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Rated: E · Short Story · Fantasy · #2292677
Oan must make a life-changing decision after receiving unsettling news
Oan pulled a leather bag from a hole in the floor. He dumped the contents into his hand.

20 silver talons gleamed in the candlelight: ten coins for Old Robb’s boat to cross the Boiling Sea. Ten more to begin again on the other side.

He replaced the coins and picked up the candle. Hot wax dripped on his skin.

And then, behind his eyes, came the stabbing again. He dropped the candle, groped in the sudden darkness for the bed. The thrumming pain kept time with his pounding heart.

The next morning, he went to see the Sybil.

“Headaches?” she asked.


“Behind the eyes?”


“And pain here too?” She touched his temples.


She tapped her chin with her finger.

She handed him a cup of milky green liquid. "Drink," she commanded. He did, then vomited on the floor.

Her face went white.

“You have Swine Blisters in your brain.”

The world stopped.

He looked at his hands. His nails were chipped and covered with dirt.

“How long?”

She turned away, wiping the cup with a dirty rag. “24 hours. Maybe.”

He started toward the door.

“I’ve had luck with an elixir I’ve used. It’s only a chance. But you know how this will end.”

He’d seen it in his mother: screaming, foaming at the mouth, and at the end, leaking blood out of her eyes and ears.

“How much?” he whispered.

“15 talons.”

He leaned his forehead against the the door and took a ragged breath. “I’ll let you know what I decide,” he said over his shoulder.

He trudged a half-mile to the pier. Old Robb was in his workshop, brushing pitch on the boat’s keel. “Young Master Oan!” Robb’s eyes twinkled. “She’ll be ready by morning.”

Oan crossed his arms, cleared his throat. “I, uh, I don’t suppose you’d take five instead of ten?” he asked.

Robb’s face flushed.

“I gave up a contract for over Dewsbury way for you!" he yelled, shaking the brush in Oan's face. "I won’t be cheated! We agreed on ten!”

“Ten it is,” Oan said. “I’ll be back tomorrow morning.” If I’m still alive.

* * *

When the sun rose, he retrieved the sack of money.

Outside, standing in the early morning spring light, he put one of the coins on his thumb and snapped it heavenward. As it tumbled back down into his open palm, it glimmered.

He closed his fist and breathed a prayer. Then he flipped the coin onto the back of his other hand.

He looked at the round silver piece.

“So that’s it then,” he said.

He put the coin away and started down the road.
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