The value of money wasn’t very clear to Douglas. He knew what denominations of coins were worth compared to others, but he hadn’t really used money much in his dozen years of life. He’d gone into town to pay for a few books, but as far as he understood they were very expensive- which made sense because knowledge was very valuable. However, at this point Douglas would have traded any amount of money for some food. The unfortunate thing was he didn’t have any amount of money. He hadn’t anticipated having to flee his home, so after a week of travel next to the road he was out of food in his bag- he’d already eaten all of it, even the moldy stuff.
His travel would have been faster on the road, but any time anyone approached he had to hide, so it was better to not be on the road to begin with. Perhaps not everyone was out to get him, but at least once he saw a group of Scoubar soldiers marching along the road to the west. He passed around a few towns on the way, unsure if people would be looking for him. If the soldiers had already been there… they might. Douglas didn’t understand people all that well, except that they acted irrationally… and thus they might turn him in even without a good reason.
Now, however, as he approached a middling sized town- maybe even worthy of being called a city- he had to enter. He had no food, and wouldn’t make it another day walking without. He had to stop in town and what… beg? He’d seen beggars in town, skinny and wretched… he’d almost rather die than be like them. But he might die…
He shook his head. He had a way to make money. He approached a building with a sign- a needle and thread. A seamstress. They should have plenty broken needles. He stepped inside, gesturing to an older woman there. She took one look at him, “We don’t give handouts. Get out!” He gestured some more, writing on his slate, but the old woman shouted, “Out! Before I call the guards!”
Douglas scampered out of the store. Guards weren’t necessarily bad, but if the soldiers from Scoubar had gotten to them… maybe they didn’t care about him anymore, but if they happened to find him he was sure they would cut out his tongue and he would then die, like his father. He pushed away the image of him lying on the ground in a puddle of blood. He hadn’t even been able to bear looking at it as he left. He deserved a proper burial but… Douglas couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do anything.
Before he went into the blacksmith, he prepared his slate with a sentence. He held it up and pointed to it as the smith, a bulky man with a soot covered face turned to look at him. “What do you want, kid?” The man’s voice was gruff, but not exactly unfriendly. Douglas pointed again at his slate. The smith shook his head, “I can’t read, kid. Say somethin’.” The smith stopped hammering on his current target, and Douglas pointed to his mouth and shrugged. “Can’t talk?” the smith shook his head. Douglas nodded, then gestured with his hands. He made a motion as if to snap something, the held the ‘parts’ back together, pointing to himself. “What, you want to be an apprentice? Don’t need one. ‘Specially not as skinny as you, kid.”
Douglas sighed as much as he was able, then turned to leave. He might be able to find something broken if the smith let him poke and prod around the shop, but he couldn’t fix it without showing he could do magic… and even if he managed to do that, without the promise of getting paid it wasn’t worth it. He wouldn’t be able to do much magic as tired and hungry as he was.
He tried a couple more places, finding more people who couldn’t read or immediately kicked him out for looking like a beggar, before he finally stumbled upon a tinker’s. The various knicknacks on the sign wouldn’t have told him it was a tinker’s- but the sign did say ‘tinker’s’. That was encouraging, at least. Douglas went inside and saw a skinny old man sitting at a desk. He was looking closely at something held in his hands, and on his face were pieces of glass rimmed in metal. Spectacles? Douglas had never seen them, but he’d heard of them. He walked right up to the desk, not loudly… but not quietly either. However, the man didn’t raise his head as the door opened or as it slammed closed. Douglas watched as the man used some tools in his hand to carefully place pieces of… something. Gears? They were like the designs he had seen in some books. They were placed in a small thing. For half an hour, Douglas watched until the tinker finished putting together the thing he was working on, before setting down his tools and leaning back with a sigh. Then he started, seeing Douglas. “Oh! Young man, I didn’t hear you come in.” Douglas shrugged. That much was obvious.
He held up his sign, “Do you have anything hard to fix? I can fix it for cheap.”
The old man squinted, “Hmm? Oh yes, I can fix just about anything… my prices aren’t too bad, though I wouldn’t say they were cheap.” Douglas shook his head, pointing at the slate and holding it closer. “Ohh! You want to be an apprentice? We might be able to arrange something like that, if you’re any good.”
Douglas hesitated for a second, then shook his head. He wiped off the chalk with his sleeve and wrote a new sentence. “I can’t stay in town long. I can fix a few things that seem impossible… just need a few coins.”
“Oh yeah?” The tinker raised an eyebrow, then turned around to a cabinet behind him, digging through the drawers until he pulled something out. “What about glass? I can give you five silver if you fix this… but it has to be good, mind you.”
On the table was a lens- or rather, two halves of a lens. Douglas reached out, watching the old man for his reaction, then picked them up gingerly. He held them next to each other, seeing that they nearly perfectly meshed with each other… but only nearly. “Need all the pieces.” Douglas only had so much chalk, so he skimped on the words somewhat.
“Oh, of course…” The man turned around, pulling out a tiny box with a few tiny fragments of glass. “Those should be the ones. So, can you do it?”
Looking everything over, Douglas supposed it would take several uses of his repair spell… but he could do it. For five silver, it would be worth it. He’d passed by some food stalls and heard the prices. He could probably survive a week or more on that much money. Douglas nodded, then picked up all the pieces and turned to leave.
“Now hold on there son. Even if it’s broken, those are still worth something. I need you to leave them here.”
“No tools.” Douglas placed the stuff back on the desk and wrote on his sign.
“I got some tools here… or if you need some of your own, you can bring em here. I even have a mini-forge, but that’s like to ruin the shape of the lens so I didn’t try it.” The old man looked down at Douglas. “You look confident though… look, if you’re worried about me stealing some technique from you… you weren’t planning to stay in town long, right?”
The old man looked like he could blow over in a slight wind, or snap his arms at the slightest touch. On the other hand, Douglas was hungry and tired… but could probably still overpower him if he did something. He’d already spent all day looking for someone he could communicate with. He had to try. Douglas nodded and moved over to a corner, looking over his shoulder to see if the old tinker would let him do that. “Sure, you can hide your technique if you want. Just don’t leave with that lens, alright?” Douglas nodded, then turned around to do some magic.