‘There is,’ she said, ‘magic in the air.’
I looked up at her. I was lying in the bed, sheets thrown back. Giella was sitting up, naked, looking down at me with a serious expression on her face. ‘What?’
‘I mean it.’
‘Of course you do.’ I smiled. Ever since I’d arrived in the South Islands I’d heard people talking of magic, what it could do and who could do it.
Of course, back in the Sun Empire we had people who claimed they could do magic, real magic that is not the conjuring tricks of the court entertainers. It got so bad that the Emperor issued a decree. Then people learnt not to claim they could do magic. Not if there was any chance of one of the emperor’s spies being within earshot, anyway.
Which was why I was no longer in the Sun Empire, of course. Being someone who liked to alter people’s perceptions of what is real and what is true into a financial gain for myself was getting somewhat difficult with the Emperor’s spies around. It is a funny thing about the wealthy, the more money they have the more they are afraid that enterprising individuals like me will try to deprive them of as much of it as we can.
Which is pretty much true.
I escaped on a boat, with little more than I stood up in and my emergency travel bag. I’d left a fair bit of gold behind, along with the merchant’s daughter crying in her chamber. I’d been trying to ease the burden of her father’s wealth from him. His money didn’t seem to make him happy, So I’d decided to do what I could to relieve him of some of the worry. His wife didn’t make him happy either. I’d thought about trying to make her happy myself.
I like a challenge.
I was all set to woo the wife and through her help relieve the merchant of his worrisome riches, when I first saw his daughter. I walked into a wall turning to watch her pass. Then she giggled at me in a way that made me forget about her mother and almost forget how rich her father was.
But that was nearly the last mistake I made.
Now I was here in the South Islands, temporarily financially bereft and sharing a room with Giella. We’d met as she hid behind a barrel from some rather well armed men who seemed not to have her best interests in mind.
‘Magic,’ I said. ‘There is no such thing. Don’t try to kid a kidder.’
‘Oh, it is an old Empire saying.’
‘But look.’ She weaved a pattern in the air, and before me, I saw the merchant’s daughter showing me a trick one of her father’s bodyguards had taught her.
I blushed. ‘But… how…?’
‘I said there is magic in the air.’ Giella waved away the apparition. ‘Now, let us get down to business.’
‘I thought we just had?’
‘No. Serious now,’ said the woman whose breasts wiggled in a most appealing manner when she was naked and annoyed. ‘That girl…’
‘I can explain….’
Giella waved a dismissive hand. ‘No, not her. I don’t care about her, or what dirty tricks you taught her. What I want to know is how rich is her father?’