Sticks smiles at her and nods solemnly. "As you wish," He holds up a finger. "But I think I'd rather show you."
The thin man makes his way back into the store proper. "Wait here a moment, please." And with that, he disappears upstairs. When he returns, he's holding a small, black wooden box in his hands. He holds it like a child - a precious, fragile thing. The artifact is covered in white lines, sigils to protect what's held inside.
"I was, in a land far from here and now, the servant of a man called Kalashi." He smiles wanly, but still with that air of drama, placing the black box on the counter. "He was a king, and I his court magician. " A pause. "Also, for a time, his friend." Sticks arches his brow at Alice. "Do they have kings and courts where you come from, Miss Q?"
Sticks is hoping that, as he tells his tale to Alice, he can learn a bit more about her. Understand what he'll have to teach and what she already knows, for one thing.
"Kalashi was a, uh, little unstable. He would have these... fits of animosity, and as I'm sure you can understand, men die when kings have fits," The tall man's smile fades. "Such terrible rage. So much anger in one creature." He shakes his head. "I like to think I helped him, but that man was beyond help. It only got worse, as time went on."
Sticks brushes the white runes with his fingertips, and some invisible lock clicks open. The lid flies open eagerly, and inside, an intense glow seeps out. At the bottom of the box, which seems to be far too large for it's contents, there's a tiny blob of red fire. Sticks plucks this from the box, caressing the dying fire. It leaps to life at his touch, turning white hot. It takes on a shape - like a tiny elf on a throne, face shining with silent anger. His face is propped on one meaty fist, an intense scowl on his troubled brow.
"We were like brothers," Sticks says, looking at his old friend with longing in his eyes. "And as I grew closer to him, I also grew closer to family. To his daughter."
Sticks flexes his fingers, hard, and the flame reignites, transforming into the vision of a radiant young woman, with clever eyes and a lovely smile. He looks frustrated, that even as a master of his craft, he cannot match her radiance. She's elfish, like Sticks himself, and slim. Dressed in an amber gown, trimmed with the thinnest gold. "She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen."
"Her name was Mirdath," The word rolls quietly off of Sticks' silver tongue. "She was a smart girl. When I had the chance to speak to her - and I often stole such chances - she taught me about machines. She was smitten with these little things that walked with springs and cogs. I'd never seen anything like them, but I used to joke around her, call them her toys."
Sticks turns and gestures at Bolts, who quickly flutters over to perch on his arm. The tall man sighs happily before letting the robot-bird go about his robot business. However, the busy Bolts seems to like Alice, and will attempt to land on her shoulder. "In time, I was tinkering right alongside her. We grew close, after a year or two, and..."
The fire in Sticks' hand flashes again, transforming into a vision of himself and Mirdath. They seem to be holding one another in a more-than-friendly manner, but before the vision can be defined, Sticks squashes it into an inscrutable mass. He'd wanted to give a visual aid, not embarrass himself or the lady Mirdath. Besides, this isn't meant to be his whole life story. Just the part that matters for Alice.
"And we grew close. It was an issue. As noblewomen often are, Alice was betrothed to the prince of a neighboring land. For purposes of peaceful relations. It's not like it is here - no such freedoms," Sticks scowls deeply. The flame in his hand burns with rage right along with him. "We weren't as cautious as we should've been. Kalashi's wife discovered us, and... the king was displeased." The flame almost shapes itself again, but Sticks hastily stows it back in the box. There's no need for Alice to see such things. "He had one of his fits. It was too late for either of us, by then. He stormed into my chambers, grabbed one of my instruments," Sticks holds up his needle-hand, the one surrounded by a violet field of magic. "And he shattered his own daughter. Smote her very spirit into pieces. Then in some grief-stricken madness, he tried to kill me. Blamed me for it."
Sticks expression has turned dark. The thin man closes his black box gravely, face a little drawn. "He took my arm before I took his head. There were no guards near my workshop, where he'd come to confront the two of us, so I ran. Never even looked back." The soul-trader bows his head. "Secreted away in my home village, I used what Mirdath had taught me and built an arm. The contraption barely moved at all, but I kept it anyway." He shakes his head. "As time went by, and I got older, I just started replacing everything. Extending my life, numbing myself to pain. Plucked out my tongue, my eyes... my soul. I didn't want to end up like Mirdath." Sticks places a hand on the black box meaningfully. "I'm far older than I should be, Alice. All thanks to Mirdath, and ultimately, that whole tale."
His tale finished, Sticks walks around the table and sits heavily. He looks like he could sit there well into the next age. Then, almost as if nothing had happened, he cracks a smile at Alice. "So the moral of the story, Miss Q, is this: Do not get used to that arm. The tall fellow holds up his slightly rusted arm, rattling it around for emphasis. "Listen well. You don't want this. Immortality, painless life... it takes a hold of you. It only takes one near-death experience, one terrible accident, as I should very well know. Eventually you'll do anything to cheat death."