Feb 26, 2021 10:01 AM
Thorn in Golden Treasure
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"Oh. I can see that fear. Though I think it'll be more popular with unmarried women. If it really does make you eager, with men too. I'm surprised it hasn't been harvested into nothingness really!"

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"We grow it in gardens where I'm from. It's quite cheap and affordable now. The problem you've been having is simply solved."

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She nods and smiles. "Yes. I hope your caravans can reach my home, then, so I can have more later."

Back on the trail they go.

In the early afternoon one of the men spots a flying figure in the distance and there is a brief panic and everyone is sent down the side of the dune, where they'll be hidden from the dragon's gaze. It's - Almost a speck, really, and it's hard to tell much detail at that distance, but it does look like a dragon. A long sinuous neck with what might be horns on the head, a vast pair of wide wings that beat up and down almost ponderously, back legs and a tail. It looks to have four limbs.

The green dragon isn't looking or flying in their direction. After about half an hour it vanishes towards the mountain range in the distance, off to the south-east (they're going north). The priest says he hasn't heard of a green dragon in these parts. It might be moving in, which is bad news. Everyone relaxes and the group continues, at a quicker pace.

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"I hope so too."

Felicity notes the direction she saw the dragon going for later. She has to check if they're intelligent or not. But later. First she has the rest of this caravan to go through.

 

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It's another two days. They're almost out of water by the time they get to a destination. Nothing particularly interesting happens aside from one of the men halfheartedly hitting on her in a weird foreign way and being told to cut that out by the priest guy. He probes Felicity with questions about distant lands a few more times, though.

Salmut is a mud-brick town of a few thousand alongside a river, surrounded by extensive irrigation systems and lush farmland and mud-brick walls a ways out. Guards in leather armor with bronze spears read off a long-winded statement about the Watchful Gods and their Laws, and charge a small tax per head entering - the priest pays hers.

He takes the group to a caravansary and bids Felicity good fortune, handing her four small silver coins and insisting a large gold piece is too much for simple travel on. Raisah thanks her again for the sinflower.

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She ducks the priest's questions; then she goes and finds an inn and sees how far one of her gold coins will go.

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The gold coin is attention-getting and a bigger denomination than people are used to using outside of the noble district, with stone-walled houses and nice gardens. As soon as people see it, the price doubles or triples or more. Showing the silver coins given out by the priest goes better. One silver coin is good for two weeks at a place on the edge of the city that's little more than a straw bed in an enclosed room, or one week at a place closer in with actual furniture.

(A streetside hawker offers to change the gold coin into silver and copper, for her convenience. Another passer-by tells her to go to the temple district by the river for fair moneychanging; The hawker starts a shouting match about it.)

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She buys a nice room with furniture with one of her silver coins, then goes to the temple district and sees about getting one of her golds changed to silver. After that she'll go looking for maps and news of other towns and cities. Is this the biggest things get on this world? Aluminum isn't something these bronze-age people should be able to process, something isn't right here. 

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Moneychanging at the temple district involves a fairly elaborate ritual under open sky, asking the gods above to strike from the sky, if anyone here is making unfair exchanges. She gets six silver coins and seven bronze ones after they carefully weigh the gold.

They have sketchy maps of the local region that put lots of emphasis on the river systems, and vague rumors about places further than that, including the coast of another continent. This is not the largest place in the world; The capital by the coast has proper aqueducts and irrigation as far as the eye can see and huge herds. A few places are marked out as risking the attention of dragons, or as belonging to delvers.

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She'll ask around discreetly about these Delvers. What are they delving for?

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Rocks? Metal? Gemstones? Delvers are always a good source of gold and the like, which is why caravans to them with food and craft goods are attempted even if they pass through dangerous territory.

The religious version is: They are almost human, and are part of the gods' plan for the world, which was disrupted by the coming of chaos. The Delvers' natural domain is caves and caverns and mine-shafts.

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Dwarves? Potentially dwarves. Alright. None of this adds up to a "Medium" on technology, though. 

She begins to sketch out a picture of a journey to the capital on the coast. Assuming she travels like a local for immersion, what does that journey look like?

After that she'll go and see about a sword. She's better with a knife but not incompetent with something longer. And more importantly, it's legible in a way the gun at her hip isn't. 

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Her journey looks like three weeks of walking or riding an animal by dirt road, or two weeks by more expensive river raft.

There are many and varied swords for sale! Everyone is haggling hard. Bronze ones are two or three times as expensive, but better quality than the iron blades and fairly prestigious.

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She'll settle for an iron one, she needs to save for river raft and she doesn't need it to be good for defense. How much does it cost her, assuming she haggles competently?

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Ten silver will do nicely for a good but not outstanding iron blade. The smith throws in a holster at that price.

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She smiles at the smith and belts on her new sword in the place where her athame would go. The athame she stuffs in her pack for now. 

How much for river-rafting down to the capital?

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Six silver, or free if she works the whole way down.

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She'll exchange another of her golds at the temple and be well-prepared, then. 

What is there to eat around here?

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Wheat and rye and millet and oat bread, quinoa or rice or amaranth grains at a higher price. A surprising variety of fruits and vegetables for a bronze-age society, including ones that would be both old world and new on an Earth. A surprising variety of animal products too, they have chickens, goats, pigs, cows, sheep, horses, camels, donkeys and mules, fish, and other birds like pheasant. The cooking is somewhat uncreative but not for lack of ingredients at all. (For a bronze-age society.)

Someone displays a dragon feather(?) in their restaurant, fluffy, brilliant green and almost three feet long.

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She'll assemble a ploughman's lunch with grapes and crackers and cheese, that seems reasonable. Can she cover that with her copper or will she have to trade another gold coin? 

The dragon feather gets an appreciative look. That tells her something about the size of the beasts, as well as their variety. She really is going to go have to ask one if it's smart. 

In the meantime, she'll go mingle at the caravansary and gather stories of farther places. Maybe sell off some of her Sinflower, since she has an excess.

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Two copper will get her grapes and crackers and cheese. The north has pale-faced people who are good at boats and will totally steal from you if you're vulnerable but are happy to trade instead if you look tough. The east has pale-faced people who are good at riding and like raiding, stealing things, kidnapping women. The south has too many dragons to be really safe. Far off to the west there is another continent but rumors disagree on climate, culture, and geography.

Rumors say: Delvers can't stand the sunlight. The Delver kingdom in the Stormguard Mountains seems to have vanished, maybe they were hunted by a red dragon or dug into a volcano or just ran out of things to mine and left. An entire war-fleet was sent to the Island of Doom forty years ago, seeking the immense treasure that the ancient dragon there surely hoards. They were all set on fire a hundred miles out to sea and there were no survivors. The King's two sons are going to have a public duel to resolve the succession. A great philosopher and artist in the north suddenly left their nice house in the city and walked to a swamp known to be the territory of a dragon with her pet leopard. There is some weird idea called 'insurance' that seems to be gaining popularity with merchants in the capital city. The growing city of Carlax, again in the north, finally trapped and slaughtered a dragon that has been plaguing them and picking off hunters and women and children and livestock for decades with a complicated rope trap that took months to build. The story is told very dramatically - logs straining and cracking under the foe's immense strength and so on. Apparently dragons have some sort of projective empathy, it tried to scare off the hunters with an aura of terror and pain. The King uses an artifact of the gods that grants him great wisdom.

People are kind of skeptical sinflower works as advertised! But some will buy it on the chance that it actually works.

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- tried to scare off the hunters with an aura lf terror and pain -

It might just have been radiating its own terror and pain. Trying to communicate, before it was killed? What a senseless waste. Sure, it ate people, she's sorry for them too. Could it be that neither side realizes the other is smart? She's heard of that happening before. 

She requests a wand of Shapechange from her beacon, waits, watches it appear on the floor. She stashes it in her pack for now. 

She's decided. She's not going to the capital just yet. She's going south. Maybe the dragons have the technology she can't find.

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Nobody's stopping her. She doesn't get a refund on her inn room though.

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Alas. 

South, far enough to not be seen from the city on foot, then skimming the terrain with Levitate at faster than running speed, then once she figures she's well away she'll pull her wand of Shapechange and transform into her kind of green dragon. And then fly south, Levitate helping her speed, keeping an eye out for fellow dragons.

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The desert turns to savannah turns to a reasonably lush area. It takes a while, but eventually another dragon (blue, four limbs rather than six) is flying along and spots her, veers towards her and roarssomehow carrying with it the message of 'my territory'.

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