The dusty cabinetmaker wrung his hat in his hands as he stood before the elegant desk of the Privy Clerk of the High Court. “Yer Worship, me wife is a good woman, who wouldn’t ha’ done the things they say. Me mates and me, we was all there, yer Worship. The guardsmen struck her down when she wouldn’t pay ‘em their bite, then tell that they was attacked to reckon why it were so.”
The bureaucrat’s voice practically dripped with scorn. “I cannot see what conceivable interest this has to me. I hear dozens of cases every day, and they all bear a depressing similarity. Perhaps, if you were willing to reimburse the expense involved, I could appoint an investigator to review the case.”
“But, Yer Worship, we be humble working folk. We can’t even spare the coin for to pay the bite for the guard to give us peace when we be workin’, much less to pay for a man from the Court,” the workman pleaded desperately.
“Then I will not be able to further assist you. Good day, then,” the heartless man stated flatly. This was where the pathetic man would break, he thought with the experience of a decade of cruel manipulation. The man would offer anything that Woolcozen wanted, promise anything to gain his wife’s freedom.
As he reviewed the paperwork on his desk with obvious lack of concern, he silently considered how the man could best be used. Parrick was far too cautious to let himself smile.
The Privy Clerk
After the business of the city’s High Court of Justice is done for the day, a pallid and soft-looking man can often be seen making his way through the streets to his upper-class residence. This man is Parrick Woolcozen, Privy Clerk of the High Court, the High Lawspeaker’s right hand. At first, he seems a pleasant enough sort, but the look in his grey eyes tells another story. Calculating and cold, they speak volumes about the heartless and cynical clerk.
Parrick Woolcozen is an intelligent man, resourceful and well regarded by his supervisor; he is clearly a capable officer of the High Court. Unfortunately, he is also a treacherous manipulator, eager to advance himself and ruthlessly willing to use anyone that can further his ends.
Son of a Noble Lineage
Like many officials of the Free Cities, Parrick Woolcozen is one of the younger sons of a nobleman. The children of these noble families are generally fostered out to other families, there to serve as a page and learn the skills of noble life. Unfortunately, fate placed young Parrick into the household of a particularly cold and calculating nobleman, Scander, the Count of Ashforth.
The lessons his ruthless mentor taught Parrick had little to do with nobility and much to do with power. Within the Count’s mansion, he learned to lie and to manipulate those around him. Rapidly becoming the Count’s favored protégé, the boy learned that it is better to be the predator than the prey, learned to trust only what he could control. In the cynical atmosphere surrounding his Machiavellian mentor, Parrick grew cynical himself, coming to see those around him only as tools for his use. The youth’s empathy and compassion atrophied, leaving him a heartless, unlikable man.
Despite making efforts to cultivate friends, the noblemen and lawyers of Woolcozen’s acquaintance have learned to see through his schemes. His manipulations and lies have earned the distrust of his peers, who regard him as if he were some sort of reptile. Nowhere has this shown more than in his frustrated attempts at courting a wife. Although arranged marriages are commonplace among the land’s nobles, Parrick lacks the wealth or charm needed to overcome the hostility caused by his frequent lies and manipulations. Those he has tried to court have consistently refused the corrupt man’s advances.
Woolcozen has drawn the wrong conclusion from this cold reception. He thinks that if he just had enough power and wealth, people would be drawn to him. He has seen how women flock to men with power and influence, so he expects that he just has to be patient for a few more years and all he wants will be his. In many ways, he is his own worst enemy, making enemies of those who would have been friends if he had shown an ounce of compassion, honor, or integrity.
In Over His Head: Corruption’s Price
“Master Woolcozen, of course I speak for my guild, when I say that we would be glad to help you resolve that little difficulty,” the Guildmaster of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Millers and Simnelers hissed, oozing false sympathy as he dropped a gold-filled purse onto the desk. “Investments don’t always pay off the way that you expect. Of course, my brothers of the guild and I, we’re making an investment here, and I expect that they’ll be… unhappy if it doesn’t turn out so good. Very unhappy indeed.”
Impatient to make himself wealthy, Woolcozen foolishly invested in a number of dubious schemes, plunging himself into a morass of debts. Desperate to avoid bankruptcy and imprisonment, Woolcozen soon began taking bribes from the powerful and corrupt; it didn’t take long for these payoffs to become a regular, expected thing. While this patronage has allowed him to stave off bankrupcy, he now finds himself closely involved with some of the city’s most corrupt and evil men. Woolcozen has been careful, covering his tracks as best he can, but it is only a matter of time before his criminal ‘friends’ turn on him. The only ones that could easily prove what he has been doing are employees of his, totally dependent on his patronage for their livelihoods, but the powerful criminals that have him in their pocket constantly increase what they demand of him. As they pressure him to tamper with cases of increasing prominence, he has realized that it doesn’t matter how careful and intelligent he is, sooner or later his luck will run out.