Ransom

  • 1 POPPY SEEDS

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    The creaking of an ancient weathered axle interrupted the serenity of the countryside as two wooden wheels resisted the rough, underused trails.

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  • Aged, leathery hands gripped tightly as the man pressed forward, hobbling on his good leg and dragging the disfigured one behind him.

  • His muscles cramped and stiffened from constant jerking.

  • Every other uneven step sent a shooting pain from his hip, yet he pressed on.

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    His withered body refused to cover ground as quickly as it used to, and the slow pace strained his frail frame.

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  • His tattered, dusty apparel and unshaven jaw made him look like a beggar, but under the begrimed appearance was a man with more riches than a czar or king.

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    At any time he could swap the threadbare rags for new, brightly colored apparel, but he didn’t want to attract any attention from extravagant clothing.

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  • Although his carefully curated merchandise could thwart the picky robber, a hasty, eager thief might not be so fastidious, swiping anything greedy hands could touch.

  • He felt it always best to appear all but invisible.

  • Trinkets and baubles inside the rickety cart appeared less than desirable— scuffed, aged, and worn— but each and every piece nestled together pulsed with the weighty intrigue of treasure.

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    The relics, unique and heavily used, had long been fortified with infusions of ancient magic, and the old man served as their designated peddler and keeper.

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  • Shuffling slowly from town to town, magically guided by the inanimate pieces themselves, he fulfilled his purpose dutifully.

  • Among the curios, a talisman from across the great sea, carved out of cypress from the swamps of the bayou, slid back and forth.

  • Thin leather straps that once tethered the magic piece around the neck now wound and tangled around fellow dormant relics.

  • Another piece glistened when it caught the sunlight, with intricate golden swirls surrounding a rectangular handheld mirror.

  • Swooping leaves of gold flowed down, forming the handle in the most beautiful manner, ending in a magnificent rose in bloom.

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    Said to show anything to the possessor, the mirror appeared worthlessly clouded with age.

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  • Next to it lay a spindle, taken from a spin­ning wheel burned in a heap of similar frames.

  • It appeared plain to the untrained eye, but the power and sharpness was obvious to those who were looking.