9th day of the 10th moon in the year 4512 of the Noruz reckoning, dusk.
Bortheus taps his foot in impatience at the ongoing delays at the dry dock. Lord Drafus will be angry. Evor, Bortheus’s boss, will be even angrier. Ever since Lord Drafus agreed to take on those merchant passengers against orders, Evor has been steaming mad. Lord Drafus was supposed to simply take possession of the Sea Falcon and sail her back to New Mazra to join the rest of the Bandar navy. The increased pirate activity, most likely based in Yazd, has required the Kingdom of Bandar to increase the size of its navy to protect trade. The only shipyard capable of producing seaworthy craft is in Kahnul, so Lord Drafus was sent with a crew of twenty sailors and thirty marines from Bandar to deliver payment for the ship and sail it back. Evor, and his assistant Bortheus, were assigned to ‘advise’ Lord Drafus who is young, arrogant, and impulsive. Evor doesn’t like the look of those ‘merchants’, but Lord Drafus, perhaps because he knows it annoys Evor, agreed to let them buy passage to New Mazra. They claim to be in a hurry, and the new Sea Falcon is supposed to be the fastest ship ever built. It should be able to make it to New Mazra faster than overland despite having to sail around the entire Aval peninsula.
Just as Bortheus is finishing his inspection, he sees Enril, one of the carpenters, slip a few pieces of mahogany into his tool bag. Enril, who is the best carpenter in the crew, has been working on the captain’s cabin. That mahogany is extremely expensive!
Bortheus blocks the doorway and inquires, “So, Enril, did you intend to pay Lord Drafus for that mahogany? I need this ship built, not these shenanigans.”
Enril looks surprised and a little taken aback. However, comprehension comes quickly. He retrieves the pieces of mahogany and stammers, “These…these are just pieces of scrap. They’re… too small to use for the ship. I was taking them to help a…a friend with a…a religious ceremony.” Enril looks guilt-ridden and a bit fearful. Bortheus is an imposing specimen.
“What do you take me for, this mahogany is expensive! Just how much have you been skimming off the top for your ‘friends’? Too small to use for the ship… maybe after you cut it! In any case, I’ll be the judge of that.” Bortheus is really annoyed. He thinks, “It’s bad enough to have a thief of a carpenter, but to add insult to injury, he obviously takes me for a fool! Besides, what kind of religion revolves around stolen wood? Obviously this guy is up to no good.”
Bortheus takes the stolen mahogany and stacks it neatly in the work area. “Your story makes no sense. If you really just wanted our scrap wood, why didn’t you just ask? Why have you been sneaking around? Is this why we’ve had all these delays, you’ve been busy prowling around for ‘scrap’ wood on Lord Drafus’s time? Lord Drafus has to fund your friends’ religion which just so happens to revolve around our mahogany? You really do take me for an idiot, don’t you? If you expected me to shed tears of sympathy for your friend with the expensive tastes in religion and poor moral values, the tears don’t seem to be coming. This had better be the end of your thievery, and of these delays! I think we’ve finally got to the bottom of something here today. And I’ll need to report this incident to Evor.”
Enril stiffens with indignation at Bortheus’s tongue-lashing. Mustering his courage, he retorts, “Th…thief? I…I’m a…a fully paid up Master of…of the Shipwright’s Chapter of the…of the Carpenter’s Guild. If…if I say these pieces are scrap, they’re… they’re scrap.” Enril’s confidence builds, “If you want to appeal my judgment, you can…can take it up with the Chapter Tribunal. In the meantime, every carpenter on this work site will walk off the job until the Tribunal delivers its decision.” Bortheus had not traveled outside Bandar prior to this mission. He has heard of the Aval Carpenter Guild, but assumed it was like the trade associations in Bandar which are subject to the crown’s magistrates, not their own tribunals.
Bortheus considers, “Hmm, maybe I misjudged the amount of power this guy has. I still don’t believe him, and this is an awful lot of money.” After a brief puase, Bortheus counter-offers, “Wouldn’t that be a pretty unfortunate way to deal with a little bit of wood? What’s this worth, 1gp? ... I’ll give you, we don’t want to create trouble with the guild, the ship is late already. I mean… yeah… maybe it’s too small to use for the ship, you know that better than I do. But it’s still our wood, isn’t it? It could be used for other things, like you said, your friend uses it for his religion. It’s not worthless. Look, apparently your friend needs this stuff. All we want is the ship finished, and you have been good. Why don’t we make a deal for the scrap? Evor would be glad to have a little unexpected income, and it might calm him down some. It doesn’t have to be much money, just what the pieces are worth that are too small to use for the ship.”
Enril replies, “So, I’m a thief if I take the scrap, but if I pay you for the scrap, what’s that make you? You like to point the finger, but don’t think it applies to you? You need to make up your mind what’s stealing and what’s not. I’m taking these pieces (Enril picks up the pieces from Bortheus’s stack). Go have your chat with Evor. Let me know if you’re still going to call me a thief tomorrow. Until then, step aside, my shift’s over.”
Bortheus refuses to budge. “I think you misunderstood what I said. I meant, why don’t you buy the wood from Lord Drafus? It’s not that much money, but I’m not going to sit here and let you just take it, that’s outrageous. Too small to use for the ship, maybe. Worthless, no. I’m happy to negotiate for your purchasing the scrap at a reasonable price from the owner—I think that might help us both. But if you want to take my boss’s property out that door, you’ll have to get over me. Frankly, I think I’m being pretty reasonable here, given what I caught you doing.” Bortheus draws his quarterstaff, determined to prevent Enril from getting out the door with the wood.
Enril looks completely flabbergasted. After a pause, he chuckles, “Wow, I heard you Bandarans were uptight. I didn’t realize how much. I’m beginning to understand why we’re having all of these delays. I don’t take kindly to accusations of theft, and I don’t appreciate threats of physical violence. If you want to challenge my character, do it in an open forum, not while you have me cornered by myself. I’m just a carpenter, I’m not going to fight you, certainly not over a few pieces of wood. I’m tired, and I’m going home, (he tosses the scrap in the pile of scrap). Stand aside, or you will have a strike tomorrow.”
“Great, fine.” Bortheus steps aside and lets Enril pass.
Still annoyed, Bortheus finds Evor and tells Evor he thinks he found at least one cause of the delays, “Enril has been poking around for fine wood for his religious friends on our time. I caught him taking some, but he gave it back, and I think he got the message. Though the issue is really the delays, hopefully this conversation will improve things. I think Enril should have bought the wood from us, but at least I think the behavior will stop.”
Evor becomes pensive as Bortheus relates these latest happenings. “Hmm… I agree with you that the delays are the most important concern. I don’t see how this scrap issue could possibly directly relate to the delays. Nobody seems to be standing around with nothing to do waiting for material, but somehow I think you’re right that they’re related. We’re missing something. We haven’t made the last payment yet, but we did show the guild representative we have the full balance with us. I was there when they counted it out and sampled the coin. I have the feeling they are deliberately delaying things, but I can’t figure out why. Do you think someone will attempt to steal the money and the guild is delaying us to give them time to plan an attack? Lord Drafus is a danger, but First Mate Callan and Lt. Kronn are completely reliable and are taking shifts with the crew and marines to guard the chest. I wonder who those ‘merchants’ Lord Drafus agreed to take on board really are, and if they’re somehow tied up in this too. We need to find out why the guild is delaying things. Think about it and try to find out why. Also, we’re not in Bandar, people do things differently in different lands. We need to be sensitive to that in order to secure our main objectives. The carpenter’s guild is very powerful, and we should only provoke them with deliberate intent to achieve a particular reaction.”