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by Steve Coate

“Twenty gold pieces for this fine-looking specimen,” declared the short, stocky trader to his growing audience.

The merchant had timed his arrival in the town perfectly. It was indeed a busy day in the market square. “She’s a steal at this price, my friends. Just look at this fine figure and ample bosom.” He gestured toward the shackled young brown-haired beauty who stood on the raised wooden platform next to him.

The trader paused a moment to smooth his thick black mustache with two fingers. After his simple yet effective description, every man in the pack of onlookers had a hand thrust into the air, for the trader was indeed selling the finest of his wares this day.

“I’ll take her for twenty-five!” offered an eager young man at the front of the crowd.

The merchant addressed the crowd, his voice booming to reach as many prospective customers as possible. “Surely you won’t let this youngster outbid you? This fine young woman comes to you from the southern steppes of Thurnia, with a subservient attitude, and she can be yours for only a few coins more.”

“Twenty-five gold and three silver!” cried a shrewd-looking man in the rear of the crowd.

“Twenty-seven!” came another offer from the young man at the head of the throng.

“Thirty gold,” stated an old man with quiet authority. Garbed in robes of gray cloth that nearly matched the color of his hair, the aging man stood in the center of the mob of onlookers.

Everyone else must have decided that ale was more important than a slave girl at that moment, because they all fell silent and several of them left for the tavern. No doubt, to discuss what they would have done with such a girl.

As he gave the shackled young woman to the aging man in gray, along with the key to her shackles, the trader smiled, revealing his yellowed teeth. “Enjoy.”


As the old man urged his mules forward, he ignored the onslaught of questions his new slave hurled at him from her seat in the back of the wagon. Once off the trading block, her attitude seemed a good deal less than subservient. This was one of those times when his learned patience was of use. Soon they would arrive at the tower and all her questions would be answered, whether to her liking or not.

The man thought of the many pleasures he would seek with this new woman, and a smile crossed his lips.

Almost as soon as it had been formed, the smile left his face, for a man with fire in his eyes and armed with a dagger charged at him from the treeline. The old man recognized his attacker as the young man who had bid against him. The youngster’s lust must have driven him mad, to try such an obvious tactic.

The old man flicked his wrist, sending the black leather whip singing through the air to connect with his attacker’s upraised arm, causing the obsessed young man to drop his dagger. The youth made a move for the fallen weapon and the older man flicked his whip through the air once more.

The whip curled around the young man’s legs, sending him crashing to the ground. The old man hopped down from the wagon, picked up the dagger, and plunged it through the young man’s heart.

Then the old man’s eyes widened in shock as he felt something sharp penetrate his back, followed by a great weight. The old man had time only to realize who it was that had stabbed him, before his last breath escaped him.

The slave girl quickly went to work, removing all items of value from both bodies, freeing herself from the shackles when she discovered the key. As she was doing so, a stout figure emerged from the treeline at the edge of the road.

“Not bad for a day’s work,” the merchant said, smoothing his black mustache with two fingers.

“Be quiet, Leif, and help me with the bodies.”

The two thieves finished picking the bodies clean and dragged them into the woods, out of sight. Then they climbed aboard the wagon.

Leif took hold of the reins. “This should keep us fed and outfitted for a few weeks, Celia.”

Celia picked up the whip and snapped it over the heads of the pair of mules, urging them onward. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, Leif. I don’t think I’m getting a large enough share.”

Leif affected a look of shock. “Why Celia, whatever do you mean!”

“I’m the one who takes all the risks. And the one who does all the killing, might I add. I think I deserve a little more.”

“But Celia, I make your job simple by setting the marks up for you. All you have to do is push them over. Besides, we don’t always have to kill them. If they only took a little more care in what they were buying, they would never put themselves in jeopardy in the first place.”

The two thieves continued their age-old argument, as they progressed down the road, in search of another town filled with new customers.



Steve Coate holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida International University and has worked at two major metropolitan newspapers in South Florida. He was an English major prior to switching tracks to Journalism and has also worked in sales (both door to door and telemarketing), catering, and the dry cleaning industry, providing plenty of material for the speculative fiction he writes. He lives in Lauderhill, Florida, with his cat, Bigby.

Steve’s short fiction has appeared in the Nightfall Publications anthology From Shadows and Nightmares (August, 2011), Ray Gun Revival (July, 2012), Bloodbond magazine (November, 2013) and is forthcoming in the Diabolical Publications LLC anthology Ether World. When not writing speculative fiction, Steve works as an editorial assistant at the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.

You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevecoate or on his blog, The Coaterack.