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For a Small Fee; A Tale of Greed

For a Small Fee; A Tale of Greed

Way in the long ago, when D&D 4th edition came out, my husband and I decided to test it out with a short one-shot. We recruited my brother-in-law and a friend of his and set up a small group. I decided to try something outside my norm and created a Paladin. According to the rule book, Paladins need to have a god in order to manifest their divine powers – which god doesn’t so much matter. So I looked through the list and picked the silliest one; the god of money. And thus the character I affectionately refer to as The Money Paladin was born.

Recently, a friend invited us over for another one-shot and it seemed like the perfect time to dust this character off and give him a second spin. I had tons of fun with it. So when I started the second round of this seven deadly sins series, I just knew who had to get the role of Greed!

. . .

The shop looked much like the others with which it shared the street; uneven brick facade, wood shutters and once-colorful awning. The sign proclaiming the name of the tradesmith was so faded the name was barely visible, but the dark splash of the anvil made it easy to identify the business as a blacksmith’s. What made the building unique were the events of the previous evening. It might have been some time before it came to his attention otherwise.

Raytor paused a moment before he laid his hand on the shop’s door. He could almost sense the dark taint radiating from the interior. A shudder rolled down his back and he drew a deep breath, bracing himself as he entered.

The shop boasted a distinct metallic tang that was bound to hang in Raytor’s nose for the rest of the day. The shelves were sparsely populated with goods, in part because the craftsmen made most of their wares to order, and in part because of the unfortunate events of the evening prior. Raytor folded his hands behind his back and cleared his throat, hoping that would draw someone’s attention.

He didn’t have to wait long before an older gentleman bolted from the back room. His arms were bulky with muscle, likely from years spent working at a forge, and his beard was ever so slightly singed. He eyed Raytor with suspicion which only seemed grow deeper when he did not speak right away.

“Can I help you with something?” the man growled at last, tapping his beefy fingers against the counter top.

“Oh, quite the contrary, I believe I may be able to help you.”

“Look, kid, if you’re selling something, we ain’t buying.”

Raytor pressed his lips into a thin line to keep from scrunching them into an expression of distaste. He heard this particular phrase all too often. There were too many people in this city selling unreliable wares. He would have to remember to make mention of it when he got back to the temple. They might need to do something about that if legitimate merchants like himself were to prosper.

“Whoever you’ve spoken to before, sir, I don’t believe you’d count me among their number. I’m here because I heard of last night’s unfortunate incident. I believe your establishment was robbed?”

The shopkeeper’s entire demeanor changed. He stopped tapping his fingers, relaxed his shoulders and stood a little straighter. The boredom and borderline hostility disappeared from his face, replaced with respect.

“I see. Well, we don’t have many details about the incident, aside from the state we discovered the shop in this morning, but if you’re hoping to catch the culprit…”

Raytor flicked his wrist in dismissal. “I think we’ll leave that to the authorities, shall we?”

The shop keeper deflated again. “You don’t work for the guard?”

“Does this look like their uniform?” Raytor motioned to the traditional temple garb he wore. It was not as spectacularly decorated as the orders of other temples; his order favored humility, but it was cut from fine fabric and tailored specifically to fit him. It was a light shade of emerald, embroidered with the crest of his order in grey and black thread.

The shopkeep squinted, perhaps taking the measure of him for the first time. Raytor inched closer, thinking it might make it easier for the man to identify his insignia. Eventually, the old man gave up and went back to tapping his fingers against the counter top.

“I’m not sure what interest any church has in this incident, but if you aren’t going to help us catch the thief-“

“I’m afraid I’m not much of a hunter or a tracker, good sir, but I am well-versed in theft prevention. It’s what brings me here, in fact. We of the order of Mouqol understand the importance of a merchant’s ability to trade without obstacles. Obviously, theft is highly detrimental to both your profit and the quality of goods you’re able to produce. We are dedicated to the removal of those obstacles I mentioned and our charms are highly effective against thieves. If anyone dares to breach the sanctity of a shop blessed by Mouqol’s charms, a dark curse will descend upon them. And the church guarantees all of its charms for three years. If you are burgled during that time period, we will do our best to aid the recovery of the items, which is one of the features of our charms.” He finished his explanation with a winning smile. The monks were always stressing how important a winning smile was to the success of a sales pitch.

The old man regarded him for several seconds through narrowed eyes before he straightened and ran a hand through his beard. His expression grew increasingly thoughtful and Raytor held his winning smile until his cheeks positively ached.

“Never thought any of those churches would be interested in folk like us,” the shopkeep admitted. “Don’t know much about them. And I’ll admit I’ve never heard any of yours preach.”

“We don’t practice conversion like many of the churches do.” Raytor relaxed his face to a more comfortable expression. “We believe that anyone who participates in the free market is blessed by Mouqol. You need not worship our god to reap the rewards of his doctrine.”

“Well, if you’re going to help us keep these pesky thieves at bay… How do these charms work?”

Raytor explained the basics of setting the magic in place. It wouldn’t take him more than a quarter of an hour and he had several pre-prepared charms with him. He took them out of his pouch and spread them across the countertop for the shopkeep to inspect. “There is a small fee,” he said at the last. “The proceeds allow the church to continue offering services like these.”

Until he mentioned the fee, the shopkeep seemed impressed with the sigils spread across the countertop. Now he brushed them aside as if they were nothing more than fallen detritus. “I told you before, we aren’t interested in buying anything! This church of yours seems keen to take advantage of those of us who have fallen on hard times!”

Raytor carefully gathered each of the charms, making certain all were accounted for. But he didn’t yet put them back in his bag. “I beg your pardon, fine sir, but that just isn’t the case. We offer our services to everyone in the city. In fact, it has been my job for some weeks now to check with the local businesses and make certain those who are interested in divine security are provided for. But as you can see, there is only one of me, and the city is quite large. I have been focused on the central districts, closer to the temple, until now. But when I became aware of theft in this area of the city, it seemed my divine duty to change course. I will be working here for the next several days if you change your mind.”

He lifted the charms and began to slide them carefully back into his pack, noting out of the corners of his eyes the way the shopkeep’s eyes followed their slow disappearance. He yanked his gaze back to Raytor’s face and snarled, “I’ll bet you pay thieves to rove this city so that you can sweep in afterward to reap the rewards!”

Raytor let loose a little gasp and dropped the charms. Luckily, they were already most of the way into his pack, so none ever made it to the floor. Eyes wide, he lifted one hand to cover his mouth and whispered a brief prayer to reverse his fortunes after such a heinous accusation.

“What good would it do the church to hire brigands? It would cost more to keep them in line than to offer our protections. And what if they fell afoul of our own anti-theft charms? It would cost us even more to undo the damages. We ensure these spells, you know. We don’t just set them and waltz away never to be heard from again. Besides, we believe that everyone has a right to the profit they make for themselves. Why would we violate our highest beliefs in a vain attempt to line our own pockets? Have you ever met a dishonest paladin before? We’re all servants of the divine, no matter which god we serve!”

“Not sure I’ve ever met a paladin peddling their talents before,” the shop keep muttered, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Really? You must work hard to avoid the temple quarter, sir, if that’s what you think. Paladins of every order sell their talents – how would they ever make a living otherwise? Not every church provides for its practitioners the way mine does.”

“I’ve never heard of a paladin charging to heal the sick,” the shopkeep countered, resting his arms on the counter and leaning forward. “Or to feed the poor.”

“Well, no, but every church does those things. Have you ever asked a paladin to banish the undead? And I hope you never want to bring a loved one back to life, sir, because the cost is nearly astronomical. There’s no way a common, ordinary person could afford it.”

“There are paladins who can bring people back from the dead?”

“Sure – if you’ve got enough coin to see it done. My order is small, sir, and all we want is to provide charms to all the honest business people of the city. We can’t do that if we haven’t got the coin for proper materials. That’s all.”

“And it’s just the fee?” the shopkeep asked, his voice pitched upward. “We don’t have to sit through any speech about Mouqol’s greatness? No membership to the church required?”

Raytor chuckled lightly, careful not to make it a mocking sound. “No, no, just the fee. Like I said, it allows the church to continue producing charms. They’re quite effective at changing the energy of a place. When I came through the door, I couldn’t help noticing the dark taint the thief left behind. You wouldn’t want it affecting the future of your business.”

Again the man stroked his beard thoughtfully. Raytor could tell he was winning him over now, so he began to drop names. These were high-profile clients who regularly purchased charms for their private homes as well as their businesses and who were in good standing with the temple. Names that just about everyone in the city would know. He was careful not to mention discounts – it wouldn’t do to cheat the church out of a small amount of profit from the sale.

It took a quarter of an hour, but he eventually talked the shopkeep into the purchase. He called his fellows from the back and they spent several minutes arguing over which of the charms would suit them best while Raytor calmly explained the differences. They eventually settled on two and Raytor spent the next half hour activating them.

When the charms were set and the money had been counted twice, he bid the men farewell and stepped back onto the brightly lit, cobblestone street. He glanced at the shops stretching on either side of this one and anticipated several more sales. After all, if one shop in the district was robbed, it wasn’t hard to imagine others would soon be targeted. It might be something of a lucky break for him, actually, since he had been behind quota on sales.

Reaching into his pouch, Raytor tapped a gold coin for luck and made his way into the shop next door.

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