“Borders are imaginary walls to part people from each other.”
“You are putting a lot of effort into healing that little wound,” Kiara complains, but Joyce keeps prodding at her thigh. Our mysterious employer clearly knows very effective healing magic on top of all her other skills. In terms of abilities and knowledge she seems to be a bottle without a bottom. Whenever I think that she has reached her limit, she surprises us with something new.
I look around the laboratory which we were never allowed to enter. Whatever she did with the ore from the mine, it must’ve been a huge undertaking. She used the same spacial distortion spell which is employed everywhere else on the island. The difference is that she did it on a different scale in here. I can’t see the ceiling and the walls of this hall. They are so far away that the magelights in Joyce’s working area don’t reach them. It’s amazing.
The room is filled with equipment and metal machinations. Most of them make sense. They are the ones which are in close proximity to me. There was clearly some kind of evolution going on. Old-fashioned blacksmithing equipment led to large casting moulds and so forth. On a nearby table are a myriad of items and little gears.
Joyce created tools for the pure purpose of creating something else and as the process went on, the items got ever more complex. I walk to the nearby worktable and pick up a round item with spinning gears and little wheels. The purpose evades me until I am reminded of the time display inside expensive communication crystals.
I turn the artefact in my hands, but I can’t sense any magic from it. Still, the mind boggling thing moves and shows me the time.
Joyce grunts, but doesn't say anything to Kiara’s protests. Her mind seems to be somewhere else.
Kiara is in a metal deck-chair. Joyce didn’t build it to comfort the victims, as the treatment she gave Dorver’s guard, Kiara and herself wasn’t gentle. She called it a neutralisation field, but according to my understanding she just used lightning magic to electrify everyone. The beastwoman doesn't want to drop the issue. “I have never seen you using make-up, so I thought that you don't care for appearances. It seems like I was wrong. You actually do care about looks. Otherwise you wouldn’t make such a fuss about a little scar.”
Joyce raises her dark eyebrows. “I just want to make sure that the projectile didn't transfer any curse to us. It broke through two layered barriers and was enchanted with some type of explosion spell. In addition, the thing was accelerated with force magic. Someone invested a lot of effort in order to make sure that the target of this attack wouldn't walk away. We are talking about at least three layered enchantments. It's not so unreasonable to think that there might be some hidden effect to make sure that even a glancing hit finishes the target.”
Kiara closes her mouth and allows Joyce to finish the inspection.
I turn my attention to the gnome and his guards. The men are taking delicious delight in seeing Kiara's naked thigh, so I step into their line of view. “We need a new plan. Things just got a lot more complicated.”
“How so?” Joyce asks.
“Up until now we simply recruited whoever fulfilled our needs. We even took in their families without additional questions. We have to stop practising this policy if we don't want Illum to be overrun by spies and assassins. From now on, we need to screen everyone who joins us on Illum,” I elaborate.
Joyce nods, so I continue. “We also need to change the way people see you. For now, it doesn't change much, since you were running the island according to your wishes anyway. But everyone has to understand that the Alliance acknowledged you as an independent ruler, which makes you at least a noble. You need at least some respect among other rulers.”
Dorver raises his hand. “It's been a day since I arrived. This morning, Joyce let me in on her plans regarding future operations and I must say that there are a lot of ways to improve on your recruitment style.”
I cross my arms in front of my chest and confront the gnome. “Do you want to say that I didn't find good workers when we hired employees?”
Dorver quickly back-pedals. “You did the best you could, given the situation. I am not saying that you didn’t find a lot of good people for this island. So far, you laid the foundations. Now, we need to create an organization. Joyce explained her intentions to me. What she has in mind can't be achieved by visiting town after town.
“Up until now, it worked out because you didn't have the reputation and needed the resources, so you had to visit places like Sawood and Teheim. But now we need the best of the best from all over the world. Illum is quickly becoming famous and we can use that to our advantage. I am sure that you know of the fact that the merchant guild also acts as a mediator between employer and employees.
“I suggest employing the merchant guild to search for suitable candidates all over the world. The guild can handle a first screening to weed out dubious individuals. Whoever passes your standards can use the gate to be transported directly to Illum. You just have to be close to a city which is connected to the network.”
Joyce stops her inspection of Kiara's wound. “I am sure that you are doing this to get even more money, Dorver. Do you know how much gold it takes to transport someone through the network?”
I nod. “I am not sure if you are aware of the actual scale of this operation, but hiring hundreds of people from other countries takes a whole shitload of money.”
The corners of Dorver's mouth stretch into an evil grin and the gnome reveals a set of pointy teeth. “Who says that we are going to pay the border fee? We are going to hire everyone we can within the Alliance, then we move the whole of Illum over to the Sociocrathy and hire people from there. We just have to fly to the next city with a gate, a few miles behind the border.”
I open my mouth to protest, then I close it again. “That could actually work. The various governments won't like it, but they will have no legal way to protest. Illum is its own state, after all.”