One eyebrow went up skeptically. This “Theosius” claimed to be a craftsman, but sought to hire mercenaries? Even in far more dangerous climes, artisans within the city walls were hardly in dangers a swordswoman could protect them from. Let alone four of them. Clearly, despite his unfamiliarity with hiring procedures, he was not stupid. Indeed, smart enough not to identify himself in public. At the same time, he hadn’t answered the priests question at all. ‘Occasional duties’ explained nothing, and ‘I will ask nothing illegal of you’ usually meant the opposite. Saeth glanced at the others at the table. The dwarf’s eyes seemed to light up at the mention of the royals–he clearly had some idea what that was worth, unlike herself–and the priest had already made his willingness to help clear. And the youth? Young humans were foolish excitement-seekers, and this one hadn’t shown himself to be any different.
She drained her mug. Best to talk before either accepted outright. “Your offer intrigues more than one of us, Craftsman Theosius. Perhaps you might show us your workshop, and we could concern ourselves with precise terms there?”
Theosius appeared amused as looked toward the elf, “I see you are a skeptical lot. I’m afraid that a tour of my shop will not be possible as it is a private studio not open to the public. I work only by commission and I have many high-priced works located therein.” The Thyatian’s voice boomed throughout the bar. He clearly enjoyed boasting of his status as a craftsman to the wealthy and powerful. “Besides, my studio is closed for the duration of the festival. As I have stated, I am well known throughout the city and my reputation as a craftsman is beyond reproach. Indeed, if you learn otherwise, then you may return the retainer to the barkeep at a later date.”
Miklos felt his old merchantman hackles rise at this blatantly low fee. Something inside him said never accept the first offer he expects you to haggle and if you do not he will think you are weak and easily bribed. Loyalty costs money and he knows this. It is important to evaluate the task he requires of us and match it to his pocket. Sadly the Cleric has opened our hand too much, however just because we are not acquainted with each other or the city doesn’t mean that we are inexperienced or foolish.
Miklos took a long look at the man in an attempt to gage his personality and trustworthiness. His father seemed to do this to great effect and weaker men seemed to loose all confidence in his mere presence. He didn’t know if he came across with the appropriate seriousness or gravity, but he gave it his best shot.
“Mr Theosius, I am Miklos Dostevar son of Ilya Dostevar, a local merchant of some success.” He felt leaving this hanging for a few moments might give the man a chance to remember the name if he’d heard it. “I wish to make my own way in this world as my father before me as I have no desire to hang off his coattails. However, please do us the kindness of not taking us for cheap labourers. Seeking work we may be, destitute we are not.”
Now that he had the mans attention he pressed on. “If we were the type of folk to come rushing at your first offer, you’d quiet rightly think to yourself; ‘Why! I should have offered them only two!’ but as you well know deeds that require an ‘element of risk’ also require an ‘element of trust’. Trust my friend is no a cheap commodity. In fact its the most expensive commodity or naturally it can also be free. But as I am not your most trusted brother of friend I fear the former is more likely.”
“As my cleric friend here has most aptly put, we are at your disposal, for a retainer of six crona each, board, lodging and expenses for specialist equipment required to perform the duties you wish of us. A task fee to be negotiated for each job and completion bonuses for elements of the job that calls for greater risk if encountered.”
Miklos didn’t want to come across as uncompromising or blow his friends chances at employment and he knew not everyone was as well-off as he was. ‘Aim high!’ Ilya had always said, ‘Your clients are not mindreaders. Ask for what you need to get the job done. It is not an unreasonable thing to do.’ The dice are in the air, lets see if Theosius will negotiate.
“Six royals!” exclaimed Theosius. “You drive a hard bargain young man. That is a hefty charge, when all I ask is that you make your services available to me at a future date.” The man drunkenly studied the group, considering the young mage’s demands.
Maruc felt somewhat deflated. Feldard had remained quiet and thoughtful and he definitely got the impression that he had annoyed Saeth. Then the strangely silent man who seemed so intent on his pint that he seemed to be mesmerised by it, had suddenly found his tongue, and a steely tongue at that.
At least he had introduced himself at last, what was it again? The merchant banter had quiet overtaken him, oh yes, Miklos. Miklos Dostevar. He seemed to Maruc to be quiet well to do by the quality of his clothing and the fine dagger at his waist. He had the air of Thyatian nobility about him but Maruc swore he flinched a fraction at the Traladarian put-down. So perhaps one of those rare successful Traladarian merchant families. Maruc didn’t truly understand merchant etiquette but he guessed that if his intuition was right – and it rarely let him down – that his name dropping wouldn’t hold much sway over Theosius.
Still he had to hand it to the youth, he was handling himself very well in the face of this merchant. He just hoped he wouldn’t talk the group out of work.
After this meeting with Saeth and Miklos, if Theosius didn’t just turn about and walk away the man was obviously more desperate than he let on. Still, Maruc guessed they had until he finished his pint to see if he was interested.
Something irritating in the back of Miklos’s mind was trying to get his attention, then he realiesed what it was – the Vorloi. Yes that was it. Why were they ‘maintaining order between the Torenescu and Radu’? The Vorloi were a Thyatian trading family, a powerful one, true. But why involve themselves in civil affairs? What drives the Vorloi to interceed between the the Torenescu and Radu? Miklos could only assume that they were rival trading enterprises that were getting in the way somehow, but to show themselves in such an open manner meant only one thing to Miklos. Politics.
Politics gets people killed. Miklos also needed to confirm his own theory that the Torenescu and Radu were in fact a Traladanian trading faction. He made a sideways glance at the cleric. He damn well hoped it wasn’t a religious problem. That got you killed quicker than politics because you never knew where you stood with them.
“I will increase my offer to 4 royals,” Theosius said, finally. “When I have a job, I will contact you here. As I have stated, my works are very valuable and I often have need of caravan guards, courier services and the like. Nothing illegal, you have my assurances. What do you say?”