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Tradewinds 11: Honor Among Thieves by shadesmaclean

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Chapter notes: a buyer for the Amulet
Later that evening, a very different visitor docked in the Tradewinds Mercantile District.

Oriental in aspect, though tall for his apparent ancestry, with long, raven-black hair and cold grey eyes. Cloaked in a long black coat, feet barely visible, he seemed to glide across the floor as he entered the trading post. Almost spectral, like something that walked in out of some unsettling dream.

The shopkeep couldn’t even recall hearing this mysterious stranger enter; just felt an odd chill, looked up from his book keeping, and there he was. Saw that his lone customer, previously examining his wares, now just tried to keep his eyes to himself as much as this strange visitor would allow. The shopkeep looked out the window and got this sinking feeling; earlier, the weather was sunny and clear as far as the eye could see, yet now dusk brought with it rapidly darkening clouds.

As if a storm swept in in this newcomer’s wake, he reflected.

Without saying a word, the stranger produced what looked like an antique compass. It appeared to spin and sway wildly for a moment, but the needle ultimately came to rest pointing at the door to the back of the shop, behind the counter. The man then snapped the case shut and tucked the thing back into the unfathomable depths of his coat, making his way to the counter. As silently as he entered, the stranger slid across the room to him, at last casting his eyes upon the shopkeep.

Who, for his part, did what he could not to flinch at that imperious gaze.

“I wish to purchase the Gold Amulet of Emperor Qi.” The man spoke before the shopkeep could even find the words to greet him. Even pronouncing it “chi” like in his book of Antiquities, this man spoke of it with a casual familiarity that bothered him greatly. Much like his regal tone and condescending manner.

His very presence seemed to cool the room off a few degrees.

“Y-yes… Of course…” the shopkeep finally managed, finding his tongue had turned to lead in this ominous man’s presence. Just the fact that this stranger even knew about his recent purchase told him there was something very wrong with this picture. He realized that his entire salesman’s fašade had crumbled as he mumbled, “What’s… your offer?”

Had thought about opening the bidding at fifty thousand credits. After all, this was one of the ancient Lost Treasures of Emperor Qi he was dealing with, whereabouts unknown for centuries, and surely this man must know their worth. But then thought better of it, and let this mysterious customer make the first move.

“I offer you thirty thousand,” the specter declared flatly.

“Sold!” the shopkeep blurted, deciding not to try bargaining with this guy. One of the principle secrets of surviving these waters, he thought numbly, was knowing when not to press your luck.

As if to confirm this, he could feel how eerily quiet the whole District felt this overcast evening, as if waiting for a storm. He didn’t need to see his only other customer slink out the door to know this fellow was bad for business. Found he was beginning to care less about making a profit, and more about getting him out of his store as quickly as possible.

“I’ll be right back with it,” the shopkeep told him, wishing his voice didn’t sound so muffled to his own ears. Not only was he sure this guy wouldn’t take no for an answer, but that refusing him might be far more trouble than it was worth.

The specter stood silently. Waiting.

Among other things the shopkeep instinctively disliked, it was difficult to tell if this one was young or old. His eyes gave the impression of having beheld sights he wouldn’t much care to see. Had read a thousand faces. Still he couldn’t quite figure out what made this man so imposing; all he got was the disconcerting feeling that this man— if he was even such— could make all hell break loose on you, literally, if you angered him.

A couple minutes later, the shopkeep returned with the Amulet. In his absence, the stranger fetched out a thick envelope full of hundred-credit notes. Examining the coin, and seeing that it looked no different than it had the first time he set eyes on it, he handed the shopkeep the wad of bills.

Saying, “You have done well.”

For his part, the shopkeep found himself feeling relieved to settle for thirty thousand credits. Not as much as he originally hoped to make off the thing, but it was still ten grand more than he originally paid for it. Sometimes, a profit is a profit, he reflected as he counted his money, and a wise man just left it at that.

This he thought as the stranger neatly dropped the amulet inside the dark depths of his coat, saying, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

“Stop by again…” The shopkeep faltered on the end of that remark, wondering why he had just invited such a curse upon himself.

Didn’t care if he brought a million credits next time. He didn’t want there to be one.

With that, the stranger glided right out the door.

As if he’d never been there in the first place… he reflected.
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