They say the road to Yurth is paved in gold and precious gems, which is true, but they also have guards posted every 20 yards who will fill you full of crossbow bolts if you even think about prying them up. They didn’t include that in the saying because people naturally assume it. If you go building your roads out of money and leave it unguarded it won’t be long before all you have is a dirt path with a bunch of diamond sized holes in it.
The point is, Yurth is an extremely wealthy city. Wizards go there to buy their more expensive potion ingredients when they’re feeling lazy and don’t want to bother transporting themselves to the outer planes. That led to another saying: “If you can’t find it in Yurth, why don’t you go to Hell? You can probably find it there if you don’t get eaten by the devil first.”
Anyway, there was this wizard named Nicobaba who was strolling along the Yurth road one day feeling annoyed. See, he wanted an emerald for this plant growing potion he was working on, and Yurth was the closest place to get one. The thing is, every few feet, he’d pass another emerald stuck into the pavement and think about how much time he was wasting. After a few hours he passed one with horse dung all over it, and couldn’t take it anymore.
“Hey!” he yelled up to the nearest guard tower “I need to buy an emerald and there’s a perfectly good one with poop all over it right here. How about I pry it up and pay you for it now? It seems rather silly to walk another five miles to buy something that’s right at my feet.”
The guard leveled his crossbow at Nicobaba. “Them’s is street emeralds, you want a buyin’ emerald you go into Yurth.”
“But it’s basically the same stone!” moaned Nicobaba, “Besides, it’s not like it’s doing anyone any good here. Why I could even replace it with an agate I have in my robe. It’s not like anyone would ever notice.”
The guard fired a warning shot near Nicobaba’s feet. The bolt bounced off a ruby, chipping it slightly, and stuck in the wizard’s hat.
The other guards began looking over now. They had seen this kind of thing before, and it was always entertaining.
“Ya wants an emerald, ya keeps walking.” said the first guard.
“But this is ridiculous!” yelled Nicobaba, “I mean the square of pavement I’m standing on is worth more than either of us could make in a lifetime! Why not just take a small bit of it and quit your job?”
“Oh does the square also come with vision and dental insurance?” asked the guard, “Will it guarantee me 50% of my yearly income for 5 years after I retire?”
“But it’s worth more than all that!” cried the frustrated wizard, “It would pay your salary and insurance payments for 100 years!”
“But it don’t offer no job security do it?” said a guard standing in the tower on the other side of the road. “A slab o’ road ain’t no career is it? This way we got piece o’ mind.”
“Yeah. piece o’ mind,” agreed a couple of the nearby guards.
“But, but…” stammered Nicobaba, who at this point had forgotten all about the emerald, and only wanted to convince them he was right. “Look, all of these things you’re mentioning have a monetary value, but that monetary value is far less than the monetary value of one pound of this road. You could live like kings for the rest of your days instead of standing around in these towers being bored!”
“Who says we’re bored?” asked a guard standing catty-corner to the first one. “Just the other day Dave saw an ogre what had a talkin’ bird on its head, didn’t you Dave?” This last bit was shouted at a guard stationed about 100 feet down the road.
“What?!” shouted the man who was presumably Dave.
“The ogre with the bird!” shouted the guard “Didn’t you see one?!”
“Hold on!” Dave shouted back “I’m coming down.”
Nicobaba watched as he climbed down from his tower, hitched up his pants, and walked over to the guard who had been shouting at him.
“What was that now?” he asked
“The Ogre with the talking bird on its head.” the guard said, “Didn’t you see it?”
“Sure, I saw it!” said Dave, “Who said I didn’t see it?”
The other guards all looked smugly at Nicobaba as if they had won the argument once and for all.
“Very well, gentlemen, very well,” said Nicobaba, throwing up his hands, “I see your point now. Look, if you don’t care though, perhaps you’ll allow me a take a small scraping of this dung. Horse manure, you’ll be surprised to hear, is an unexciting, yet important component of many potions.”
“Sure enough,” said the first guard, “city don’t own the dung.”
Nicobaba leaned down with his dagger and scrapped a small bit of dung into his pouch. Then he slyly inserted the point of the blade below the emerald and popped it into his bag as well. He was peppered with a dozen crossbow bolts before he could even stand back up.
“Another wizard tried to pull the ol’ dung and run,” said Dave slowly shaking his head. “Almost make you sad, don’t it?”
“Yeah but at least we ain’t bored!” yelled one of the guards.
After they all stopped laughing, everyone went back to work.