Friday, October 19, 2012

#FridayFlash: Mik and the Merchant

The barge reached the Captain Rietha Bridge, and the crew offloaded the wagon. With Mik leading the donkey, and crewmen pushing behind, they got the wagon up from the landing and onto the Royal Highway. With evening setting in, they crossed to the way station opposite the bridge. There were several wagons, merchants by the looks of them, standing covered outside.

"I think the donkey likes you, Mik," said Sura, as they unhitched it. "If you get him in the stables, I'll put supper together."

"Fair enough." They embraced for a moment and went their ways.

After accepting another handful of grain, the donkey let Mik lead him into the stable. He found an empty stall and tied the donkey within, then spread fresh straw from the hayrick on the floor. Mik took the bucket and walked back down to the river to fill it. Familiar chores, once done in a place that he would soon see again.

As he went to find Bailar and Sura, he heard a hiss and a voice. "Hoy. Boy-sprout."

Mik turned to see a merchant, beckoning to him. He shrugged and ambled over. "What?"

"I have something for you," whispered, holding up a tiny vial. "A love potion, from the faraway East. I saw you and your girl out there. Put this in her tea, and she'll do anything for you. And I mean, anything!" The merchant grinned and made a suggestive gesture.

Mik frowned, fingering his blue sash. Is it possible he doesn't know what this signifies? he thought, but decided to play along. See how truly ignorant this folkman was. He leaned forward, gazing at the vial. "How does it work?" he asked.

"It's strong magic," the merchant assured him, warming to his pitch. "Sorcerers in the faraway East have preserved lore of such things from the time of Camac That Was… or perhaps even before! I've traveled far, looking for one who could benefit. You, I think, are the one."

"Enchanters," said Mik.

"Eh?"

"A potion would be an enchantment," Mik explained, "imbuing an object with magic. Sorcery is harnessing the elements, usually for a physical effect."

"Sorcerers, enchanters," the merchant made a dismissive gesture, trying to regain his footing. "Quite the young pedant, you are. But we're talking about your love life, no?"

"No." Mik's hand shot forward, grasping the vial for a moment, before the surprised merchant could snatch it back. "You were talking about a supposedly magical potion that would… well, it would do nothing, because I felt no magic in it just now. What you have there is probably a concoction of herbs, or perhaps a swallow of liquor."

"And you're some great mage?" the merchant sneered.

"Only an apprentice sorcerer. But I know enough to recognize a bargeload of rotten meat when I hear it." Mik turned. "And now, good evening to you, sir."


As they shared supper, on the way station porch, Mik related the encounter. Bailar laughed heartily. "You taught him a fine lesson! I hope he applies it!"

Sura was not at all amused. "I wish I'd been there," she growled. "Setting him on fire might have been a better lesson." Below them, a small patch of grass began to smolder.

"Sura, put that out!" Bailar looked alarmed. "Petty fraud does not warrant serious injury, in any case!" Sura shook her head, but hopped down to stamp out her small fire. "No harm was caused, and I expect he'll be more cautious with his touting from here on."


Later that night, Mik was drifting toward sleep when he heard Sura whisper. The three of them shared a tiny room in the way station, the bed little more than a wide platform above the floor. “Mik. Are you awake?”

“I am.” He eased himself up. Between them, Bailar breathed slowly.

“Can I ask you something?” He could see little more than her outline in the dark.

“Anything.”

“If that merchant really had a love potion, would… would you have bought it?”

Mik shook his head, forgetting for a moment that Sura could not see. “No,” he whispered. “When…” he paused, thinking Bailar might be awake and listening. “No. Is it my turn to ask a question, now?”

Sura sighed. “Ask.”

“Would you have really set the merchant on fire?”

She giggled. “No, but after he heard what I had to say, he might have wished I had!”

Mik snorted. “That would have been fun to watch!”

“Go to sleep, you two,” said Bailar. “If you are hoping I will find a quiet place to sleep, and leave you here by yourselves, I will not.”

“Apologies, mentor,” said Mik, although they could both hear the smile in his voice. “Sura started it, though!”

“Mik!” Sura laughed, snatched up her pillow, and flapped Mik with it over her protesting father. He covered himself and chortled under her laughing assault.

19 comments:

  1. Ah, don't try to sell a camel to an Arab. Glad to see that still holds where magic is involved!

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  2. Loved this, Larry: "Hoy. Boy-sprout." Literally giggled here. Nice story!

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  3. Clever business folk! Lucky they weren't sold their own coffins.

    In the first paragraph, wouldn't the 'b' in 'bridge' be capitalized if it's a memorialized structure? Like JFK International Airport or the Washington Monument?

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  4. Liked this! Is this part of a larger work?

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  5. Tony, I think there's also a lesson in there about knowing your mark(et)!

    Thanks, Cathy. That particular expression is a loan from Low Speech, which suggests the merchant comes from a remote place.

    Good catch, John! Sura would have happily sold them a coffin, I think.

    Ganymeder, it's part of a sequel to Accidental Sorcerers. It puts Mik & Sura through a dark phase of their relationship, and they got mad and made me sit & write out the resolution and the ending. (Don't mess with a kid who can summon an ice dragon, y'know?) So then they got me going on this part, which is the last really happy moment they have for a while. This all started on Tuesday, and I'm 1/3 done with the story. I hope they let up on me soon.

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  6. Ah Mik has learned well - he should make a fine wizard!

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  7. Very impressive, will you be expanding?

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  8. I still love this world you're building. It's got a crisp, new day feel to it that I'm really drawn to.

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  9. It was good to get back to Mik and Sura. I haven't read about them in awhile and I liked this little glimpse at them.

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  10. I really like the dialogue between Mik and Sura in this.

    The story had me smiling all the way through.

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  11. Thanks, Sonia!

    Helen, I think he will. If he survives. ;-) Funny, sorcery was supposed to be such a *peaceful* job in this age…

    Hi Terry, welcome to the free-range insane asylum! See my above comment, this is an excerpt of a story that's been pushing at me all week to write it. I figure it will run about 30,000 words, and I'm over 1/3 done now. A previous story with these characters is complete, also 30,000 words.

    Thanks, Aaron. It keeps surprising me with new things, although I've been building this world on & off for a couple decades!

    Danni, they were rather insistent that I get started on this part!

    Thanks, Steve!

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  12. Nice Little story there,Larry.I'll have to read more of these two and the world.I enjoy just about anything you write and hope to be joining you soon on Flash Friday(I'm hoping this horrendous cough will be gone soon,its killing me!). Keep the good work up, my friend,and take care

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  13. Take care of yourself, EJ! There's more to these two, I've blogged some of the earlier parts starting with part 1.

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  14. I do like a good pedant! I wonder how Sura would handle telephone salespeople?

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  15. It's always fun to see a hustler get called out. And I like the relationship building between Mik and Sura. I can't wait to see where this story goes.

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  16. I'm glad this story is back!

    Even if it had been a real potion, it wouldn't have cast the merchant in a very favourable light to offer it!

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  17. Icy, maybe Sura could have shot a little lightning down the line?

    Chuck, Katherine, this is part of the second novella. I've blogged only part of the first one. My sister-in-law (the sane one, not Big V) gave me an idea for a third. So these guys might keep me busy for a while!

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  18. Glad to have Mik and Sura back :). I can sense their feelings for each other are certainly developing nicely.

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