As it happened, he didn’t need to spend a lot of time shopping around. After another successful trade run, Alfvin went to sell off the goods he had brought back. Gil perused a stall full of magical charms while he waited. Keeping his hands to himself, he asked the price of a few items. But although the merchant was wearing a translation pendant, the answer made no sense to Gil. He just didn’t understand the different units or how they related to each other. When he showed his trade-stone , the vendor nearly burst out laughing.
“Is that all you got? Listen, even if that thing was full, it wouldn’t buy you anything I’ve got on display. You must be new here, hey?”
Gil was disappointed. So far, the only thing he knew he could afford was food. But it seemed a pity to come to a world full of magic, to hold magic in the palm of your hand, and not come back with something magical. Food, he could get back home. How different could imported food be?
Alfvin came over when he was done, and bought a couple of healing stones to trade in the next village he visited. Just as they were about to leave, the stall-holder called out:
“Hey poor boy! Hey new boy! Yes, you. Look, your friend here is a good customer, so maybe I can help you out. Listen, you can’t afford any of my stock on display, but that’s not all I’ve got. If you’re set on buying something enchanted, maybe you’re interested in one of these.”
With that, he brought out a bowl from beneath his stall, full of crystals, pendants and brooches, all tossed in together.
“They’re mostly junk, but maybe magic junk is what you want? Don’t get any ideas, they’re not really worth stealing.”
To look at them, Gil couldn’t tell the difference from the valuable stock. None were very ornamented, but some looked identical to the more modest items on display.
“Is this a translator pendant?”
“Was, more like. All the magic charge is used up. Sometimes people trade the old ones in, it’s a little cheaper to recharge them than get a new one made. But only a little. If you want to save me the trouble, you can have it for cheap.”
“So it doesn’t work any more?”
“Well, that depends what you mean by work. It’ll still translate, but only when there’s enough ambient magic to power it. Take it through a doorway, and it’ll be useless. Take it to the hub, and it’s not much better. But if you hang around the fringes, out by the doorways, it should work well enough. Go out further, and it would work even better – if there was anyone to talk to.”
Gil had no intention of frequenting the crowded central hub of this town. Back home, he needed no translation. Out on the fringes was precisely where he was most likely to need it.
“So I can buy that with what I have?”
“Sure, why not?”
He took Gil’s rune-marked stone and drained its contents into one of his own. Then he tossed Gil one of the crystals from the bowl.
“Hey, if you like useless magic, maybe you’ll get a kick out of this.”