25th September - Oberndorf
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Brigdha sat in the snug of the Blue Boar at the junction of the Ashforth-Oligarch highway, nursing a tankard of ale as she pored over her account books. Try as she might to put a favourable gloss on the recent misfortunes in Sirion and Westmoor, there was no way to disguise the large loss she'd suffered. Even when she factored in the money she'd earned from advising merchants on how best to arrange their legal and tax affairs to best advantage she'd still struggled to break even.
Under different circumstances her mother Lady Sorcha would doubtless overlook the loss of family gold, but with the dreadful news from Alowca where her sister Aoifa was drawing heavily on the same coffers she doubted that further disbursements would be forthcoming.
"Ahem," a rich male baritone once more sought to intrude on her consciousness, "a penny for your thoughts?"
She recognised that voice, but it couldn't possibly be...
"Jorge!!" she knocked her tankard in her haste to stand, barely righting it in time before the powerful Hagley bitter could bring chaos to her carefully penned numbers.
"Brigdha," he swept her up in his arms and they hugged for a long moment before he set her down and stepped back, studying the curve of her body beneath the tight arming jack, "You're looking well."
"And you," she laughed, oblivious to the hint of grey in his long dark hair. When she'd last seen him he'd been off to seek his fortune as a mercenary, much to the dismay of both herself and the father whom he so closely remembered. The thought of Carl made her frown.
"You've guessed my business then," there was a sadness in his eyes that his voice deftly concealed, such that an onlooker would have sensed little of the grief that filled his heart.
"Aye," she reached for her tankard and drained it, tossing it to a passing pot boy, "another brace of those lad and be quick about it."
"It's our way," he pulled up a chair and sat down without waiting to be invited, "but let's talk of happier matters. I hear you're making quite the name for yourself as a merchant adventurer."
"Well, a name maybe but there's been precious little profit from it. I sometimes wish I'd stuck to soldiering as steel's the one commodity that always commands a high price."
The ale arrived and they clashed their tankards together in time-honoured fashion, drinking each other's health.
"I may have a proposition for you," Jorge's smile carried the hint of mischief, "something which will bring us both a step closer to settling our accounts with certain parties."
The hours passed and the ale flowed as Jorge outlined his scheme and the two of them discussed the details until the false dawn stretched her long fingers over the land and the roaring fire in the snug turned to fading embers.
"It's a good plan," Brigdha sipped her ale thoughtfully, "but surely Moira would be able to aid you more than I can."
"With the best will in the world, your sister's hardly low profile now is she?"
"I guess not," Brigdha yawned, remembering that she was supposed to be back in the saddle in a couple of hours.
"Then will you help me?"
"Yes, Captain Heinman. Now let's get some sleep and in the morning we can sort out the details."