Start reading at the beginning, or reread Part Five.

The shopkeeper accepted the wand from Fruben and turned it over in his hands, peering at it with disdain. Why must it always be with such disdain? Thought Fruben. The wand was worth more than the bundle of ritual components he hoped to use it as collateral for, and it was unthinkable after years of faithful patronage that the old man wasn’t more trusting.

No, it was thinkable. All too thinkable. More importantly, not only was it thinkable, it was happening. Fruben could only attribute it to the old man’s dementia as a temporary measure to cool his simmering anger. He watched as the shopkeep tested the wand for strength and solidarity. Fruben knew it would take quite a bit of strain to break the wand, but he winced with sympathy as he pictured the weathered old hands snapping one of his fingers, or perhaps his wrist, in half.

“This will do,” said the old man, after an agonizingly drawn-out examination of the item. “If you don’t pay me–”

Fruben interrupted, “–you keep it, I know.” There had been hesitation present from the start but hearing the old man infer potential ownership was enough to escalate Fruben’s mere hesitation to outright revulsion (exposure to continual frustration had only made it worse).

Some of the feeling faded when he saw the shopkeeper’s face, it seemed like the man was annoyed to be interrupted. Good, he thought, annoyed. He can have a taste of his own medicine, though the painfully obvious pun was lost on him at the time.