“At the beginning of many big organisations stands just an idea.”
It took us another week to reach the city. The others weren’t exactly in a good mood. Halberd’s death was a shock for them. There wasn’t much I could do about it, except for keeping my mouth shut. But they were in the military and their life as adventurers isn’t less risky. I was sure that they would cope with it in time.
The overall mood in the caravan was bad. Everyone had lost someone. We started the expedition with over a hundred people and less than half are arriving at our destination. I wouldn’t call that a successful campaign.
So it was a good thing that we didn’t run into more problems. There was one attack from a pack of lizard-like monsters, but Norwick and his people handled them without breaking a sweat. The things were nothing more than dumb animals. According to Brian they are very common on the Horm Plains.
That’s what the landscape which lies behind the Marshwood is called. It consists largely of meadows and gentle hills which are covered by copse. The area and climate are perfect for growing crops, which is why the Horm Plains are also called the granary of the Alliance.
Hormundad is a relatively large city with about two hundred thousand inhabitants. Thanks to magic, this world is better off than a medieval one without it. They have less health and food problems, which allows for a larger population. But that’s only as long as they have enough healers and magicians.
Having strong magical powers comes with responsibilities and a lot of attention.
That’s why I’ve to be careful not to get involved with local politics. There’ll be no way around it, but if it happens, I want to be the one who has all the cards in my hands. The last thing I need is to be used against my will. The Alliance has laws against slavery, but that doesn’t mean that they are the good guys. I am sure that their high society has its own ways to keep commoners under their thumb.
It turn my thoughts to my surroundings. Hormundad is a pleasant surprise. The streets are clean and the tall buildings are made of marble. Most of them have two or even three stories, and the architecture reminds me of the Roman style.
My original plan was to head directly to the capital, but that might not be a good idea. Hormundad is large enough to provide everything I need. Setting things in motion is surely easier if I start from a satellite town, instead of the capital. The ones who are in power will have less time to react if they don’t notice my operations.
The first step are rumours. I was afraid that it would take a long time for them to spread, but in a city as developed as this one, there has to be a decent information network.
And in case that someone follows the trail of the rumours, they’ll be guided to a town which is close to the border. They won’t get suspicious because the information popped up out of nowhere inside the heart of the alliance.
I follow the caravan to the adventurer’s guildhouse, where we’ll get paid. The inside is surprisingly similar to the one in Tarin. The only difference is that it isn’t made of wood, but of stone.
When it’s my turn to get paid, I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that Norwick suggested to increase my status from level one to level two. Apparently, my performance and a positive recommendation by an adventurer above level five are enough. Having received the mediocre payment, I turn away from the counter and find Tristen, Brian, Fae and Kiara waiting for me.
“What are your plans from here on?” Kiara asks. “We thought about using a gate to travel north. Someone needs a few guards to examine old ruins in Abasin Valley. We thought that you might want to join us?”
I smile. There is no choice but to disappoint them. “I am sorry, but I have other plans. I need to sell my goods. With a gate around, I expect to get decent prices. And then I’ve to do some research on where to go next.”
Fae nods and hands me a communication crystal. It’s a fist-sized piece of blue glass. The shape is rectangular and it’s about two centimetres in thickness. “This communication crystal is keyed to ours. Let’s meet up if our paths come close to each other.”
I nod and study the item. Communication crystals are like modern mobile phones, though they come with a few disadvantages. They can be used to talk to anyone within the network, but it’s hard to add more people to the group. I assume that they gave me the one which belonged to Halberd. “Sure. I’ll try to pay you a visit once I’ve my things in order.”
Fae smiles. “Please do so, I am sure that we’ll meet again. The world is a small place for people who live as long as we do.”
“It’s smaller than we want it to be.” I clear my throat and allow them to hug me. There is nothing more horrible than emotional farewells.
At last I am free and outside the guildhouse. With that done, I decide to turn my possessions into as much money as possible. I should have enough to set up a small business. After asking several peasants for directions, I stand in front of the merchant guild.
I stay there for a few minutes, imagining several scenarios of how this could play out. Before I enter, I take a walk around the block. There is a distinct possibility that I might have to run very fast before the day is over.
Having memorized the streets, I decide to jump into the cold water and enter the guild. Once inside, I head directly to one of the accountants. “I have to speak with the guildmaster.”
The lanky catkin youngster looks at me with obvious distrust in his eyes. “Are you a level eight merchant? Otherwise you need an appointment to see the guildmaster.”
“Do I?” I ask and ignore the fact that he is clearly looking down on me. I channel magic and cast a basic privacy ward. By creating a weak shield around us, I dampen the sound of our voices. It won’t be hard for anyone to break the shield, but that’s not the intent. “I want to sell goods which cost at least five thousand gold on the open market. Are you authorized to handle that much money?”
He stops smiling and shakes his head. “I’ll go and get the guildmaster.” He gets up and leaves the counter. It’s a good thing that the previous guildmaster informed me of a few basic rules regarding the merchants.
I wait until the boy returns. He guides me into an office on the upper floor. The room is big and luxurious. The large window behind the large desk allows a good view of the city centre. I smile at the gnome who is sitting behind the overly large desk, then I turn to the young accountant and watch him with raised eyebrows.
It takes five full seconds until the young catkin gets it into his head that his presence isn’t wanted.
After the door is closed behind him, I cast another privacy ward and take the seat which is obviously intended for customers.
The gnome looks a lot like a dwarf, but his physique is lankier. The eyes are bigger and too round for a human. He studies me with interest. “Is the privacy ward really necessary?”
I smile. “Yes. Your underling is listening at the door and I heard that catkin have good ears. You can call me Joyce.”
“The lad may be a little too motivated.” He nods. “You can call me Dorver. I was told that you offer us a large trade?”
I take off the backpack and pat it. “This is a spelled backpack. I’ve a few dozen kilograms of various rare minerals, metals and some other refined goods.” I rattle down the list of everything I have. The only things I don’t mention are the molten gold, the books and Orwen’s power stone. “All in all, I want six thousand gold coins for everything.”
Dorver studies the backpack with greedy eyes. “That’s a lot of money. Enough to buy an estate. And I am not really sure that your goods actually add up to six-thousand gold.”
I nod. “But I don’t want property. I want my own company with ties to the merchants and a contract for future partnership. I want access to your worldwide information network any time I want.”
The gnome chuckles and shakes his head. “Do you understand what you are asking? Only merchants of the highest level get access to our economical data. Even with everything you are offering, you could only buy a few months of access to our records.”
I reach into the backpack and wave three sheets of paper in front of him. “How about detailed instructions on how to create something like this backpack? Use my name to set up a company. I want skilled merchants to work for me. The guild can have a certain percentage of everything the company earns by using these blueprints. That’s the payment for your administration, but the company belongs to me.”
He squints his eyes at the blueprints. “Only the consortium of mages knows how to create spacial artefacts. They have the monopoly on it and they take great care in not sharing the secret with anyone while they hide on their island-chain in the southern ocean. You really want me to believe that you stole the technique from them? They won’t take it lightly.”
“Who said that I stole it? I solved the problem myself.” I place the blueprints on the desk between us. It took me four days to reverse engineer a simple version of the pocket dimension spell.
The gnome looks at me with renewed interest. Up until now it seemed like he was about to throw me out. “Let’s assume that you aren’t lying. This will change a lot of things. Do you realize that releasing this information could topple our economy?”
“Oh, I am completely aware of that. And guess what, I don’t care. I want to make as much money as possible. But I realize that the merchants would become my worst enemies if I release this information on my own. I am just an enchanter who found out how to create pocket dimensions. I’ve no idea of economy. You are being given a chance. A chance to release this information in a controlled manner while making tons of money.”
He glares at the blueprints and crosses his arms in front of his chest. “It sounds as if you are blackmailing us. And who says that these blueprints are the real deal? It wouldn’t matter much if only highly skilled mages can use them.”
I place my hand on the blueprints. “These blueprints contain instructions on how to create a chest. Width of one metre, depth of fifty centimetres and a height of fifty centimetres. The material doesn’t matter. Once the enchantments which I inscribed here are on the chest, it’s inner dimensions will be about fifteen cubic metres. Every enchanter of average skill can place the enchantments and charge them. There is no need to understand the inscriptions. The chest will be fully operational for up to a year, after which the enchantments have to be checked for degradation. There is also a fail-safe function.”
The gnome’s eyes widened during my explanation. He considers my proposal for several minutes without saying a word. I allow him to consider his next steps. After all, I am asking him to become one of the big players in the world.
It seemed like an eternity, but in the end he clears his throat and tries to correct his clothes. “We'll need to verify the authenticity of these blueprints.”
He reaches under his desk and pulls out a big stack of papers. “We need to draw up a contract. A good one. A magical one.”
Now I know that I have him. “Of course.”