Chapter 214 – 88 Gaw: The Auction
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The market! The land of buyers and sellers! The lifeblood of the economy! The spiritual home of [Merchants], [Traders], and all those ready to part men from their coin. In Nundinae, a city renowned for trade, the market is a sacred ground. Crowds throng the streets and alleys, shoppers wander between shops, sightseers gawk at stalls. [Peddlers] clamor for attention, hawking their wares at the top of their lungs. And there, on a hill in the center of it all, raised above the stores and stalls and noise, sits the greatest of monuments to avarice; a wide, tall building meant to host a crowd of the most rich and affluent. There, carved into its gates, is its title. Gaudy, glowing letters spell out the words, The Grand Auction.

The hubris! To proclaim itself THE Grand Auction, as though there is or could be no greater auction, no greater showing of wealth. A certain [Hero] and [Gentleman] can’t help but offer grudging respect for the ego involved. Of course, he would have chosen a better name, like, “The Ultimate Auction,” but, “The Grand Auction,” is, by and large, good enough. Still, before he can join in on the dick measuring contest that is spending as much money as possible, he needs to collect something:

As much money as possible.

With a mask fixed upon his face and a bag full of goodies, the [Gentlemen], in the most ungentlemanly way, shoves the leather door covering away and enters a wealthy jeweler’s establishment, “Jeremiah's Jewels,” chosen by him specifically because of the double entendre. 

The store is empty except for three customers and who Quasi would bet to be Jeremiah behind the counter… girdled by his enchanting jewels. Quasi has to admit, they’re good gemstones. All the items in enchanted glass cases are of [Rare] workmanship or better. The prices of the items go anywhere between five hundred gold drachme to tens of thousands. It is those latter sums that have led him here.

“Hello!” greets the masked man as he arrives at the counter. “Would you be Jeremiah, the owner of this fine establishment?” he waves his hand at the merchandise.

Jeremiah, a portly middle-aged man with a puffy beard nods with a smile at the curiously masked foreigner in his shop. “Yes, that would be me,” he answers easily. “Is there something I can help you with, Mister…?”

“Ahhh, my sincerest apologies. Where are my manners?”

The masked man grabs his hat and places it on his chest while sketching a graceful bow. Jeremiah raises an eyebrow at the foreign greeting, but does not judge. He has dealt with foreigners and their various customs.

“I am Bone,” he introduces himself, “a wealthy [Merchant] with little to no renown… yet. I trade high-quality crystals and gemstones used in enchantments to men not unlike yourself.” 

The masked man raises a black bag and sets it on the counter with an audible thump. He sighs with such fake regret that even a two-year-old would roll their eyes. 

“Unfortunately, due to recent circumstances outside my control, I am in urgent need of more fungible funds.”

Jeremiah frowns at the man's words. This is not the first time some pauper has attempted to sell him low quality trash. To his credit, this Bone fellow seems to be respectful, and thus Jeremiah credits him with a polite rejection instead of summoning guards.

“My apologies Mr. Bone, but in order to sell to my establishment, there are some extreme accreditation requirements. We only accept the be-” Jeremiah chokes as Bone folds open the black bag and allows several turquoise, indigo, and violet crystals to scatter over the countertop.

Jeremiah stares at the priceless display before him. Turquoise crystals are worth hundreds of drachme, while the indigo are worth thousands per dekagram. As for the violet one, so few ever find their way to market that it might as well be priceless. At auction the stone would sell for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of gold drachme. And Jeremiah can see two, no three, more thumb-size violet stones peeking out from the bag.

He quickly clears his throat. “My apologies, Mr. Bone. You mentioned that you wish to sell your wares to me?”

Bone nods. “Yes, I’m in quite a hurry and wish to unload the entirety of my stock as quickly as possible,” he explains, flourishing his hand towards the bag and crystals.

Jeremiah swallows slowly and curiously. “May I appraise their quality?” he asks. Bone nods.

Jeremiah picks up one of the violet crystals.“[Greater Identify],” he chants just to make sure that what he sees is not an illusion. His skill disabuses him of that notion. He lowers the crystal to the counter.

“I do not have enough for the entirety of the bag, but I can pay for select pieces,” he says slowly.

To his dismay, the masked man shakes his head. “I do not have time to traipse around between a dozen gutless vendors. I need as much coin as I can get. Now,” he leans forward across the counter, “give me your best estimate and I promise not to bury you and yours as long as you’re within an order of magnitude.”

Jeremiah swallows hard as his heart rate increases. So far, the masked man has not used any skills on him, which is wise. Most [Traders] and [Merchants] at his level are nigh immune to compulsory skills. But now, the man is asking for his best price.

Thinking quickly, he calculates how much coin he has in reserve and in his vault. A large sum, but nothing anywhere close to the full contents of the bag.

“I can only offer you five hundred and fifty thousand gold drachme for the bag and its contents.”

“Perfect. I accept that price,” the masked man exclaims with hand outstretched.

Jeremiah accepts it, his confusion and surprise clear on his face.

___________________________________________________________________

Quasi exits Jeremiah’s Jewels with a small chest in his hands. The [Gentleman] opens it, revealing five platinum bars equivalent to half a million gold Drachme and fifty platinum coins equivalent to fifty thousand gold drachme. Extremely rich people didn't run around with barrels of coins, after all.

With a shrug, he closes the small chest and drops it on the ground, at which point it disappears in his shadow. A second later, a black bag rises up. The [Gentleman] picks up the bag, adjusts his mask, and walks into the nineteenth establishment that has piqued his interest.

__________________________________________________________________

The Grand Auction is a venue that caters to the obnoxiously rich. Offered to [Merchant Lords], [Nobles], and [Caravan Masters] are gilded seats, silk cushions stuffed with griffin feather down framed by precision-cut mahogany. At each seat is a private servant who will cater to the patron’s every whim for the duration of the auction. How extravagant! How better to display how much they care for their guests?

And this is the lowest position a guest can find themselves in this festival of opulence. 

Above these seats are the private boxes for [Magnates], [Aristocrats], and [Tycoons]. Each comes with an expert waitstaff, complementary food and wine, as well as [Courtesans] to hand feed the guests. And even more, there are whispers of a hidden room, known of only by a few staff members, of accomodations even more decadent.

But, that isn’t important; not really. While it is indeed a place where the wealthy may jostle shoulders, where wine of ages past flows freely, where enough funds to bankrupt a small kingdom are exchanged over the barest proclivities, it is, first and foremost, an auction. The auction. 

You know, the grand one.

Already, the [Auctioneer] has prepared and organized the items that are to be displayed and sold. All the regular attendees have been scouted, so that all may see at least one thing they desire, and so that another member of the audience may want the same. Starting prices are tallied, each calculated through skills and Skills to gain the best selling price. Servants are assigned to each guest based on personality, appearance, and how much they can influence their guest into spending. For all the money the auction spends on pleasing its sponsors, they are fully dedicated to profiting. 

Today, the [Auctioneer] knows his preparations will not be for naught. His [Sense Profit] and [Financial Gain] are informing him that the auction today will be very, very profitable.

With head held high and back straight, he makes his way to the podium. The whispers of the audience quickly silence at his arrival. He looks at the audience, noting familiar faces as well as unfamiliar ones. He can see the decently rich at the bottom of the podium, while the exorbitantly rich watch from their balconies above. He notes an oddity among them, a man wearing a bone mask. A placard at his seat labels him as Bone.

He blinks and moves on. With a knock on the podium, he begins. “Welcome, everyone, to The Grand Auction. Before we begin, I would like to state that our staff members should have explained the rules upon your entry. If you did not hear these rules or have forgotten, merely ask your assigned servant to assist you. With that said, we may now begin.”

A woman covered in a customary hijab walks up to the stage with a long case in her hand. Slowly and carefully, she places the item onto the table and then opens the case. She retrieves a crystal studded staff and the [Auctioneer] begins speaking with a voice that can be easily heard throughout the room.

“Our first item is considered an enigma by some. Known as the [War Staff of Mastery], this item was created from a treant exceeding level two hundred and has been extensively enchanted by no less than seven [Grand Enchanters]. The item is enchanted with [Greater Durability], [Weight Malleability], [Greater Elemental Resistance], [Greater Haste], [Freedom of movement], and most importantly, [Insight: Staff Mastery].”

The mostly silent crowd of people immediately begin to whisper at the mention of the last enchantment. The other enchantments are impressive and would put the item into the level of [Very Rare], but the last enchantment may push the item further.

The [Auctioneer] continues. “As many of you have no doubt realized, this staff allows its owner to fight as though they had the [Staff Mastery] skill. It is a truly unique and useful weapon as it can allow a non-combat class to fight as a [Warrior] of over level fifty, and can even push a first tier combatant to fight equally with a second tier classer.”

He hears the interest of the crowd, easily buying into the item as either a way to boost the strength of their [Guards] or to use it themselves for self defense. 

He clears his throat. “Now, though the item is impressive, it is still only [Very Rare]. Thus, we will begin the bidding at fifty thousand gold Drachme.”

Before all others, one hand rises up with impressive speed. “One Million Gold Drachme.” Startled, the [Auctioneer] looks up to the stands and finds the masked man holding up his card. The entire audience is silent.

“We have one million gold drachme for the [War Staff Of The Master]. Do we have any larger bids?” he asks for show, but already knows that nobody else will bid higher. The staff isn't worth more than three hundred thousand drachme.

“Then it is sold to Mr. Bone.” He gestures towards the masked individual. Curious eyes shift to the man, with many staring oddly at the fool willing to burn so much money.

The staff is placed back into its container and then carried off the stage. Not a second later and a wheeled rack of swords, shields, and armor is rolled to center stage.

“Our next item is an entire enchanted armory set known as the Flamewarden Set,” he waves his hand at the items. “The armors are enchanted with [Greater Durability], [Featherlight], [Fire Resistance], and [Temperature Modulation]. The shields are enchanted with [Greater Durability], [Impact Suppression], [Elemental Resistance], and allow the wielder to use the [Flame Bash] skill at will. The longswords are enchanted with [Greater Durability], [Greater Sharpness], [Scorching Blade], and allow the activation of [Incinerating Slash] at will.”

He waits a moment, listening to the whispers of the more wealthy individuals before he continues. “The Flamewarden Set would be a great gift to anyone that wishes to arm their [Guards] or [Mercenaries] with arms that will allow them to fight adversaries several dozen levels higher than themselves.” he says, enticing the many [Caravan Masters] in his audience who always have a contingent of [Caravan Guards] ready and armed.

He leans forward on the podium. “Now, though the enchanted items are merely [Rare], they are still not so easy to find as a uniform set, thus we will be starting the bid at one hundred thousand gold drachme.”

Once again, before anyone else can bid, a hand rises up. “One million gold drachme,” a voice yells out. The [Auctioneer] and everyone else looks toward the voice and there is the same masked man making a preposterous bid. The [Auctioneer] can't tell if he should frown or smile at the exorbitant offer. The Flamewarden Set shouldn't be worth more than five hundred thousand gold drachme.

“We have one million gold drachme for the Flamewarden set. Do we have any larger bids?” he asks once again, but it met with silence.

“Then it is once again, sold to Mr. Bone.”

The items are removed from the stage and marked to be sold to Mr. Bone. 

“Now ladies and gentlemen, I present you with a truly rare item, lost for centuries till recently found in an antique wardrobe. I present to you the Golden Lion.”

Two beautiful slave girls carry out a huge lion hide cape. They turn, showing it off at all angles. Its deep golden fur glows, richer and deeper than possible under the stage lights; the resplendent mane waves softly as though caressed by a living breeze; the eyes of the lion’s regal countenance seem to bore into the onlookers’ souls.

“Brought to us from beyond the bounds of this world, we start the bidding for this [Legendary] item at two hundred and fifty thousand gold drachme!”

As before the masked man bids, “One million drachme.”

“One million, fifty thousand!”

The auctioneer smiles to hear a counter bid.

“Two million drachme,” the masked man jumps the bid again.

The auctioneer frowns. “Come, ladies and gentlemen, are there no more bids for this truly one of a kind item?”

There are no takers.

“Going once?”

Whispers fill the room.

“Twice?”

The auctioneer has an ominous feeling.

“Sold to the man in the mask. Congratulations, Mr. Bone.”

The women depart the stage bearing the lion’s skin.  

_________________________________________________________

“Item forty eight, the [Boots of Flash Step], sold, once again, to Mr.Bone for one million gold Drachme,” the [Auctioneer] exclaims tiredly. He looks at the audience, all of whom are now bored out of their mind. A quarter of them have already left. So far, the masked man has bought every single item in the auction for a minimum price of one million. What shocks the [Auctioneer] is that, according to his skills, Bone hasn’t even used one quarter of the wealth he is willing to spend. Already, the man has paid over fifty million. Only [Sultans] would have such wealth, and even they wouldn't dare to spend a fraction of that at an auction. Perhaps with these last items, he can finally bring this auction back to life.

“And now, dear guests, we have another truly unique collectors piece, brought to us by the God Prometheus, a cushion so divinely soft and comfortable it is even rumored to have graced Zeus’s throne!”

The auctioneer holds up a modest looking rubber air bladder.

“Inflate this [Divine] item, and even you can lounge like a god! Starting at three hundred thousand drachme.”

“Two million drachme,” bids Bone.

The auctioneer sighs in dismay. “And again, the Cushion of the Gods goes to Bone.” He composes himself. “But now, my patient Lords and Ladies, the moment you’ve all been waiting for!”

The next item is brought up on a pillow and placed on the table. The audience gasps in surprise as the [Auctioneer] smiles confidently.

On the pillow is a small, baby, Phoenix. The bird looks around curiously at the people. It chirps once and wiggles its head as it eyes the people with hidden intelligence.

“Our next item is a true rarity, one most of you should be very, very interested in,” the [Auctioneer] says with a smile, “I present to you the legendary bird of immortality, the Phoenix! Phoenixes are known to not only give good luck, but if well cared for, the person it impresses upon will obtain [Greater Fire Resistance] and [Greater Enhanced Vitality], which will double your Vitality and your virility.”

Every single eye ogles the bird with interest. Death makes paupers of the righteous and the wicked, yet here, in this dimly lit hall, is a chance to delay the inevitable.

“Tonight, for mere gold, you can own the phoenix. What, ladies and gentlemen, is the price of your life? Bidding begins at five hundred thousand gold drachme.”

At his words, many of the less wealthy elites lean back into their chairs in disappointment, but many others lean forward. The attention of the entire raised floor is leaning forward and ready to bid.

“One million gold drachme,” calls the annoyance of the evening. A pause is heard as the upper elites take a moment to assess the masked man. Then, they raise their own hands.

“One million and ten thousand.”

“One million and thirty thousand.”

“One million and seventy thousand.”

“One million and one hundred thousand.”

A bidding war begins and the [Auctioneer] can't help but smirk at the rising prices. Already, the numbers have begun nearing two million.

Then a gloved hand lasily rises from the masked individual.

“Ten Million Gold Drachme.”

Yet this time, it isn’t the end.

“Ten million, five hundred thousand!”

“Twelve million!”

At last.

Bone calmly raises his hand. “One hundred million golden drachme.”

The hall goes silent. The auctioneer slumps visibly.

“Are there any further bids?” he asks. “Then the phoenix is sold to Mr. Bone. Congratulations, sir.”

Tiredly, he waves his hand and calls out his last item, not necessarily the most expensive, but one reasonably priced that everyone can bid for.

Slowly, a woman covered from head to toe in tight clothing with her face shrouded by  a hijab walks up the steps. She walks to the table and stands in front of it.

The [Auctioneer] waves his hand. “Our last item is a [Slave], but not just any usual slave. Naunet here is a level seventy one [Head Slave]. Her owner, Asim Omari, was found to be dead earlier this morning. As he has no immediate relatives within the city, the law states that his [Slave] must be auctioned off.”

He pauses, allowing the crowd to digest his words. Usually, [Slaves] are never auctioned. Most are handed down or just normally bought. “Miss Naunet here is able to cook, clean, read, write, and is experienced in running businesses. She is also twenty six and is still of childbearing age. The starting pric- Mr. Bone, please put your hand down and wait until I finish.

Bone slowly lowers his arm.

“Ahem. The starting price will be five thousa-”

“One million gold drachme.” the masked man interrupts with a raised hand.

The [Auctioneer] sighs and walks off.

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