Arnett knocked energetically before he entered the field office of Little Cyprian. The office had changed so much since the last time Arnett had been here. Instead of the old small desk that worked as Cyprian Halloway's work desk. The maps and paperwork that used to cover the walls had been replaced by bear walls and a large painting. Arnett was shocked to see a pair of winged back chairs next to a small table with a corked decanter with water in it sitting next to a few glasses.
Instead of an empty desk or old Cyprian, there sat a young woman in a fancy full dress. She pulled back her hair into a poofy fail, he hair falling below her shoulders. She looked up from her papers and smiled at Arnett politely. She stood as he approached.
"How can I help you today, sir?" she asked.
"I hope ol' Cyprian is still around," said Arnett.
"Do you have an appointment?"
The woman pursed her lips. Arnett looked around the office again.
"Man, things have changed around here," said Arnett, "Is he in? Tell him Lieutenant-"
"Arnett!" came a cry from behind the woman, "Oh! Rowena, dear, please show the good Lieutenant in, if you will."
Rowena and Arnett smiled at the same time, and she gestured for Arnett to follow her around the desk. She turned and headed to the back wall. She lightly pushed on a section of wall, and a door popped open towards her. She lightly opened it up and waved Arnett inside.
Arnett walked inside the office, not hiding his bewildered face. The office was apart of a large addition to the building he had known. It had a lush red carpet, and several winged back arm chairs of high quality. A massive, dark, wooden desk took up most of the room. It must have been made of imported wood, very expensive.
And behind the desk, standing and smiling at him, was Cyprian Halloway. Although he was maybe in his late forties, he had been exploring the Hoganmar since before Arnett started with the Scorpios II.
"Joel! Good man!"
"Cyprian! What is all this? I cannot believe your good fortune!"
"Yes, the Hoganmar has been good to me recently," smiled Cyprian as he shook Arnett's hand, "Please, sit."
"So much has changed," said Arnett, "I am so happy to see you have prospered."
"Prospered is an understatement, I'm practically rich my friend," said Cyprian, "All my good work has come to fruition.Have you heard? These peculeraties I pull from the mountain and the glaciers are now worth their weight in iron. In Steel. In Silver! And that is not all. Costs have decreased. Remember how hard I struggled for employees? I lack for none these days."
"I am impressed," said Arnett, "Maybe this year the Scorpios II will need to make two trips."
Cyprian sighed, his smile slowly fading, "Joel, we have got to talk. I was afraid this day would come."
Arnett raised an eyebrow, but respectfully waited for Cyprian to proceed. Cyprian took out two tumblers from a drawer and poured them both a glass of gin. He handed one over to Arnett while sipping on his own. Arnett grabbed it, but looked down at his boots.
"You see, Joel, there's a reason for our success. You see last year they expanded the railway," Cyprian said "And there's a new station in Drybrooke. That's brought a lot of good business up this way. People from farther away can more easily travel up here. That has provided us with the much needed workers we needed. So I have more people assisting me on digs. On top of that, I was able to order new equipment and get it shipped up here cheaper. I only need to go get it in the next town over."
Cyprian sighed, "Of course, this also means... that I only need to take my goods over to Drybrooke. This means not only is it a much shorter distance, but I can make the trip more often. It means I... can easily do it myself. I'm.. I'm so sorry. I am afraid I don't... have need to ship anything via the Scorpios II."
Arnett nodded. He stared at his boots for a moment.
"What about bandits?" said Arnett, "You know, the last time we had a run-in with the McCoughly brothers I'm pretty sure they-"
"The McCoughly brothers?" asked Cyprian, "Joel, when was the last time you were in these parts? Walther McCoughly died. His wife poisoned him. Ronald and Ulric split and formed seperate gangs. Both of those gangs were taken down by that Chief Sandoval."
"Chief Sandoval?" asked Arnett.
"Joel... when was the last time you actually had to fight off anyone? I... Joel. Things..."
"No, it's ok, Cyprian," smiled Arnett, "I wouldn't want you to make bad business decisions. Honestly. I am happy for your success. This is a good thing."
"Lieutenant, It's honestly nothing personal, and I am glad I get to see you again," Cyprian continued, "You have honestly kept me going for years. Do you remember back when we first started?"
"You found a rock," smiled Arnett "No one could help you lug your rocks over the desert. Your wagon's wheel had fallen off."
"They were fosilized poop," said Cyprian, "And vertibrate of a long gone snake. No mere rocks."
"Not even the bandits wanted you," smiled Joel.
"No. But you helped me out," smiled Cyprian, "For a fee, of course... but you never squeezed me, Joel. You were always so reasonable with your prices. Didn't matter if I had jewels, ore, or... rocks. Honestly, I wouldn't be here without you. I always... I always wished you would see the same success."
"Why do you think I haven't seen success?" smiled Arnett.
"Joel... you come back here year after year," said Cyprian, "Always alone."
"I like you, Halloway," said Arnett, "And I'm not always alone."
"Joel," said Cyprian, "You... you didn't come last year, or we would've already had this conversation. I had hoped for the best, but you and I both know it is most likely some sort of tragedy occured."
Arnett said nothing, instead downing the rest of his drink. Cyprian nodded.
"I wasn't lying when I said I am happy to see you, friend," Cybrian leaned back in his chair, frowning, "But the life you lead... Hell, Antiford is changing. The railines are growing. The airships are adapting. There are man like that Sandoval guy... putting down relics like McCoughly brothers. It's hard to think that the age of Istoki bandits, airship pirates, and desert wanderers will soon be over."
Arnett shook his head, "They've said that before. Every time a new fangled thing comes along, they believe it the death of the old ways. And yet... here we are. Pirates. Highwaymen. And heroes."
"Maybe," said Cyprian, "Anyways, as I said: I have nothing for you today besides good company and good news."
"That's alright, Cyprian," said Arnett, "I am more then happy by your good fortune. I am also happy to hear of your safety. Orr would be a better place without outlaws."
"You are welcome to stay," said Cyprian, "I would love to invite your crew and yourself to dinner. I'm sure this was a long way to come for nothing."
"Please, Cyprian. It's alright."
Arnett put down his glass on the desk and rose to his feet. Arnett was wearing a smile, and reached out his hand to shake Cyprian's.
"Until next time, old man," said Arnett, "You always know how to reach me."
"I want you to be safe, Joel," said Cyprian, "And... Joel. If things... You understand... Joel, you always have a place here. Honest work. Good pay. I will always have a place for you here."
Arnett nodded, "Thanks, Cyprian."
Arnett had crossed the front office and was heading for the front door when Cyprian appeared from his back office and called for him to stop. Arnett turned, seeing the look of anguish on the old man's face.
"Joel... I know you are busy," started Cyprian, "But... I might have something if you want to help me out.It's a far bit smaller then what you are normally used to, but it's paid work and easy enough and will help me out. If you can wait until tomorrow evening... I could use an extra run of a small shipment being brought over to Drybrooke for shipping. It would allow me to work my team overtime tonight and tomorrow and would allow for extra time for us to work on the next shipment. I also have a letter that needs sending. It isn't much, but it's work and it would help me out."
"Of course, if you would take me up on my dinner offer you would be around anyway. However I understand that you are a busy man," Cyprian nodded, "I would understand if you had to move along."
"Cyprian," said Arnett, shaking his head, "It's not... business with me. It's personal. You know If I can, I will always help. If it would truly help you, I'm all in. I would also love to have dinner with you this evening. However, if you're just asking out of-"
"It would truly help me out and save me some time and money," said Cyprian.
"Well then, it's a deal," smiled Arnett.
"Wonderful. We'll talk over the cost tonight at dinner and you can regail me with tales of your adventures!"