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Pepper and Lace: Chapter 5

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MerchantDeryni:

Pepper and Lace Chapter 5: Seasoned to Perfection

   Dhyrucc appeared on the transfer portal in the corner of his father's study. He glanced towards his father's desk. His father looked up from his paperwork with a raised eyebrow and a brief nod in greeting.

“I'm glad you are not having a meeting with someone. That would be awkward.” said Dhyrucc as he walked over to the desk. He took a bottle from each of the oversized pockets on his coat and placed them on the corner. From the bag over his shoulder he produced two five pound sacks of salt. The King's tax stamp clear upon the bag.

“I've taken to having meetings only in the mornings, from just after you leave until noon. Knowing you may return at some point in the afternoon.” Daniel said, taking the bottles and glancing at their labels. He placed them on the bookshelf next to the desk, out of the sun. The salt went next to them.

“Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Not at all. I am well compensated. First, by having a quiet spot to return to when I desire it. Secondly, by having a reason to get outside and visit my friends and interests away from the study, and third, the return on investment is well worth any change in my schedule.” He gestured to the bottles. “Many thanks, I've been enticed once again to part with a couple of bottles of my ever so lucky finds. The salt is good for gifts, and we use more of it here now.”

“My pleasure. And I get paid again tomorrow, so your share will be coming in.”

Daniel laughed outright. “Well that is good news. Our creditors will be ecstatic. It is the end of the month after all. They are due another letter.”

   Dhyrucc smiled and nodded and left to go change for supper. Daniel returned to his reading.

   Dhyrucc had quickly been allowed to purchase shares in the goods he carried. He had passed that option on to his father. This allowed Dhyrucc to prevent his father from refusing any more money from him since the deal he offered his father, that of investing in a trade venture to make a profit, was the same sort of business investment his father had tried in the past. Those earlier ventures had failed and nearly ruined the family. Investing in Dhyrucc's venture was netting his father a tidy profit every week, paid out at the end of the month. As any father would naturally invest in a son's venture to help him get started in the world Daniel had really had little choice in the matter.  The end result was that Daniel was also earning a significant sum each week. 

   The situation still seemed slightly surreal to Dhyrucc. He had been carrying goods on the network for a little over 3 months. He had declined the chance to 'walk the world' with Victoria and remained close to home. This allowed him to hide the fact he was working at all to his friends. His family knew he was working and using his powers, but Daniel and Dhyrucc had talked and decided to not advertise the sudden employment. There would be fewer questions if nobody knew he was doing anything at all.

   It was very easy to hide the work he did. He rose early and had a simple breakfast. He went to the portal in his father's study and transferred to Longwyn estate. Once there he took one of the packs of goods and jumped it to another link in the chain. At the next merchant house the pack was broken up into the deliveries wanted for that area, or if the package was heading further along the chain, placed in the waiting area for the next mule to transfer the goods.

   After the jump with the pack Dhyrucc had a four hour wait until he was rested enough to jump again. Once he was refreshed he could take another pack and jump back to Longwyn. A short rest there and he could transfer back to his home portal. For this he made more money than he had seen in his life.

   The network had rules for the Deryni flitting about between cities and towns. To prevent exposure by having a stream of people suddenly appear in towns the carriers were not encouraged to wander about. People just appearing in town without anyone seeing them walk or ride in could cause questions. In larger cities like Rhemuth a merchant house would have entrances and exits on different sides of the building and walkers could go out and do some business. In the countries that were virulently anti-Deryni the walkers tended to stay inside and hidden while they rested between jumps.

   To reduce the risk of boredom the trading houses had rooms made for the Deryni to relax in. Some sat and talked, others gamed, some read, and houses had a growing list off books from around the world to study. Dhyrucc had wanted to remain active and physical, and resisted the urge to sit and do nothing. The houses he went to all had training rooms. Dhyrucc was training in unarmed fighting and knife fighting. This was widely regarded among the Deryni walkers to be a prudent course of study. In the event of something 'unfortunate' happening a walker was wise to be able to defend him or her self. In the four different halls that Dhyrucc transferred to on a regular basis there were trainers, human and Deryni alike that offered different types of training. The different gyms at the various houses kept things fresh and interesting. They also staved off the risk of simply sitting and eating while they waited. Dhyrucc had seen some walkers who likely did very little actual walking. He did not intended to become a 'roller'.

   Dhyrucc still thought about what Victoria had said to him. He knew he was simply 'muling' and  collecting money. He had no grand plan for himself. He frequently worked seven days a week. His social circle barely noticed his absence. Given that he was able to join in afternoon events and keep up his appearances at his friends estates there was not much change in his social activities. The friends he had cultivated tended to ride in the afternoons and then have a light supper and some cards. He was able to attend most events that were close to his home. Leaving a little earlier to allow himself enough rest to carry goods in the morning. His attendance at the parties was profitable now as well. His 'finding' a wagon trader with a good bottle of wine that he allowed his friends to purchase was another source of income. His father had done the same. His father's visits to his friends estates had begun being a profitable venture in their own right. Oddly enough he was actually getting more letters written. It was a good way to pass the time and he would return home each day with several cards and notes to be sent off to his friends.

   Dhyrucc had been warned not to suddenly have too much money. That led to investigations of smuggling and tax officials coming to your estate. It was a constant balancing act. The network manged the flow of materials and paid taxes on the goods they brought into the cities. A system was in place to have it appear that goods were coming in through 'normal' channels. Taxes were paid on goods. Dhyrucc had laughed when he discovered that in some cities the taxes were paid 'in kind' with a lowered value on the goods shipped in. The government would then sell the spices and pocket the income. Since the network paid a fraction of that it meant more profit to the network.

   He and his father, and his brothers were developing a cover story to have a successful merchant venture. The bank that was partnered with the network was going to provide letters and contracts and manifests for the venture. This would explain the windfall the family was building. Until then Daniel was paying the existing creditors off slowly and maintaining the facade of a poor country noble. Once 'their ship came in' they could pay off all their debts without question.

   It was an odd problem to have Dhyrucc was finding, being too rich. He had refrained from buying an entirely new wardrobe. A new jacket with large pockets, popular among the travellers for 'personal cargo' was his only purchase so far. He had a lockbox in his room that was rapidly filling with coins. He would occasionally daydream about what he might purchase with his wealth, but nothing had caught his fancy yet.

   His mother on the other hand was eager to have the estate redone, expand the lands, buy the latest clothing. His father had had to be quite firm with her and deny her access to the money. To all outward appearances their family was respectable if struggling. Daniel intended to look that way until a plausible income could be developed. The risk of an anti Deryni attack was too great. While they lived in a tolerant area there was still a fraction of the population that would not accept them and attack them.

   Still it was an idyllic time in some respects. He had created a world for himself that was simple, orderly, and profitable. All it took was a few hours a day and he had a box of coins that was going to offer him the chance to buy his opportunity. The bigger questions Victoria had raised he pushed aside. It was enough, for now at least, to simply make money and help his family. All he had to do was keep his head down until everything was in place to make a fortune and he could change his world. Everything was in control.

   He kept that viewpoint in mind right up to the point he reappeared on the portal in the study to find his little sister Ali and Victoria sitting in the reading nook chatting. His sister had kicked off her slippers and her stockinged feet were resting on the edge of the portal. She grinned over at Victoria, “I felt that as he appeared. I felt the energy shift just the way you described.” She turned to Dhyrucc. “Hello brother mine. I'd very much like to talk with you.”

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