Change of plans, part fourteen

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Harbend couldn't believe what he was hearing. The grammar was awful to say the least, and the pronunciation had a strange singing quality as if spoken by someone... He blushed. As if spoken by someone from Khi. The man was a wonder, learning that amount of De Vhatic in a single eightday.

"You can't accept that as a formal declaration of sponsorship." The whining voice cut through his thoughts. By all gods unholy! Of course it was the same woman again.

"I think he made his intent clear." Master de Verd had turned on his feet and was now facing the female merchant.

"But, Master de Verd, he clearly has no idea of what he's saying. They must have repeated this earlier." The dismay was clearly showing in her eyes.

"I believe that may be true, but he was clear enough that even I could hear him naming the new house. I'm certain he understood what he was saying, and I refuse to believe they deliberately rehearsed that horrible parody of our language."

"But..."

"That will be quite enough!" He turned to Harbend. "Now, Harbend de Garak, I advise you not to show the declaration of your house to other than those you trust with your embarrassment. The law is clear. As your sponsorship was spoken so shall it be written. Let it be clear for all who come after us to know at what time, in what manner and with whom present your house came to be. We welcome House de Garak to our ranks."

Harbend groaned. Master merchant Glarien de Verd could hardly have twisted the knife harder than he did by ending the matter in the traditional high ceremony, but still, it was done. He was representing a trading house. He was Harbend de Garak.

He glared at the master merchant and received an amused stare in return. Almost giddy with relief he hardly noticed Arthur walking to the center of the wooden part of the floor.

While Arthur paid the insane amount of money required of a sponsor Harbend eagerly waited for the finishing question that procedure required. As if teasing him Master de Verd made a show of displaying a benign interest in Arthur's growing stack of jewelery, silver and gold.

"Well, Master de Garak, most recent of our houses. Each new house must show in deed as well as intention why we should not revoke the title granted. Even though I'm personally inclined to think you've already done so..." He was interrupted by a growl coming from the woman he ordered silent earlier and disarmed her with a smile that made several of the gathered merchants laugh.

"Oh well, I had to try, didn't I?" she exclaimed dramatically and joined the laughter even though it was clear to them all how forced it sounded.

"So, what are your plans for making a lasting impression among the trading houses of Keen?" Master de Verd said. "Other than what you have already done," he added, drawing further laughter from the seated merchants in the hall.

"Master de Verd. Considering the impact the western raiders have on trade I mean to reinvent methods normally found lacking in efficiency," Harbend answered trying to keep his voice level.

"Would you care to elaborate?"

"I will reopen the old caravan route between Erkateren and Braka."

A murmur of surprise greeted him.

"While I agree your proposal is sound at the present time when we're virtually cut off from that source of metal, the cost for setting up the first caravan seems, how shall I put it, somewhat steep. How could you possibly raise the funds needed.

"The funding for this venture is already secure. Let me introduce you to my partner, Arthur Wallman."

This time the murmur only displayed appreciation. The source of money needed had been clear all the time, but they wanted confirmation and now it was given.

"What's up?" Arthur asked when he heard his name mentioned.

"They just wanted me to confirm the means necessary for the caravan."

"Ah, yes. Tell them that their consternation is all I sought. Amusement has a value, and that's all the profit I crave."

Harbend translated. He was rewarded with a chorus of guffaws and clapping hands.

"Well spoken. The arrogance and airs of a true merchant among equals. He'll do well," was the finishing response from Master de Verd before the merchants present rose to greet their newest member.

Harbend slowly realized that he'd been accepted formally as well as emotionally, and Arthur had carried the key to open a door Harbend expected to stay closed for years to come.

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