Black Jhann watched as the tiefling's red hand opened, dropping the large sack of gold coins on the table. He resisted the urge to raise a scaly arch at his companion's actions, instead raising his glass to take a sip of his fine dragonborn whiskey. It was the first time in more years than he cared to remember that a client had decided on such a dramatic first meeting. He even caught a glimpse of the bartender rolling his eyes at the unfolding events before going back to wipe down various glasses. He scanned the room, but the other guests were all focusing on their own conversations and meals. None of them were likely to do anything funny, but long years as a mercenary had taught Black Jhann that vigilance was never a bad thing.
"So, is it enough to hire your company for one job?" Black Jhann returned his gaze to his prospective client. The tiefling appeared fairly nondescript except for some intricate markings scrawled across her face. The markings were easy to dismiss as the ritualistic nonsense some tieflings were inordinately fond of, but on closer inspection Black Jhann had noticed that many of the markings followed recent scarring along her face. Not that he would even dream of asking her about them: every scar told a story, and inquiring about a scar was a common way to get one yourself. Looking into her eyes, Black Jhann saw hints of both desperation and impatience. According to Ydria, the tiefling had made the request of the other mercenary companies in Westgate but they had all turned her down. Not that dissuaded Black Jhann in the least: his company was well known for being able to take on jobs that others couldn't.
"Lass, I'll tell you the same thing all those other companies did before you made them run off with their tail between their legs: it's never enough without details." The tiefling's eyes showed the faintest hint of disappointment but no surprise at his words, the stark pragmatism undeniable. In order to ease the moment along Black Jhann raised his hand for another drink, the momentary break providing the tiefling with enough time to prepare herself to explain the job. He was legitimately interested in what the job entailed: most other mercenary companies in Westgate were desperate enough for work to take a job as long as it paid well, and the sack the tiefling had placed on the table was considerable. It only took a minute for the waitress to reach their table with another glass of the whiskey he had favored of late, a particularly good stock of liquor brought in recently from Arkhosia. After taking a sip he gestured to the tiefling to continue, his eyes watching attentively as he rested the glass gently on the table.
"I need you to raid a tower controlled by primordial cultists and disrupt the operations there. If possible I would like the actual building razed to the ground, although the payment is simply for the elimination of personnel and the freedom of the prisoners they use as…stock for their magical experiments." The tiefling's tone was terse and quick for the description, her delivery only faltering when she mentioned the prisoners. 'That explains the scarring,' Black Jhann thought to himself, glad that he decided to avoid the subject. He waited for the tiefling to continue, but after a few seconds the silence grew perilously close to becoming awkward. It seemed he would have to prompt the tiefling for more information, since the description she gave would not have sent those other mercenary companies running.
"Lass," Black Jhann said before taking one clawed hand and lifting out a significant portion of the gold coins, "this would be enough for the job you described." As he said those words he let the gold slide down his hand, the metallic coins making a faint slithering noise as they passed over his scales. The tiefling hesitated, so Black Jhann decided a little more prompting could be a good thing. "Look, I suspect I already know what the problem is. This primordial cult is run by a powerful magic user, right? A 'Lord' Errol Jadeis?" Recognition dawned in the tiefling's eyes for a moment before she regained full control, but that was all he needed to be sure of his supposition. Black Jhann fought down his excitement as he remembered Canna's tales about their encounters with the cultists, especially their powerful leader. He fully understood the teifling's reluctance to describe the job: the gold wasn't nearly enough for a job against a magic user powerful enough to run a primordial cult as extensive as the one Canna described.
"I'm sorry is there appears to be any deception on my account," the tiefling muttered, "but the job shouldn't involve Jadeis." The last word was drenched in hate, the tiefling's knuckles whitening as she resisted the bad memories associated with the name. "There's just…a chance he might show up," the tiefling finally admitted before hanging her head a little in shame. Black Jhann silently filed away the image of an embarrassed tiefling for later bemused ruminations, focusing instead on the prospects of the job laid out before him. It was true that the amount of gold wasn't anywhere near the quantity he would demand for pitched battle against a powerful magic user in their own home. He had done a job like that once while working for another mercenary company, and the resulting losses forced the remaining members to disband. He probably wouldn't take such a job even if the pay was adequate: he had a few up-and-coming rookies that were very promising but would almost definitely die in such a battle. Fortunately the job didn't have to necessarily include a battle against the primordial cultists' boss, and Black Jhann was pretty sure he knew the right team that could run the job but escape with no casualties if things went pear-shaped.
"We'll accept the job," Black Jhann stated before holding his hand up with his fingers splayed out to silence the tiefling's initial response. Ydria often joked that she wasn't sure if clients were silenced by politeness or the realization that his open hand could easily wrap around their head if he so chose. "There is, however, a condition." The words hung there for a moment before the tiefling warily nodded her head. "We will launch our attack on the tower and do as much damage as possible, but if this Jadeis shows up along with significant reinforcements then we will immediately quit the battle. The gold will remain ours since only MY company could pull off a job like this with any hope for success." As Black Jhann finished he watched the teifling mull over his offer, which was as reasonable as any she would receive. He suspected that it was overly generous on his part, but he was interested in meeting this group that had given Canna so much trouble. After a couple of minutes the tiefling finally snapped out of her pensive state and looked up into Black Jhann's eyes.
"You have a deal," the tiefling said as she extended her hand to shake, his massive clawed hand completely encompassing her more petite appendage. Afterwards Black Jhann leaned back in his sip and returned to sipping his drink, the liquor all the more satisfying as he considered the job and what he would need to do. The tiefling quickly drained her wine before getting up to leave, eager to leave now that she had finally found a mercenary captain to accept her job. He had a faint idea of why she was so urgent, if Ydria's intel was correct. Ydria had pleaded with him earlier not to mention it, but now that the job was decided it couldn't hurt to let the tiefling fully appreciate who she had just hired.
"Lass, one last thing," Black Jhann said as the tiefling turned to face the exit. She quickly turned back, her face equal parts quizzical and worried. "Don't worry, it's not about the job," Black Jhann said, the tiefling relaxing for the briefest period before Black Jhann continued: "How's Reshan these days?" The tiefling had done an admirable job hiding her emotions throughout their meeting earlier, her responses muted enough that they were only noticeable if one was looking for the reactions. The fact that her eyes and mouth noticeably widened in surprise was testament to how much his question had surprised her, and even then it took only a moment for her face to return to stillness. The tiefling slowly scanned his face, trying to read his intention past his scaled smirk.
"Lord Resh-he's fine," the tiefling said, her lips pursing with dissatisfaction at her minor mistake. She took a quick breath before turning to leave. As she opened the door and left Black Jhann finally relaxed a little and let his smile spread to crinkle the fine scales at the corner of his mouth. Maybe it was a product of being married, but getting the better of someone in conversation was a rare pleasure he liked to indulge in on occasion. He absent-mindedly rapped his knuckles on the table three times, the wooden knocking just noticeable over the din of the crowd. He just finished his second drink and signaled for a third when his wife slumped into the teiflings unoccupied chair. He couldn't help but chuckle at his wife's exasperated expression, even after he felt her booted foot slam into his shin.
"Jhann, why did you ask her that at the end? I told you about the rumor that she's a member of the Kavra'hal, right? You WERE listening, weren't you?" Ydria's tone was playful at the end, the female dragonborn confident her husband was attentive whenever she had important intel to give him. She waited for the waitress to drop off a glass of wine for her and refill Black Jhann's drink, watching her husband as he chuckled while bending over slightly to rub his leg. Her leg had been as accurate as either of her swords, so Black Jhann was glad that all his scales were still intact. As he looked into Ydria's eyes he saw a hint of worry, though, so he decided to skip the witty comebacks and be honest with her.
"A rumor isn't the truth, and the Kavra'hal wouldn't be a danger to me unless I had an enemy with enough money to buy their services…and trust me, my dear, if they had enough money to do that and enough enmity to find it worth spending on my death, I would know." He tapped his fingers on the table, before deciding that his wife deserved to know this part of his past. "You know this scar, right?" he said, moving his collar down far enough to show the beginning of a long tapering scar that spread right across his right collarbone. Ydria knew all his scars intimately but was an experienced enough mercenary to wait for her husband to bring them up first. It was that diplomacy that made Ydria a great partner for running the mercenary company, especially since most clients were intimidated by his sheer size.
"I got this scar when I was still a rookie, only five years after my first kill and two years after I became a full-time merc. I was on a simple job protecting a noble's caravan as extra security when we were raided by a large merc force." Black Jhann was quiet for a moment as his mind went back to that day, realizing they were under attack when the smell of smoke hit his nostrils. "I was lucky; I was just noticing the attack when Reshan tried to strike me down. He was better than me at the time, so a regular battle would have gotten me killed. Reshan thought he had killed me, though, so he left me where I fell. I was the only merc to survive that assignment, although my pay was lessened to just my life," Black Jhann let out a rueful chuckle at the painful memory, one of the last times he had to accept such a reduction in pain. "After a few years I met Reshan and worked with him in the same company for a few months, which was when I learned his name and his role in that attack on the caravan. When I told him my identity he said that I was his first dragonborn 'kill,' so he didn't know how to compensate for scales properly yet. He always favored sneaking in to kill someone quietly, so when we heard those rumors about the Kavra'hal making a comeback I suspected he was probably involved to some degree." Black Jhann finished off his drink when he was done talking about his past, but he didn't signal for another.
Ydria raised one scaly arch as Black Jhann got to his feet. "You're going to leave before I've even finished my drink?" she said coyly, raising her glass to take a deliberately small sip of her wine. Black Jhann chuckled a little at that before leaning over the table to kiss his wife, the taste of wine still lingering in her mouth. As he leaned back he took out a significant pile of gold coins, scooping them out of the pile directly into his coin purse. His wife looked at him quizzically before throwing her head back and downing the entire glass of wine. "So, love, what do you need me to do?" Black Jhann smiled at his wife, glad that he could trust her with gathering the necessary members of the company.
"I need you to get the most experienced members of the company still left in town that aren't on a job…anywhere from five to ten should be good. No rookies at all, everyone needs to know when a battle has gone beyond what the group can handle. I'll explain fully later, but the leader of the group were attacking is a powerful mage and he might show up. We all meet up near the gate so I only need to explain it once." Ydria nodded her understanding and got up to look for members of their company, scanning the room to see if any of their members had managed to accidentally wend their way to the same inn as the meeting. Black Jhann was about to turn to leave when Ydria cleared her throat, holding out the now half-empty bag of gold. Black Jhann chuckled before shaking his head and replying, "No, I need this to make sure we'll have some insurance just in case the villainous mage shows up," Ydria's eyes widening as she realized who he must be going to meet. Black Jhann turned and left before his wife could see the wide grin spread across his face at having gotten the better in conversation with his wife as well.