The Merchant In the Market

Tomas jangled the coin purse as he prepared to hand it over to the dark skinned human before him, “You want to count them before you leave?  Padaga as my witness I have never cheated a man from a single penny, but I tell everyone from whom I buy that I am a pragmatist as well as a devout Sun follower– I will take no offense.”

The man looked at the rotund giant, grunting as he grabbed the purse and pulling back his sash to reveal a scimitar, “You may have that big rusty pig sticker, but I’m a skilled mercenary.  If you cheated me, I’d be back and I’d have my blade drawn.”

“Ah, then may Padaga bless you and may you follow in the Path of the Sun brother.”

“Piss on the sun; I’ll not walk in any path of his.  But me and my Rezmari brothers thank your kindness to do business with the un-Sunned, scum as your kind usually considers us.”  The mercenary, pocketed the gold and stalked off into the night.

“He thinks he could best me, eh?  He thinks his skill could top my size, my strength, the sharpness of my blade?” Tomas muttered, “but he does not know that once, once I Wore the Lion’s Mask.”  He looked at the blade and considered it for a moment, “Perhaps I should sharpen it. . . grind out the rust.”

Then he set about the work of sorting through the various jewels and golden platters, and, honestly, most of it low grade, thin layers of gold or silver atop baser metals, simple rings, jewelry for mid-level merchants trying to appear above their stations.  A particularly dull colored ring caught Tomas’ eye.

He pulled it out of the stack, polishing it against his tunic.  Not even silver.  It was iron, most likely, wrought by the looks of it in the center and dipped in the thinnest layer of steel to give it a silvery color, but the black of the iron showed through, and Tomas could feel the bumps, the mounds that came from working the iron.  A cheap trinket and even displaying it beside the higher quality wares of his shop would lower their value by comparison.

Tomas rubbed the ring almost instinctively sliding it onto his finger.  Somehow, for some reason it seemed to fit.  Tomas furrowed his brow and held his pudgy hand before his face, spinning it once, twice, and then a third time.

Tomas fell back, startled as the ring began to emit smoke.  It burned hot on his finger, and Tomas tried to wrench it off, but the ring seemed to shrink down to cling to his finger.  Tomas fell to his knees, coughing on the smoke.  His eyes burned and watered and the very air in front of him seemed to heat up.

When Tomas’ vision finally cleared and he looked up, the creature standing before him caused his heart to quake with fear.

“Mortal being– you have donned the ring to which I am bound and spun it thrice on your finger.  I am yours to command, to a degree, and I will serve you though never willingly.  I was alive before your mother’s mother, and when all your daughter’s daughter dies still will I be alive, but for a brief span you shall be my master, though I shall never call you as such.” 

Tomas quaked in fear and wonder as he took in the form of the creature– seven feet tall, near as broad as he, but muscled rather than fat.  Wreathed in smoke and flame, with eyes that burned yellow and white hot teeth set against its magenta skin.  The Afrit smiled wider when he saw his new master’s reverence.

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