no, of course, because I was worried whoever took him wouldn’t appreciate how special he is.”
“Say hello, Herbert.”
Dandalus smiles, but sadly.
“It’s just a single platinum piece, darlin. Even one that ‘sings’ is only worth—”
Herbert sparkles in the candlelight of the strange emporium. And then a voice rings out, confident & true:
Hello my dearie
Hello my lovely
Hello my wayward knight
Swinging your sword with might
Filling your foes with fright!
Hello my dearie
Hello my lovely
Hello you big strong girl
Setting your trident a-whirl
Letting your flag unfurl!
Hello my dearie
Hello my lovely
Hello my one true friend
Setting those ghoulies a-rend
Our adventures will never ennnnd!
Dandalus clamps his hand down on Valeria’s, silencing Herbert.
“It’s a deal,” he says.
Dandalus trades a set of plate mail. It is marked with the sigils of a long-ago and forgotten goblin house, of which Valeria is unfamiliar.
Valeria steps into a cramped alcove and tries the armor on. She emerges a few moments later encased in shining metal.
“It’s amazing,” she says. “This crest? Is there a story behind it?”
“The crest!” says Dandalus. “Ahhh, well that’s a piece of history, isn’t it?”
- Dandalus tells Valeria about the Arch-Dukedom Wars…
- a goblin named Duke Rook, almost two centuries ago, had risen to power in the area of the goblin kingdoms called Trident’s Lake.
- through a series of treaties, agreements, and alliances, he gained power & strength. His rise started to make the powers-that-be in Cano City nervous.
- Duke Rook declared himself ARCHDUKE ROOK — saying that he would not be king, but he would be “first among equals” to any who would declare themselves for him.
- Rook doesn’t denounce the Church of the West, but he starts to praise an order of nuns — the Daughters of Edrick — as the “rightful heirs of the Half-Ogre.” It is a passive-aggressive jab at the expense of the goblin pope and the church-proper.
- the pope at the time is Fredo IV. He is careful not to involve the papacy directly with the growing conflict — traditionally, the church does not take an active role in such inter-goblin wars. But privately, he makes it known that the Archduke is an enemy of the Church of the West.
- Conflict escalates. Archduke Rook grows bolder after early victories — he claims that the Church has lost its way, and, on the verge of declaring himself as a new, true pope — the Archduke suffers his first major defeat on the field of battle. The Archduke survives, but is forced to withdraw from battle.
- Waiting to declare himself as pope until he wins a major victory, the Archduke calls on the Daughters to support him openly. Generally healers, the Daughters are an order of battle-monks much loved by the people — if they joined with the Archduke it would be a schism in the Church of the West like had never been seen.
- Everyone expects the Daughters to do so — but at the last minute, they withhold their support. They do not declare against the Archduke, but they make a vague statement calling for peace and a return to the “true values” of the Half-Ogre.
- Disappointed, the Archduke continues his campaign. But the war turns against him. He is ultimately captured and executed as a traitor and heretic — he never openly declares himself as a “counter-pope”, but it is widely known that he wished to.
- Rook is executed. His armor is initially kept on display by Pope Fredo IV as a symbol of his victory, but over the years it disappears.
- Somehow, Rook’s plate mail winds up in a shop of curios and adventurers’ souvenirs in Ocean’s Deep.