I managed to not let the sensations on my back cause me to emit any weird sounds as I replied, in what was probably a pretty weak voice, “I’m still a maiden, Miss Dana. Please don’t do that.”
To my Tiana side’s great consternation, my Robert side was all for the idea. But I still felt like I would betray the old Tiana’s ideals if I were to follow through.
She made a mischievous moue as her caresses continued. I think she could tell she was getting at least some positive response from me. Bringing her face a little closer and tracing a line on my shoulder with her finger, she asked in a low voice, “But what about my offer?
Dropping my head and trying not to sound as helpless as I felt at that moment, I said, “Miss Dana, I really do wish to remain pure until marriage. Those are the honest feelings of a maiden. Please respect them and let me do so. I promise I’ll continue to be your customer for the normal service.”
With a teasingly disappointed pout, she withdrew her hand and tipped her head slightly. “Such a pity. But I’m going to hold you to that promise.”
Shaking my head in exasperation, I asked her, “Why do you even do that sort of work if you own a business like this?”
Those dimples grew again. “I’m just honoring both sides of the family.”
That was probably the most perplexing thing she had said yet. “Huh?”
She narrowed her eyes, a slight smile on her face, and said, “I’m probably quite a lot older than you realize, My Lady. My sister and I worked in our mother’s workplace for several decades before our father heard about half-elve twins at a certain brothel and realized he left something behind.”
Dana’s ears are as round as a human’s or dwarf’s ears, but not all half-elves had points. In fact, it was more common for them simply to inherit their elven parent’s beauty and skills and some of their longevity. I now had no idea how old Dana was, but she would probably live up to three hundred years.
With a wink to me, she said, “Father is of the Vanir tribe. He taught us his people’s trade and we are both very proud of our heritage through him. But we are also proud of our mother. She conducted business honestly and took pride in giving her customers pleasure.”
The elves of Huade are named like the various races of Scandinavian mythology and folklore. Arken is an Ljosalfar. There are also Svartalfar, Dökkalfar, Aesir, Jötnar, Vettir, Tomtir, etc.
Dana’s father’s tribe, the Vanir, are known as the craftsmen of the elves, the very best as fashioning tools and artworks. Brigitte’s bow is a Vanir-made treasure.
Bertafred returned carrying a very slender box. Dana accepted it and slipped its cover off, then held it out to me.
“Please be my guest, My Lady.”
I gingerly lifted the item within out from the box. It was a fan, the size that a man would normally carry, and I immediately knew why Dana was particular to it. The guard sticks were Vanir silver. It also had a Vanir silver rivet.
Just like the various ‘steels’ in this world, Vanir silver has magic materials mixed into its structure. Not surprisingly, mithril is one, but in addition, it has adamant, a metal so clear and so hard it could be mistaken for diamond. The primary component of silver gave it resistance against cracking, the mithril gives it strength and the adamant gives it hardness and helps it hold an edge as sharp as obsidian. It is slightly amethyst-colored because of the adamant.
Thanks to the mithril, I can hold it without getting a rash. And it’s only a hundredth the price.
Woohoo! A hundredth of the price! Which meant it was only worth ten times its weight in gold.
Opening the fan revealed silverwood ribs spreading a leaf presenting the beautifully dyed image of a branch of cherry blossoms against a black background. I immediately realized that the leaf and the tassel seemed to be the same ‘dwarven gnome silk’ as the Fan of Rephale, but…
Growing a frown, I looked at it more carefully, then compared it to the silks hanging on the coat tree.
I heard a soft chuckle from Dana and looked over to her.
“You noticed the difference,” she noted. “It isn’t the same material.”
“But it’s very similar, right?” I asked, still trying to puzzle out the difference I could sense.
“This is a product of my tribe, My Lady. Vanir gnome silk. It is not quite as fine a weave as the dwarven product, but the Vanir can draw mithril down thin enough to function as thread, so every tenth strand of this cloth is mithril. The tether is made of cord in which every eighth strand is mithril.”
“When a tassel is lengthened so that it may be secured to the wrist like this,” she deftly tied the cord to mine, “so that the mage does not lose their war fan in battle, it is called a ‘tether’.”
Long story short, my new fan cost me forty crowns. Still a fortune, but a minor dent in my finder’s fee for the old one.
After we came to that agreement, she noted, “At your age, your mana control is unlikely to be good. Your mother told me about your magic potential. Avoid using this fan for either Fire or Aether magic. The rest will be safe.”
“You could potentially overwhelm the protective charm built into this fan. Wait until your mana control matures and you learn how to judge how much magic it can safely hold.”
I remembered the near fiasco with filling my sword with fire mana, and nodded. I didn’t want to cause an eighty thousand dollar fan to burst into flame.
“What other focuses do you own? You’ll need something heavy and rugged, to practice your Fire and Aether.”
“Um… I have the beginner’s wand that Mother gave me,” I confessed.
“For your tenth birthday,” Dana smiled. “I remember when she bought it. That will not do, I’m afraid.”
“I have one other thing, but I don’t know if I can call it a proper focus.”
“What is it?”
She looked surprised. “A spear?”
“It has a silverwood shaft and an elven steel spearhead, and it functions pretty well as a focus.”
With a laugh, she said, “Where in the world did you find a centaurian spear?”
“You must bring it here sometime. I’ve never had the good fortune to see one.”
“You mean… as in, made for a centaur?” There are no centaurs on this end of the continent. You have to go far to the west, to the other end of the Regaritan Empire.
She nodded. “I might be able to offer you a very good price. Oh, and that’s perfect for your practice, dear. It can stand up to your magic, and it is exactly what a centaur uses to cast magic, so it’s perfectly suitable. Where did you get it?”
“I took it off a monster in a mine in Hamagaar,” I answered.
“The same one?”
I nodded. She muttered, “No wonder Owen wants to send an expedition.”
That had been Uncle Owen’s reaction after hearing my report and reading Arken’s messages. I was a little surprised that this woman knew about that.
Then I realized she had just called the king ‘Owen’ instead of ‘His Majesty’…
I decided that I did not want to know. I laid the subject down in my mind and carefully backed away.
When the transaction was complete and I was ready to leave, Dana walked me to the door. Before I departed, I told her, “I had wondered why Mother knew you. I’m kind of relieved to know it’s because of this magic shop.”
But Dana dimpled. “Oh, no. Your mother was my customer at my other workplace, long before my sister sold this shop to me.”
Mother has no need of blood. Which meant…
She had a merry laugh over my red face as she bid me goodbye.
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