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 Cyme had not been expecting that their destination would be so... colourful. They were being guided to one of the larger theatres of Thebes, a huge semicircle with hundreds of empty stone seats.

The Orian knew very little about the building itself or the attractions. While it's tall architecture and design would be useful as an outpost, it was far too open to hold any strategic value. Not when there were so many noble estates and better positions.

As she kept an eye out for threats she saw that the stage was currently saturated with a dozen performers, each trying to speak or sing, their voices and styles clashing.

Despite the growing darkness men continued to work. Several actors were speaking lines from pure memory, slaves were erecting props, and there were a hundred other jobs that needed to be done before the next show. While Cyme admired their work ethic she personally could not stomach them.

Surrounded by five very nervous men who had previously been trying to hold him and his staff hostage, Frank held his arms out to the stonework. “Here it is Cyme. This is where civilization begins. Not with silly little wars, not with megalomaniacs conquering the world with silly little armies. This, this is where real history is.”

Cyme watched as a man was making a small dog jump by holding a piece of jerky above its reach. “I highly doubt that.”

The sorcerer smiled back, “Oh, don't underestimate the entertainment industry. I have seen planets blown up for the sake of a ratings boost. But look at it. Thousands of years from now fat tourists and archaeologists will look back at this place and they will wish they could see what we are seeing. They will come all around the world to just see the crumbling remains and to breath in the lingering atmosphere and creativity.”

He pointed at the stage, “That is what you will leave behind. Stories about heroes, about evil gods, about overcoming fantastic odds. Heroes that can lift mountains, mysterious sunken cities, creative monsters. Out of all the kingdoms and empires of the entire world. Ancient Greece... I mean Mycenaean has the best mythology and the best stories.”

Cyme didn't understand a word that he was saying. Men shouldn't be playing pretend, they needed to grow stronger. Leave the wigs and the make-up, they needed to commit their time to making swords, to learning how to shoot arrows on horseback. Victories not stories were what mattered.

That didn't mean that story tellers were without merit, just that the theatrics were unnecessary.

Her attention drifted to man in the toga and white chalk in his dark locks. He appeared nervousness as he walked to their position, as he should be. As he drew closer he stood straighter and more confident, “Greetings. You must be the magician that we heard so much about.”

“I am more of an entrepreneur,” Frank said. “I am guessing that I have you to thank about this wonderful tour around the city.”

“That would be director Wysse’s idea. I am Menounos, his assistants.” Menounos nodded to Frank's entourage. “You can go.”

The men let out a sigh of relief, one of them was so thankful to be alive that he managed a fart that he had been holding. They ran as if as if escaping a burning building, which Cyme admitted was a possibility.

“I seem to be meeting a few assistants today, how can I help you?” Frank asked.

Menounos’s facade cracked, his smile a little too forced. “I hope that they were not too rough or put you too out of the way. I couldn't help but hear how you spoke so passionately about our theatre. Are you perhaps interested in one of shows?”

“I wouldn't mind. I respect what you do, but I have a shop to run.”

“Isn't that always the case.” Menounos trailed off.

Before the moment could get awkward, Frank spoke. “I am guessing that you brought me here to buy some mysterious items of mine.” He let out a laugh, “I have to admit, you Thebes take trade way more seriously than I thought. I cannot remember the time since I was dragged at knife point to make a sale.”

The actor’s expression changed so suddenly Cyme thought that he was a different person. Menounos went from confusion, to shock, to inspiration, to joy, “Yes,” he choked. “We heard how your items of the most exotic nature. The director is busy at this moment, but I have permission to acquire new props.” he hesitated and gave Frank an appraising look that the sorcerer seemed to be collecting a lot of lately. “Do you have anything that an audience might be interested in?”

Cyme held her breath as Frank pulled out his magical weapon and twirled it around, “Alas, my shop is currently being used as a plug to stop an extra-dimensional rift, and my luggage has been recently stolen while your men were introducing themselves to me.”

Menounos was eyeing the sorcerer's weapon suspiciously, but seemed more interested in the way Cyme reacted to its presence. “I am sorry to hear that. I hope you do not blame us for this theft. I assure you, we are honest entertainers.”

“That is good to know. You know, I'm something of an entertainer myself. Check this out.” Frank held out his left hand and clenched his hand. Just like what happened at the Triplets, his large black back appeared from thin air. Only this time it had not materialize alone.

A man with a long messy beard and scars on his knuckles was in the middle of trying to cut his way into Frank's bag. He comically hung there in the air for a split second before he landed on the dirt with an “Ooomph.”

The thief had enough time to look up at Frank before the sorcerer squeezed the trigger of his odd device. There was a flash of red light before the thief’s body turn to dust. He didn't even have a chance to scream before what remained of his body become unrecognisable from the dirt.

Cyme, Menounos, and the gathering of actors and workers stared at the pile of red glowing dust that had previously been a human being. As one, their eyes shifted to Frank who was smiling at the director’s assistant.

“What do you think? I call it an Arsehole's End. It has mystery, magic, and violence. Oh, look, my luggage just turned up.” Frank said speaking so fast that Cyme was scarcely able to follow him. “So let's get down to business. What are you interested? Clothes, props, popcorn?”

There was the sound of metal scraping against metal as the sorcerer opened his bag. Meanwhile, the theatre had become eerily still.

People were still coming to terms with what they witnessed. The materialization of the bag and the man, the beam of light, and the man turning into ash. As actors they were used to the sudden and unexpected event occurring during a performance, but they were unprepared for a string of actual magical events.

Even Cyme, having already seen Frank's weapon reduce a man to a few stains and the the sorcerer's ability to call his object from another's hands, had been taken aback.

She had been curious as to why her employer had not retrieved his bag from the thief, looking down at the small mound of ash and at the shocked expressions of the performers she had a working theory. Frank was telling Thebes that it was not healthy to fuck with him. Sadly, she did not think for a second that the sudden obliteration of two men would be enough to teach Thebes this important lesson.

She sucked in a breath and coughed at the acrid stench of burnt bone and flesh.

From the depths of his luggage Frank pulled out a creature with purple hair and cloth teeth. The monster was the size of Cyme's leg and had long snake-like limbs. When Frank put his arms inside of the creature, Menounos and the Orian jumped as its eyes moved and its mouth opened.

“Wait.” The creature said, looking at the horrified actors, its voice high and squeaky. “This isn't a Metallica concert.” He turned his head and jumped when he saw Frank, “Ah, who are you?”

“Well, I'm Frank.” Frank said. “And you are a puppet.”

“I'm a puppet?”

“Yes. I have my hand inside you and I am using my fingers to move your eyes and mouth.”

Frank manipulated the puppet’s arm so that it wiped its brow, “That's a relief, a moment there and I thought joined the wrong football club, again.”

Having shown that his little toy was just that, Frank passed it to Menounos who flinched as he caught the ugly thing. The director’s assistant admired the doll, viewing like wood carver might examine a hunk of oak. Carefully, he put his hand in the pouch at the back.

Cyme notice his eyes light up as he opened and closed the toy's soft mouth.

“This is a very interesting toy.” Menounos said. His face took on a pained expression, “Alas, I fear it might be well outside our budget.” He grabbed the stick that Frank used to manipulate the monster's arm. For an second he looked like a small boy playing with a pet.

Frank scratched his chin in thought, his eyes glanced over at a man wearing a dress. “How about this. Instead of coin, how about I sell you a few things and you hire some actresses for you next play?”

There were gasps and cries of alarm at the preposterous idea.

“A woman actor?!”

“Never.”

Cyme had a right mind to give each and every one of these arseholes a smack to the jaw. They hadn't been this outraged when the sorcerer had killed a man burst a minute ago.

Frank ignored the calls and began to pull out clothes, head dresses, silks, and he even pulled a gold painted throne out of his bag. The actors gasped at the array of fine costumes and shouted when the wizard pulled out a crystal the size of his head.

Unnatural bright light flared from the hunk of quartz like a tiny star filling the stage in stone, cool brilliance. There were the understandable screams and cries from everyone.

“This is a sol stone.” Frank said putting the stone underneath a silk dress as to stop the people around him from being blinded. “Imagine several of these stones glaring directly down onto the stage. Imagine being able to host plays and concerts all the time. Night and day, and being able to control the shadows.”

His eyes narrowed on Menounos, who was still recovering from the sudden light, “If you need money, you could sell them to the army or navy. I bet a city built on trade would like a reliable lighthouse.”

The thought of money brought the actor back to the real world. It wasn't difficult to tell what he was thinking. Fire was a practical means of illuminating an area but firewood and oil was expensive.

“Why would you give these items to us, just to hire some women? Do you have an actress in mind?” Menounos asked.

“No, you can hire anyone that you want. And I am not giving it to you, I am investing it. I am giving you the ability of using an untapped resource that has yet to be exploited. With these stones no one can blame you for accepting a radical idea.”

“And what do you get in return?”

This time Frank's smile was one that belonged to a merchant who had just stumbled upon a gold mine. “Let's just say that's its a future investment.”

For the next hour, Cyme stood back as Frank began to push his trade. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to his demands, the actors just seemed to accept his proposal.

One man asked for a superior talent for acting. When Frank asked for one year of his life, the actor naturally accepted. Later when Cyme looked at him again he was rallying an imaginary group of soldiers with such passion that it made chills run down her spine.

Nearly everyone begged for gold from the sorcerer and depending on how much they bartered away their youth, their dreams, their skills, and whatever else they thought that they could spare.

One misguided fool thought himself clever when he sold his ability to sing. As he couldn't sing before he thought himself a genius when he was given two gold coins, seconds later he realized his mistake when he tried to talk and his voice wobbled and changed. He couldn't hold a conversation as his voice sounded as if he was a bird one second and the next he was shouting with all his strength.

Stacks and stacks of parchment nearly buried a group of playwrights as the sorcerer commissioned them to create plays filled with clever witches, bumbling heroes, villains with ridiculous plans for world domination, and men who wake up thousands of years into the future. With a fortune in parchment at their disposal, the writers went to work.

Done, Frank and Cyme left the theatre. Despite having lost a sizeable amount of gold, tens of thousands of sheets of what he called paper, and ten sol stones, Cyme's employer hadn't lost his smile.

“What are you so happy about?” she demanded to know. “You have lost several fortunes. The gold alone could fund an army.”

His employee's harsh tone didn't make Frank's mood falter. “I just got five whole years of youth, a good amount of skills and I may have just caused an entertainment revolution. And all it cost me were was ten thousand dollars in gold and some junk that I bought at an auction house.”

He grabbed Cyme by the shoulder, “Cyme, you still are not getting this. It is because your people think about the present. It is extremely rare for people in this time and age to live until their sixty so you do not understand how valuable your time is. You people will kill each other for a hot meal. Life is cheap in this world.”

“I can understand the time aspect of your trade.” Cyme said. It wasn't hard to see Frank buying a hundred years of youth for a pittance and then selling it to an old king for a vault of gold. The same with the skills, purchasing the knowledge and power from a man who trained his entire life in the sword or warfare and then selling it to a rich prince could make a man very wealthy.

“But what about allowing women to work in the theatre?” Cyme asked.

Frank held his head, “You more than anyone should know the advantages of allowing a woman to work in a previously all male career.”

“Let me rephrase that. How does it benefit you personally?”

“Ahh,” Frank said as if he had just found a silver coin on the street, “I won't bore you with the technical terms, but I plan to record the event. Menounos allowed me to record the play and gave me the rights to sell copies.” He made a grand gesture, “The first play featuring a female actor. Every feminist and archaeologist is going to have a hard-on for it.”

She was about to ask what language the sorcerer was speaking when her nose caught a hold of the sickening mixture of male sweat and sea salt. “I will warn you sailor, the last person who tried to jump us ended up as dust in the wind.” Cyme said.

“My shop is still open for business.” Frank added, “What can I do to you... I mean for you today, boys?

From the shadows two weather beaten men showed themselves. They appeared tired but ready to throw a punch or a knife. “Our captain has something that you want wizard.” One man said.

“Everyone has something I want,” Frank picked up both his bags and smiled at the two sailors who were glaring at him with suspicion. “Alright, we can go now.”

“Everyone has something I want,” Frank picked up both his bags and smiled at the two sailors who were glaring at him with suspicion. “Alright, we can go now.”

 

 

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About the author

Melcontent

Bio: 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.

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