“I think you’ll find that my product is most exquisite,” said Lord Eri, gesturing to the line of men standing before his carriages. “These Milesians are fighting men--sturdy, hard, able to work. Well worth the gold price, I think you’ll agree…”
Nycetus snorted. “Milesians are difficult. More brutes than proper men. Why else do they lack a finger, hmm? Like some sort of monkey, or something similar.” Many of the Milesians were looking rather quietly offended by all this, though the fact that Nycetus was surrounded by armed guards rather lessened their offense. He chuckled to himself. “I’ve actually written on this, you know…”
“And it is doubtless edifying,” muttered Eri, “but we are here to talk business. Milesians are brutes, you say? Well, this is brutish work you do here, so who better? As I’ve told you, they are sturdy, and able.”
“Perhaps, perhaps, but you aren’t going to receive the gold price for this lot,” said Nycetus. He regarded them with a critical eye. “I might be able to take them at the copper…”
“Silver,” said Eri, pudgy eyes turning to gimlets.
“Do you think me a fool?” said Nycetus. “My posting is up for renewal in a year. The Glorious Throne expects payment in hard currency. This is in addition to my quotas. The beast that is our master’s kingdom, Lord Eri, it must be fed, and it falls to me to feed it.” He turned to point at Eri. “And for you to give me the means to do so.” He turned back to the slaves and yawned. “So what of the handful not Milesians, hmm? What are their virtues?”
“Like the Milesians, these are fighting men--Northerners, for the most part!” said Eri.
Nycetus nodded. “Ah. So quarrelsome fools who will be every bit as bad as the Milesians, and possibly worse.” He rolled his eyes. “What a sorry lot you’re selling me…”
“I provide what the wars bring us,” stated Eri. “If you wish to quarrel with the selection, bring it up with that beast you say you feed.” He gestured to the solitary Goblin in the line. “This one’s a smith.”
Nycetus glanced at the Goblin. “Really? Is this true?” He gestured for him to come forward. “Speak. Speak.”
The Goblin gave a slightly resentful nod. “It is true, sir. I am a smith, and served Master Thyme of Dradarun as armorer, before my capture. Prior to that, I served Master Barleycorn of Talossa and prior to that Master Goldenrod of White Pine.”
Nycetus chuckled. “My goodness. A veritable compendium of villains! Who else do you number among your former employers? The Mongranes? The Chiaramontes? The Regnis? The Medb? The Scathach? Or perhaps, the Badb?”
“None of them, sir,” said the Goblin.
“Ahh, well, that’s a pity,” said Nycetus with a nod. “It would add to your charm. Tell me--my goodness, I just realize I don’t know your name…”
“It is Burr, sir,” answered the Goblin placidly. “Barrant Burr.”
“Well then, Burr, I must know what it is that keeps you fighting for such a lost cause?” Nycetus’ face was bland, save for his eyes, which were cruel.
Barrant remained calm. “I would say it is my sense of right, sir.”
Nycetus let loose a titter. “My, my, this one is entertaining,” he said to Eri. “That and my need for a new smith have made it far likelier that I will purchase what you’ve decided to offer me.”
“For the silver price…,” began Eri.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” answered Nycetus, moving further down the line.