“The Midkin conquered the all the lands beneath the stars. They ruled all they cared to and then forgot about ruling for ruling was nothing compared to their ships and the ship ways they had traveled so long. Their ships do not sail, but vanish. Their vessels do not float, but fly. They do not fight, but win. They do not die, never again.”
That’s what the only book ever written about them said. T’kk’tck stared at the Midkin merchant for a long time. They puzzled him. His families libraries had books without end. More books than could fill multiple buildings. Warehouses of facts, stories, and gold. A series of magical plant golems had been made for the express purpose of cataloging and caring for those books and facilitating easy searching.
And they were really really good at it. They were genetically attuned to the books even. His family had decided that in order to increase the spells efficiency they should cultivate a habit of using older generations of the plants to produce the raw material for the books themselves. This recycled failing golems and created a built in fondness for the books from their keepers. In a way the plants were the keepers of their own dead.
So they -never- missed a single inked word. It was a religious thing, T’kk thought. And when he asked them, they had looked, for days, to be certain because the oddity flustered them. The word Midkin only showed up once. And even with careful rewording around possible synonyms and descriptors the mysterious ship men there were no other accounts of them in any form or fashion. Oral legend has it that if they ever found a book written about them they would burn the place to the ground and the evidence suggests they are remarkably good at it.
So T’kk’tck stared at them. His studies before D’ng had only fed his thirst for knowledge and his adventures after had reinforced over and over again how useful knowledge could be. And these guys escaped it. From his own observations he had learned other things.
They had their own language. Something they didn’t teach outsiders and tried not to use around them. It might sound like frustrated grunting and gesturing to the casual observer but he’d seen enough of a pattern to realize what was going on and when they saw him watching they had stopped using it almost instantly. The sudden finality of their stop confirmed it wasn’t any emotion because that for certain was still on display.
They were never seen out on the open water. Their boats would sail into a harbor and sail out but no one ever saw them outside of land. They just vanished.
They had preferred ports and port sizes. You never saw them in the smaller ports, only in the biggest and if a plague or fire hit they wouldn’t show up afterwards until the city had fully recovered. And they rarely ever traded for currency unless that currency was rare old coins. Barter was their coin and art above all.
Their ships were heavily shielded against scrying. Most merchant ships were out of a desire to conceal their cargo and maintain their edges against competition but the Midkin ships displayed a phenomenal skill in magic that frankly was unmatched. And T’kk’tck was a scion of the most powerful magic family on two continents.
His travels and discussions with D’ng had added some more things. D’ng was a powerful being in her own right, that had been proven enough times for him to treat her with a great deal of respect but where she came from she was one of the “least”. In fact she had been grateful for T’kk’tck’s summoning because it saved her from a great deal of risk and enabled her to live in this “easy safe place”.
Her relative views of power did not change the Midkin’s strength at all. She said they were untouchable even in her home plane and beyond the reach of the “greatest and unchanging”. They had always been. And there too they were known to have conquered everything, only to fade back to a hidden merchant life. And they were undying. The same exact Midkin came each year and each year the “greater” would clamor to win it’s affection and earn a heart of “greatest” for themselves. She had recognized one such Midkin with awe once when he was visiting here.
The Midkin had recognized D’ng too. Her appearance had generated surprise. This delighted T’kk’tck. Nothing ever surprised them and he and D’ng had. Not shock, or consternation, the surprise had faded quickly after causing an initial burst of conversation but he had surprised them and that brought him joy. Even now, a few years later, there would still be an occasional conversation at a distance full of pointing and gesturing, as if D’ng was a local sight, a rare bird.
Three months back, two of them had stopped D’ng and himself in the street politely. They had asked to hear the story behind her coming. T’kk’tck almost answered them, then and there on that dirty street under the half shade of a dozen nearby stalls. But something stopped him and a clever thought occurred to him.
“A tale? A unique thing? Surely there is value in that, a tale that hasn’t been told. Perhaps it has, I’m not the first of anything else, but I have never heard a tale like ours. And I don’t think it is quite ripe anyhow. I will give you this: If you can come up with something in trade that is worth a unique thing, then I will accept and tell you. Or if perchance I am, as my mother has often told me, not quite as special as I like to believe, then come up with something that is worth a mostly unique thing. Or just wait and see. But do not wait too long, because either we will be gone and unable to tell you, or perhaps we are even more unique than that and the price will have climbed so high that not even the stars would be worthy gifts for our telling.”
He had grinned, full of impish delight at the idea. And the Midkin had looked at him. The younger of the two, if you can describe infinity minus a year to be younger, bent down and scooped up a pile of sand. It handed the pile to him, and in a gurgling voice that echoed said:
“For your wit, the price is paid. We will discuss market prices for your tale and return if we find ourselves in need.”
He hadn’t seen that pair again since.