Uldrus: Ice and Darkness
The ne plus ultra of merchants. A price for everything, and everything has its price.
Nobody has ever seen Arronax demean himself by engaging in combat. It is assumed, however, that his abilities in that area would be formidable, even godlike, and that he would have access to a near infinite array of spells, weapons, and bodyguards.
(On a mechanical level, I created Arronax to circumvent the issues of item availability that would otherwise plague the campaign. I didn’t want my players to feel as though they constantly had to be seeking out bazaars in cities of 10,000 inhabitants or more in order to maybe be able to buy the +3 longsword that they were wanting, nor did I want to deal with waiting days or weeks or months for items to be crafted or upgraded in accordance with the normal magic item creation rules. Especially given that the current campaign takes place in a period of apocalyptic destruction, and that time is a luxury that the heroes do not have, Arronax has become a convenient means of making sure that the players get the items that they need to survive. He also has been more fun than generating random merchants every week, as he has developed a relationship with the PCs that is simultaneously amiable and toxic. His motivations and means of operation, too, have been the source of much speculation and criticism. He presents a different kind of threat than the ravenous vampire or the insidious trap: he is a meditation on the evils of always getting what you want).
Always the epitome of courtesy and speaking in a soft, lilting voice that is neither male nor female, Arronax presents himself as every adventurer’s best friend. The array of goods and services he provides truly staggers the imagination, and trading with Arronax is a temptation that many people, heroes and ordinaries alike, find impossible to resist.
Arronax can be summoned by a thought or by a spoken request, as if he is always tending upon the thoughts of mortals, ready and eager to fulfill their material fantasies. Most often, he is invoked by means of one of his business cards. Taking out the card and flipping it over will cause Arronax to appear instantly and soundlessly, rather as if he was waiting there invisible all along. He freely distributes these cards to new adventurers, and sometimes even makes them fall from the sky en masse—millions of slips of paper fluttering down from the sky like so many wounded moths. Given the ubiquity of these cards and the desirability of Arronax’s wares, it seems probable that Arronax would almost certainly be summoned by at least two different people at the same time, and yet he almost always appears on demand and lavishes his full attention on the customer.
It would be impossible to list the full range of goods and services that Arronax provides. His abridged catalog is the magic items section of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Literally. His full picture catalogs for a single commodity are thousands of pages long, featuring a staggering array of variations in design and craftsmanship. On request, he is able to conjure almost any item, whether magical or mundane. By means of gesturing at the air, he is able to make the desired object instantly appear in the customer’s hands. With a similar gesture, he makes gold vanish from the customer’s wallet, and the transaction is concluded. Selling to Arronax works the same way, but in reverse. Arronax is a ready buyer of used items and valuable information. He is always in the market for the corpses of exotic creatures…and ones not so exotic.
To say that Arronax’s catalog is nearly limitless is, perhaps, to provide an inadequate description. In addition to selling weapons and armor, and hiring out laborers (usually Modrons), Arronax also sells items of more questionable taste. His picture catalogs of humanoid slaves are as extensive as his catalogs for other items. He sells nearly every drug known to man and a good many that are not known. He will sell items infused with demonic magics as readily as he will sell a Holy Avenger. He routinely claims to sell every item that you can imagine and a good many that you could never possibly imagine. He brushes off any criticisms of his business practices, saying that he is not responsible for how people choose to use his products.
For these reasons, and because Arronax will flood any market with a nearly limitless supply of foreign goods and devastate local tradesmen, his presence was outlawed in most civilized nations prior to the Mordent invasion. For whatever reason, it seemed that Arronax could not appear where he was not wanted, and this measure proved effective enough although desperate individuals would always find means of circumventing such restrictions. With the collapse of civilization and centralized authority, Arronax is now generally free to ply his trade wherever he is in demand. It has become apparent that he is providing the Mordent forces even as he supplies the last remaining heroes who would fight against the Mordent. Arronax’s only loyalty is to coin.
As if to allay any concerns, Arronax is never anything but polite and considerate to his customers. He often provides a free bonus gift with any purchase. Such gifts in the past have included Luxis vs. Skura comic books, coupons for extraplanar restaurants that the party would never have any means of reaching, Uldrus action figures (inlcuding an Arronax action figure with karate-chop capitalism action!), and pogs.
Arronax is human in form, at least superficially. He has the body of a male human of average build, although he appears somewhat taller than he actually is on account of the fact that his feet are always hovering about twelve inches off of the ground—as if he can’t or won’t walk upon the prime material plane. The shrewd observer will notice that he never actually touches any person or object. All of his transactions are handled by means of gestures and magical conjuration. The most physical that Arronax ever gets is to adjust his cuffs or to straighten his chapeau. He is an immaculate dresser, preferring navy or black pinstripe coats and trousers, topped off by a black bowler hat (although he has recently been seen in sports coats and a fedora). He sometimes wears a buttonhole, and when he does he is partial to white roses or white orchids. He always wears gloves. His most striking ornament, though, is the white clay mask that always obscures his face. The mask is an expressionless thing, with mere horizontal slits for eyes and a small hole for the mouth, and no contours for the cheeks. Being nearly flat, the mask should be impossible for any creature with a nose to wear; it is significant, then, that Arronax exhibits no signs of distress with the mask on. This mask, coupled with his pants and gloves and long sleeves, make it so that no portion of Arronax’s body is ever directly visible.
Arronax will sell information on any subject—almost. His personal history, his motivations, and the operating details of his business, are strictly off-limits. When asked about such things, he will try to deflect the question, saying that the life of a humble businessman is not a worthy subject of discussion. This response is as much of a mask as the one he wears over whatever passes for his face.