The cost of farewells
Gerald’s cart made its way down the paved roads that lead towards the Eastern mountains as it had before on the many trade missions to dwarven lands that his Lord had sent him on. Trade between the people under the mountain and the mages of Domicile Venificii had boomed since the rent in the veil had been repaired. Gerald took in the familiar countryside, calm in the fact that no bandits had ever attacked this route.
His journey continued throughout the morning and as the sun reached its highest point in the sky and Gerald started to think of stopping for a rest one of his guards noticed something ahead. Coming closer the forms of a dozen men standing in the road ahead became clearer, maybe Gerald shouldn’t have tried to score some gold on the side by underspending on security.
As they neared the band of men ahead it became clear that they were flying the colours of the Kingdom. Gerald let out a relieved sigh, it was just one of their patrols. However as Gerald drew closer he couldn’t help but notice there was a different demeanour to the men ahead than what he usually was greeted with.
“Well met good sirs,” he called out when he was within earshot of the group.
“And to you Gerald,” came the reply from what looked to be the captain of the group.
“Victor? I haven’t seen you in an age, its good to see you still keeping your duty up on this stretch of road.”
“Indeed Gerald, indeed,” the way Victor responded did not carry the same mirth that Gerald was used to.
“Is something amiss that there are so many of you here today?”
“We’ve had word that a smuggler is heading through our lands, we’re all here to make sure they don’t get through.”
“Oh my, well I wouldn’t want to keep you all from your duty. If I see any odd looking caravans on the road I’ll make sure I inform someone about them.”
“That would be appreciated Gerald, but unfortunately I’m going to have ask you to wait a while here.”
“Why?” Gerald responded not liking the way that Victor’s men were eyeing his cart.
“There’s a smuggler coming through here and we’ve got orders to search every traveller coming through here to find out if they are who we’re looking for.”
“But… You know me Victor…I’d…”
“Exactly, I do know you Gerald, now if you’d please tell your guards to step down and step away from your cart, we can get this over with and you can be on your way.
Some time later as the sun began its sink towards the horizon Victor walked over to the shade where Gerald and his men had settled while Victor’s men searched the cart.
“Well it seems we’ve found our smuggler.”
“What? How dare you?” Gerald snapped back, his anger at the accusation bringing him to his feet.
“I dare in my lands Gerald, my lands where travellers from outside of the Kingdom are only allowed to transport 20kg’s of gold, 10 formal scrolls, a bag of gems…”
“What are you getting at? When was that put into place?”
“Oh, you didn’t know, well that would explain why you’ve almost quadrupled those amounts in your shipment. Its always been like this for those outside of the Kingdom.”
Victor’s emphasis on outside was all that Gerald needed to confirm that this was all planned.
“At least you are still counted as an ally I suppose. We won’t have to lock you up for this, but we will have to confiscate the excess.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, I very much am. In fact we’ve already confiscated it. You’re free to continue.”
Gerald stood slack jawed as Victor turned back to his men.
“You can’t do this, my Lord will hear about this!”