|Shane Cottom Contributor|
Varnhold. The private offices of Banker Verik Jarrow. 28 Calistril, 2713.
Verik's final words hang in the air between the two men for a long moment, Arkady comfortable in a fine chair opposite the Banker. Dark eyes watch Verik - they have not wavered throughout the reprimand. There is no outburst from the man, nor any show of anger as the list of grievances is pronounced. He well knows the extent of his own irresponsibility, and appears to feel no shame in it. For a time, there is no reaction at all save for a whitening of the knuckles where his hands grip the arms of the chair.
When he finally stirs, it is to pull a heavy pouch from a loop on his belt. "I have your gold. I sold a wagon," he says, the words nearly drowned beneath the sound of clinking coins as he tosses the leather sack onto Verik's desk. "If that will be all?"
He straightens in his seat, rises as if to go, but pauses. A grimace, a half-shake of his head, and as he falls back into the chair he wears the look of a man who has resigned himself to a foolish course of action.
"You know my friend Kabula, Banker Jarrow? May I call you Banker Jarrow?" There is an edge to Arkady's tone now; it is a mockery of politeness. "He cautioned me to speak to you as little as possible. To pay my fine and take my leave," he sneers, "But he has always said that I scorn wise counsel. You think to enrage me? Banker, I am already enraged. Your will be done; thank the gods." His voice raises slightly as he goes, the words coming faster.
"First you bade me join your newly-minted militia. It's a foolish man who volunteers for a uniform, and moreso in Varnhold, but men in the throes of grief are often prone to foolishness so you tried your hand. You next decided it would be simpler to just be rid of me, and tried to quietly banish me into the service of your Warden Whitestag but, knave that I am, I would not cooperate. Reluctant to leave my son's side in his hour of grief? A great moral failure, to be sure." The widower clicks his tongue in feigned disapproval of his own behavior.
"Your invitation to meet with Master Kharkarov might have been an attempt on my life, Banker. He's every bit as unpleasant as I, though your well knew that. Touchy, too. Inside five minutes' conversation he had shown me steel. Could we but have agreed on the terms of a duel, one of us would have died that day. Unfortunately I've no great fondness for swords, and he was reluctant to engage me in a bout of pugilism. Many men are, when it's to the death. Something about beating the life out of a man with your bare hands..." He trails off, but manages a smile, shaking his head. "Few men have the stomach for it. I think no less of him. And you can well imagine that he was no more eager to engage me with wands."
"Your attempt to put me back on the trail was salt in a fresh wound, your invitation to preside over citations in your temple of law an insult. So what would I have you do with me, Banker?"
Arkady's booted feet are both on the floor as he leans forward to look Verik in the eyes, his words coming quiet and slow now, fury rasping thick in his voice. "I am a student of the arcane with a knack for violence. Give me work that suits my skills, help me raise money to see my son safely from this gods-forsaken village," his dark eyes narrow, and he finishes in a menacing whisper: "Or preside over my many fines and stay far from my other affairs."