212 The Road Best Not Taken*
Sharli had flipped that coin over and over more times than she could count. It had almost become a subconscious habit over the past month. There were even times she was sure when she'd left the coin somewhere else, only to find it in her pocket again, her fingers flipping it over and over and over again.
The habit persisted now, as she stood in the bustling main shop of Golden Sands Trading Company. It was three times as large as the shop at Apple Star. There were even customers being served tea as they surveyed the products available. Ishta Alamone was on another level compared to Falla Startree.
"Is there something I can help you with, Miss?" one of the attendants paused beside Sharli, smiling warmly at her. the coin in Sharli's hand paused as she hesitated.
"I...I'm not actually a customer..."
"Oh? Are you lost then? Where are you headed, perhaps I can help," the attendant replied.
Gods be damned, why did the attendants have to be so nice when Ishta had only ever shown himself to be a conniving bastard. No, a businessman. That was what Falla had called him. A businessman she couldn't defend against inevitably. A businessman who had the resources to find Rassa where Falla did not.
Sharli took the coin from her pocket and handed it to the attendant.
"I'm here to see Mr Alamone".
The Attendant appraised the coin for a moment then looked back at Sharli, "Do you have an appointment?"
Sharli hesitated, "I didn't realise I needed one, he told me to come see him once...well anyway, can you tell him Sharli, the associate of Falla Startree is here to see him".
"I'm afraid that's not-"
"Tell him I have a way to find Rassa Moonshadow. He'll understand".
The attendant looked skeptical, but he wondered off towards what Falla assumed was the way to the offices.
Ishta looked up at what his secretary had said, then gave a smile, "Invite her in, and prepare some tea".
The secretary nodded. Ishta continued with his work, and a few moments later, the nervous woman he'd seen standing outside of Falla Startree's office walked in, clearly just as nervous as before if not more so.
"Miss Sharli, yes?" asked Ishta as he stood from behind his desk.
Sharli nodded, "Yes, Mr Alamone".
"Please, call me Ishta," he said, indicating for her to sit on the couches as his secretary rounded her to place a tray of tea down. Ishta sat and began pouring the tea himself, pointing to the couch again when the nervous woman didn't mood, "Please, sit. I hear you have a way to find someone who drowned in the depths of Whaler's Strait".
Sharli sat obediently, then nodded to his question, "As long as you promise not to hurt him when we find him. I can help you".
Ishta smiled, "I'm afraid I do not have much faith in the spoken word, it's an unfortunate side effect of my profession". He handed over a teacup to Sharli who immediately put her hands around it and cradled it comfortably, no doubt to placate her nerves, "How can you do what you ask? Are you a Magician by any chance?"
Sharli shook her head, "No, Sir".
"Then I fail to see how it is possible for you to locate him. I find myself far more interested in the boy he trained to make the charms in his place. What was it he was called? A Charm Craftsman?" Ishta stated.
Sharli looked somewhat pale at the mention of the boy, then she slowly placed her tea on the table, "Kit is...I doubt you will be able to reach him".
Ishta chuckled at her audacity, "You like in a building in a practically abandoned district of Port Leis. My patience has lasted this long, but it will not last forever. The boy may be a Magician, but he cannot defend against me forever".
"He's no longer there," Sharli said, "Falla Startree sent him away to protect her investments".
Ishta sensed no lie in her tone, and his smile faded, "When?"
Sharli bit her lip, clearly unwilling to give away such information, "The only reason I came to see you was to-"
"When!" Ishta barked. Sharli jumped, frightened by his tone. She took a breath to calm down before she spoke, refusing to look Ishta in the eyes.
"A month ago".
Ishta gritted his teeth, "They moved with the Evanine and the Charms didn't they? Then they wouldn't have left Apple Star Trading. He is even closer now. Perhaps no longer in an abandoned building but still accessible".
Sharli refused to meet his eyes as she picked up the tea to sip at it. Ishta watched her for a moment.
"Unless he is not at Apple Star Trading".
Sharli glanced up at him, confirmed his suspicions.
"Then where has Miss Startree sent him?" asked Ishta, leaning forward threateningly.
"I don't know," Sharli said, "She wouldn't say".
Ishta could hear the wavering in her voice. This woman was not a good liar.
"You do know," Ishta said.
Sharli took another breath as she put the tea down, "I only know they're not in the Southern Isles any-"
Sharli flinched, clearly unhappy with herself. She'd given away something she hadn't meant to.
"So she has more than one at her disposable and the clever wench has hidden them away," Ishta hissed, "I underestimated her".
There was a pause, then Ishta turned back to Sharli, "You still have not explained how you plan to find Mr Moonshadow, however. I was firm on that point, if you cannot prove it then..."
Sharli reached into her pocket and withdrew a Charm. It had several intricate runes on it. So the suspicion his spies had was true, there was more than one type of charm.
"This is a Location Charm. Also known as a Tracking Charm. It is capable of showing a direct path to others in its sequence," said Sharli.
Ishta's eyes narrowed. It sounded similar to what Illai had described when she'd returned from her mission.
"This one is a part of a sequence with the one in Rassa Moonshadow's possession. As long as he has it on him, and he isn't dead, I can find him," Sharli said.
"And if it isn't on him?" asked Ishta.
Sharli shook her head, "Impossible. When the charms were given to us by Rassa, he made us form a bond with it through blood. Whether it is lost, stolen, or dropped, it will always return to our possession within a matter of hours".
Ishta sighed, "So I suppose that means I cannot simply buy the charm from you".
Sharli clutched the charm tighter, "I will lead you to Rassa Moonshadow. In return, you will not harm him, and you will leave the Ruin in peace".
Ishta raised an eyebrow, "Not Falla Startree as well?"
Sharli sighed, "I am here alone".
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Ishta gave a cunning smile as he held out his hand to her, "We have a deal, Sharli, where do we need to go".
She took his head hesitantly, "South".
Ishta shook her hand, "Then south we shall go. The ship will leave with the tide tomorrow morning, be on it".
After the girl left, Ishta called his secretary forward.
"Have Captain Luvain prepare to sail towards the Southern Continent tomorrow morning with the tide, and get Illai out of the Solarium. Tell her we're leaving in the morning".