341 The Moonshadow Trading Company Short Stories: 2 - The Remnants of Old IV
Iah stared across her office at the empty desk Ebony had taken to working at. She hadn't been in all day. Iah didn't want to impose, but she could tell that something was wrong even without asking for a report from Mathius.
Iah massaged her temples as she looked down at the numbers in front of her. In all honesty, the girl had been more of a hindrance than a help ever since Rassa had left. Iah never thought she'd see the day when she was better at this whole business thing than Ebony.
A knock sounded on the door and Iah sighed.
"Come in," Iah called.
Mathius entered, closing the door behind him again, "The orders scheduled for pick-up have all been collected and payments have been done in full".
Iah nodded, taking the report from Mathius tiredly, her eyes straying to the empty desk again.
"Elsbeth is doing well, she handled some of the clients and though surprised upon seeing a new face, none of them seemed unhappy when they left," Mathius stated.
Iah nodded again. After a short pause, "Ebony?"
"I'm pretty sure she hasn't left her apartment today," Mathius admitted.
"At all?" asked Iah, turning to look at Mathius
That was unlike her. Ebony had always been one who had to be doing something.
Iah stood, her decision made, "I should check on her-"
"Miss Iah, you have a dinner with Miracle Lasvorn," Mathius stated.
Iah's head dropped in realisation. The head of the Rouke Island Magician's Guild. She'd completely forgotten, but it was something she couldn't miss.
"Right," said Iah, her eyes not leaving the empty desk.
"I can check on her," said Mathius.
Iah turned to look at Mathius.
"Are you sure?" asked Iah.
Mathius nodded, "I may not have known her long, but I know something is bothering the poor girl. Maybe she just needs someone to talk to".
"And you think she will talk to you?" asked Iah.
Mathius gave a warm smile, "I'm told I have a gift for such things".
Iah sighed, "Thank you, Mathius. But if something is wrong please send someone to fetch me right away. Miracle Lasvorn may be an important client but Ebony is a friend".
Mathius nodded, "Of course, Miss Iah".
Iah nodded, then listened as Mathius gave the rest of his daily report before he bid her good luck for the dinner and ventured off as the sun began to descend.
Iah sighed. She hoped Ebony was okay. Iah knew that Rassa would likely have something to say on the matter, but the way she was now, Ebony wasn't helping Moonshadow. Iah would have to cut her off from the business if this continued.
Varkevia was everything Kit had dreamed of and more. It was so different to the port cities on the Islands and Port Lovolon, Varkevia rested on the side of a small mountain that on the east side flowed down towards a wide river at the bottom of a valley that flowed towards a large bay. On the west side there was a great intersection of roads leading in every direction, and villages spotted over the grasslands between.
The spires and grand houses of the rich and powerful looked down on the more humble lives of those beneath, but no matter their origin, everything seemed to congregate in the grand square just short of the base of the mountain. It seemed to come alive as the sun set, with business booming for all those that were there.
"Is this the Night Market?" asked Kit as he looked around at the vastness of what was available.
"It is," Rassa nodded, "I'll go and get us a room at the Pig's Pint Inn. It's about 3 blocks up the mountain, you can't miss it".
"You're not taking us with you?" asked Kit.
Rassa smiled, "Enjoy yourselves. You go shopping for whatever takes your fancy. I'll go shopping for a building".
Kit was about to protest, only to realise that he probably wouldn't be of much help anyway when it came to looking for a shop-front for Moonshadow. It begged the question why Rassa had brought them along in the first place, but before Kit could ask, Olly was already dragging him through the crowd, not even bothering to wave goodbye to Rassa.
Rassa watched them disappear into the crowd before his eyes strayed up the street. If he was looking for the best spot for a storefront in Varkevia. It would have to be somewhere close to this square, but it was highly unlikely that he'd find anywhere near here. Besides, Moonshadow was not like any other company.
Rassa began walking up the hill towards the inn he'd mentioned, his eyes scanning the streets and buildings. It wasn't long before he saw the inn, paying for the rooms like he's said he would and placing Kit and Olly's belongings in them. It was when he took a glance out of the window of the inn that he saw it.
Just outside the city limits, in a more heavily wooded part of the city, stood a building four stories tall and as large as one of the mansions in the upper parts of the city. The building was dark, and appeared abandoned.
Rassa immediately asked about it from the Inn Keeper.
"Ah, the old Bennett House? It's been abandoned ever since the line died out a decade ago," the Inn Keeper explained, "No one wants to buy it because the Bennetts' were pretty fond of the elves, let them stay in the house whenever they visited. Rumour has it that the daughter of Lord Bennett went and had a son with one of them. Though, since they all mysteriously died most people just view it as an eyesore. A family trying to be noble by building a mansion, but not having the dignity to build it higher".
That explained it then, why no one currently wanted to associate with it. Rassa would make bets that that would change as soon as people knew it was a Charm shop.
It only took one more question to get the name of the one who held the deed.
Hence, an hour later, Rassa sat opposite the man who held the deed as the man came to the revelation of who Rassa was.
"Moonshadow…I heard tales of a company called Moonshadow in the Isles that possessed a fascinating and unique product," he said, "It would not happen to be the same Moonshadow, would it?"
Rassa smirked then reached into his pocket and drew a protection charm from the shadows, "You mean this fascinating and unique product? I admit they have a certain charm to them".
The man looked positively greedy as he eyed the charm, "What would one who shares the name of that company be doing on my doorstep I wonder?"
Rassa placed the charm on the table in front of him, "Well, with business doing so well, I'm looking to expand. Varkevia is the most successful Trade city in Eldovida, it simply makes sense. But I find that there are few buildings that meet my requirements for a storefront. I understand that you hold the land deed to the Bennett mansion".
The man looked up at Rassa in surprise.
"You wish to purchase the Bennett House?" asked the man.
Rassa smiled, "If it is possible".
The man seemed hesitant, "Well…"
One of the claws on Rassa hand extended inconspicuously and he tapped the protection charm.
"I would be grateful if you could sell it to me," Rassa smiled.
The man looked at the charm, then at Rassa, then back at the Charm before he huffed and turned to a servant in the corner, "Retrieve the Bennett House's Deed for Mr Moonshadow".
The servant nodded and left the room. The man turned back to Rassa, "I'm sure we can come to an agreement Mr Moonshadow. The Bennett house is worth at least four million gold, but I could sell it to you at…perhaps three million?"
The man's eyes flicked down to the charm.
Rassa smirked, his claw flicking the protection charm across the table to where the man stopped it and held it greedily.
"Three million it is, take that as my gift for your cooperation," said Rassa. The shadows around him revealed the crates of gold bars, and the man's eyes widened in shock as he met Rassa's gaze.
Rassa delved into his memories, using the allure to capture the man completely. Why had he hesitated? Why hadn't he wanted to sell until the greed got the better of him?
Ah, so that was it. The land wasn't his to sell in the first place. The Bennetts were not completely dead.
"You will take a pen and paper and write to the young Bennett Heir. Tell him what you did, and that you are willing to give up two thirds of your payout to him. Then, tell him the new owner is willing to pass all possessions within the house to him if he wants them, but he must show up within three years of today," said Rassa, "Is that clear?"
The man nodded, "It is clear".
"And forget my oddities whilst you're at it, I am but a man with a powerful vision," said Rassa.
The servant re-entered and Rassa turned to face him. He stood and took the deed without so much as a glance back.
"I thank you for your business, but I really must be off, I've work up quite the appetite," Rassa stated.
Ebony flinched at the sound. She'd been wallowing in her own fear all day. She hadn't expected to hear from anyone. Not until Rassa got back. She wouldn't risk it until Rassa got back.
The weakness was more prominent today. The aching of her limbs making it hard to move without flinching. But she could still move. From what she'd heard of Rassa, she still had another week at least before the Sub-death would take over. Another week. Rassa would surely be back within that time.
"Go away," Ebony groaned.
"Miss Ebony? Is everything alright?"
Ebony huffed, "You can go tell Iah I'm fine".
There was hesitation before Mathius spoke again.
"Miss Ebony, I have no intention of passing anything to Miss Iah that you don't want passed on, I'm only here to enquire if you are okay or not. You were absent today and many of us grew concerned," Mathius stated.
Ebony sighed, "I said, I'm fine".
"With all due respect, Miss Ebony, you do not sound fine. May I come in?" asked Mathius.
Ebony's eyes widened. Probably not the best idea. She hadn't let the room for a reason.
"Ah, I really don't think that's-"
She heard the click of the door unlocking and spun in her seat to find Mathius entering. Ebony's eyes narrowed, "I thought mine was the only key?"
Mathius sighed, "Moonshadow possesses all master keys of it's buildings in case of emergencies, I deemed this one".
Ebony huffed, "You should leave. No good will come of you being in here".
Ebony went to turn away, only to have her eyes catch the blue of the veins on his neck.
Mathius, oblivious to the predator having locked onto him, smiled, "I find I am quite the listener, Miss Ebony, perhaps I could lend you my ears and we could talk of what is bothering you. A pair of shoulders as delicate as yours should not be wracked with burdens".
He approached, and Ebony couldn't help but chuckle. Did the man have a death wish? Because that's exactly what Ebony's hunting instincts were plotting. With how he seemed so unphased by her he was practically asking her to do as her instincts were screaming for.
"Burdens?" asked Ebony, "It shouldn't be a burden if it was something I asked for but I suppose it is".
Mathius came to sit on the couch near Ebony, looking legitimately interested, "Something you asked for?"
Ebony appraised him for a moment, "You really aren't going to leave when I tell you to".
Mathius gave a small smile, "I may be old, Miss Ebony, but I know where I am needed, and you need me right now, if only you would tell me what for".
Ebony looked to the roof of her apartment. Ebony could feel her fear slipping away as instinct took over. It needed food, and here it had been presented to her. Instinct did not fear what Ebony did. The instinct within her only knew hunger, and how to remedy it.
"You will probably regret that," said Ebony, then her eyes move to meet Mathius' as she felt her hunger overtake her, "But I've warned you three times now, so it's hardly my fault you didn't listen".
Mathius opened his mouth to speak, only to register a hand over his mouth as Ebony appeared before him, settling herself onto his lap in a matter of milliseconds. His eyes widened in surprise, then he stared at her in question as her mouth opened in a smile. A smile that Mathius watched with growing fear as her fangs extended.
"You want to hear my problem, Mathius?" asked Ebony as she grabbed the side of his collar and ripped it away from his throat, "My problem is that I'm hungry, and being rather new at this I often fail to keep my prey alive after I feed from them. Rassa's always been there to stop me before, but not right now. I found myself in a rather large moral dilemma because of it. But now? Now I've decided it'd just be rude for me to refuse you after you offered yourself up so willingly…I'll try not to make it hurt".
Mathius sucked in a breath as Ebony leaned in and sunk her fangs deep into his neck.
She pulled and sucked and gulped. Moaning as the taste of blood hit her taste buds and she swallowed.
So good. Why did she ever think of stopping? Why did she ever think it was okay to forego this pleasure?
Ebony revelled in her meal, sucking and swallowing all she could get, moving as close as possible to his veins in hopes of more. The aches disappeared. Her weaknesses with it. Until Ebony registered the wetness on her cheeks, and she knew without checking that she was full. That she didn't have to take a drop more. But it was as she began to pull away that instinct hit her hard. She should just finish the job. She was so close anyway. So close.
Too close. He'd not survive it anyway if she stopped.
Ebony jerked back in her shock, looking down at Mathius in horror. Oh gods, what had she done?
"Mathius?" asked Ebony.
Her barely seemed present as he looked up at her, his eyes so faded and his skin so pale that Ebony felt her throat close in despair. She grabbed his arms and shook him.
"No, Mathius? Please? I'm sorry, I didn't mean it," said Ebony, "I'm sorry, please don't die. Please. I take it back. I take it back!"
Ebony paused, her eyes widening in realisation. Yes. Yes, she could give it back. Ebony didn't even hesitate, she cut open her wrist with her fang and pushed the bleeding wound up against Mathius's lips. She shifted, cradling him and enticing him to drink. It didn't take him long. A Vampire's lifeblood tasted like heaven to the dying.
Ebony let him drink from her. Let the weakness take over again until he reared back, screaming as the change took hold of him. Ebony moved away. Standing to watch as the wound on her wrist slowly closed over.
Oh gods. Mathius would live. But…she'd just sentenced him to the same hungering fate as her. What had she been thinking? No, she wasn't thinking. She was an absolute mess. She needed Rassa. She needed…she needed Aegin.
Ebony squatted back down as Mathius screamed in agony on the floor of her apartment. Ebony hugged her legs close to her chest.
She needed her friend. Her confidant. The one she had been through the darkness with and plunged after when he'd fallen further. He'd left her behind. She needed him and he'd left her behind. Ebony felt the tears fall relentlessly as she sobbed. Rassa had left her too. But Rassa was no longer just a friend, Rassa was her Sire. The one who had stood by her and trained her and had faith that she'd be fine on her own. He hadn't let her down by leaving, she'd let him down.
Ebony sniffed and looked back up at Mathius who was breathing hard, far stiller and more silent as he gasped for air.
Rassa would be disappointed in her mistake…but he'd be even more disappointed if she didn't take responsibility for her actions.
Ebony could feel the Sire bond now as it formed with Mathius. Just like her bond with Rassa, only in reverse. Ebony felt the responsibility weigh on her shoulders, and knew she had no other choice. She couldn't turn everyone she nearly killed. That just wasn't an option. Ebony stood on shaky legs, then dragged Mathius up onto the couch. He'd be out for a few more hours while the change took over. Enough time for Ebony to get what they both needed.
She dressed in her hunting gear and walked out onto the balcony in the night. There was no hesitation in her eyes this time. No fear. Just a deep acceptance for her actions, and for what had to come next.
*Eldovian Era, 1713 7th day of the 10th month*
Rassa followed the bonds, both old and new, all the way back to Rouke Island. He'd had no other choice when he'd felt the new bond form.
Now, as he looked into Ebony's apartment where she stood to the side of the room, the prisoners shivering in fear as they watched the new Vampire consume their cell mates and drop the bodies down without regret, he understood without a doubt that she had at least learned the lesson he'd wanted to teach her.
Rassa came to stand beside her, but did not offer her any form of consolation as they both watched their new Coven Member have his first feed.
"You will need to tell him when to stop," said Rassa.
Ebony flinched, then risked a glance at Rassa, "You…you're not angry?"
Rassa glanced back at her, but said nothing.
Ebony frowned, "You wanted me to make a mistake".
Rassa turned back to the old man. Not his first choice to share his eternity with, but there was hardly anything short of killing him that Rassa would do now.
"You wanted me to make a mistake?" Ebony repeated, clearly wanting an answer.
"Chaos does not listen easily. You have to learn your hardest lessons yourself," said Rassa.
"You left me when I wasn't ready?" asked Ebony.
"You are ready now," said Rassa, "You did not hesitate when you brought them here, did you?"
Ebony turned to the prisoners that Rassa had indicated.
"They're due for execution anyway, I-"
"You're a vampire. A kill is a kill. You should not be so concerned about whether or not that kill is justified by binds of order such as morality. But that is another lesson," Rassa said, he pushed away from the wall, "I'll inform Iah that you and Mathius will be indisposed today. You can both come with me to Eldovia tomorrow. I still have shops to purchase, hiring to be done and buildings to erect. You might want to stop him soon".
Ebony's eyes turned to Mathius as Rassa disappeared from the room, and despite her anger at him, she found herself understanding Rassa's words. Ebony stepped forward towards Mathius.
"Enough, you are full," she said.
Mathius looked at her in surprise.
"I know you want to keep going, but the hunger will always tell you that. You need to learn to control it…"