336 The Moonshadow Trading Company Short Stories: 1 - The Return to Rouke Island III
The carriage was pleasant. Of course, Rassa could have gotten to the Ruin a whole lot faster on his own but sitting in the carriage with Iah, Mathias and Ebony was a whole lot more entertaining. Mainly because Mathias was still treading lightly after his embarrassing mistake at the docks.
He had recovered as quickly as he could from his blunder, and as Rassa had appointed Will as the new Dock Master, a role the ex-Knight-turned-Warrior had taken on happily, Mathius had called the carriages as asked.
"When did you buy the docks?" asked Iah, breaking the silence in the carriage as they turned away from the docks and into the city.
"Before I left," Rassa replied.
Iah raised an eyebrow, "You mean to say we've had our own docks this entire time and no one mentioned it?"
"We had no ships, I didn't see the point in mentioning it," replied Rassa, "Besides, they need repairs now that that...what did he say you called him? Oh yes, that 'Vulgar Pig' Greyson, has been punished for swindling my money".
"So, he really was telling the truth?" asked Iah, "Wait, he swindled your money?"
Rassa nodded, "He's now under a blood contract to provide labour on The Moon Voyager until he earns back what he owes me, a total of 2600 gold coins".
"Blood contract?" Mathias asked cautiously.
Rassa's eyes swung to the assistant, "I'll make this plainly clear, Mathias, I am not human, I am a Vampire. Among the many powers and abilities Chaos affords me, I can create contracts through blood. It ensures the contract is adhered to on pain of death if it is broken".
Mathias turned to look at Iah for confirmation, but Iah was looking at Ebony, "You're different".
Ebony grinned, "I'm not human anymore either".
Iah's eyes widened before she turned to look at Rassa, "I didn't know you could…create others like yourself".
Rassa shrugged, "I can. Never felt inclined to before Aegin nearly died".
"Nearly died?" asked Iah, "You mean to say he's still alive? Where is he?"
"He didn't appreciate my solution to him not dying a very painful death," Rassa replied, "He left".
"His death was still painful," said Ebony, turning away with an expression somewhere between physical pain and sadness.
Rassa rolled his eyes, "Better than what he would have gone through".
"That's a shame," Iah sighed.
"Oh yes, what happened to Sharli?" asked Rassa.
Iah's eyes widened a moment before she sighed, "She…well we struggled for several months after you left. We had no way of operating safely because the Ruin was so isolated and Ishta's Inktress was rather persistent in getting to Kit. It wasn't until we managed to smuggle Kit and Olly over to Falla's Evanine Mine that we saw any progress towards our current state. Even then though, Sharli did not have much faith in Falla's abilities. She thought we needed you back in order to deal with the threat the Inktress posed so she went to Ishta for help in locating you. I can't say for sure what happened but if I had to guess, you supposedly died before she could find you, and seeing as she was useless to him, Ishta had her killed".
Rassa's eyes narrowed, "I see, and where are Ishta and the Inktress now?"
"Ishta stays mainly in Port Cresh to run his business, though rumour has it he is preparing to go back south to tour around his companies there. He hasn't been a problem since Olly and Kit managed to kill the Inktress at the Star Pavilion in Eldovia a few months ago, though," Iah replied.
"Who is Olly?" asked Ebony.
"Oh, right, he is the one that signed the blood contract with Falla to learn the Runes," Iah replied, "Not a Magician, but his ability to see the Mist is unparalleled as far as we can tell. He actually appears to have conversations with it at times, even predict the future. It is quite remarkable. He showed immediate interest in the runes and pestered us until Kit took him to Falla to sign the contract. I personally don't think Falla will get anything out of him after the five years though, he doesn't seem at all interested in leaving".
Rassa's eyes narrowed, "Predict the future?"
Iah nodded, "It sounds quite outlandish but some of the things he says…there simply isn't another explanation for it".
"Interesting," Rassa stated, "I didn't think it was possible for an Oracle to appear anymore".
"An Oracle?" asked Iah.
Rassa nodded, "Yes, Oracles are remnants of a very long time ago, when Chaos was more prevalent than it is now. Perhaps their reappearance is an indication of times to come…I should like to meet him. He could prove useful in more ways than just being a charm craftsman".
"Well Kit and Olly are both at the mine in Eldovia. They rarely leave considering their worth to our entire operation," Iah stated.
Rassa nodded, "We shall have to procure more craftsman, placing the entire workload on the two of them is not possible in the long term, especially if we plan to expand-"
"We're expanding?" asked Iah, surprise in her tone.
"Of course, we cannot continue as we are, no doubt from what I've heard you've already felt the strain, not being able to meet with demand," said Rassa, "And the supply line running through Apple Star is not a feasible long-term plan either".
Iah's eyes narrowed, "You mean to say that we will not continue to rely on Falla?"
"Of course not, the contract she signed was 5 years, it has been nearly three. We have two years to not only expand our business, but to procure our own mine and base of operations as well as a transportation division," said Rassa, "There is much to do".
"I get offers frequently from those with Evanine Mines, but they are mainly business contracts, not sales pitches," Iah stated, as she looked out of the window, "Oh, we're coming up on Charm Street".
Rassa turned to look outside, and noticed immediately that the once abandoned and dilapidated street was now booming with life and business. It looked like a completely different world.
"Moonshadow owns about 60% of the buildings in the Cermine District. We are in the process of renovating the buildings then, when finished, we rent them out to business owners. Apple Star owns about 10%, and the remaining 30% is divided among various others. We'll be having a dinner meeting with the business owners this evening at this restaurant here, Willow's Bend," Iah explained, pointing it out as they passed by.
Rassa smiled at the bustling street, "Well, well, you've truly gone beyond my expectations, Iah. Thank you for your efforts these past few years, it can't have been easy".
Iah smiled, "It would not have been possible without you allowing a beggar like me to play a part in your vision. I am thankful to you as well".
"You'll need to get Ebony and I caught up this afternoon if we are to be presented to those business owners tonight. Though I can't say I'll be inclined to eat anything," Rassa replied.
Iah sighed, "Of course, sorry, I didn't even think".
"It's okay," Ebony smiled, "I don't particularly appreciate an audience to my dinner habits anyway".
"Dinner habits?" asked Mathias.
Ebony, Rassa and Iah were all amused by his question before Ebony turned to him, flashing her fangs.
"We said we weren't human," she said, "We drink blood, usually of the human variety, though animals do suffice".
Mathias paled, "B…Blood?"
"Don't worry," Rassa stated, "We won't partake of yours…if you continue to prove useful that is".
Rassa paced back and forth through the office as Iah updated him on the expansion of the business and the everyday schedules and profits. She truly had done extraordinarily well. Not only did she have an incredible reputation among the staff, but also with her clients. She had developed well given her circumstances, the only thing Rassa was unhappy with was her reliance on Falla.
Whilst he trusted that Falla would not do anything purposely to interfere with the business, she was not a part of Moonshadow. She had her own business to take care of. Thankfully, Iah had seemed to realise that on her own at the last Trader's Festival, and had been doing her best to split from Falla.
"…unfortunately the reliance on Apple Star for Transport at least through the Star Pavilion is unavoidable at this moment as Falla still wishes to keep the Mine's location a secret," stated Iah.
"That wasn't in the deal," Rassa stated.
"Sorry?" asked Iah.
"We are not obligated to keep her Mine's location a secret. The fact is that she can now afford to hire security for it anyway," Rassa stated.
"Well, we do have a vested interest in keeping the place a secret thanks to Olly and Kit's presence there," Iah stated.
"They won't remain there," Rassa replied, "How much of the staff at the Mine are Moonshadow employees?"
"Apart from Olly and Kit…they are all Apple Star's employees," stated Iah.
Rassa frowned at that, "We're too heavily reliant on Apple Star. If we are to be our own business we must establish our own production spaces and transportation routes".
"That will require a massive recruitment of staff," stated Iah, "Security, Artisans, Managers and plenty more".
"Yes, it will," said Rassa, "And more Charm Crafters of course".
"It will not be easy to hire magicians," Iah admitted.
"Don't worry too much about that," stated Rassa, "Ebony?"
"Yes?" asked Ebony from where she read through a bunch of employee files.
"I need you to work with Iah to compile a list of required staff and numbers as well as how much it would take to employ them. We don't want to exceed our profits," stated Rassa, "I'll need to go to and scout locations for our warehouses as well as check in on Olly and Kit".
Ebony nodded, "Of course".
"We'll have the lists ready by the time you get back in a couple of months then," stated Iah.
"A couple of months?" asked Ebony.
Iah paused, "Well, yes, it is a 6 week round journey, besides the time he will spend searching for a location for our new base".
Ebony chuckled, "Not for Rassa".
Rassa smiled, "I'll be back by the end of this month, Iah".
"That's…that's only two weeks away," said Iah.
Rassa nodded, then frowned, "But that 6-week trip must be quite inconvenient for communication".
"Yes, quite, but it is not as if we can help it," Iah replied.
"Actually," Rassa smiled, "We can".
"We can?" asked Iah.
Rassa nodded, "Before I get back, I need you to have a space cleared, preferably one of the offices on the second floor. And clear out another room opposite the vault".
"Oh?" and what will you be using these rooms for?" asked Iah, an eyebrow raised in curiosity.
"The one opposite the vault will be a Protection Charm large enough to protect the building," stated Rassa, "The other…I'll make that a surprise, but I promise you'll like it".
Iah's eyes widened, "You want to shield the building?"
Rassa shrugged, "I have to protect what is mine. Also, I need you to train those I brought back whilst I am gone, particularly Elsbeth".
"I still can't get over using her name," Ebony rolled her eyes.
"But it is her name we should use that rather than Madame, she left that behind for a reason," Rassa stated.
"Who is Elsbeth?" asked Iah.
"The woman you saw with the fur shawl," stated Ebony, "She…well, she will be a great asset that is joining us. She has many connections on the Southern Continent so once she is trained she will be going over there to establish branches of Moonshadow".
"Southern… We're expanding to the Southern Continent?" asked Iah.
"Of course," said Rassa, "Why are you so surprised by that?"
"Well, I expected Eldovia, not the Southern Continent," stated Iah.
"We'll be establishing our first production house in Eldovia," Rassa stated, "Probably a few stores in the major cities as well. But we do hold a product that is in demand worldwide and will only continue to be so, don't you think we should be expanding worldwide?"
"World…" Iah sighed, closing her eyes and rubbing her temples, "And I thought the current business was becoming difficult to manage. It was why I hired an assistant".
Ebony smiled, "You've been doing great, Iah. I'm sure that will continue to be the case".
Rassa nodded, "Well, if that's all, I'll meet you at dinner".
Iah stood, "You don't want me to show you your apartments?"
Rassa smiled, "Show Ebony, she can take me back after our hunt tonight, for now, I have a few old friends to greet".