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  • Jordan Keller

A Man's Worth

Jethro had done the impossible. Despite sitting at the bottom of some English lake for the last 1,500 years, the salvager couldn’t believe how perfect Excalibur was. The sword’s edge looked sharp enough to cut, and the jewels embedded in the hilt shimmered under the fluorescent lights of his boat’s small interior. Jethro leaned back in his chair and took another victorious pull of his whiskey. He’d found Excalibur. He’d pulled it from the lake. If he believed in the old legends, he’d be the new king, but he’d rather take the $1.2 million payout waiting for him on a French shoreline.

His buyer had been clear about his instructions. Find the sword. Meet him in Calais. Tell no one. Jethro only had a time and location to meet the buyer, but given the correct intel about the sword’s location, he didn’t doubt the buyer would show. Jethro chuckled at the image of meeting the stranger outside some French café, only knowing it was him by a briefcase full of money.

Money he would use to upgrade his salvaging boat and take on more treasure hunts. If Excalibur was real, what other lost relics were waiting for him? The overhead lights flickered, and Jethro stomped against the thin floor until the circuits reconnected. The wiring was the first thing he would fix. More lights on the deck seized outside the windows and within their shadows, Jethro thought he glimpsed a figure.

He set his whiskey down and pushed it further away when the shadows played the same trick nearer the window. A loud bang on the deck sputtered his heartbeat. A second bash against the window knocked Jethro out of his seat. A drenched handprint slid down the glass. Jethro didn’t have a crew. His small vessel and oversized greed prevented it.

Whoever was on his boat wasn’t welcome.

Jethro grabbed the pistol from his desk drawer and headed to the deck. He wagered $1.2 million was worth a man’s life if it kept his sword a secret. He ripped open the door and aimed the gun at a pale woman, her long hair and flowing gown both soaked. Jethro could see the dark waters of the Dover Straight through her.

He shrieked and pulled the trigger.

The bullet hit the waterlogged lady straight on, but she did not crumble. Lake water oozed from the wound instead of blood. She approached him, her feet sloshing through invisible water.

Return the blade. Her mouth did not move, but her ethereal voice slammed into Jethro. A thief is not fit for a king.

Jethro unloaded the pistol, but it did not stop the woman. She twisted her wrist, Excalibur appeared in her grasp, and she impaled him. His thick blood filled the deck. He watched the Lady of the Lake step off his boat and disappeared with his sword. Out of time, Jethro realized a man’s life was not worth $1.2 million.   

A Man's Worth was written for Twist In The Tale's 500-word short story contest. It was ranked 7th overall and 1st in its subcategory of Mythology.

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