339 The Moonshadow Trading Company Short Stories: 2 - The Remnants of Old II
*Eldovian Era, 1713 1st day of the 10th month*
Kit was dreaming about Rose again. The Innkeeper's daughter who lived in Elendale. The little town that rested on the cliffs between the southern edge of Eldovia and Shadow's Break Canyon was the closest thing that those at the mines came to civilisation. It's proximity to the cliffs meant it wasn't much sought after considering it was foggy almost year-round. Now, a month into Autumn, they were just coming out of their few months of sun. That, and of course the fact that the Canyon was heavily infested with unsavoury characters. The village was allowed to live in peace simply because they had nothing to give.
Of course, all of this was irrelevant in Kit's dream. The sun shone in Rose's bronze locks, she'd always looked adorable, her bronze ringlets the envy of the village girls, but Kit had just thought it was pretty until now. Now, as she smiled at him in her dream, a little taller than the last time he'd seen her and more like a young lady than a girl in other areas, Kit couldn't help but think her bronze locks framed her chubby cheeks like a little chipmunk, but without the buck teeth.
It looked absolutely adorable as she walked over to his table.
"Would you like something to drink, Kit?"
Kit grinned confidently. So much more confident than he had been a week ago.
"I'll have your finest ale, served by the loveliest lady in Evendale!" he declared.
She giggled at his remark, her chubby cheeks tinging red.
"You've grown up then, Kit?" she asked.
"So have you," he grinned back.
Something changed in her eyes, something that was still Rose, but not as he had seen her before.
"Would you like to see just how much I've changed?"
Kit felt warmth fill his body at the prospect, and he sat straighter in the booth.
"And what would I have to do to see that?" Old habits died hard. When he'd been nothing but a beggar, nothing came to him for free.
"Well, you just have to get up, and follow me," her voice was somehow much deeper as she smiled enchantingly, holding out a hand to him. He reached out to take it and when she grabbed his hand, she yanked him forward so hard that he fell straight out of the booth and face-planted onto the inn floor.
Kit groaned, pain smiting on his face as he shook off the daze from his dream. His covers half strewn on top of him and half still on the bed, he shifted until he could see a very familiar set of feet, then flopped onto his back, still holding his nose as he looked up at Olly.
"You just have to get up and follow me," Olly repeated. Rose's deep voice in the dream suddenly making sense.
Kit dragged a hand down his face, his body thoroughly cooled as he settled into reality again. He sat up.
"You could have just shaken me awake," Kit grumbled, untangling himself from his covers and setting them back onto the bed as he stood.
"You reached out to me," Olly frowned, "Now come on, it's urgent".
"What's urgent, Olly?" asked Kit as he took the time to glance towards the window, his eyes widening. He spun on Olly thrusting his hand towards the barely risen sun, "It's barely dawn! I thought we talked about this? Work doesn't start until the second bell!"
Olly's face fell, almost pouting like a puppy, "I thought you said you wanted to be the first one to meet Rassa Moonshadow when he arrived".
Kit's anger fizzled out in an instant, "Rassa is here?"
Olly nodded, "Arrived not long after you went to bed yesterday, though seemed to be just fine waiting to see everyone until morning".
Kit picked up the tracking charm from beneath his pillow and activated it, sure enough, the line to Rassa was nearly as bright as it had been the very first time he'd activated it, when he and Rassa had stood in the same room.
Kit rushed to put on clean clothes, stumbling with his pants half-way up in his rush before he pulled on his boots, pocketed the charm and rushed downstairs.
The worker's quarters sat 2 floors high in an L shape to the south of the warehouses, the Mess hall between them. None of the buildings had existed before Olly and Kit got there, so they were all pretty new, and there, standing right in the middle of them in a long black coat, stood Rassa Moonshadow.
He was shorter than Kit remembered. No. Kit was just taller.
"Rassa!" called Kit as he ran over to him.
Rassa turned as his name was called, giving a small smile as he saw Kit running towards him. He glanced towards the east as the first rays of sunlight began to peak from the horizon, and he reached up to pull the hood of his coat over his head.
Kit couldn't help the elation as he wrapped his arms around Rassa, the man solid as a rock wall. Kit was nearly winded by the force of the action, he probably would have been had Rassa not taken the curtesy to take a few steps back to redirect the force.
"Well, haven't you grown up?" asked Rassa, "You used to barely reach my chest, now you're at my shoulders".
Kit pulled away, grinning, "It's been nearly 3 years, did you really think we'd all be the same?"
Rassa gave a small smile, "I suppose it's not really something I concern myself with, and nobody else has changed much anyway. Just prettier dresses".
"So, Iah is well?" asked Kit, "You were only there yesterday, weren't you? How did you get here so fast?"
"He does not concern himself with the laws of Order," Olly piped up from behind Kit, "His path is too embroiled in Chaos for that".
Kit frowned, not exactly how he wanted to two of them to be introduced.
Kit opened his mouth to do just that, but Rassa beat him to it, "Olly, I take it? The Oracle".
Olly seemed somewhat surprised, a rare expression on his face. Very little surprised Olly. Still, it quickly morphed into a smile, "I haven't been called that before by anyone but the Mist".
"But it is what you are," Rassa said as he stepped forward, "Though certainly not expected. Others like you only existed before the Chaos War ended".
Olly shrugged, his eyes darting to the side, "The Mist says times are changing. Paths are being reopened. Neutrality is necessary when two sides exist".
Rassa smiled, "Agree to Disagree. After all, you are here, and you were instrumental in killing the Inktress, you took a side, did you not?"
Olly's expression saddened, and he looked away as if embarrassed before he looked up at Kit, a kind of determination in his eyes.
"Family protects Family," said Olly, "The Mist doesn't have family. It couldn't understand".
Rassa raised an eyebrow, "Well, I'm tired, I've barely slept in two days, so give me a quick tour then I'll turn in and talk to everyone once the sun goes down".
He seemed to glare at the rising celestial body, his maroon eyes squinting terribly.
"Sure," Kit said, "Let's go then".
Rassa rose an hour before the sun went down. He'd needed the sleep. Despite spending the last three weeks on a boat across the ocean, during which he'd had plenty of time to rest, he hadn't much enjoyed the swinging back and forth between which hours he was awake, during the night, or during the day.
He preferred the night of course. It was so much more agreeable for him. But unfortunately, the humans preferred to interact with him in the daylight hours. This of course included his business partners.
Could he have flown across the Strait to the Isles much faster than the 3-week journey it had taken him? Of course he could have. But everyone else couldn't. He'd found that he didn't much like catering to everybody else, and longed for the day, that vision he had of the future, where everyone else would be forced to cater to his habits. Those sun stones had been useful in those ancient cities. Shielding the Coven Cities from daylight and putting them into a twilight-like existence. So much easier on the eyes.
Washing his face and dressing, Rassa made his way down to the main offices that Kit had shown him that morning. It had been too early to meet the other staff, but he could sense the whispers and nervousness that floated through the mine site. Clearly, word had spread of his presence over the day.
He entered the office, and was greeted by the sight of Kit, a rotund, middle-aged woman with warm and gentle but serious eyes, and a scruffy looking man with 'blacksmith' incorporating every fibre of his being, from his well-formed muscles, to his rough skin, singed eyebrows – for they seemed to be the only hair left on him – and his work leathers.
"Rassa," Kit greeted as Rassa closed the office door behind him. Rassa nodded, his eyes surveying the room. He'd only had a brief glance before, just enough for him to know how to navigate the Mine complex.
"Kit, I'm assuming this is Kei, the Head Blacksmith and Wilma, the Order Manager," stated Rassa.
"It's an honour to meet you, Mr Moonshadow," said Wilma, offering her hands as she stepped forward with a warm smile before Kei could claim the first greeting, "We've heard so much about you. The stories do not do you justice".
Rassa raised an eyebrow, "Makes me question the reliability of the stories".
"So, there is no truthful claim to the fact that you were miraculously raised from the dead?" asked the Blacksmith as he stepped forward to shake Rassa's hand. He was much larger than Rassa, but somehow, Rassa didn't seem to lose out. He was not dwarfed by the man in any way despite their contrast in size. In fact, Rassa seemed to appear in a world of his own. Both there and not.
"Well, I'm sure you've discovered how ambiguous the charms can be," stated Rassa, "I was lost, but, now I am found".
"Just so," Wilma smiled, "Can I get you anything Mr Moonshadow?"
Rassa immediately sensed how much Wilma mothered those on the site. He hoped her hand was firm when it needed to be.
"I am well enough, I'd prefer to get straight down to business," Rassa stated as he took a seat at the table. The others followed suit, "Now, the reason for my visit is threefold. First, I aim to teach the Craftsman a new set of runes".
Wilma and Kei looked shocked, "A new set? But from what I hear Mr Moonshadow, you could become one of the richest men on the continent if you continued to sell your current charms for the rest of your life".
"Perhaps," stated Rassa, "But while profits are certainly a benefit, the vision I have of the world I can create through the Rune Language is a boundless one. The current charms are barely a drop in the ocean of possibilities they create, which brings me to my other reasons for coming".
Wilma and Kei still seemed to be struggling with the prospect of Rassa's Rune Language. Kit on the other hand, had suspected that Rassa's arrival would at least in-part coincide with learning more Runes. Rassa had promised when he'd first started teaching Kit.
"My second reason, is that I plan to expand Moonshadow into Eldovia, including creating a Charm production Warehouse that is exclusively Moonshadow's. The company will no longer rely on Apple Star. Which, of course, brings me to my third reason for coming," Rassa paused before he continued, letting his second point sink in, "Because the Charm Production will be under Moonshadow, you will of course no longer be required to work here. If you desire to continue working with the change in leadership, you will be the first I offer the roles to, but you will owe your allegiance to Moonshadow just as your coin will come from Moonshadow".
There was a silence before Wilma spoke up, her eyes a little less warm, and her tone less motherly. Rassa found himself feeling pleased that she was not just warmth and smiles, "Does Lady Startree know?"
Rassa nodded, "I informed her of the change yesterday, she is readying herself to make preparations, including working with those in Moonshadow to compile a list of staff here who will be on the recruitment lists for Moonshadow's new base".
"What of the mining staff?" asked Kei. The Head Miner, John from what Kit had told Rassa, tended to keep to his own office in the mine itself.
"They will remain a part of Apple Star, as will the mine," Rassa stated, "Apple Star will continue to provide the Evanine, it just won't have the production rights or methods".
Kei nodded thoughtfully, "And you planned on telling the staff here?"
Rassa nodded, "It will take…ideally two months, for the new base to be built, then another month for the new staff to be trained, so this base will be needed until then".
"Three months?" asked Wilma, "That is awfully quick, it will take some time before the proper paper work can make its way between Lady Startree and I".
"The paperwork, yes, the discussions? No, that should be done in under a month," Rassa stated.
Rassa looked over at Kit, "Did you bring what I asked?"
Kit nodded, taking two small crystals from his bag and a light element tool, as well as a pair of dark protective glasses before placing them on the table.
Rassa took the items, putting on the glasses and sitting comfortably as he took up the evanine and the tool and started drawing. Wilma and Kei, who had never witnessed the process of the Evanine being carved, were shocked at Rassa's apparent lack of worry that they could both see him. The two were both worried enough to turn their backs on the process, but also curious enough that they wanted to watch, only to find the light too bright to look at.
After a moment, the light in the room dulled significantly, and Rassa tossed one of the charms to Kit.
Kit looked at the runes on the charm before back at Rassa, "Does this do what I think it does?"
Rassa gave a knowing smile, "Why don't you head outside and find out?"
Kit jumped up, running outside, Kei and Wilma looking between Rassa and Kit in confusion.
Rassa held up a hand, "Wait a moment, it'll become clear".
Kei and Wilma did as told, waiting in silence for a moment before suddenly, the charm in Rassa's hand began to flash periodically. Rassa touched the charm, and it gave a dull glow.
"Are they serving dinner yet?" asked Rassa.
"Oh my gods it works!" Kit's voice appeared in the room, originating from the charm.
"This is…" Kei trailed off, shocked as he took a seat.
"Incredible," Wilma finished.
The stone spoke again with Kit's voice, "Oh, the mess hall is filling up for dinner by the way".
Kei gave a shocked laugh before he looked up at Rassa, "How far?"
"It will depend on the size of the Charm, a set this size could cover a distance of…perhaps a city the size of Lovolon for about ten minutes before they would need to be recharged. A medium charm would cover a distance that would take about 3 days travel for the same amount of time. A large charm about a week's travel," stated Rassa.
"Then you would need a sequence?" asked Kei, "To reach Rouke Island I mean".
Rassa shook his head, "Just a large enough charm, though of course, for sales reasons, I would probably make such charms custom orders to be done at the discretion of the company for the immediate future".
"You're talking about instantaneous communication across continents!" stated Wilma in shock.
Rassa nodded, a small smile on his face, "And it only takes 2 runes. Imagine what I can do with an entire Language".
Wilma sat back in her chair, her eyes wide with the possibilities, "They really are boundless".
"Barely a drop in the ocean," Kei nodded in agreement.
"Come back in, Kit," Rassa stated, then dropped the charm carelessly on the table. Anyone else would treat such a thing with utter reverence. But Rassa Moonshadow, with all his knowledge and ability, could afford to treat the charms so carelessly, "Better head off to dinner, I'll be back in three days to teach Kit and Olly a few runes. Please pass the word along about the changes to the staff here so that they can make the decision for themselves on whether they wish to transfer to Moonshadow or remain with Apple Star".
Rassa stood as Kit walked in, hand pointing to the other charm on the table as he passed him, "You and Olly practice with those, I'll leave a set of runes in the warehouse for you to learn too. I'll be back in a few days".
Kit opened his mouth to reply, but in a blast of air like a sudden wind, he turned to find Rassa gone. Kit huffed. Nearly three years, and he'd barely spoken to Rassa for an hour before he left again.
Olly probably wouldn't care. He'd gotten his new runes.
Rassa had said three days, but really he wasn't positive how long it would take him to find the perfect place for Moonshadow's new headquarters. His requirements were quite contradictory. He needed a place that was out of the way so prying eyes could be easily spotted and weeded out. He also needed a place that wasn't far from main trade routes, as his future plans needed a ready access to them. He needed somewhere that was not heavily populated, but could also have the basic needs of his staff supplied readily. After all, if he was going to hire these people, he needed to make sure they were comfortable wherever he placed them.
He used the night to scour the south-eastern corner of the continent, at one point he even spotted Varkevia in the distance. He'd last been there as a child. On the night he'd first realised he hadn't needed to kill to feed. It was stupid now that he thought of it. Why had the idea not occurred to him sooner? He had been a child though, too overwhelmed and suffering in his reality to think of solutions.
Rassa sighed, bringing himself back to the task at hand. He descended on a larger town not far from Varkevia to feed, deciding as he did so that anywhere within three days of Varkevia was too close to the city. He moved closer to the west.
He could have gone further east from Falla's Evanine Mines, but the coastline wasn't safe for trade, and to send everyone to Lovolon would take nearly three weeks. It already took just over two. Perhaps it would be better it he was further West, closer to the Seisin Mountain Range.
Being closer to the mountains brought thoughts of Jerrica to his mind. It had been over three years now since he'd buried the mines. He hadn't heard much about it, but then, he'd spent part of those three years running away and retreating into his own mind. Still, as he saw the mountains in the distance, he couldn't help but want to see it with his own eyes.
It was perhaps only a few minutes later thanks to his powerful wings that he appeared above the wide plateau that Jerrica had once rested at the southern end of. He descended onto the gates, noticing their abandoned appearance. Overgrown and half-torn down thanks to neglect. Rassa's eyes were cast on the crumbled remnants of the Mines themselves.
It was clearly abandoned, there was no warmth in this place, like a prison of ghosts that he'd had his fair share of adding to. Rassa sighed as he appraised it. So, this was the passage of time? Just three years, and it was already forgotten. He was certainly not the same either, but if three years could do this, what could 30 years do? Or 300? Or 3000? He had eternity. How many cities would he see rise and fall only to have something else take it's place? When he had achieved the vision he had set his mind to, because there was no doubt that he would achieve it eventually given that time was not a factor, where would he go then? What would he do? Would he be happy with what he had done?
Rassa suddenly understood completely why some of the Old Vampires had chosen to go into the sub-death willingly for years on end. When you had achieved what you wanted, and had everything you desired, and were left to simply watch life rise and fall around you, the weight of time would surely become unbearable. A rest, an escape, would be more the welcome, even if it meant suffering a while.
Rassa cast his gaze west, towards Fountain Ridge. His so-called 'grandfather' was probably becoming old by now. As would his remaining children. Likely too old to have children of their own even if the Kildare line wasn't cursed. He had little understanding of Order, but a curse of that scale would have needed to be paid in equal. It would not have just been that elf that died that night. Likely several of his lineage had, if not all of them. Would it be worth it? When the Empire of Eldovia crumbled in the next few decades, who would replace it?
Rassa had no interest in one Empire. At least not one that was so thoroughly established already. He would make no move to take it, though he certainly had the ability to. A thought occurred to Rassa then, one he hadn't thought of in a while.
If that offspring of his had survived, no doubt the Kildares were putting their hope on him as he was the youngest of their bloodline. If he had survived though, then the Empire was going to crumble violently. It was likely that Rassa would have to get involved, if only to dispose of the Dhampir. Though first, it would have to reveal itself. Rassa wasn't much bothered about looking for it before it went mad, that would only put a target on his back that he didn't need.
Would he survive the Kildares coming after him again? Most certainly. He was no longer a naïve little boy who thought that suppressing his true nature was the better option. But his business…that Rassa could not say with certainty would survive the weight of the Kildares and all their influence. Especially if Rassa wanted to set up shop in Eldovida. It was better to focus on his own influence first, to make it reach a point where the Kildares posed no threat to it.
Taking one last look at the crumbling ruins of Jerrica, Rassa summoned his wings once more and flew towards the Southern End of the Seisin Mountain Range.
Here, the mountains were overtaken by the Phobin Forest which stretched halfway up the western border of the mountains, then down to the southern coast of the continent. It was about half the size of Greenvale, but still vast, the land within it mostly untouched. Still, the main Trade Route between Lovolon and Varkevia passed through it, and it was also frequented by hunters. Several villages surrounded it's borders for this reason, though none rested within. On the western side there was the River Hayn, the northern end of which overflowed into Lake Starcross, the Lake that sat within the same Canyon as the Star Pavillion.
Going to the Western side of the forest though would put him within a few days ride of Lovolon. He had no desire to be so close to the Port City. No, it seemed that his best location, at least in the South-Eastern corner of Eldovia, was along the Eastern edge of the Phobin Forest. Perhaps he could find a place that had a port of its own along the southern coastline, or at least had the potential to have one.
Sensing the oncoming sun, Rassa descended towards one of the larger villages, waking one of the innkeepers with a generous 20 silvers for a room with curtains. He then washed and slept the day away.