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At dawn, Claptrap awoke, his back still sore, and his eyes bleary. Warily, he sat up. The pounding at the door, which had awoken him in the first place, sounded again. Sighing, Claptrap got up and hobbled to the door.

The door swung open, revealing the female brewer, who had a serious expression on her face. “We don’t have enough stock, if the sales from the first day repeat. And we expect them to only increase as more people come to watch the tournament….”

Claptrap yawned widely. The brewer seemed annoyed. But by the time he finished the yawn and closed his mouth, Claptrap had his answer. “There is a low level dungeon near here correct? Gather a group of mercenaries and head in, setting up a brewery by the entrance. It won’t be perfect, but it should give us some more stock by the afternoon…”

Abruptly, Claptrap trailed off, lost in other thoughts. The bleariness from his eyes slowly faded, replaced by a focused determination. He opened his mouth again. “Take that 300 gold we set aside for ingredients for the next batch and use it immediately. Make it as extravagant as you can. Experiment. But make sure that at least half of it will be palatable. We just need to find some signature types…”

His explanation continued, and the brewer nodded fervently. As he dismissed her, two other people had arrived at his door, looking distraught. Claptrap shook his head sorrowfully. Truly, it was difficult to be at the top.

The first question was about distribution, which Claptrap was able to solve pretty quickly. The second question, however…

“The portable sales people are demanding higher compensation. A few silvers a day won’t satisfy them, not with how much business they did yesterday. We already had worries about stolen money based on low revenue for volume, and now they do this…”

Gesturing impatiently, the aide followed Claptrap into his room, where he began to wash his face, which was scrunched up as he thought about the problem. What would the Ghosthound do in this situation….

Claptrap’s face brightened. “Tell the vendors we hear their complaints, and are switching from a flat payment rate, to one done by commission. They more they sell, the more they will get paid. This way their payments are based on the revenue that they bring back… In addition, those with the best sales will have preference in choosing which sections they will service. ...and also, begin secretly keeping count of the amount of product each individual takes. Having a little waste is fine, but if it continues….. Well….”

Claptrap’s eyes were grim, but then he struggled to control his shock as his aide…. shivered at his words, before bowing and leaving. Claptrap turned to the mirror, and looked at himself. Nothing had really changed, his individual strength hadn’t grown. But in terms of the amount of people who worked under him, and the amount of money he had at his disposal.

It dawned on him how others could see this as a truly profound power.

After getting dressed, he headed to their headquarters, where he was intercepted by 6 other people with small issues on the way. Truthfully, most of them weren’t issues per se, but simply decisions to be made. Some of them Claptrap addressed, but others he responded with some version of “...deal with it however you wish. I’ll be waiting to hear of the positive results,” leaving the questioner sweating and nervous, unsure of what to do.

One thing that the Ghosthound had told him is that leaders of large companies (which was apparently the word for what Claptrap now had) had three roles, and they had very little to do with the day to day running of the company. The first was supplying the vision, which Claptrap had done.

The second was selecting mid-level managers. They would be the on the ground problem solvers, and they would make or break the performance of the company. So Claptrap gave these individuals small tests, to see how they would fair. He already had a small notebook filled with names and facts about the few people who had responsibility under him, and what they had done with it.

The final role…

“Sir, the representative from the Ceramics Association is here to see you.” An assistant said, hurrying up next to him. Claptrap nodded.

The final role is to be the face of the company.

The representative of the Ceramics Association was a bitter, hunched crone, whose stare fixed on Claptrap, filled with disdain. She spoke with something akin to pity. “You want… a…. special sort of mug?”

“A Commemorative Mug.” Claptrap said slowly. “And also mugs for some of the higher ranked participants; we want to allow our customers to display proudly which of the contestants they support, through their mug. If it could be finished by today…”

The crone seemed dissatisfied. “Such a rush job… tsk, tsk, truly youth rush headlong into problems. Well… I suppose at 29 silver a unit… we can get you 100 by the end of the day, but next time-”

“I’ve already prepared artist renderings,” Claptrap interrupted, pushing some papers towards the representative from the Ceramics Association. “And I’m willing to offer you a full gold for each done by noon. 40 Silver for any finished by the end of the day… In terms of units… We would like 5000 of the plain mugs, and 500 each for these 10 individuals. By the end of the day.”

“That-that…. A full gold…. How can you…. The money…” The crone stammered, peering at the different drawings.

Claptrap just smiled.

It took a while, but the crone calmed down, and began speaking to Claptrap much more deferentially. This was more business than she had ever done at one time in the past, more than they had done in the last year. It was a matter of scale of their organization.

But Claptrap offered to provide some of the funds up front, pushing them to expand their organization.

Right before she left, the crone gazed down at the drawings, seemingly stuck on something.

“Is there a problem?”

“Well no, but… I recognize these other Styles, but this one… I’ve never heard of it before… and it is supposed to be emerald? Isn’t that a bit… I wouldn’t want such a valued customer to waste all this effort, if this no name spear user is eliminated before the final tournament….”

Claptrap laughed. “In terms of bets… rest assured, he is the safest one I have made. It has been a pleasure, but I really must be going. Other preparations to see to, you understand. Feel free to see yourself out. I’ll send someone over at noon to see how the production is proceeding.”

******

Helen breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth, focusing on her form. She felt it, the strange strength and undulations of her river, flowing through her body, filling her moves with sharpness and strength. It was a power that filled her with a heady rush.

Part of her sudden improvement was the small bit of Aether she seemed to have gotten from the Ghosthound when they… uh…. made their exchange, but the other half was being able to watch so many high level matches. The passes that Claptrap obtained as de facto food and ale sponsor for the event allowed Helen to proceed into the very well situated sections, giving her an unrivaled view of the action. It was oddly intoxicating, being so close to those who she had once considered so far away. If her family could see her now.

“Helen.”

She positively jumped, surprised by the interruption. Very few people came up onto the roof area for training in the mornnig, especially since the Regional Tournament had started. She turned to find Randidly, walking calmly towards her. Instead of his typical large obsidian spear, he had a slim one of bone.

“Yea?” She said, trying her best to not show her annoyance and make him want to crawl away into a corner and die with a glare. Ultimately, these two goals effectively canceled each other, and Randidly walked closer, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“Can we spar? I’d like to try something.”

Helen bit back a snarky retort and nodded, adjusting her stance to face him. It would be good, she reflected to herself, to work out some of her annoyance and attraction and extra energy, all at once, by smashing his face in. Helen knew that he had gotten stronger, and his spells put him on a level where she couldn’t defeat him, but if they relied solely on spear skills… with her increase in power…

But as he walked towards her, the air seemed to quiet and then go dark. He was relaxed, but there was a baleful aura of death that hung around him, rooting her to the ground. Slowly, a smile crossed his face, and Helen shivered. A strange ticking filled the air, and she felt dread settle down around her shoulders.

This… this….

His eyes glowed a devilish emerald.

This was the Ghosthound.

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