The Payoff

Tales from a goblin-infested brewery (home of Jake Thrash and Badsider Brew), and a lawyer-infested sports bar (home of Kalamere Ar'Din and The Line).

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Black Wizard
Black Wizard
Posts: 1565
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2005 11:45 pm
Location: Dragon's Gate

The Payoff

Post by Kalamere » Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:20 pm

What my mother believed about cooking is that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you. - Nora Ephron

Any gambling operation needs to have a strategy for debt collection. A book maker who can't collect from the losers quickly finds himself in the unenviable position of not being able to pay out to the winners. This can be hazardous to your health since clients are quite fond of the tinkling sound of silver falling into their hands after a successful wager. At The Line, we have two methods in place. The first is my new half-ogre associate. He acts as the knock in your door, shake you upside down until the coins fall out of your pockets, likely eat one of your pets on the way out, brute force collection agent. Sometimes though, a more subtle approach is required. A client may not have funds to be dislodged from their person, so you might barter for something of similar value. Or, you may be able to get something from one client and use it to pay off another. I gave Rath a shot at this, but now I have a mounted moose head and a prosthetic leg I don't know what to do with. He isn't allowed to barter any more.

Another option where debts are concerned is to sell them to someone else. If the risk of collection is higher than you're willing to accept, you can sell the debt at a discounted rate to another bookie who isn't as risk averse. This is how I found myself in the Duchy of Summerset.

"The Right Honourable Kalamere Ar'Din, Earl of Autumn's Reach." the announcement came as the double doors to the audience chamber swung open. That was my cue. Don't be impressed; for the right price you too could be an Earl around here.

"Autumn's Reach?" repeated the Duchess Summerset, her tone that of happy surprise. This was a good sign. Dealing with the Duchess is something of a crap shoot and you really don't want to try it when she's in a bad mood. She is an elderly woman, short and squat with snow white tresses and a sweet, grandmotherly smile. Her high pitched voice makes her sound like a young girl, though the dark calculating eyes help to remind you who you're dealing with. The number of black rumors, mostly true, surrounding her included several instances of rivals gone mysteriously missing and the suspected poisoning of all three of her husbands. The last of whom was found dead about six months ago.

"What a surprise!" she continued. "It must be six months since you've visited. This is a social call, is it not? I don't recall summoning you. Garon, did we summon the Earl?"

"No, Your Grace," replied Garon, her chief adviser and master of house.

"Your Grace," I greeted her with an appropriately low bow of respect. "You look lovely. The Spring air seems to make you younger by the day."

"Liar. You're a flattering rake, Autumn's Reach; I'll have that silver tongue removed one day." She was still smiling when she said it, so I was pretty sure it wouldn't be today. With one pudgy, ring-encrusted hand she motioned to a rather uncomfortable looking chair. "Sit! Garon, have drinks brought for the Earl and me. Strong ones this time. If you water down my wine again I'll have you flogged!"

Garon slipped off to have refreshments brought and I settled into the offered chair. "Your Grace...."

"Ava, Kalamere, we've known each other too long to sit on ceremony." she interrupted.

"Of course, Your Grace." I wasn't falling for that one, I know what happened to the last who did. "I'm sorry to say, this is not strictly a social call." Garon returned and held out the leather bound folder I gave him before entering. The Duchess took it from his hand then waived her fingers dismissively in his direction.

"Out! Everyone out!" waving her hands in the air. "Not you three," indicating the three women seated to her right, who hadn't bothered to begin standing up anyway. "You stay." These were the Ladies Summerset, her daughters.

Once the room had cleared and Garon closed the door behind them, The Duchess ran a finger over the smooth leather binding and turned narrowed eyes my way. "What's this then? We've not done any business in quite some time, Kal. Our debts ought to be settled." She was in the process of opening the binder, so I didn't bother to respond. Inside, she found the bill of debt I had purchased from her local book maker. The Duchess is a notoriously bad judge of jousting talent, but that doesn't stop her from placing bets on every competition in the kingdom. Her lands are extensive and rich, so the money is really of no concern to her.

"When did you get into this line of work?" she asked, looking up from the bill. "How, mundane. I had such higher expectations of you."

"Sorry to disappoint, Your Grace."

"You should be! I cleared out the room, hoping for something juicy." she gave a disappointed sigh before closing the binder and handing it back to Garon. "Garon will see that you are paid on the way out."

"My pardon, Your Grace, but if it pleases you, I had hoped to make a different exchange. There is something else you have that interests me."

"Ah hah! I knew it wouldn't be so simple with you involved. Well alright then, which of them is it you're interested in?" she asked, waving towards her daughters.

"Yes, well, you see I have this other client... Wait. What?" I blinked, did she think I was asking for... a daughter?

"The oldest I can't give you for this price unless you're willing to marry her. You're below her station, but she's gotten past her prime and could use a rich, handsome husband, if not a well landed one." The oldest daughter glared at the back of her mother's head as she spoke, pausing only to glare occasionally at me. None of the daughters risked interrupting her though.

"Duchess, I believe we may be misunderstanding...."

"Jessa, the middle girl," she continued, either not hearing me or not caring, I couldn't tell which. "Still has prospects, so you'd have to sweeten the deal a little more." Lady Jessa looked bored with the whole conversation. The youngest, who was sure to be offered next, had a feral look in her eyes that was more than a little disturbing.

"Your Grace, please," I tried interrupting again. "Meaning no offense to your beautiful daughters, this isn't quite the bargain I had in mind."

"It isn't?" she asked. There was honest surprise in her tone. I really need to do something about my reputation.

"It isn't. You see, I had hoped to negotiate for Bernard's services."

"Why, Kal, I didn't realize your appetites had changed so drastically." Bernard is her head chef, one of the best in the kingdom. Obviously it wasn't my culinary preferences to which she was referring. I resolved to make another attempt at pulling her mind from the gutter.

"I have another client to whom I owe a dinner. Bernard's assistance in this would prove most helpful." No way to misinterpret that, right?

"Who is she?"


"Who is she? I absolutely refuse to believe you'd wager a meal with a man, especially having turned down my daughters. I'll lend you Bernard, but first I want the details! And pictures! Show me what she looks like." I wasn't sure this was an improvement or not. I knew that tone though and I wasn't getting out of it. I nodded agreement and began to cast the spell.

I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a wizard. That's true, but it leaves out some of the finer details. What I do know, I know very well. I just don't know much. I'm something of a one trick pony where magic is concerned. Ask me to levitate a feather or light a candle and I'm more likely to set the feather aflame and knock the candle off the table, or simply get no result at all. If you want a portal made though, well, then I'm your guy.

I concentrated for a moment and brought up a portal to the Arena. The dark blue haze gradually peeling back to reveal the portraits hung along the walls, displaying the current Overlord and seven Barons. It was mid-afternoon, so the Arena was thankfully vacant.

"Oh, is it the elvish girl? You pointy ear types sticking together?" she asked, pointing at one of the portraits. She was finding this far too enjoyable.

"No, to the right a bit. The one that says Old Temple."

"Ahh," she narrowed her eyes to study the portrait, "Dark hair, dark eyes. Oh yes I like her, she'll do. And what comes after dinner? Holiday together? You must bring her here, think of the gossip we could share!" clapping her hands together happily.

"Just dinner. It's nothing like that, the Baroness is otherwise attached. To the Overlord, no less." She looked at me sceptically, but then brightened as an idea struck her.

"But you could challenge him!" and she lept from her chair, brandishing an imaginary sword. "You do that sort of thing when you aren't poisoning my husbands, don't you?" Thrust, parry, high cut, driving her phantom opponent to the edge of the portal. "Defeat the villain and claim her heart? That's the way these things work, is it not?"

"No, not generally. And besides, in exchange for providing Bernard a suitable place to work I'm on the hook to challenge someone else."

Her next imaginary thrust stopped short and pointed at the portrait of the third Baroness. "That one then, it must be. You always were a sucker for blondes." she turned back to face me, a self-satisfied grin on her face, as if she'd just figured out a mystery novel before the author provided the final clue. "Throw the bet to the brunette so you have an excuse to call on the blonde. Devious! Well done!"

Maybe if I hired a PR firm, that could help. Really. Or a stint in a monastery. Though, I don't think brown robes would suit me well.

I closed down the portal without bothering to correct her. Doing that would simply mean another trip through the Crazy Duchess Dating Service. I stole a glance back at the youngest of the daughters. There be dragons.

The Duchess retook her seat and we spent the next twenty minutes ironing out the terms of the loan of her chef. An hour after that I arrived at Dragon's Gate manor with the chubby old cook in tow. He wasn't thrilled over the arrangement, significantly less thrilled when I explained that he'd be teaching me to cook the meal rather than cooking it himself.

It promised to be a long week, but a bookie's got to pay his debts.
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