Petronius laid back on the bed, sweaty and out of breath. Two bodies laid next to him, subtly fighting to domination to be the one to take most of his body. They eventually came to a stand still while the dying fire allowed the cold to creep in. Petronius nudged the body to his left.
“Put some more wood on the fire, these thin blankets don’t really do much in the way of warmth.”
The man stood up and threw some logs on the fire and stoked it. Warmth crept slowly back to the room as the woman stirred to his right stirred. Petronius smiled, “I didn’t mean to wear you out so much.” The woman smiled. To save his own life he could not remember the names of the two he had spent such a passionate night with. It wasn’t that he couldn’t, but that he didn’t care.
“What do you do Jack?”
Jack. A name he used lately. It was better that people not know his real name. Once he gained too much notoriety under one name, he shed it for another. Right now, as far as the outside world was concerned, his name was Jack.
“I am a wondering magician.”
“Last I checked that doesn’t pay that well,” the male said. Petronius smiled. “Not yet gorgeous, but one day I will create something great. I will find some poor sap to propel to greatness and that person will be so magnanimously in my debt that they will have no choice but to shower me with wealth.”
“So you charm people?” the woman asked. Did she share a name with a bird? Robin? Sparrow? No, sparrow was a common term for a thief. “No, I simply help people who don’t know that they needed it in the first place.”
“So you’re a con man,” the man (Bob?) said as he climbed in next to him. “Con man is such a nasty term, I prefer magician.” The woman frowned, “So you only have your best interests in mind.” This wasn’t entirely true. Petronius was fiercely loyal to his friends, when he had them. The last one was killed years ago, the wound still feels fresh. He hasn’t quite been able to let someone else in. “No, my sweet” (Pigeon? No, that’s silly) “I will help a friend out when in need.” The girl smiled. (Was it not a bird? It might have been something terribly mundane, that would be disappointing. What if it was something like Tammy? Ugh. Tammy.) The night slowly turned into dawn. Petronius crept out of bed, making as little sound as possible. He packed his things and pushed the door open slowly. It creaked. The damned thing creaked. The woman stirred. “Where are you going?” Petronius turned his head with a smile. “To find my king, sweet thing.”
Jack walked slowly down the road, it was warm that day, a perfect day for meandering down a road. There seems to be a terrible stereotype that con men come from tragedy and poverty. This was not the case with Petronius. He was born into a wealthy family. Not nobility, but a merchant. That is where he got his skills. All merchants in those days were con men, and still are by his reckoning, his father just happened to be rather skilled at it. When Petronius was young he would sit at the store front, listening to his father tell convoluted lies to peddle his wares. The most ridiculous things he ever heard to this day still came from his father’s mouth. “There are two things you need to know about getting someone to buy your product. The first is that you always should tell them what they want to hear. Ugly people want to hear how pretty they are and beautiful people how magnanimously humble. Flattery will get you a lot farther than is fair in this world, son. The second is that in every exaggeration there needs to be a root of truth. Not just any truth, but the one that is easily researched, most fools find the easiest thing to research and once they confirm that, they are satisfied, no matter how ridiculous the rest of it is.”
Petronius hadn’t really grasped the importance of what he was saying, or even if it was important at all. What mattered, in the long run, was that it stuck. When Petronius was old enough he was sent off to school. “A true salesman” (he took to calling himself a salesman in those days, although none were quite sure what that meant. There were salesman before him, his father just happened to be the first to call himself one) “is well spoken, well learned and a leader.” His stay in school was a pleasant one. He quickly found that he was attractive, and that people liked to listen to attractive people. He also found out that his father was correct, people wanted to hear a certain thing and, if you indulged that desire, those same people would do whatever you wanted them to. This, by no means, meant that Petronius was a lazy student. While his piers were easily manipulated, his teachers required a greater price. They required you to excel in your studies before you began pulling strings. In this way, Petronius found that he had a natural affinity for magic, and took to studying feverishly, finding that he was quite the genius. When he was done with school, on the cusp of adulthood, he started working for his father. He helped his father run the store, but found that lacking. It wasn’t enough just to make money. He wanted a castle with a study and many people to talk to, who would tell him what he wanted to hear, even if it was a lie. He was good a sniffing out con men, having grown up around one. Moreover, he craved new knowledge and now that he made his own money, his father no longer bought him these books. Petronius, on the other hand, could not afford these books because all rich men who gain their riches are cheap, simply hoarding their money so that they can look at it and count it. Dreaming of they day that they have enough gold to take a literal bath in the treasure trove they had. Petronius left home in the quiet of night, leaving no note, no proof that he was there but for the memories left in the people.
From there he took many names, shedding them when the notoriety became too much for one name. He found that many people could be swayed by a silver tongue but won over by spending a night. Male or female it mattered not for Petronius, he was aroused by both. The race mattered just as little, in fact, it became quite the goal for him to sleep with as many different species as he could. As the years went by though, he still felt the need to find a spot and stay. Maybe to take his first name again. Not as some noble, but as a generous benefactor to many things. A landlord, an investor, it mattered not, just as long as he had his study. He did not want to be a merchant, however. When you are a merchant that is all you are. You worry over your store and little else, even when you are not there.
It is because of this that a man who calls himself Jack walks towards the untamed lands, looking for a man to make great so that he can be rewarded. He twirls as his staff, whistling a tune that he picked up from the bard with the bird name (or at least he hoped it was a bird name) on his way to find his next mark.