Monetary concerns

Located on Crater Island in the Sea of Baus, the massive tower-like weapon, Grand Staff, made a striking contrast to the tropical paradise that surrounded it. Normally, Crater Island would be the sort of place that Jansen Friedh would have loved to visit, for where there are beaches, there are people. And where there are people, there are women. And when women are on a beach, they tend to wear very little of anything. It sounded perfect, and the idea of what could be here instead of what was, made the view all the more disappointing. For starters, Grand Staff was still being built, so it was surrounded by catwalks, scaffolding and various building materials, which kind of ruined the whole island paradise vibe the place had. Next was his company, who were about as fun as a tavern that only served tea garnished with hot sauce. But the one thing Jansen thought he could really do without in this whole situation, was the giant glowing worm-thing.

With a loud screech that was incredibly unfriendly to the ears, the forty foot long monster crashed to the sandy ground. Jansen's hazel eyes locked on the fallen creature for a moment, his staff held tightly in both hands as if he was waiting for the beast to suddenly lunge at him so he could brain it. Which, Jansen was positively sure, would do him absolutely no good at all; if that thing decided to leap at him, all he'd be is a crunchy appetizer holding a conveniently placed toothpick. A moment passed and the monster made no further moves, which Jansen found to be suitable grounds for a long relived sigh.

"Man-o-man; now that, was not something I signed up for," Jansen muttered and leaned tiredly on his staff. Magic was deceptively fatiguing, something people who made a living waving their swords at things seemed determined not to acknowledge. "Just go to Grand Staff, check things out. Make sure nobody is sleeping at their desk and give the jackass who didn't deliver his report on time a good kick. Simple 'reconnaissance mission' my butt."

The mage's two companions, one overly grim male and one entirely too excitable and angry female, sheathed their weapons. Seth, the woman, looked like she wanted to put one foot on the dead monster's head and proclaim herself queen of all she surveyed. Kaim, the other man of the group, looked like he was having as much fun as ever, which was exactly equal to none-at-all. The three of them made an odd bunch: two warriors and a mage; or to be more precise, two immortal warriors and one very mortal mage.

Jansen had yet to really figure out how the whole immortality thing with those two worked. When he'd asked, all they had been able to volunteer on the subject was that they couldn't remember much of their own pasts, save their own names and a few very vague details on what they did. That being said, they were both exceptional warriors and not the sort of people he wanted pointing their swords at him. Personality wise, Jansen felt that his two traveling companions left just a tad to be desired. Kaim could stoic the paint right off walls, where as Seth would simply threaten it at sword point, with a big grin on her face, to chip off as soon as possible. Jansen was pretty sure at this point that he was the only one in the bunch who wasn't a total psycho. He'd at least say please.

"What the hell is this thing, anyway?" Seth asked, strolling over to the dead beast like she was out for a nice walk in the countryside.

Kaim tapped one ringed finger on the hilt of his sword, "Hmm. Not sure."

Seth, though her back was turned to them, could practically be heard rolling her eyes. "Big help Kaim, thanks."

The immortal man shrugged one shoulder but remained characteristically silent.

"Looks like some kind of bug," Jansen supplied. "But a big one. A really big one."

"Yeah. Did you see the way it's glowing? Think that could be because of it feeding on the Magic Energy?" Seth asked, turning to face Jansen with something other than exasperation or disgust in her expression for the first time since they'd met. Jansen supposed he couldn't really fault the woman too much; meeting somebody when they're shoulder deep in paid-for female company tended to leave a less than sunny first impression. Then again, he'd been perfectly comfortable in said company, so he guessed some people just had different ideas on the subject.

Jansen looked at the sky for a moment, thinking. "Ah, well maybe. Magic Energy is supposed to mess with living things if they're around it unprotected for too long. Like give 'em big fangs or make 'em crazy, stuff like that. Super-sizing something isn't too hard to believe, I guess. But for it to get that big? It'd have to soak up a lot of mojo. Like, a big lot."

"Which means that Grand Staff has been leaking Magic Energy for a fair amount of time," Kaim deduced. "That, is not good."

"Must be some really potent stuff running around in there. I mean, it looks like a centipede, but it's freaking huge!" Jansen chimed in, looking at the monstrous insect-like corpse.

Kaim moved past Jansen and started toward the stairs to the still under construction Grand Staff. "Then we should fix the problem as soon as we can."

Seth rubbed her dark hair with one gauntleted hand. "Yeah, wouldn't be good to have more of those things running around."

"Yeah, no kidding. Waking up with one of those things running around isn't exactly my idea of a great morning," Jansen muttered, briefly imagining opening the shades on his apartment to find a giant centipede-thing tearing through the streets of Uhra. It wasn't a pleasant or fun idea at all.

The group skirted around the giant corpse and moved toward the actual construction area of Grand Staff. To Jansen, the thing looked like a junk heap for really big clocks with a tall, thin spire jutting up from it. Suffice to say, it wasn't very attractive.

But hey, it's still being built so who knows? It could end up looking sorta decent, Jansen mused quietly. Yep, and maybe it'll start raining gold coins and Kaim will shoot rainbows from his fingers.

"So, we just killed a giant monster," Jansen said suddenly. "I don't really remember that being a part of the whole contract, do you guys?"

Both immortals stopped and looked at their mage companion with varying degrees of curiosity.

"Not really, no. Then again, they just pointed at me and said I should go with Kaim, so the contract could have said anything I suppose," Seth answered with a shrug.

Jansen made a 'hmm' sound. "Think we'll get a bonus? I mean, we did just slay a giant monster and all."

Seth's gray eyes narrowed incredulously. "You're getting paid?"

Jansen suddenly felt as though he'd have been better off not mentioning money.

"What, you mean you two aren't?"

The dark skinned woman half groaned, half snarled and put a hand over her face. "Son of a," She trailed off for a moment. "Why the hell are you getting paid?"

Jansen decided to skirt the part where he'd demanded to be paid for going on this little adventure, and further decided that the fact he'd had the audacity to ask for more should be avoided even more.

"How should I know? Gongora just put me on the team and gave me a bag of coins!"

Seth stared at him for a moment, then took a threatening step forward. "I hope you plan on sharing that."

Jansen, as a rule, didn't like fighting. Sure, he'd do it, but he didn't really like it. The whole idea that he could die didn't really mesh well with his sense of self preservation. But there was nobody on the planet that was going to tell him what he was to do with his money.

"My money," He said, firmly.

"We're a team," Seth replied, just as firm.

Kaim glanced between the two, brow quirked.

"Good for the team. My money. If you wanna get paid, you don't ever give the guy that hired you a loophole to weasel through."

Seth took another step forward, hand brushing the hilt of her sword. "You little snake in the grass. I should-"

Her words trailed off as Kaim suddenly walked past her, back down the short flight of stairs and towards Jansen. Jansen tried to glare defiantly at the immortal, but still found his feet moving him to the side of Kaim's apparent path. He may not like fighting, especially against long odds, but it was his money god damn it. If it came right down to it, he'd fight for it. Still, he didn't really see an upside to fighting an immortal. To both Seth and Jansen's surprise, Kaim moved right past the mage and stopped at the corpse of the giant insect.

Jansen blinked at the immortal, than glanced over at Seth to see if she had an explanation. The look on her face spoke volumes: she had no idea what Kaim was up to either. Jansen was suddenly struck by the idea that maybe Kaim was having another one of his "moments". They hadn't been on the road for a week, but the mage had noticed that occasionally, Kaim would just space out for a few minutes, and then resume his previous activity like nothing had happened. To be honest, Jansen thought it was a little creepy. Kaim stared at the hulking beast, very clearly dead, contemplatively.

After a moment Jansen decided to speak up. "Uh, Kaim? Are you ok? This really isn't the time to be spacing out, alright?"

"No, I'm fine," The immortal replied evenly. "Actually, I should thank you two. I might have forgotten otherwise."

Jansen stared at Kaim, uncomprehendingly and the mage felt the inexplicable urge to check the sky to make sure it hadn't suddenly turned bright green on him. Kaim Argonar, a man so taciturn that he might as well be a walking suit of armor, was thanking somebody? Jansen glanced at Seth again, and she returned it, their previous feud forgotten in the face of this new weirdness. The mage took a tentative step away from the immortal man.

"Ah, okay," he said, a nervous chuckle bubbling up around his words, "Kaim, you're giving off a weird kinda vibe right now." The next part was more of a whisper for Jansen's own benefit than anybody else's. "Maybe I should go stand somewhere else."

Kaim said nothing in response to this. He simply lifted his hand, palm facing his torso, narrowed his eyes, and crushed his fingers into a fist. In that same instant, all forty feet of massive, multi-legged insect exploded into an array of colorful glowing orbs which twirled skyward as if caught by an invisible tornado. Jansen let out a surprised yelp and stumbled backward, falling ungracefully into the sand. Seth swore in surprise and fell back into a fighting stance, sword drawn. Kaim didn't even flinch at this completely bizarre display.

"Wha-what the hell did you just do?" Jansen nearly shrieked.

Kaim strode to the middle of where the beast had fallen, his boot prints marring the sandy outline of the now vanished monster, and reached down to pick something up. Grasping whatever it was, he turned back to his companions and walked toward them, utterly nonchalant. Seth, deciding that whatever had happened wasn't dangerous, slowly sheathed her weapon and fixed her fellow immortal with an unfriendly stare. Jansen scrambled to his feet and dusted himself off, still trying to process what he'd just seen.

"What was the point of that?" Seth asked indignantly, pointing at where the monster had previously been.

Kaim, still nonchalant, held up a healthy sized brown sack and untied it. The immortal reached inside, and produced a glittering gold coin. The right corner of his mouth angled itself upward ever-so-slightly, the closest to a smug smile that his companions felt he was capable of producing.

"Collecting our bonus," Kaim said simply.

Two pairs of dumbstruck eyes met this statement.

"You," Seth started, looking absolutely thunderstruck, "you turned a dead monster, into money?"

The mage stared at the immortal in shock, and then shook his head. Turning a dead monster into gold, now there was a marketable skill. Hell, who needed to market it? If ever there was a practical application of magic, Jansen was sure he'd just found it.

"First of all," Jansen said, holding up a finger. "Gross. Secondly," He held up a corresponding second finger. "Can you teach me to do that?"

AN: Ah, now there is the humor story I wanted to write. Hope you all enjoyed it, please R&R.

Disclaimer: I, of course, own none of this. It's just my personal flight of fancy.