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I left the Black Emporium empty-handed for two reasons. First: most of the items were priced far beyond what I could afford. Second: I spent most of my short time there trying to sate my curiosity about its proprietor. I found myself stealing glances at the Antiquarian from behind piles of books, between shelves, and at one point, over a basket of mismatched socks. There he sat, petrified, in the center of the Emporium, skin of waxy grey over ancient taut sinew, moaning in a voice so dry and brittle it sounded like the snapping of twigs after a drought.
A girl of not more than twelve scurried to and fro to fulfill his numerous requests. Another patron noticed my fascination and told me that the girl—most likely an urchin rescued from the street—was responsible for the needs of the Antiquarian—feeding, washing, and the like. So impossibly old is he and so fragile his skin, he can only tolerate the barest whisper of touches from the smallest and most tender of his servants.
"Only in this way may he come close to his lost youth," said the man.
I was surrounded by objects of legend, yet none fascinated me as did the Antiquarian.