Cyme found the whole endeavour to be boring. She had thought that being captured by pirates would be a good chance for her to test her metal and work off some of her aggression, but it appeared as if bar hoping would have been more fun. She would say that these were the most tamed bilged rats that she had ever met, only six of them tried to molest her.

The captain of the Kou looked down at the broken mess of twitching limbs that had once been his work force. “Did you have to... to.” He gestured to his unconscious men, “Do that?”

Your men should learn to keep their hands to themselves.” Cyme said in a board tone. She looked to the other ten men who were holding their spears in her and Frank's direction.

If you want I can heal your men, for a price.” Frank said helpfully.

The captain, a weathered man in a pair of pants and a nasty set of scars across his back stared at Frank. “So what is it? That Orian bitch breaks people and you fix'em for coin?”

That sounds like a good business model,” Frank mused. “but it doesn't have to be broken bones.” He held out his left hand and arcs of blue lightning flowed between his fingers, “I'm also good at repairing burns and multiply organ failure. Do you want to see?”

No,” the captain said holding his hands up. “I’ll take your word for it.”

Frank didn't put his hand away, instead, the lightning that he generated turned an ominous red. “So, your men told me that you have something that I would be interested in.”

The crew looked at the magical lightning and several of them glanced at the side railings. Cyme could see them thinking about making a quick exit. Rouge lightning strikes and floating piles of wood didn't have the best relationship.

Um,” the pirate captain said thinking carefully about his answer. “That is to say that I did have something that I thought that you might be interested in, but I don't have it anymore. Would you be interested in slaves or some swords that we liberated from an Enseen ship?”

The sorcerer admired the captain for a moment, “I'm good for weapons.” He performed a hand gesture and his lightning flitted away. Blue ice spread across his fingers, growing and spreading until it looked as though it was a claw of jagged ice. Frank flicked a finger and a seven inch spike of ice struck the side of the boat.

The crew of the Kou and the Orian stared at the spike which had easily penetrated the wood. No one thought that the wizard needed even more weapons to play with.

Trying to ignore the property damage to his ship the captain talked quickly, “Ahh but these are Enseen swords and spears, better weapons than what you'll find with these scroll ticklers.”

Oh, I am aware of Enseen weapons.” Frank said.

Are you from the Empire?” The captain sounded nervous.

No, I ran into one of their legions a few weeks ago. I wasn't impressed at the quality.”

The pirate let out a relived breath. For a minute there he thought that he had just insulted the sorcerer into buying his own people's property. “Well that's too bad.”

Their armour was particularly of poor design. No leg or arm protection. They kept doing this.” Frank made a horrified expression, “All I had to do was keep kneecaping them. One guy couldn't believe it when I slapped him with his own severed arm.”

Really?” the captain said looking pale. “It seems perhaps that we have wasted your time.”

Not at all. Actually, I was hoping to do some trading with you.”

Do you need a trip down the coast, because right now all I have on this ship is a bunch of weak fishermen and some extra spears.” the captain said.

Let me explain,” Frank laughed, “In many of the worlds that I visit gold and magical items are more common then they are in this world. One planet's economy was ruined when a group of alchemists discovered how to transform lead into gold. I prefer to buy up items that are more interesting.”

Souls?” a man with black skin cursed.

Frank snorted, “Do you know what the market on souls is like? It's a nightmare. Amateurs deal in souls. While my speciality is alcohol I buy and sell all kinds of things. Memories, life span, dreams, knowledge, and energy.”

He gestured to the captain, “For example. You have been around your fair share of ports. How many children do you think owe their existence to you?”

The captain let out a laugh, “A few thousand.” the other members of his crew joined in with the laughter.

To the gasps of the Kou's crew, Frank went into his backpack and drew out a rolled out carpet that could not have possibly fit inside of it. “Then let's make a deal.” he unrolled the carpet showing an artwork of swirling pattens and designs. Casually he got onto the rug and spoke in a clear voice. “Rise”

This time there were shouts from the sailors as the carpet levitated a foot off the ground. The sorcerer looked to the captain whose expression was close enough to a stroke victim's that he decided to cut to the sales pitch. “How about this for a deal? Every child that you will potentially sire from this moment onward will give up their potential energy to me. In other words they will never be born. In return I will sell you this levitating rug.”

Before the pirate could respond Frank got down onto his knees and gave two orders, “Forward, full speed.” He shot towards the harbour going as fast as a maniac horse with its arse on fire. He did a loop, dove into a dark street, flew up into the sky and then came back to the ship where he stopped suddenly.

She can carry to seven-hundred kilograms, her full speed is eighty kilometres an hour, and as long as she isn't damaged she will work for two centuries. Interested?”

Cyme watched as Frank took out his glass rectangle. All you had to do was put your thumb over it and the wizard sold you anything. Gold and jewels, silk and pearls. One pirate sold five years worth of memories to regrow a new leg.

With every transaction the wizard's smile grew. Glass bottles that never broke, a sword that could cut a man in half. They wanted more and the more they bought the more Cyme could see the damage that the sorcerer was doing.

One man bought so much gold that he went from a strapping thirty year old man into a senile old fart. He wore necklaces made of spun gold, great hunks of diamonds, and carried a sword that shined in the torchlight, but he had transformed into a shadow of his former self. His hair was falling out, his eyes were dull with age and confusion, he was deaf, and he could no longer walk without pain.

The captain saw all of this too. He shouted his men to stop but they couldn't help it, their greed couldn't hold them back. It was only until one of them traded five years of his life for a handful of diamonds when the crew got its first fatality.

Before Frank had stepped foot on that ship, the man couldn't have been older than sixteen, now he was in his eighties. He dropped to his knee, the air escaping from his lungs. The old pirate reached out to Frank who watched him with a smirk on his face.

Cyme saw it then, the malicious thing that was hiding behind the mask. The monster and demon which Frank hid under his charm and casual kindness. It was a creature than she had seen only a few times in her long experience as a solider. It was the face of a tactician who had just manoeuvred his opponent into an ambush, the dastardly grin of an assassin who felt their dagger entering the flesh of their target, the hunter who had just caught the buck that he had been hunting all day.

Get off my ship!” the captain called out. He looked as if he too had seen that all too familiar expression that Frank was openly wearing.

Frank's smile changed to a calm professional one, “Fine. Cyme, come on. We're done here.”

Keeping her eyes on the pirates who were too busy marvelling over their new found wealth, the Orian followed her employer off the Kou.

On the docks, Frank let out a stretch, “That went well, better than I imagined.” he nodded to the Kou.

Cyme looked back at the ship. “I suppose so. Those men got what they asked for.”

Oh, more than they know.” Frank said.

What do you mean? They sold everything they had for gold and jewels. One man gave his life for trinkets that he can never use.” Such a waste. Just like a pirate, they had thrown away their lives and the lives of their loved ones for nothing. Sure, they had a ship's haul full of gold but they would most likely throw it all away on wine and women.

Ah,” Frank laughed, “but you forgot about the slaves.”

What slaves?” Cyme asked.

The ones who sold me thirty days of their lives to break free of their shackles. And the one guy who sold me a year to get to the weapons cache that the captain was talking about before.”

Up on the deck of the Kou a man screamed and there were cries of both of fear and of anger as the slaves who had been down in the hold fought their way up and onto the deck. Cyme looked up to see the pirates engaged with two dozen men and a few women, all of them fighting for their lives. Up on deck the man who had sold Frank his ability to swim was thrown overboard into the harbour.

Cyme stepped forward but Frank cut off her currents thoughts of rescue and fighting with a single command, “Stop,” The Orian obeyed, not moving but watching the insuring chaos as pirates fought off their propulsion system.

From the sounds of fighting it looked to be a nice little skirmish and one that Cyme wanted to participate in. The Orian looked to the sorcerer who was already moving away from the ship which was now on fire, “Why did you do that?”

Why?” Frank laughed, “Those arseholes captured innocent fishermen, raided villages, took hostages, raped, pillaged, and murdered, and you want me to ask me why I did it? “ he shrugged, “I don't know. Fun? Profit?” A puzzled expression crossed the bartender's face, “Do those have to be mutually exclusive?”

But you...” Cyme didn't know what to say to all this. She held no love to pirate scum, as far as she was concerned Frank had just done the world a favour, but it just felt wrong. Perhaps it was her Orian pride, perhaps it was because she didn't get to join in on the fun, but Frank's way of trickery and underhanded scheming felt dirty.

The Orian stopped walking as she tried to walk through the steps of what happened. “Wait, when did you free the slaves? I watched you every single moment that we were on that boat.”

Frank tapped his ear, “Special augmentations. Genetic enchantments, cybernetics, causality glitches, and when I am in the right worlds I am also magically enhanced. I'm about as different from you as you are from an exploding supernova. While you were busy upstairs I sent a holographic projection of myself to the rowers.”

Frank pointed to a blank space five steps to his left and instantly there was two of him standing there.

Woah,” Out of reflex, Cyme drew her sword and pointed it at both Franks. The Orian was already close to her wits end and her employer's antics were not doing her any favours.

See,” The original Frank said and waved his hand through his duplicate. “I guess in terms that you would understand it's a construct made out of light.”

The duplicate took a step towards Cyme and offered its hand, “Hello, would you like to be free. Take my hand.”

A startling realisation was occurring to Cyme, she looked back at the ship. Several of the slaves had managed to free themselves and were now jumping onto the docks, others looked to be far more interested in revenge. Even from the warehouses she could see that the slaves had gotten a hold of the ship's axes and were using them to cut off the pirate's limbs.

With a wave of his hand the duplicate vanished and Frank glanced over at his latest work. He spoke to Cyme and to the darkness, “I've been making deals the moment I sold those glasses. People always want something for nothing. They want to feel like they won, they want to feel safe and in control of their lives. You would be honestly shocked at the things people want.”

He gestured out to the city that yet to realise or care that their world was built upon the pain and suffering of their neighbours and those weaker than them. “So far, I have collected nearly twenty thousand years from this city. The gold was mostly impure, the salt and pepper in low qualities, the rolls of silk I bought on clearance. I barely sold fifty thousand dollars in the supplies. Twenty thousand years for fifty thousand dollars.” Frank shook his head.

It was difficult to tell but Cyme thought she saw a figure blast out to the sky, most likely the ship's captain fleeing from his sinking ship and his dying crew.

You have no idea what twenty thousand human years is really worth on the open market.” Frank continued. He cocked his head to the nearby shadows, “Do you want to make a guess, boys?”

From out of the shadows a group of robed men kept their eyes on the bartender despite the more interesting sight of a ship burning on the once calm docks. In another alleyway a group of sailors and fishermen displayed their tight muscles, and from a second ship a new group of sailors were keeping their eyes on the giant.

Frank opened his arms to crowd, a welcoming fire to a swarm of moths. “Come one, come all. Gold, spices, knowledge, potions, weapons, power, and miracles. Everything and everyone has its price.”



About the author


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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