"I'm sorry, sir, but my shop is not open for business right now," the merchant said. His voice was shaking, but he was determined.
Urter glared at the man. It was embarrassing to be blocked by a merchant in the middle of the town. If he was alone, he would have just admitted defeat. Now, however, he had other people with him. The merchant was just about to tell him the price of the ring, and this sudden shift in attitude meant that he was hiding something.
"Sir, this isn’t the only shop that sells dimensional rings," a man in the crowd stepped forward and said. "If you don’t mind, please, feel free to come to my shop and take a look."
Anfey glanced at the man who had just spoken. He was young, perhaps in his twenties. He was wearing a finely made white robe, which made the youth look more handsome than he would have in simple shirts. His expression was calm, but his eyes were filled with joy. Anfey did not know if the man was happy because he was able to catch someone’s attention, or because he was able to steal business from his competition.
Urter sighed and glared at the merchant again before turning to the youth. "Where’s your shop?" he asked.
"Not far," the young man said, pointing to his left. "Just down the street."
"My lord, do you want to go look there?" Urter asked Anfey. He was worried that Anfey would rush into yet another decision without thinking it through. He knew the merchant was hiding something, but he was the owner and he had the right to do what he wanted. As long as there was another solution, there was no need to force the merchant to do anything. Anfey was the new city lord, and Urter was the sheriff. They had plenty of time to investigate what the merchant was trying to hide.
"Alright," Anfey said. He turned and followed the young man and Urter.
Anfey, however, was not trying to pressure the merchant into doing anything. He had remained quiet and allowed Urter to do the negotiation. He was the new city lord, and it was not a good idea for him to have petty arguments. The appearance of the young man was exactly what Anfey had wanted and needed.
After a few minutes, they arrived at the young man’s shop. The young man hurried over to open the door for his customers. The crowds, instead of dispersing, followed the group to the young man’s shop.
Anfey frowned. He turned to Urter and said, "Tell them to leave us alone."
Urter nodded and turned around. "Everyone," he called loudly. "Go home now, please. It is distracting for Lord Anfey with all of you out here."
Hearing Urter’s order, the crowd slowly began the thin. Most people looked eager to tell others the story they had just witnessed.
"That man has no professionalism to speak of," the young man said, shaking his head. "You may not know, my lord, but he works for the Marquis. He must have received instructions from the Marquis not to sell you anything."
"I see," Urter said, nodding. He was just going to buy the cheapest dimensional ring, but Black Eleven thought that a cheap ring had no real value and would be a waste of money. The two had just compromised when Shamash had surrounded them and accused Urter of accepting bribe. Urter’s men attacked Shamash for insulting their superior, and Shamash, who was intentionally angering them, did not back down. Now that Urter had the time to think back on it, he realized it must have been the merchant who alerted Marquis Djoser.
"What do you want, my lords?" the young man asked. He waved his servant away and began leading Urter and Anfey around the shop.
"He wants a dimensional ring," Anfey said, pointing at Urter.
"Dimensional ring?" The young man frowned, then nodded. "Please, come with me." He walked over to a display case full of rings, but did not reach into the case. He waved his hand, and a small hole appeared on the wall. The young man reached into the hole and retrieved a box made of antimagic crystal. He held out the box for his two customers to see.
Urter hurried to look at the ring. Ever since he had become a sheriff, he had adhered to the rules and laws, because he did not want people to see him as a corrupt and ineffective man. He did not take bribes, and his pay could barely cover his living expenses. Even though Anfey gave him a large sum of money, he did not want to spend all of it.
A black, dull ring lay in the box. Next to the ring was a magic scroll. Urter did not know what the material was, but he relaxed visibly. If the young man wanted to bribe him or get in his good graces, he would present them with a more extravagant ring. A ring as plain as this one must not be expensive.
"How much is it?" Urter asked.
"Ten gold coins," the young man said.
"Alright," Urter said. "I’ll take it." At the last shop, the owner had asked for twenty-five coins. The price the young man gave was reasonable. Urter knew that cheap things tended to be of lesser quality, and this ring may not have as much storage space, but he was satisfied.
"Ten gold coins?" Anfey asked. Unlike Urter, he was able to sense the magic surge of the ring. He knew very well how powerful the ring must be.
"Yes, my lord," the young man said. "I bought this ring for seven coins. I’m making a three coins profit here."
"I like this one," Urter said. He glanced at the display case, and saw that some of the rings were selling for more than two thousand gold coins. A ring as inexpensive as this one was rare.
"If you like it…" Anfey’s voice trailed off, then shook his head.
Urter took the ring out of the box and inspected it. The young man picked up the magic scroll and said, "My lord, please. Put on the ring, then activate the scroll. You don’t have to be able to use magic to activate this scroll."
"I see," Urter said. He took the scroll and activated it. As soon as the scroll was activated, light burst from the paper and enveloped Urter.
Anfey frowned. "It wasn’t this dramatic when I got my ring," he commented.
"You didn’t use a scroll?" the young man asked, frowning. All dimensional rings come with a magic scroll. It was used to activate the ring and to leave the mark of the owner on the ring.
"I just put it on," Anfey said.
"You are a student of Archmage Saul, my lord," the young man said, smiling. "You wouldn’t need a scroll."
The light dispersed, showing Urter standing there in shock.
"Urter?" Anfey called.
Urter frowned and turned to the young man. "You’re selling this for ten coins?" he asked. He could not use magic, but he had common sense. The price of the ring was proportional to the storage space of the ring. Now that he could sense the ring, he knew a ring like this was worth far more than ten gold coins.
"Yes," the young man said. "Like I’ve just said, my lord, I bought the ring for seven gold coins. I'm only making two coins."
Urter frowned. The way the young man tried to bribe him was very clever. He could pretend he bought a cheap dimensional ring, and forget about this encounter. However, Urter could not ignore the fact that the young man sold him something expensive at a cheap price. He was a sheriff, and he could not take advantage of the people he was trying protect. If this continued, something would go wrong sooner or later. He wanted to return the ring, but something like dimensional rings could not be returned. He had already marked the ring, and it would be worthless to other people.
"Come on, Urter," Anfey said. "Let’s go visit Aroben." For Anfey, this was normal. If someone was trying to befriend him, he would be friendly with them. He was about to become the new city lord, and he needed helpers.
Urter shook his head and turned to follow Anfey. Before he could take another step, he stumbled and almost fell. The young man reach over and helped him steady himself. "Be careful, my lord," he said. "Everyone’s like this when they first get a ring. A few days of rest should fix it."
"What?" Anfey asked.
"Dimensional rings require magic. Lord Sheriff here doesn’t have magic, and part of his life force was used to activate it. Don’t worry. A few days of rest is what you need to recover."
"He’s right," Suzanna said. "The more storage space, the more magic the ring will need."
Anfey glanced at his own ring, and recalled Saul’s exhaustion with a frown.