Casting the Net
Date Posted: 20th July 2019
The best view to watch the ships come in and out with the tide was half-way up the hill to the Hold. A small stone bench sat at the edge of the road where a weary traveller could sit and take in the view. Taril sat there now, finishing a note on a scrap of hide. He wiped the charcoal on his fingertips off on his pants, carefully folded the note and summoned Dodger, who appeared promptly.
“You know where to go,” the merchant said, holding out the scrap of hide. Dodger accepted it in his claws and took off as soon as Taril pictured his mother in his mind. The flit disappeared /between/ with a cheep.
**That’s one thing taken care of,** Taril thought grimly. Tumaril was with Humari’s sister for now, and although he grudgingly trusted Torinya with his son’s care, he didn’t trust her to keep him out of Yriadha’s clutches. Thankfully the Headwoman had her own problems at the moment. Stenlis had arrived at Sunstone Seahold, and while he didn’t know much beyond his own small part in the game, he knew that it would take most of Yriadha’s attention. He made a mental note to update Bryvin on the progress of the ship he’d requested.
This far up the hill, the docks seemed organized. Shouts from the sailors and the dockyard men, the thump of oars and the stink of brine-- it looked like a choreographed dance at a Gather. Already cargo was being unloaded in heaps on the dock. The ships would then reload what cargo they needed and sail back the way they’d come, or move on. Cargo would stay here, too-- some for the Hold as tithe, some for the Weyr, some held over for a few days or sevendays until the ship that would take it to its next destination arrived.
But cargo and ships was only half the dock. The other was people. Men and woman-- but mostly men-- working their way up and down the coast in search of a better life. Some did well for themselves and were able to save enough marks to do what they’d set out to do. Some lost their wages and dreams to gambling, whoring and theft. Those were his favourite.
Or had been. Half his fortune had been made off the poor decisions of others. If a man wanted to gamble his wages, then Taril was there to help them out. They made their own choices, and each poor decision had been recorded in his book. People he owed, and more often, people who owed him. And some dimglow son of a had stolen it while his wife was half-dead in the Infirmary.
The ledger was valuable but most people probably wouldn’t recognize its worth. There was Jakin, of course. While the drunkard was smart, he wasn’t stupid enough to bite the hand that kept him drowning in booze. ***, the ship’s captain who had been with him when Arnolt came with news… he knew what Taril did and had the opportunity to search his office. The Captain of the Guard probably guessed that it existed, and that tunnelsnake would probably die of joy if he ever saw the cover. He and the Guard Captain had never gotten along. And then there was the Dockmaster… **So many people with motive…** Taril shook his head. The door had been unlocked for long enough that just about anyone could have snuck in and stolen it.
Whoever _had_ stolen it had seen an opportunity and taken it. They had to have heard about Humari and thought to try his office door, or they’d seen him hurry out after Arnolt, his mind on his wife and little else.
But they hadn’t stolen his real ledger. The Dockmaster wouldn’t have left it. Most sailors wouldn’t have either-- those that could read, at least. **Whoever it was, wasn’t focused on regular shipping.** It wouldn’t have been masterminded by the Lord Holder, either. Someone was clearly taking advantage of an opportunity. The Lord Holder was more of a planner than a reactor, and Bryvin seemed to trust him to mind his own business and keep out of the Hold’s way. It didn’t make sense for Lord Bryvin to change that dynamic now. Especially not now, with Yriadha’s little issue to contend with.
A shadow crossed his path and Taril looked up as Jakin slumped onto the bench beside him. Even at this hour the Harper reeked of booze. “Taril,” he said by way of greeting. “Lovely morning, isn’t it? Sorry to hear about your wife. What a horrible accident.”
“We need to talk. Discreetly,” Taril said quietly.
Jakin blinked. “I’m always discreet. I’m a Harper. Nobody knows I’ve been asking about Polson--”
“Forget him,” Taril’s voice was sharp with irritation. “He’s not important. I need something else from you.”
Jakin was quiet a moment. There was an uncanny sharpness in his half-pickled gaze as he eyed his employer. “What’s got your fish frying?”
Taril hesitated. “Have you heard any rumors about… my books?”
Jakin looked surprised. “What kind of books?”
“My… book of debts owed,” Taril said quietly. “Some bastard broke into my office when Humari was hurt.” He decided to leave out the fact that his office had been unlocked.
Jakin whistled low. “Feck, that’s bad news, boss. Wait… all the debts?”
“Including yours,” Taril said grimly. “Which will be erased if you find it for me. _Discretely_. The fewer people who know about this, the better.”
Jakin turned to stare out over the ocean. “You know, I bet a lot of people would like that book. Lots of good information in there. And the opportunity to wipe a lot of debts clean-- or collect on them yourself. A man could do a lot with a treasure trove of knowledge.”
“The right man could. The wrong man could also do a lot with it,” Taril said darkly. “I meant what I said-- you keep this from getting out and you find me that book, and your debt is repaid in full.”
“And if I decide to keep it?” Jakin’s tone was light, but he was listening hard.
“You won’t.” Taril turned to watch the ships as well. “You and me go back a long time, and you’re a man of your vices. I respect that. That book, though… she’s a tricky mistress. Fickle. Say you do decide to keep the book… maybe you start a little blackmail on the side. People will find out it’s you soon enough, and then they’ll be after you… like they’re after me. But I’m vigilant. I have a _lot_ of people with me who go back a long time, people I’ve taken good care of.” He shrugged. “Can’t say I blame a man who falls for a fickle mistress, though. Just know she’ll turn on you if you’re not careful.”
Jakin’s shoulders slumped. The wind carried the stale scent of booze as he exhaled. “What do you want me to do?”
**Smart move.** Taril smiled and clapped a hand on the Harper’s back. He liked Jakin for knowing exactly what he was: a tool for him to use. Useful tools were well taken care of. “Just keep your ear to the ground, old friend. If you hear any rumors, or someone getting too big for their britches, you let me know and I’ll deal with it.”
“Don’t suppose you could help an old friend out with a few marks for a morning beer?” Jakin asked hopefully.
Taril withdrew a half mark from his pocket and pressed into the Harper’s shaking palm. “Don’t worry about paying it back. Just help me find my ledger.”
Jakin relaxed into a grin as he pocketed the half mark. “You can count on me, boss.”
Last updated on the August 13th 2019