Have you noticed how some people might in themselves pose a problem, but are inadvertently the answer to a far larger problem? So you’re faced with the troubling realisation that you must somehow find a way to live with the lesser issue.
Galis Heeb was perhaps the definitive example of this phenomenon. In himself he was comparatively harmless. He made a reasonable living at the race course, mainly as a tout, paid by the bookmakers to ensure that the punters bet on horses which lost, or if they won, won at low odds. He’d been in the game for long enough to build up a stable of punters who he’d given winners to in the past and who were happy to pay him for further tips. He was not quite small enough to be a jockey but small enough to look as if he might have been one, so he was on his way to becoming a race course institution.
Now initially I had little to do with Galis, I’d known him for years, he was another street child who’d survived. No as our story starts I had other problems.
My problems were with two thugs, Hugga and Warn. Each had his own gang of unpleasantly muscular ruffians and they had started rival protection rackets which were spreading into Dilbrook. It all started out relatively innocently. Pay them so much a month and there were no unfortunate incidents; if you didn’t pay then footmen got into fights, maids were insulted and tradesmen were inconvenienced. But things started to get nasty when a second rate organiser of offensive orgies and dwarf throwing competitions, Morongo Rallon, paid them to ‘encourage’ my patrons to employ him rather than me. The situation was getting serious by the time I bumped into Galis. I’d been seeking to interest the landlady of the Black Grapes in the idea of letting me perform, in return for a meal and tips. Her clientele was somewhat martial, unemployed soldiery, lesser mercenary captains, the occasional Partannese brigand with affectations, and even an Urlan or two should there be any in the city. My thought was to deliver various martial poems, winning applause and tips. The landlady was not entirely convinced and I was told, “I’ll think about it.” This in anybody’s book means ‘No.’ So I was making my somewhat melancholy way out of the bar when Galis saw me and called me over. He asked me what my problem was and I explained about the depredations of Hugga and Warn. He dismissed them with a wave of his hand. “Consider the problem solved.” With that he bade me good night and he disappeared upstairs.
I wandered disconsolately out into the night but over the succeeding days I received news that cheered me. My patrons from Dilbrook who had been forced to use that swindler Morongo Rallon started contacting me. It appears that Hugga and Warn were now willing to let my keep my old patrons. Whatever Galis had done, it had worked.
Continue reading here: Knight Arrant?