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The captain was taking no chances. When they docked, he set his largest, strongest oarsmen on watch, and sent his first mate – a man renowned for his wits- ashore to hire more strong men.

By the time he stepped ashore, he left the ship surrounded by well armed, loyal defenders.

The head of the merchants guild approached him with an obsequious smile.

“Welcome, Captain,” he said, rubbing his hands. “We are eager to discover what treasures you carry, that beg such… measures.”

The captain grinned. “I am sure you are,” he replied. “I am sure you are. But we have been at sea for many, many weeks and are equally eager to discover the hospitalities of the shore.”

The guildmaster took the hint and bowed deeply. “I would be honoured to entertain you and your first mate in my own home. Your men, of course, have the hospitality of our inns and… other establishments.”

The captain nodded. “And they will enjoy it freely when our trade is done.”

The guildmaster, the captain and the first mate dined together on the finest food, prepared by the most talented chef the port city had to offer, and when their bellies were full, the captain smiled at the guildmaster.

“A fine meal,” he said. “But the wine…”

The guildmaster flushed red. “The wine is the best there is,” he cried. “Brought by my own express order! There is no finer draught in the city!”

The captain shook his head. “There is,” he said quietly. “In my cargo.”

The guildmaster stared at him. “Impossible,” he said. “My cellar holds only the finest, rarest vintages.”

“The finest bar one,” the captain said. “You have no wine from Atlantis.”

The guildmaster fell silent for a moment, examining the captain for signs of dishonesty which he could not find.

Finally he spoke. “Then you have indeed been at sea for many weeks. Name your price.”

© Kari Fay