197 The Unwelcome Guest*
Falla was exhausted. She may have found a Charm Craftsman, a weight lifted from her shoulders far earlier than she'd predicted, but the job of transporting the Evanine from the Mines in Eldovia to the Ruin in Port Leis was turning out to be far harder. Those few Captains under her employ were used to transporting fabrics, so their cargo holds were not as weighed down and they were capable of travelling faster. With the crystals their journey would be slower, and that was if they managed to keep their cargo a secret. Hauling crates upon crates of Evanine from the mainland to Rouke Island was just one part of the problem though.
The job that had become considerably more difficult, was how to transport the crystals via land. There were too many bandits, and other unsavoury characters that would take interest in her cargo. While it had been brought up in negotiations that Falla didn't have the resources to protect her mine once its location was found, she also had not made much progress in finding trustworthy people to guard the mine, let alone the transports.
Mercenaries could be bought, so they were out of the question. She did not have the resources to buy loyalty. Even if in the long run the Charms would generate massive profits for her, she still had to wait some time before she would see those profits, especially if she spent so much money on hiring guards.
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It had been suggested to her that she could train her own guards. While that was a lovely idea in theory, training them took time. And that was if she had someone to train them. Which she did not.
Falla was running into too many dead ends, and the ever fading line attached to Rassa only served to remind her how alone she was in this. Sharli and Iah may have been doing well in their studies, and Kit may have been doing great in his work on the charms, but there was no one amongst them that was sufficiently knowledgeable and strong enough to cope with the work she needed to be done. The truth was that she needed to go back to Eldovia. Back to her mine so that she could run things from there. But doing so would leave the Ruin and its inhabitants exposed.
What she wouldn't give for a solution to all her problems.
Layn, ever the dedicated assistant, knocked and entered her office. His expression alluding to the fact that more bad news had just arrived.
"Just tell me, Layn," Falla submitted to the inevitable.
"You have a guest, Miss," Layn stated, "…Mr Alamone is requesting a meeting".
"Demanding," Layn corrected.
Falla sighed, placing her head on her desk for a moment. Gathering herself, Falla sat back up and moved several papers off of her desk and into draws before she nodded to Layn, "Bring some tea".
She detested the man, but as a businesswoman she would never deny her guests refreshments, even if they were unwelcome.
Ishta Alamone stepped inside seconds after Layn exited. He commanded attention with his arrogant stride and elaborate, on the edge of gaudy, adornments.
"Ishta, what brings the head of Golden Sands Trading Company to my humble business?" asked Falla, the warmest smile she could muster adorning her face despite the circumstances.
"Miss Startree, I would be willing to admit that you and your associates have caused me far more trouble in the past few weeks than I had bargained on," Ishta sighed as he sat down on the opposite side of her desk as if he owned the office instead of her. She tried her very hardest not to let him intimidate her, "It has grown tiresome".
"Oh?' asked Falla, "Mr Alamone, my little fabrics business has little impact on your own trades. Why, as a Golden Token company, you have far more renown than I ever would. What trouble is it that you speak of?"
Ishta lost all pretences as he leaned forward, "As I said, Miss Startree, this game has grown tiresome. You know exactly what I am after, I am asking you the price for handing it over".
"I have no authority to negotiate with you. The Business Deal I made is between my own Apple Star Trading and Moonshadow Trading," Falla stated, "Your business is not apart of this deal, and without the other representative, there is no room for discussions".
"Rassa Moonshadow is dead," Ishta proclaimed.
"On the contrary," Falla replied, "He is very much alive".
Layn entered with the tea and a silence befell the two as Falla poured Ishta a cup and then herself, Layn leaving the room once more.
"Perhaps if your subordinate had been less hasty in her decisions we'd be having a different conversation, but alas, I will not offer you something that was not meant to be yours, Ishta," Falla stated, sitting once more and taking a sip from her tea, "You can desire the world. Anyone can. Desiring it is easy. If you think the world will become yours just as easily you're not fit to have it".
Ishta gritted his teeth, "Do not lecture me, woman. I built my company up from the bottom and in just twenty years have made it the most successful trading company in the world. It I desire the secrets to the Charms, I will have them. One way or another".
"Then perhaps you should have been kinder," stated Falla, "If Rassa ever does return I doubt he will be willing to deal with you. In the brief times we spent together I had the impression that you were not high on his list of friends".
"Businessmen don't need friends, they need associates," Ishta bit back, "Rare is the occasion when we actually like each other. Everyone wants a piece of the pie but there is only so much to go around".
"Pity you tried to bite off more than you could chew," Falla stated.
Ishta stood, "I can see I will get no where with you. I thought it prudent to at least ask, my kindness to you as a fellow businessman. Do not think I will be so kind in future".
Ishta then turned and exited the office.
Falla breathed out a sigh as the door closed behind him. She took another sip of her tea, only to have the door open once more.
A worried Sharli stood in the doorway, looking at Falla then behind her to where Ishta had no doubt disappeared.
"Sharli?" asked Falla, surprised to see her, "What's wrong?"
Sharli stepped inside and closed the door behind her, "Kit and Olly were attacked on the way back yesterday. Kit believes it was the Inktress...he thinks they know now".
Falla gritted her teeth. No wonder Ishta had come to her. Another problem had now presented itself. The Ruin was no longer safe.