Luda owns a shop in Khan Gorai, in a dusty cubby behind a sandstone facade. The sign out front reads Castoff Curiosities. The displays within hold a scant handful of disparate artifacts — a map of western Anakhatha, the skull of a goat, a bowl of rare Keter Salts from across the desert, a pair of ivory dice.
Often entire days will pass without any customers, but Luda doesn’t mind; Castoff Curiosities is a front, a sideline. Her real business is even more rarified than the few odds and ends on the sales shelves. Luda deals in the arcane. Most of the goods on her shelves are curios traded to her in exchange for her ability to create the sort of spell that helps to find hidden things.
The map, for example, was payment for a scroll of location, built to point the way to the nearest Mortality Gate to the caster; the pile of Crowns Rock silvers in her coffer, remuneration for an identification performed on an earring recovered from a wreck on the Blackwell shoals. That one had been an interesting case, in that the finder had been unaware of the taint of Haedra upon the jewel and had been enjoying the ability to breathe underwater for some time before coming to Luda. Her client had been suitably chagrined, but Luda had made him a good trade for it in a cloak imbued with warmth in Animae’s name. The earring was worth far more, but those who would willingly invest in Haedra’s might were a bit fewer and farther between than those who revere the Allmother. Still, Luda’s network was wide, and she’d been well compensated when the earring finally found a serious buyer.
Some other mages specialize in the application or removal of certain spell-effects, the kind of thing some people might call curses or blessings. Others toil at imbuing items with magical qualities, like the cloak of warmth or the earring, or creating amulets or talismans. Luda is a diviner, though, so most of what she does is related to finding things, or finding things out. She has cards, with which she can do readings, and an assortment of Symbols that can be combined in spellcraft to create many variant spells. Some of these Symbols Luda has found and gathered herself, others were haggled for at precious cost from other Symbologists. Trade in these Symbols is an economy in itself, and though the strength and rarity of each play a part in its relative value, so also does the origin. Luda has been known to work with the Outer Powers from time to time and most of her Symbols are derived from their domain, but she wouldn’t employ a Symbol of Morakoth on a bet, nor would she entreat Sneid, even if she knew how to call upon the Rat Prince for herself.
Somewhat by necessity, and in some ways as a result of her work, Luda’s perception is sharp, and she tends a little toward madness. So primed is the skilled diviner to see Symbols and to read omens that at times she sees things that others do not. This hasn’t been a problem in a while though, as Luda has learned well to take precautions against madness when she casts the greater redes, and while she runs across the occasional unfortunate spirit lingering near the point of their untimely end, it is her usual practice to ignore them. She could theoretically be of some service to spirits, in that she can speak with them and see them at all, but Luda finds the concerns of the tenacious dead tiresome, as they are usually fixated on revenge or recovery of their goods, and on the whole, the dead don’t carry coin.
Typically, Luda begins her day with a card reading on her own circumstances and gets an impression of what she might expect from the forces of Theleston throughout the day. Today, for example, she readies her divining cards and begins the simplest, three-card draw. The first card is The Well, a card which Luda knows from long experience is a reference to her remaining lifespan. It shows in this first draw often, a reassurance that Luda is still young in the grander scheme of things. One day, she knows, The Sunset will appear among these draws and then she will have to think about her future on Theleston with a bit more urgency. Next, the second card comes up; it is The Abyss. This card almost always means that a Great Old One is at work nearby, or that the subject has been influenced by one recently. As Luda does very little direct adventuring, she doubts this last interpretation. It is much more likely that there is something brewing in Khan Gorai and she has already had an unwitting brush with the powers at work. She will have to be vigilant in the upcoming days. As if to echo her own sentiment, the last card drawn is The Clouded Chalice. This card can be interpreted in many ways, all of them bad. Pulling The Clouded Chalice could mean a lost caravan shipment, the lingering effects of an illusion, or even the direct attention of Hylathe or Sneid. Sadly the vague nature of the Chalice is exactly what it represents, so Luda will need to do a far more intensive reading if she wants clearer guidance. This is indeed troubling.
Before she can set up a more involved reading, a customer enters her shop. Rajeh is a regular customer of Luda’s, an alchemist who lives and works in Khan Gorai. He seeks some alchemical salts of the sort that Luda has for sale only, when she turns to take them from her shelf, they are gone! Luda is furious; she’s been robbed! Is this what The Clouded Chalice portended? Rajeh, however, still needs his Keter Salts, so Luda gathers her materials, lights incense to ward off madness and begins laying tiles on the Thaumagram. She traces the resulting Symbols until she has created a location spell scroll for Rajeh, adding the Symbols that will allow him to cast it without her help. Rajeh leaves and Luda, having used the last of her good vellum on Rajeh’s scroll, decides to make for the market and procure more.
Khan Gorai is a rough city, but only if one is unprepared, strays from the main thoroughfare, or is generally foolish. Luda lives here, and between her warded jewelry, the market guard, and her reputation with some of the more powerful guilds, she has little to fear from the streets. Some, however, are not so fortunate. Luda has only just finished with her purchases and turned to head home when she spies Rajeh and a friend, a mercenary who goes by Taelis, turn hurriedly down a shaded alley. Curious, she follows, and just as she catches up to them, around a corner and out of sight of the market guard, Taelis is finishing up shuffling a poor fellow in leather and linen off to Animae’s realm. The dead man’s spirit stands dejectedly above his body for a breath, then vanishes. Rajeh turns to her as she approaches and laughs.
“We found your thief, Luda!” jokes the alchemist. “Not more than an hour after you sold me the scroll, Taelis and I found that there were indeed still Keter Salts in the city. This one had them. Stands to reason they were the ones you intended to sell to me, so Taelis and I just followed him here and recovered them. Hope you don’t mind.”
Of course Luda doesn’t mind. The thief got what he deserved, and she got some closure to the nagging suspicion inspired by that Clouded Chalice. Now, all she has to worry about is that Abyss.