INIGO CARIVELLI NODDED politely as his dinner partner Martin Zord launched into another exposition on the subject of Salemi wine. 'Your Castello de Liria, see you, is made with your Tempranillo grape - ah! what piquancy! Hence the strength. But Castello del Torre Bianco, now that's another matter entirely, and not to be confused - for, see you, that's a blend of Fostulus and Trivigaunt grapes, so a much smoother, dark brew. Why, I remember well my tour of the vineyard...'
Why on the Wheel had Xavier Viron introduced him to this boor? Surely there were better prospects among the masons of Sahela, who would be more useful contacts? Admittedly, Zord had not stinted on the food side of things: he had been delighted to have a younger companion for dinner.
As his host paused in flow to snatch another gulp, Inigo smoothly broke in. 'Master Zord, this is most fascinating, but another matter presses the front of my mind - here in Sahela's Chancel, how may an initiate of the Green Room receive further instruction?'
'What? Oh, I see. Well, m'dear chap, you must find a sponsor from the higher rank, who will agree to instruct you. You've reached the Third Circle, I see,' he indicated the sprig of broom Inigo wore in his lapel, 'and wish to progress to my own rank, the Fourth - see you!' In his top pocket he wore a green handkerchief. 'There are four of us here in the city, of whom one, Mistress Flail, is an initiate of the Fifth Circle.'
Inigo raised his eyebrows, impressed. His master Elysion was the only Fifth Circle member in Samarinda, and he had always given the impression that there were only a few on the Wheel.
Zord slopped more wine into both glasses. 'You'll be attending the Monday dedications, I imagine? That's our only regular observance here - you may be accustomed to more! I can introduce you to some of the others there if you wish, or if you wish it, see you, I can instruct you myself.'
'That is most brotherly of you,' said Inigo diplomatically. He was not sure whether accepting instruction from this corpulent, shallow-seeming man would be a step in the direction in which he wished to go. On the other hand, Zord was an Initiate of the Fourth Circle, so there must be more to him than met the eye. Monday was two days hence, so he could postpone the decision until then.
IT WAS WITH a slightly tender head that Inigo greeted the next chill dawn. The wine, on which Martin Zord so loved to expound, had flowed long and freely. His clothing was also rather stained, but nothing that would offend the eye too greatly in this vigorous city. Shading his eyes, he appraised the rough designs he had sketched out on the walls of his garret room. Not bad! There was a certain perspicacity of pilaster-work about the piece... not fitting, though, for the Trimble piece. The image of Mistress Natia Verrule crept back into his mind's eye, and he laughed ironically. He had set the cat about that particular pigeon, that was the truth! What had that look been in her eye, as he had kissed her hand in that somewhat lingering fashion! He fancied he did not flatter himself unduly in believing his charms nigh on irresistible to one such as she.
There was a clattering outside the door. 'Master Carivelli! Are you decent yet? Where's my rent?' It was Mistress Chezzle, his landlady, a grizzled hag with gap teeth whose poverty of spirit was matched only by her lack of charm.
'I have an errand to run this morning, dear Mistress Chezzle - business, you know!' called Inigo, pulling on his doublet.
The door opened a crack and Mistress Chezzle's wizened walnut-like head peered round. 'My eye! Have you been drawing on my walls! Why, you young whelp!'
Inigo, seizing up the letter to Guildmaster Hartley Jarvis he had written before falling into bed last night, squeezed past her and down the stairs into Sahela's morning.
'SEE - THE CITY'S crest! Now will you believe me when I say I must see Master Severin himself?' demanded Inigo impatiently.
'And how did you come by this, sir? You are no city messenger, unless my eyesight misleads me,' sniffed the young secretary, adjusting her lace stock.
Inigo bent close. 'I'll tell you straight: it came into my hands at the House of Trimble, by a fortunate accident. There! Tell that to your master!' He straightened again, pleased with the look of wonder that was on her face as she scuttled off. Severin's state was as great as Trimble's: it was as though they competed in inaccessibility, as in everything else. But he now held the trump card!
In a matter of moments he was being led down a corridor of surpassing richness, with cloth-of-gold swags draped around the window lintels. He noticed with interest that the corridor got subtly larger as it progressed: no doubt to induce a feeling of puniness in the visitor. A nice conceit!
Septimus Severin was a healthy-looking man in middle years, his dark hair barely greying and his eyes keen. He was stood at the end of a long table with another man, both pointing out features on a large parchment map that was spread out before them. As Inigo approached, Severin held out his hand to still the other's voice and gracefully rolled up the map. 'Master Carivelli, is it?' His voice was a little harsh but clearly carried the weight of accustomed command.
'Aye, sir, that is I - architect, mason, and conceiver of grand designs!' Inigo swept a low bow.
'I believe you have a document of interest, is that correct?'
'I do indeed, sir, but,' Inigo shrugged, 'before we move onto that subject, might we talk a little of a proposed building project I seek to undertake for your house?'
'Aha, that is to be the way of things, is it?' Severin smiled, rubbing his chin. 'I like your side, lad. Show me your drawings, then!'
SOME TIME LATER Inigo was surprised to find himself applying his flourishing signature to a contract of work. Septimus Severin had pored with interest over his drawings, muttering words like 'Striking!' from time to time. The other man, who had said nothing the whole time, had eventually stormed impatiently from the room, but Severin did not raise so much as an eyebrow.
'There: that's a retaining salary for you, for as long as you continue to work to my satisfaction. Three hundred guilders a month! Riches indeed, when I was your age.'
Inigo frowned. 'I had heard, though, sir, that you had engaged Master Darkev to construct this Kufrish Emporium.' He was unsure why Severin now seemed to be transferring the job to him.
'Darkev is a fine man, but I believe your peculiar talents better suited to this job - understand? The front, the street side, must be Kufrish in theme - elephants, palms, all that sort of tropical nonsense, and must be such as will encourage folk to make purchases there. The rear must be severely practical, a warehouse for the unloading of ships. I'll have someone take you down to the site tomorrow.'
Inigo looked at the preliminary drawings he had been given. It was certainly a very large building, and one that would attract the attention of many. But it would need a good deal of polishing before it satisfied his own ideals of what an Emporium should be.
'Now, nothing that will scare the customers away!' said Severin, as though reading his mind. 'I want your finished drawings for approval by four days' time. And remember, if at any point I am dissatisfied with your work, the contract lapses. Are you happy?'
Inigo bit his lip, thinking furiously. This was as good a contract as he was ever likely to get. But Severin was a powerful enough man that he would seek, and probably be able to apply, control over the whole affair. He shrugged and said simply 'Happy enough, for now!'
'Very well! Now, that other matter, if you please?'
Inigo reached within his doublet and handed over the crested paper he had taken from the House of Trimble. Severin scanned it quickly, his eyebrows rising. 'Mary's Letters of Marque! Why, that devious son of a sinner! Now how on the Wheel did he get hold of...' He grinned wolfishly at Inigo. 'You've done me some service, lad, bringing this here. Mary Welch is one of my captains, and only I and the Guild Council hold copies of this document. I fear we have a rat on the Council, and a rat that answers to a master named Davril...'
Suddenly another door, not the one through which Inigo had entered, opened, and through it came a young woman of perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three years. She was extraordinarily beautiful, dark of hair and eye, red of lip and slim of body. 'Father! Are you coming to eat or not? Oh! do excuse me, sir!' She blushed, turning to Inigo.
'Away with you, Etta,' mumbled Severin annoyedly. 'How many times have I told you not to disturb me when I'm meeting? Master Carivelli and I were just discussing a most confidential matter!'
'Hmph! Well, your food will be cold, that's all there is to it!' The door slammed behind her.
Severin turned ruefully to Inigo. 'Children, eh? You can't live with 'em...' he paused.
'...you can't live without them?' prompted Inigo.
Severin frowned. 'No, no, I wouldn't say that, not at all.'
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