Then, of course, the money ran out. He was back to scrabbling to pay rent and eating bread and going without dinner every now and then. He had a job, but it didn't pay well and his boss didn't like him. It was likely he'd get the talk that goes like, 'Oh, you've been such a good worker, but we really need to cut back on the spending and we're afraid we have to let you go.' Nevermind that they'd be hiring someone else a day or two later. He wasn't bitter. It had only happened once. Well, twice. Or possibly three times, he couldn't remember. Anyway, it wasn't paying enough, and screw those people, he didn't need them. He could smuggle things.
He didn't stop being good at it. He also didn't stop getting paid. And life was pretty good when he got paid. He didn't have to worry about making rent all the time, didn't have to constantly play the math game with every scrap of cash. Hell, sometimes he didn't even haggle, it felt great to just say, 'Yes, I'll take four' and not waste time on anything else. But the guy that had given him the first job got himself arrested and Veron didn't have things to smuggle. Or people to smuggle them for.
Right, well, he's a self-made man, he wasn't going to let that stop him. He knew the people to talk to, talked to them, and bam, he was back to smuggling. Life continued to be good. Until it didn't, and that happened when people started to ask him to smuggle dangerous things. He still did it, because by then he hadn't had a proper job in months and didn't plan on starting anytime soon. But it bothered him. Smuggling poisons and weapons and all sorts of - horrible things.
He solved that problem by going to certain folks and asking for things that they wanted. Being the guy that would go and find things and bring them in, instead of the middle man. That way, he had more control over what was going on. It worked out great, too!
For a while.
And then he was asked to smuggle a ton of fancy candles. He didn't think anything of it, they were candles. Candles didn't hurt anyone unless someone slipped while holding one and burned their house down. Anything could kill you if you were an idiot with it. He didn't have anything against candles. Who cares if someone wanted some fancy ones?
Well. It turns out that a specific kind of special candle, when used in the right way by the right person who knew all the right things were extremely dangerous. Not because of the candles themselves. Because of what the candles could be used to summon. Shadowy things. Shadowy things that were then sent to threaten people for protection money or used as backup or - any number of nasty things. Veron was not pleased. He was going to go tell the guy that he wasn't going to smuggle in any more evil fancy candles, but...
Then he realized that it was probably a bad idea to piss off a guy who summoned shadow things and set them on people. Veron kept his mouth shut. He smuggled more candles. In fact, he was in the middle of doing that right now - knock knock, creepy shadow guy, candle delivery.
(Ugh. He'd go to the paladins if he didn't think he'd be arrested too. And he hadn't known! That should cut him some slack! But this was the real world, and that didn't work in the real world.)
"Yeah. As I saw. Ugh. Shadow things. Paladins. Crazy people with crossbows. This is not what I signed on for. I'm a nice guy, I swear." Look, there's his charming smile, isn't it charming?
She finishes tying up Candle Guy, who is swearing, and moves on to Fuckbuddy.
"Look at me, doing as you say. Making no sudden moves. Practically a model citizen."
Now Fuckbuddy is also tied up.
"I'm going to bring you with me to the mayor and see what he'd like to do with you," she says. "I recommend following along docilely."
"Sure, following along docilely sounds wonderful. Like a pleasant little walk in the park."
"Winter Light, by your grace and to better follow you, I beseech your power grant me healing for this wound sustained in your service."
And now the wound is gone. She kisses the token around her neck, puts her gauntlets back on, and slings one prisoner over each shoulder.
He follows, docilely, thinking of ways to possibly make his escape.
"Calm," she says, and, "unless he runs."
The griffin peers at Veron with golden eyes.
The paladin puts the prisoners on her mount's back, and clucks to the griffin until he's arranged his wings over them so they'll be unlikely to slide off. Then she gestures to mount and ambulatory prisoner both.
"Um. You have. Very pretty feathers," he tells the griffin, following Kaja awkwardly.
The griffin squawks, displaying the sharpness of its beak, and also follows its paladin.
"I don't give false compliments!" he explains defensively. "I really mean it, you have pretty feathers."
"Ragnar cannot quite understand you, you know," says the paladin.
"Well, charm is the universal language."
"I am not sure you will find him charmable either."
"Well, you obviously haven't known me for very long. I'm very charming." Look, there's his charming smile.
"Perhaps this will work on the mayor. I met you under poorer circumstances."
"Trying to keep you from being shot was poor circumstances? I got punched. It hurt. A lot."
"Oh, that I appreciate. That would be why you aren't tied up. But you were helping to make woke shadows, and those serve no good purposes."
"Helping is sort of. Blowing things out of proportion. I didn't realize they were evil candles!"
"No? You thought he had peculiar decorating habits?"
"Some people," he says sagely, "are weird. I don't judge their weirdness. You really should publish information on what sorts of candles are evil, I would have avoided them."
"What exactly were you doing for him, anyway?"
"Aheh. I was the idiot smuggling the candles."
"And you think peculiar decorating requires smuggling."
"Well. Uh. Yes?"