The talk in the Weaver’s Quarter was about how the ship Moon Glider limped into port after being attacked by the pirate Mad Marcus Rishtan, its cargo of ivory and spices gone. In the taverns, the conversation turned to the savage killings that happened in the Snarl the night before. The Temple Quarter was getting ready for Togus’ seasonal Fair of the summer, where every manner of craft would be on display, judged by The Smith’s priests. And the Houses were discussing trade, as always.
The messenger who found you was a plain looking fellow, but his clothes were impeccable, his tunic embroidered with a rampant lion on a red field. He handed you an envelope, your name printed neatly but not decoratively on the outside. Without waiting for you to reply, or even to read it, he turned and left. Apparently, you had little choice in how to respond to the message.
Your presence is requested at sundown, at the offices of Fortis and Nofri in the Weaver’s Quarter, the corner of Barker Road and Seacrest Walkway.
Signed by the son of House Amadei’s information broker, the message was intriguing in its simplicity.
The business was a large textile mill for turning raw wool into bolts of cloth which would later be turned into clothing or blankets. Most of the workers had gone home for the day, and an officious clerk showed you into a room with a table large enough for a dozen people to sit around, though only two others seemed to receive the same invitation. A tray of bread, cheese and fruit sat on the table and a sideboard held wine and brandy.
After assuring you the wait would be short, the clerk left you alone in the room.
The lanky dilettante entered the room, taking in the occupants and the contents at a glance, out of habit. He gave the other two people a smile and nod of the head, as he made his way over to the beverages. Piers moved with an easy grace. “Good evening, good lady and sir. It looks like we are to avail ourselves of some food and beverage. Since the note I received was rather terse, I plan to start with a little brandy. Since I am pouring, would either of you care for any? I could also pour some wine, should you prefer that. I do hope that we are to be comrades in some joint task rather than competitors.” The swashbuckler thought about proposing a toast, but it wouldn’t be appropriate until at least the two other in the room and something to drink.
Piers paused, waiting to see if either of them took him up on his offer, although he looked to the lady first, showing manners to grant her request first.
Magali held out her goblet for a refill. She had arrived early, and — unable to pass up the opportunity to enjoy a vintage she would otherwise be unwilling to pay for — had already had one glass at her leisure. “I was wondering whether Vittorini had invited any others.”
Tomas strode into the room, and surveyed it. He was rather annoyed that he was summoned in such an informal manner. If someone wished his help, they coudl have the decency to ask him directly. His face betrayed a bit a of his irritation. At the same time, Master Vittorini, was an acquaintance of his cousin, the Duchess and a business associate to the family, so he supposed that the man deserved at least a chance to speak his mind.
Tomas waved off the offers of food or beverage and sat down. His military training was still generally a habit, so he sat straight-backed, something most folks might have seen as stiff, but for him, was rather comfortable. He looked to the others, and simply nodded in greeting, but did not say anything. The woman seemed familiar to him, but he could not place her name at the moment.
It was but a few moments later that a side door from an office opened and what appeared to be a huge block walked into the room. When it smiled politely, it was clear it was a man, a shorter, stocky man dressed comfortably but well. “I am Orsino Vittorini,” he offered in a gravelly voice. "I realize an invitation from a Great House is hard to refuse, but I thank you for coming anyway.
The reason we asked you here is that each of you has shown skills and abilities in service to your Houses and House Amadei, but you are not yet well-known outside of the House." He poured himself a goblet of wine, then took a seat at the table. “Last night, one of our moneylenders discovered he had been given counterfeit nobles during the day.” He paused meaningfully, letting the idea that counterfeit Darven coins could cause huge problems for the economies of every House, every Free City, and every realm they deal with sink in, then slid a piece of paper with three names on it across the table.
“These are the names of the people who paid our moneylender at least the amount of nobles that were found to be counterfeit. We’d like you to find out where the coins came from and put a stop to it, preferably without everyone finding out there actually are conterfeit coins out there.”
Piers pulled the offered note over near him, and silently read the names three times, to commit them to memory. He then slid the note down to the next person at the table, so they could also have the information.
He picked up a piece of fruit, and pulled a dagger to start cutting it as he spoke. “Lord Vittorini, the good will of House Amadei is valuable commodity to be certain, one that is not lost on me. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. However, might we know if there is any further incentive to complete this mission to your satisfaction? And would it be possible to see one of these counterfeit coins, so that we might be able to more easily identify others, should we come across such during our investigation, Sir?” The dashing young man had further questions, but decided to see what his comrades had to say before he asked anything else. He popped a piece of the cut fruit into his mouth as he waited an answer, or additional questions…
Tomas looked at the page as well, making note of the names, but more to see if he recognized them. He then passed the page to the woman. He was slightly abashed that Piers was so bold as to basically ask for a commission, as though he assumed that they would be successful.
He had no idea how one would counterfeit coins, but perhaps that might be a clue to finding the culprit. "Yes seeing one might be of use. For instance, of what material are they made? No doubt the culprit must have tools and such to mint these coins. Perhaps access to a smith’s forge? I would also ask…are we certain that it was this past day, that the coins were received? "
The page said simply
Marco Savelli – blacksmith, new tools. Shop: Veteran’s Way and Tor Terrace. Home: Above shop.
Gemma Furlan – bookbinder, new shop. Shop: Humble Street and Laborer Way. Home: Treadmore Alley at Midnight Row.
Pero Mazzon – tailor, new house. Shop: Cloud Street at Friar Way. Home: Serpent Road and Gem Street.
Orsino smiled slightly as he produced three of the counterfeit coins. “The coins are only coated with gold. They are made of lead.” There were scratches on each coin revealing the dull gray under the bright gold. “Our moneylenders recount all the payments and check them against the books every night, so we are sure they were used for a payment made yesterday. And only those three people,” he gestured to the sheet, "made payments large enough to cover the number of coins that were found.
“As to ‘further incentive’, we are offering the sum of five hundred nobles for each of you.”
“Not these, I assume,” Magali commented before she could stop herself as she lifted one of the counterfeits and weighed it in her hand. She didn’t recognize any of the names immediately, but that was no matter. For five hundred nobles, she would make their acquaintance soon enough. It then occurred to her that it might be helpful to make the acquaintance of the two men Vittorini had also thought to hire.
Tomas inspected the coins, looking at the workmanship. He was convinced that the blacksmith was the most likely suspect, as he would have the means and the skill, but that by no means made it a certainty.
“Well, it would seem logical to check with the blacksmith first.”
The coins seemed to be the correct weight, and they had the image of what was purported to be Darven himself on one side and a ship on the other. Other than the deep scratch showing the lead underneath a gold plating, there was nothing out of place to normal senses.
“The weight is also a little off, but it takes a good scale to find that out,” Vittorini offered, swirling his goblet, then drinking some wine. He stood up and added, “You can reach me here when you have news.”
Piers displayed a smirk, with the lady’s remark. He was not certain he agreed with the man that the blacksmith was the logical one, other than he was first on the list. Still, it was as good a place to start as any. The swashbuckler still had a few questions for House Amadei. “I am happy to accept your offer, Sir. I do not mean to pry, but it also might be helpful to know the number of counterfeit coins received. While it may not be likely, it is possible that one of the three received the coin via a sale or windfall from another party, and passed them on unknowingly. If we can find out if such was the case, we would need to look past this individual to the person they got their coin from. Also, could we get perhaps a tenth of the reward up front, in case there are palms that need to be greased? I do have a few coins of my own, but…” He let the question trail off. Piers wasn’t concerned if they didn’t get the advance, but it might be useful.
He turned to his comrades, giving a quick aside before Orsino could respond. "I have no objection to checking out the blacksmith first, good sir, but I hope we can discuss our specific plans on how we hope to approach these three here, prior to heading out. We should get to know a little about each other, so we can make the best use of our assets as a trio. Should we not? Do either of you have much experience in garnering information without being too blunt? I do have some talent in that area, but I do not know if either of you are better suited. In case you don’t know me by reputation, I am Piers ‘Silverblade’ Chavaz. I have been called many things, but I prefer dilettante to most, unless it is from the lips of a lovely lady such as the one here… " Piers smiled mischievously at the young woman, not truly flirting, but definitely giving that impression.
Tomas grimaced, He had met men like this Piers fellow before. They talked a lot, and swaggered about. Some were fair with a blade, some even rather dangerous, but most were predominantly bluster, and braggarts. He was not sure yet on this one, as he had shown some intelligence in his suggestions. He decided that he would reserve his judgment, as it was only fair to give the man a chance to prove
“I only suggested the blacksmith, because he would have the means to smelt metals and possibly mint coins. However, your point is well taken, as none of these men may be the originator. That will certainly make the task, a bit more complex, as this means that we can no longer rely on the timeline presented. Perhaps, our first call should actually be to the moneylenders. I am sure that Master Orsini has given us all the information he has, but that does not mean that it was all given to him.”
He looked to the woman to see her reaction, as she had said little and was perhaps being demure. He hoped that if that was the case, she would get over it quickly, for he suspected all their efforts would be needed to solve this conundrum.
Magali ignored Chavaz’s flirtation. She had heard of him, and his quick way with words and his charming smile lived up to his reputation, but she had little patience for such games regardless of how entertaining the more flighty-minded women might find him. “I can sometimes threaten people into telling me what I want to know, but I’m hardly the one to chat them up and win them over with flattery.” She said it flatly, leaving it to Chavaz to figure out that she herself was unlikely to be won over by such methods.
Then she frowned slightly and considered the other man. And then felt like smacking herself in the forehead for failing to recognize him sooner. Not that she had all the Duchess’ cousins memorized on sight, but Tomas Amadei had been at that debacle the previous year, when yet another cousin, Fernao, had gotten just a little too friendly with Lady Sanravelle’s third daughter. Magali had thought she was going to have to run the drunken lech through with her sword — and wouldn’t that have made a fine mess? — until Tomas Amadei had intervened.
“I can have an excuse to visit either the bookbinder or the blacksmith, if that’s necessary,” she continued. She raised one eyebrow at Chavaz. “Maybe you can find a reason to see the tailor about some fancy bit of frippery?”
Tomas shrugged as he considered the options. “I am not opposed to splitting up the work, but I do not think we should do the…ah interviews alone. If by chance, one of these folks are the counterfeiter, then they may have some mischief on hand. It is less likely that two will be overcome, and the third should always know who the other two were speaking to. It may take a bit longer, but it would seem prudent.”
He sat back resting his arms on the chair. “For myself, I imagine I can speak with the moneylenders, whether in being direct or under other pretenses.” He did not like being deceptive, well at least in dealing with people in this fashion. Combat, battle, both had aspects that required deception. In fact, most times victory necessitated these tactics. Perhaps it was just a subtle difference, but it was different in his mind.
Piers gave a small sigh of disappointment. He had hoped that the lady would at least play along a little. He did not allow it to phase him very long. He was surprised that neither had bother to introduce themselves after he had done so. He would need to remedy that. He thought the man had family traits of the House Amadei, and definitely thought of himself highly.
“I know enough on each of the merchants wares to make knowledgeable inquiries of any of the three. I tend to agree with the gentleman that it would be wise to begin working together in this endeavor, in case our interest is discovered despite our best attempts. If Master Vittorini does not have the answer to my earlier inquiry, I think the gentleman would be safe in getting information from the House moneylenders. Are you willing, mademoiselle, to accompany me to interview the blacksmith? And if each of you would be willing to share your names, I would greatly appreciate it.”
He glanced over at Master Vittorini, to see if the man intended to answer his question. Unlike the other swordsman, Piers believed the House representative had not shared the information he had, mostly due to not seeing it as important to the investigation. Piers hoped he had made the point about why it might be.
Magali felt like slapping herself in the forehead again. Right. People expected to have a name — it was the polite thing to do. She wasn’t very practiced at polite. “Magali Salvado,” she offered, abashed.
“Yes, sorry, that is something I should have said earlier,” Vittorini said. “There were a total of seven hundred counterfeit nobles paid. The three names paid at least that much. The bookbinder paid that exact amount, the smith one thousand and the tailor twelve hundred.”
He reached into his clothes and pulled out three pouches, placing them on the table. “Seventy five nobles advance each.” He shrugged. “We weren’t sure you were going to need it.”
Piers shrugged, as he hefted one of the bags. “With luck, we will not need it. But Lady Luck is sometimes fickle, and so better to be prepared.” He glanced over at the group swordsman, who still had not given his name. “Sir, is there still questions you have for the money lenders, or do you now intend to accompany Magali and myself?” The swashbuckler didn’t object to either plan, but they would need to discuss a rendezvous point if they were splitting up.
Tomas had assumed they knew who he was, it was rare that he had to formally introduce himself. He realized that perhaps the assumption was incorrect. “My apologies, I am Tomas Amadei.” He gave a slight inclination of his head, with his greeting. “I would like to accompany you. However, before we start, since discretion is a significant concern, I am interested in discussing how we intend to broach this topic. It is not exactly something that would come up in polite conversation, and if as you mentioned someone pass the coin unwittingly, then it would be relevant to discuss recent interactions of say a peculiar nature.” It then occurred to Tomas, why they were being asked to perform this task. This was a matter for the local magistrate and those with the authority to question people with the weight of the law behind them. The use of such forces did not necessarily obviate the potential for discretion. He turned a hard questioning gaze to Master Vittorini, but said nothing.
Piers gave a nod, glad that at least the swordsman was at least concerned about a plan. The swashbuckler didn’t consider this a particularly difficult line of questioning for the blacksmith. But it didn’t hurt to go over his plans, in case part of it could be improved upon.
“Very well, Tomas. Here is what I had in mind, although I am willing to adapt it, or go with another plan if someone suggests one. I had planned on stopping in a tavern nearby the blacksmith’s and say I was looking for one to do some work. By that method, we’d find out if our first prospect had any specialties: weaponsmith, armor, or some other. Then, when we spoke to him, we would have an idea of what item to say we wanted made, and ask him if he did any such work. We could then ask him if he had any referrals, recent ones would be best. Hopefully, this would give us both the name of the person who may have paid for a large commission, as well as an idea of the amount.” The dilettante shrugged his shoulders, comfortable he could deal with any slight wrinkles in the plan that might develop.
He looked back and forth between his two partners, seeing if they had any suggestions or comments to his general plan.
Somehow Tomas was not surprised that the roguish fellow would suggest a tavern, but he was thinking about more than filling his belly with wine. He scratched his chin thoughtfully, “Perhaps but we might find the information you seek by speaking with the moneylenders. No doubt, they have a wealth of information about all three of our suspects. At the very least it would save us a trip, or two. They might even know the client’s they service…although I am guessing only the prominent ones.” He held back his concern that the coins may come from multiple sources. They could be all about the city, and only the moneylenders would scrutinize the coin closely enough to know the difference.
“I like the general idea though. It allows us to delve a bit into each vendor’s business and hopefully find either a common element or some new clues to run down.” He nodded toward Piers approvingly, but not in a patronizing way.
“I’ll leave you to it, then,” Orsino said. He turned and headed back to the office he came from.
Piers looked confused for a moment, before shrugging. “I do not know what additional information the moneylenders can give us that will aid us. I have no additional questions that I think it likely they will be able to answer. However, if you do, perhaps we can split up tonight, with and regroup tomorrow before visiting the blacksmith. I would suggest we meet at the Dew Drop Inn at whatever time you’d suggest, and continue our investigation. Perhaps we could use that as our regroup location should things go awry and we need to regroup…”
The young rake turned to the quieter partner and asked a simple question. “Mistress Magali, do you have a preference for what you’d like to do this evening? I would appreciate someone watching my back, but will understand if you choose to go with Tomas or on your own.” He resisted the temptation to throw a innuendo onto the end of the statement, despite his nature.
Visit a tavern, or visit moneylenders. Magali pondered the two options, and wondered whether there was some other avenue of investigation she could take. Dealing with bankers, a sometimes suspicious and tight-lipped bunch, would likely take a bit more diplomacy than she would be able to handle, and Amadei might do better without her glowering in the background. “I can go with you,” she told Chavaz. Taverns she could handle.
“Thank you. Let’s be on our way and see what we could find out tonight. I do hope Tomas joins us before tomorrow evening. I hope to talk to the blacksmith during business hours.” He held the door for Magali out of habit, as manners were part of his character.
Magali nodded and pushed her chair back to precede Chavaz out the door. “Did you have a particular tavern in mind?”
The rogue shook his head. “I was planning on just going into the area of the smithy, and find a nearby tavern that seemed talkative. If you have any specific suggestions, we can go to any tavern you know.”
Tomas could see that his point was lost on the man, and the woman had yet to assert anything. He decided that there was no point in trying to explain it. He stood and inclined his head to each of them. “In that case, I guess we can each go about our tasks and meet at the Dew Drop Inn tomorrow evening?”
He then walked over to office that Master Vittorini had entered and knocked, hoping to talk with the man briefly.
it took a few moments for the office door to open, and when it did, Tomas could see that there was another door standing open to the outside across the room. Vittorini had a bag slung over his shoulder and a curious expression on his face. “Something else you’d like to know?”
Tomas walked across the room to Orsino, so he did not have raise his voice. “Yes, I wish to interview the money lenders that you spoke with. Can you provide their names?”
He also wanted to ask where the man was off to, and what was in the bag, but that would not have been polite. So he just gave the bag a passing glance.
“There was just one moneylender, Signore Amadei,” Vittorini answered. “Her name is Isabel Vittorini, a cousin of mine. Her bank is over on Moonstone Way at Fern Lane.”
“Thank you Signore Vittorini. Have a good evening.”
Tomas inclined his head to the man, then left the room. Given the hour, it would not be appropriate to call on the Mistress Vittorini, but that was okay. he wanted to think about what he would say anyways.
Given that he took a stroll toward Moonstone and Fern to see the bank. It was not too out of his way, to get a bite to eat.