I look over the various shoes. Some are new, while others have barely noticeable patches. The materials each one is made from varies between leather and fabric. I'm a bit surprised to see the paper tags on them are written using Arabic numerals, with a little rune next to the number to denote how many iron or copper or silver they cost. All told it reminds me more of a small shoe store in a mall back home than anything I expected to see in a magical fantasy world. I mean, there's even a few stools with mirrors attached that people can sit on as they try out footwear.
There's nothing on the shelves that costs a gold so I wonder if this shop will even have change for anything that large or if we should just use our smaller coinage. I don't look forward to getting more change since I'm almost at my limit regarding the weight I can carry. My back is a little tight and my legs a bit sore. Nikola should have some smaller coins from buying the water skin since I gave him several gold before we started looking around the market. Maybe he can cover the cost of his own shoes? He breaks from staring at the glowing crystal light and looks around the room quickly from where he stands.
"Sadly, none of these will fit me," Nikola says before approaching the counter and finding a small brass hand bell, attached to the counter with a chain, that he picks up and rings. "Excuse me?"
This kind of shoe shop is probably closer to something Nikola is used to given that he's from the 1800s, so I let him take the lead while I look at a pair of leather boots. It takes me a moment to remember the letter I'm seeing on the tag is the rune for the letter E, or 'ehwaz', and not a capital M. Next to the E is a name, "Traveler," that I am guessing is the model. My current boots aren't in great shape, and I'm not sure how much more they can take, but they are probably more comfortable than these would be given I am carrying a heavy bag.
"How can I assist you?" The shopkeeper asks as they come into the front of the store. They look about my age, which would make them younger than Nikola, but they do have long pointed ears and long beautiful hair that its purple at the roots and emerald green at the tips that stands out against their light skin. Their eyes are hetero-chromatic, the left green and the right purple. I wonder if Elves age more slowly than Humans? Would they be classified as cryptids here?
"Yes, well, I would like to inquire about purchasing some new footwear," Nikola explains. "You see, my feet are-"
"Finally!" The shoemaker breathes as they practically jump the counter, narrowly missing Nikola, and proceed to crouch down at my feet. I'm surprised to see they're wearing pants and a tunic made of heavier fabric with dust and leather shavings on them. I don't know why I'm surprised, they are a cobbler, so it makes sense they'd have work clothing.
"These shoes," the shoemaker says which draws me back to the present. "I have not seen anything like them in years."
"In...wait," I look down. "You've seen...hiking boots like these before?"
"Yes, about five years ago," they say. "I saw a pair that a mercenary had. She had acquired them from another mercenary who had gotten them from a Kinglet Harpy."
Nikola and I exchange glances.
We're not the first people to be brought here.
"The soles were made of the most amazing material," the shoemaker says. "Soft and pliable but with no touches of magic. I have been working ever since to try to replicate that texture. What I wouldn't give to own these so I can properly study them."
Nikola raises an eyebrow as he looks at me. I look down at the cobbler and weigh whether I want to trade my shoes in. I have had them for several years and some of the fake leather is starting to crack and flake but the soles are in good shape. Still, it couldn't hurt to blend in a bit more. At the moment Merlin and I stand out like sore thumbs.
"Maybe we can work a deal," I say.
"Yes, absolutely! How many shoes would you like? Two pairs?" The elf asks as they stand up looking quickly between myself and Nikola. "Three? Seven? Any number! I absolutely will not sleep tonight if I let these escape me like the last set."
"Mind if I set my bag down?" I ask.
"Absolutely, anything. You can even sleep in my shop if you need to stay somewhere," they say. "I have quarters upstairs. I'll sleep down here."
Nikola purses his lips and blinks awkwardly.
I step over near the counter and set my backpack down before stretching a bit. The cobbler watches me expectantly as I cross one leg over the other and lean against the counter.
"First, we need some information about your merchandise. Do you have anything that will fit my friend here?"
"Absolutely! I have some enchanted adjustable boots, shoes, and sandals in all styles on the walls that will fit anyone, be them Human or Cryptid, tall or small," they say. "But if that is not to your liking I can make you each a custom pair that will be ready by this time tomorrow."
"Enchanted?" Nikola asks.
"Yes," the cobbler looks at him then back to me. "I see you are both from another world, yes? That's where you procured your unique footwear? I have read tales of other worlds where there is no magic present. Stories of people from Heimur being transported to a place called 'Yeurth' where magic is but a myth."
"We are from E-"
I interrupt Nikola, "How did the stories get back here if someone was transported to another world?"
The cobbler shrugs. "I'm not sure. I assume whoever visited Yeurth found a way back home."
If that story is true there's a way to get home.
"We are certainly interested in trading my boots," I say firmly. "The problem is neither of us can use magic, so we don't know if enchanted items will even work for either of us."
The cobbler's eyes light up. They nod. "I see! That is a well thought out concern and also something we can quickly test, if you don't mind trying on a pair?"
"Okay, I'll try on a pair," I say. "What...kind of enchantments are on these?"
The cobbler grins and pulls a pair of boots from the rack and presents them to me. They look normal enough, dark leather boots that should come up to my calf, although the portion where my foot should go seems a bit small even for me.
"I don't think those will fit," I say.
"Oh but they will, they would even fit your companion."
I look over at Nikola who shrugs while silently mouthing the word, "Magic?"
"Let's see if we can use magic items, then. If they work it'll open a whole new world of things we could do to defend ourselves should we need to do that."
I sit on one of the stools and untie my boots. The cobbler is almost drooling to get their hands on them. I take the leather boots and brace myself for a stuck foot as I move to attempt to slip one on my foot. To my surprise it goes on without a problem, magically it's the correct size. Nikola's jaw drops.
"Wow," I say. "It worked." I look at the second boot in my hand, it still looks too small.
"Of course, the enchantments on them are simple and varies sizes. I'm not too shabby at my job," the cobbler boasts. "Try on the second boot, please. See if they are comfortable?"
I nod and slip the other boot on my left foot, it too fits without a problem. I stand up and take a few steps around the shop and discover the boots are way more comfortable than my old ones.
"Wow," I say in wonder. "These are great. And these are the cheap ones from the rack?"
"Well, truth be told, these were a custom order that a client failed to pick up. I've held on to them fore over a year and finally put them out on discount," the cobbler says, ears low. "They've got three other enchantments besides the sizing of the boots."
"Like how comfortable they are? It's like my feet are in clouds."
"That is one of them," the elf says. "I suppose I should tell you before you leave with them that if you click your heals together three times there's a spell that will affect your body."
"My body?" I ask. "How?"
We need to know if magic can affect us directly or not.
"Yes, well, it's a temporary boost spell that increases one's strength for a limited time," the elf explains.
I click my heels together three times and feel a rush of energy flow from the boots through my body. It doesn't feel bad, however, but does feel strange and powerful. After a moment I feel normal.
"Are you alright, Rhys?" Nikola asks.
I nod. "I think so. I just felt weird."
"It should be working," the shoemaker says. "I will get something heavy for you to lift."
"I have something heavy," I say before reaching for my backpack and lifting it like it doesn't weigh thirty five pounds. "What the f-"
"Amazing," Nikola interrupts. "You have so many things in that bag and yet you lifted it far easier than before."
"Yeah," I stare at the bag. It only feels like it weighs five pounds or so. "How long does this boost last and what other enchantments do these boots have?"
The cobbler's ears perk up and they go into full salesperson mode. "Yes, well these particular boots have the strength boost, pillow soft interior, size adjustment, and are armored. If a sword were to strike your foot you would not receive as severe an injury as if you were wearing non-enchanted footwear."
"Does that protection extend to the rest of me?"
"You didn't mention how long this strength thing lasts," I say as I set my bag down.
"Oh, yes, sorry. That effect lasts only ten hours at a time before it needs to recharge. The way I wrote the spell it doesn't impact the wearer negatively. The size adjustment and pillow soft interior are static as is the armor enchantment. Meaning they never need to be recharged."
"Anything else with these boots I need to know about?"
"No that is it. Are you considering them?"
"I'll take them," I reply. I smirk at Nikola. "Let's get you some new boots too, Nikola."
"Excellent!" The cobbler says as they clap of their hands.
"We will also need to get a pair for a friend later," I say. "Would that be okay? My old boots aren't even magic in any way. We can pay for these as well."
"I couldn't ask you to pay," they say.
I know not to try to press further. They've already declined taking payment beyond my old boots twice. Any more and I would be annoying offering to pay.
"Thank you so much, uh," I have no idea what their name is. "Sorry, my name is Rhys and my pronouns are she and her."
"Ah, yes. My name is Cameron Amethyst. My pronouns are they and them. I am surprised people from another world would ask," the cobbler, Cameron, says.
"It appears to be the custom," Nikola says. "I am Nikola, and my pronouns are he and him. It is a pleasure to meet you."
"I'm more surprised your name isn't something like 'Fresh Scent' or 'Same Great Taste,'" I admit.
Cameron shakes their head. "Well, I'm not originally from Centrum. The people here have some...unique names."
"That's just a thing in this city?"
"Other parts of Regno as well," Cameron says. "But that is not important." They clap again with a smile. "Let's get you some new footwear, shall we?"
Suddenly a loud roaring voice outside the shop gets my attention. The window panes sound like they're rattling a little from the intensity of the sound.
"No, I said I won't be going with you. What don't you understand?!"
I lean over to look out the front window. The glass distorts the view a bit but I can see the large golden and red dragon person from the Cryptid tavern outside surrounded by several armored Cryptids. Two large wolf people, some kind of bird person in pretty blue and white robes with a pristine white staff, and a deer centaur looking person who has a bow and arrow. The long swords that sit in dark colored sheaths at the dragon person's back look like they could easily cut the four people who surround them in half. The dragon person's thick gold tail reminds me of a crocodile, but with bright red ridges along the back.
Everyone has weapons but none of them are drawn.
"Adventurers," Cameron says. "The client who didn't pick up those boots was an adventurer. There's not much call for them around Centrum to be honest but they do occasionally come to the capital for supplies, equipment, or for security jobs. You aren't planning to get in that line of work, are you? It's quite dangerous."
I shake my head. "Not if we can avoid it," I say. "It's good to know we can use magic items, though. Should help keep us safer when we're out doing day to day things and whatnot."
Cameron nods silently as the dragon person continues their disagreement with the group outside. Their voice is gravelly and deep yet now sounds as if they're trying to hold back and not be too loud. I suppose even giant dragon warriors wouldn't want to make a scene in the middle of a street. It's not really working, of course.
"No. Look. You hired me for that job and it's done. You got your money, I got mine. I'm doing a different job now, so get lost."
"What's this job you're working?"
"Yeah, we want in!"
"It's not that kind of job," the dragon person booms. "I'm doing it pro bono publica."
The taller wolf person scoffs. "You're doing a job for free?"
"Yes, you wouldn't understand," the dragon person replies while turning around and looking right at me. We make eye contact just before they throw their hands up in the air which makes the ring of smaller Cryptids around them back up. "Now get out of my way and leave me alone."
I watch as the dragon person storms off and notice they have two more swords in sheaths strapped to their belt on either side of their waist. The adventure Cryptids linger for a moment talking quietly between themselves with heads hung low before leaving.
"What was that about?" I ask.
Cameron shrugs. "It happens sometimes. Groups have disagreements with one another and people leave." They grin at Nikola. "Now, let's get back to the task at hand, my new friends! Footwear!"
Nikola describes the type of boots he'd like and Cameron nods and offers up types of enchantments they can put on them as well. I don't really hear any of it because I can't shake the look the dragon person had in their gold eyes.
It's like they were looking for me specifically, I think to myself.