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Phoebe Webster

Business Proposition

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New Year's Day 2016 – 9 AM


Calloused fingers swept tussled curls back from a forehead baring the faint creases of an ingrained frown. It was a perpetual expression and one that the woman probably didn't realize she wore. Not quite a full blown bitch face, but an air of heavy solemnity, as if constantly brooding on some weighty problem. Sharp, blue-green eyes rose periodically from preoccupation with navigating her path between puddles that spotted the crumbling sidewalk, and made quick passes ahead and in her periphery. It didn't hold the twitch of paranoia, but rather a routine comfort of old habit.


The streets in this area seemed fairly abandoned as she made her way slowly towards the harbor district. On a Holiday such as today most of the locals were busy either enjoying a nice sleep in on their day off, or further depleting their bank accounts in post-Christmas spending. Not many felt like braving the rain for a wet trudge down to the docks with nothing but a wetter breeze to greet their efforts. Gray sky hung low with waterlogged clouds, and the water rippled in murky currents around the pilings. A few boats tugged at their moorings, but for the most part no one crossed paths with the ex-con turned ARMA whose fixated gaze now rested on the small shop ahead.


She was only about two blocks away when the sky decided it had played nice for long enough. Clouds opened and began dumping their forewarned contents down on the streets below. Phoebe groaned and tugged her collar up higher, her pace lengthening into a swift lope as she beelined for the cover of her destination. Despite the faster pace, Mother Nature seemed to be winning as the thick curtains of drenching rain quickly soaked through her outer layers and plastered curls into ribbons against her cheeks.




The first utterance she’d made since leaving her apartment as the door of the shop stuck on the first try, leaving her standing precious seconds longer in the downpour. Her first wrenched at the handle once more, assisted by the swift kick of a booted foot that sent the door shivering inward on its hinges with a raucous clatter of bells and squeal of swollen wood scraping. She shut it firmly behind her, the muted noise of rain a background rhythm as she stood dripping in the entryway.


A forest of metal tools and weaponry sprouted from the walls around her, gleaming and reflecting back her bedraggled image. 


“That’s attractive,” was a muttered intonation beneath her breath as she peered into a burnished shield long enough to sweep the worst of her saturated hair from her face. Only her own image was readily apparent, however, even as she stepped further into the shop and glanced about for its owner. She might have spent more effort on locating him if there wasn’t such a plethora of distraction. Iron and steel and numerous other more refined metals stared back at her; for a moment she shuddered at the sense of being hemmed in by substances that eluded her control. It was always unsettling to enter a building and feel her natural power ebb, more so when that building was a veritable cage of unresponsive materials.


The clang of metallic implements colliding jolted Phoebe from her uneasiness. She was here for a purpose, and she might as well complete that business with alacrity, the sooner to get out of here.


“Hello? Anyone here?” Her steps closed on the direction the sounds emanated from, but not too quickly, there was no need to go startling anyone…particularly if this was the person she had been given intel on.

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Metal pinged onto the ground as Johann punched out the center of an inch thick sheet of steel with his clawed fist. The newly punched circle would become a buckler when he was finished. For now, single claws, cloaked in flame poked through to make holes for rivets.


Towenaar would be in later. The apprentice had stayed late to close up last night, so he was allowed some freedom to his mornings. Johann kept working the metal for a while, looking up at the security camera every minute or so. There was someone in the shop, and he muttered under his breath briefly.


Cabling smoothed, sootlike color faded, and appendages shrunk to human size as Johann set the metal disk aside and stepped out of the back room, smile on his face. [Johann]Hello! Welcome to the shop.[/Johann]


He'd pause for a moment. [Johann]Looking for anything in particular, or just browsing?[/Johann] The inquisitive dragonian's reputation was for being a bit standoffish, and he was trying to fix that. It was just so hard when people were stupid.


"What do you mean you can't make a katana that cuts anything? They're the greatest swords ever!" Ugh. Why did everyone want swords anyway? They had guns, and armor was probably more useful than offensive items.


Johann shook himself free of that mental path to bitchsmacking people. [Johann] Most of those pieces are pretty standard. Good steel, reinforced against penetration by boiled leather, and immune to the elements by magic. Swords are pretty much the same. Best steel on the market, some magical infusions, the works. Anyway, what diD you... oh, apologies. I always forget to introduce myself. I'm Johann, the owner.[/Johann]


He was rambling. He liked rambling. It was easier than thinking about being professional. Hand extended to shake hers, barely noticing that she was sopping wet from the rain outside.

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Her palm was moist and uncomfortable, not the sort of first impression that Phoebe liked to give, but wiping it against any part of her was not like to make much difference as her saturated clothing stuck to wetter skin. She extended it nonetheless, unwilling to appear rude by ignoring the gesture. She grasped his in a quick, firm shake.


Johann’s own grip seemed equally firm, good, she hated a limp hold. His skin was surprisingly warm. Not that she had met any dragons before, but somehow she anticipated something cooler and more reptilian.


He was also a lot shorter than her preconceived notions of the race. His gaze was level with her own. Not an unusually short stature for a human, but she’d really expected a dragon to tower over her a bit, especially one that was also a blacksmith.


“Phoebe.” The introduction automatic in response to his own, though she continued to subtly assess him, cataloguing his movements and intonations with a pre-programmed methodology.


“And both, to answer your first question. I was interested to see your work, and I am also looking for something specific.” Her gaze broke from the shop owner to briefly skim the pieces pointed out and then return back again to him, dismissing them after the initial appraisal. Metal weapons and armory were of no interest to her; they would only serve as a hindrance to her abilities. No, she had come here for something more specific.


Rolling up her sleeves helped ease some of the rainwater run off so that it didn’t continue to stream along her wrists, she wished there was something more to be done for the predicament as her wet clothes were beginning to grow cold. Instead she eyed a particularly keenly edged dirk, allowing admiration to show on her face. Every artist enjoys appreciation; it never hurt to thicken it a bit. “The quality of your work is exceptional, if I ever needed a weapon I’m sure that I could do no better. A past customer of yours recommended me here, actually more than one. You’ve done some work for ARMA before. However, I’m not here in any official capacity, looking to place a personal order.”


Rain continued to beat softly against the windows and roof of the building, somnolent and rhythmic.


“I’m looking for something more compact, a charm of sorts. Do you ever take on smaller jobs like this?”

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Johann shook the wet hand and subconsciously wiped his own against the dryness of his pants. [Johann] Ah! My apologies. I can be oblivious sometimes. [/Johann] The blacksmith offered a medium sized towel-somewhere between a hand towel and a floor mat-from behind the counter and returned to the shop floor.


She explained the purpose of her visit, eliciting a nod and a smile. ARMA were good folks, and usually they were pretty capable enchanters even without his help.


He anticipated something to do with weaponry, but held his tongue, pleasantly surprised by the woman's next utterance.


A charm was unusual but not unheard of. [Johann] My shop is not set up for intricate metalwork on the small scale. In general, I don't do anything smaller than a set of bracers or greaves if it needs to be imbued with mana.[/Johann]


Soft steps carried him to a case opposite the one Phoebe had been observing with the dirk. He fished out a pair of three inch long bracers.


[Johann]These are about average for most work. I've done smaller, but that takes time, and usually a specific inscription my apprentice ends up developing for the purpose. In other words, you don't want it getting mucked up or the inscription gets weakened or invalidated, and then your charm is useless.[/Johann]


The dragonian's smile was slight. His shop had expanded its capacities so much with the acquisition of Towen's powers. [Johann]So, what do you need the charm to do, anyway?[/Johann]

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The towel dropped into her hands, blessedly dry despite its cheap, nappy texture. Phoebe immediately stripped off her coat, setting it out of the way so that she could scrub the cloth over her face and arms before doing her best to ruffle some of the excessive moisture from her hair. There was really not much success she would have on that last front as her curls tended to just go frizzy after this level of water exposure. She satisfied herself with at least stopping the uncomfortable dripping and then tucking her hair up into an elastic to try and keep it at bay. Some shorter halo of mussed curls did frizz out a bit around her face, but that wasn’t to be helped.


The worst of the rain’s damage dealt with, she rolled the towel into a ball in her hands and tossed it atop her wet coat before turning back to Johann’s attention. He had drawn a smallish pair of bracers from within a cabinet, and she reached out, lifting one from his grasp to examine it. In truth it was fairly narrow, not too far off a larger cuff. She could probably get away with wearing this and not raising too many eyebrows beyond a thought to her eccentric style. Her thumb rubbed across metal surface of its plating, a slight grimace of distaste sparked along her skin. Why did she really have to deal in metal? The boiled leather it affixed to wasn’t entirely uncomfortable however, as the woman slid her hand through the lacing and experimentally cinched it closed around her wrist.


“I would have preferred something smaller, a bit more discrete, but this isn’t entirely unworkable. I’m a bit averse to metal in all honesty, it doesn’t…’rub’ me the right way, but these are surprisingly comfortable.” Her brows tugged down as she studied the fit and twisted her arm this way and that. Hopefully her assessment hadn’t come across as rude or insulting of the man’s craft. It was rarely advisable to pick a fight with someone you wanted something from.


The bracer still encasing her forearm, the woman dug into a pocket and withdrew her hand, reaching out to lay a small crystal on the countertop. The clear gem was only two to three carats in size and roughly formed with little care seeming to have been taken in cutting it. The crude cabochon clicked against the glass as she spun it with a finger.


“This looks a lot like diamond, but it’s actually Lonsdaleite, a graphite cousin. This particular substance is far harder than diamond and also very difficult to obtain. I’ve been looking for more of it, but it is only created when a meteor strikes the earth with exactly enough heat and force. Not only that, but the mineral collections are miniscule and almost impossible to locate with the naked eye. Fortunately…I have some talent that becomes useful in collecting and consolidating the smaller crystals.”


She needed him to understand so that he could craft exactly what was required, still it felt disturbing to be so lightly revealing her abilities to a stranger. Even some within ARMA didn’t know what she was capable of, and most knew only from her file without having ever witnessed their use.


Phoebe spread her palm open above the countertop, hovering over the inert mineral. The little gem quivered and then rose, hovering just an inch beneath her outstretched hand. She flipped her palm over, levitating the stone above it and letting it spin swiftly in place before it seemingly shattered apart into glittering dust that floated in a sparkling mote of fragments. She admired the pretty, shimmering cloud, making it swirl and writhe before it melted back together into a single stone once more.


“I am sure you have seen some unusual abilities and individuals. My talent is in geokinetics. However, when the material I am focused on is impure—as an impact created substance is likely to be—and so finely distributed over a wide area, it can be extremely difficult to differentiate from the surrounding substrate. I need something to focus and channel my power towards this specific substance.


Do you think you can accomplish that?”

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Johann nodded attentively as the woman talked. She wanted something smaller, or less metallic. Then why the bloody hell was she sitting in a blacksmith's shop? There were pixies and fae throughout the city who could make a charm far more fitting for the collection of this carbon dust the woman seemed to care so much about. He approached the crystal she'd created to demonstrate her powers and took it into his hand, looking it over. [johann] You might want to take a step back [/johann]


The dragonian set the crystal down on one of the many black microfiber cloths he kept on the counter for displaying his handiwork and began to transform into his hybrid form. It was honestly pretty pathetic as far as dragons went... No exploding out the roof of the building, or wings smashing through the walls. None of that; just an oddly humanoid creature with clawed appendages. [johann]Sorry if that freaked you a little. My eyes can assess the molecular structure of a substance, but only in this form. [/johann] 


Crystal was grasped between thumb and forefinger claw, brought closer to the golden orb of the dragon's eye, and carefully scrutinized. Johann was silent. She'd certainly brought him a tough one. A few minutes passed. [johann] It's just carbon. Odd molecular assembly, but it's still just carbon. Is there a particular property you abuse in your magic? [/johann] The crystal was replaced on the cloth and he stepped away, staying in this form... it was exhausting to switch back and forth too often, and he wanted to see the flow of mana more clearly when she manipulated the stone.

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