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Bad company… the worst! Cloudhawk had to draw the line in the relationship between him and this crazy woman somewhere.

His plight in this city was already a difficult and awkward one without her making it worse. Frost and most of the Cloude family already had it out for him, especially after he'd tried to burn down the governor's mansion. Lord Arcturus might have chosen to let it go, but it wasn't so easy for the others. The longer he spent with Dawn the more enemies he made, soon there wouldn't be anywhere in the city he could go safely.

You have your family and the sanctuary to back you up. I got nobody!

Dawn was simply incapable of restraining herself. Holding Terrangelica tight in her arms she strode into the bar with head held high.

The Fiend and Huntsman pub was the only establishment that catered exclusively to demonhunters. Seeing as these hunters were highly respected in the city, their chosen watering hole could not expected to be humble. Cloudhawk got the strange sensation he was walking into a jungle as he stepped inside

Everything was covered in shrubs and foliage. Fruits as large as pumpkins hung from tree branches and glowed with gentle light. No insects buzzed and the whole place was comfortable and clean. There weren't many tables or chairs, but everything was exquisitely decorated and fastidiously cared for. Even the servers were newly minted demonhunters of the order.

In other words, no one here was your typical citizen. The Fiend and Huntsman was built specifically for one group of people.

An imposter like Cloudhawk wouldn't be allowed in normally, but his relationship with Dawn bought him entrance. Blaze was a vice-commander of the order and one of this area's administrators and was as magnanimous and accommodating as a man should be. Dawn's biting words hadn't gotten his blood up, instead he led them over to one of the trees and up the ladder to a platform built in its canopy. It was actually a beautifully decorated private space where you could see the whole bar below. 

Blaze offered them a seat. "The collection convention will start soon. I hope Lady Polaris comes away with a few things she likes."

Dawn showed him no gratitude. "So chatty. You're like a cursed rock, how am I supposed to feel lucky with you around?"

Blaze forced a resentful smile. But before he left he gave Cloudhawk one last curious look.

Dawn settled into a large chair, her long pale legs folded beneath her. As she plucked fruit from a wooden bowl before her, she stared down at a platform in the middle of the pub.

"What are you mute? Don't you want to ask what the collection convention is?"

Cloudhawk absently scratched Oddball's fluffy head. "I don't need to since you're going to tell me anyway."

Dawn Polaris couldn't keep her mouth shut if you paid her. Cloudhawk hadn't been around her long but he was beginning to figure her out. She wasn't going to waste an opportunity to flap her lips at him.

"The Order of Demonhunters often go out to old battlegrounds of the war between gods and demons. They often come back with old treasures that were left behind, including a fair number of relics. Once they get enough they hold what they call a collection convention. It's an auction they hold every month or two.

Cloudhawk paused. "A relic auction?"

Of course Cloudhawk knew how much relics could be worth. There were all kinds with various abilities and their strength was determined by the demonhunter who used them. Ordinary people couldn't create relics. That was a process only known by the gods. As a result relic weapons were tokens of their divine authority.

Cloudhawk remembered the Bloodsoaked Queen - Selene Cloude - telling him once that all the relics in the elysian lands were registered. Every relic, the family it belonged to, and the demonhunter who held it was written down. When one went missing it was a big deal and the city sent out investigators to learn what happened.

Claudia, Raith, and other demonhunters like them from noble families had special heirloom relics. Barb and other common demonhunters didn't have the luxury of having relics handed down to them. Thus, since these relics were held by only a small subset of people, they were usually both rare and expensive.

For the last few days Cloudhawk had been stealing typical riches, he'd never had the gall to pilfer a relic. In his heart he knew that a rich family would eventually forget the loss of jewels and money, but a relic was something else.

For a pub to start selling them, then, was unexpected to say the least.

She unfurled her legs and went on, continuing to fling fruit into her mouth. "Now don't misunderstand, relics aren't so easy to get your hands on. It's all a gamble."

"What do you mean?"

"Ugh, give me a break. Does your brain work at all?" She pointed to her temple and waggled her finger in a circle. "These are dug up from ancient battlefields so most of the relics are either broken or just pieces. They're useless."

Cloudhawk raised his eyebrows at her. "Useless."

"Well, most of the time. From time to time they're put a decent item up for auction but only maybe ten in a year. Compared to the several hundred or a thousand other items they try to pawn off your chances are pretty low as you can imagine. Most of my assets I've poured into this sort of thing and I haven't bought a winner yet."

"And people actually come here to buy this stuff."

"Of course, some of it is worth good money. Pick up enough dog shit to gather all the pieces of something good, and you can bring it to the sanctuary. For a tack of coins they might be able to re-forge it for you. A working relic's value can't be measured in cash."

So troublesome? Cloudhawk was quickly losing interest.

It was definitely easier to try and understand the phasing ability of the stone around his neck. He could just use it to travel to other strange worlds and find relics laying around there. Anyway, he only had a few coins clinking around in his pocket. He looked around and saw a hundred or so demonhunters crowding the tables, most of them from affluent backgrounds. The few gold he had was more than enough for a normal guy, but here they amounted to little of anything.

"Ladies and gentlemen, sorry you've been waiting!" Blaze appeared on the stage in the center of the pub. "Thank you all for coming to participate in the Order of Demonhunters' collection convention. This time we have more treasures than ever before. In the interest of fairness and honesty we must remind you that none of these items have gone through an appraisal process - their quality cannot be promised. You, ladies and gentlemen, will have to have a sharp eye and a little bit of luck. And luck is what I wish to each of you!"

Dawn planted her feet back on the floor. The plate of fruit was ignored as she leaned in, attentive and serious.

Attendants from the Order carried in a case and opened pulled the first item out from it. It was a simple-looking bronze sword and yet every eye went wide. It hadn't been authenticated but at least it looked pretty. Its appearance alone would earn it a few bids.

 "The base price for this one is fifty gold. Bid increases have to be a minimum of five gold."

Dawn bleated out her bid almost before he could finish. "Fifty-five!"

When they saw who cried out the boisterous pub grew quiet. Who wasn't aware of Dawn's confrontational reputation? Her offer caused anyone else who might have been interested to reconsider. It looked like her crappy attitude did have its benefits.

But while she could cow lower class demonhunters, she couldn't intimidate everyone. A fat man hobbled to his feet. "Sixty-five!"

Another middle-aged man from an important family was next. "Seventy!"

And then an elderly man. "Seventy-five!"

"One hundred!" Dawn refused to be outplayed.

Anyoen could see this bronze sword was no mere trinket. If its surface were made complete perhaps it could be useful. Who knows, it could even be a relic. If that were the case then a thousand gold coins was a good price. That's why it tripled to one hundred and fifty gold coins in only a few seconds.

Sweat and begun to pop up on Dawn's forehead. She'd only brought a few hundred gold with her and there were many more items to see. If she saw something else she liked she might no longer be competitive.

"One hundred fifty-five!"

She gritted her teeth and growled the words.

"One hundred sixty!" The old man calmly outbid her. He was her last opponent, everyone else had fallen silent already.

Cloudhawk could almost see steam coming out of her eyes. She recognized the old man, it was the dean of the Order of Demonhunters. He was a highly respected elder of the city, how was she supposed to compete?

 Cloudhawk held his tongue and just let his eyes slip closed. He was listening carefully to something.

There was the faintest sound reverberating from the bronze sword, but to Cloudhawk it sounded frayed and incoherent. It meant the damage to it was much more than its appearance would lead one to believe. Being largely destroyed there was very little hope it getting it repaired.

"That thing is useless," Cloudhawk muttered to Dawn. She was drenched in sweat. "You're gonna get robbed."

Dawn paused. "You say it's useless and I'm just supposed to believe you? What are you, a relic expert? Only an appraiser would know for sure and it takes them a couple hours to figure it out. You haven't even touched it, what makes you think you know anything? I can tell that this is one of their most complete relics."

"I can do better than an appraiser." He looked back at her full of confidence. "Listen to me, I'm not wrong."

"Yeah, and what if your intuition is bad? What then?"

"I'll take on the cost of any bad item or poor bid you get. You can take the relic cloak off my back as compensation." He tapped it with a finger. "Now this is a high-grade relic."

"A good relic? And you'd be willing to part with it?" Her eyes veritably twinkled.

"But if I'm right then we split today's down the middle."

"Alright, it's a deal!"

However Dawn didn't stop bidding. She'd decided to listen to Cloudhawk, but that didn't stop her from pumping up the price a little higher. To her this was ammunition again her opponents; get them to spend all their money on trash and swoop in when the nice items showed up. 

By now the sword was two hundred and eighty gold coins. Aurura saw that old man's face start to turn.

Indeed, a good relic was worth a thousand gold, but it all a gamble. Not every relic that looked in good shape actually was. You just improved your chances by betting on several pieces. It came down to risk, and if the old man paid out too much it wouldn't be worth any reward he harvested.

She saw it on his face and stopped.

At last the hammer fell. The old man walked away with his shiny trinket for two hundred and eighty five gold coins.

Dawn cast a thorny glance toward Cloudhawk. "Now it's up to you!"

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