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.)
"So if you do need me to land you will have to tell me so in words."
"Mhmmm. Which I can definitely do, because I'm talking now, and that is great."
Eventually they are back in town. She lands.
"I am going to sit down for a little while," he says, only slightly squeakily.
Ragnar watches him.
He doesn't do anything that is not sitting down and breathing. He is really glad he's back on the ground.
Kaja isn't back after an hour.
"... Shouldn't she be back by now...?" he wonders after the hour, squinting at the sun. He looks at Ragnar.
Ragnar looks at him. Ragnar makes a tweeting noise.
"Um. ... Look for Kaja," he tries. "Please?"
Ragnar squawks. He looks around, then looks at Veron again.
"... Find Kaja?"
Ragnar tweets again and continues looking at Veron.
"I have no idea how to talk to a griffin. I don't want to run off, but I do want to make sure your paladin is okay."
Ragnar growls in a liony manner.
Veron sighs. "Kaja. Where? Please. Just - sniff the ground, or something, lion birds are like hounds, right, that's how it works."
But hey! Here's Kaja, coming around the corner, fresh blood on her surcoat.
"Kaja," he says, immediately concerned and moving to check on her. "Are you okay..?"
"Calm," snaps Kaja, and Ragnar sits. "Yes, I'm fine, I healed myself. I found a shadow. The person who it had gotten to was not well."
"Oh. Um. Are they okay?"
"He may be eventually. The shadow's gone, anyway, and I explained to his family what had been going on."
"Right." Sigh. "Okay."
"Are you up to showing me where you think shadows may be now?"