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One o’ my favorite things to do in Markshire, is shop! Yup, shoppin’! Fer clothes, mainly.I really likes shoppin’ fer clothes!

There ain’t no stores back in my old village where you can buy nice garments. Oh, we have a tailor o’ sorts who’ll sew up a simple outfit for you if you hand him a coin or two. Nothin’ fancy, mind you. Barely more than a big cloak with a hole cut into the middle so’s you can poke yer head up through and two smaller holes fer your arms. Mayhap three smaller holes if you happen to have three arms, although I ain’t never seen nobody what has three arms.

And he’ll include a piece o’ rope so’s yuh can snug up the whole business ‘round yer waist. He’ll waterproof ‘em too. Yup! Ain’t one drop o’ rain ever gonna find it’s way inside o’ one o’ those cloaks he makes, but whatever the hel he rubs into them garments to make them water tight, also makes ‘em smell somethin’ awful!

I’m thinkin’ it might be animal fat or somethin’ close to that. He only has one choice o’ material and it’s all the same color! Brown! Now I ain’t got the slightest idea where he gets this cloth, but he has yards and yards o’ this stuff layin’ ‘round his shop! Well . . . you guessed it! Everyone in my village is walkin’ around wearin’ one o’ them stinky garments and from a distance, with everyone clad in brown, it’s hard to tell folks apart from one another!

Yup! The whole village reeks from them damn cloaks and it looks like its filled up full o’ a bunch of foul smellin’ monks what escaped from a monastery or somethin’! When a stranger visits our little hamlet and sees all those people strollin’ ‘round in those garments I’d be willin’ to bet they’re thinkin’ the same thing!

When they gets a little closer and that atrocious odor o’ all them cloaks begins to offend their nose, for sure they turn right around and start headin’ back the way they came! I ain’t lyin! I’m tellin’ yuh the truth! We don’t get too many visitors comin’ into our little village ‘cause o’ those damn cloaks!

O’ course it would help some, if folks bathed more frequently, you know? But from where I come from, people only takes a bath once a year. Yup! Tradition they calls it! Come June, we’ll all hop into a tub or even a stream if the water ain’t too cold, scrubbin’ ourselves all over, even behind our ears, sometimes even usin’ a bit o’ soap if we happen to have any, and really doin’ a thorough job o’ it, not missin’ a thing! Well . . . a bath’s gotta last us for a whole year, you know?

Thing is, nobody seems to care ‘bout all o’ this one way or the other, and I ain’t cared either till the day I found a nice shop in Stonemark, smack in the middle o’ the Beroe District, a few doors down from Berrick’s Blacksmith shoppe, called “Anastasia’s Fine Apparel”.

Oh geez! What a charming store it is! A huge place, and she’s got mannaq . . . . uh, dummies propped up with sticks stuck into their backs to keep ‘em straight, and they’s just about everywhere you look! And she’s got the most beautiful fineries hangin’ off o’ them! Oh geez! Silks and satins, the finest linins, even wool what was sheared right off o’ Stone Giant’s backs!

She told me she boils the Stone Giant wool, stirrin’ it for hours in a big iron cook pot filled with spring water what she has sittin’ out behind her shop. When she decides it’s had enough cookin’ she’ll fish it out, let it air dry than she’ll comb out all the knots along with any dead bugs and stuff what might be still clingin’ to it. Then she’ll dye it up in a rainbow o’ different colors! She knits the nicest sweaters outta that wool! Those sweaters’ll keep you warm as toast too!

Yup! Stone Giant wool! It sure as hel keeps those giants warm! That’s why they can get away bein’ so scantily clad, wearin only those loin cloths while they’re runnin’ about in Thrym’s pass!

And her shoppe always smells so good! I ain’t sure, but I think she spritzes everything with perfume each mornin’ before she opens the doors!

Well, I’ll tell ya, I’m a lady o’ means now and I got enough gold saved up to buy just about any damn thing I’m wantin’ and over the last few months I did just that! I purchased every dress and gown Anastasia had fer sale in that shop o’ hers and I ain’t cared an inch ‘bout how much it cost me!

Anastasia told me I was one o’ her best customers, aside from that dippy lady Paladin, Aels-witch! Oh geez! Well, a girl’s gotta always look her best, you know? Now my magic box is so full o’ dresses and gowns, I can’t close it proper even when I sit on the lid and bounce around on top of it! I even popped one o’ the hinges the last time I tried to squeeze it shut!

Anyways, I wanted somethin’ special made, just for me. It had to be unique, not an “off the shelf” item. A one of a kind outfit what no one else had. So, after some hagglin’ back and forth with her ‘bout the cost, Anastasia agreed to design an outfit for me!

She asked me what my favorite colors was and I writ out a list a list o’ ‘em for her. Well . . . because I got a whole bunch o’ favorite colors, you know?

That settled, she gathered up all the material she’d be needin’ and took some measurements o’ different parts o’ me with a long string she pulled outta her pocket that looked just like the one Sun-Ok uses, what had little white markings all along the length o’ it.

Then she gave Kareena, her counter girl, a quick smile along with a little wink and the both o’ them set about snippin’ and sewin’, hemmin’ and hawin’, toilin’ away on my special new one o’ a kind clothing.

Well I’ll tell you, when I walked outta that fittin’ room sportin’ my new outfit, I felt like Cleo . . . uh, Cleopa . . . uh, that lady queen what lived ages ago far south o’ here by the banks o’ that big river!

Anastasia had crafted me a yellow, wide brimmed hat what was decorated with a dazzlin’ red ribbon and it had a huge pink feather stickin’ outta the back o’ it! My blouse was satin and the same color as my new hat! It was sleeveless too! To show off my arms, you know?

And she’d sewed up an elegant vest fer me what was a brilliant red, matchin’ the ribbon in my hat! The vest had a lovely weave o’ darker red throughout and was roomy enough so’s I was able to wear it over the new blouse. She’d sewn on fourteen little gray buttons, each one shaped like a tiny skull, in two rows runnin’ down the front o’ it.

She’d even crafted gloves for me from an old fishin’ net she found layin’ around somewhere and dyed it pink to go with the feather in my hat! The gloves stretched up far above my elbows, makin’ me look so dig . . . digna . . . uh, like very much a lady!

And oh geez, black trousers made up o’ her softest silk, what stopped at my knees, ending there with a little frilly band o’ material! She’d sewn really deep pockets on either side of ’em too, so’s I’d have a place to store all o’ my chewin’ tobacco! Black patent leather shoes and, ohh, how they sparkled so! You could even see your face in ’em! And Anastaisa dyed the tips a bright color pink, to go perfect with that feather! And to top it off, a fancy umbrella, a light grey color with an exquisite black design embroidered into the top o’ it! Waterproof o’ course!

I stood there outside the fittin’ room all gussied up in my new finery, fish net gloves and all, proud as a peacock, twrlin’ my new umbrella over my shoulder, givin’ Anastasia and her counter girl a chance to gaze a bit on their creation, you know? Well . . . they looked at me, than at each other . . . and than the both o’ them started roarin’ with laughter!!

Oh geez! What was so damn funny? Was they laughin’ at me for some reason? I hates it when folks is laughin’ at me! Especially if I ain’t told no joke or nothin’.

So . . . I quick reached fer my Falchion thinkin’ I’d lop off both their heads and swiftly put a stop to their jollity! But I’d put the damn weapon down, along with my pack, while I was changin’ into my new clothes! And . . .I’d forgotten exactly where I’d placed it! Well . . . I was excited ‘bout the new special clothes, you know?

Anastasia could easily see I was getting’ steamed and right quick stopped her laughin’, backed up a step and started wavin’ her arms at me!

“No, no Keli! It’s the buttons girl! We’ve . . . uh, um, enchanted the buttons on your new vest!”

She glanced at Kareena and I’m sure I seen her wink again.

“Yes! That’s it lass! Those . . . uh, buttons have a powerful magic in them!”

I noticed Karenna’s eyes openin’ up wider and wider as Anastasia went on.

“I’ve a mage who works for me part time! He comes in after four, stays an hour or two, and only comes in two days a week!” she said.

“He does the enchanting for me! I thought it would be a nice touch Keli! You know, happy buttons? They’ll bring good cheer and wipe the frown off any face that happens to gaze upon them! Some folks will double over in laughter even!”

Kareena now had both hands covering her mouth and with her eyes as wide as saucers, was staring intently at Anastasia. Her mistress realizing I’d misplaced my weapon and feeling a tad safer because of it had stepped a bit closer to me and she spoke again.

“Think girl! Why would you not want to spread a bit of happiness around this miserable god awful place? We certainly could use more happiness in Stonemark, and everywhere else, for that matter!”

Well . . . I thought ‘bout that fer a moment or two and I decided Anastasia was right. I mean, why not be puttin’ a grin or a big smile on everyones’ face what glanced at those buttons and I decided right then, not to be loppin’ off their heads.

Instead, I thanked the both o’ them for the fine work they done, paid Anastasia a full two handfuls more o’ gold than she’d asked for, gave Kareena a big smile and an even bigger tip, and off I went, into the night.

I wear’s this outfit often. Sometimes folks’ll laugh, sometimes they just stare, but I’m sure those buttons is bringin’ good cheer to all who gaze upon them!

I was wearin’ these very clothes a few days ago when I met Jon, Iathouz, and Celadur Ma’fer in that cave what connects the dwarf city with Thrym’s pass. T’was not too long after that, we run into a very brassy dragon! Oh geez! I must tell you ‘bout that encounter!

But wait! I’ve run outta ink again!

She grabs a ladle off the table and runs outside to the spittoon full of her tobacco juice ink which she keeps on the porch.