Elrood – Just Another Day at the Office

(OOC: Set in early 1106, written by GJ Marklew)

Elrood opened his eyes. The man was still there, so he closed them again. Not, perhaps, the most responsible action from someone in his position, but some days…… He sighed. Tempting as it was to spend the next few hours ignoring everything the world could hurl at him, that wasn’t really an option.

Varn Davyss was still there when he opened his eyes again, with all the polite attention and patient airs proper to a Clerk to the Exchequer. He was a big man, surprisingly big, given the months of rationing that had followed the Conclave inspired famine, rather florid in the face and dressed in a heavy, fur lined robe, belted tightly against the chill of the Dark One’s winter. He had said his piece, and was waiting for a response.

“So, let me get this right.” Elrood wanted to make sure he had everything straight in his brain. “The High Healer’s Office has run out of money?”

“Not exactly, sir”. Davyss gave a slight, encouraging smile, the sort Elrood expected a teacher would give a dull, but enthusiastic pupil. “The Office has funds, it just doesn’t have coin at the moment. The Arcane Primus’ office has had it from the Consul Primus’ Office that the Quartermaster’s staff won’t be able to forward the next instalment until the end of the month. Apparently the recent disruptions to the Circle network have delayed the tax gatherers somewhat.” He tsked quietly, as if a Cataclysm the like of which Edreja had not seen for five hundred years was no excuse for tardiness by Officers of the Crowns.

“All right, so we have the budget, but no coin.” Elrood was trying to get to the point. “And the merchants who supply bandages to the Legions’ field hospitals won’t do so unless we pay them. Won’t they accept a promise to pay when we have funds?”

The Clerk looked mournful, and sighed so lugubriously that Elrood found himself tempted to ask whether the man’s kitten had died.

“I’m afraid not, sir. You see, the bandages are linen and have to be imported, so the merchants in question, owing allegiance as they do to other Crowns, feel no incentive of loyalty or compassion for us. “

“But,” Elrood rifled through the pile of papers on his desk. “I had a briefing on finances only the other week. There was plenty of coin available then.” He eventually found the scroll he’d been looking for – he’d had his Squire, Avalyn, hunt it out, and mark the right place in red ink. “Look, here.”

“Oh?” Davyss seemed, to some slight satisfaction on Elrood’s part, momentarily taken aback. “If I may just see….”

Elrood handed over the parchment, and for a few, blessed moments, there was silence. How was it, he thought, that he’d come to this? He was a simple man, a healer, a soldier if need be – what was he doing here, in an office, in a castle, with responsibility for budgets and bandages and…

“Aha.” The Clerk’s exclamation shattered Elrood’s revery. “Yes, I see, the monetary excess you mention is in the accounts of the Grand Master of the Order of Celestial – oh yes indeed, the revenues from Tamarus seem to have been favourable this year. But the coinage shortfall is in the accounts of the High Healer’s Office.”

“Eh?” Elrood was confused, and at this moment didn’t mind if Varn Davyss knew it. “But I am the Grand Master!”

“Oh yes, of course you are, sir.” There was that smile again. “In the eyes of the people, you are but one man. In the eyes of the science of the Exchequer, however, you are two – the Grand Master of the Order of Celestial and the High Healer of the Lions.”

Davyss seemed so happy with this ringing statement, so overcome with wonder at the great and deep mysteries of the science of the Exchequer, that Elrood almost felt sorry to intrude. Then he remembered that smile.

“So can’t I just move some coin from the Grand Master’s accounts to the High Healer’s accounts? And have it moved back when the taxes are in?”

A look of surprise passed across the Clerk’s face, so great that you might think someone had just slapped him with a wet haddock. Then he jumped to his feet, grabbed Elrood’s hand between his two heavy, damp ones, and started shaking it furiously.

“Sir, that’s brilliant. What a mind you have! I’ll have the papers drawn up for your approval, and that will solve the problem admirably! Magnificent! What a cunning stratagem. Well I never, oh yes….”

And he was gone, bustling out of the office, trumpeting happily like a baby mammoth on a particularly joyous occasion.

Elrood stared after him, amazed. He’d thought that this time for sure, the game was up, that people would realise that he wasn’t right for this world, for this life. After all, who was he to follow in the footsteps of Sister Bethany and Stefan Louis, of Alvin de Beers and Percival de Gales? He’d always figured that it wouldn’t be long before people realised that a Faction who had once been led by Arthur’s knights had a poor substitute in him. And yet, the man had seemed happy….

Suddenly, a shaft of late morning sun broke past the window, and glanced off the mirror that hung on the left hand side wall of his office. Elrood turned away quickly, and busied himself at his desk. He was used to looking in the mirror and seeing a stranger looking back at him, seeing Sir Elrood Brond, great hero of the Lions, a leader of men. He couldn’t help dreading the next time he looked in to the mirror, couldn’t help fearing seeing not one, but two, strangers staring back.