Herbert Degrasse had a normal childhood. The son of a second generation Riddleport tailor, from an early age Herbert knew he would follow in his father's footsteps. He learned the family trade well and took over the business on midsummer of his twenty-third year. His father, Billem, had some crazy notion of retiring young enough to travel, eventually publishing a tale of adventure and discovery. Herbert had watched his father's eyes light up the only time a man had brought a Chronicle into the store. Herbert found the notion romantic, if a bit far fetched.
Early in his tenure at Degrasse Threads Herb was approached by a middle aged man dressed to the nines. Herbert's dry mouth salivated. A customer like this could spell hot meals for a year or longer. Oddly, the man didn't give a name. He asked Herbert to complete a travelers cloak with several additions. Hidden sheaths and pockets blossomed from several locations. To the skilled eye of Herbert the tailor they appeared clumsy. When he commented, the stranger merely smiled. His next sentence stuck with Herbert, "If you wish someone to overlook a small lie, let them think they've caught you in a large one." The man's final instruction was a small and cleverly hidden false seam near the base of the cloak's hood. The illusion would allow the cloak's wearer to secret the smallest package, nothing larger than a silver piece.
Funds were exchanged and Herb set to making the cloak. The agreed price was three times what he should make. Herbert sewed with a smile threatening to overtake his hawkish face. He spun the cloak over his shoulders, testing the finished product in front of the shoppe's mirror. The stranger would be happy the clothe was of fine weave and the stitching immaculate. The stranger returned and paid the remainder of his bill.
"This type of hidden seam is called a borgia. A man who knows how and where to install one can make a great deal of money. Others would visit and ask for the same if you do not object." the strange man growled through his tight mouth.
Herb kept his mouth shut. His father had stayed clear of business that had huge looming questions. Herbert had no such qualms. He wished to retire to luxury and leisure, not a life of plodding along next to a mule. The opportunity was too good to let pass. What could go wrong?
In the six months since the strange man had bought the first borgia cloak life had changed for Herbert Degrasse. He was making nothing but borgia cloaks now, two or three cloaks a week. Unfortunately he no longer worked for gold. Herbert worked for opium and cut out the middleman.
The cloaks were used to smuggle small quantities of opium into Riddleport. A plug the size of a silver coin was enough to last an addict for a day or two. A man or women could easily sneak four or five a day into the city, given that they had the guts and a supplier. Suppliers tired of risking large shipments, the loss of which would result in financial collapse. Instead, they found mules. They all worked for opium as well. The man at the top made the gold, the rest had their opium dreams. Herbert was no different.
The authorities became aware of the increase in illegal drugs in Riddleport. Though the city was unusually lax on laws of personal freedom, it had reached the point where ignorance was no longer possible. A loud crash brought Herbert awake. He was up in a groggy turn, entangled in his bedsheets. His first thought to grab his pipe, but he must investigate the noise. Herbert didn't have to make the decision. The door to his chambers above Degrasse Threads burst open. The strange man who's arrival started the landslide stood at the foot of his bed.
"You will be leaving directly Mr. Degrasse," the man said in a perfectly reasonable voice. Despite his deplorable state, Herbert saw the will blazing in the stranger's eyes. He suddenly felt more sober.
"Where?" Herbert asked. It was one word, it probably saved his life. The stranger's focus turned from Herbert to his task.
"Follow," was his one word reply.
On his way out Herbert risked a glance backward. He saw six men bearing torches heading toward his father's shop. The stranger saw this. He looked hard at Herb and shook his head. Herbert buried his own but plodded on toward the docks.
"I know those good for nothings showed you some tricks. How to pick a lock, and weasel the pants off a rich widow. I have no doubt that you'll survive if you follow my advice. Stay away from the juice young man. You haven't the constitution.'
The stranger shoved a pack at Herbert. It looked like a hundred he had seen men pack for adventure. The stranger unbuckled his sword belt and added that to the pile. He pointed to a ship docked quayside.
"There is enough water for two weeks. Find a place to hide. The next few days will be the worst of your life," saying his piece the stranger turned and walked calmly toward the merchant district and a billowing plume of smoke.
Herbert found his spot. It was close enough to a porthole to properly dispose of his waste. He had no idea where the boat was heading nor did he care. In a few short years he had lost everything three generations of hard work had earned. Herbert vowed that no matter the path he would become rich enough to replace the family trade he destroyed.