Taryon Darrington stood out, as he often did, in the bustling market square. He wore his armor, despite the lack of danger that Emon faced these days. There was also the massive metal man that followed him everywhere.
"Doty, take this down," the artificer said. The automaton lifted it's quill and loomed forward, listening, "There was only a week left until the Lady Cassandra's birthday, but I was determined to find the perfect gift, something unusual, something exotic..."
Before he could finish the thought, he felt someone tap lightly on the shiny metal vambrace that covered his forearm, "If it's an exotic gift that you want, my Master has just the thing." Tary turned to see a bespectacled Half-Elf, who was dressed in simple robes of a pale purple, with a slender silver circlet about her throat.
The young woman was dressed in a simple robe of a light purple color and wore a slender circlet of unbroken silver about her throat. Tary recognized the mark of a slave, and nodded, "What, praytell, does your Master offer?"
The Half-Elf bowed politely, and kept her eyes lowered as she spoke, "Thank you for hearing me, my lord. My Master sells the finest slaves between the Ozmit Sea and the Lucidian Ocean. You'll not find the like anywhere else in Emon or all of Tal'Dorei."
The alchemist lightly stroked his beard in thought, "A slave might suit young Cassandra very well. They're none too common in Whitestone. Very well, take me to your Master. Doty, we'll pick up the tale later."
The trio made their way to the edge of the marketplace to a shop with a sign bearing a unicorn and the name 'Gilmore's Glorious Goods' in large purple letters.
The slave opened the door and ushered the others inside. There was an open space, flanked by shelves. A large counter took up most of the wall opposite. Tary's attention was caught by the beaded curtain, or more accurately, by the man who stepped through it.
"Ahh, Sherri, you've brought customers. Excellent, excellent. You may call me Gilmore and I am happy to be of service. And just what might you be in the market for, my good man?" He was Human, with a dark, smooth complexion, flowing black hair and a well-groomed goatee. He dressed in purple, and his neck and fingers were adorned with gold.
The artificer smiled broadly, "Yes indeed. Straight to business. Your girl said that you were the purveyor of the finest slaves in the region. I am seeking a gift for a young noblewoman for her birthday. Something exotic and unique."
Gilmore bowed, "She has not steered you wrong. I am Emon's only dealer in bindmarked slaves. I apply the marks myself, you see. You are familiar with the slavebond, are you not?"
Tary pursed his lips, "My family owns a number of slaves, though I am served most faithfully by Doty, my own creation. I have, of course, heard of the mark and the bond, but I thought those were just rumors and legends."
Gilmore smiled, "Ahh, most slaves are just as you're used to. People who have, through birth or circumstance found themselves up for sale and existing as servants, for the most part. But I, and a few other particularly gifted Arcanists, have the ability to place a bindmark on a slave."
The purple-clad mage continued, "If a Master touches a bindmark and is able to form a bond with the slave, then that slave is his or hers forever. They would be incapable of defying their master. In fact their obedience is immediate, to any command, no matter what. However, the slavebond rarely forms. It's been likened to true love."
The artificer smiled, "Still, there is a thrill in knowing that it could happen. I take it you have marked slaves available for purchase? I would like to see your selection."
Gilmore frowned, "I had several, but recently sold most of them to a group of buyers from... Well, I do pride myself on my discretion, so I shall speak no more of that. To the matter at hand, I'm afraid I only have one marked slave at the moment. In waiting on a shipment of supplies to resume the process. If you would care to return in a week or two?"
Frowning himself, Tary shook his head, "That won't do. Cassandra's birthday is in a week. I am leaving by airship tomorrow. I'll have to take the one you have."
Gilmore nodded slowly, "I understand your dilemma." He gestured to Sherri, "Bring in the Ashari." The girl left the room through the curtain and the mage spoke again, "She's a fragile, broken thing. When the Ashari were scattered by the Dragons decades ago, she was one of the survivors. Bought and sold a dozen times. I acquired her in a game of cards. You should know that she's been abused, and hasn't had much training. I was hoping that the mark would give her some confidence. But..."
Sherri returned, followed by a scrawny, bedraggled-looking wisp of a Half-Elf with long red hair. She was dressed in a simple dress of brown homespun and the slender silver ring that marked her station. Tary also couldn't help but notice the swirling, shifting black mark upon the girl's right shoulder. It resembled a constantly-moving tattoo and could only be the bindmark.
Tary nodded, "I see. And this is all you have for now?" The Half-Elf kept her eyes downcast, wringing her hands together behind her back.
Gilmore nodded, "For a week or two. She's quite compliant, however, and will do as she's told. I can make you quite a deal for her. If you'll just come with me, I'll draw up the paperwork." The two moved off to the side to conclude their business.
Just like that, the Half-Elf thought, I have a new Master. She took a deep breath, and blinked back tears. Maybe this time would be different.