George: Mr. Montgomery, welcome. My name is George Camarine and I will be your interviewer today.
Augustine: It’s a pleasure.
George: Coffee? Dessert?
Augustine: Yes, to both, thank you. The entremet looks delightful.
George: Doesn’t it? Raspberry and white chocolate with mascarpone mousse. The chef here is truly heavenly, and apparently a certain someone told him you are fond of these particular flavors.
Augustine: Ah, yes, the infamous Arabella interview. I’m surprised the inn survived.
George: How did this mentor-mentee relationship come about?
Augustine: We had contracted a job out to the Baylor Investigative Agency, and they sent her to quibble about our referral fee. You might say I recognized a kindred soul. One could easily mistake her primary motivation being money, but it’s deeper than that. She strives for personal excellence. Money is simply a tangible measure of winning. Being successful isn’t enough. She wants to be so successful that she becomes a household name. Her sisters hide from fame, but Arabella seeks it out.
George: That can be a dangerous inclination.
Augustine: Very. Which was one of the reasons I took an interest. She needed guidance.
George: The situation with the Baylors is rather complicated, isn’t it?
Augustine: An understatement.
George: Or perhaps an opening to a discussion.
Augustine: Very well. I met Nevada at a difficult point in my life. I had just fended off a particularly vicious attack on House Montgomery. My brother was taken. I had been stabbed several times. There was extensive blood loss, and it wasn’t clear at the time if I would regain the full use of my left arm. It’s not a particularly prudent thing to admit for a man in my field. I was at the end of my rope and maintaining an illusion of perfect health and working arms proved quite challenging.
I had to return to the office, to reassure our employees, to send a message to our enemies, and most importantly to coordinate the search for my sibling. We had to find Tarquin at all costs.
Instead, I’d arrived at my office that morning to be greeted by House Pierce having histrionics in my waiting room. Not taking the case wasn’t an option. We owed Peter a favor, and he’d come to collect. In Prime society, business runs on favors, and you are only as good as your ability to pay up. This is something that I had to impart onto Arabella. Raw power matters, but base matters more. Can you pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken to in two years and compel them to do something that wouldn’t be profitable for them either to balance the books or to owe them a favor? Would they take that call? That’s what being a Prime power means.
I was the only one among the MII personnel who could’ve taken down Adam, and it would’ve been very difficult. I had to buy time, so I asked for the subcontractor with the best performance and got the Baylors. I gave them a cursory glance, because my time was in short supply, and they seemed to fit the bill. The plan was never to have them take down Pierce. I simply needed the appearance of an active investigation and I counted on them being smart enough to keep from getting hurt.
Had I known Nevada would take this at face value, I would have… No, you know what, I would have done everything the same. In that particular state of mind, with what I knew at the time, I would’ve still made that decision, because that’s who I was back then.
George: But you are not that man now?
Augustine: My priorities have undergone a certain shift. The old adage says that if you beat a dog long enough, it will become vicious. I had been beaten for years in many ways. I had sunk very deep into the cycle of retaliation and preemptive measures. It took a catastrophic event to spark some self-awareness.
George: Connor threatening to kill you?
Augustine: Not that. That I had expected at the time. No, it was the fact that Nevada came to me. In her place, I would’ve eliminated me. It was cleaner and safer, while the alternative was messy and had questionable chances of success. She sat in my office, and I could tell that she was deeply conflicted. That woman genuinely didn’t want to hurt me. It was another way to be. A way I used to be a long time ago and had forgotten. I used to be idealistic. I used to be very sure in the kind of man I wanted to be. Alas, House warfare doesn’t suffer idealists.
George: Do you like yourself more now?
Augustine: I’d like to think so. I have drawn some lines, which I will not cross.
George: Did you recover your brother?
Augustine: Yes. He survived.
George: And your father’s killer.
George: I see. Can you tell us a bit more about your family?
Augustine: I have two siblings and a cousin, whom I’ve taken in.
George: Are you romantically involved with anyone.
George: Is that all we’re going to get? No details?
George: In that case, let’s move on to a less sensitive subject. Konstantine Berezin.
George: Is he as good as he claims to be?
George: As good as you?
Augustine: Konstantin maintains his illusions sporadically during missions and in his spare time, for fun. I spent two years of my life pretending to be my dead father in front of high level Illusion mages on our payroll. I’ve had significantly more practice and my stakes were a lot higher.
George: Will we ever learn more about that?
Augustine: If they give me a book, you will. Without any false modesty, I believe I would be quite profitable for them.
George: False modesty serves no one.
Augustine: Indeed. So, tell me about yourself. What is it like to be married?
George: It is bliss. Let us conclude this interview and I will tell you all about it. Dear readers, thank you for joining us for another addition of FrInnday.