General Fiction posted September 8, 2022 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 


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John provides financial advice to Julius

A chapter in the book The Broker

Financial Advice

by snodlander

Julius sat on the rocks just below the opening to his cave. Every instinct was telling him to scurry back into his safe hole. He glanced over his shoulder. John looked back at him from just inside the entrance.

"Remember," said John. "Confidence. You have to sell the story."

Julius looked down at the trickle that sank into the sand just a few metres from the cave. It was easy for John to be confident; he wasn't out here exposed. What would Marduk do when he found the water had gone? Nothing pleasant. At least Marduk didn't have the imagination to stretch the agony out. He'd probably just crush his skull within seconds.

"Why don't you come out here with me?" he asked.

"Because you've got to convince him I'm Arnie Schwarzenegger crossed with a balrog. He's not going to believe that if he can see me, is he?"

Julius wasn't sure what either of those creatures were, but John had convinced him the plan would work. Convinced him when he was safe in his cave, anyway. He wasn't that convinced now, sitting out in the open, waiting for his neighbour to show up.

"Fee-naw-saw," he muttered, miserably.

"Yeah, that's right. Financial advice, okay? Trust me. Okay, okay, curtain up. Remember, sell the story."

John ducked down below the stones. Julius looked around. Marduk was knuckling his way towards the bed of the dried-up stream, dragging the hollow trunk behind him.

Julius stared at the hulk as it approached, frozen with fear. More power was a good thing, but what use was it if your limbs were scattered around the countryside? His tiny cave suddenly seemed more than enough for him.

"Fee-naw-saw," he murmured, as if the invocation could keep him safe. ""Fee-naw-saw."

Marduk stopped at the dry bed and stared at the damp sand. He poked it with his foot, as if the stream was merely hiding from his eyes but could not fool his toes. He shook his head and looked around. What was he thinking, wondered Julius. Perhaps he thought he was in the wrong place. Yes, let him lurch on, looking for a stream that wasn't there. Oh please let him move on.

Marduk finally noticed Julius. He didn't look pleased. He started to heave himself towards the cave, slow but as inevitable as continental drift.

"John?" Julius quavered, his voice low.

"Sell the story," whispered John. "Confidence. Believe it. You've got this."

"You!" thundered Marduk. "What have you done with the water?"

"The water?" Julius pressed himself back against the rocks, wishing they would swallow him.

Marduk swung a huge hand at the stream bed. "The water."

"It's the broker!" Julius screamed. They had worked out a script, John and him, safe in the cave. It was a beautiful script, brilliantly crafted, infallible. But in this moment of terror, unmemorable as well. 'Broker' was the only word of it he could remember.

Marduk stopped and frowned. "Broker?" he said.

"Yes, yes. The broker. It's all his fault."

Marduk narrowed his eyes. "What's a broker?" he asked.

"A broker. You know, a broker. You know what a broker is, right?"

"Yes," said Marduk, the word drawn out, suspicion filling his voice.

He doesn't know, thought Julius. He's as ignorant as I am. Was, he corrected himself, and from hidden depths there welled hope.

"Yes, well, I've got one," said Julius, drawing himself up and wrapping himself in the lie. "Haven't you?"

"Yeah. I got a broker. What's he broke, then? This one you got."

"Ha! What doesn't he break," said Julius, his stage fright leaving him. "He breaks the sky and the lightning splits the earth. He breaks the clouds and the rains fall. He breaks the wind and nothing can stand against it."

("Dude, breaks wind? Really?")

Julius ignored the sub voce question John mumbled.

"Yeah?" Marduk didn't seem convinced.

"Of course. And he crushes the rocks in his almighty hands." Julius held out his own claws and crushed imaginary rocks. "Squeezes them so hard water falls from them. Where else did you think the water came from?"

Marduk shrugged and nodded towards the cave.

Julius turned to the cave mouth, then turned back to Marduk. "You thought it just magically appeared from the cave? Really?"

"No," said Marduk. "Knew it was a broker, 'course I did. Just didn't know how a streak of piss like you could have one."

"Ah!" said Julius, tapping the side of his nose. "I know his true name. I have him imprisoned inside the cliffs and make him produce water so I don't get thirsty."

Marduk swung a talon at the base of the cliff. "Go on, then. Make more water."

"Ah, that's the problem." Julius' shoulders sagged and he looked at his feet, crestfallen. "He can't, not now."

"Make him!" roared Marduk, taking a couple of steps towards Julius.

"I can't, I can't," cried Julius, hands outstretched as if to stop the monster. "He's hungry."

Marduk stopped and frowned. "Hungry?"

"Yes, yes. He's hungry. He's been crushing so long that he's just faint with hunger. Starving, in fact. I beat him, but it's no good. He needs to get his strength up."

"Feed him then."

Julius held his arms out wide. "And where am I going to get food? No, it's no good. I'll just have to die of thirst, I guess."

Marduk stared at Julius. Julius could almost hear his brain straining with the unaccustomed effort. Finally he said, "How do I know you really got a broker?"

"Broker!" called Julius.

Inside the cave John gave his loudest, most blood-curdling roar. It was barely worth the effort, Julius thought. He could do better with a cold.

"Doesn't sound like a broker who could break rocks," said Marduk.

"See? See?" Julius pointed a claw at Marduk as his brain went into overdrive. "What a pathetic roar. That â?" that... just goes to show how weak he is. How much he needs food. If only someone could feed him, but what can I do?"

"Don't overdo it," muttered John behind him.

"He crushes water outta rocks?" said Marduk, his voice rife with uncertainty.

"When he's fed, yes."

Marduk looked down at his feet. After a while he looked behind him at where the stream used to flow, as if it might have reappeared during their conversation.

"I got food," he said.

"You have?" Julius feigned surprise.

"If I get some food, he will crush rocks?"

"Oh yes. If I tell him. He's bound to me, you know. He has to if I tell him."

Marduk thought some more. "If he doesn't, I'll crush you," he said at last. "And I won't need no broker."

"Oh, you'll give him some food?" said Julius, as if the idea had never occurred to him. "That would be wonderful. Oh," he said, as Marduk turned back towards his home. "You'd better take your log. For the food, you know. He's really, really hungry."

Marduk growled, returned to his hollowed-out log he used as a barrel and dragged it away with him.

++++

Julius tossed vegetables and meat over the makeshift wall of the cave. John, stripped down to his underwear, stood waist deep in the pool building up behind the dam.

"Want to give me a hand?" John said.

"Can't. Got to get the food in before he changes his mind." Julius disappeared through the tiny opening again.

John muttered curses against demons in general and Julius in particular, took a deep breath then dived under the water. He worked away at the stones he and Julius had wedged into the small aperture. Mud swirled up where they'd tried to make it as waterproof as possible. Suddenly there was a whoosh and a gurgle and the water started to gush through. John surfaced, shivering.

"Just in time," he said through chattering teeth. "I thought it was going to overflow the top."

Julius squatted on the sandbank inside the cave and grinned. "All this food," he said. "From Marduk, too." He hugged himself. "Fee-naw-saw. It works. It really works!"

"Yeah, well, don't milk it. Don't squeeze him for more than you can eat, otherwise he might decide it's easier to try and own your broker himself. Just dam the stream here when you're out of food, okay?"

Julius nodded. "You are a powerful Fee-naw-saw advisor, John Watkins. I have power. Now, make my cave a more cage."

"A mortgage. Yeah, well, that's going to be a tad more difficult."




Julius is a demon that has summoned a human using an invocation.
John is the human he summoned, an independent financial advisor and mortgage broker.
Julius thinks this means John can get him more power and a bigger cave.
John agrees to do this in return for his safe passage back to the real world.
Fee-naw-saw is Julius' attempt at saying financial.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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