A 625 word flash fiction of sword and sorcery about a curio dealer's bad luck.
In the land of Bel there is a large city-state that carpets a river valley called Yesha, and its marble walls are high and proud. And those walls cast long shadows. And in the shadows of those tall walls, beyond the towers and temples and manses that constitute Yesha, there are many slums that ring that city-state, that crowd the city like moss or mold encroaching upon an otherwise gleaming carving in marble.
In one of these slums (for there are many of these, some with names and others with forgotten names) there dwelt a dealer of curios, rare items that may or may not be worth anything.
His name does not matter as much as his temperament, which was foul. Most of his paltry wealth (he did not have much) he made by lying about the wares in his store and selling them to the naive, downtrodden, and hopeful, for the poor who lived in these slums had more hope than most.
Let me give you a taste of his dishonesty. For example, a simple bone-carving depicting a woman with child, beautiful yet quite mundane, he would label this as such: "A charm. Capable of keeping disease away. Cultivates fertility. Protects mothers during childbirth." Or, consider an amulet of beaten copper in the shape of the sun: "A powerful spell is laid on this. If it is worn without being removed for five cycles of seasons, the wearer will be blessed by the Sun God."
These stories were all lies, of course, as well as his treasure maps, genie lamps, love potions, and oils to remove leprosy and warts.
Our curio dealer purchased his curios from a variety of suppliers, but mostly he employed thieves to this purpose: rogues, brigands, and cutthroats who would slink into Yesha at night and rob the manses and murder in the temples and desecrate tombs.
And so, it was a dark night when one of his agents came to him slicked with sweat, eyes wide and bloodshot, holding a bloody handful of his own entrails and an object swaddled in grimy rags. After debating a price, the curio dealer purchased this item, which was an egg the size of a human head, a vivid crimson. The burglar would not say who he had taken this egg from, and he took his gold and dragged himself to the nearest surgeon, weeping yet praising some god in hushed tones.
The curio dealer sat the egg aside and thought deeply about what story he could tell about it. He lit himself a pipe and poured himself a mug of blackroot and gazed on the egg and thought and thought hard. And he puffed and sipped and so soon decided that it would be quite expensive. Yes, it would be very expensive. Thirty coins of silver, it would cost, a kingly price for his curio shop.
And he decided on this back story for the curio: it was a demon egg. If the buyer could ever hatch this crimson egg, a demon would issue forth, who would swiftly swell and ripen from the size of a grape into the size of an elephant before the eyes of the astonished owner. And if and only if the one who hatched the egg knew this demon's secret name, it would serve and provide great power. If the name was not known...
The curio dealer smiled to himself as he sat the egg on the hearth and leaned it against an old oil-lamp that he claimed held a genie.
I do not know where this egg came from. I do know, however, that Yesha is ruled by a demon today, that the curio dealer is dead, and no one in that city-state knows the demon's true name.