It surprised Guy not at all that so much of what was great in Parquet was French. Or rather had been made by Frenchmen so many years before, his pride in that only tempered when faced with others that shared his former nationality (for towards them Guy was a Gascon). It had been perhaps ten years since Guy had been washed ashore, the ship broken in a storm returning from the Crimea. He then a young officer blooded and disturbed by a war that had owed nothing to the ideal that had seen the young sous-lieutenant of chassurs answer the call. Others might be disturbed by finding themselves here. Some sad souls never adjusted. Guy revelled in it.
He was a picaroon, and in that had found all he had ever wished for. He was also rich, for today at least, with a purse still half full of wooden cogs from saving the life of a fat trader from a gaggle of vicious salteador. Those beggarly wretches that robbed and killed and lived outside the fine wonders of Parquet, and whose clubs and knives had been little match for a picaroon so well set and skilled as himself. With his reward, Guy had paid to have his long bodkin oiled and polished, and even for his wand to be adjusted by the Ordre so that soon it would be a pepperbox of admittedly simple advance. With what remained he drank a very fine wine freshly given by the sea, and he had his eye on a shirt of brushed pearl that would set off his burgundy hat marvellously. By tomorrow he would be again without funds, and knowing this he spent extravagantly. Style and renown got one through times of an empty purse better than a full purse allowed one to endure times of no style and renown.
As a Gascon he had grown with French as his second language and Spanish a close third. He had then handily adopted the patois of Parquet without any difficulty. So that here amongst his peers, all with less cogs than he but eager to keep up, they spoke together in that glot of every language and almost always about their selves, but now of what employ there was to be had. All had come from other places, few picaroons were born here, and as a result they scorned and sneered at the very Spanish hand that fed them.
“The Principe needs a good blade,” said Gus, formerly a Scot, all dressed in stripes. He hid his bodkin within the folds of a very decent cape for Guy knew it needed work.
“He always does,” laughed Adelle who stronger than any man there drank only the local fiery spirit, “His rival, his lover, his hated competitor the Princeso, who whilst ever more frugal in the purse does set a far better table.”
They laughed together, pretending that the last mattered more than the first, and knowing that would still prefer the second. They all had standards after all. They all indeed had standing amongst one another that changed daily, and today Guy held court.
“There are many fine citizens that require a good blade, what with the monstrum...” said Gus. This was entirely true. Someone, perhaps something, was stalking the finer places. It left little sign of its passing and of its victims only a very fine portrait of their agony upon the wall in quickly rendered blood. It was indeed easy to find such work, but it was dull work, having to endure the homes of the grim Ordre or the suspicion of the patron regarding the fidelity of their wives or pretty husbands with such a bravo as they in the house! And work too that soon paled as the patron if not attacked, felt he did not enjoy the benefit of the expenditure laid out by his purse.
“The Carpenter is looking for one to serve him, briefly,” said Adelle.
Guy made sure not to show any interest. The Carpenter was an Englishman but admittedly a very rich one. There was no metal in Parquet than what washed up ashore, so they paid in the lowest coin with cogs. Each was taken from the roots of a particular tree, Parquet so much below ground, and a unique tree at that. It made forgeries rather difficult, needing a certain weight, a certain varnish but most especially some means to made sure that the coins they used would shine redly in salt water. The Carpenter had the marque to make them, a precise number, but had a thriving sideline in exchanging the good fakes by the bag for a small number of the true by the handful. The Carpenter was an excellent employer, yet no picaroon would ever indent himself for more than a single job or short service. Guy said, “That sounds unlikely...”
Adelle bridled. “You doubt me?” the threat was plain.
Guy who could not back down replied, “I say perhaps you only heard a rumour, and I will doubt you if you wish...”
It was Gus that brushed aside the quarrel that would otherwise lead to an argument and drawn blades, and first blood, and a stiff fine. Gus rather needed Guy to continue to prove his brilliance today because Gus could not afford otherwise to drink with them. And that would never do. He lied, “I heard that The Carpenter had already filled that role?”
“Not so,” Adelle said, diverted. “He has one of the dead detecting certain matters for him. He has suspects. He has then a need for such a suspect to be called upon to answer a challenge.”
All about the dive ears skilled at making one conversation and listening to three more turned about at the words. No one hurried to the door. It would never do to show eagerness, for eagerness would imply that one was rather desperate for employ. Yet already and a dozen men and women, picaroons all, began the lengthy verbal dance that would see them able to leave without undue haste.
Only then and hopefully alone would they hurry to speak with The Carpenter.