Baron Izadore donned his coronet. He dreaded these meetings with Fuerzo, but he couldn’t get out of them. What was a Baron to do without a wealthy backer? Oh well, might as well get it over with. He walked into Fuerzo’s lounge. Immediately, he walked to the shiny ornamental tin tobacco pot. He pulled out his pipe and packed it tightly with Fuerzo’s premium tobacco. There were some indubitable perks to being Fuerzo’s friend. With his nerves chilled by a quick puff, he made himself comfortable in the largest, grandest, plush chair. The red velvet felt especially good on his hands.
“Respectable Baron Izadore, thank you for coming.”
“Anytime for you, Fuerzo.”
“You’re too kind Izadore. Well I asked you to come because I need your assistance. There’s a certain untapped gold mine in the area. Perhaps you’ve heard?”
“Oh I don’t bother myself with farie tales. Please tell me you have something more substantial to talk about.”
“Hmmm this time I don’t think it’s a farie tale. You remember Toten from the War? Well he’s in town under the name, ‘Matar’ -”
“The one who carries Black Lightning? The legendary Pole of Death?”
“The one and only. He and his pupil are in town organizing a party for a mission to the mine. At first I was relived when I first heard about the troublesome duo. They started by approaching my cousin Czawlytko. Ha! Imagine my luck of having the most dangerous man on this peninsula walk right into my hands. What I did not expect, was for the boy to be so resistant to torture. We couldn’t get any information from them. We tried following them, but soon lost them.
“Ok and what do you want from me?”
“Perhaps you can arrange for a meeting. Subtly bring up the subject and see if you can get any information from him. Offer him help if needed. I’m happy to provide men. Ultimately we need that gold.”
“What is it with you and gold? We should focus on recruiting and drafting men for an army. We are so close to being able to take over Villa Horgs and Spona Township. It would be nearly effortless. Then we proceed by recruiting and drafting in Horgs and Spona and continue on to Laupastone.”
“We can’t. I keep telling you that an army requires an army of secretaries to manage it. We need supply lines and for that we need logistics. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. If we start now, before we get the gold from this mine, we’ll be bankrupt by the time we arrive in Laupastone.
“Oh you’re so obsessed with money. Money, money, money. There’s more to life than money you know. Like conquest!” The baron caressed the coronet on his head.
Fuerzo waved his hand dismissively. He rolled his eyes. “Ok we’ve had this conversation before. I’ve said my bit. I could use your help. You can leave now.”
“Bah!” said the frustrated baron on his way out. “Blast these merchants and their money grubbing hands.” He muttered to himself.
Fuerzo sighed. “Ugh meetings, meetings, meetings. One down, one to go. But first, a quick smoke.” He finished the tobacco in his pipe, emptied it, and packed it again. He took a big puff and held it in his mouth for several moments, savoring the hot, dry flavor. He finished by blowing a series precise rings. Fuerzo loved the flavor of smoke. There was something wonderful about it. It was subtle and complex. There would be time for more smoking later. He walked to the basement landing. A lamp was waiting for him. A big cursive “R” was embossed on the gold base. He love this lamp. He continued to walk deeper into the basement. The meeting room was set up with four small chairs made of unfinished wood facing a huge shiny red desk and chair. Each corner of the desk was capped with ornate silver. He sat in the big chair and waited for his associates to arrive.
Pat-pat-pat-pat. A rapid fire pattering was approaching. Kajino emerged from the dark and sat down in the first chair. Next came Sheriff. Fuerzo could hear Sheriff lumbering down the stairs from a long way off. When he turned the corner, he was carrying his customary executioner’s axe. Then came Czawlytko who also lumbered and stomped his way down. The two giants sat next to each other. Their chairs suffered almost as much as their enemies. Finally a man with exceedingly sharp teeth and a smile that went ear to ear walked in.
“Thank you all for being on time. I really do appreciate it. Ok updates. Kajino, why don’t you go first?”
“Mission complete, Boss”
“Complete? So soon? How wonderful.”
“Thank you, sir.” was all Kajino said.
“I think it’s time for a new mission, hmm? Let’s talk after this. Sheriff, you’re next.”
“Nothing new to report, Boss. If you’ve killed 10 people, you can kill 1,000.”
“And how’s our Judge Hepto?”
“Still sleepy, Boss”
“Excellent. I’d hate to have to get a new judge again. Prestio,” said Fuerzo to the last man. “Anything new?”
“No sir.” Said Prestio with a toothy grin. “People are being relocated off of their land as we speak. They don’t suspect me of anything so far.”
“Great. Prestio, Czawlytko, Sheriff, you’re all dismissed.”
The three got up to leave. As they did, two of their chairs gave a sigh of relief.
“Kajino, I have another mission for you. There’s a fisherman who’s giving us trouble. We need his boat and he won’t see sense. That’s his choice. Unfortunately it means he’ll be sleeping with the fishes. Now I’d just like to remind you, before you get sentimental over a poor fisherman, that your brother and you are alive because of me.”
“Of course I remember, sir.” Kajino leveled evenly, “It is a debt I can never repay, but I am eternally thankful.”