Porone Belltower stared at the old man, who stared at the little cube-like treat before him suspiciously. "So... what did you say this is again?" muttered Astynax quietly, resting his head on the table.
"Locoum," replied Porone, trying to suppress an urge give his leg a kick to keep it from going to sleep. "It's from Albracca." He looked at the old man hopefully. "I got a whole crate of it with my wine shipment last month."
Astynax had picked up the cube and was eyeing it from various angles. "Hmmm. Albracca. A decadent city, you know. Very decadent. If you understand me." He favored Porone with an exagerrated wink that made the merchant wish he hadn't. "I visited in my youth with some cousins. Oh, we had a merry season, we did!"
"I can imagine," said Porone. "After all, I've been to Albracca on numerous occasions. Though not with my cousins."
Astynax had brought the locoum to his nose and sniffed it. "Not with your cousins?" he noted absently. "Why you should, sir, you should. They would like it. My cousins enjoyed our trip. And where are they now. Dead! Dead and dirt! All I've left is memories." He gave a mournful sigh, and popped the locoum into his mouth. After taking a chew, he gave a surprised smile. "I say! This is rose candy! Why didn't you say so?" His eyes shut in rapturous delight. "Why, my father used to bring it to us, when he returned from trips abroad. Ahh, happy days. Happy days." He peered at the merchant suddenly. "Do you have anymore?"
"A great amount," noted Porone. "I'll send it to you. As a gift."
"Very generous. Very generous." Astynax turned back to his papers. "I will mention this in my report to the First Link. The Pendant will be most pleased. I'm always saying, Friend Belltower may be of low birth, but he is of high quality. High quality, sir."
Porone did his best to indicate pleasure at the old man's comments. "They've been rather quiet lately," he said softly.
""Who's been quiet?" asekd Astynax, glancing around the room as if looking for the undisclosed participant in their conversation.
"The Pendant," answered Porone.
Astynax settled down. "Oh, oh, yes. Well, you know, Friend Belltower, the war, and all that. It makes things... odd, you know. Very odd." The old man brought his hand to his chin and mused on this. "Do you have anymore rose candy?"
"Not on me at this moment, Friend Astynax," said Porone with a sigh.
Astynax nodded. "What about some spirits?"
"Such as the bottle I already gave you?" Porone gestured to the tall, full bottle that lay at the old Magnate's elbow.
"Oh, yes," said Astynax with a broad smile. "Well, anyway, Friend--there are great things afoot. Of that much I am sure."
"They've told you that?" asked Porone.
Astynax's face went through a rapid series of expressions that Belltower had a hard time classifying. "Well, no, not really. It is more... something that one feels. In the air."
"Of course," said Porone with a dull nod.