(123-06-23) All Bureaucrats Together
All Bureaucrats Together
Summary: Lord Lars Costayne manages at last to have a confidential chat over papers and wine with a Braavosi bank clerk he has been hoping to meet.
Date: 23/06/2016
Related: What Is 'Let Down'?, The Run-Around

The next morning a man comes to call upon Lord Lars Costayne at his office.

He is in his middle twenties, tall, olive-skinned; he is not bad-looking if your tastes include a long face and the slightly stooped shoulders of a clerk. He is dressed in black and brown garments of fine manufacture and foreign style — his boots, however, are locally made and quite new. He gives his name as Jaqero Orlassi.

Shown into the inner sanctum he evinces the quiet confidence of one who is expected. ”A good day to you, my lord Costayne,” is his greeting to his host, in Common as fluent as Ida Imaldi’s but somehow more flowing.

Not letting a single detail escape him, Lars looks the man over even as he offers his hand and a warm smile. “Jaqero Orlassi,” he repeats, finally looking the man in the eye, and somehow including in that simple gesture a sort of solidarity. “It’s wonderful to finally meet you. Would you like some wine? Beer? Water, perhaps? Something to clear the dust from your throat.” He’s not given a chance to respond before the wine comes in. Admittedly the glasses are small, and the wine is not some expensive vintage, but the thought is there. “And you are the chap who might be able to shed some light on a conundrum!”

Hand meets hand in a firm, reassuring grip. “How kind.”

But though Jaqero avails himself of the chair to which he is bidden, he does not touch the wine. The glass simply sits and gleams dark red upon the edge of the desk separating the two men.

There is a brief silence. Then, Jaqero ventures, “Of course Mistress Imaldi is eager to be of assistance to the local authorities in any way she can.” This is a mild, nonchalant remark. A statement of inarguable truth. “… Alas, we find ourselves at a loss to see how we can.” Pause. “Would you perhaps do me the favour of explaining, from the beginning, so that I might all the more fully understand,” his apologetic smile implies that any misunderstanding must be his own fault, simple man that he is, dealing with such advanced intellects as Ida’s and Lars’s, “what has led you to suspect our good Captain Franz of being less than scrupulous in his dealings? If we had been aware of any— transgressions of that nature…” He shrugs slightly, as though to suggest that in such a case he'd not have been their Captain Franz.

“Less than scrupulous?” Lars echoes, eyes widening a little. “Oh, no, I'm sure it's nothing like that. I have every faith that Captain Franz is a fine, upstanding fellow. I'm merely curious as to whether the poor fellow is going to get himself into difficulties. It's not cheap to keep a ship afloat, as I'm sure you of all people would know.” He pauses for a slow sip from his wine, watching Jaqero keenly. “A ship that brings no cargo in, then doesn't load anything to take out? The poor fellow must be losing so much money. Unless, perhaps, and I rather hope it is the case, that he has brought a cargo and made a profit, and just let the paperwork, pesky as it is when you're a busy fellow, slip his mind. I would hate to think the poor chap can't make ends meet.”

Jaqero listens with polite attention and then essays a very small frown. “But I understood from Mistress Imaldi that you were well aware she had hired Captain Franz and his ship,” he stresses gently; “he has of course been compensated fairly for his time. For we do, as you say,” his right hand rises from his lap to offer a placating, patting gesture, “know how much it costs to keep a ship afloat. To the best of my own knowledge he took no cargo to Dorne nor brought any cargo from Dorne — though as Mistress Imaldi has told you,” a hint of gentle reproof, for Lars does seem to need to have the same facts repeated to him so very often before they have any chance of sinking in, “I spent the voyage in my cabin, and saw little. It is simply the truth that in Mistress Imaldi’s employ he had, as she has explained to you, and as I explain now, again, myself, for your reassurance, no need of troubling with such a cargo.

“And so, my lord Costayne, you need not worry for your dear friend — I take the liberty of assuming,” and the clerk holds up a scrupulous finger to forestall any comment before he has finished his explanation, “that you must count Captain Franz amongst your dearest intimates, for your interest in his private financial affairs to be so very, very keen, when no crime has been committed and no regulation spurned, which might bring him to your official notice.”

“Ah, and now the truth becomes clear, thank you so much, good fellow,” Lars exhales. “It had not been made at all clear that the vessel was under the employ of the Iron Bank. With that in mind, it is no longer a mystery to vex this office and the hardworking chaps here. I think, perhaps, I might have been unclear on the matter when I spoke with Mistress Imaldi, as that must have been assumed but not stated. I do get in a muddle sometimes. Well, young master Orlassi, I can only thank you for taking the time to clear that up for us. More wine, before you have to get back? I do feel horribly guilty to have dragged you over here for such a very simple answer.”

"I have observed that Mistress Imaldi often thinks two or three steps ahead of mere mortals such as you and I," remarks Jaqero kindly; "perhaps this was another such instance… She will be much relieved, I know, to hear that the question has at last been resolved to your satisfaction; she was troubled, I believe — deeply troubled in her mind," he insists gently, "by the implication that you did not trust her word, and that only mine would do for you. Of course the Iron Bank would never wish to cause a loyal and hard-working official of Oldtown even a moment's disquiet. No, no — I must not put you to the trouble," and with this last he covers his untouched glass of wine with his hand, politely refusing any refill of what doesn't yet require refilling. Yet more polite fictions.

"You must, of course, send my sincerest apologies for bothering her with these things," Lars insists, sipping from his own wine, regardless. "The necessary minutiae of the office, I fear."

Jaqero gives a cordial nod. "I am certain you did no less than your duty to your superiors — they would surely not wish the 'forgetting' of paperwork to become a vogue in Westeros's busiest port." His tone grows a trifle ironic at that. "We have great respect of course for the Hightowers, for their farsightedness in requesting that the Iron Bank should open a branch here for the convenience of Oldtown's many merchants — the Bank has been glad to oblige, the Bank will always be glad to oblige such illustrious and honourable clients." A pause. "I myself, though a humble clerk, am glad of the opportunity to see your city… I shall of course pass on your words to Mistress Imaldi, but perhaps," the idea seems only now to be occurring to him, as he speaks it aloud in a tone of mildness and hope, "you might find it convenient to convey your own apologies, as you conveyed your own suspicions."

"I'm sure you would be able to convey my meaning far better than I," Lars insists, spreading his hands wide. "You are more practiced at following and communicating with Mistress Imaldi when she is, as you pointed out, two or three steps ahead of the conversation. I fear that I should only end up more muddled."

"Really?" wonders Jaqero in that mild way of his. "Mistress Imaldi gave me to understand that she enjoyed your conversations, save for the worry you left her with when you called upon her at her manse. Surely, having troubled her, you would wish to banish that trouble."

"In which case I shall make time to call on her as soon as I can," Lars promises solemnly. "If you could pass on my regrets in the meantime I should be much obliged, sir."

"But of course, my lord Costayne. But of course. I shall acquaint Mistress Imaldi with our conversation, and she shall no doubt be delighted to receive you again, one day soon." And Jaqero Orlassi, that frequent traveler to the wilds of Dorne, rises from his chair and executes a low and graceful bow in taking his leave.

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