5th Kuthona, “Sunday” of the year 4711, Evening
Tavern: The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove
It’s been a day of business negotiations, and they are extremely tedious. No one seems willing to be generous and fair – each is out to serve only themselves. And I did things today which I am ashamed about, and which I believe betray my Goddess’s trust in me. I find myself unsettled and uncertain, and desperate for guidance. Ellesar is in my thoughts often.
I awoke to find Morden gone. Again. Perhaps I should install one of those animal doors for him, to facilitate his comings and goings? All his secrecy is ridiculous and infuriating – I feel certain that he trusts me, and yet… Well, I cannot allow it to interfere with my work here: personal is not the same as important.
Oriana told me this morning that morale is at an all-time low after the arson of the granary last night. I ordered a simple breakfast and sat down with Suzane, the caravanner who I had first met along the Chavali river. The caravan is due to leave for Magnimar this morning; they await one final shipment from the north but suspect that it will not come. I asked her a little advice about how to build trade links – after all, I have businesses now and I know little about making money and care (for my own part) even less, but for the good it will do Roderik’s Cove. Suzane suggested that I will require a trade depot (a warehouse with facilities to load and unload, and do trade dealings). I will also need caravans, or to build my own, in order to send out merchandise. At that, Suzane broke off, and went to fetch Ackban, the head of the caravan troupe, to join the conversation. He told me that they are currently carrying food, which they are willing to trade for weapons.
I went to find Dereck, to broker the deal (which involved finding Azial to open the elevator – he’s going to make me a key, which will make everything easier). Down in the forge, Dereck was instructing his new apprentices – one girl and three boys. We fetched some merchandise examples from Zao, and bumped into Morden who offered to help. (Incidentally, I asked Zao about the three Tian vials, but apparently they are written in ancient dialect which he cannot read). I also informed him that Thoren and Oriana are willing to train the Militia in swordsmanship and archery. Apparently a lot of people are thinking of leaving the city, but hopefully after all my work of today, we can persuade them that remaining united is the wisest course of action.
Dereck did most of the “client relations” as he calls it – he showed Ackban around the forge and mine, and even introduced him to Ulden, who showed us a new seam of star-rock. When Ackban realised that it was filled with Adamantium, his eyes gleamed with opportunity. For myself, I see it as a good omen from Shelyn, since today was the first day of the new operation. At last we were able to sell the Caravan a great deal of weapons, whilst maintaining some for our own supplies (did you know that ‘wholesale’ goes at 70% of face value?) We gave Ackban a discount, on the understanding that he will put the town in the Northern trade caravan route. He has also promised to let it be known that our Forge has ore, and items to sell, and that the town is in need of salt, hard wood, food, medicine and furniture.
The food we bought from Ackban totalled 6 sacks of corn and 20 sacks of grain. Hopefully this should help replenish a little of what was lost in the fire. I bid Ackban fair travelling for his journey before he set off – the caravan is heading to Ravenmuir,Wolfseer, Galduria, Nybor, Wartle, Sandpoint and then finally Magnimar.
That first order of business settled, I met Yolanda in the forge for our “transaction” of Arietta. Yolanda remarked that it was unlikely that others would attempt to come after Arietta again. Yolanda also tried to question the value of the gemstones I offered her, but I quickly set her right in the matter. I investigated the possibility of hiring some of her men for an assault against the orcs, but at 80gp/person/day, the city would bankrupt itself trying to afford them. She may not be evil, but Yolanda is nothing if not selfishly driving for personal profit.
I bought a great deal of food from Yolanda from my own funds in order to feed the city. I’m sure Dereck can sort out the business end of it, and I tried to keep note of everything I bought:
- Beans – 3cp per lb – 360lb – 10.8gp
- Cheese – 4cp/lb – 200lb 8gp
- Potatoes – 3cp/lb – 800lb – 24gp
- Salt – 5gp/lb – 40lb – 250gp
- Wheat – 2cp/lb – 120lb – 2.4gp
- Chickens – 5cp – 60 chickens 3 gp
- Sheep – 4gp – 4 sheep 4gp
- Thick leather – 3.5gp / yard– 10yards – 35gp
- Spun wool – 8gp/yard – 150yards – 1200gp
Yolanda will be sailing next to the Land of the Ulfen Kings (North, apparently). She bought a large number of ingots from us, which she will trade for rope, food, goats and canvas to bring back here. This is the start of a working relationship with Yolanda which I believe will assist Roderick’s Cove immensely.
After a while, Arietta appeared, dressed up in a red kimono. I took her into the library, a quieter place, to try to set her free. I explained to her that I ‘bought’ her under pretence – it is impossible for one sentient being to own another, and I explained to her that she was free, and welcome to go wherever she wished.
She became offended, asked why I didn’t want her, or if I doubted her beauty. Arietta is one of the daughters of the Emperor, and argued that she is worth her weight in diamonds. She began to attempt to seduce me. I tried to resist her, and I didn’t want to, but somehow she beguiled me and we made love. No, that is not the right word. We copulated, like animals, frenzied. She was irresistible, and when I tried I found myself tongue-tied, unable to get my words out straight. At last it was over, and when the empty pleasure abated I was left with gnawing guilt. This thing, whatever we did, is the opposite of what Shelyn represents. She kept talking about it, saying that we should keep having sex. This isn’t how Shelyn works, and I barely know her. The only thing which would dissuade her from such talk was business negotiation, and so eventually we came to an agreement – she will take 5% of my profits for a month, and see if she can help increase them. If it works out, we’ll continue. As for the other matter, I am unsure what to do.
After Arietta had gone, I arranged with Ulden to store the food. He asked, rather nervously, if he might be allowed by the Mayor to build a house above ground, and I offered him landspace near the Temple on my own plot. Ulden is eager for his family to grow up above ground in the sun’s rays, and I couldn’t be happier for his decision. In distancing himself from the Underdark, he becomes closer to embracing goodness into his life.
I spoke with Derek (who knows about my shameful behaviour – he walked into the library whilst Arietta and I were committing the act) about going after the singing lady. He mentioned that the sounds coming from Arietta and I were ‘stimulating’ both he and his ladies. Morden came down at that moment, sniffed the air and said “did you now…?” I supposed, then, that he knows my shame, that I slept with Arietta. I’m embarrassed. I wanted to explain to him that somehow I couldn’t resist her, that I’m sorry, but I found no words. Instead, whilst Dereck fetched his things, I found myself telling Morden that if he needs anything, if there’s ever a problem, I’m there to help him. I was referring to the fact that he disappeared so often, but if he understood he showed no sign. Unsettled, I headed off to approach the singing lady from beneath.
Making our way up the soaking wet stairs, I heard pitiful weeping, which grew gradually louder. I walked quietly towards the lake.
“My lady, why do you weep?” I called. Ulden had told me that she was evil, in league with Dic’Yien, but she seemed so terribly sad. When I turned the corner, what I saw was a woman made half of water, half of skin and bone. He hair was black, blue and white, her skin mottled. She seemed shocked when I addressed her directly, and asked who I was. After I realised that she was not evil in the way Dic’Yien had been, I offered to help her if I could. She truly seemed filled with sadness and, as she told me her story, I could understand why.
Her name was Iryani, and she was weeping for her beloved, called Andanan. They were both elementals, he of molten rock, and were sold off separately by her former owner. Again my blood boiled to hear yet another tale of slavery; if there is a root of evil, it is perhaps in treating people as objects. A suspicion struck me, and I began to explain about Dic’Yien – that I had killed him, but that I believed that her Andanan might be the elemental trapped in the room below. Dic’Yien had kept Iryani obedient by claiming to be searching for her beloved, but he had held Andanan prisoner the whole time.
Iryani joined us as we went to open the as-yet untouched room of the earth elemental. I confess I was nervous as I released the magical lock – if I were wrong, I would have two furious elementals on my hands. Their reunion, though, was heartbreakingly beautiful, an affirmation of every one of Shelyn’s songs. The pair rushed towards each other and embraced; steam and smoke broiled and spat, as water and lava came together. There was a violent flash, so bright even I was shocked. After a while the light dimmed – both Iryani and Andanan were there, their water and magma transformed into a black, crystallized material. We released the shackles on their arms and freed them.
Together they told me their whole story; they had loved one another for almost 150 years. Their families did not approve of their love, and Heil Thereil, a powerful elementalist, abused their trust and turned the lovers into elementals as experiments. They were enslaved as power sources for other experiments, before finally being sold off as slaves to Dic’Yien. I was very much moved by their story – they were originally from a far off land, but had no desire to return. I offered them a place to stay here, up in the inn, and they agreed wholeheartedly. I feel like it is the least I can do for such lovers, who put those like Arietta to shame.
Andanan, it turns out, still holds some of his residual powers from being an elemental. On the surface, he asked about the raw materials of the inn. When I mentioned that we would need cut stone for the reconstruction, he slid his hand deep into the ground, as easily as a blade enters a sheath, and pulled out shaped stone. It was extraordiary. He has offered to help rebuild the inn and I have agreed, though I will insist on paying him for his work.
I stood outside the inn with Morden for a moment, watching the sun set, welcoming the moment of peace after a busy day. I apologised for taking his time, but he turned my apology away, saying that he was glad to be there in case anything went wrong.
“It was a beautiful thing to see, though,” I said, without even thinking.
I felt Morden’s fingers intertwine with mine as he agreed, holding my hand tight with his. I smiled at him and eyes looked gentle, as they do when we are close together, rather than harder and calculating. I call those his public eyes – he always appears to be checking the exits. Now though, he seemed contented; he sighed gently and, for a second, I would have sworn the world was perfect.
I heard steps coming toward me, and the moment was broken. Arietta was there, followed by Zao (it was his steps I could hear – Arietta moves eerily quietly). Her expression was one of shock as she caught sight of my hand in Morden’s; after a fleeting moment, her customary self-satisfied smile was back. Walking up to me she announced, “I think we have a plan.”