Merchant Lawrence entertained his four young guests in a drawing room. As expected of a successful merchant, he was very hospitable. Servants brought refreshments immediately and the old man was in no hurry to move onto the negotiations. He talked with Zach about a variety of things setting a good mood.
"How many men are you looking to buy?" The old man asked as he looked at Zach straight in the eyes.
Zach maintained the eye contact and answered plainly, "As many as we can. It will also depend on how much you ask and can provide."
"I have more slaves than you could buy. You don't have to worry about that. Besides, I am sure you will offer me a higher price than the lords. The lords only need laborers after all. You guys on the other hand are looking for the slaves to form a mercenary band. I am not sure how well that will go." The merchant expressed his concerns regarding the plan. No slave would be happy if they were forced to pick up arms and put their lives in danger. There were few exceptions, but the chances of mutiny and desertion would be a real problem.
"That's our problem to handle. You only have to concern yourself over the slaves you sell us." Nathan replied coldly. He was a little too conscious regarding the matter of the mercenary band and didn't appreciate the skeptical view of the merchant.
"Of course, young master Nathan. That wasn't my intention at all. Please do forgive me if I overextended myself." The old man apologized and continued. "Let's discuss the price. A healthy male slave for 4 gold and a female for 2 gold. 5 gold if she is pretty."
Zach put on a sour expression. The price was higher than he had expected. He could understand that the increased demand for laborers drove the price up. "Is that the best offer you can make us?"
The merchant wiped off his signature smile and put on a serious expression. "Of course, I am only offering you this price because of the help I received from your grandfather in the past. I wouldn't offer this price even to the lords on whose good side I want to get on."
Zach was put on a difficult position. He was reminded of how much more expensive this had become after being unable to recruit men from the territory. In addition to the increased cost, the reliability of slaves in a battle was also very low. They were mostly used as workforce who followed the army from behind and took care of all the menial tasks and constructions of defensive structures.
They also needed to purchase weapons and armor after this and the cost would only be higher. Materials and craftsmanship were both more expensive than human lives in such a time after all.
Realizing the conundrum Zach was in, Lawrence excused himself and allowed the four youths some time to discuss on their own.
Zach looked at everyone briefly and spoke, "I have 300 gold for now. Nathan and Casper have a total of 100. If I recall correctly, Vincent you have 40 gold with you. We need to decide on how many slaves to purchase. There's also the matter of weapons and armor...."
Vincent cut off Zach, "I should be able to procure 200 to 300 gold in a month. I plan on heading to Istria and coming back. There's someone there who I can ask help from."
Everyone were surprised by the fact that Vincent had someone who could lend him so much money on a short notice. Zach brought his emotions under control. "If you don't mind me asking. Could you tell me who you are planning on borrowing from?"
"Spencer merchant guild. I know the young lady of the guild as well as guild master Spencer. He had told me to come find him if I ever found myself in need to money. Now that I do, I thought that I would go and make use of this opportunity." Vincent answered calmly to the question. He did have connection with Rachel and her father after all, it would be a waste not to make use of it.
"I see. That's good. We can buy better arms and armaments with the extra money. When will you set out?"
"After we make the petrifaction potion. I was thinking of selling it to the guild. It's an exceptionally rare potion after all. It will fetch a good price."
"Let's make it tomorrow then. I already have the side ingredients and the recipe ready."
"So, what do we do about the slaves? How many are we buying?" Nathan drove the conversation back to the original topic.
"The price is higher than we thought. More like, we are poorer than we thought. We have to inquire about the armor and arms as well. Making a decision without getting the full picture would be stupid. I think we should hold out on completing any transactions for now. The prices of weapons are also probably higher since everyone is tense because of the approaching war." Zach suggested holding out until they learnt about the arms and their prices. It was a reasonable suggestion and no one opposed to the idea.
They spent the next hour looking at the slaves Lawrence had to offer. Zach conveyed his wishes to inquire about arms before making any purchases. The old merchant was very welcoming of the decision and even gave some advice to Zach.
Sitting on the carriage as they were heading back, Vincent began once again. "You should purchase the slaves after getting an understanding of the arms' price. I will return with at least 200 gold, so let's keep 600 gold as our budget and proceed further."
Vincent was on his way to Istria. It had been more than a year since he was last there and his emotions were complicated. He calmed down and went through his plans once again in his mind.
He would sell the petrifying potions and the witch's diary. Rachel would surely be interested in it, especially since it was forbidden to possess things like these. Just this fact alone would make her want to get her hands on it. He hadn't figured out how he would explain that the diary was missing to Isabell but he decided to let future Vincent figure it out.