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
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
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
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
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
With the crowd warmed up, Marvelo invited people to come up
and receive their miraculous miracle cure - for a modest fee,
As usual, it was the spotty teenagers wanting love potions or
the worried parents seeking cheap medicine that came up
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
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
''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
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