As Clear As Glass

Short stories

The sound of a brass bell ringing cut through the silence of the store.

Sitting at his little chair, Ebenezer didn’t bother to raise his gaze away from the clay pot that he was watering. It may have looked like just a plain old pot that a child made, but the thing was older than his mother, which was saying a lot.

There was a smell of aged lilac and wild flowers, a smell that most men in the city had experienced once in their life. The shop clerk scrunched up his face. The smell wasn’t bad, in fact it was rather pleasant, but it meant something especially foul had found its way in.

The she-elf admired his master’s wears. Going from shelf to self, sniffing at the exhibits but knowing better than to touch. Occasionally she would snort as she looked at the collection of gems.

Of course, no shop keeper in Talia would dare keep the real gems out where sticky fingers could snatch them. The glass duplicates were there just to tell the client that, yes, he did have them, and no, you can’t afford them.

It didn’t take long for the she-elf to grow tiered of the displays. The shop wasn’t that well stocked after the recent economic breakdown.

Even after the country’s recent recovery, few nobles could afford to waste their coin on precious stones and baubles. Food, furs, and firewood were the major sellers with it being winter, and it didn’t look that things would be changing any time soon.

The woman’s perfume was damn near over powering as she loomed over Ebenezer. He contemplated throwing the whore out but caught himself. Even prostitutes had some coin on them after the sailors had their way with them.

Done thoroughly cleaning the bowl, Ebenezer looked up, “May I…” he stuttered for a moment as the wood elf’s beauty nearly knocked him off his chair.

She was a stunning creature. Taller than Ebenezer, her skin was a deep brown the colour of burnt sugar and looked nearly just as sweet.

Most wood elf women looked like they were made of bricks, their muscles hard enough that a little girl was capable of accidentally crushing a rabbit’s body if they weren’t careful.

This woman had the curves of a succubus, her breasts large enough that a dozen babes could be well fed, her bum plump enough that man could use it as a pillow. The woman’s figure was only enhanced by her well made clothes.

Black lace, purple frills. Not a single stitch of her garment was wasted. The way that the seamstress had cut her clothes was almost scandalous, though she was almost completely covered in fine cloth, she made Ebenezer mind wonder to sinful areas.

“May I help you, my good lady?” Ebenezer said quickly, getting out of his seat and ready to throw himself at the woman’s feet.

The she elf looked down at the bowl the clerk had been carefully polishing. “My master wishes to part with some peculiar items.” her dark eyes narrowed and her voice dropped an octave, “He is told that the winter is coming and the shadows grow denser.”

Ebenezer sat back into his chair, his excitement now draining through him. So it was one of those transactions.

He licked his lips and spoke carefully, paying close attention to not the woman’s face but her gloved hands, “My master is away until the next new moon. I don’t think I will be of help.”

“Be easy child. These goods aren’t off of a cart or were pinched from a grave. My master just wants a fair price for some odd trinkets.”

The woman had all the right moves, but Ebenezer could see that there was a darkness in her stare. She wanted whatever this was done here and now. But without his master present, Ebenezer was not qualified to handle anything too difficult.”

“Does you or your master have a name I might have?” Ebenezer asked.

The she-elf didn’t appear insulted but you never knew. Some of those alley witches were a devious lot. Ebenezer would have to be careful, it wasn’t just a profit that was on the line, it might just be his life as well.

The witch smiled a dreadful smile, “You may call me the Vixen. My master is the…”

Ebenezer held up his hands, “No. No. No. You’ve told me enough. I don’t want to touch this.” he had heard enough. With the name like the Vixen, Ebenezer had a good idea who her employer was and did not want to play that monster’s games.

The woman calling herself the Vixen snorted, “I would call that wise, but I wouldn’t now as I’m the one you’re talking to. I just want an appraisal and some trade, boy.”

Boy? It was hard to tell an elf’s age, even other elves had a bit of problem with that, but Ebenezer was pretty sure that he was much older than this strumpet.

“How do I know you work for…” Ebenezer lowered his voice, “Him.”

Vixen went into her purse and pulled out a bundle of clear strands that looked almost like string. She dumped the bundle on the counter, “Tell me if I care.”

Slowly, not trusting this woman or her master, Ebenezer poked and then examined the lashes of cords. “Is this some kind of wire?”

He had never seen anything quite like it before. He had seen coper wire which was used in small work and strands used in rings, but the string he was currently holding were both clear and they looked… Perfect. Too perfect.

He pulled out a single strand and held it to the light. It was about as thick as one of his eye lashes. It felt a bit like he was handling straw. It wasn’t loose like string but it had some flexibility to it. Not wanting to but with little choice, Ebenezer closed his eyes and twisted it.

To his surprise the string or whatever it was bended like like a piece of rope but snapped back when he let it go. It didn’t break or morph, but it amazingly wasn’t enchanted.

“What is this made out of?” Ebenezer asked.

Vixen held up a finger, “Before I tell you anything. What can you give me for the bundle without knowing anything?”

Ebenezer didn’t like playing these games, but as there was no one else in the shop and he didn’t mind looking at this woman, he decided to play along. He hummed a lot, counting the strands and checking each one for any imperfections.

He weighed each strand and used a bit of spell work that proved everything was inconclusive. It wasn’t a trick. Or if he was it was some kind of trick that he had never seen before. The act of investigating a new illusion spell alone was worth a few copper coins.

“Without bringing out my tools. Hmm. I would say.” Ebenezer held his head, he really needed some help here. “Without knowing anything about it, two silver coins per strand. I can by ten strands. As for the bundle I wouldn’t go higher then two gold coins but you will have to wait for my master to get back before you try that.”

It was a pretty sum. Most of what Ebenezer was allowed to sell was copper stuff. Low grade wood carvings, some metal work. He had even sold an enchanted dagger to a shady type some years ago. The clear string was new and therefore out of his league.

And after what happened last time, Ebenezer wasn’t going to attempt to buy anything worth more than a handful of silver.

The well dressed witch looked down at the bundle of clear cables, “Two gold coins for this.”

Ebenezer didn’t know if she was amazed or insulted, “Without knowing what it is or what I can do with it that’s it. And there being no magic on it. I suppose you can try you’re luck with the weavers.”

The bundles looked like flexible ice or crystal, they were nice to look at and he braided the strings he could make a nice necklace. Ebenezer needed more information, that required specialists, you needed wizards, he needed to research the current market. Things the Vixen wasn’t giving him.

Anyway, she had dozens of strands, each as long as a horse’s tail. Wait, did she get this from some kind of animal? What animal has this for a mane?

“I see. Now I will tell you what they are made of.” Vixen leaned in close enough that Ebenezer could tell that she wasn’t putting on any magical make-up. The she-elf, if possible, looked exactly as she appeared to be. Would asking if she would give him a blowjob to up the price be acceptable or a deal breaker? Such heard choices today.

“Glass.” Vixen said.

“Glass? This is made of glass?” Having worked with glass since his apprenticeship, Ebenezer couldn’t believe what the she-elf was saying. This was not glass. Glass didn’t flex, you couldn’t spun it into thread and wrap it around your finger.

Ebenezer looked at the strands again, trying to find any deception, “And what is it used for?” he asked.

The Vixen shrugged, “My master keeps his secrets to himself. He suspected that we could find an alternative use for it.”

The clerk could act when he wanted to, but even he was overwhelmed by this sudden and expected development. Spun glass? But what could you do with such a thing? Who could use it? Was it for decoration? Could a master wizard use it for some advanced spell? This was beyond his experience.

“I will give you five silver a strand.” Ebenezer said.

The she-elf laughed as if she had heard the funniest joke in the world, “Are you mad?”

And so it began the merchant’s dance.

Battering was considered a sport amongst most merchants and washer women alike and the Vixen proved a devious miser. Threats were declared, insults shared; Ebenezier attempted to use this as a way to get more information out of the woman, but she refused, choicing to lose a profit than give out information, causing the clerk to suspect that she knew less about the tiem than she confessed.

The bell rang again and Ebenezer watched as that insatiable vixen left, abandoning him and making him fourteen silver coins poorer. The clerk looked down at the few strands of glass thread that he had taken from the witch. He really hopped that he had not erred in his purchase of the strange string.

His eyes went up at the fox statue, “If I am to be tricked, I will not lose my shirt for it, Trickster.” he said

Just to be certain, Ebenezer moved the glass string to a cupboard that was designed to hold items that were more troublesome.