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Interactive Quest  - not at all what it seems,

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  a darkness blacker than black 

The swarthy merchant throws another look over his shoulder, his blue eyes bright as the backs of beetles even as they narrow suspiciously at the figures approaching the far end of the bazaar. He is too cunning to be muttering to himself - he is not mad - but still he swears softly under his breath, wondering how much time he has left before he must discreetly and hurriedly pack up his wares and move again. 

He is always having to move around Solterra (especially lately, when all eyes squinted more sharply into the darkness and all gavels fell harder on the poor fools who were caught). Once he might have just hidden away the wares that raised more brows than coins, but his face is becoming too familiar to too many, and he has always had a keen nose for trouble on the wind. It is difficult to survive in his line of work, otherwise. 

Now he glances back at the things spread out on his table, all of them beguiling in the shifting light of the colored paper lanterns strung all around them. Tonight the market has truly become a cave of wonders; the whole street is packed tightly with every good imaginable, the smell of a hundred spices from a dozen lands, treasures that glittered and weapons that cut. 

Ask him (ask anyone), though, and he will tell you that his are the best. That they are blessed. 

Oh, not all of them - some are more trouble than they’re worth, like the diamond-studded choker that glimmers like Caligo’s crown. That came with its own story, and a curse - though some details conveniently slip his mind, when customers come crowding to ask about it. Other things had stories, but only that; some may call them lies, but if you ask the merchant those buyers are getting away lucky. An object of fascination (fairly priced), with no undesirable side effects to dampen the appeal. Or leave one strangled in their bed. 

A pair of guards passes and the dark sorrel regards them from beneath the hood of his cloak. He ought to begin readying, but the night is still young, and the markets are only now filling, and he has sold nothing.

Once the guards are out of earshot, swallowed up by the swelling crowd, the stallion turns and his gaze falls upon a man black as the feathers of ravens, black as a moonless night. He doesn’t hide his smile, but he turns it into something less crooked (though no less untrustworthy). “You there!” he says, and beckons the man closer. “Yes, you, who look like you could slip through the shadows like ink! I’ve got something that could make that even easier for you.”

As the lean, handsome pegasus comes nearer, the merchant glances to the right, to the left, and then back at the stranger. “I shouldn’t be showing you this at all,” he says, even as he shifts the wares on the table. A mirror with a perfect border carved of silver, an intricate study in vines and suns; a set of combs carved from pearlescent unicorn-horn for hair that would never tangle; teas that draw up dreams and more…

And a scarf that looked woven from the night itself, softer than silk, softer than velvet, that somehow seemed to swallow the light whole even as it threw back the reflections of the distant watching stars. 

“This,” the merchant says softly, dropping his voice to a murmur, “is called the cloak of shadows. Let me tell you how it earned its name…”

And he leans in closer.

@Caine might find more than he thought possible at the market tonight. Will he listen closely?

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This quest was written by the lovely @griffin


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