"Call them in. We will talk during breakfast."
The news that Vlad brough were dire indeed. With how everything went smoothly with Elia's family, I dared to actually forget that there was another suitor for Elia's hand! While I didn't want to plan anything with how little information I had on hand, it seemed that my journey back to the Tarnow would have to be put for the later date!
"Dear… What do you want to do about him?"
Approaching me and once again hugging herself to my arm, Elia asked me while looking at the closed doors, as if the place where her loyal servant stood was a trap ready to spring up and destroy everything that we achieved so far.
"I have some ideas, but I need to know more. If he is about to reach this place within a few hours, there will be less stuff that we could organise than if he only started gathering his troops. Don't forget how long it took us to rally everyone for our trip here!"
For now, the main problem was that my relationship with Elia was simply… unofficial. Without the blessing of the other influential nobles from the neighbouring lands and most importantly, helping hand of the governor of the province all three of us lived!
"Don't tell me you are going to abandon me now…"
Poking her finger into the side of my waist, Elia attempted to lighten the mood with a slight joke, but just a single glance at her face told me that she was just as tense as I was. Even her silly attempt didn't manage to disperse the air of worry that started to gather in the room.
"Of course not. On the other hand, I'm considering whether to marry you right here and now. But for now, let's head to the dining chamber. Standing here and worrying over the matter won't bring us closer to solving it."
Not waiting for her reaction, I simply trodded forward while making sure she would be unable to free her hands that she herself wrapped around my arm. In the end, instead of resisting, Elia only hugged herself even tighter to my arm and followed my steps.
From the guest-chamber that we spent the night in, through the main corridor of the living wing of the mansion, we paced through the gap between stone walls towards one of the bigger places in the entire building.
With no surprise, both of our guests were already there. Sitting at the table and impatiently hitting his fingers against the wood was Vlad, with someone I didn't have the chance to be acquaintance with yet.
"Welcome to our mansion, Mayor Vlad. And who might be the person on your side be?"
Announcing our arrival as to prevent them from being startled, I nodded slightly to the mayor before turning my sight towards the other person, calmly sipping on the vine on Vlad's side.
"Good morning, Sir Mike, Lady Elia. This person here is my brother, Basil. He is one of the merchants tasked with supplying the city with all its necessities."
Standing up and actually pulling his brother's arm as to make him stand as well, Vlad bowed in response to my greeting while introducing the other person. Looking at them, there was indeed some resemblance between their faces, albeit while Vlad was fit, if not to say skinny, his brother was exactly like the picture you would have in mind when thinking about rich, medieval merchants. Wider than higher!
"Let's not waste time then."
Stepping forward, I pulled the chair at the opposite side of the table as to when Vlad and his brother were sitting, and allowed Elia to sit, before helping her push the chair forward and sitting myself.
"We were told you have some information regarding Peter Hellan, the owner of the city of Ropian, assembling his army with the intention of marching to this town. I would like you to elaborate on this topic."
There were only two possibilities. Either that damned guy was already in town with Basil aiming to stall for time, or there was still some time left for us to react. In the first case, there was no way to avoid the bloodshed, but comparing the relative wealth of Tarnow and Ropian, I was sure that the escort I brought with me would be far more than enough to repel his advances with the help of the local guards.
On the other hand, with how slow everything was happening in this day and age, if he had even a bit of time, wasting a few minutes at calmly analyzing our situation would only do us good.
"I will pick up from there, then."
Finally putting aside the glass of vine, Basil cupped his hands over the table and looked at me. With his burrows furrowed and corners of his lips sinking closer to his jaws and making the fat from his cheeks cover them completely, I was unable to tell whether he was happy or worried.
"Most of the time, I'm travelling between the nearest settlements, like Ropian, Tarnow or Biec to the south. This time, I was returning from the further east, bringing some wares from the Resovia, when I passed through Ropian with hopes of selling off part of my products and buying something else that was locally cheaper and could bring me some profit here."
Spreading his arms as his eyes took on a dreamy look, Basil seemed to suddenly fall into the depths of his imagination.
"I soo wish you could see that! Local moonshine for a silver per gar? Jewellery sold according to its weight rather than its worth? The amount of money I can always make thanks to this warlord is insane! He is truly a star of skirmishers! It's a pity he refused to journey further south against Tatars thought…"
Hearing how this guy was blatantly praising the rival of mine that I was about to most likely start a war with, I inadvertently tightened my fists. Only Elia's hands placed on my knee and her calming smile prevented me from cracking the skull of this dumb merchant open to check what was wrong with his brain.
"Mister Basil, I invited you to hear about what you saw in Ropian, that's true, but instead of wasting our time at the things that do not interest us in the slightest, how about you tell us something that we would really like to know? After all, a successful merchant like you, should know how to earn a proper reward?"
Recalling a scene from the Polish historical drama about this period, when a young, noble servant of a major noble of a similar status to me was saved by the friends of said noble, I couldn't help but smirk. Both in that scene of the movie and in my current situation, there was someone that had the knowledge others desired, yet was wasting his saliva speaking about matters no one gave two fuckings about. With no big companion of mine to squeeze the juices out of the merchant's hand while asking him in a kind voice to speak about the truly important matter, I could only flaunt the only thing that this merchant seemingly cared about, in front of his eyes.
"Ah, I was soo busy with trading that I didn't really have time to worry about that stuff…"
My firsts once about tightened, ready to smash this damned fatso head, when Vlad actually did me yet another favour and sank his surprisingly tough fist in his own brother's belly.
"Okay, okay! I will speak! He was almost finished with forming his party. From the amount of food he was bringing with him and how I heard it was assumed that they could restock in here… He will bring about a hundred men with him."