The Triplets Inn was one of hundreds of its kind all over the region. There was no better way to put it other than a brothel, but there was still more to the place than a venue where a man or a woman could waste a month's pay on five minutes of enjoyment.
The owners were a pair of sisters, as old as dirt. One, as sour as milk, the other preferring to sleep on a bed made of sexy men. Their real names had been lost and now the pair went by their once proud stage names. The third sister had died and that was all that anyone would say on the matter.
Roumpíni, the older of the twins glared at the tomboy who had come to her inn demanding assistance. “Since when dose that witch care about the likes of sorcerers? Or innkeepers? Or sorcerer innkeepers?”
Cyme stood straight. Downstairs they heard laughter and men shouting for booze and breasts. “My orders were to observe the sorcerer and to make sure that he does not alley with Oria's enemies. Frank wishes to trade his goods, Exlia thought it best to have you evaluate them.”
As Frank had discovered yesterday, Oria was a military nation arguing that foreign ideas would weaken their people and that it opened the way for spies and rebellion. Markets were nearly non-existent and gold was left in vaults where it couldn't hurt anybody.
Thebes was its polar opposite. It was a city founded on knowledge and trade. Except for the occasional invading horde, its borders were open and merchants were always happy to take your coin, as were everyone else.
The old woman rubbed her nose, “I will ask that out of all the traders that you could have gone to, why me? What benefits me knowing I helped another tavern get set up in this city?”
Cyme tried to come up with a response to that. “The inn is portable.”
“Sort of.” Cyme wasn't sure what Frank's goal was, but if it pushed the conversation on, all for the better. “As for what is in it for you, you will need to discuss that with the sorcerer.”
The old woman snorted. She had met a sorcerer before. The only thing the lazy goodfornothings conjured was an exceedingly repulsive bar tab. It was starting to appear as if she was dealing with a griffter trying to hock his wears onto what he thought was a senile old woman. She thought about tossing the buff man-killer out of her establishment but knew that Oria's tended to not take that well.
Roumpíni spoke to the thirteen year old boy who stood next to her, awaiting his orders. “Find this sorcerer. I don't care if you have to pull him out of my sister.” The boy nodded and as he passed her, his old mistress gave him a slap on the rump.
Having watched him exit, the brains and fist behind the Triplets gave Cyme a half-hearted smile, “If you want, I can introduce you to him. Boy's got finest arse I have seen.”
Cyme seemed uninterested, “I'll pass.”
“Ha. Do you want a girl then? Got some fine types. Young, tasty. Got one that a favourite with the house wives around here.”
“Just business.” Cyme growled, growing annoyed at the pushing. She really didn't like this city.
A few minutes later and the boy lead Frank and Tila inside the puny office. The giant squeezed through the doorway, but even as he got passed the narrow slit he was forced to bend forward as to not bump his head against the ceiling. His luggage banged against the door.
Roumpíni just had to stare at the giant. Not only was his size impressive but the man's clothes from his trousers to his shirt seemed to scream that he was rich.
“Are you sure you people are human?” Frank asked, he was growing suspicious that he had entered in the land of hobbits.
“We're human. You, we're not so sure about.” Cyme said. The sorcerer had said that the Abstract distorted space making people average out in terms of height. Cyme had thought that he was just lying but now she knew better. Frank had to be the tallest man that she had ever met.
Tila looked like a child in comparison. Like Cyme she had asked to have her memories removed only she wasn't happy with just a year. The middle-aged woman had removed all her memories and had cast herself as Frank's indentured servant. Cyme didn't want to know what life she had lead to make her resort to such drastic measures.
Right now, Frank had dressed Tila in what he called a blue jumpsuit. An unattractive navy blue outfit that was designed for heavy labour. He assured his employee that it was just temporary until he could work out a uniform.
As Frank drew nearer to the old woman, Roumpíni put her hand under her desk, her fingers grasping for a knife that she kept there for emergencies. This thing that walked into her office could break her without trying.
Seeing the manager of the Triplets growing tense, Frank attempted to bow. It was a difficult manoeuvre as he was already having a hard time not banging his head on the ceiling. “Frank, owner of the Abstract. Sorry, we didn't get a chance to meet before.”
“Roumpíni, part owner of this stinking pit.”
Frank smiled, “Roumpíni? Seriously?”
Roumpíni shrugged, “The name stuck and I am too old to change it. And you, I'm told you do magic.”
“I've picked up a few tricks.” his eyes met Cyme's, “I'm more of an alchemist. Only instead of lead to gold I mix drinks. I'm told that you and your sister could help me try to evaluate some of my goods. Coming from different cultures, I don't know what would sell in your lands.”
Roumpíni liked to think that she knew men. Having dealt with many of their kind in her life she considered herself a good choice of character, and what her instincts were telling her was that this man was giving her absolute bullshit.
“I don't like liars,” Roumpíni said firmly, “you lie to me once more and I'll toss you out. I don't care if you paid for the year. I don't like her, I don't like you. And I don't trust the evil witch who suggested me to you. I'm going to ask only once. Why are you here?”
There was silence in the room as Frank examined the little old ball of bitterness that he was dealing with. “Fine. I'm here for one reason. Money and all the things it can get me.” He nodded at Cyme, “Her, her crew, and her exhibitionist bitch of a princess, robed me of a fortune, and I plan to get it back.”
Again what followed was silence as the two forces stared at each other. Roumpíni glanced over at Cyme who was glaring daggers at her new employer, “I can understand that. Why should I help you?”
Frank shrugged, “You get first dibs on what I've got. Don't like it, all you lose is a minute. I'm guessing information is valuable to you. You have to know who would be interested. Might get a finder's fee.”
While her sister was more open minded, Roumpíni was not accustomed to playing the alleyway fence, but curiosity had moved her. The three had come right of the street and had paid for several days in advanced. They spared no coin on food, wine, or girls and had been happy to remain in the room until recently.
The possibility that they were merchants looking for coin was a long shot. More likely they were thieves but that didn't explain the man's clothes.
Roumpíni made an internal sigh. She already had enough trouble to deal with. “So tell me what you have, giant, before I change my mind.”
Frank went into his large waxy bag and pulled out a large bottle filled with a dark rich fluid, he also withdrew two glasses which were as clear as ice. He poured both glasses with a small amount of liquid and handed one to the old woman. “Now tell me what you think of this five year old Un Vagas, made in a universe where giant centipedes became the dominant species on the planet.”
He drank a mouthful, showing that the contents were safe for consumption.
Roumpíni, not believing a word smelt the contents. It had a faint fruity aroma. Not trusting anything, “Boy,” she called out. “Get me my taste tester.”
Frank noticed that the girl who came in had the mannerisms and classic tells of somebody on the just socially accepted level of the autism spectrum. He looked away in disgust at how unbelievably awful it was to have somebody who couldn't understand what was happening to be working in a brothel.
Cyme looked away for another reason. In her land the girl's own mother would have been obligated to throw it into a massive gorge, else the whole army would suffer for it.
The girl took a large gulp and she shook her head, “Don't know. Don't know.” she said over and over again, the boy then lead her out of the office.
As the girl didn't die, Roumpíni took the glass and sampled the alcohol. “Not bad.” she examined the bottle, “A fine vintage. Far better than the donkey piss that most of the other toilets sell here. If I had to guess...” she took another sip trying to understand the distinct flavour. She had tasted a number of wines made from wild berries to fruits. This was a flavour that she did not recognise but it had a citrus tang to it. “80 sar.”
Cyme gapped, “For wine?”
“Is it a lot?” Frank asked.
“It is, boy.” Roumpíni's eyes turned to the Orian, “The money's in the glass girl. Wine ain't that expensive. And drop the stupid story about monster centipedes, people might start believe ya.”
Frank looked back to Cyme, “She doesn't believe me. What is so hard to believe that a creature with a hundred legs made this from a fruit that doesn't exist in this world? It's perfectly logical.” Those centipedes were known for their astounding cybernetic legs and being able to do seven different versions of the macirania at the exact same time.
“Must be your face,” Cyme said.
“What's wrong with my face?”
“Nothing, Master.” Tila said.
Roumpíni held the wine glass up and stared into its beautiful surface. Most glass was actually a by-product of blacksmithing and there was such small amounts that the best anyone could hope for were jewellery.
The real money was not the wine but the bottle it came it. Taste didn't matter when it came to wine. The common folk wanted an alternative to water, and the rich lords wanted the prestige. They wanted wine made by monks and priestess, with their god's seal of approval. They wanted a name, not a drink. Glass though, especially the grade that Frank brought was of a high demand.
What she was holding might as well have been made of gold.
Frank could see the expression on the old woman's face and knew that he had hit something. “How much would you sell the wine glass for?”
It was difficult to say. The old woman wouldn't sell it in the first place, it was far too beautiful a construct. If she could, she would keep it in a locked cabinet and only bring it out to polish its surface. “I would sell it. Oh um...”
Before she could give a number, Frank chimed in. “Let me. Ten sars. Thirty. Fifty? Seventy. A hundred. Two hundred. Three hundred. No, not that much. Two-ninety? Two-eighty? So somewhere between two hundred and eighty and ninety.” Frank said.
The room just stared at him, unsure of what just happened. He took the glasses back and this time pulled out another goblet. This was made of the purest silver that Roumpíni had ever seen, the metal work looking like a tiny scaled lizard with mouth full of teeth. Thick glass filled the bowl of the cup, negating that well known metallic taste that often happened when drinking from a metal container.
Cyme held her breath while Tila and Roumpíni’s servant gapped at the chalice.
The cup was far too intimidating, decorative, and delicate for what it was design for. Beautiful and horrific, fragile and yet terrifying. The craftsmanship was such a degree that the little savage lizard looked alive.
This cup was worthy of royalty.
“How much would you sell it for?” Frank asked as he handed the goblet to Roumpíni. The old woman accepted it while holding back her drool.
Her wrinkled fingers carefully glided across the beast's silver scales expecting to feel the rough texture of ill perfected metal, but the thing was as smooth as a baby's arse. Even the creature’s claws and teeth were safe to touch. Just like the wine glass, this goblet's innards were so clear they were almost like solidified air.
Roumpíni slumped in her chair in defeat, “No noble could afford it, boy. I wouldn't let it go for less than two thousand sar. How that bitch Exlia let you escape with it, I do not know.” She tried anyway, “I will give you life time discount. Ten percent off everything, including the girls.”
“I do have my own tavern. Why would I need a discount?” Frank said. He leaned over to take the goblet.
“Wait wait.” Roumpíni said hurriedly. “Girls. Fresh. Young. Virgins.” Her old eyes drifted to the Orian and thirty something Tila who were trying in vein to look away from the cup. “You're new here, boy. Taverns don't last long without some good looking serving girls.”
Frank hesitated and he looked to Cyme, “Don't suppose you do dishes do you?” the warrior glared daggers at the bartender which he took as a no. He looked back at the old woman and shrugged, “I'm good.”
Roumpíni shook, she could not let this masterpiece go. She wanted as much as she wanted to take a shit one day. She pointed at Tila, “She's old boy. As barren as the desert, tru she has a face but she wont bring in the men. You need girls, pretty ones.”
Tila looked away in embarrassment.
Still, the old woman wasn't done, she pointed at Cyme, “Oria's are strong but I can get you trained gladiators, a dozen good soldier with muscles as big as your. Brawlers who will keep out sort you don't want.”
Cyme just had to laugh at that. The senile bitch thought that Frank kept her around because he needed muscle. She had seen first hand how the sorcerer had casually taken her weapon away and turned Eba into a fish farm.
Frank, having heard all of this looked ready to punch someone in the face. “Listen, I don't believe in slavery. I don't believe people should profit off it.”
Tila chose at that moment to speak, “This morning you sold that woman to...”
Frank held up a finger interrupting his staff member, “No no no. That was a corpse. All I did was sell what constituted as a creepy puppet. By the way, I'm not the one who killed her.” He frowned at Cyme.
“And I told you, I don't remember killing her.” Cyme said, “For all I know you did it?”
“Why would I leave a rotting corpse in my bath and just leave it there? I have entire freezer I cannnn... You know what? Let's change the subject. Um.” Frank rubbed his chin as he looked down at the cup. He hadn't thought this through.
This was the problem with some realms. Some planets were crammed with gold to the point that simple things cost a handful of the stuff, while other places, like the one he was on hadn't discovered the proper mining technologies to claim it.
Sar seemed to be Thebes most common currency, it was just a matter finding out the value of things. “I did give you first dibs on the item. How about this, you find the best people to sell it to and we split the profits. You get ten percent.”
“What's a percent?” Roumpíni asked, she looked to the two other woman but only got shrugs.
“For every ten sar it Goes for, you get one. Sell it for a hundred sar you get ten. A thousand sar, you get a hundred.”
The old woman thought about it for a moment, “Too low. Make it forty sar for every hundred.”
“Are you going to be crawling around town on your knees or are you going to be sitting on your arse all day? Seventeen.” Frank argued with a grin. It had been a long time since he had met a bigger scoundrel than himself.
Born in Australia I am a late bloomer when it came to books. I started writing when my grandfather died and it just sort of turned into a hobby.
I like science fiction, but not space opera. I like fantasy but I am picky when it comes to epic and urban types. I try to stay away from vampires, zombies and romance novels when I can.