The carriage must have hit every pothole and lose cobblestone it was possible to impact as it made its long laborious way up the slight incline that lead towards one of the many gates of the “royal” City of Ironmark. The four personages who lounged within the comfortable velveteen interior had been shaken and jostled ad nauseam as their conveyance was halted at the entrance to the city.
“Designer only knows what these Kingdom types spend their tax revenues on as it’s clearly not the improvement of their bloody roads” Dorian’s wit was as sharp as ever as the Younger Veneto made a show of straightening his robes.
“Indeed but for the time being these are our hosts and one should never spit in the face of the one covering the bill” The Clipped tone came from the older occupant of the carriage who had raised his nose from the Ledger he had been peering though. “After all, this is a mission to discuss this Northern Alliance business from what I am to understand” Niccolo’s words carried the wealth of experience that was able to stifle Dorian’s venomous words before they continued.
“What do you think about being here again your Excellency?” said Dorian turning to his cousin, the Elder Veneto. But Florin did not seem to be paying his younger cousin even the slightest bit of heed. His eyes were fixed on a portrait enclosed in a small heart shaped locket that hung from a golden chain around his neck. If one were to stare at the figure with intent interest then it would be clear that a single tear had started to form around his eye before almost instantly turning into a shard of ice.
“Florin!” This time the voice was more insistent jarring the count from his internal musings. “Are you quite alright?”
Tapping the silver goblet clutched in his pale hand with a single black fingernail, Florins cold eyes flicked up to look towards his cousin and other occupants of the carriage. “Many of our Citizens lost their lives within this city.” His voice had a hard quality, almost hollow. With a practiced motion of his free hand Florin closed the open locket and locked it with a sharp click.
“My Lord, their deaths are not your sin” The last voice spoke with a warmth trying to ease the daemons that warred within Florins cold eyes. Matteo extended a warm hand and placed it on the counts shoulder leaving it there regardless of the icy chill that seered his skin. “But tonight it’s all about faces and the new alliance and we must be shown to be doing our part”
Images warred within the minds of those who remembered this city as it was only a handful of years ago. Burning. The image of the horde dragged from the blackest of Hells marching though the city streets would still no doubt haunt the nightmares of many. Did the mother weep bitter tears for her children that night as families were rent asunder in the streets? Where was the Warrior with his avenging Axe to strike down the abominations with divine might? They remembered the old kings twisted features as he watched the life being drained from his own children, the Father unable or unwilling to save their souls from the servants of the king of the dead.
A sharp tapping noise from the glass window jarred the assembled nobles from deep thought. The carriage door opened to reveal a large man dressed as though he were about to head to war. “Beg your Pardon Boss”, his accent is Northern. Unlike the almost musical accent of the Tyrrasani, it grated on the ears of the men in the coach like the squeals of a dying pig. “Seems that some Kingdom boot licker has decided it’s a good idea to insist that you present your invitation from the King to the gate guards.” Wulfric did not seem impressed in the slightest. “Now the way I see it there are three ways this can end”
“How many of these involve an Axe?” Florin inquired in an exasperated tone
“Well ….Two sir.” One could not be sure if this tone was one of embarrassment or enthusiasm
“We shall take the no axe option I think Wulfric.” Removing a sealed envelope from his tunic, Florin turned towards Matteo “See to this in your official capacity if you would be so kind.” As much as it might have amused him to turn the Northerners lose on the overzealous gate guards, it would no doubt end in a tiresome and strained conversation with Edric later that evening.
Bowing his head Matteo accepted the letter and stepped down onto the road closing the door behind him. The mud that greeted the emissary’s boots made him wrinkle his nose in disapproval. Of all the days when he had opted to wear new boots and now they had been befouled by pig muck or whatever it was that coated the road. Taking a deep calming breath Matteo turned to face the imposing stone structure that he could only assume was the gate house. Moving with a grace that belied his advancing years he strode towards the Iron inlayed portal.
“Hear me!” The guards at the gates who were in conversation with a number of the Teal robed guardians of the caravan turned to hear who was addressing them. “I am Matteo de Flores, Araldo Di Catene to his Excellency Count Florin of house Veneto Governatore of the Iron Bank and cousin to her most serine highness Carla Vento Doge of Tyrras.” Pausing only long enough to raise the paper he had been given he continued, “This writ from your King Edric grants my master and his entourage, the first debt enforcement unit, the right to enter your city and not to sit out upon the road.” His voice changed adding a touch of malice, “And we shall be more than happy to make our displeasure known to his majesty should this not be rectified to our liking within the next few moments…”
The movement that followed could have been described as frantic. Within four minutes the gates were open and the caravan was allowed to continue on its merry way. Though Wulfric looked sullen at the inability to maim anyone with his Axe, it would no doubt pass in time when the tournament of arms began in earnest on the morrow.
Back inside the cool interior of the coach all faces were turned without as the conveyance made its way down the wide road beyond the gate. The city had of course been rebuilt since the last visit of the Tyrrasani but to the trained eye one could see some of the half-forgotten scars of one night so long ago. The people thronged around the brightly coloured carriage and accompanying caravans thinking it to be some kind of parade.
“Simple people delight in simple things.” Dorian’s voice was clam as always as he made the observation.
“Indeed!” Florin looked up from his goblet and outwards towards the throng “This is the Northern Alliance,” a sharp intake of breath followed, “not this concept of nobility the Kingdom clings to where only those of certain blood lines should be protected from this harsh world”
“You learned my lessons well.” Dorian spoke up again with a warm tone in his calm voice. “Greed is the great equaliser of mankind, no matter his station”
“Alas it seems these Ellanders still hold to closely to heart this misguided concept of honour.” Dorian added. “As long as one places one ideal over another then there is sure to be conflict”
“We of the Iron Bank are proof beyond doubt that greed is sovereign above all other desires in this world cousin.” Florin looked into his younger cousin’s eyes holding his gaze for a long moment “Power comes from the drive one has to increase what they already possess and thus the circle starts all over again. Have ….Want ….Need, all flowing in a river of avarice that is the human spirit” A smile slashed across the cold features of Florin Veneto as he finishes his statement, “It is merely how we are designed in accordance to his divine will and sooner or later all will come to understand this simple fact.”
His gaze turned to the left as the carriage turned into the main street where the guild quarter and royal quarter intersected. The sun shone behind the palace, silhouetting it, the Purple and White of royal Shadowbane and the Red and Gold of House Tarren Flying from the battlements. A wry smile creased the lips of the count as he relished the profits to be won if the ensuing games of politics were played correctly…