Baron Devalal Astly’s estate, GuillanTime:
Late morningInteracting with:
It was unusually busy around baron Astly’s estate. The usually quiet courtyards were now bustling with activity. Gardeners were laying the last hand on the elaborate mosaic patterns of flowers while other workers were setting up various tents and other assets on the neatly mowed lawn in front of the baron’s luxurious estate. Everything had to be in perfect order because the festivities of the Crescents were only a few days away.
The celebrations revolving around the second crescent moon of the summer was a tradition among the inhabitants of Guillan. Many would hit the streets and visit the many taverns and inns of the city but not the high and mighty. The Guillan upper class would host their own private parties. The one more grandiose then the other. The wealthy would leave no coin unspent in an attempt to outdo each other. Throwing the most memorable party of the Celebration of the Crescent would uplift anyone’s status to infinity, at least until the next round of parties was due.
Needless to say that such an exorbitant amount of spending has a certain appeal to a certain kind of people. Where the coin rolls in great numbers people with less honorable intentions are bound to show up. That’s why we find Neh’miah Heron under the employment of Baron Devalal Astly.“My lord, I have found a wine merchant who is capable of supplying 20 barrels of the most exquisite wine in Guillan. He does ask a hefty price but in my honest opinion, I believe it’s worth it. Those barrels were intended for Lord D’arta’s The Crescent banquet. Imagine the humiliation he suffers when he is unable to serve his guests the finest of wines.”
Spoke Neh’miah resolute as he made a deep bow as a sign of respect towards the baron.
The young thief was well aware that he had made the baron an offer he could not refuse. Status was everything in the highest echelon of Guillan society and Neh’miah had just offered the baron the opportunity to publicly humiliate one of his rivals. He was sure that Baron Devalal Astly would take the bait.
The old baron had stoically observed the preparations for his feast when Neh’miah approached him. His festivities had to be the best of the city this year. He could not afford to lose again against Lord D’arta. With a inquisitive look he stared at his servant. The young man had only been in his server for slightly less than a month but he had proven his worth on more than one occasion. Where most new servants would act timidly this man showed confidence in his own abilities and was well informed about what was going on in the city. Neh’miah was certainly trustworthy in the eyes of the baron.
As the old man turned his head towards the servant in front of him his stoic look on his face did not disappear. “What is the price?”
Asked Baron Astly swiftly.
Neh’miah looked his employer right in the eye. This was the moment he and his compagnon had been working towards for the past two months. Without even flinching his eyes the thief named the price. “He’s asking 18 gold per barrel, my lord.”
The thief knew that this price was outrageous. A barrel of exquisite wine would change hands for slightly more than half that price so close up to the festivities. Something the baron was well aware of and yet, this was the first offer he communicated to the Astly. Throw in some fake haggling and Neh’miah was sure that the baron was willing to pay 12 a barrel just to spite one of his competitors.
Before Baron Astly could respond the thief continued to speak. “It’s an outrageous price, my lord. I am well aware of that. The merchant is playing you against lord D’arta to drive the price up. I’m sure we can negotiate a better price than D’arta can offer. Your estates are far more profitable, my lord. Lord D’arta’s coffers pales in comparison to yours.”
For those who are in the scamming business, it was more than clear what game Neh’miah was playing. He had been working hard to gain the baron’s trust. All in preparation for the grand finale, the sale of 1 barrel of wine and 19 filled with seawater. In order to accomplish that, Neh’miah had made sure that the transaction would have a personal touch for the baron. Feelings of animosity towards a rival would cloud the man’s judgement and make him more eager to close the deal. What the old man didn’t know was that the wine merchant was actually an accomplice of Neh’miah.
The young thief could see Petrov, his accomplice waiting patiently near the gate of the estate. Even though Neh’miah had done such scams numerous times, he could feel his heart pounding. This was the part where it all came down to. It was make or break. That break would be literary if the old baron would catch wind of the scam at this point. Baron Astly had a reputation of fierce retaliation to whomever did wrong to him. Nonetheless, Neh’mian took the risk. For a master thief like him, no risk was too great and no target too dangerous. Or at least, that was what he was telling everybody including himself.
A smile filled his face when Neh’miah approached Petrov. He could see that the man had followed his instructions to the letter and dressed himself up in the most expensive garment that he could lay his hands on. Just like the nobility, merchants tend to flaunt with their wealth as much as possible. “My lord, allow me to introduce Petrov peroski, wine merchant and sommelier from Bavoria”
Spoke Neh’miah even more resolutely as before to mask his nervousness as this was all or nothing. If things would go south here he would be in deep shit, six feet of deep shit to be more precise.
Petrov bowed deeply towards the old baron. “It’s a great honor that such an exalted baron is willing to consider my services, my lord. I’m willing to sell these 20 barrels of exclusive Bavorian Wine for a fair price of 18 gold per barrel.”
Spoke Petrov politely.
Baron Astly looked agitated at the merchant in front of him. To the old man it was clear that he tried to get a ludicrous price out of him. Such ways he would not tolerate on his estate. “It is indeed an honor to you that you are allowed to my estate with your wares only to insult me with your outrageous prices! Get out of here right now!”
Shouted the baron agitated, as he was clearly a man not to be tempered with.“My lord, wait. Please keep in mind that these barrels were intended for lord D’arta and allow me to negotiate with the merchant. I have worked at the docks and I am well aware of how these men think. I’m confident that I can get you a fair price for these barrels and a victory over your rival.”
Said Neh’miah swiftly when the baron responded in a way he did not anticipate. The young thief had to speak out of turn and go against the judgement of the baron. Something that was extremely uncommon among servants to any highborn or even wealthy merchants.
Baron Astly turned his head towards his servant. First he looked agitated and Neh’miah feared that it was because he went against the high born’s wishes however the old baron’s face quickly changed to a smile. “You certainly are a bold one, mister He’ron. But that is what I like about you. Your audacious nature reminds me of my young days. With your attitude you will do well in life.Go fetch me a good price.”
The baron turned his head towards the merchant and spoke again. “My servant. Mister He’ron will conduct the business. But before he can negotiate prices, we need to check your wares.”
Neh’miah could feel the tension in his body skyrocket as he knew that only 1 of the barrels actually was filled with Bavorian wine. The others contained just seawater. For a moment he exchanged glares with Petrov as he could only hope that he had remembered to place the right barrel in front. He had to keep the charade up at all costs, there was no room to cross the path of the baron here. If he would somehow try to talk Astly out of a preemptive tasking it would surely cast suspicion on himself. With his heart pounding Neh’miah quickly spoke. “My lord, I agree with your judgement. It would be sensible to taste the wine before purchasing it. I do not wish to question mister Petrov’s honor but I have heard of occasions where shady merchants tried to sell poor quality wine as exquisite Bavorian wine. With your reputation at stake, it is certainly wise to rather be safe than sorry.”
The young thief’s eyes followed Petrov’s moves as the man calmly bowed before the baron. He could feel his sweat run beneath his fine clothing as he heard his accomplice acknowledge the high born’s request. Neh’miah’s brain went in overdrive as he contemplated different scenarios. He knew that at this point he could still try to ditch Petrov if the ruse got exposed. Try to convince baron Astly that he had nothing to do with Petrov’s scam and walk out unscaved. Some might consider that a dick move but the only person you could truly trust is yourself after all.
Neh’miah’s head felt like it could explode any second now as watched his accomplice bring out a fine crystal glass and approche the front barrel. With a swift move of his hand, Petrov opened the crane and the young thief could see the purple liquid flow from it into the crystal wine glass. His anxiety flowed away as he watched his master taste the wine with content.“Aah, nothing tastes like the fine Bavorian wine. One of life's few true delights. Mister He’ron. You have my authorization to negotiate a fair deal.”
Spoke Baron Astly resolute as he was delighted in the prospects of putting some rain on Lord D’arta’s festivities.
Neh’miah knew he had reeled in the big fish. He and his accomplice quickly went into their act of bantering about the price. Neh’miah and Petrov had practised this routine numerous and after 15 minutes of acting out a fake negotiation, both men finally settled on the price of 11 gold per barrel. The price was above market value but Baron Astly was willing to pay that none the less because he believed that he was setting a competitor back in his place.
With the deal done, the baron paid Petrov 2200 gold for what he assumed was 20 barrels of fine Bavorian wine. Neh’miah had to keep his smile in check as he realized that he had just made the biggest score out of his thieving career so far. A huge sum of money fitting for a master thief like himself. But as far as his own imagination goes, this was just the beginning.
Neh’miah brought the barrels to the wine cellar of the estate. There they would remain untouched for the coming few days. More than enough time to slip away before the scam gets noticed. The only thing left to do now was to meet up with Petrov this afternoon in the Faded Lantern and split the loot. What could possibly go wrong at this point?