How much is that Balrog in the window?

"'fraid it's not enough, son." The blacksmith pronounced 'son' as 'soon'.

Merle looked down at the small collection of coins in his right hand, frowning at the imbalance between bronze and silver, then looked up at the other man sheepishly. "...it's all I have...sir."

The smith, a squat man of balding orange hair grumbled and inspected the coins again, pushing the bronze aside for any silvers he missed. He grunted. "Still not enough, son. Even my cheapest armor and weapons cost more than all that."

The young man bit his lip and fought off a tremble that threatened to run loose through his body. He could feel a tear start to form in the corners of his eyes. "Please...I need weapons and armor, I'll promise to work them off."

"Not hiring and the constabulary frowns on free labor."

"I'll send money back from jobs and whatever loot I can muster."


"Oh, you're going to be one of them there adventurers, are you?" Barrick sighed. "Look, son, I know the life of adventure and wealth looks fantastic, but what'll happen if I arm you, then you go off and die before you can finish paying? That's bad for business. Why don't you go back home, save more of your money, then try again later?"

"I have no home, sir." His voice was turning colder with each word.

"You don't look like a urchin or a ward of the state, you a runaway? Have it out with your pa and run off?"

"No, sir, they're dead. Killed by goblins last week." Barrick froze and he had to swallow down a foul taste in his mouth.

"You're one of them survivors of Fork Ditch, aren't you?" Merle nodded. Barrick suppressed a shudder of his own as he saw the distant look in the boy's eyes. He'd seen it before, from grown men, soldiers who had just a bit more than to their liking. Merle hadn't retracted his right arm the entire time, his hand still holding the coins between the two. Barrick looked at them, then the boy, back to the coins, the boy one more time and sighed.

"I feel for you, I really do, but it doesn't change the fact that you still can't afford any of my wares. But, I do have some junk in the back that fit the bill." The smith gestured over his shoulder at a door with his thumb. "It's not much to look at, just shit adventurers and self-proclaimed heroes haul back from whatever dungeon or castle they've just looted. Because of your circumstances, pick whatever you want and I'll only charge whatever cleaning and fixing they need."

For a few moments Merle didn't say anything. He didn't do anything, really, other than stand where he was, holding the coins in his hand. After a minute, he seemed to snap out of it and redisposited the coins to his pouch before moving off towards the backroom. He paused at the door and looked back at the blacksmith.

"Thank you, sir."

"You won't be thanking me once you see the junk back there." Barrick smiled.


Picture via Yahoo! News. Tip of the half-helm to Al of Beyond the Black Gate for linking to an interesting story about two men finding nearly a ton of iron age coins in Jersey (the island, not the state).

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