The Last Magus

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A surprise solution...

Without any money in his pocket the bus fare was out of the question, so Joe turned at the end of the road and trudged along the route the bus would take, Draco walked with him the whole five miles into town. The day was warming, very slowly, but being January that still meant temperatures close to zero, luckily there was little to no wind; a wind chill would have driven the temperature down to an unbearable level that would have had Joe turning on his heels and going home again! Draco seemed tireless, he padded along, intensely interested in practically everything. Joe hadn’t considered how it would look having a dog with him, a dog with no lead...but there seemed little need for a leash, and given the look Draco had given him when he’d mentioned it Joe doubted Draco would willingly wear one. Several times on their walk Joe had to call Draco away from something that had grabbed his attention but he never shouted or called him, except in his mind, and always Draco would look up and answer, “Coming magus.” The trip passed surprisingly quickly, usually it dragged but then usually Joe had had to do this trip alone…having Draco along definitely improved his mood while his pain level was receding from its usual screaming agony to a quiet dull roar. Finally after five miles they arrived in the small town centre, it wasn’t much of a town to be honest but it was the closest and Joe considered it his only option at the moment.

“OK my friend, Lin, works out of a small office over a travel agents on the high street. Since I’ve got no cash we’ll have to go find him first.” Joe said to himself in a hushed whisper as he stood at the pedestrian crossing waiting for the lights to change. He started across the road that circled the town as the signals gave a high pitched bleep, bleep, bleep that somewhat startled Draco. Joe walked the short distance along the pedestrianised high street to the travel agents. There were the usual loud, garish signs in the window, women in almost nothing bikinis hyping the latest holiday destination. Seychelles? Tenerife? Majorca? Joe hadn’t had a holiday he could remember since childhood so he sighed as he looked down at Draco, “You know I always wondered if the holidays these pencil necks sell live up to the advertising hype. I mean look at that one, she’s practically naked in that swimsuit. What I wouldn’t give to have a woman like that in my life though…”

“You don’t have a woman in your life then magus?” Draco thought into his mind.

“No, no sadly I don’t…in fact you could say Paul was correct, first time for everything right? I suppose I am a loser. I’ve never managed to get even one woman interested enough in me to try. But imagine if I could get a woman like her on my arm as we go past Paul and his wife. Compared to his fat stupid troll that girl would have his jaw hanging open! While his brick brained son would be drooling into his shorts.”

“Paul is married to a troll?” Draco looked up quizzically.

“Err not a troll like you’re thinking Draco: big, green thing covered in warts with body odour capable of peeling paint at a hundred paces…although now I think about it that would be an apt description of Darlene.”

“Well magic can do a lot of things magus so practise and you never know…” Draco smiled and panted…was that a wink?

“The door is at the side so we’ll need to go up and see Lin.”

Joe and Draco stepped to the side of the big display window, oddly it looked as if the near naked girl in the advert was smiling in Joe’s direction while she reclined on her sun lounger, probably just the camera angle or his imagination. Joe reached for the door handle, it was one of those panel doors where the lower panel is solid and the upper is glass. Etched into the glass in fine handwritten script were the words “Lin Tan Yeung” then on the line underneath in printed text, “Dealer in rare coins, stamps and antiquities. Best price anywhere, top dollar paid!”

“Lin’s place may not look like much Draco but he is absolutely loaded! If you think Paul with his hundred grand motor was impressive; Lin could buy five without needing to go to the bank!” Joe had to admit that Lin was a very wealthy man, easily worth millions. Lin ran this small dealership in the town he said just so he could keep his hand in…he definitely didn’t need the money. Lin was a Chinese immigrant who had arrived in the country shortly after Hong Kong had been handed back to China so that would be what? Eighteen years he’d been in the country now. Involuntarily Joe’s eyebrows rose as he realised just how long he’d known Lin. Joe had met Lin soon after he arrived and for a short time Joe had helped with the dealership on an unofficial basis, weekends mostly, but though the work was nice and the company genial it hadn’t felt like his thing. Lin and he had remained firm friends though. Lin had arrived with an immeasurable supply of money behind him, officially he was a dealer and would trade your items with any interested parties taking an agreed percentage from the sale…Unofficially the interested party was usually Lin himself as he was an avid collector and even if not interested in the item himself he would turn huge profits by buying the item and then selling it himself later on. Joe had to admit he did indeed have an amazing collection to show off. Coins from practically every corner of the planet covering most ages with some so rare that they left you wondering about his security. Why he and Lin got on so well was a complete mystery to Joe, in any normal sense Lin would have given Joe a wide berth. Joe looked at his reflection in the glass panel, in a sense Paul had been right Joe was so dated, he felt old! Instead though Lin and he had taken to each other like old friends and their friendship had grown over the years. “Only one drawback to Lin, he’s tighter than a duck’s arse when money is involved. If he gives me a price of five it will probably be worth twenty five!” Joe shook his head disconsolately, “all his money and you still need a crowbar to prise his bloody wallet open! He gives next to nothing to charity unless he can expect some return, like his name in the papers.” Lin, Joe thought momentarily, was the opposite to Paul in that sense, Paul was literally all show and no substance; Lin was all substance with next to no public show. He could pass you on the street without you batting an eye. Joe opened the door, a small flat area of concrete almost immediately rose into a narrow set of stairs that lead upwards. Even with all of Lin’s wealth he kept this poky little office come shop, he’d never considered an upgrade. “Tighter than a duck’s arse!”

Joe let Draco in in front of him and closed the door behind him, pulling it shut with a grunt, there was a nasty chill wind picking up at that moment so getting out of the cold felt like a really good idea. With a reserved sense of determination, or was it desperation, starting to build inside him Joe climbed the stairs and arrived at the entrance to Lin’s place, he needed money but he needed to not let Lin see that or he’d be sold short, friend or no friend Lin was merciless where money was involved . Joe tapped on the glass panel of a similar looking door to downstairs. A small slightly balding oriental man looked up from his desk where he had been examining a selection of coins, he smiled broadly and waved Joe to come in.

“Hey Joe, what you know?” Lin always greeted him this same way and Joe had images of the Vietnam war newsreels flash through his mind when he did. “That nice dog…yours? Pretty!!!” The room was comfortably warm, silently Joe thanked Lin for having his heating on.

“Hi Lin, how’s the coin biz?” Joe cast an eye down to Draco, “Yes this err dog is Draco, he and I sort of found each other…makes a nice friend at least you know.”

“Look like good dog too! Like shiny gold fur, not see before…very unusual breed.” Lin’s pronunciation was every comedian’s stereotypical oriental with l’s pronounced instead of r’s and vice versa, so very unusual breed came out as vely unusual bleed , this meant sometimes Joe had to take a moment to try and process whatever Lin had actually said. “Coin biz is good, good, got fine coins other day…you want see?” Joe’s teeth almost grated, Lin’s pigeon English was also an annoying trait; all these years over here and he still spoke like a fresh faced immigrant off the boat.

“Actually Lin…I’ve got a coin I want you to have a look at for me…”

Lin’s eyes almost bulged out of his head, then he laughed explosively. He looked at Joe’s expression and laughed for a full minute more, he laughed so hard that he started gripping his stomach as if in pain. Tears were forming in the corner of his eye, Joe just felt embarrassed, “Stop it! Stop it! That funniest thing I hear in long time Joe! You! You got coin? You lucky if you got two normal coin to rub together. Whole time we friends I never know you have money. Where you get rare coin huh? Christmas just gone so you sure you not having joke with this poor immigrant? What coin made of huh? Chocolate maybe? You get from Santa or off Christmas tree? You have coin!” Again Joe’s teeth grated Lin referred to himself as an immigrant to tug the heartstrings of people he was trying to deal with.

“No, listen really Lin I got some…I mean a coin…” Joe suddenly didn’t want to tip his hand and say five coins, “I’m not joking. I know my finances are bad but you don’t have to take the piss mate! This coin looked unusual…I guess I must have got it in change from somewhere. It looks old and odd. I knew you were a coin expert…”

“The word is numismatist Joe, I am numismatist! Rare coin I collect, I trade.”

“Whatever Lin, you know about old and rare coins, I bet you could write books on the subject. So I thought you might able to tell me if it’s worth anything…that’s all!”

“OK, sorry, you no joking…this is first! Red letter day, Joe have rare coin, maybe? So come on show me coin already. I not got all day you know…very busy man!”

Joe stepped toward the desk and sat opposite Lin facing him, he was desperately trying to stop himself from laughing out loud, or hitting his friend. Lin was right of course Joe never seemed to have any money, nothing of any real amount anyway just odd pennies here and there. Joe hung his head for a moment, it had all been so hard but he was this way only with the best of intentions, he was a victim of circumstance or fate. Whenever he came to see Lin he always had images of Chinese Take Away shops and Lin saying “you want noodles and rice? Boy you must be hungry!” Joe coughed once into his hand. “Cold out there today Lin! I’m glad you put your heating on.” then with a quiet sense of something like shyness he pushed his hand into his jacket pocket and pulled one of the five gold coins from it placing it with a solid sounding clunk on the counter top.

Every gambler will tell you there are certain give away signals that people give off, tells they call them, if you know how to read them then you can read the person’s reactions and know what they are thinking even without them saying anything. You could for example know from a tell if the guy opposite you has just been handed a hand of cards that were nothing or he just got a royal flush. Tells are also for the most part subconscious, so normally the person will not be aware they are giving themselves away. Then there are the gamblers who know their own tells and can consciously use them to fake out an opponent. Lin was not such a gambler, he had a very definite tell, his eyes would open and the more the item was worth the more widely they’d do so. Joe had seen it several times as he’d sat in the shop chatting with Lin when a customer would pay a visit. Now when Joe put the coin on the desk Lin’s eyes almost bulged out of his head, Joe smiled so the coin was worth a lot!

Lin coughed loudly as he tried to control himself, with a visibly shaking hand he picked up the coin, “You got this…in change! What you try to pay for bloody Fort Knox?”

Joe smiled to himself, he could read Lin like a book if he tried, “Er yeah that’s right I don’t know where I got it from, probably some time ago and I just put it to one side. So I was going through the change I had and bingo, I found this…I thought I might have got it as some novelty token, but then from the weight it felt real. The fact it has that hole through the centre made me think it isn’t worth all that much…” Joe deliberately looked disappointed to heighten the appearance of his ignorance.

“Not worth much…” Lin almost spluttered and choked. He was having a hard time controlling his reactions. Joe thought there was little point he could already tell that Lin knew this coin was worth a fortune! Lin weighed the coin in his hand thoughtfully, “yes good weight…definitely not novelty coin.”

“It looked old too…I knew you were into old coins mate so what do you think?”

Lin took out a jeweller’s eyeglass and looked the coin over closely, inspecting it. Tiny scratch marks on some of the carving in the gold but otherwise perfect. “I think Joe that your ship just dock…”

“Really?” Joe raised an eyebrow, “you think it’s worth something, that’s good but do tell me more then…”

“Well Joe boy this look like ancient Chinese coin from Mu-Fogg dynasty. Understand I no say is Mu-Fogg coin…but it look lot like. Many fakes out there, many fakes! The hole was so they thread onto string to hang round neck, no purse or wallets see? Weight feel good for good percentage of gold but I will need to check it to see if totally pure.”

“Mu-Fogg dynasty? Never heard of that one Lin, old?”

“Six thousand year ago, very short dynasty. One emperor only, ruled one year maybe two then poisoned…very nasty business!” Lin said this with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“So it is old but is the coin rare?”

“Rare?” Lin choked again a strangled sound, “Joe you know nothing of Chinese history. China have oldest known civilization on planet, we doing stuff in China before you get out of cave! But Mu-Fogg dynasty was so short they didn’t have time to mint coin. Emperor was dead while they were still designing coin. Fact you got one is…what word I need?”

“Rare? Maybe even unique? So it’s worth something then…to the right person?”

Lin looked up into Joe’s face, he desperately didn’t want to let Joe know what he had because he as a collector would kill for this coin…literally and figuratively kill! Just as one might “acquire” the Mona Lisa and hang it so only you ever saw it, Lin wanted this coin. The problem was with Lin’s tells giving him away Joe already knew that. “For Mu-Fogg coin you can expect to get good sum yes…good sum. You want sell?” Joe could almost see the drool Lin was building up in anticipation.

“Sell it? Yes I think I’d consider it, if the price was right?” Joe answered so non-committally that Lin half stood as if to slap him. “How about you give me a figure Lin…you know friend to friend. So I can know when and if I decide to sell it that I’m getting a fair price.”

“As friend…” Lin scratched his chin thoughtfully as if considering his offer, “I could buy coin from you for maybe two hundred…yes me think maybe two hundred.” Lin looked up over the top rim of his glasses expectantly.

Joe half smiled, if Lin said two hundred it was worth a thousand easily, “only two hundred? You don’t think it is pure gold then, it is heavy…but it must be worth a bit more than two hundred Lin.”

“Well if gold is pure then may be I could go to three hundred at a stretch Joe, just because you good friend to Lin. But three hundred would be top dollar…top dollar, best price, nowhere better!” There again was that over the glasses look. Lin was salivating so hard over this coin he wiped his hand across his mouth.

“You’re sure about that Lin? I mean three hundred still sounds light to me…maybe you’re not the person I need to talk to after all. I hear there’s some good experts in the city…” Joe half stood as if to leave, though he was enjoying watching Lin’s reaction. What he did not expect was the reaction he got at that precise moment.

“WHAT YOU CRAZY? YOU WANT LIN BLOOD MAYBE?” Lin shouted offering his wrist and a small knife. He grabbed the back of Joe’s jacket and practically hauled him back down onto the seat. “Here you take blood, cut wrist and take blood…I offer you three hundred grand for coin and you want haggle?”

Joe gasped in shock, “Three hundred…GRAND? As in three hundred THOUSAND pounds?” it was now Joe’s turn to choke, he collapsed back down onto the chair with a thump. He coughed for several seconds, it was as if he couldn’t get enough air into his lungs. “Sorry Lin, I thought you meant three hundred pounds… not three hundred thousand.”

Lin rolled his eyes up, “Don’t be stupid boy all life Joe! If gold pure, no reason not think so, then gold in coin worth more than fifty grand, just for metal value…scrap! If this genuine Mu-Fogg coin, no one EVER see Mu-Fogg coin, they thought not even exist! So you want three hundred grand or not?”

Joe was speechless, three hundred thousand pounds for one coin and he had four identical ones sitting in his pocket. With three hundred thousand pounds he could solve all of his debts in one swoop, he could wipe the smug smile of that bastard bank manager…He could even rub Paul’s nose in it! But this was Lin’s price and if Lin would buy it for three hundred thousand then he could sell it somewhere else maybe for five hundred thousand or more. However, the immediate problem was the fact that Joe was completely flat busted!
“Never look a gift horse in the mouth” he thought, “if Lin wants to pay three hundred grand I’ll take it, I can sell the other coins elsewhere.” Joe looked thoughtful and then leaned slightly forward his hands pressed palms together in his lap. “OK Lin say I agree to your three hundred grand, how will that be paid?”

“I write you cheque, you put in bank, three day…you got three hundred grand! Good party, drink on Joe boy!”

“And I leave the coin here with you while the cheque clears, or can I hold onto the coin?”

“You no trust Lin?” Lin half leaned back his eyes wide with simulated shock, “Joe you hurt Lin feelings, we friend long time…long time, since Lin come here from Hong Kong. I no cheat you!”

“I’m not saying you’d cheat me Lin. Look OK let me be honest with you…I’m flat broke right now. You’re right I literally don’t have a pot to piss in and two pennies to rub together. My bank manager wrote me an official letter on Friday to say my account balance is officially Nada! If I’m not careful I’ll be homeless. So I desperately need money as you can imagine, and urgently! I’m not that sure I can wait three days though.”

“Why you not say how bad things get? How much you need?”

“Well that’s just it I don’t really know.”

“I give you cash I have here then you have money and balance in cheque OK?”

“Oh Lin I don’t know what to say…OK give me some of the three hundred in cash and I’ll give you the coin when the cheque clears?”

“Sure thing I give you cash and balance in cheque. But I should keep coin, you may damage.”

“No offence Lin but cheques in my experience do have a tendency to be written on rubber.”

“You do again Joe, think I try cheat you, I hurt Joe, deep hurt. We friends long time…”

“I know mate I was just thinking it’s been eighteen years.”

“That long? Seem short time ago you help Lin set up shop.”

“But listen, it’s just well what happens if your cheque does bounce, I could be out of pocket by well over two hundred grand and you’ll have the coin. Tell you what…have you got anything I could keep it in?”

“Yeah sure I have coin box…course I have box.”

“Well then let me have a box to keep it in, I’ll keep it safe I swear. I’ll not even touch it again once it’s in the box. The morning the cheque clears and the money is with the bank I’ll confirm it and bring the coin straight round to you. Is that fair enough?”

“How I know you not take money and run Joe boy?”

“Now who’s causing hurt? Look I promise you I’ll bring the coin, I’ll check the bank then be right here…right on this seat!”

Lin eyed the chair warily, then sighed, “OK Joe how much cash?”

“Well I could do with getting some shopping as my cupboards are bare mate. So could you give me say one…no make make it two grand?”

“Two grand? That some shopping! We have deal then? I give two grand cash, two hundred ninety eight grand cheque, three day then you give me Mu-Fogg coin?”

“Yeah man I swear it as God is my witness.” Joe planted his left hand over his heart palm on his chest and made a cross in the air with his right hand. “If I’m not here after your cheque clears may God strike me down.”

“Well make sure not lightning Joe, may damage coin!” Lin smiled a warm smile and they both laughed. “OK I get you cash and cheque, I also give you foam box, you keep coin in box. Understand you no take out to look at, once coin in box it stay in box! And Joe you try cheat this poor immigrant and I come find you!” Joe gulped for once he didn’t doubt that Lin was deadly serious with that threat. Lin got up from his seat with some effort and half turned to go into the back office and get Joe’s money. Joe reached forward and pinched his shirt sleeve.

“Lin…before you go off to the safe…just supposing I’ve got more of those coins would you be interested in buying them from me too? Could we do some sort of agent deal maybe, I supply the coins and you sell them for me…”

“You got MORE Mu-Fogg coin?” Lin’s eyes almost burst out of his head, Joe would have sworn his eyebrows would be on the back of his head. “Joe boy that not possible! One coin extreme rare but more?” Lin sat down with a thump and looked completely stunned. Then he looked at Joe over his glasses again before saying in almost a whisper, “How many you got?”

“Err…” Joe felt guilty that he’d deceived his friend, “cards on the table?…four. I’ve got five coins in all…at the moment!”

Lin’s face almost erupted in amazement, “FIVE, you got five Mu-Fogg coin? AT MOMENT? You no get these in change Joe, where you get?”

“I can’t say Lin, sorry. But being really honest with you there’s a chance that I can get more coins, they’ll come along later.”

“Even MORE than just five?” Lin was almost hammering on the desk with his hands, his patience was wearing thin, he felt like the air in the shop had just gained the consistency of cream of chicken soup. He wiped his brow with his sleeve, he was sweating so profusely.

“Not necessarily the same as these five, maybe different I can’t be sure.”

“What you got Joe, bloody coin mint? How many more you mean?”

“I don’t really know…” Joe opened his hands palm up pleadingly.

“Well…” Lin blew out a huge breath between pursed lips, “I would need see coins…but we could work out deal. I want percentage as agent.”

“OK how does ten percent of the sale price sound?”

“Fifteen sound better Joe.”

Joe coughed loudly, tighter than a duck’s arse! He couldn’t believe he was doing this, “OK…sound fair to me Lin…since we are such good friends, fifteen percent to you when you sell the coins I give you.”

“We talk contract later Joe boy. If you have got mint I know nothing, you give coin I sell, coin fake your bloody problem! I deal good faith. Now I get you money first for this coin. You want sell other four now too?”

Joe considered for a moment, he’d be taking away a cheque for just about one point five million pounds, if Lin was prepared to pay three hundred grand for each one. One point five million, the number rolled around on Joe’s tongue, he’d be an honest to goodness millionaire. “Paul eat your bloody Bentley with all the extras!” Joe mentally snapped his fingers in derision. But a cheque that big would almost certainly require some explanations at the bank…explanations he didn’t feel like giving right now. “Err no…I don’t think so, not yet! Let’s let this one do the business first then I’ll think about the others…that way I’ll have options.”

“Joe boy, you know Lin…I pay top dollar, best price, nowhere better.”

“Yeah right I know…so how about that money?”

“Coming up…You want tea?”

“Is it that green stuff you seem to drink so much of?”

“Yeah good for you…you want or not?”

“Actually Lin I could go for a cup, I said it is cold out there this morning.” Lin got up from his desk and scuffled into the back office, he was gone for some time and Joe began to wonder if he was in fact coming back, maybe the stress had been too much after all and Lin was sprawled on the office floor! Joe half rose out of his seat just as Lin reappeared, in his hands he carried a tray that held a small box made of hard black plastic, the top flipped back and transparent, Lin’s china tea service with a small earthenware pot and spirit burner, two small bowls and clenched tightly in his hand slips of paper that Joe recognised as fifty pound notes. “OK Joe boy. I got tea for you. Here is box, you put coin in now and don’t open again, I get box and coin in three day.” Lin put the box on the desk, “do now Joe so I see you do…”

Joe opened the box and gently, using only his fingertips in case Lin accused him of scuffing the coin in some way, placed the golden coin on the foam bed then still with only the tips of his fingers he closed the lid of the box with a click and a snap. “There satisfied?”

“When coin with me I satisfied…but you keep box extra safe now, then give in three day.”

“I swore I would…”

“I know! I trusting you with lot Joe, don’t cheat this poor immigrant or…”

“We won’t be friends any more.”

“We sure won’t…cause you be dead! I no fuck around here Joe…” Joe gulped again in all the years he’d known Lin, Lin never swore. “Alright now here is two thousand in fifty pound note…cash like you want, you count…I got receipt say you get money…” Joe counted the fifty pound notes, exactly forty of them, two thousand pounds on the button. Lin placed another pair of paper slips on the counter, Joe could see the cheque made out in Lin’s neat handwriting, “and here is cheque for balance…two hundred ninety eight thousand as we agree. I got another receipt to say you got it. You sign both receipt, I give you receipts when you give me coin…here pen.” Lin thrust a cheap transparent plastic black ballpoint pen at him. Joe felt like he’d be sure to be requested to sign it in blood at the very least. He signed both receipts and handed them to Lin who scrutinised them like he had the coin. “Good! Now you no say I no pay you cause I got receipts prove see? Now here is money and cheque, you go bank now yes?”

“Err yeah, after the tea but yeah that was what I was planning on doing if we agreed a good price. I’d never dreamed the price would be this good though. Lin you are a life saver mate!”

“Good you go bank, no stop, no shop on way…no fuck around Joe, if coin not with me in three day I come find you!”

“Jeez Lin give me a break!” Lin must be really wound up he’d just sworn for the second time.

“Sure where you want break arm, leg?”

“Look, you’ll have the damn coin, I wasn’t planning on selling to anyone else…that is unless they could give me a better price.”

“BETTER PRICE?” Lin’s eyes flared, his temper rising again. If Joe had been standing he would have taken a step backwards, he’d never seen him react like this. Lin’s tone suddenly chilled before becoming cold filled with hooded menace, “I pay you top dollar Joe, best price ANYWHERE! You no cheat me…I know people they hurt you real bad!!” Joe gulped hard, he could see that Lin’s temper was wearing to the point he would be very unwise to test the man’s patience any further. With a hand shaking slightly he poured himself a bowl of the steaming tea and sat quietly sipping it. As he finished Lin leaned across the desk menacingly to emphasise his statement. “You have tea so go bank…now!”

“OK OK calm down! I promised the coin to you…so it’ll be yours. I just want to make sure I get the money before you get the coin that’s all.”

“That better be all Joe! Now you go bank, sooner cheque in bank, sooner I get coin!” Lin’s voice betrayed that hooded sense of menace again. Joe had never asked Lin about his background but from the sound of it Lin may have had connections with some seriously shady people. Joe’s blood ran cold at the thought, think you know someone for eighteen years and then they change in a heartbeat! Lin almost physically lifted Joe from his seat and half ushered, half threw him out the door sealing it behind Joe with a bang.

Joe stood by the door for a moment dumbstruck, he still couldn’t believe that a single coin that he had created out of an old steel washer that morning could fetch so much or cause such an intense reaction in his friend. Joe looked down at Draco who was smiling up at him. “What the hell just happened? Did I seriously just make three hundred grand out of one old washer?” he whispered quietly.

“I told you magus anything is possible with magic.”

“But three hundred bloody grand? My bank manager is going to have kittens!!! And…and I’ve still got four of those coins left! Man I’m set for life at this rate…I sell all of those coins and I’m totally minted, forget Paul and his bloody Bentley I’ll be rolling in cash!”

“Yes but magus you may find some of the ingredients you need to work magic with get expensive.”

“Ingredients?”

“Magic is like a recipe. All spells are created from a combination of three possible components. Some only require one or two, most require all three. There is the verbal, the magic words.”

“Like ignatio and that new phrase?”

“Yes exactly. Then there are somatic components.”

“Somatic? Never heard of them.”

“Special movements you have to perform in a prescribed sequence or ritual to channel the mana in particular ways. Like drawing a knife from east to west across your line of vision or throwing something in the air with your right as opposed to your left hand.”

“Ah yeah I got you! Standing with arms outstretched commanding the Red Sea to divide…as if conducting it. Yeah, yeah I see!”

“…And then there’s material components, some of them will be very rare…that is if they even still exist in this world.”

“Like?”

“Well for the fireball spell, for example, you need a pinch of sulphur powder and bat guano.”

“Eww! You mean I have to play around with bat shit? Great! Please don’t tell me I have to eat it?”

“Bat shit? Oh yes, but there are worse components than that believe me. The spider-climb spell is particularly nasty but I won’t elaborate just yet. But no, you don’t eat it, you mix the two together with your fingers while saying the magic words then toss the little ball you create into the air. If the spell works the ball of dung will flash ignite and transform into your fireball, it will create a small ball of fire that will fly under your direction.”

“Cool! Genuine fireballs eh? It would make an interesting item on the average battlefield. Sounds like my sort of spell!” Visions of the bank manager turned to a pile of smoking ash flooded Joe’s mind again and he half smiled. “How small though, the fantasy films always show fireballs as big things?”

“They start small magus but gain mana energy as they fly, when they reach their maximum range or at any time you wish between they explode…they are capable of covering a ten square foot area.”

“Ten square feet? Whoa! I see what you mean about ingredients, bat shit is not exactly something you’ll find in Tescos among the spell components section.”

“Well if you want an improved fireball then the guano, or shit as you put it, of the fire bat mixed with some of its blood adds extra force to the spell.”

“Fire bats? Seriously? I’ve never even heard of fire bats!”

“They are elemental creatures bat like but composed entirely out of fire. They usually make their homes around volcanic vents.”

“Real fire? I can see this magic game is going to get very complicated, very quickly.”

“Well you will get out of it what you are prepared to put in.”

“And with your transmute to gold spell I won’t be going broke anytime soon. OK sounds like I’m in…we’ve got a visit to pay to the bank. As Lin says sooner I bank his cheque the sooner I get the money!” Joe rubbed his fingers across his neck, and the sooner Lin doesn’t try to make my head part company with the rest of me!

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