Warnings/notes: pre-series speculative AU, ficlet, Alfeegi, Lykouleon and Ruwalk.
Disclaimer: I don't own Dragon Knights.
written at 9th january 2008, by Misura. For Toriko Roller, who was supposed to get a birthday-present and got this instead.
"How much do you want and what can you offer as collateral?"
Alfeegi sighed. He supposed he could have known; no client who came in at five minutes before closing time could possibly be easy and quick to deal with. Added to which, both client and servant wore clothes that looked fairly expensive, and in Alfeegi's experience, the richer a client was (or had been once, as was rather more often the case), the more troublesome.
The poor, at least, knew what they were, and where they stood. Oh, they still had hopes, of course - they wouldn't have come inside otherwise - but basically, they already knew Alfeegi wasn't going to cut them any slack or do them any favors. The rich generally needed some getting used to the idea that Alfeegi didn't care one whit whether or not they found the terms he offered acceptable.
"How much money do you want to borrow?"
The Kuultan Trading Company had been founded about fifteen years ago, and although there had been some ups and downs, Alfeegi took considerable pride in the fact that none of the downs had occured in this particular branch of the company. He was good at his job, which was making sure the only people who received a loan were those able to pay it off, and he knew it.
"You think I'm here to borrow money?" The client - make that prospective client - looked baffled.
His servant coughed. "This is a bank, my Lord. Borrowing money is what people generally come here to do."
"Oh." The client blinked, then smiled, looking slightly amused. "I see."
Alfeegi wondered what was going on - surely nobody'd walk into a bank by accident?
"Well, I suppose we could use some extra funds to patch up the garden-house."
Then again, the man had been addressed as 'my Lord', which probably meant he was nobility of some sort. Nobles could be a little weird sometimes, Alfeegi knew, and they made for the most bothersome clients. On the other hand, nobles often owned valuable property, which the Bank could order seized if they failed to pay up in time.
"Can I assume the garden-house is located near an actual house?" he asked.
"It's in the palace-garden, yes," replied the client, with a slightly puzzled smile.
Alfeegi nodded and allowed himself a small smile in return. He doubted if the house was anything even remotely deserving the description of 'palace' but all the same, it seemed more and more likely that this might be a suitable client after all. There were always rich people looking for a new house, preferably old and with a history, and the Bank was always happy to send them an invitation to their bi-monthly auction.
"We don't need to borrow any money," put in the man Alfeegi had earlier dismissed as a servant. He wasn't quite so sure if that was correct now, though, especially since his companion actually seemed to be listening to him. "Particularly not at an interest-rate of eight percent."
Alfeegi bristled. "I'll have you know that rate's a full two percent lower than any of our competitors are offering." He threw a withering look at the ... servant? friend who'd come along for moral support?
Surprisingly (and annoyingly) the man seemed not the least bit impressed. "It's still unreasonable," he maintained.
Alfeegi was about to give him a piece of his mind when the client raised his hand in a soothing gesture and said: "Ruwalk. Please."
Ruwalk subsided. Alfeegi tried not to look too smug. "Of course, I'd need to actually see your house - excuse me, your palace - before I'd be able to make any decisions." An old house that needed a lot of patching up was still an old house (and as such valuable) but it would bring in considerably less.
"Of course." There was a twinkle in the client's eyes, as if he was laughing at some private joke. Alfeegi wondered what it was, and whether or not it was a joke at his expense.
"Now, I'll need to know a few things in advance," said Alfeegi, deciding to let it go for the moment and opening his drawer to take out a loan-application-form. "To start with: your name?"
The client exchanged a look with Ruwalk.
"Your real name, please," Alfeegi said sharply.
"Luke," offered the client. Ruwalk rolled his eyes.
Alfeegi stared, saying nothing, and waited. After a minute of silence, he sighed and dutifully wrote down the name. "All right, 'Luke'." Ruwalk looked like he was going to say something - probably about how 'Luke' ought to be addressed as 'my lord' (the reason for which Alfeegi would be most interested in) but after a glance at 'Luke' he kept his mouth shut. "And this house you want me to take a look at - where is it, exactly?"
He hoped it wasn't too far out of town. A small distance out of town was good; for some reasons, so-called 'country-homes' were all the rage now. A long distance was ... not so good. Seclusion was not something most up-and-coming merchants were looking for.
"Ah," said 'Luke'. "Well ... "
Ruwalk grimaced. Alfeegi's sense that something fishy was going on grew - he still wasn't sure what it was though, or more importantly, why. This would hardly be the first time someone had tried to pass off a property that wasn't his as collateral for a loan under a fake name, yet if that was their goal, Ruwalk and 'Luke' were going about it rather clumsy.
For a moment, Alfeegi was sure he'd misheard. "Draqueen," he repeated. It would take him at least a day's ride to get there, which in effect would mean closing down the office for nearly half a week. "You own a house in Draqueen?"
"A palace," 'Luke' corrected him gently.
"A palace. In Draqueen." Alfeegi managed not to laugh out loud. There certainly was a building worthy of being called a 'palace' in Draqueen, yes - or very near it, at any rate. He very much doubted if either 'Luke' or Ruwalk had ever even been inside of it, though. "All right. When can I see it?"
It had to be some prank played on him by a competitor, he realized. A not-entirely-harmless prank - because if a prospective client would find the door to Alfeegi's office shut, he or she might well decide to go elsewhere, rather than wait for Alfeegi to return. Most people who needed money needed it urgently, not 'some time next week, maybe'.
Alfeegi had to give them credit for originality, if not for efficiency. Ruwalk and 'Luke' looked nice enough - they certainly didn't look like the dressed-up wanna-be conmen they were - but expecting Alfeegi to not only buy their act but even accompany them to Draqueen was a bit much.
"Do you have anything keeping you here?" asked 'Luke'.
This time, Alfeegi laughed. 'Luke' looked puzzled, Ruwalk offended.
"Was what I said really that funny?" 'Luke' murmured
(Three days later, Alfeegi locked the door to his office for the last time - although technically, the office wasn't his anymore, as he'd sold it for quite a nice sum to someone wanting to set up an insurance-company. After that, he left, never to return, and for years after, people would talk about how the Dragon Lord had come by Alfeegi's office to get a loan for getting his garden-house fixed, and how Alfeegi had turned him down and went on to become a Dragon Officer. Although the moral to the story remained unclear, but everyone agreed it made for a good tale to tell to newcomers.)