I was hoping to finish this half on a better note but my brain just curled up and ate itself. blark. part 2 tomorrow.
EDIT: okay a much more natural break now. Better.
Rell was not having a good day. For one thing, the northern summer was in full swing. She still hadn’t gotten used to the sun burning with such intensity, and the atrium’s high roof had done little to mitigate the temperature. She had spent the whole afternoon stuck in this dead heat, serving customers who seemed more amused by her discomfort than annoyed by the heat. Perhaps one in ten had been up-and-coming merchants from the native population, easily distinguished by their dark hair and unadorned clothes, but most had been aristocrats from the empire’s eastern homelands, taller and fairer. The natives tended to deposit, while the lords and ladies were more often there to draw on credit from their families in the capital. Most of them had been too polite (or bored – it’s not as if she could tell the difference with nobles) to make any mention of her short temper and constant sweat, but every once in a while she’d gotten one who thought it would be hilarious to remind her of her social station. So far, her frayed nerves had held, but she wasn’t sure how much more she’d be able to put up with.
The natives had been, without exception, quiet and businesslike. A few had broken into a grin on seeing her, but they’d all had a look of sympathy along with their humour. As a foreigner, she was at least exempt from the tension that ran between them and their masters – if they found her amusing, they at least had didn’t see her as an enemy. Her next customer looked to be one of them – thank heavens – although his fine clothes and unusual height made him stand out as he approached the counter.
“Are you a teller?” His question came with a faintly mocking smile that set Rell on edge. She’d been in a mood to meet any sass with an acid remark, but her nerves told her she’d be better off sticking with a professional approach. She smiled and ignored both his funny look and the sweat running down the side of her face.
“I am, sir. Can I help you with your business?”
“Yes” was his only reply at first. He broke eye contact for a moment and stared at the crowds outside before quickly shaking his head and turning back to face her. “Yes! I’d like to make a withdrawal!” An absent-minded customer was the last thing Rell needed, but she still had a strange feeling about this one. ‘Caution leads to patience’, as the old women back home had been fond of saying.
“Can I ask you how much, sir? We’ve little to hand right now, and I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to wait if it will require us to fetch from the vault.” He smiled again, before answering: “All of it.”
Rell started. “I beg your pardon?”
“I said all of it.” He gestured over his shoulder as nearly thirty armed men poured in from the front doorway. “I didn’t bring them along for their conversation.”
“You’re stealing from us?”
Another smile. “Yes. I am indeed.”