The word had gone out.
A rich fool was selling exotic goods to build capital for a new inn. They needed money and were willing to sell quality goods that had never been seen before. Collector, merchants, nobles, craftsman, all were welcome if they had the coin.
Whispers of of high quality glass and silver were spread throughout the Thebes's market.
“Are you sure we can trust this old hag?” Cyme asked.
“I trust her to screw me over.” Frank said, he reached out and grabbed Tila's waist.
The woman, who Frank had learned was called a Northerner was standing naked in the room while her master viewed her body with the dispassionate look of a painter admiring a can of purple paint. Tila, her face red from embarrassment tried to hold still as her master checked her.
Northerners, it turns out was just what they called Vikings or people of Russian decent. While only her grandmother had originated from the area, Tila might as well have been a Enseen citizen as far as the law was concerned. Sadly, she looked just enough like a foreigner that no one gave a shit about her rights.
Neither her grandmother’s people nor the Enseen empire would see her as anything but half-breed punching bag.
Frank stepped back and crossed his arms, “I don't get it. Why is everyone giving her shit? Tila, you're not old. You're pretty, your hair is a bit ratty but that's just a shampoo thing. And you need to shave some stuff, but that’s easy to fix.” he looked to Cyme, “What's wrong with her?”
The stim had fixed much of Tila's body, removing scars and decades of abuse. Frank didn't think that she was a 9 but she was at least a 6 on the hotness scale. Cyme on the other hand was a 4.7. Negating the fact that she was taller than most men and the stim fixed up a lot of her previous skin issues there were just certain things that a woman should take care off, like underarm hair and proper hygiene.
It was possible that the barbarian woman's attractiveness could be raised a score if she had bothered to put some effort into overall hygiene and appearance.
Right now it was easy to see why Frank had been certain that he could could keep his deal with the Orian about the no touching policy. While comics made the female barbarian attractive, a man or woman of Frank's high standards would have to get seriously drunk to see the real version as fuckable.
Cyme rubbed her head, “She's old, you dimwit. Men like their women young.”
Frank made a face, “That's stupid.”
She wasn't arguing. “It is what it is.”
The owner of the Abstract rubbed his head at the backwards nature of this world. “You can put your clothes back on, Tila.” As Tila thanked Frank, the sorcerer failed to see the smile that his employee was letting free. Frank had not found fault in her body, if anything he was frustrated that she was given shit for such a ridiculous reason such as being too old.
“Tila, does the age thing bother you? Frank asked.
Tila finished putting her strange clothes back on, “A little, master.”
The sorcerer turned his attention to Cyme, “You ashamed of your age to?”
“No,” Cyme said. Like Frank she saw age as a practical nuisance rather than a cosmetic one. Old aged slowed you, it made your bones bones brittle and harder to heal, but it also made you wiser.
The door to the Abstract rattled, causing Tila to jump behind Frank and Cyme to draw her sword. “What is that?!” the warrior called out.
Frank groaned, he had been afraid of that. He checked the Judge which hung in his shoulder-holster. While he was confident that whatever he had managed to trap wouldn't be able to break free of collapsing micro-universe inverter and into the secondary macro-lock, it always paid to be ready.
“You remember our talk about things outside of your reality trying to get a foothold?” he gestured to the door.
The door rattled again and Cyme stepped back, “Do something.”
Due to the low ceiling the tall bartender had to lay on the floor if he wanted to stretch. Frank was sure that if he stayed in this suffocating place any longer he would turn into a hunchback. “All we can do is wait it out. On the bright side, the more power the arsehole on the other end shoves into the vacuum the bigger the pay off would. Don't worry, I'm insured.”
A polite knock caused the women to jump again, it wasn't until they realised that it was from the door behind them did their nerves settle. Cyme let out a curse but didn't bother to lower her weapon.
“Who is it?” Frank asked.
“The buyers are here, lord Frank.” Came a young girl's voice from the other side.
It was morning now. The three had slept in the same room and Cyme was forced to share a bed with Tila. Frank, the weirdo he was had knelt in front of his door and played with his glass bauble. Cyme was impressed of the sorcerer's resolve not to touch her without her permission.
If she realised the reason behind her safety she probably would have punched him in the face, deal or not.
Getting out of the storeroom, Frank avoided a concussion and entered the hallway. Outside, they heard the moans and groans that were the usual background noise of a brothel. Frank ignored it, Cyme tolerated it, and Tila was trying hard not to glance at each door as they past.
“How many people do you think turned up?” Frank asked Cyme.
“No idea.” Cyme admitted. It all came down to who the old witch's network stretched and how much people trusted her world. Frank had given her a few glasses to show off but as Cyme nor Tila were experts on such luxury items neither were reliable in such things.
Frank stepped out into the main restaurant and nearly stepped on Roumpíni. The woman was tiny to the point that he suspected that if this universe ever invented flight, that the most convenient form of travel for her would be mailing herself express.
At seeing the towering form of her new tenant, Roumpíni screamed and cursed. “How? How can you be so quiet?” she yelled.
“I used to be a pre-pubescent ninja cat in another life.” Frank lied.
Frank's stealth skills were part training, part cybernetics, part good footware. His muscles were both genetically and cybernetically augmented to the point that he could shrug off anything below armour piercing anti-tank ammunition, allow him to bench press two Mazda 323s, and reflect both UV and inferred light. His muscles also had noise cancellation abilities as did his shoes.
In many, many ways, money and a good phone book were the real super powers in the multiverse.
He noticed that other tiny people were looking at him.
Even Roumpíni had underestimated how much her influence and the glasses had impacted the community. The tavern was almost filled to the bursting point with burly looking bodyguards and merchants, who took one look at Frank and quickly considered running for the exit.
“By Jupitar's hairy arse,” One merchant breathed.
“Now that's a man that eats his eggs.”
“It's wearing people clothes.”
Frank was tempted to take out his Judge and just shoot the lot of them but restrained himself. While he was not in his bar good customer service counted for something.
“Which people am I talking to?” he asked the owner of Tripplets.
The old woman viewed Frank suspiciously, as if at any moment he would go insane and start eating people. She hobbled over to a box and stood upon it like a diminutive town crier, “We're doing proper business. Anyone not here for the giant's bags of goodies, get out.”
Eyes inadvertently turned to the monster's crotch.
“Isn't there some better place to do this?” Frank asked.
“I'm not skipping down the road, just because you're so freakishly tall.”
Sitting at a table with a number of similarly dressed individuals, a man in a toga let out a gruff voice that did not contain a shred of patience. He had come to this lowly brothel for fabled rare goods, and while it did feel like he was being squashed, he agreed with the hag.
“I came here to see glass and wonders.” The man in the toga said mockingly. “Show us your stock, monster, before my men cut you down to size.”
Frank held back the urge to punch the jackass' head clean off his shoulders. He moved like a snake in a thicket, somehow navigating his bulk through the crowd of mercenaries and tradesmen with a supernatural grace. Barely trying, the owner of the Abstract jumped over the bar's counter and searched through his dufflebag to find the first of his treasures.
He placed the first of his goods onto the wooden counter, the Silver Dragon Chalice.
Eyes bulged, gasps erupted, and dozens of coin purses laminated in silent dread.
“The Silver Drake Wine Glass. The silver is 99% pure. Making it the most purist silver in the country.” He held the content of the container out so that they could all see. “Note the glass insides, this makes it both useful for drinking in practical terms and makes it fragile.” He put the wine glass down.
If at all possible it seemed that the decorative lizard cringed as a multitude of hands held and grasped its previously flawless scales. But Frank was not done showing off, he went into his bag a second time and pulled out a second reptilian cup.
It was a copper cup with an intricate and snarling lizard acting as the handle. Green emeralds decorated the mug and the serpent attached to it. “This is the copper dragon mug. Please note that the emeralds have been expertly cut and are of high quality.” He placed the mug down.
It would be a coin flip if the emeralds made the cup cost more than the silver drake or not, in any case, Frank could see it selling.
The next cup had a long shaft and a wide brim. This serpent was made from red gold and its bat-like wings greedily clung to the glass. “Fire Breather Martini Glass. As you can see the creature's body is made out of red gold and the tips of its claws and teeth are made out of rubies. Each gem is, again, cut by an expert.
What they didn't know was that the rubies were synthetic, but Frank didn't need to tell them that unless they asked.
He began to hold up other glasses and place them onto the counter. A bone dragon pitcher, the bones of which were made from ivory from a real dragon. Not that the fools would believe or appreciate that.
An amethyst dragon shot glass, which was entirely made of a single piece of amethyst, painstakingly worked and cut into the shape of a curling ouroboros.
The next item of the set was the sea dragon tumbler, the decorative dragon was made from blue gold. To make the dragon more fearsome the creature had it fanged mouth open and sapphire dust was worked into glass, making it appear as if the monster was standing behind a snowy background.
One man nearly fainted when Frank placed a small jug onto the counter. It's construction was one large crystal with dozens of green gold flying lizard bat things stuck within the transparent container.
A stone merchant cried out for time to go to the nearest money lender when the giant pulled out the largest and heavenliest prize of his collection. It was a marble fountain, one side was a ferocious white serpent with gold leaf used on every second scale. Its brother was made out of black marble that reflected the light in the room.
The last of the group was a golden flagon, this time the great beast was etched into the metal. While it looked plain when compared to the rest of the set it's gold content was far purer than anything that this world could produce.
Frank grinned at his captivated crowd. “So, whose first?”
At seeing the gold and gem encrusted drinking mugs, Roumpíni's opened so wide that Frank suspected that the old girl had a stroke. But as two merchants and a jeweler began to fight over the golden flagon and angry mutterings began to arise her greed turned to concern and descended slowly into fear.
She had mistakenly thought that the silver chalice had been the highlight of the giant's collection, as that thought crossed her mind another soon took its place. The arseholes that she had just brought into her place of business hated each other.
“100 sar for the copper mug,” one sea captain yelled out.
“Don't listen to him, I'll give you 270.”
“My two daughters for the marble fountain.”
“I am sure that my master would...”
“One thousand sar.”
“I have silk.”
“No, I know men across the seas who'll...”
That was when one drunk sea captain pushed an olive oil merchant. Frank's smile stretched across his face like the legs of a cheap hooker as the room descended into wild punches and thrown chairs.
In the bartender's corporate experience, when there is a product that causes controversy or a riot then somebody's portfolio was going to be filled with a lot of happy faces. It doesn't mater if the product is a religion promising your own species utter doom, a child's doll, or a chimpanzee capable of performing sign language. For every punch that's thrown there is money to be made.
One of the bodyguards attempted to steal the Martini glass for himself but his exit was cut short when one of the waitresses clotheslined him. The waitress then threw the cup back at Frank, the bartender caught it and nodded.
While the owner of the Triplets had been busy rounding up buyers, Frank had been rounding up the Triplet's staff. It turns out that the old woman's employees were not happy with their current arrangement with Roumpíni's pay rate and were open to a small bonus. It always paid well to keep both your customer's and your employees happy.
Frank licked his finger and began to rub the edge of the glass with his digit, it let out a sharp note. He seemed utterly at peace, even when he had to cock his head to the side to avoid a thrown axe which embedded itself in the wall behind him.
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.