Just Good Business

Find the last story in the saga here.

It was a great day to make a sale. After weeks of blizzards and downcast skies, Valefall was finally witness to the sun. The denizens of the town at the base of the Crystal Peaks were out in force, trying to get through as many of their daily tasks as they could while the weather still allowed it. The town cryomancers—Valefall was large enough to have several—busied themselves with clearing the streets of snow, starting at the town square, where the shops and taverns congregated.


Tayte couldn’t help but smile as he sauntered through the square. It was nice walking around without protecting his face from the snow with layers of leather and wool. His hair flowed free, happy to no longer be shoved into the back of his hood. Hair such as his deserved to be flaunted, sleek and black like a raven’s wing, freshly washed too. He ran his hand through it, as he smiled at a group of women. One of them waved back, the miller’s girl with coal-colored hair. Not as nice as his, but nice nonetheless. Dalla was her name, or Helga, perhaps Frida. It was one of those early letters for sure.


It’s Una, a frustrated, feminine voice echoed in his head. And you’re the worst.


“I would have gotten it right eventually,” Tayte muttered, trying to move his mouth as little as possible. “I think I might stop by the mill after we get paid. Take Una out for a night of romance.”


Does that mean you’ll just get sloppy drunk again and beg her to be with you?


“It’s called seduction, Liath, and it’s a much more complex process than you make it out to be.”


Not from my point of view. You know, before I bonded with you, I didn’t even know what being drunk was. It’s not really a thing I can do.


Tayte blew a kiss to Una and stepped into an alley, where he could talk freely with his other half.


“Well then you should be glad you can experience it vicariously through me. Besides, if you had a body, you would understand. I have needs that must be met.”


Inside his mind, a retching sound echoed.


Gross. Why did I have to get stuck in the body of a pig? Your sister would have been so much nicer.


“I believe the word you’re looking for is refined gentleman. And the only reason you think that is because you haven’t spent enough time with her. She’s like a fun vortex, just sucking it all away.”


Sevi is just more mature than you.


“Ugh, enough about her, let’s focus back on me again. How do I look?”


The snow piled atop the roofs of the buildings began to spill down, pouring itself into a swirling mold of Tayte. It was like looking into an icy, slightly agitated mirror.


“Ugh, at least if I had bonded with Sevi, I’d be pretty.” Liath whined.


The first time he had heard a woman’s voice coming from his mirror copy, it had been unnerving, but Tayte was used to it by now. He admired the image, making sure he hadn’t missed anything when he had shaved this morning.


“Hey, words hurt, okay? Even if you don’t mean them. Smile, I want to make sure nothing’s in my teeth.”


Liath beamed and he inspected her copy of his mouth carefully, relieved when he didn’t find anything. There had been a fair amount of strife in the first weeks of their bonding over Tayte’s gender. For reasons Tayte couldn’t fathom, Eauath always manifested as copies of their host. Tayte chocked it up to a lack of creativity.


“Alright, we’re good. You can poof now.”


Liath rolled her eyes and the swirling mass of snow collapsed into a lifeless pile. Tayte continued on his way, shifting his hefty pack to rest more comfortably on his shoulder. It was a rugged leather pack, sturdy and efficient, but very plain. Sevi had won out in their argument, Tayte had wanted something fancy, worthy of his pending status as the richest man in Valefall.


We should go over the plan, just so I know when to help.


Tayte massaged his brow. “Okay, so remember how I told you that you weren’t going to help?”


Yeah…


“I meant it. I’ve been doing this for years on my own, I don’t need you to help out. In fact, you helping would be the worst thing to do with the people I’m gonna meet with. Remember the Huntsmen I told you about?”


The ones who kill winterborn and cryomancers?


“And manifest, which I now am. So, we’re just gonna keep that little bit of info to ourselves. Which means no helping.”


A sense of gloom washed over him.


“Hey cut that out. No screwing with my emotions, remember?”


I was just communicating what I felt.


“Well it doesn’t feel good, so knock it off.”


That’s kind of the point…


Liath had a heart of gold, which was great, except Tayte had a heart for gold. Doing the right thing and becoming obscenely rich were two goals that were often at odds with each other. They worked it out well enough for the most part. Liath helped him get paid, and occasionally, with much chagrin, he would flip a bum a coin or two.


“This is for my—I mean, this is for our safety. You’re sitting this one out unless things go very wrong, okay?”


How will I know when they go wrong?


“Feel free to help out if they try and murder me. Or if I give the signal.”


Oh, I like the signal! It’s fun, it makes me feel like I’m a spy.


“That’s the spirit,” Tayte said as he slipped out of the alley and down the road. His meeting was in one of his favorite taverns, recently abandoned after a snowslide had taken out the back half. They were to meet at mid-day, which meant he had about two hours to prepare.


This area had been almost completely abandoned, a fate that had befell a few too many parts of Valefall recently. The storms were certainly getting worse, which was good for business and terrible for everyone else.


The Iron and Anvil was a stocky, wide building, as its name would suggest. Tayte had argued multiple times that it should be The Hammer and Anvil, but the tavern owner hadn’t budged.


“The saying is hammer and anvil, and he knows that. I feel like he’s just trying to be unique.” Tayte rambled on as he tried to open the front door. It seemed to be stuck on something. “Thematically, it just makes more sense, right?”


I kind of like it. It has a ring to it.


“You’re supposed to take my side,” Tayte grumbled as he heaved and the door slowly opened, grinding across the wooden floor.


It was a tragedy to see one of his favorite spots in town in such disarray. The front half of the building had remained relatively untouched, but the back had caved in, destroying several tables and part of the bar. Snow had consumed a sizeable portion of the floor as well. The only good thing to come of it was the partially collapsed roof let in a lot more light.


A burly man with arms the size of Tayte’s torso was standing in the center of the tavern, arms crossed with a disappointed look on his face.


“Oh, um, hello Gunnar. I didn’t think you’d be here,” Tayte said, rubbing his head sheepishly.


“Tayte, why did you just break my door down?” Gunnar growled. Gunnar had two states: annoyed or angry, it was why they two of them got along so well; those were the only emotions Tayte caused.


“Well, if you’d refer to my previous statement, I did not think you’d be here.”


“Why would I not be here?”


“It kind of got destroyed, so I figured you would abandon it. At least, for a little while. You know, long enough to do business.” Gunnar stared Tayte down as he spoke, tapping his foot in a steady rhythm of frustration. “Though, now that I’m thinking about it, it does make sense that you would be here.”


“Because it’s my tavern?”


“Because it’s your tavern.”


“So, why are you breaking into my tavern?”