340 The Moonshadow Trading Company Short Stories: 2 - The Remnants of Old III
*Eldovian Era, 1713 3rd day of the 10th month*
Ebony placed a hand on her stomach beneath the table. Trying to focus on the lists before her and failing. It was the third day of going over the proposed staffing and recruitment lists with Falla, Iah and Mathius. Falla had provided the current numbers of staff at the mines and the positions they held, then Iah and Mathius had estimated the number of staff they would need in addition to that. Ebony was responsible for estimating the number of Charm Craftsman. She was the only one among them that had even a vague understanding of what it took to carve them. Rassa had attempted to teach her, but she had quite honestly been awful at it. The complexities of the Rune language went far beyond her understanding of language. She understood them because she could read the Mist. But comprehending the complexities of their meaning and the layers and insinuations that those layers proposed was another matter entirely that she couldn't for the life of her understand. Still, she was the only one among those Rassa had left that had an understanding of the process, so it had been her responsibility.
It was also the third day since Ebony had last fed. Her hunger was beginning to become more obvious. It no longer felt like she needed a snack. It was more like she'd missed a meal.
"…Does that sound right, Ebony?"
Ebony's head snapped up to look at Iah in question, her hand stilling on her stomach as she forced her mind back to the current meeting and away from her hunger.
Iah frowned, "Are you okay, Ebony? You look a little pale…as in, more so than usual".
Ebony smiled, giving her stomach a quick rub before she leaned forward to look at the list Mathius had put in front of her. She gave him a grateful look before she looked down at the numbers.
"I'm fine, and this looks fine, from my estimation, I would say we need to hire an additional 12 Charm Craftsman in the immediate time, and another fifteen to twenty over the course of the next year if we're expanding to the south as well," Ebony stated.
"Only ten?" asked Iah.
Ebony nodded, "From what I can see, Olly and Kit have kept up producing between eight hundred and a thousand charms every week, we've only been providing for those that come to Rouke but we could support six more locations with an additional twelve craftsman, that's enough to supply all the major cities of Eldovia".
"Olly and Kit only get four days off a month though, and they work long hours, surely not everybody would be willing to work those hours?" asked Falla.
Ebony frowned, she hadn't thought of that.
"Right…well, if that's the case I'd probably double that estimation," said Ebony, "About 25 would be needed immediately and forty to fifty for the Southern Continent, it is far larger after all".
"That's a lot of craftsman," Iah commented, then turned to Falla, "Will the mines be able to keep up?"
"With the Eldovia Orders? For a while, yes. From the reports I've received they've barely made a dent in the larger antechambers. But if we were to supply the Southern Continent as well…we would dry up the mine in less than a decade," Falla stated honestly.
Iah looked thoughtful for a moment, "No doubt this is one of the reasons that we are making moves to not be so reliant on Apple Star. Rassa foresaw that his expansion plans would do to his supply chain. He likely has a plan in mind already so it's best that we do not worry about that for now. He will explain it when it becomes prevalent".
"And this is information you should be sharing with me?" asked Falla.
Ebony raised an eyebrow at Iah across the table before Mathius spoke, "Even if you know, you cannot do anything to stop it. Even if you were to consider leaking the information, it would likely be a double-edged sword that took you down with it. Hence, we are fairly confident you will comply with our new plans".
Ebony turned to Mathius in surprise. He had surmised it so easily. Iah had made a good choice in making him an assistant. He was intelligent enough to follow Rassa's plans with the limited information he'd been given. Even if he'd seemed to disapprove of Rassa in the beginning, he had adapted swiftly to the new order.
Falla did not look very impressed by how Mathius had surmised her current situation, but she said nothing further on the matter as she sat back, "I'll send out recruitment for more miners in order to keep up with the demand".
"Very well, we have the numbers we need, now we just need to prepare for recruitment," Iah stated as she looked across the table at Ebony, her eyes narrowed, "Are you sure you're alright?"
Ebony rolled her eyes, as she stood from her seat, "I'm fine nothing a night on the town can't fix".
Iah sighed, "Right, well, we'll see you tomorrow then, we'll need to start going over equipment and tools required as well as the buildings".
Ebony waved over her shoulder, "I���ll be there".
Ebony stepped out of the office, and Iah watched after her with concern as Falla too stood to leave.
"With what she is now, I doubt she'll even get sick," Falla commented, "Rassa never did".
Iah turned to Falla, realisation in her eyes, "That's right, you knew him before he…well before he became what he is".
Falla nodded, "I did. But I see very little of that boy anymore. The Intelligence, the vision and the resolve, that is all Rassa. The rest…whatever being a Vampire means, it is certainly not the same as being human. It changes them, and I have yet to decide whether it is for better or worse".
"You've known Rassa since he was a child though," Iah reason, "That's plenty of time to make a decision".
Falla sighed, "And during that time he has done both great and terrible things in near equal amounts. If I were to weigh his exploits on a set of scales I don't think at this stage they would tip one way or the other".
"I've not heard of Ebony doing anything terrible," stated Iah.
"Not yet," Falla replied as she moved to leave, "But Rassa's scale was awfully positive before he turned".
Iah frowned, "Are you saying it's only a matter of time for Ebony?"
Falla shrugged, "She is only the second Vampire I have encountered, but time will tell if it is a pattern, or if Rassa was an exception. Good evening".
Falla left the office, and Iah leaned back against the meeting table with a sigh.
"You are worried for her," Mathius stated.
"Of course I am," Iah stated, "I may not know her that well but…In the time I have known her, she has been nothing but a friend, a sister even. I can't deny she's different since she returned here, at least different from the brief time I knew her before, but she's never struck me as the violent type. Determined to forge her own path perhaps, but not violent or aggressive. I always thought of her as a kindred spirit in that sense".
Mathius was silent for a moment, to the point where Iah turned to him. The older man sighed, collecting the papers before him and rising to his feed.
"Then, if it is not too bold of me, shall I keep an eye on her?" asked Mathius, "Just to make sure she is alright?"
Iah hesitated. She didn't want to put Ebony under surveillance like that. It didn't feel right. But if Falla's speculation turned out to be true…
"Just…just check-in to make sure she's alright," said Iah, "That's all".
"It shall be done," Mathius bowed his head in acknowledgement before he left.
"And Mathius?" Iah called.
Mathius paused and looked over his shoulder.
"Don't underestimate her," Iah stated, "Don't underestimate any of the Vampires".
Mathius nodded in reply before leaving.
Iah felt a dark feeling settling in her stomach, and hoped to whatever gods would listen that she'd made the right decision.
*Eldovian Era, 1713 5th day of the 10th month*
"You bought land at the base of Shigeni Mountain?" asked Kit with a raised eyebrow as he looked at the land deed. Quite a large land deed too. Shigeni Mountain was the southern-most Mountain of the Seisin Mountain Range. It's western side was covered in forests, whilst its eastern side was covered in grass land. Many people had thought of it as a great farming land in the past, but bandits from the mountains combined with creatures from the Forest had made the entire area nearby uninhabitable for centuries. It was practically untouched, but with good reason.
"It's perfect for our purposes," said Rassa, "Far enough away from trade routes to avoid prying eyes, but close enough that it could become a bustling centre should the need arise".
"Prying eyes?" asked Kit with a raised eyebrow, "You are aware the area is thwart with bandits".
Rassa smirked, "You are aware of who you're talking to?"
Kit rolled his eyes, "Right, of course".
"Of course," Rassa agreed as he stood, taking the scroll from Kit and rolling it up again before he dropped it. Kit's eyes widened, ready to reach out and catch it, only to see it drop into Rassa's shadow on the floor.
He looked at the shadow at the moment, then up at Rassa, "How did you do that?"
"Shadow Magic," Rassa replied.
"Shadow…you mean I can do that?" asked Kit.
Rassa frowned, "Sorry, I'll be more specific, Chaotic Shadow Magic".
"What's the difference?" asked Kit.
"The difference is that Order's Shadow Magic, the thing that makes you a Magician, has rules. Rules that tend to be enforced when it comes to things like space or weight," said Rassa, "Chaotic Magic is more abstract. It takes the shape of what it's wielder imagines more easily, even if it defies logic".
"That…hardly seems fair," said Kit, "Besides, I can use my shadows to lift heavy things I wouldn't normally be able to".
"Yes, because the shadows that lift those things are not just composed of your own shadow," said Rassa, "I've heard you built many of the building here, when you built them, were the shadows you used drawn from other people? The shadow of the mines? The trees? Or all of the above? I imagine all of those combined can take quite a bit of weight".
Kit sighed, "So I can't use my shadows as a storage space".
"You probably couldn't use it as a vessel for instantaneous movement either," said Rassa.
"You can do that?" asked Kit, his eyes widened in surprise.
"How do you think I covered the entire south eastern corner of the continent over one night?" asked Rassa.
"You were gone two days though," Kit said.
"I spent the second night locating the presiding lord and making my purchase," Rassa dismissed.
Kit sighed, "You really do defy logic".
Rassa shrugged, "How did the new runes come along?"
Kit pointed over his shoulder at where Olly was seated in the warehouse, surrounded by piles of paper, "He took to it more eagerly. I think he's got the first three down. If you know the whole language, why not just teach us that? Why six at a time?"
"It's too risky," Rassa stated.
"Because we could betray you?" asked Kit.
Rassa shook his head, "No, I know you wouldn't, and that he definitely wouldn't. I don't teach you the language for two reasons. First, because the runes are instilled with energy, and if you absorb too much at a time you will, inevitably, explode. Second, because we haven't got the resources for you to experiment with them at the moment as you will no doubt want to do".
"E…Explode?" asked Kit. Rassa had said it so casually. Even now, he just nodded as he walked over to Olly and picked up a few of his sketches.
Olly barely glimpsed over.
"You've got the Communication Runes pretty easily. Speak and Listen. You also got the Memory Rune. That's good, it's complex," Rassa stated. He turned to some of the others, "You seem to be having trouble with Illusion".
"I see truth," said Olly as he sketched, "Illusions cannot deceive me with the Mist whispering truth always".
Rassa turned to look at Kit who had approached, "You'll need to master the Illusion Rune then".
Kit took the piece of paper that Rassa offered with a frown, "Because I can be deceived?"
"Yes," Rassa replied.
Kit huffed, "He'll master it eventually anyway".
"Not as an Oracle he won't," said Rassa, "He may be able to understand the runes because of his connection to the Mist, but it is also because of his connection that he will fail to draw any Rune that the Mist can easily dissipate, like the Illusion Rune".
"As an Oracle?" asked Kit, "You say it like he'll become something else".
"If he chooses a side he will," said Rassa, "But that's his choice, isn't it, Olly?"
Olly huffed, "My choice could be the wrong choice".
"Was it the wrong choice when you saved Kit?" asked Rassa.
Olly's eyes snapped up, "That was different".
Rassa shook his head, "No it wasn't. Choices are not a bad thing. The Mist has infinite choices and takes all of them because it is the Mist. You have infinite choices, but you're only allowed to take one because you are not the Mist".
Olly frowned, looking away, "I won't always choose the right choice".
"Some people live their whole life making wrong choices, that does not mean their life was a failure," said Rassa, "If anything, their so-called 'wrong' choices probably made their life a lot more worth living".
Olly paused in his sketching, sitting back. He paused then reached his hand back, drawing out two other pieces of paper to hold up to Rassa.
Rassa just smiled, "Your Cleanse and Repair Runes are done well".
Cleanse, Repair, Illusion, Speak, Listen and Memory. Six more Runes to add to Moonshadow's Repertoire.
Rassa had had to force himself not to teach them more. There really was a danger in learning too many at once for those who did not have the power of a mind like his. His Vampiric abilities combined with his immortality had given him a mind capable of holding copious amounts of knowledge. He had the knowledge of those old ones he had consumed upon his awakening as well as their power. He'd barely scratched the surface of what he could do with all that knowledge, and it tested his patience to know he had so much time to see his visions through. When he told others of his patience, half of the time he was simply reminding himself of the fact.
Rassa sighed, "I'll need to go away again".
Kit looked up, "You just got back".
"Yes, and now that I've got the land to build upon, I need to not only gather the supplies needed but also purchase land in the major cities for Moonshadow's Charm shops," said Rassa.
Rassa smiled as he went over to the boy Magician who was just starting to become a man, "Miss me, do you?"
Kit looked away as Rassa's teasing, an ever so slight blush on his cheeks, "No".
Rassa straightened, "Well in that case, I suppose I'll stay another day or so to work on my projects then be out of your hair, no use inviting you along".
"I can come too?" asked Kit, his eyes lighting up as he turned back to Rassa. He seemed to realise his change in attitude was too sudden and his smile faded as he cleared his throat, "I mean…I should like to see where the new shops will be. It'll be good to have a second pair of eyes".
"Can a third pair help?" asked Olly from the side.
Kit turned back to look at him, "I thought you'd be too eager to start on the new charms".
Olly frowned, "If you're going, I'm going too".
Rassa sighed, "I've got a couple of projects to work on tonight, we'll leave tomorrow afternoon. Tell Wilma you're approved for an extended break in preparation for having to teach the new Charm Crafters".
"We���ll have to teach them?" asked Kit.
"That seems like a waste of time if we could be making runes," Olly stated from the side.
"Ah, but in the long run, wouldn't you rather free up your own time making these small-scale runes so you could focus on more complex projects?" asked Rassa.
Kit hid a smile. Rassa had found Olly's weakness all too easily.
"More Complex Projects?" asked Olly, "Like those projects you're working on tonight?"
Rassa nodded, "I'm only creating protection runes with a specific purpose and long-distance communication runes for the Moonshadow Business".
"The Projects can't be that complex then," Olly replied.
Rassa smiled, "Well I suppose if you haven't the free time, you'll never know. I'm going to go seek out a larger crystal from the miners, I'll see you at the first bell after the lunch hour tomorrow if you're coming".
Ebony stared out of the window from her apartment as the lights of the Port City dominated the landscape.
Her limbs were beginning to ache. As if the energy was slowly being siphoned out of them. It probably was. But as she had begun to notice those aches, she realised that she'd made a fatal mistake.
She should have fed that first night, and every night since. Her fear had cornered her now, until she was left with the option that had been what she feared in the first place.
When she fed this time, she would have no choice but to kill her meal. There would be no stopping it. Animal or human. She needed blood, and lots of it.
Even worse, she knew Iah had started to notice something was wrong. She'd set Mathius on her like a wolf on entrails. Ebony had been so focused on her hunger she hadn't noticed at first. She'd just thought that he'd been warming up to her. But then she'd sensed him watching her as she walked home.
Mathius could do nothing to her, and neither could Iah. But Ebony could do a lot to them if they got too close. Especially now.
Ebony hugged her legs close to her chest as she stared out at the moon, her eyes watering at her failure.
"Rassa," she mumbled, "I'm sorry I didn't listen. I need help…I don't want to kill them".
The Moon only stared back, no pity or remorse in its gentle silver light. Just an aura of knowing, as if it was saying, You chose this, exactly what did you expect?
"I'm sorry," Ebony sobbed, "I'm so sorry".
She said it so many times but by the time she fell asleep from exhaustion, she didn't quite know who she was apologising to. Rassa, those she was going to kill, the moon, or herself.
*Eldovian Era, 1713 6th day of the 10th month*
As the bell Rassa had designated rang out, Kit looked around for the hooded figure. The sun was still up, so it would be the hood he saw and not Rassa's dark locks and pale skin. Olly stood just a few metres away beside the Mess Hall wall, his foot scuffing the ground in a demure gesture that demonstrated his desire to come along just as much as his desire to not admit that he'd been drawn in by the prospect of experimenting with more complex runes. Kit couldn't help the amused smile on his face.
"Good, you're both here," said Rassa, practically appearing beside them as a short breeze followed him, "Where to first, north or south?"
Kit was surprised, "You're letting us pick?"
Rassa shrugged, "I'll have to cover all the major cities anyway, may as well just let the guests pick. It won't make a difference to me".
Kit accepted this answer before he thought about it, his and Olly's suitcases both disappearing into Rassa's shadows. Kit turned to ask Olly, but the young man just shrugged, indicating he didn't care where they went first either.
"Then…Varkevia. I heard the night market is one of a kind," Kit grinned.
"Varkevia it is," Rassa said.
Then a large crate, about two thirds of Olly's height, rose from one of the shadows, long chains attached to the sides.
Kit frowned, "What's this?"
Rassa swept his hand towards it, "Hop in".
Kit looked from Rassa to Olly then to the box, "Seriously?"
Rassa smirked, "As much as I like you kid, I'll not have you riding on my back for the flight there. I'll hoist the box, though take-off might be a bit rough, so hop in if you're coming".
Olly strolled over without delay. Kit paused another moment, making sure Rassa wasn't playing some kind of joke, then followed after Olly.
The two watched as Rassa grabbed the chains, lifting them easily as two huge, bat-like black wings seemed to emerge from his back, streaks of red along the edges. Kit marvelled, they had to be at least 3 metres long each.
Rassa nodded towards the box, "Hold on tight and try to be sick over the side if you need to, the ascension up will be rough".
Kit's eyes widened as he realised what Rassa meant, and he and Olly barely had time to grab the ropes inside as handholds before Rassa's wings lifted and he pushed into the air as he brought his wings down. The box jolted up violently, and Kit gasped in shock. There was a pause, during which they seemed to start falling and he felt weightless as his insides flipped within him. Then the jolt came again. This happened several more times before the box tilted slightly and the ride became much smoother.
Kit didn't want to open his eyes, but a tap on his knee from Olly had him opening them up to see Olly grinning.
Kit didn't like that grin, but before he could chastise anyone, he caught a glimpse of the clouds above looking a whole lot closer than before. He stood slowly, his eyes slowly turning to look down at the huge expanse of land beneath them.
"Wow!" he exclaimed, "The Mine looks like an ant hill from up here! Is that the ocean?! Ah! I think I see the Seisin mountains over there in the distance! This is amazing!"
A chuckle came from above him, "Glad you enjoy it. We'll be able to go faster at night with the shadows but for now our progress will be somewhat slow. We should arrive in Varkevia around dusk though".
Dusk was only a few hours away. A journey that should have taken at least two weeks, would take just a few hours. Kit's eyes strayed up to Rassa.
"Will this be what all travelling is like in your vision?" asked Kit.
Rassa gave him a small smile, "We'll see".
Kit grinned as he turned back to the view, and caught Olly looking just as excited beside him.