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“So what you’re telling me,” Astoreth said very slowly, “is that I’m broke.”

Balthamlazar blinked at the woman across the table from him. “No,” he said incredulously. “No. I’m not saying that at all. You’re rich as Croesus, woman.”

She frowned. “What’s a Croesus?”

He sighed and rubbed at his temple. “It’s not a what, it’s a who. Croesus is a figure in — no, you know what, never mind. The point is that with the current trends in the raw netherweave and windwool supplies we’re able to buy up stock at amazing discounts — and with demand still high, if we could just find a way to increase production you could quadruple your investment by the end of the fiscal year and with all due respect how the hell did you get ‘I’m going broke’ out of this?”

“I just don’t get it, Balth.” Astoreth continued to frown as she peered over her financial advisor’s charts. Slowly she reached out and turned one around so that she could read it easier, only to find that it made even less sense. “Red ink is negative, isn’t it?”

“I do everything in red ink,” Balth huffed, snatching his chart back from her. “For one thing –” He cut off and winced. “Fel take it all,” he muttered, rubbing his forehead.

Astoreth watched him for a long moment. “They’re getting more frequent, aren’t they?” she asked softly. He nodded. “Do you know the source yet?”

“No,” he grumbled, sighing as the pain began to abate. “I’m probably dying.”

She smirked. “You’re not dying.”

“No,” he admitted. “I’m not. But I think the other option is that I’m getting it all back, and I’m not ready to think about that.”

Astoreth watched him. “You don’t want your memories back?”

Balth sighed. “Of course I want them back, Lady Astoreth. I want my life back — or at least, I want to know what it was, so I can know if I want it back. Could you imagine living day to day with no recollection of who you were before five years ago, beyond your own name? Did I have a lover – a spouse? Children?   Was I an accountant then as well, or something else? Something greater? Something lesser?”  He frowned, taking his pen and drawing small, precise figures in the margin of one of the charts. “But when I start thinking too much about that… eventually it becomes too much. Better to focus on the here and now.” Balth looked back up and forced a smile for his employer, which she returned. “So. I shall assume I am dying until I find otherwise, and if it turns out that my memories are returning then I shall be pleasantly surprised.”

She smiled back at him, warmly.  “You know, if you need anything…”

He shook his head.  “You’ve been more than generous.  I still owe you for taking me in and giving me a job in the first place.  I really don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”

“Well, if your boss would only give you a raise…” Astoreth teased, and he grinned back at her.  “Seriously, though, I was glad to do it then, and I’m glad I did it now.  You’ve proven a good investment.”  She rose and patted the man’s shoulder.  “I’m afraid I’ve other business to attend to.  But thank you for bringing these by.  It’s been an informative afternoon.”

Balth frowned as he rose as well, gathering up his charts.  “But what plans should I make regarding the textile markets…?”

Astoreth waved a hand.  “Do what you think is best.  You’ve a wicked sense for business, Balth, and I trust your judgment.”

She walked with him to the door, and saw him out.  Balthamlazar waved as he walked down the path away from the house, and she nodded back with a friendly smile.

As soon as he rounded the corner, however, she frowned, and opened her hand to glare at the pair of long hairs she’d palmed from her accountant as he sat at her table.  “Remembering.  Of course he’s remembering,” she cursed as she swept off towards her sanctum.  “Damn it all.  This day could not possibly get worse.”

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