Goblin Markets

Look, mate. I can see that you're now a frog. You asked if the ring would harm you and as far as you know, you're the healthiest frog in the bleeding pond. You've got no grounds for complaint.

Fromo Toppo

Goblin markets are places for buying and selling items both arcane and mundane. Contrary to popular belief, the name doesn't refer to the buyers or sellers, but to the market itself. Goblin is derived from the Greek kobalos, meaning "rogue".   Most of the items found in a goblin market are exotic, but not possessed of arcane or occult properties. Craftsmen from all the realms create a magnificent array of products and the markets provide a wide array of potential buyers. Not everything is necessarily from another realm, either. There are specialist merchants who buy items in one part of a realm and use the goblin markets to sell them to buyers from far away lands.

The Nature of the Markets

Each goblin market exists in their own very small realm. These realms have certain unusual characteristics in addition to their size. These characteristics are consistent across all of the known markets. It seems reasonable to assume that is true for any markets that have not yet been discovered.

Entering and Leaving

Each market has a single portal that serves as entrance and exit. Living beings can only return to the realm from which they entered the market and they return to the same portal in that realm. Goblin markets cannot be used as a means of transportation between realms or from one point in a realm to another point in the same realm. This provides security and helps to ensure that authorities are willing to tolerate the markets.

Sights and Sounds

Another feature of the markets is that the appearance of the market depends upon your cultural expectations. Someone entering from the London portal sees a market that looks like a London market. Someone entering it from another realm would see a market appropriate to that realm and portal. The markets also handle translation, so everyone can speak in whatever language they wish and be understood by everyone else.

Arcana and the Occult

The nature of how arcane objects work in the markets is also curious. The arcane nature of an object cannot be hidden, but most effects are muted, if not completely absent. It's generally safe to handle an object in the market. This has occasionally caught out unsuspecting buyers who discovered the full scope of an item's effects upon returning to their own realm.   An individual's own arcane powers are generally unaffected in a market. Those who have useful abilities that can probe the nature of items are strongly encouraged to use them.   One particular peculiarity is that the markets strictly enforce linear time. You cannot enter a market at a time earlier than a previous visit. This is not a concern for most people, obviously. Curiously, the market appears to know about future visits, even if you've done a timeline shift, making it impossible to use a Chronotolyph to make an achronological visit.

The Market Masters

The markets are run by the Market Masters. No one knows exactly who or what they are. What is known is that they enforce the rules of the market, maintain order, and create the connections for portals. When circumstances change, they will move the location of the portal within a realm. The capabilities of the Market Masters are considerable. Violation of the rules generally result in banishment from the markets through the simple expediency of sealing the portals to the guilty party. Acts of violence in a market normally produce an immediate and proportionate response.

Market Rules

It's often said that there are only three rules in a goblin market:
  1. Every question asked about a product must be answered honestly by the seller.
  2. All of the terms of the deal must be met fully.
  3. All sales are final.
In reality, the rules could also be stated as "play fair" and "take it outside". It's also worth noting that destabilizing artifacts, such as world-ending weapons, won't pass through a portal into a market, although what constitutes destabilizing for the Market Masters is a matter of conjecture.   On occasion, it's possible to hear a buyer and seller arguing their claims in a market, where the Market Masters are presumably listening. Even if they're not, reputation is everything in the market and even a hint of unscrupulous behavior beyond the ever-present haggling can result in informal ostracism. After all, a market is useless if no one will trade with you. An additional consideration is that aggrieved parties, even deceased ones, may have acquaintances who will assist with dealing the complaint outside of the market.

Market Portals

The portal that leads to the market in a city is virtually impossible to locate, unless the trader knows what to look for. The best place to start is in the oldest part of the city, near where there is (or was) a more common form of market. Almost inevitably, the portal will be down an alley or in a darkened passage.

The "Permanent" Portals

There are six more or less permanent portals to goblin markets on the Realm of Earth. These are located in cities where traders are plentiful. Each of these markets is distinct, with its own culture and clientèle. There are individuals who have the means to travel to the locations of portals leading to multiple markets, but these are uncommon.
  • Constantinople
  • Kashgar
  • London
  • Mexico City
  • New York City
  • Palembang
The qualifier "more or less" is used because the cities where the markets are located have changed over the centuries. As examples, the portal for the Constantinople market was once located in Alexandria and the New York City market's portal was in Timbuktu in the past.

The Floating Portal

In addition to the six permanent portals, there is a floating portal that moves from place to place. This portal leads to a different market, one that most who know about it refer to it as The Goblin Market, where the words are verbally capitalized. The floating portal relocates itself constantly, staying one to five days in any location. Unlike the permanent portals, which are located in major trading centers, the floating portal can appear in communities of almost any size and type.   Why the portal appears in any place and how long it remains is likely not random. It's believed that there are arcane reasons directing the movement, but the underlying principles have not been determined by the Service. Rather curiously, some of the locals seem to have advance knowledge of a portal's arrival.

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