Date Posted: 20th July 2019
After his meeting with Arnolt, Taril sent Dodger to deliver a message to Mulich. It was simple and to the point:
Our last meeting had to be rescheduled. Can we meet today? --Taril
Dodger returned with a scrap of hide in his claws.
The fourth bell after lunch, your office. --Mulich
Taril rewarded his flit with a small bit of dried fish, then returned to his vigil at Humari’s bedside. She was asleep, her expression peaceful beneath the bruises. It gave him some comfort to know that the fellis and numbweed was doing its job, although every time she twitched or murmured he sat bolt upright and searched her face to see if she was awake.
Time slipped by. Taril dozed, then sat and ruminated on his stolen ledger. Mulich was an unlikely thief. He seemed to be honest -- for a merchant, at least. But he was also shrewd and could smell a good opportunity a mile upstream from anyone else. He’d done some good trading since he’d arrived at Sunstone Seahold two Turns ago, and while he and Taril were technically competition, Mulich didn’t have access to ships the way Taril did. And so, they did business-- carefully.
A little before their arranged time to meet, Taril kissed Humari’s cheek gently and left the room. As soon as he stepped outside the Hold and the sea breeze carried the stink of the Infirmary away he felt as if a load was lifted from his shoulders. His limp became a little less pronounced as he headed further down the hill until he almost couldn’t feel the blisters on his stump of a leg.
His office was locked this time, and Taril arrived just before Mulich. The other merchant knocked, then came to sit across from Taril when he bade him enter.
“I’m sorry to hear about your wife,” Mulich said. “I heard about what happened in the market. What a terrible accident. Will she be all right?”
Taril nodded. “She will be, in time.” It felt so fragile to say but he desperately needed to hear it.
“I heard that Jagin hanged himself in his cell. Such a tragedy,” Mulich said blandly. “The guilt must have been too great. He’d been told so many times to fix that fence.”
“And yet he didn’t.” Taril pretended not to hear what Mulich was implying as he flipped open his ledger. “Some people think that they can get away with their misdeeds, but there’s always consequences. It’s just a pity that he couldn’t face the Hold’s justice.” He glanced up at Mulich. “Don’t you agree?”
“I agree entirely. It’s consequence or chaos.” Mulich’s lips tightened, almost imperceptibly. “The Hold’s law is the only law, and it always catches up with a man in the end. _Always_.”
That tracked with what Taril knew of the man-- Mulich was an upright, honest holder in a den of thieves. He dealt with Taril because it was hard not to, not because he chose to. Mulich suspected that Taril had something to do with Jagin’s death and he didn’t approve of it. If Mulich found his book of debts and secrets, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. And whoever had stolen it had picked the lock on his desk and stolen an entire safe-- they’d wanted it badly. “Did you know Jagin well?” Taril asked.
Mulich shook his head. “I dealt with him as little as possible. I found him unreliable. Did you?”
“No. He came by the docks a few times and spent a few evenings at my tavern, but I didn’t know the man.” Taril sighed. “Such a shame. He owed me marks. I suppose I won’t be able to collect, now.”
“As you said-- it’s chaos or consequence.” Mulich’s lips tightened again, this time in obvious dislike. “A man shouldn’t buy what he can’t afford. And if he can’t afford it, I can’t say that it was a smart move on your part to lend him the marks, friend.”
They weren’t friends, but it confirmed that Mulich wasn’t an enemy, either. If Mulich had the book, he’d likely have taken the bait instead of lecturing Taril on his side-business. Few men could resist the opportunity to revel in their own cleverness. He smiled. “What can I do for you today, Mulich?”
“I have a shipment of salt blocks coming in from Driftwood Cothold in two days time. My buyer at Topaz Seahold has backed out of the deal. I need to rent warehouse space from you while I try to move it.”
Taril tapped his ledger. “How much?”
“Ten barrels, the rest is tithed to Sunstone Seahold.”
“I think we can find room. Standard rates apply.” Taril made a note in his ledger. “Sixteenth of a mark collected each sevenday, first day of the sevenday. Your men move it in and are liable if they damage anything else stored in there.”
They negotiated for a while longer, then shook on their deal.
“One last thing… I’ve got four bales of tanned leather that need a home. Tanned by cotholders, not a Journeyman, so they’re not good for much other than rawhide. You interested?”
Taril shook his head. “Not today, although if I hear of anyone who is looking for rawhide I’ll let you know.” Taril had no leather in his inventory at the moment so they weren’t competing. Perhaps he could buy some good will.
Mulich nodded rose to go. “Thank you for that. Please give my best to your wife. I do hope that she recovers quickly.”
“Thank you.” Taril paused. “Say, were you around my office the day that Humari was hurt?”
Mulich blinked in surprise. “I saw you leave, yes. I admit I was quite put-out that you’d run off while I was standing here waiting-- until I heard what happened, at least.”
“Do you remember if anyone else was around at the time?”
The other merchant paused. “There were a few sailors loitering nearby, and one of the dockyard men. And that man you came out with. I don’t know him but his knots indicated that he is a Captain?”
Taril nodded. That aligned with what Arnolt had said.
“I think there was a woman, too… dark skin, I think, and she didn’t look very well-to-do.” Mulich paused. “Why do you ask?”
“I dropped something when I left, is all.” Taril shrugged nonchalantly. “Just a lapel pin, but it was a gift from Humari. I thought maybe someone had picked it up.”
“I see. Well, if I hear anything, I will let you know. Good day.” Mulich nodded his head and left.
A woman… Taril tapped his book as he thought. Mulich’s description was vague enough for it to have been anyone, and Arnolt hadn’t remembered a woman. **Interesting.** Women were just as capable of blackmail as a man. And there were several women who owed him marks and frequented his office. It could have been someone coming to repay a debt, or to take out a new one.
But the safe was heavy. It was hard enough for a man to move discreetly, let alone a woman. Mulich could have misremembered. Taril found that he believed Arnolt’s account more than Mulich’s.
Still… **It could be anyone, and nobody is infallible.** Just because there had been a woman hanging around didn’t mean that a woman was involved. Taril put his ledger back in his desk, locked the drawer and left his office. Each step he took turned his thoughts away from his lost ledger and mysterious women toward Humari, until the Hold loomed large in his vision and his wife was all that he thought about.
Last updated on the August 13th 2019