A note from Sabaoth

ONE HUNDRED FOLLOWERS! We broke three digits, which is incredible. Thank you to everyone who followed.

Now, time for some good old haggling, then some other very interesting stuff at the end.

“I want you to kill Yaavtey for me,” the man said. I stared at his wrinkled face across the table, showing nothing of my internal thought process. Did Koyl know they were going to ask this? I wondered. I had no problems with killing Yaavtey, he was just a human after all, but the fact that it took a secret meeting for Steelheart to request that he be killed indicated that the task of killing him might be more complicated than killing an average human.

“How much are you paying?” I asked. The man scratched at his patchy beard.

“Interesting that you would agree so easily,” he mumbled.

“I haven't agreed yet,” I retorted, “I want to know how much you will pay to have the leader of an enemy organization killed.” Really, this should be more valuable to him than it is to me, I thought.

“How about one hundred and fifty ngoywngeyt to each of you?” the man offered. Koyl exhaled sharply, and I heard his weight shift in his chair. “I can give you one-sixth up front,” he added.

“Too little,” I replied, “though I do wonder where you heard that number from.” Has he been spying on me? I asked myself, He did say he had information about me, but I haven't noticed anyone who looked like a spy. Maybe he paid people at the inn to give him information?

“That's my final offer,” the man grunted, “you can take it, or you can leave.”

“Then we're leaving,” Koyl said, standing up from his chair. I read his face, and saw that he was clearly bluffing, so I got up as well. “You have a good evening,” Koyl added, heading towards the door.

“Wait,” Dawpvaol said, just a little bit louder than usual. Koyl turned around, as did I, and we looked at the two who were still seated. The man began to tap his finger on the table, and chewed on his lip.

“Two hundred,” he offered.

“Three,” Koyl countered immediately.

“You have shit for brains if you think I would pay three hundred each for the life of one man,” the man growled back.

“If you had a way to kill him you wouldn't even be offering us one-fifty,” Koyl countered. “Three hundred each, or we walk.” Dawpvaol winced, and the man tapped his finger much harder, leaving it on the table's surface afterwards.

“Two-fifty,” he offered.

“Two eighty,” Koyl countered with a sly grin.

“Get out,” the man seethed, waving us towards the door. I shrugged and began to walk out, holding the door open for Koyl to leave behind me.

“Get back in here Yuwniht,” Koyl said, beckoning me inside and gesturing to shut the door. I did so and resumed standing in my previous position with my arms crossed. “Two-eighty each is a deal for the assassination of not only a rival company head, but the leader of a crime syndicate,” Koyl stressed. “You obviously know this man is dangerous, you expect us to risk our lives for nothing?”

“I do not even expect you to succeed,” the man hissed. “You think I am going to give you... almost a hundred ngoywngeyt total before you even do anything? You are insane, and you are even stupider than I thought you were.” What the man wasn't saying was clear on his face, he knows we're going to leave once we have the money, I thought.

“Three hundred each, with only twenty up front,” I offered, “you obviously know that Koyl and I both plan to leave Vehrehr once we have enough money. That's where you got the one-fifty number from, you had someone who overheard our discussions about chartering a ship to get to the mainland. You don't want to give us a sum even close to that because you think that one of us, probably myself, will just kill the other for the remainder of the money and leave alone.”

“That's ridi-” Koyl began, but then he stopped and gaped at the look on the old man's face. His wrinkles wrinkled even further from a sly grin, once again showing his aged teeth between his lips. “Shit,” Koyl swore softly.

“Three hundred each, with ten ngoywngeyt each up front,” the man countered. “I have no faith that you will succeed, but if you can, I will pay you the full amount.”

“You were willing to offer twenty-five before,” Koyl interjected.

“And you pissed me off, so now it is ten,” the man countered. Koyl took a deep breath, then exhaled. He looked at me, and I shrugged ever so slightly. “You should both know that Koylzmeyl here was wrong about the prices of renting rooms on trading ships, by the way,” the man added. “You will need two hundred if you want to make it across on a vessel which is legal. Koylzmeyl may not have known this since he originally came to Vehrehr on a smuggler's vessel.” So he didn't even plan to give us enough to get across at all, I thought, meaning that he wanted us to finish off Yaavtey, then kill each other when he found out or potentially have to use unsafe passage. Looking at the man I couldn't help but envy his planning ability.

“I find that acceptable,” I said, “what do you think, Koyl?”

Seytoydh ngaazmayjh,” Koyl swore, “you weren't even going to give us enough to start with.”

“Do you want the job or not?” the man asked sharply. Koyl hissed and looked away.

“Fine,” he grunted, “what's the timeframe?”

“Oh just get it done,” the man smiled benevolently, “I don't expect much from you, so I can be patient. Please do note that you will not be able to accept any other jobs from the Steelheart Company until you complete this job, and if you choose to abandon it you will be required to pay back double the upfront cost, as is standard.”

“Wait a minute-” I started angrily.

“No, Yuwniht, that's normal,” Koyl said, holding his hand up to get my attention, “we accept the terms.” The man clapped his hands together.

“Excellent,” he exclaimed loudly, “Dawpvaol will have your advance payment tomorrow morning, but feel free to get an early start. Now get out of my office before I send men to search that inn room of yours for the dueling sword you stole.” Koyl looked like he wanted to say something, but kept his mouth shut and turned around to leave. “You can keep it if you finish the job,” the man called out behind us, “It was a fake anyway.” Koyl exhaled through gritted teeth and exited into the street with me behind him.

Koyl and I sat in his room at the inn while noise permeated the floor from below us. Unlike most nights, he had told Yehpweyl to give us food that we could take upstairs so that we could talk privately. The look on Yehpweyl's face irritated me, as did most things the woman did, and I knew from her response that she was insinuating something improper about us when she gave us the food.

“We are so screwed,” Koyl muttered, putting his face in his hands for at least the tenth time since we entered. “It's a den full of killers and you're the new guy, nobody is going to fall for any of the normal plans. We'd be lucky to get out with our limbs still attached.”

“They grow back,” I countered. “So long as we succeed I don't see the problem.” Koyl reacted in a way that I recognized as the normal attitude he took when I failed to recognize something obvious. “Yes I know that was a figure of speech,” I added. Above us, the flame in the lantern flickered and went out.

“Just my luck,” Koyl sighed, “the oil has been going dry in that one for days. Just give me a minute.” He stood up and I watched as he held his hand to the lantern, then made a strained look on his face. Flames sputtered and died inside the lantern and Koyl swore again. I stood up, put my right hand to the lantern, made a gesture with my left hand, and it instantly ignited. Koyl made a face and then sat down again, looking more dejected than before.

“Will it stay lit?” I asked.

“Yeah for a little while,” Koyl replied, “I'll ask Yehpweyl to give me some more oil tonight and top it up.” I sat down again and went back to my food, which was some kind of breaded bird meat cut into small chunks for easy consumption. “You make it look so easy,” Koyl murmured with his mouth full.

“What?” I asked. Koyl waved his hand around ineffectually, then let it drop.

Taazmoydh,” he replied. While I had been mentally translating the word to “magic” for some time, the way he said it made me aware of its foreignness again. “It's just ridiculous,” Koyl continued, “you're twice as large as most men, skilled with magic, and probably not as stupid as you look. Why did you get all the luck?”

“I'm not twice as large,” I replied, “I would guess I am around one-fourth to one-third again as massive as most men I see, well within the range of normal variation.” Koyl snorted and said nothing while he took another bite. “Why do you have trouble with magic?” I asked. “It isn't particularly complex to light a fire using it.”

“Maybe for you,” Koyl snapped, “I can spend five minutes quieting my mind and reciting a prayer out loud and it's a coin flip whether anything even happens. My usual technique is to just to rapidly try to light flames since I know three or four tries will fail.” Koyl paused, then sighed and continued. “Some people just aren't that good at it. In fact, I would say that most people can't do much more than spark some wood or maybe squeeze a bit of sehpztaazmoydh out in an emergency. I’ve done more in the past, but never consistently. The kind of thing you did to that guy yesterday, that takes a focus that the average man just doesn't have.”

“Do you think Yaavtey is proficient in magic?” I asked. Koyl raised his eyebrows, then thought about the question.

“Well he would have to be good at sehpztaazmoydh at least, or else someone in that organization who was better than him would probably have killed him by now,” Koyl speculated, “As for the rest I'm not sure. I hear some other countries have interesting magic techniques that we don't teach to commoners here, but I've never seen them.” I clenched my teeth for a moment, then sighed as I knew I finally had to ask an important question.

“What is sehpztaazmoydh?” I asked. Koyl looked at me sideways, then chuckled.

“I'm not sure that joke makes sense in Uwrish,” he replied.

“It's not a joke,” I said, “I know what sehpztaazmoydh means, mostly, but not what it is. Can you explain it to me?” Koyl's sideways look got more severe.

“You use it all the time,” Koyl insisted, “there's no way that you don't know what sehpztaazmoydh is. Are you messing with me?”

“I have never used sehpztaazmoydh,” I said in a very serious tone, looking directly at Koyl. To my knowledge, I added silently, This might blow my cover, but if it does I can probably dispose of him and escape through the window. It's pretty unlikely he would be able to figure out the whole of it though, probably not worth worrying about.

“Are you trying to say you're that strong normally?” Koyl asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“No way,” Koyl said, “not possible.”

“It is,” I countered, “I never learned any form of magic before coming to Awsriyah Island. There is no way that I could know how to use sehpztaazmoydh.” The room was silent for a while. I continued to eat, while Koyl looked at me and went through a series of strange faces. Eventually, he took out a four-ngeyt coin and placed it in front of me.

“So you're telling me you can't lift this?” he asked. I frowned, then picked up the coin and shook my head in confusion. “Gods you really are an idiot,” Koyl sighed, snatching the coin away from me and setting it on his palm. “Like this, I mean,” he said, then he narrowed his eyes and stared at the coin unblinkingly, reciting inaudible words under his breath. Nothing happened for around half a minute except Koyl's face getting redder, but then the coin shifted in his hand. At first, I thought he had just twitched a muscle, but then the coin rotated and flipped up onto its edge. I watched in amazement as it then moved up, away from Koyl's palm, and hung in the air of its own accord before falling back to the floor as Koyl broke into a fit of panting.

“How did you do that?” I asked, my mind racing. Koyl groaned and scrunched his eyes shut.

“Well, it wasn’t easy, if you couldn't tell,” he replied.

A note from Sabaoth

Oh boy here we go.

Short-range telekinesis is actually quite difficult. Doubly so if you want to do it efficiently.

Yuwniht has done it before, by accident. There's a LOT of foreshadowing in that incident by the way, in case it wasn't clear at the time. At least three distinct points about magic are foreshadowed there.

About the author


Bio: I do this for fun.

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