Marvelo now looking for a Miracle Cure himself

The only source of light in the cabin was a small bedside candle, which gave off just enough waxy, yellow light for the room to not be considered pitch black.

A soft squelching noise broke the silence that previously filled the cabin.

A man, his features barely illuminated, was standing in front of a cracked and grime-coated mirror, wringing his hands together and coating them in a generous helping of grease, salvaged from the ship's kitchens.

Leaning closer to the mirror to get a better look at his gaunt features, the man ran his hands through his thick, black hair, sculpting it back tight against his skull.

He then applied liberal amounts to his pencil thin moustache, drawing it out and twisting it gently, so that it stood parallel to the ground.

He liked the moustache, believing it helped to distract people from the dour appearance that his narrow face and prominent cheek bones created.

In his line of work, appearance was crucial to gaining the interest and respect of a crowd, so he always took extra care to straighten his shirt cuffs and smooth out the creases in his pants before a performance.

Pleased with his work, he glanced at the mirror again, and was glad to see a pair of striking, electric blue eyes staring back at him.

Those charismatic eyes were his money makers.

All it took to make customers hang on to every honeyed word was the precise cocking of an eyebrow, or a certain twinkling of the eye.

Satisfied, he headed for the door, stumbling in the murky light.

On his way out, he grabbed a half empty bottle of whisky from among a pile of discarded ones, and took a swig of liquid courage, to help prepare him for the day ahead.

Outside, the sun shone brightly overhead, forcing him to shield his eyes from the blinding light.

The deck of the boat rocked softly under his feet in the midday breeze.

Driven by the piercing luminescence of the sun and the constant clamour of the dockside market, the full fury of his hangover was reawakened.

Groaning under his breath, the man raised the last of his liquor to his lips, to help ease the throbbing between his eyes.

With the bottle empty, he cast it over the side of the ship.

Putting on his showman's smile, he walked off the ship, and disappeared into the busy crowd.

Further down the street, he reached his destination - a large wooden platform with an area of cracked clay in front of it, for onlookers to stand.

Normally, the platform was used to sell a slightly higher class of slave to a slightly higher class of citizen.

However, today the platform was the stage for a certain travelling salesman and subsequently, strung across the crossbeam that normally held the name of some slaver, was a strip of faded purple cloth.

Badly stencilled on the cloth were the words: ''The Miraculous Miracle Cures of the Magnificent Master of Medicine Marvelo!''

It wasn't the catchiest title in the world, but there was plenty of alliteration, and experience had taught him that that was what impressed people the most in situations such as this.

With the crowd warmed up, Marvelo invited people to come up and receive their miraculous miracle cure - for a modest fee, of course.

As usual, it was the spotty teenagers wanting love potions or the worried parents seeking cheap medicine that came up first.

Those who had nowhere else to turn, no expensive physicians or university sanctioned medicine available, were the first to resort to men like Marvelo.

The dilemma was, of course, that these people subsequently had little money.

However, that never discouraged him from taking what they had.

Marvelo liked to think that he was a procurer and seller of an important commodity, hope.

Of course such invaluable services could not be free.

As one of the ladies reached into her snake skin purse with one hand, while reaching for his outstretched hand with the other, Marvelo felt a hand on his shoulder.

Turning, he saw a handsome young man, instantly recognisable as the son of the lady who led the little group, as they both shared the same strong chin and broad shoulders.

Smiling in a most disconcerting way, the man introduced himself as Felix Waterson.

''Marvelo, you old sea dog! What brings you to the great city of Ionia?''

''Well surely Mr Waterson, you can see that I'm here to sell my medicine, and ease the suffering of these poor folk. Now I am sorry sir, but have we met?''

Underneath his shirt, Marvelo was starting to sweat, the combination of the now midday sun and his current predicament were making him rather uncomfortable.

''You don't remember friend?'' he said, his grin becoming more and more like a shark's every second.

''It was two summers ago, in the river side docks of the Tide King's palace. I was honey-mooning with my wife in the tropics. Surely you remember stopping there.''

''Ah yes. If memory serves me correct, there was a terrible out-break of swamp sickness along the River Tryndamere.''

''Thankfully though, you were there to offer your recently discovered cure for the ailment. Business must have been good that year.''

Laughing nervously, Marvelo replied, ''Not so, not so. I sold my cure for the cost it took to make. It was rather expensive to purchase the ingredients''.

Felix was no longer smiling.

In fact, he looked murderous.

The throbbing in Marvelo's head was growing worse and worse, he could barely even think.

Every thought felt like it was coated in grease, and kept slipping from him when he tried to pin it down.

''Very expensive, I suspect. It cost me an arm and a leg to get some for my wife. Too bloody bad it did nothing to stop her from dying a slow and painful death three days later.''

Felix's hand was now agonisingly digging into his shoulder, and a crowd had gathered around the group.

Marvelo's shirt had stuck to his back with sweat.

As he turned around, he saw looks of disgust in the faces of the women he had been talking to.

The crowd closed in around him while his eyes flicked back and forth looking for an escape.

 


• By Calum Irwin, Year 13, St Peter's College