Snakes and Pills

125 - dulcet

The vendor stalls made navigating the marketplace tricky. They were all similar, and all packed so tightly together. Before lunch, Marvin had known exactly which stall he intended to make his purchase from. Now, he wondered if he'd ever be able to find it again.

He was a stranger in this land, but all the shopkeepers spoke the language of money. They called out to him as he wandered past: "What are you looking for, friend?" Marvin continued walking as if he didn't hear them, knowing by now that it was best to simply ignore them.

He was growing increasingly worried that he was never going to find the stall he was looking for, when down another alley, back in a corner, he finally stumbled upon it. Anxious that the object of his desire had already been sold, he scanned over the wares.

Marvin exhaled a quick sigh of relief when he saw that it was still there, undisturbed from the place it had been when he last saw it. The shopkeep, a man who could not have been but a year or two older than Marvin himself, waddled over to his new customer. The man was somewhat heavyset and Marvin detected a strong, musky odor emanating from him.

"Can I help you find anything?" the shopkeeper asked in a heavily accented voice.

"Yes," Marvin replied eagerly, "I'm interested in purchasing one of your Amethyl stones."

The shopkeep let out an odd, satisfied cackle at Marvin's request. "Ah, Amethyl! It's very good, isn't it? Are you look for a titanium or aluminum infusion?"

Marvin quickly and confidently replied: "Aluminum." He had done his research.

Again, the cackle. "Aluminum infusion, then. We have several choices," the shopkeep said proudly, while motioning for Marvin's attention. Marvin began to interrupt--he already knew what he wanted. But it was apparent that there would be no stopping this salesman from making his pitch.

The shopkeeper produced an Amethyl stone from the case that was not the one Marvin was interested in. "This one here has a special cut," he boasted. "If you look carefully, you can see the pattern etched right into the edge here."

Politely, Marvin nodded and looked. He saw the pattern, but frankly he thought it looked tacky and kind of stupid. "These other ones here, they have the same function of this one, but they lack any sort of etching. No special cut, just Amethyl."

"Okay," Marvin said. "Well, I think that's nice, but the ordinary stone should be fine for me, actually," he continued, gesturing toward the stone that he had already chosen.

Deep from his throat, deeper than before, another series of cackles erupted from the shopkeeper. "Ah, but my friend, I have not yet told you the best part. You agree that the design is nice, yes?" For the sake of being amicable, Marvin nodded in the affirmative. "Then, what if I told you that the price for the special cut Amethyl stone is only a dollar more? It's not much more money, but you get a much nicer stone. So what do you say? It's okay, yes?"

Marvin was not about to be swindled. He politely but firmly shook his head. "Well, I think I still want the regular cut, if that is alright."

The shopkeep cackled again, but Marvin noticed a slightly different tone to it now. "Of course, of course, my friend. So, can I help you with any accessories for your new stone? Amethyl is powerful and best when it is contained and used properly. A case, or incantation manual?"

"No thanks, just the stone," Marvin said, standing firm.

The next set of cackles that came from the shopkeeper were starting to sound downright evil.


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