Kohzek was a difficult negotiator. This was going to be their second meeting with him, and Helen still wasn’t sure if the reaper was trying to bargain for a better deal or if he genuinely did not yet believe that Atreya’s need was as great as she and Roman claimed it to be.
As Helen took her seat next to Roman, she eyed the two servants across from her--one more than she had been expecting. Bartholomew fidgeted in a chair that was too big for him, but the podgy man next to him was not someone Helen recognized. He had not attended their previous meeting.
As usual, Voreese was the first to ask the obvious question. ‘Who’s he?’
Kohzek motioned with a ghostly hand. ‘This is Harper Norez. And his reaper, Darsihm.’
A sudden silence took the room, making Helen glance around. Both Mehlsanz and Voreese were staring at the newly introduced pair.
‘Are you fucking serious?’ said Voreese. ‘This fucking guy is Harper?’
The fucking guy gave a laugh. “I see my reputation precedes me.”
Mehlsanz hovered behind Helen. ‘What is someone like you doing here?’
Helen had to interrupt before she got too far behind. “I apologize for my ignorance, but who is this man?”
‘Harper Norez,’ explained Voreese, ‘is a Lieutenant General. He’s considered one of the strongest thirty-four people in all of the Vanguard.’
“Thirty-eight, now,” Harper corrected. “We’ve expanded a little. All these young guns rising in the ranks, gotta make room for ‘em somewhere.”
Helen took another look at this Harper person.
He was of a darker complexion than most Intarians she’d seen, which perhaps implied that he was also a foreigner. With a round face and a broad nose, messy black hair and a mud brown jacket, he looked rather more like an itinerant worker than some kind of great warrior.
“Darsihm and I are actually here because of you,” he said, pointing at Mehlsanz. “You rustled some jimmies when you deserted your division.”
Roman tensed in his seat. “You’ve come to capture Mehlsanz?”
“Oh, no, no,” said Harper. “Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m here to ensure that doesn’t happen. So relax.”