Clothing was the most immediate need, Roric decided. The well-stocked store had several shelves and racks of ready-made dresses, trousers, and shirts. Dresses didn’t seem practical for a long journey on horseback, so, using his hands to estimate Perarre’s height and the size of her hips and chest — his face growing warm as he did so — Roric consulted with the shopkeeper to choose some trousers and shirts for her as well as for himself. The trousers and one remaining shirt he had brought with him from the University, besides being nearly threadbare, didn’t fit quite right any more. The Uurikhani tended to be solidly muscular, and three weeks of chopping and hauling wood had had a noticable effect on Roric’s build.
To the pile of clothing on the counter he added a pair of leather-and-canvas packs that could be carried separately or fastened together and slung across a horse’s back, two large leather water flasks, a flint and steel for starting fires, a good knife, packages of hard flatbread, dried spiced meat, and dried fruit, and a pair of blankets. Roric briefly looked at a set of lightweight cooking gear, then decided not to get it. While Perarre, from growing up in an inn, might know how to cook on a stove, neither of them knew how to cook over a campfire, and, even if they did, he didn’t know how to hunt anything for them to cook. It was sheer dumb luck, he thought, not for the first time, that two people as helpless as they were had survived this long, and he had the feeling that their journey to escape from the Guards and discover the origins of the magica had barely begun.
The shopkeeper showed Roric a small medical kit, and he added it to the pile, along with a pair of heavy, sturdy boots for himself and another pair for Perarre. He stepped back, contemplating his purchases as he rubbed at the itchy beard that had overrun his face, then put a razor, cake of soap, small mirror, two small towels, and a comb with the other things.
If Perarre was going to be able to translate the journal, she would need paper, pencils, and a writing surface. At Roric’s request, the shopkeeper added a sheaf of blank paper, a handful of pencils, and a foot-square roofing shingle to the pile. Then Roric glanced around the store one more time to see if he had forgotten anything important, and wondered how he could possibly have enough money for the small mountain of items on the store counter. But after the shopkeeper added it all up, muttering over a long column of figures scratched on a piece of paper, and Roric paid the resulting sum, he had a generous handful of coins to spare. Elmond refused to take back the money, so after buying a couple of bedsheets for Elmond to replace the ones he had cut up for bandages, Roric tucked the pouch with the rest of his money into a small pocket in one of the new packs.
When Elmond finished with his own purchases, the woodcutter took a small axe, the length of Roric’s arm, from his own heap of supplies and put it with Roric’s things. “You’ll need an axe for firewood. This one’s small enough for travel, and the best blade in the store. My gift to you.” Before Roric could find words to thank him, Elmond winked. “In all honesty, my friend, you’re going to need all the help you can get.”