Rev was, so far, having a very usual day. As Murphy's Law dictates, this vain hope of a normal day would soon be shot to all hell. Rev had been sent to the market by his father to pick up some groceries that they couldn't make or grow themselves. As he always did, he started for the market very early in the morning so as to avoid any girls that may be lurking about hoping to catch him unawares. He enjoyed the quiet, foggy mornings, finding the sereneness of it all relaxing. He continued his walk, eventually making it to the street where the market was located. He passed a few people on his way to the food stand. One of them, a tall man wearing a blue suit underneath a brown overcoat, accidentally bumped into him. The man quickly apologized, "Sorry!" Rev turned around to reply but found that the man had vanished into the early morning fog. 'Typical' Rev thought, giving an irritated sigh as he turned to continue on his way. He would have too, were it not for the brilliant, navy-blue tent that caught his eye. Startled and not entirely sure it had even been there, he turned back to his left to face it. Sure enough, there stood the blue tent, clear as day. (Well, morning, but that's not important.) There was a black sign hung from the top of it with neat, white lettering that said: "The Time Merchant" Beneath this in smaller lettering was one of those stupid phrases that people use to draw in customers: "Time Waits For No Man" Rolling his eyes, Rev grudgingly decided to go in just to please his curiosity. He opened the tent flap went inside, and unknowingly into the metaphorical fire.
The tent flap opened to reveal a surprisingly spacious room with canvas walls supported by polished dark-wood poles. The poles were glossy and heavily carved with unusual symbols, all interconnecting like links of chainmail. Poles ran horizontally just above head height, acting as rafters and arranged to form a large septagon spanning the whole tent. Hanging from those rafters were metal balls filled with herbs, slowly smoldering and filling the tent with sweet smelling smoke. The floor was covered with a seven sided rug with the same symbol as the rafters woven into it, with a few cushions lying around as well. It definitely didn’t look like a merchant’s tent, particularly due to the fact there was no obvious merchandise anywhere. It didn’t even look like it was from Eselbrador, (More closely, it resembled one of the mobile lodges used by the desert nomads in the southeast). In fact, besides the furnishings and burning herbs, the tent was devoid of possessions.
That’s not to say it was empty. Standing at the back of the tent, opposite the entrance flap, a man wrapped in blue fabric was replacing the herbs in one of the incense orbs. Not much could be seen of him, certainly no skin, because he was so heavily clothed and facing the wrong direction besides. He seemed to be wrapped up from head to toes in a single, exceptionally long piece of finely woven fabric, with coils pulling tight like cloth cuffs at his wrists, then doubling back to loop around his middle, dip to encase his legs in a similar fashion as his arms, then rise to wrap around his head. On his feet he wore soft leather moccasins and a blue sash was looped around his waist, the same blue as the tent and the rest of his clothes. There seemed to be something on his back, under the fabric.
“Time waits for no man…” He said, turning to face Rev. His face was covered except for dark grey eyes, but his hands were visible, and very pale, “...except for me. Ha-ha! Welcome to my store customer. Please, sit.” He lowered the fabric from around his head to bunch around his neck like a scarf and it was revealed that he was bald with a thin face and unhealthily white skin. He smiled amiably at Rev, with touch of slyness to his look, and his teeth were all sharp. He easily lowered himself onto a cushion, folding his legs and resting his hands on his knees in one fluid motion. “So, how much?” He asked cryptically.
"How much?" The man asked again, confused, then smiled and laughed, "Oh, I see. You don't know what I sell, and how should you!? No one ever knows at first. Ha! Well customer, to put it frankly, I sell time. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, et cetera and et cetera, so how much would you like? A few hours to finish the chores? A week's vacation? A day on the beach?" He grinned expectantly, looking somewhat mad and sounding more so.
The man watched Rev with a grin, waiting for him to turn to leave, then said, "On the contrary customer. Here, isn't where you need time. I'm offering you a chance to stop time anytime you like, for as long as you like, assuming you can trade enough. But seeing as I'm such a nice fellow, and you don't believe me a wink…" The man reached inside the folds of his wrap and pulled out a medallion, complete with a leather cord. It was made of smooth, dark blue stone, like marble, with an hourglass carved on its surface. The sand was mostly drained out of the top chamber in the carving. He stood and held it out to Rev, still grinning like he couldn't stop, "Go ahead and go, but take a minute as a... call it a sign of good faith. All you have to do is snap the cord. If you're intrigued afterwards, just look for my tent again."
Rev still didn't believe the man, but took the odd stone anyways. "Thanks," he mumbled as he left the tent. 'Crazy old weirdo,' Rev thought, and continued on his way.
Three minutes (Four for our hapless
sucker protagonist) later:
Curiosity killed the cat, they say. Inevitably, Rev had snapped the cord to see what would happen. Let's just say the results were more than shocking. Rev threw open the tent flap and marched up to the old man. "What the hell are you playing at?"
The merchant turned from talking to what appeared to just be the corner of the tent and grinned at Rev, "Snapped the cord, did you? Tell me first, because I'm curious, what did you use your minute on? Was it an emergency? Or did you just snap it because you thought nothing would happen? Bah, no matter though." He turned and stepped forward, facing Rev, "What am I playing at? Ha! That would ruin the surprise. Just think of me as… a wizard for hire, selling my own, special kind of magic to those I deem needy. The rest of my story, well, you don't need to know that... yet." He pulled out several nearly identical medallions from his wrap, the hourglass on each filled to a different level, "Now then, feel like making a trade?"
Rev still had his suspicions about the old man, but the temptation proved to be too much. The power to stop time whenever he pleased, for however long he wanted. Well, however long he could afford. Rev gave the man a skeptical look, "That depends on what it is you want from me."
The oddly dressed man grinned, spreading his lips to show off sharp, interlocking teeth, “Don’t worry about not being able to afford however long you want. I take credit. In fact… credit is the only thing I take.” He began pacing circles around Rev, “I don’t take trade, I don’t need gold, I accept favors. Just favors. Not your soul, or you coinpurse, or anything of consequence." He completed a waltz around Rev and slipped a roll of parchment out of his robes. He deftly flicked his wrist and it rolled open with a snap. It was covered in neat block writing, with a blank line near the botton, awaiting a signature. "Just sign on the line and you can have all the time you want; 'to be partitioned out at the discretion of the medallion's owner.' See? Easy."
Rev cautiously took the parchment from the man, "I think I'd like to read it over-" He glanced down and found a pen in his hand, his signature already on the line. "-first. What the h-" he looked up to where the old man was standing a moment before but found himself staring at the wall the tent had been propped against, with no sign that the tent was even there. He looked down to his hands again and found one of the man's medallions dangling from the hand that held a pen (seemingly) not a moment ago. He shook his head and looked at the medallion again before stuffing it in his pocket and carrying on with his errands.
The Following Day:
Reverrek walked down the street; the cool, crisp air of an autumn day blowing gently through the trees. Autumn was his favorite season; all the bugs were going away and it was getting colder again. His family's shop had closed for the day, and he was taking a walk to enjoy himself. He sat down on a bench in the park and fell asleep by mistake. When he woke up, the sun was already beginning to go down. Rev lept up and shot off for his home. "Dammit!" He stopped and breathed for a moment. Before he shot off again, he remembered that he still had the medallion with him. He stared at it a moment, "Might as well," and pulled the cord. As it had the last time, everything around him slowed to a complete halt. Satisfied, he set off again for his home as fast as he could. He soon made it to the familiar storefront, went around the back, and slipped through the back door and up to his room. It was another minute or two before time started again. Breathing a sign of relief, he changed into his night clothes and lit a candle so he could read for a while. "Actually, I could read for a long while if I felt like," he thought, reaching for the medallion. His hand instead found a piece of paper; enchanted, by the feel of it. He opened it up to read it, but the note burst into a ball of blue flame which formed itself in the shape of the Old Man. The flame spoke.
The flame cleared its incorporeal throat before speaking in a businesslike manner. A low hum acted as a backdrop to its words, “Greetings Reverrek. I do hope you’ve enjoyed the medallion so far. This message is simply in place to explain some things as you go about using it, seeing as the forces causing it to operate have not actually been discovered by the scholarly world at large yet. Now, you might notice that the medallion’s effects only lasted a few minutes; five on the dot, to be exact. This is so you can slowly acclimate yourself to a world outside of time. Such an experience can become… disconcerting, at times. Try pouring some water the next time you use the medallion. Which brings me to the topic at hand. You have not, in fact, used up the medallion. It still has five charges in it, and each one will be longer than the stop before it. To determine the length of time you wish to pause next, simply follow these instructions. For ten minutes, use some thread as a cord. For an hour, use a strip of leather. And for twenty four hours, use a rope. I’ll speak to you again after your next use. Oh, and do be careful. I do love to hold on to my customers.”
The flame flared into a bright ball, then died all at once as the medallion fell from the fire’s heart. It landed on the floor with a clunk, sitting inert like a regular old piece of stone. The hourglass carved on its surface now had a bit more sand in the top.