For Glory, For Empire
A Respectable Inn
The Brass Lantern was a very respectable establishment far from the stink of Branmore’s port and riverside. The floors were clean, the meals fresh, and the bar rag rarely needed to be used. The clientele was polite, the waitresses modestly dressed, and the closest the inn had ever come to having a good, old fashioned, tavern brawl was when the quite nearsighted Baron Octavian accidentally mistook Elderman Rorke’s wife for his own and gave her a playful swat on her behind. Even that ended in apologies by both parties, and maybe Lady Rorke slipping her private entrance key into the Baron’s coat pocket.
Arturian had witnessed this act of mediocre excitement and more during the years of using the Lantern as a meeting place with his more respectable clients. He would have preferred the raucous atmosphere and slightly out of tune musicians of the Lusty Sea Wench or the scantily clad, corseted, Azkaderran dancers of the Maiden’s Kiss; but unfortunately, his current clients would not appreciate the nuances of a seedy tavern. Instead they preferred a place that was quiet, and respectable. Yes, the Brass Lantern was quite respectable, and that was reason enough for Arturian to hate it.
“And what guarantee do we have that our investment into this venture will be profitable?” asked the thin set man with the pencil mustache. The pair of men sitting across for Arturian definitely would not have appreciated a seedy tavern. Even in this atmosphere they were never able to relax, or at least appear that way. Arturian had nicknamed them the Sea Lion and the Contractor, after a children’s tale from his youth. The Contractor, the thin, pencil mustached, weasel of a man, was too fidgety; always glancing this way and that. His partner the Sea Lion, was a man of extraordinary girth with a bulbous nose and overgrown mustache that seemed to have collected the majority of his lunch; was always on edge and angry. Neither cared to hide their emotion, and even though the duo did not look it, they had the power to call down the might of their entire trade consortium on those who crossed them.
“By all reports, these new lands are rich in resources and potential trade. The expansion alone will coax more explorers and settlers out, which will in turn bring more trade, which will bring more settlers and the monetary exponential of this area will explode,” Arturian coolly explained again.
“The investment will pay for itself a hundred times over, but only if we act now and get in on the ground floor. Wait, and you will be turning these profits over to the other trading concerns.” Arturian worked hard to maintain his relaxed demeanor. He did not want to betray the desperation of his situation, and how badly he needed the coin and goods of these two men.
The two gentleman conferred with one another, and after a brief pause, they came to a consensus. “You shall get your backing, sir, but do I need to remind you of the price of failing to make good on your promises? Run, and we will spare no expense to track you down and re-coup our expenses from your flesh. You’d make a nice addition as a slave on one of our pleasure barges,” the Sea Lion wheezed. Even in his labored breathing though, the threat was enough to make the hairs on the back of Arturian’s neck stand on end.
“Gentlemen, I assure you I understand the price of failure here, but you needn’t worry. This opportunity can’t miss,” Arturian started.
“It had better not," the Contractor interrupted, "for your sake.” He let the threat hang in the air. “You shall have your money on the morrow. And now our business is concluded.” The Contractor and the Sea Lion exited the table abruptly, and left the Brass Lantern in the same nervous manner that they had entered.
Arturian let his demeanor falter for a second as a shudder of disgust and repulsion ran through him. “Why do I always feel greasy after dealing with those two?” he thought. The threat still lingered in his mind, and even though he was sure of this venture, the seeds of doubt and failure still took root.
“I need to shake this feeling with a distraction, and I will not find that in this place.” Arturian paid his tab, and exited the Lantern. “Where to though?” he asked himself. His feet seemed to know the answer though, as they were already leading him to the Maiden’s Kiss and those scantily clad, corseted Azkaderran dancers.