Out if the three groups and beyond expectation, the Tiny Rats looked like healthy and capable adults unlike their counterparts. Just their name made it easy to underestimate them, but that visage, or illusion if you will, was shattered the second Jonas saw their leader and lieutenants walk into the tent that was set in between the walls and the camps set up near the tree line.
Jonas thought each group would look like nothing more than the villagers and average Big Cats, but he couldn't be more wrong. Though it was only that group that seemed to have gotten things to eat. He wondered why? Did their choice in path have something to do with it? Or was it because they were the strongest group?
On the other hand, The Grey Boars looked just like the villagers with exception to their leader who was a giant compared to the rest. Almost the size of Gregor himself if they were to stand shoulder to shoulder. Just a few inches shorter than his guard.
The man must suck all nutrients from his surrounding for such a disparity to happen. He'd have to be extra careful around that man, especially if he could leach off anything he had, not just his strength.
"Welcome." Jonas greeted as the three groups finally sat down in front of him. Each person just a bit different than the other. "I've come to learn you wish to discussion something of import with my person."
Fancy. Let them think him nothing more than a typical noble. Being underestimated, Jonas learned, quite well and on more than one occasion, that it was easiest to trick and ambush someone who thinks you are beneath them. They never expect you to do something competent enough to completely obliterate them.
The Big Cats leader, a thin man with the most average looks—dusty mop of hair, middling nose, and emaciated—and feeling about him. Though he reeked of power based upon what Ash had explained to him the moment they laid eyes on them. Just as strong as she was, which boggled Jonas's mind.
Ash fought the two dandy generals and made them look like kids fighting a kung fu master. And now a man who she considered almost as strong as she was stood in front of him as equals. More like they showed a bit of deference to him, though why he didn't understand.
Wouldn't it be par with the course to have bandits being disrespectful of all authority and especially what would be considered the origin of their woes. Nobles were supposed to be the big bad wolves. The monsters in human skin. Right?
That was what he would make sure was drilled into his men to justify their actions and evil.
Then again, he wasn't a bandit king. Pirate king maybe, but not a bandit king.
That reminded him, what were Hue and Jalen up to on their mission to make the multiple armadas of pirates. For all he knew they could have sunk to the bottom of the seas, though that seemed beyond improbable with how capable Hue was.
But that was beyond the point.
"It is our honor to meet such an esteemed member of high society...err...Lord…" The man had a silver tongue to say the least.
"Jonas Markus Levitus. Lord Levitus to you." Jonas smiled, he enjoyed playing the part of dandy. The three men before him looked utterly convinced of his persona. "You have yet to explain the reason for this meeting. It would behoove you to quicken this farce before I find no reason to grace this dirt stained existence. Steaming pools of water and drinks of cool fruit would make my day wonderful, don't you think?"
The tiny rats leader began to nod which surprised Jonas more than the disguised reactions of disdain and even a tinge of hate that came from the other leaders. It seemed the man had some taste for a lowly bandit, if he actually was. For all Jonas knew, he could be noble in disguise instead of the bandit he acted like. That would also explain how he and all his men looked so healthy and powerful.
Knights the entire lot of them before they had to struggle to reach the first stage of the Path. Or he could actually be a bandit.
He'd have to find out.
The big cats leader put a fist on his chest in what seemed to be a fake gesture. It looked alien to him, like he had just been instructed how to salute a higher noble on the caste. "Lord Levictus, we come to offer our salutations-"
"Save the pleasantries for those who would care to hear it. Get to the point or this meeting will end now." Jonas had more than he could take on his plate. Not only did he have to get the people of the city to eat slowly to get used to the amounts of nutrients they had begun to receive, he had to make sure the greenhouses actually work.
Everything he planned from here on out relied on them succeeding.
As he cut off the big cats leader, the three bandits standing before him in the large and luxurious tent looked at each other with conflicted expressions. They wanted to say something, but whatever it was, they were not forthcoming with it.
Seeing this, Jonas perked up and gave Ash a discreet look while the bandits spoke with eye movements and twitches. They had to be careful from here on out. No underestimating anyone, always expect the best from his foes. For all he knew they could have the greatest plan already set and in motion, so he had to make sure he disappoints and foils it before it even begins.
"Well then?" Jonas said. He wasn't about to give them enough time to think this through.
The tiny rats leader stepped forward.
That caused a subconscious reaction as Ash, Gregor, and even Frezar take a step closer to him. Their hands were on their weapons. No chances will be taken, no betting against the odds.
Jonas thanked the Father for making sure Raneria didn't show up. Not only would it have been quite the problem to have an Orc with him as he met the bandits, she would have already swung at them and clobbered one to smithereens. That would have ended all negotiations and talks between the two groups.
Just her mere presence made everything harder for Jonas.
"Peace," the tiny rats leader said with hands raised and palms empty. "I am known as Ioral. Behind me stand the other members of the council of bandits. Fefar of the Big Cats, and Lank from the Grey Boars. There are other bandit leaders, but they are muc to weak to stand on our level."
Jonas made sure the man, Ioral, saw and headed him drum his fingers on the table before him impatiently. Introductions should have been finished the instance they entered the tents for the meeting.
Ioral cleared his throat. "We've come to seek asylum in the village of Harum, which you've requisitioned for your stop. We would be willing to remunerate you for all losses you incur and even pay a forward payment for that right-"
"I will not have bandits in my village. Much less any with even a single muscle of competence in them. It would amount to suicide on the best occasions." Jonas interrupted. Who in their right mind would let ten thousand plus bandits into a city where they commanded much less than that. Almost four bandits for every single soldier loyal to him.
"We are here to negotiate. There must be a price you are willing to accept."
"Ten million gold coins."
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