23 'A' Deal Not 'I'-deal

     Raleigh couldn't be exactly sure about what was going on but he knew a lucrative opportunity to make massive profits when he saw one. As he finished reading the letter, a greedy little grin could be seen spreading across his face.

     Raleigh shifted his gaze to Garen and noticed he was still quite anxious about his circumstances.

     "Garen, be at ease! I'm quite certain that we are indeed dealing with a sorcerer. Thus, it was impossible for you to have resisted Miss Snape's power. Worry not, for not only have you done nothing wrong but, by delivering this letter, you've opened up a massive opportunity for our organization." Raleigh reassured his employee and then immediately he stood up from his chair.

     "Borden, Tagert, Yellin, you three come with me. Everyone else, you are dismissed for tonight. This meeting will be postponed until tomorrow night. This letter," Raleigh looked down and picked up the letter only to notice that almost all of the ink had disappeared. "...has revealed to me an irresistible and temporary opportunity and so I must make haste.

     "Garen, rest assured you will be compensated for your good work. Now, leave me! I have other matters to attend to!"

     Everyone present excepting those who were called out left the room without protest. Garen in particular was feeling not only relieved but also quite happy about potentially receiving a reward for delivering the letter. He could now rest easy tonight and not be completely on edge about tomorrow night's delayed meeting.

     "Borden, prepare my carriage!" Raleigh ordered, as he walked over to a portrait on the wall and pulled it open like a door, revealing a safe set into the wall. He then worked open the safe and continued instructing his men.

     "Tagert, help me count out five thousand ducats. Yellin, contact the innkeeper. Tell him to place extra guards on the cellar entrance and keep it empty until morning. Then grab three large coin pouches and join us."

     Ten minutes later, Terrance and his entourage hopped into the carriage that was waiting behind the Iron Wheel Inn and set forth towards the abandoned building on the south side.

     Arriving at the abandoned building a few minutes later, the four of them dismounted and approached the entrance.

     The area around that building was quite dark, as the nearest light source seemed to be more than fifty meters away. They could just make out a candle burning in a window at the end of the street, with all else around them being exposed only by dim moonlight. The building in question seemed completely unoccupied, with the exception of the front door hanging open and revealing the property's dark and dusty interior.

     Terrance ordered his men to standby and guard the coach, until he returned. He causally began approaching the doorway but his pace continued getting slower and slower the closer he drew.

     With many years of experience under his belt, Terrance was well accustomed to such situations and normally he would perceive a situation like this as a trap or some other scheme. He knew, however, that he was dealing with a sorcerer and a sorcerer of any level of strength could kill him and his men quite easily, if they so desired. There was absolutely no reason for a sorcerer to go through a charade like this unless they were genuinely looking to make a deal. 

     So, even though he knew the likelihood of this being a trap was almost nil, his instincts still roused within him a slight tinge of nervousness.

     After stopping just in front of the doorway, Terrance stepped across the threshold and continued forward slowly and cautiously into near complete darkness.

     Three steps later, the door behind him shut and locked itself and a female voice was heard coming from the darkness in front of him. "Gavella glan!"

     Suddenly, the entirety of the building's bottom floor was lit up and he could now see his contacts before him. Three people in front all wearing dark green hooded cloaks. Two tall dark haired men on the sides and a young buxom lass wearing a dark blue dress with a low cut neckline that revealed a unseemly amount of her bounciness, in between the two men.

     Behind them stood a person a few inches shorter than the two bodyguards, dressed in a black hooded cloak that seemed to effectively conceal the person's face in shadows despite the light radiating from the person. The black cloak was also quite billowy and made the discernment of their gender quite difficult. Regardless, Raleigh had his suspicions that this was in fact Miss Cleverus Snape.

     "Greetings, Mr. Raleigh! Professor Snape thanks you for following the given instructions and welcomes you to this meeting of potential business partners. Oh, and don't worry, no one outside of this building will be able to see or hear anything happening inside here. The Professor has seen to that." The busty lass in blue greeted him.

     Hearing these words and finally seeing his contacts, the little bit of nervousness he'd felt quickly vanished. Sure the two bodyguards were well armed and the sorcerer behind them was truly capable but the fact that they were standing there calmly with weapons sheathed clearly indicated they were not hostile. This set him at ease and allowed him to quickly enter his businessman mindset and do what he knew best.

     "Ah, I see! That's certainly good to hear. It would seem that Professor Snape is quite the capable sorcerer. I'm honored that he would choose me to sell these secret products to. Might I ask your name young miss?"

     The young woman looked at him with a sweet smile and replied in an even sweeter voice. "No. You may not. But…" At that moment, a short wooden crate filled with bottles of potion could be seen floating past the girls left shoulder and coming to a stop midair between him and her. "...you may sample one of our potions, so that you might confirm its effects before committing to anything."

     Looking at the crate of potions, Terrance could see that the crate itself was quite small with its walls being shorter than the potion bottles. He felt as though it were actually more reminiscent of a tray but the bottles it contained were the real attraction. They were transparent glass bottles which revealed a syrupy pale yellow liquid within. The liquid seemed to radiate the dimmest of lights and was quite captivating to behold.

     "Although, be warned Mr. Raleigh, even should you choose not to make a purchase, you will still have to pay for the sample, which we've initially priced at three thousand ducats per bottle."

     Raleigh had been staring longingly at the potions before him and was about to reach out his hand to grab one. Hearing the price for just one, however, made him stop and gulp down his saliva.

     He could afford this price, since he had actually brought more than that with him but the crate floating before him held forty potions. He was certain that, even if he called upon all of his liquid assets, he probably wouldn't be able to purchase the entire crate.

     Also, managing to find a buyer for these potions just became exponentially harder. Even among the wealthier citizens of Ban Glean, few were likely willing to fork over that much money for an untested product. As he suspected, the achievement of the first sale of this product would be the hardest to deliver. 

     After that initial sale, however, word of mouth and repeat patronage should help him off load the rest.

     Raleigh only hesitated for a moment, before handing over the large money bag containing exactly three thousand ducats. He was glad he had thought to bring plenty of ducats to this meeting but lamented that he could only purchase one for tonight.

     Instead of stepping forward to take the pouch, the girl remained in place and the pouch was removed from his grasp by an invisible force as it floated towards the girl and a potion from the crate picked itself up and floated towards his outstretched hands.

     After receiving the potion bottle, Raleigh inspected the liquid carefully, shook it a little, and even gave it a sniff after he unstoppered it. 'So, this is the mystery product. It doesn't look like any Apothecarial brew I've ever seen and it looks to have been touched by Chaos, if I'm not mistaken.'

     "Before you drink it, perhaps you should establish a baseline by going against one of our men. The potion you have in your hands can slightly increase one's resistance to pain, while substantially increasing one's strength." One of the bodyguards then stepped forward and placed his open palmed hands up in front of him.

     The revelation of the potion's effects stunned him momentarily but he quickly regained his composure.

     Terrance wasn't the strongest of men but he also wasn't weak by any measure. He had a fairly decent amount of well defined muscle and could usually handle himself in a fight and so he stepped forward confidently, ready to test himself.

     Placing himself in front of the bodyguard, he sent out a basic jab at the man's right palm only to find that, despite the expected sensation of hitting flesh, muscle, and bone, it seemed rather like he had punched a statue.

     Neither the man's hand nor arm or body seemed to move at all and so he threw out another punch. Yet, the same result followed and, no matter how hard he swung his fist, the man remained a statue.

     Terrance was slightly in awe of the bodyguard's strength, as he was certain that his own much larger bodyguards probably wouldn't hold a candle to them. The man undoubtedly had amazing strength, especially when considering the bodyguard's muscle mass didn't seem to be that much more substantial than his own.

     After several failed attempts to move the bodyguard even an inch, he finally realized it was pointless and gave up.

     "Now, drink the potion and it should only take a few seconds before you feel the effects. Then you can try again." The buxom lass coaxed him with her still soft and sweet voice.

     He had already concluded that this meeting wasn't some kind of trap and, although he was a bit nervous about ingesting a foriegn substance, he saw no reason to hesitate after coming this far. Taking the bottle in hand, he gave it another quick inspection before turning it up and downing all of its contents.

     Just as the girl had said, it only took a couple of seconds before he noticed that his body felt much lighter. As he began flexing his limbs and digits, he felt a surge of raw power that had certainly not been there previously!

     He felt invigorated, invincible, invulnerable!

     It took all of his self control to bring himself down from the high this new power was pushing him towards. He refocused on the statue of a bodyguard in front of him and then sent out another punch.

-----

     Gilly had been rather pleased with the new cloaks that Troy had made for her, Jorgen, and Geralt. Pretending to be a hideous old man was doable but not desirable. Pretending to be a beautiful young woman with a plump and desirable body, however, was much more enjoyable.

     She hadn't really thought that she would derive much joy from her employment with the witchers but, surprisingly, she actually managed to find some mild satisfaction in performing this charade for them.

     It wasn't much but it was more than she had previously and she felt herself becoming more and more grateful towards her employers. Of course, the fact that she no longer needed to worry about food, shelter, debt, or clothing was another major factor in her recently improved disposition.

     Gilly stood within the magically illuminated building and watched, as Raleigh's fist impacted with Jorgen's open palm again. This time, however, it had a substantial impact and forced Jorgen to shift his footing, in order to maintain his balance.

     After realizing he could now make the bodyguard move, Raleigh renewed his assault on Jorgen's open palms.

     Even though this was just a demonstration, Jorgen was having trouble maintaining his deflecting open palmed stance, while enduring Raleigh's now much more impressive strength.

     Their little spar continued for a couple of minutes, until Gilly finally called a stop to the demonstration. "Alright, Gentlemen, I believe that should be more than sufficient as far as a convincing demonstration is concerned. How about it, Mr. Raleigh, are you satisfied with the results? It's effects should remain active for close to an hour, after which there are no known side effects."

     Raleigh looked at his hands and responded, "Absolutely! This potion of yours is unbelievable! I wasn't entirely sure what to expect whenever I came here but it certainly wasn't this! I'm in, all the way! If this is what you want me to sell, I'll empty out all of my reserves tonight and buy as many as I can, if needs be."

     "Now, just slow down there, Mr. Raleigh! There's no need to hurry. The Professor likes to keep things according to the plan and there was no sale planned for tonight. Tonight's only purpose was to reveal the product and confirm your cooperation. If you wish to make a purchase, use your time tomorrow to think things over and collect the required funds. Meet us tomorrow night at this same location and follow the same rules.

     "Since we're establishing a business relationship, you would do well to note that the Professor, as stated in her letter, is adamant about maintaining absolute secrecy and anonymity. What this means, is that you should not presume that simply because Cleverus Snape is an alias that you are free to spread this name around at your leisure. 

     "This means that you will speak none of the names offered to you unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary for you to speak a name, you will use only the name 'The Professor' and nothing more. If anyone comes to us with the names 'Cleverus' or 'Snape,' never mind whether that person will live or die, you will have some serious explaining to do, regardless. 

     "Also to be noted, is that the price we've given you applies only to this specific potion, which we are calling 'Forceful Ocher.' We reserve the right to alter the price of this or any future potions at any time based on our own speculations regarding their market value and any prices stated are final and nonnegotiable.

     "Lastly, anytime we meet you'll be expected to follow all of the stipulations of this meeting. No more than three extras, your extras will remain outside while you deal with us as alone, and additionally you will tell no one of the time, place, nature, persons, or products involved with these meetings.

     "With that being said, if you are amenable to these conditions, then simply say so now and we will look forward to seeing you here tomorrow night."

     Raleigh took in and processed all this information rather quickly and, although he didn't particularly like some of the conditions, he knew fair well that this was an opportunity that was too good to pass up and those conditions weren't harsh enough to put him off the deal.

     Dealing with someone like a sorcerer was dangerous business, especially for those foolish enough not to respect their power. Raleigh was a prideful man, who commanded and even demanded respect, but he was no fool and he knew when he was in the presence of his betters. He knew when to keep his head down and when to pay his own respects.

     "Of course, young miss. I understand and agree to all of the Professor's conditions. I'll be…" His words were cut short, as all of the light in the room was banished and darkness reclaimed the abandoned building's interior.

     The door he had entered also opened itself up, after the lights went out. Standing in the near complete darkness with neither a sight nor sound of his business partners and the open door behind him, he understood that he was being dismissed.

     He found the way in which the Professor chose to conduct business to be a bit jarring. However, when considering the Professor's power and especially when considering the profits to be made, he wasn't tempted in the slightest to start complaining about his circumstances.

     Feeling quite satisfied that everything had gone down smoothly and fairly excited at the prospect of acquiring such precious merchandise for himself, Raleigh walked happily out of the building and returned to the Iron Wheel Inn.

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