Wolves at the Door (part 40)

“What are those?”

Gil indicated a group of undecorated stones next to the finely-carved pendants. They were of varying sizes, shapes and materials. Some were semi-precious minerals, but others were not even polished.

“When you need an enchantment to be in effect constantly, you wear it. Most often as an amulet, but sometimes in other forms, such as rings. But there are also other types. Healing stones, for example: you only use them in your hour of greatest need, then they are depleted. Aesthetic shortcomings are perhaps easy to forgive when they are saving your life.”

Gil turned his eyes back to the pendants. They ranged from the geometric simplicity of the translator stones through to more elaborate shapes, many in the shape of animals or representations of human figures.

“What are they all for? There are so many different types!”

Alfvin peered over Gil’s shoulder at the merchandise laid out of the table.

“I am not familiar with all the designs, but there are some common themes that are easy to recognise. A bear, to enhance the wearer’s strength. A deer, for speed. A bat, to go unseen in the night. The finer the carving, the more complex the effect.”

“Really? You can tell the complexity of the spells just by looking at them?”

“It is not an absolute rule, but it is a fairly reliable guide. The more difficult an enchantment is to create, the more expensive it will be. And if you are already going to spend so much, why not a little more to make it beautiful? These are destined to become prized possessions, some to be worn constantly; others on only the most special occasions. Either way, they should look the part.”

Some were incredibly detailed. Gil could not imagine what kind of tools might have been needed to achieve such an effect. He reached out to feel the delicately etched features on one.

The pain that engulfed Gil’s arm was beyond anything he had ever experienced. He had never been stabbed through the hand, nor had he plunged his arm up to the shoulder into a roaring fire. Despite that, he was certain that either of those would be preferable to what he was now feeling. Once he had been stung by dozens of bees after upsetting their hive, and he remembered the mere agony of that occasion with a sense of nostalgia. Crying out in shock and torment, he dropped to his knees and clutched the stricken arm to him with his other hand.

The passing crowds were beginning to stop and stare. The merchant came out from behind his stall to help. When he reached Gil, his boot helped Gil’s rump move away from the stall. Repeatedly.

“Clear out, you worthless thieves, before I really lose my temper!”

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