It's hard work running Tamatoa’s Trading Post. I get all types of customers: necromancers, kakamori, monsters, demigods, even the occasional human sage who heard the rumors of my wealth and power all the way from the surface. My amazing business and negotiation skills and diversity of assets, accumulated over more than 1000 years of life, are renowned and envied all over the underworld, and I get customers from almost the entire pacific ocean, and even some surface islands. They come for many things: artifacts, riches, lost knowledge, advice, magic, and even more exotic goods and services. I'll trade for anything that's worth something, but one of the only things I really care about getting is my shiny gold and treasure. I've built up an impressive mountain of gold on my shell, and it is a constant reminder of my superiority and success.
Of course, as much as I'd love to flaunt my supremacy in more violent ways, I can't tarnish the spotless name I've made for myself in this business. I've sworn an oath never to harm, cheat, or rip off any of my customers, except in self-defense, defense of property, or retaliation for breaking another oath. I take oaths VERY seriously. When one lives for over 1000 years, one learns that cheating never works out in the long run, especially when you are engaging in high-profile activity. This has nothing to do with the "morality" bullshit that surface dwellers may like to propagate. If you are known to cheat your customers, pretty soon you won't have any more, and your business will die. Maybe you could hide it in the short term, but as an immortal I can't afford to think short-term. I'd love to taunt and kill another being to prove my superiority even more, but I can't lose my business. That's why I was positively delighted when a clueless surface-dwelling human bumbled into my lair.
I didn't notice the human at first, because I was sleeping safely beneath my impenetrable shell. It was only when it climbed onto me that I took notice and got up to see what was going on. As I got up, the first thing I saw was the shiny glint of something I didn't recognize falling off my shell. I reflexively snatched it in my claw. My first thought was "Great! Another shiny thing to add to my collection!" but as I examined it further, I realized that it wasn't just a shiny treasure. I shook off the uniform (which was shamelessly stolen from my lair) to get a good look. I saw a young human female in a red shirt and white dress. I smiled inwardly. I knew this would be fun. It probably wasn't a customer, because it had arrived unannounced, stolen things from my lair, and had nothing obvious to trade with nor any sign of status that the surface dwellers usually use to indicate to me that they are here for business. Combine that with its status as a surface-dweller, and very few of my potential customers would care what I did to it. Of course, I'd have to verify that the human was no customer before I did anything terrible, but that would be easy enough.
I began to try to talk with the human then, asking it why it was here, but it kept looking between my eyes in an irritating way, causing me to lose my train of thought for a bit as I snapped at it to just focus on one eye. As I examined it more closely, I noticed that it was wearing a necklace with a compartment. Perhaps it was a customer, and had something rare to offer inside the necklace? I wondered out loud what it was and began to reach for it. When the human pleaded with me not to take the necklace, I realized that it probably wasn't really a customer. Most customers know that although I would borrow things for examination purposes on occasion, I had never in thousands of years actually stolen from a customer, no matter how tempting the object was and how easy it would be. Again, I had a reputation to uphold. The human had demonstrated that it wasn't at all interested in selling the one potentially valuable thing it had on it, so it was therefore clueless, and not a customer. As I mocked it and demanded to know its real reason for being here, I heard a suspicious noise behind me. I quickly turned to see what it was, while the human desperately and weakly tried to distract me by yelling about how it was here to see how "amazing" I was. I just managed to catch a glimpse of the other entity climbing up the cliff behind me, and I went over to see what it was. It was that pest Maui!
Suddenly I knew why the human was really here. It was trying to distract me for that trickster Maui, who was probably trying to steal his hook back. It almost worked too, which was the scary part. I really didn't want to deal with this guy, as he was one of the few people who actually managed to hurt me. I defeated him and stole his hook so that he couldn't threaten me again after he tore my leg off in monstrous animal form, which everyone was willing to agree fell squarely within self-defense. I figured that since this human female had been complicit in his plan, perhaps he had some attachment to it. Therefore, I dangerously squeezed my human until it yelped in pain and yelled "STAND DOWN OR I'LL KILL HER!" Maui quickly put his hands up, and calmly said "There's no need for that. I'm unarmed." I realized after the initial panic had cooled off that he was right. He couldn't do anything to hurt me without his hook, and now that I knew he was there I could easily stop him from getting it. There was still a slight concern, however.
"Swear to me you don't have anything else planned at the moment," I demanded. "Only if you swear to me that I will come to no harm in this interaction," countered Maui. That was fair enough, I mused. Us immortals, including Maui, are so trustworthy because the consequences for our actions extend across our extremely long lives. If that life were to be threatened, the threat to life would take priority over the threat to reputation, and an immortal might lie. Seeing as this is common knowledge among immortals and even mortals, they probably wouldn't even lose much reputation if they had shown that they had lied in self-defense. Knowing that I would know this, Maui didn't bother to insult my intelligence by claiming that he was to be trusted with his life on the line. If I refused to swear as he had asked, most would side with Maui even if he lied, and so he wasn't to be trusted in that case. I was certainly in no position to break an oath. Therefore, if I wanted to kill Maui, I knew I had to do it now. I also knew that it was too risky for my reputation. He might get away, he was a high-profile demigod, I had no proof that he was trying to steal from me, and he had failed to steal so what I did now wouldn’t be defense. Besides, if there were more attackers I would be better off learning about them from Maui.
"I solemnly swear that you will come to no harm in this interaction, but only if you don't have any other attack plans at the moment and you swear to me as such," I partially conceded. Maui nodded his head and said "I solemnly swear that I don't have any other attack plans at the moment." I breathed a sigh of relief. The tense situation had been defused, and there was no immediate danger. Accordingly, I no longer needed an immediate threat. I tossed my human aside into a cage of bones I had put up earlier for trapping prey. It was time to start on what I was really good at: business. "As you know, I am a businessman at heart. Either discuss business with me or leave. And remember, I won’t do any business with you unless you swear not to steal from me. Perhaps you'd like to negotiate for the release of your human friend here?" "I don't need to," replied Maui. "You're honor-bound to release her." "And why would that be?" I replied. "She's my property," claimed the demigod. My little human protested and shook at the bars at this, but me and Maui both knew this was just his excuse for getting its freedom back. "If you keep her, it would be theft." I shook my head at this. "Under all applicable conventions, if you put merchandise into a trader's shop without announcing your presence and willingness to bargain, you have given a gift, not made an offer. I am not the one to blame for your idiocy." Maui cursed as he realized he wouldn't be able to get his human back for free.
"What will you do with her if she isn't released?" asked Maui. "Like the rest of my goods, I'll probably sell her at auction if nobody specifically asks for her," I replied. "If nobody's willing to pay the starting price, or if I just really feel like it, I'll eat her." I winked and licked my lips at my human and smiled inwardly as it began to scream and cry. In truth, I didn't think anybody would pay the starting price for my human. I would set it very high, because I so rarely got an opportunity to show my superiority to the mortals by a display of inevitable force, and what better way to do that than to eat my little human? I could taunt it and play cat and mouse, almost crush it or rip it, and slowly lower it, kicking and screaming, into my mouth. It was so small, I could even swallow it whole and digest it alive! This was going to be SO fun! I refocused my attention onto the current discussion. "If you want to buy her back now, it will cost 200 pounds of gold or something of similar value." Really, I set the price that high just to watch Maui squirm. He thought about this for a little bit, then said “I have valuable information to sell you, in that case.”
I couldn’t trust Maui to accurately report the value of his “information”, after all he had just tried to steal from me, and he was no expert in such things. As such, I sent out my trusted kakamori arbitrator to listen to Maui’s secret on my behalf. He couldn’t speak to me, and therefore couldn’t reveal any secrets, but he could draw in the sand to indicate how valuable he thought the information was. Apparently, this information was extremely valuable, at 250 pounds of gold. I was very interested, of course, so I gave Maui 250 pounds of store credit. He then told me that my human’s necklace in fact had the Heart of TeFiti inside, and that I might have destroyed it upon eating my human or sold it along with it had I not been warned. I doubted that I would have made such a mistake, but there was a small possibility and the Heart of TeFiti was very valuable, so the information truly was worth that. I took my human’s necklace, checked it, and sure enough, there it was! This really was my lucky day. I gained the crown jewel of my collection along with a tiny human female to torment.
Unfortunately, there was one little wrinkle in that: I wouldn’t get to eat my human because Maui was going to buy it back. However, being the quick-thinking genius that I am, I managed to think of a way to remedy that while also making Maui squirm, and without any cheating or violence. I simply offered him his hook for the same price of 200 pounds of gold as well, but made it into an exclusive choice. If he chose to buy the human, the hook would cease to be for sale. If he chose to buy the hook, he’d have to watch as I ate his human friend alive. I’d give him one minute to consider the human offer, then one minute to consider the hook offer. If he took neither, I’d give him his 250 pounds and kick him out of my store for good. It was perhaps possible that he’d try to buy the human and then return later to steal the hook, but I knew he wouldn’t be that stupid. He’d be breaking the oath he swore against stealing, and I’d have my vast resources and the backing of the entire underworld with which to hunt him down and kill him. (I didn’t break oath to steal his hook, it was clearly self-defense. He ripped off my leg for Christ’s sake.) Even many of the do-gooder surface dwellers would become more suspicious of Maui if he started stealing against oath.
I picked my human back up from its cage, which it had been desperately but ineffectively trying to escape from all this time. As I started the clock, Maui began to agonize over his decision. He knew that if he saved the human, he’d most likely never get his hook back. He also knew that, with his hook, he could save many more lives and once again be the hero he so desperately wanted to be. I knew that, if he really valued the humans, he’d give me what I wanted and buy the hook. But as I held my human above my mouth, taunting it by licking my lips, snapping at it, and slowly lowering it closer to its fate, and it screamed at Maui to help it, I knew it got to him, and brought him that much further away from feeling like a hero. However, I knew that in the end, he didn’t actually value the individual human all that much, as much as he valued humans in general, and so I saw on his face the moment he made his decision. My human saw it too, and in that moment that its pleading and desperation turned to despair and resignation, I felt real joy. As I lowered it into my mouth and closed my lips around it, its struggles got weaker. I slowly sucked it deeper into my mouth while licking it all over with my tongue as the clock ran down. When time was up, I sucked the unfortunate human’s head the rest of the way into my mouth and swallowed it whole.
After Maui saw his friend vanish down my throat, he yelled “FINE! I’LL TAKE YOUR DAMN DEAL!” I smiled and gave him his hook and the 50 extra pounds without complaint. This was about the best way these negotiations could have possibly gone. As he stormed off with his hook, I reflected on another stipulation I had included in the deal: Maui was bound by oath to bring me another young human female for consumption every year or else return his hook pending further negotiation. This would slowly wear down his dream of being a hero, I knew, and perhaps one day he would make a valuable ally. True, he was more dangerous with his hook, but I decided to up security on my trading post to reduce his threat, and I still had the support of my riches and the underworld at large should he decide to fight. I hoped it would be enough to deter him. And sure enough, 365 days later, a giant hawk flew into my shop and dropped an unconscious human female out of its talons. I decided to keep this one to play with for a few days before dropping it into my mouth and crushing it between my teeth. Swallowing prey alive is fun, but I know from last time that it can give you one hell of a stomach ache with all the struggling.