Clarisse’s Used Finery was not the used finery store you’d expect to find. Nor was it run by a nice old lady named Clarisse who had a bowl of lollipops. It didn’t sell used clothes and it didn’t have antique trinkets. The town of Kale wasn’t known for having normal stores with normal people.
It did have that light smell of mold that most used ware stores carried. A few of the bulbs were burnt out and the “Open” sign was hanging on one hinge. The wooden stairs creaked under footsteps and it was a mite drafty inside. It had all the appearances of an antiques store a little down on its luck.
But Clarisse’s Used Finery was a wealthy store. Donators came from all around and were heavily endorsed for their gifts. The items sold at Clarisse’s had a fresh sort of uniqueness that captured intrigue. Its modest appearance didn’t stop the richest of shoppers from giving the store a Five Star Rating in the town of Kale.
Clarisse’s Used Finery sold weapons. Not new weapons, no. This was used finery after all. These were the weapons of fallen heroes and wretched villains who had finally met their match. There were the battle axes of the Giants of the Northunders, spears from Mazec princes in the Southplains, broadswords from dwarf mercenaries in the Westerforests, or poisoned blow darts from the hermit tribes in the Eastlands. There were old harpoons from forgotten sailors and knives that had slain kings and bows with their corresponding arrows that had been faithful until the end of their owners’ shortened lives.
Makkenok opened his dilapidated store at sunrise, as usual. He blew the dust off of a few weapons, but left most of them covered in their thick films of grime and let the spiders roam free. It’s all in the look, he surmised. The folk that came here didn’t like clean things. Clean things meant proper and nice and dainty and ladylike. The few women that came here on occasion were anything but genteel. The multitude of men that frequented this establishment were usually criminals — or were on the hunt for criminals. Makkenok was more than happy to disclose the whereabouts of these unsavory characters — for a price of course.
He stood on a box to look out the window. The dusty road was mostly empty save for two fellows leaning against a lamp post across the street by the tavern. But the steps creaked. Makkenok grinned. He already knew who was coming—the perks of having elf ears and elf senses. The door swung open, and welcomed the sound of creaking hinges and the frosty panting of a slender, three day unshaved dwarf.
“Peregrin!” Makkenok roared, “Have you lost another sword? In need of a steady axe this time? What brings you and your thieving wiles to my tidy home?”
The intruder threw back his hood and shook both hands of the midget store owner warmly. While most elves towered over dwarves, Makkenok himself was eye-level with the newcomer.
“I take it you have my order?” The dwarf asked, his voice rough and slightly accented. “I need it in a hurry if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, of course, but all in good time.” The short elf grinned and waddled back around the counter, his wooden leg making a loud “thud” each time he took a step.
“Did you have any success raiding the Ambiot stores?” Makkenok asked, his voice muffled as he dug through the assortment of items. “The gossipers made it sound like you barely made it out alive.”
Peregrin grimaced. “They weren’t entirely incorrect this time.” He shifted his weight to the other foot. “Look I’m sorry but I’m kind of being chased right now. I may have to come back for the dagger another time.”
“No, no don’t do that; that would be a travesty,” the short elf replied. He finally stood up, a wrapped item in his hand, and turned around to stand on a step stool behind his counter. “Here it is, my good thief, I told you I had it. It’s all in the storage you know? Gotta keep it cold. Beautiful condition. Northunder style, with a nice Seltic touch. Wonderful piece of art,” he gushed as he unwrapped it carefully.
Despite being short of time, Peregrin approached the long dagger slowly and picked it up reverently. “This is amazing,” he breathed.
The design itself was simple: a leather bound handle, in perfectly glossed condition. The dirk bore the inscriptions of its former master, Aleitha Trieds III, on the side. The blade was as thin as paper, but strong enough to cut through bones.
The owner of Clarisse’s Used Finery nodded with pride. “But, unlike most of the things you acquire, this one will cost you more than your stealth. Do you have the payment?”
Peregrin pulled out a leather bag tied around his neck from under his tunic and counted out four small stones.
“These are the last I have from my family,” he explained. “I doubt I will be able to steal any more after this. I’ve been quite officially banished from the Westerforests after my last plunder.”
“Well that means you are quite officially a wanted man everywhere!” laughed Makkenok heartily. “Except for here of course.”
He whisked the stones away quickly and stashed them somewhere on his person. “You should probably be off however. I hear the sounds of the police.”
Peregrin cursed. He snatched the dirk and sheath up and didn’t bother to shut the door as he rushed out, cloak flapping behind him.
“Well good luck and safe travels!” Makkenok called, still chuckling. “Oh that poor fellow,” he muttered as he started to sort out the pile of goods behind him.
It wasn’t long before three figures in fine gray and pale blue uniforms shadowed his door frame. The elf stood up and squinted in the dim light.
“You can come in all the way you know, the weapons don’t bite,” he greeted.
One person stepped forward carefully while the other two stayed back.
“Oh don’t be shy,” he smiled. Inside, his stomach turned. Company like himself hated dealing with the police, even though his criminal record had technically been wiped away hundreds of moons ago.
The first policeman threw back her hood at last, and long dark hair came tumbling down the tall woman’s shoulders. “Where’s Escapee 8784?” she demanded.
“You’ve had 8,784 escapees?” laughed Makkenok, “The police of the United Lands are very effective, I can see.”
The police woman’s eyes darkened when he said this, and the second policeman thundered his hand on the oak table, causing it to shake. “Have you no respect for the Chief of Police?” he growled.
Makkenok retained his casual composure, fiddling with a spear absently. “The Chief of Police, eh?” He said, looking at the tall brunette that stood scowling down at him. “This must be important.” He made an exaggerated bow. “Forgive my ignorance.”
“Where is he? I know you know where he is.” The second policeman barked. Her grip tightened on the mace she carried at her side. It was a warning, but Makkenok knew he could stretch her patience further before she snapped.
The elf blinked innocently. “Where is who?”
“Where is Peregrin? He was here. We saw him. You’ll be in serious trouble if you lie to us,” spat the Chief of Police. Blue eyes sparked in the dusty light that came from the window.
“Ohhhhhh I see. You’re looking for one of my customers.” He smiled, a mischievous smile and leaned over on his stool, spear still in hand. “Hmm.” He tilted his head back and stroked his beard with his other hand. “I might know of him. A small bit at least.”
The Chief of Police rolled her eyes and tossed a gold coin at the table.
“More than that. This is a valuable man.”
She snarled and tossed another coin.
“You’re desperate. And I’m bored. And you’re doing something highly illegal by paying me for information. So more.”
Three more coins.
“You’re only wasting your own time.”
“You’re a bastard.”
Makkenok grinned. “I am actually. And a wealthy one. More.”
The Chief of Police finally gave in and emptied a bag at the table, coins rolling everywhere.
“Thaaaat’s more like it.” He began counting the coins, stacking them evenly into piles.
“Where is he?” She hissed, knocking the coins all over the floor.
Makkenok threw back his head and laughed, loud and long. “My goodness, are the police slow. He’s been hiding in my store the whole time. And he just took out one of your policeman.”
The two policemen turned with surprise to the door to see their comrade drop sharply to the floor, a clean cut oozing blood out of his throat. The Chief turned to spit in Makkenok’s face before rushing out the door to see Peregrin running down an alley. She took off, the second policeman close behind, leaving the body of the third in the doorway of Clarisse’s Used Finery.
“Run well, Peregrin,” sang Makkenok as he scooped up coins. “She’s a touchy one. I don’t think you’ll make it out alive this time.”