This is Part Three of the story. Part Two can be found here.
"It's a bit small, ain't it?"
"Well it's supposed to be small," Harris explained. "It's a holdout pistol. You can hide it under a belt, or in a boot."
The shopkeep frowned, turning the small firearm in his hands. "And it only holds a single round?"
"Umm, that's correct. It's not meant to be used as a primary weapon, though, it's a backup. Something a lady might use, for example, for personal protection."
The shopkeep grunted as he pulled out the chamber to make sure the weapon wasn't loaded before peering down the barrel. "It's not even rifled."
Harris winced inwardly--it was sloppy to not rifle the barrel of the gun, but he didn't have the proper tools to do so, and if he botched it by using poor tools ill-suited to the task, he'd likely ruin the weapon completely. "It's a weapon for safety," he said again, almost defensively. If he wasn't able to sell the weapon, then he'd be stuck in the most expensive city on the planet, as close to penniless as mattered.
His hand, hidden below the counter, twitched, as if he was searching for something in the air. Very slowly, very carefully, as if too quick a movement would send whatever elusive dust mote he sought scurrying into hiding. "I assure you, it will sell," he said, almost as a distraction.
There. His forefinger traced a line in the air, as if it was gliding atop an invisible surface. Then, his finger twitched sharply.
The shopkeep nodded, slowly. "Yeah, I think I could move it. I'll give you fifteen gold for it."
Another twitch. "I was hoping for something a bit...higher," Harris said.
The shopkeep furrowed his brows. "I...suppose I could go for...thirty gold?"
Harris considered pressing his luck further, but knew it wouldn't be a good idea. "Deal," he said.
The shopkeeper reluctantly counted thirty gold Imperiums into a small leather sack, a frown on his face the entire time, as if he had an idea that this should have gone quite differently. Harris took the money from him and turned to walk out when the door to the shop exploded inwards, with the force of a mighty shove, one of the hinges snapping.
"Harris!" Kote said, his voice excited. "Come on! I have to cut this kid's hands off!" With that, Kote tore off once again, running down the street with reckless abandon.
The shopkeep gaped, and it was impossible to tell if he was more shocked by the damaged door or the words of the young man who did it. "Is he joking?" he asked.
Harris grit his teeth, shoving his freshly acquired bag of gold into a pocket in his cloak. "He doesn't know how!" He yelled, sprinting out the door and taking a hard right, the direction that Kote ran. He could see his friend in the distance, absently barreling through people, jumping over small obstacles and dodging bigger ones.
"Hells," Harris said, running after him. People saw him coming and moved out of the way, making his passage slightly easier than Kote's, but it was still almost impossible to keep up. Back home, Kote was out in the fields and the forests near their home almost every day, gathering various herbs and minerals for his alchemic experiments. Over time, he had developed a number of large circuits that he would take, doing a different route every day, running at a breakneck pace through the wild so as to devote as little time as possible to what he considered the 'boring' practice of gathering, and to save more time for his experiments.
Harris, on the other hand, rarely had a reason to run. He had never really considered Kote to be his physical superior before, but it had become plainly obvious that he decidedly was. After nearly ten minutes of their wild rush through town, Kote was nearly twice as far ahead as he was when Harris first exited the shop, and gaining. In addition, Harris' breaths were more like gasps, bursting from his mouth like a battering ram through a parchment door, and Kote barely seemed fazed.
The chaos mage took a sharp turn into an alley, and Harris prayed that the chase was finally coming to a close. He arrived at the entrance to the alley just a few short minutes later, and was pleased to see Kote standing only a few feet deeper in. About ten feet beyond Kote, the passageway turned into stairs leading maybe fifteen feet down before the alley became a dead end at a wooden door with dark iron bands.
"What in the hells, Kote?" Harris asked between great whooping breaths, bending at the waist to put his hands on his knees. He felt nauseous.
"I saw him," was Kote's reply.
"What? Saw who?"
"The kid who stole your bag. He was wearing it."
"What? How do you know it was mine?"
Kote rolled his eyes. "You've had the same bag for years, Harris. It wasn't hard to pick out. Anyways, I followed him here."
"And? Now what?"
"I figured I'd cut his hands off. Come on." He began to make his way down the stairs, and Harris reluctantly followed him, trying to talk sense to him through his heavy breaths. "Kote, you can't cut off some poor kid's hands."
"I'm not going to."
"What? You just said you were!"
"No, I'm going to cut the hands off of the kid who stole your bag. He's obviously not poor, even if he was beforehand, because we had enough gold stuffed in there to pay for both of our tuition at the University for a year."
"That--that doesn't matter, Kote," he said, but his comments fell on deaf ears as Kote pushed on the heavy door and walked inside.
"Oh, damn it all," Harris said, following.
Very little light penetrated this far into the alley, and the room beyond the door was lit only by a few dim candles. It took Harris' eyes a few moments to adjust, and when they finally did, he wasn't very happy.
"Oh. Well. Hello, there."
Six men stood, each with a very menacing revolver pointed at the two teenagers. The men were each heavily muscled, and they all looked like very qualified competitors for the title of 'The Most Scarred Man in the Land.'
"Yeah? Hello, eh?" The man who looked as if he might have placed third place said. "And who the hell are you, then?"
Harris opened his mouth to try and find a diplomatic way out of their predicament, but Kote saved him the trouble. "That's Harris. I'm Kote. We're here to cut off the hands of the boy hiding behind you."
Harris' eyes widened in shock, and he noticed for the first time the child, maybe eleven years old, hiding behind the line of armed men. And yes, that was indeed the backpack Harris had owned for nearly seven years resting firmly against his scrawny back.
"Really, then?" the second prize winner asked. "And what gives you the right to threaten Harold's son?"
"He's a thief," Kote said simply. "So I'm going to cut off his hands, so he can't steal from us again. Then, Harris is going to take his backpack back." Leave me out of it! Harris thought, but said nothing.
Kote considered for a moment. "Backpack back. Backpack back. Backpack pack. It gets harder to say that the more often you say it."
The men exchanged wry glances with one another. "Well, we're thieves, too," Third Place said. "Ain't that right, Fred?"
"Sounds about right to me," Fifth Place, 'Fred', replied.
"Yep, we're thieves, too. So you going to cut off our hands, so we can't steal anymore, either?"
Kote frowned, obviously in thought. "No," he finally said. "I don't really care that you're thieves. Not as long as you haven't stolen from me." Then, as if an afterthought, he added, "Or Harris."
"I'm tired of this crap," one of them finally said. "Let's just kill them."
Kote narrowed his eyes. "Let's not." He threw his hands out in front of him, making strange gestures in the air. "Nommus Tseab!"
A vibrant bronze light began to shine from Kote's hands. He quickly brought them together, seemingly molding the light into a small ball that he flung at the feet of the thugs.
The thugs took a cautious step back, but the sphere shaped itself too quickly for them to gain any real distance. It began to grow, and four legs sprouted from it. A head formed, and the light began to fade as the rough gray fur appeared. Finally, the creature stood.
" Baaa," the sheep bleated.
The men burst out laughing. "A sheep!" One cried. "Don't threaten the boy, or he'll summon a sheep and make us all new pants!"
Kote sighed. "That wasn't really what I was going for," he said, and he began making more arcane gestures. "Ria Tsrub!" he yelled, throwing his hands out before him. A semi-visible pocket of air launched itself at the crowd, and four of them, plus the sheep, were thrown into the air, flying nearly ten feet back before slamming against the far wall, crying in pain as the cruel stone cracked ribs, skulls, and arms.
Harris' arms flung out, his fingers performing elaborate dances that no one could predict. Finally, he made grasping motions with both of his hands, and made a great yanking motion with each. The two guns that had been dropped on the floor were the first to fly towards him, followed shortly after by the four guns that were still held, each tearing itself from the grasp of it's master to fly through the air, clattering at the feet of the two arcanists.
"We need to cut off the boy's hands," Kote said. "And retrieve our belongings. But the rest of you can go."
"Kote, we're not cutting off his hands."
"No? Why not?"
"Because. That's a solid six. Maybe a seven."
Kote sighed. "Fine," he said, and he walked over to pull the backpack from the cooperating child. He put the six revolvers in the top before shoving it into Harris' arms. "At least we're not poor, anymore," he said, as they turned and walked back outside.