Kervin's Point of View:
"From road to road, from trail to trail."
"Merchants roam, searching for a sale."
"Everything has a price, anything for gold."
"Our carts are full; everything must be sold."
"How did that sound?" I glance at my two guards Lurte and Ryiba.
"We're nearing Teeburn. It would be wise for you to remain quiet. We need to listen for Scholl spies that could be hiding nearby." Lurte warns me from my right with a straight face.
"I had no idea!" I pretended to look shocked. "We should warn everybody else." I wave to the other carts tightly packed around us, all heading the same direction. "If you don't like my singing, you can just tell me. I promise I won't be mad."
"We don't like your singing." Ryiba dryly says from my left.
"The two of you should be praising my singing for all the gold I pay you guys." I humph to myself and pretend to act insulted.
"We aren't paid to be tortured." I give Ryiba a quick scowl. The two of them are always criticizing my singing.
I won't get anything from arguing with Ryiba, so I look to my right at Lurte and switch conversation topics. "Lurte, how far from the city are we?" I can't see anything past the cart in front of me. The merchant I'm tailing has his cart stacked fifteen feet tall with crates. Judging by the smell, the boxes are probably filled with produce.
Lurte walks a couple of feet from our cart, pushing his way through the bushes and weeds outlining the road.
The plants and weeds should've died when winter arrived, but the war weather has changed the local ecosystem. Everything is wet and muddy due to the snow that falls one minute and then melts when sudden heatwave rolls in over it.
The sound of thunder echos overhead, as a flash of light streaks between the dark clouds above us. I've heard stories from older merchants about war weather, but this is the first time I'm experiencing it myself. It's said the weather around major conflict sites becomes more unpredictable, depending on the size of the battle.
The excessive use of magic in one area affects the weather leading to sudden downpours of hail, heat waves that scorch the earth, and gale-force winds that sweep carts on to their sides with little warning. If you have devil's luck, you can even be stuck by lightning that randomly discharges overhead.
How many spells are the two army's throwing at each other to change the weather this much? At least being nestled so tightly between the other carts helps reduce the weather's effect.
The closer we got to Teeburn, the more carts seemed to join us on the narrow road. Even now, my cart is hanging a few feet off the right shoulder to give room to the empty wagons leaving the nearby city.
"Not much longer. I'd say another 30 minutes before we're in the city proper." Lurte tells me when he takes up his previous position close to my cart.
"I bet every person with a few levels in Trading is here looking for some quick coin," I complain because of our slow speed.
This line would be moving faster if people were still going to the fort to trade their goods. Ever since Scholl started their attack a few months ago, only the craziest merchants would risk their lives bringing their products directly to the fort.
Now everything for the fort is purchased in Teeburn by the supply corps. The soldiers stationed in the city communicate with the fort and deliver all the goods they buy during lulls in the fighting.
"Is it ok for us to be here right now?" Lurte asks as we slowly shuffle forward.
"What do you mean? Why wouldn't we be allowed here?" I ask my faithful bodyguard.
"After the delivery to Spotted Creek Village, you wasted a week sending messages from Drey before you had us gather every weapon we've been storing at your house, and then we came here. How are we supposed to finish our route and find the magical items for miss Aaliyah in time? The company is going to reprimand you for not sticking to your assigned route." Lurte gives me a worried look.
"There's no need to worry." I calmly explain to Lurte and Ryiba. "The reason we wasted so much time in Drey, as you stated, was because I had to get in contact with some of the people who owed me favors in Silver Herd. Other merchants will make my stops for me while we're here. After we sell everything, we'll relax in Drey and gather the food for Spotted Creek Village and the items for Aaliyah. I have everything planned out." Lurte and Ryiba relax when they hear my explanation.
As we inch forward, I think about all the planning I've put into this trip. Ever since there had been whispers of war, I've been using my spare coin to buy weapons from my contacts. Trading under Silver Herd means I use their connections and coin to move goods around. Every three months, I have to submit a report on how much I traded and how much coin I made. All the profits go to Silver Herd, and I receive a bonus depending on how well I did. Of course, that only applies to the goods I bought and sold using Silver Herd's money.
Small deals here and there, and thanks to my trading with Aaliyah, I had enough coin to amass this cart full of weapons. I turn my head and look inside my cart at the overwhelming pile of arms neatly packed underneath a canvas cover.
The thirty spears I've bought from Aaliyah over the last two months and a few other pieces from her earlier work are my finest pieces. The rest are works I've picked up for cheap coin during my trade route. Overall, I've spent nearly five gold coins of my own money on everything. I should be able to quadruple my money by just selling Aaliyah's weapons alone.
I stop counting my future coins when I see the wall surrounding Teeburn come into view, cresting the cart in front of us. The line starts to pick up because the city guard is directing smaller carts over to a quicker inspection point. My cart isn't considered small, so we have to stay in place.
A soldier tells us to stop while the cart in front of me rolls forward and is inspected. The men checking the cart look tired, and many are dragging their feet. I've heard the city's population was dwindling the last two decades, and I doubt they have the human resources to properly handle the sudden influx of people.
The city was nearing its last leg, and if it weren't for the infrastructure invested in the city during the previous war, this place would've wholly fallen apart these last few years. Despite it being a large city, the population could barely classify this place as a medium-sized town.
Years of neglect can see everywhere, from the guards to the walls and the surrounding buildings. We've made it through the gate only five minutes, and I can see multiple builders trying to patch up the decaying infrastructure around us.
The war might be considered the luckiest thing to happen to Teeburn in nearly a century. The amount of money flowing into the city will only grow if our forces can hold the fort until springtime and more soldiers arrive.
After waiting ten minutes, the cart in front of me pulls onto the main road of the city, and the guards signal us forward.
"Name and goods being hauled." A city guard with a silver emblem of a tree on fire approaches us and asks for my information in a monotone voice.
"Certainly captain, my name is Kervin, and I'm with the Silver Herd Trading Company. I have weapons for the fort." I offer him a merchant's smile.
The captain raises an eyebrow at me. "You have identification on you? I know the three silver Herd merchants that make regular trips to our city, and they haven't told me about a fourth that would be coming."
I reach to my side and pull out my company-issued plate. This is the first time someone has asked to see my plate before. The people I usually meet are happy just to see a merchant and don't care who they work for.
"Here you go." I hand him the metal plate that has our company's logo along with my information on it.
While he's examining my plate, I explain why I'm here. "I managed to get a good deal on these weapons, and I decided to come here on my own time, so it's not surprising you haven't heard I was coming."
The captain nods his head in understanding. "Your identification checks out. I shouldn't be surprised by an ambitious merchant. You said you were hauling weapons, what else?"
"Only weapons here."
"No, kidding. Let me see the goods really quick." I hop off of my carriage and signal my guards to stay where they are.
I follow the captain to the side of my charge and untie the canvas hiding my cargo.
"Gods." The captain's eyes go wide when he sees the pile of weapons filling my cart. "This is the largest weapons delivery I've seen yet." That's good news for me. "Usually, people mix their cargo unless it's someone selling food. Give me a second."
I tie up the loose canvass while the captain stamps an entry permit for me. I'm confused when he hands it to me without asking for any taxes. "You don't need an entry fee?" I ask.
"We aren't collecting it due to the situation of the city. After a quick inspection, all merchants, laborers, and crafters are encouraged to enter and stay in Teeburn. We need all the help we can get. The city earns more money letting everyone in than we could with a gate toll. You're all clear, enjoy your stay in Teeburn." I give the captain a polite nod and usher my bivol forward.
"Do you want one of us to find an inn for the night?" Lurte offers as we make our way down the city's main road.
Each building we pass is either a cobbled together inn or a building being converted into another inn. "I don't think it will matter much in the end. No matter which one we choose, we'll have to be careful the sudden winds don't blow it down in our sleep." I point out the horrendous looking buildings as we pass them. Only a quarter of them look like they should be standing.
I steer my bivol, following the signs pointing us towards the location the army is purchasing goods from. "We'll sell everything and worry about the inn later. Who knows, maybe I'll make enough for us to rent out a house instead of one of these cramped inns."
"Like you'd ever waste your money on something like that. Just buy us the first-round tonight." Ryiba knows me too well.
"Sounds fair." I agree with him. And it's cheaper too, I think to myself.
We follow the signs through the city until we reach a clearing next to a sealed gate that leads to Fort North Ridge. The clearing is pure chaos with soldiers directing carts every which way while others empty the goods from other carts. Everything is being sorted into piles and loaded into heavy-duty steel carts with the Olebert symbol on their sides.
I see a soldier close to us, flagging us over to a spot between two other merchants parked off to the side.
After we pull into our spot, a different female soldier with a writing board in her hands approaches us.
"You with the Sliver Herd Company?" She asks me after she notices my bivol.
"Yes, Mam, the names Kervin. I have some goods you might be interested in." I use my most charming smile when I address her.
"Don't we all!" The man sitting in the driver's seat of the cart next to mine erupts in laughter at his own joke.
The female soldier ignores the man's outburst and focuses on writing on her board. She quickly jots my information down with little expression on her face. "And what are you selling today?" She asks me, finally looking up from her board meeting my gaze.
"Weapons… just weapons." I smile down at the woman.
I see only the tiniest bit of shock cross her face before her expression turns neutral once again. The man, still howling at his joke, chocks and looks at me in shock. From the corner of my eye, I see the man waiting on the other side of me is also sending me a curious look.
"Is that so. We'll have someone over here in just a minute." She informs me before turning around and walking off.
"Just like that! I've been waiting for over an hour, and he gets to go first!" The man in the cart next to mine starts throwing a fit. My guards tense up and slightly move closer to me. It's subtle, but I feel multiple angry gazes looking in our direction. I'm about to panic when I notice the murderous looks are directed at the man yelling to our side and not at us. The stupid man obviously doesn't notice the angry gazes the surrounding soldiers are giving him and continues to curse out loud.
"We'll get to you when we have the time. Until then, I suggest you silence yourself." The voice cuts short the man's whining and the surroundings go quiet. I search for the origin of the voice and notice an older man in an officer's uniform walking towards us from across the clearing.
"Certain goods take priority." The man is over 50 feet away from us, and yet his voice sounds echoes clearly in my ears without him needing to shout. The man carries himself like a golem, each movement precise and calculated. The medal on his uniform designates him a captain, but it's the embroidered crest next to it that draws my attention. Three arrows piercing a heart, that's the Pitz house crest. This man is a direct subordinate to General Emily Pitz.
The man finally notices the predicament he's in and pales in his seat. "I'm…I'm…. sorry." The man stutters as the captain nears him.
He doesn't even acknowledge the man as he passes him. I quickly dismount my cart and greet the captain before his ire turns on me. "I greet you, captain, my name is Kervin. It's an honor to be in the presence of someone from house Pitz." I don't dare use any of my skills on the man in fear he might notice and take offense.
Now that he's in front of me, I get a better look at him. He's 5' 10'' and has a perfectly straight posture. If you disregard the dirt around his cuffs and the bottom of his pants, his uniform is spotless. His black hair is short and well-trimmed with a few streaks of grey betraying his age.
"We can offer each other greetings another time. I was told you have weapons to sell?" Lurte, Ryiba, and I all flinch under his colossal gaze. This man has to be over level 70. If he's not at the fort fighting, he must be in charge of the supply unit here.
I clear my throat and straighten my back before I have the confidence to answer him. "I do, sir, take a look." I motion to my men to help me remove the canvas covering my wares.
As we remove the canvas, I notice the captain's eyes focus on my goods. Once we have the cover lifted, his smooth voice causes the three of us to freeze. "47 spears, 81 swords, 26 axes, 42 bows, and 2,492 arrows, not bad at all." He counted everything in the 40 seconds it took us to remove the canvass! The arrows aren't even in the open; they're in boxes!
"No magical weapons, but everything is of decent quality. How much do you want for everything?" I freeze at his sudden question.
My Mind Stat franticly tries to help me organize my thoughts. Do I use my skills? Why couldn't I be dealing with an ordinary soldier instead of this old monster? Will he take offense if I try to haggle?
I feel the weight on my shoulders, increasing each second I don't answer the man.
The gods be damned; I've worked too hard to falter now. I active every one of my merchant skills and hope he doesn't take offense. Trading, Increase Price, Best Deal, Smooth Negotiating, Charm, and my tier 4 skill Loose Wallet all activate together. "It was hard for me to gather all of this. I need 50 gold coins for everything." Every muscle in my body tenses when the captain doesn't respond to my offer.
I feel the sweat gathering on my brow as time seems to stop. With all my skills applying their pressure on the man, I anxiously wait for his reaction. I wait to see if his merchant skills will activate or if he has me detained for offending him.
"That is too much." All at once, I feel the strength behind my skills falter. "30 gold is more than enough for these weapons." Each of his words cuts through my skills pressure, and I start to feel the immense weight behind his skills, rebuffing the effort of my own.
I feel an overwhelming desire to agree to his counteroffer. I haven't felt like this since I was a child learning under my parents.
As my mouth starts to open, I do the only thing I can think of.
I slap myself across the face.
The two other merchants watching us look astonished by my actions, but I don't have time to focus my attention on them. The captain's gaze is still drilling into me. Before the pain fades, I need to make my counteroffer. "I need 40 gold." It takes everything I have to say those words.
The man's stern gaze flickers momentarily, and a soft smile creeps across his face. "I'll do 35," He offers.
This time I can't fight the power of his skills, and I'm forced to agree. "Thank you for the generous offer." I hiss between my teeth as I lower my head in defeat.
I keep my head lowered, trying to hide the disappointment I'm feeling. I barely notice the captain pull a slip of paper out of his pocket and write something on its surface before offering it to me.
I reach out for the slip of paper, but it doesn't budge from his hand. I'm forced to meet his gaze once again, and I'm surprised to see his smile had only grown bigger. "You have quite a bit of talent. You're the first merchant that managed to offer a rebuttal to my first offer. If you come back again, mention that you're a friend of Captain Nathanael." Captain Nathanael loosens his grip on the piece of paper before he turns and walks over to another cart in the clearing.
A few seconds after he leaves, the female soldier approaches me once again, accompanied by ten other individuals in the same uniform.
She stops in front of me while the others swarm my cart and start to remove everything. "Don't lose that ticket; you can take it to our barracks in the city and collect your money there."
"Where exactly are your barracks located?" I halfheartedly ask her.
"Do you remember passing by a building with a lot of soldiers entering and exiting as you made your way here?" She asks me.
I vagally remember seeing a building like that. "I believe so."
"All coin transactions are handled there." That makes sense. It would be hard for them to keep track of every coin being exchanged with it being so busy here.
I look over my shoulder at the people striping my cart of everything I've gathered these last few months. I look down at my ticket and notice the '35 gold' clearly written on it. This is what I get for months of my hard work.
"I would like to thank you." The female soldier's voice brakes me out of my daze. "You came at the perfect time. Weapons have been getting harder to come by recently, and your delivery will save many lives." She offers me a soft smile and bows her head.
I can't say how disappointed I am with my earnings after hearing that. "Anything for the Kingdom of Olebert," I reply, hiding my disappointment in my heart.
Everything becomes much duller after our conversation finishes. My cart is soon emptied, and we're asked to leave to make room for other arriving merchants.
The trip to the barracks to cash out my ticket was slow and tedious. The pouch of gold coins they hand me feels light in my hands despite them counting it twice in front of me.
Lurte and Ryiba led me from tavern to tavern until we fond a spot for us to settle for the rest of the day with an open room for the night.
I kept my word and bought the first round, then the second…. and third. The cheap mead wasn't making me feel any better.
Sipping my grog, I pull up my status page.
LV:53 Experience: 174,819/229,837
Status Points: 0
Skills: Running (LV32), Writing (LV34), Mathematics (LV37), Cooking (LV17), Trading (LV61), Driving (LV50), Increase Price (LV53), Decrease Price (LV51), Best Deal (LV27), Smooth Negotiating (LV30), Charm (LV42), Loose Wallet (LV11), Danger Sense (LV25), Contract (LV7)
I've worked so hard to reach where I am today. My parents, bless their hearts, worked their hardest for my older brother and me to earn the skills we needed to be successful merchants. I wonder how brother is doing running our family's vegetable stall back in Blaiton.
Even with it also being the headquarters for Silver Herd, it's been years since I stopped by to see my family. Maybe I should take some of my free time and stop by to say hello.
I look at the almost empty mug in front of me. Alcohol always turns me sentimental.
Glancing back at my status page, I think about my run-in with Captain Nathanael. Almost every one of my merchant skills leveled after our deal concluded, but that's the only good news I can think of.
Doing some quick math, I noticed I only earned 26,482 experience from selling everything I brought with us. Any other day I would be excited about that much experience, but when you factor in all the work I put into this trip, I was expecting enough experience to push me into level 54.
The only time a merchant doesn't receive their proper experience is when they're screwed out of their deserved coin.
I can only imagine how much money I lost on our deal. And that old man had the gall to ask me to see him again the next time I come!
"Another one!" I shout at a passing waitress. The only thing I want to do is drown myself in cheap liquor for the rest of the day.
Emily Pitz Point of View:
The sound of arrows releasing fills the air as I watch siege spells launched from our walls at the horde of Scholl soldiers down below. Their forces are spread out, mitigating their troops' damage while launching their own spells and arrows in retaliation.
I scan the horizon looking for their commanders. I spot them at the back of their army. They've learned their lesson and have moved all their prominent figures well out of my range.
Instead of relying on high-level warriors, they've spent the last three weeks using their superior numbers to whittle away our supplies with a prolonged siege. We've only managed to move the smallest amounts of food from Teeburn in the middle of the night during the lulls of battle. Food, weapons, daily necessities, we're running low on everything.
I wonder if Scholl's new commander planned on his strategy being this effective or if he just got lucky.
"Cristopher, how many more days can we hold out?" I ask the open space next to me.
My steward materializes next to me with a somber look on his face. "We have four days of food left if we stretch out our supplies. A few of our men know some minor blacksmithing skills and are frantically trying to sharpen and repair anything they can, but 10% of our forces have either no weapon or an improvised spear. If we don't get our supplies from Teeburn soon, we won't be able to hold Scholl's forces at bay. They'll take Teeburn, and we'll be stranded here alone."
I take a deep breath and contemplate everything he just told me. "It looks like I have no choice," I mutter into the wind.
"General?" Cristopher gives me a questioning look.
"Send word to Nathanael that he's to bring everything he can to the fort at once," I order Cristopher.
"But general, we can't push their forces back enough to guard that many supplies! We'll lose everything!" Cristopher shouts at me while looking pale.
"I'll handle it. Hurry along." I firmly order him to go and make the preparations.
Cristopher disappears in the direction of the closest communication mage. After a few months of us working together, he's stopped second-guessing me as much. Only at times like these does he second guess my judgment.
Without taking my eyes off the battle, I adjust my constitution and wait for him to return. Nathanael knows that he would be receiving the order to move out at a moment's notice, and I'm sure he can handle everything as quickly as I need him to. With the supply units' skills, the wagon train will make it to the fort in only an hour.
I have little time to get myself to my most optimum state.
I reach for the quiver at my side and draw the last of my specialty arrows. Each of the other arrows were used to slay the strongest members of Scholl's army and have acted as a deterrent against their most powerful forces. They might not know how many more I have, but even an incompetent commander would realize I don't have many more based on the frequency I use them.
Cristopher appears by my side again, looking at me restlessly. "The message has been sent and acknowledged; the supply wagons are on their way."
"Good, spread the word. Every soldier is to be on the walls in thirty minutes." Cristopher looks at the arrow in my hands and noticeably relaxes a little.
"It will be done." He vanishes once again, and our fort comes alive in a flurry of activity. Every soldier, even the ones sleeping and on their break, start arming themselves with everything they can and moving to the walls.
Time slowly ticks by as I watch Scholl's forces react to the growing presence on our walls. They know what's about to come. The only time we muster this, many of our troops are during supply runs.
"Shouldn't we have waited until nightfall, General? We still have a few days of supplies left." Cristopher asks me once he finishes notifying everyone in the fort.
"If we start rationing out food, it would weaken our soldiers mentally as well as physically. I only have one arrow left, and I need to make it count." I comely tell him.
"But their commanders refuse to come into range. How are you going to stop them from attacking our supplies with only a single arrow?"
"With my tier 5 skill, of course," I tell him matter-of-factly.
"Your arrows are strong, but I don't see how it will stop their charge."
"It seems you have forgotten." I give Cristopher a disappointed look.
"About what, General?" He manages to look hurt a little at my statement.
"You forgot that I have two tier 5 skills." I ignore his shocked expression and continue to focus my mind. One arrow to change everything.
As time slowly passes, one of the communications mages joins us up on the tower. "Word from Captain Nathanael, they're ten minutes out." The mage tells me, trying to hide his nervousness.
"Is everyone in position?" I ask.
The communications mage mumbles a spell before he nods his head in confirmation. Scholl's forces also look ready for a fight. They have squads in formation prepared to intercept our supplies. They have groups of mages prepared to counter any magic we try to throw at them.
I turn my head and stare into the distance. I see our carts on the horizon barreling towards the fort. "Send word to the wagons to pick up speed and not stop until they're in the gates," I order the mage behind me.
"Do you need me to summon the support mages again, general?" Cristopher offers from my side.
"No, extra magic will only hinder my skill this time." I raise my bow and activate my skills to draw my arrow back.
I make my final adjustments as Scholl's army erupts in noise. Those with a high-level Danger Sense can probably feel what's about to come, or maybe they're shouting to intimidate our approaching forces. It matters little to me.
My fingers release, and a shockwave hits my chest from the force of my arrow. All at once, the world becomes silent. Every one of our men in position watch the projectile soar through the air at an incredible speed. Scholl's forces panic as they try to predict where my arrow will land.
Once my arrow reaches its highest point and arks toward Scholl's army, do I activate my other tier 5 skill, Rain of Arrows.
My mana pool drops to 174 from 1,000, and 60% of my stamina drains away upon activation of my skill. My one arrow shimmers and divides in midair. One arrow becomes two, and then two becomes four, again and again, the arrows divide until the sky turns black as the countless arrows fall.
My arrow divides 22 times, raining over two million projectiles across 70% of Scholl's forces.
Death rains down upon my enemies.
Pockets of Scholl's forces survive the bombardment thanks to a few talented mages throwing up shield spells in time, but that only saved a few.
The dead and dying are too numerous to count. I stare down at the worst thing I've ever done in my life. With one arrow, I killed thousands of people.
My men don't waste the opportunity I gave them and fire their own arrows and spells at the pockets of survivors. The survivors of my skill are forced to retreat over their dead comrades.
"Gods!" Cristopher stares dumbfounded at the carnage in front of us.
"Send word to open the front gate." I breathlessly order the communication mage behind me. I pull out a stamina tonic from my pouch and down the whole thing in a single gulp. I make sure to hide the fatigue that's quickly settling in.
I feel a little better as my stamina recovers faster, but inside, my body is screaming in pain. I hear our gates opening below us. I slowly make my way over to the side of the tower and watch our wagon train barrel into the courtyard. Once the last cart passes through our gate, it's sealed again immediately.
"How is such a skill possible? You could've defeated Scholl's army when they first arrived if you used that skill then!" Cristopher looks at me in disbelief.
"It doesn't work like that," I tell him. "The only reason my skill worked was that their strongest warriors were hiding in the back. My skill doesn't conjure arrows from nothing. The arrows become weaker the more times they multiply. If any of their high-leveled people were upfront, they could've easily negated my skill with a few precise strikes. That's why the barriers their mages managed to conjure in time saved a few of them." I explain to him.
"I'm going to rest here a while. Coordinate with the supply team and have everything emptied as soon as possible. Their army will be in shambles for the foreseeable future. We have until they recover to get as many supplies into the fort as possible." I wave away Cristopher and the communications mage.
As Cristopher rushes to follow my orders, followed by the mage, I move down the ramparts and sit on the stone steps. Rain of Arrows is the more intensive skill of my two tier 5 skills. Even if I had another arrow, I couldn't use my skill like that again for another month without risking severe harm to my body. Maybe if I was younger, I could risk it, but I'm not a spring Kip anymore.
I've never had the chance to use the skill like that before. I've used it to exterminate hordes of low leveled monsters and a few bandit camps, but never on a scale like this.
I feel the pressure growing in my chest as all the experience I just gained tries to settle in my soul. I just killed thousands of level 30 and 40 soldiers. I haven't felt experience gain like this since I actively hunted magical beasts. Tonight, I'll have to distribute the status points I just earned.
I enter a light meditative state to ease the pressure on my body.
I don't keep track of how long I've been meditating for and only come out of my meditative state once I hear our gates opening again.
After my quick rest, I've regained enough strength to launch myself towards the gate before the wagon train leaves. I watch as the last empty cart leaves the fort surrounded by their escort. With the gates closing, I turn my attention to the courtyard. Our much-needed supplies are scattered everywhere.
The food supplies take president, but a few soldiers sort the weapons and necessities while the food is taken inside the fort. I notice Cristopher walking towards me.
I can tell he wants to ask me how I'm doing, but I don't give him a chance to ask. "How are the supplies?" I ask.
He frowns slightly but answers my question anyway. "With the mages preservation magic, we can hold out for another three weeks with what we just got in. But more importantly, we got a larger than usual supply of weapons." Cristopher leads me over to the area the men are sorting the weapons.
"Apparently, a merchant stopped by earlier today and sold us a cart full of weapons. The manifest says basic weapons, but they'll be better than what some of our men are carrying now." We watch the men check each sword, axe, and spear individually.
Most are unmarked goods from low-level blacksmiths, but I notice a maker's mark on some of the spears. "Not all of them are basic." I point out to Cristopher.
I walk over to the man sorting the spears and watch him tense up as I approach. "Let me see one of those." I motion to one of the spears with a maker's mark.
The soldier carefully hands me the weapon.
As soon as my hands grip the spear, I freeze in place. After years of testing out different bows, I naturally try to expel a bit of my mana into any weapon I pick up. The ease in which I feel my mana circulate throughout the spear is astonishing.
"Is something wrong with the spear, general?" Cristopher asks me. Both he and the soldier look at the spears like they're worried they're cursed.
"You have the manifest?" I question my aid. Cristopher hands me the document detailing everything that was delivered to us and who sold it. Because the delivery was all weapons, I quickly find it in the manifest. Nathanael bought them… and for only 35 gold! A rare smile spreads across my face.
"General?" Cristopher looks concerned and takes a step back.
"Cristopher, bring our enchanter here. Quickly." He barely waits for me to finish speaking before he's running into the fort.
I only have to wait ten minutes for Cristopher to bring me our garrisons enchanter. The young mage looks worriedly at me. "Do you need me to check one of your magical items, mam?" She fearfully asks me.
"Take a look at this and tell me what you think." I offer the girl the spear in my hands.
She struggles to handle the weight of the steel spear with her meager Strength stat, but once it's in her hands, she has the same reaction I had when I first grabbed it. "This is an amazing piece of work!" She exclaims down at the weapon. Her eyes quickly travel from the one in her hands over to the others on the ground. She places the one in her hands down by her feet and moves to the others. Her eyes only get bigger as she inspects each one.
After she examines the spears, she moves on to the other weapons. It's clear not all of them were made by the same blacksmith, but she quickly pulls out a few swords and an axe that she claims has the same composition.
I turn to an astonished Cristopher and explain her enthusiasm. "Each of those weapons has a perfect structure when it comes to their internal mana. Even though they're made with basic steel, each of them can handle basic enchantments." I focus on our enchanter. "You can enchant them, right?" I question her.
She freezes when she realizes I was watching her the whole time she was assessing everything. "Yes, mam. I have enough engraving ink to enchant all of them." She replies with a new sense of confidence.
"See that you do," I instruct her.
While she asks one of the soldiers nearby to help her bring everything to her workshop, I turn back to Cristopher. "Scholl should be quiet the next few hours; message me if anything changes."
"What do you mean, General?" He gives me a worried look.
"I'm going to find the merchant who sold us those weapons."
"You're leaving the fort?!" He panics.
"Just for a moment," I reply. "Those are the best weapons we've seen in months. The other high leveled archers and I are running out of good arrows. He might be able to get us some more. I'll be back in an hour at most. After what I did to Scholl's forces, now might be the only chance I have to leave the fort."
I can't waste time arguing with Cristopher, so before he tries to change my mind, I use my skills to accelerate to my room. I grab my money pouch and switch out my bow and quiver. I have to use a weaker bow and arrows now that I'm out of my special arrows.
I have to grab one more thing before I leave. Moving over to my small desk, I quickly draft the parchment I might need.
With everything in hand, I vault out my window and quickly scale the walls of the fort. I jump off our ramparts and silently land below. With my incredible Strength and Dexterity, I sneak my way over to Teeburn.
I have business with a merchant named Kervin!
Kervin's Point of View:
"Boss, are you sure you should be ordering another mug?" Lurte asks from the seat next to me at our table.
"I'm fine." I snap at him. "I can handle my liquor, worry about yourself." That's the problem with high stats. You can't get drunk when you want to unless your willing to pay for the stronger booze. Not like a shithole like this would have any, I already asked.
"I know you didn't get everything you wanted, but you still made a decent profit." Lurte tries to console me.
I don't feel like explaining how much coin I probably lost on the deal earlier today. He gives me a worried look and opens his mouth to say something else, but he stops mid-way and turns his head like he's listening for something.
Lurte isn't the only one; Ryiba and a few other patrons in the tavern also stop and try to listen for something. My senses stat is nothing to scoff at either, so I try to focus on whatever they're listening for.
It's hard to tell, but it sounds like the tavern two doors down from us is going crazy with multiple people shouting. What's also weird is the bar between us is surprisingly quiet.
The waitress stops by our table and deposits another round of ale for us. I start sipping my drink when I hear the once quiet bar next to us, erupt in the same manner as its neighbor. "Maybe we should move our party next door." I sarcastically suggest to my bodyguards.
"Maybe they have the good alcohol." One of the passing waitresses scowls at me for a second before moving to help another table. Not like the night can get any worse.
"I'm looking for a merchant named Kervin." A female voice just loud enough to be heard by everyone in the tavern comes from behind me in the entryway.
"What now!?" I loudly complain only to notice everyone in the tavern is silent. Lurte and Ryiba sitting across from me, are staring behind me with wide eyes.
I turn my head and make eye contact with the woman who just shouted my name. As soon as our eyes meet, I immediately raise my hand to my chest and look down.
It feels like an arrow just pierced my heart and not in the sense bards sing about love. No, it literally feels like an arrow is digging into my chest.
When my body realizes I'm not injured, the pain slowly fades, but I shiver when I look back up and find the older woman staring down at me.
"Are you the Merchant Kervin?" I nod, my body affirming the woman's question before I even know what's happening.
Now that she's close to me, I feel like I'm face to face with the scariest magical beast in the world. She gives off the impression she could kill me with a flick of her hand.
"That's good; I was tired of searching so many pubs looking for you. I have questions about the goods you sold earlier today."
"Why is she here?"
A few solitary voices echo through the tavern from the entryway of the inn. More than one person is trying to get a look at the woman through the entryway.
Their whispers make me notice the emblem on the woman's jacket and the bow she has strapped to her back.
Oh, gods! It can't Be!
"Emily Pitz," I mumble to myself.
"Yes, that's me. I need to talk to you about your delivery today." The world starts to spin as she repeats her request.
Was there something wrong with the goods I sold! I've heard of merchants being jailed for selling faulty merchandise to the army.
"Do you have a room here?" Again, my body naturally responds to her question before I can say anything. "Good, show me the way."
I unsteadily stand up and start shuffling over to the staircase leading to the room I rented. I turn to my bodyguards, pleading for help with my eyes.
The General follows my gaze and looks at my men. "Your bodyguards?" She questions me. Both of them pale when faced with her powerful gaze. "They can come too." She suggests offhand.
I watch them slowly get up and start following us upstairs. As we ascend the staircase, the whispers in the tavern begin to grow louder behind us.
We walk down the short hallway that leads to our room. I gently push open the worn out door that doesn't even have a lock on it. As soon as the General is inside, she waves my guards in to join me on the far side of the small room.
They take up position next to me as she closes the door. She then pulls out a necklace with three distinct sones from under her jacket.
The gem on the right flashes for a moment before she looks up at us. I can't hear the outside world anymore.
"I put up a soundproofing barrier so people can't spy on us." She explains. Now she can kill us without worrying about others hearing our screams.
I drop to my knees and bow my head. "I deeply apologize to General Pitz! I don't know what was wrong with the weapons, but I assure you I wouldn't have sold them to the army if I knew otherwise." I hear Lurte and Ryiba drop to the floor next to me and wonder if she already killed them. I don't dare look up at her.
Before I'm about to piss myself, I freeze when I hear laughter coming from across our room. I hesitantly look up and see the general holding her side laughing. I look to my right and left to see Lurte and Ryiba still alive and also clearly confused at the situation like I am.
"You think I'm here about faulty weapons?" She asks us, still laughing to herself.
"Yeeeessss?" I cautiously answer.
The general finally stops laughing and instead shouts me an inquisitive look. "Weren't you curious as to why you didn't earn much experience after selling your goods to Nathanael?" She gives me a knowing smirk.
When I don't answer her, she confirms my earlier suspicions. "You sold your goods for a coper of what they were worth."
Being told that to my face gives me enough confidence to talk finally. "Might I ask what you mean by that, Lady Pitz?"
"Before I do, I wish to apologize." I'm shocked by the sudden apology. "Nathanael has worked under me for years and has an incredible gift when it comes to procuring goods. His only fault is he doesn't have any talent in regards to magic. He can spot enchanted goods with his skills, but he can't feel the mana inside an object. That means he didn't realize the value of the spears you sold him." As she explains the misunderstanding to me, an image of a young blacksmith pops into my head.
"Some of the goods you sold us were more than good enough to be enchanted. Those thirty spears you sold us, in particular, were worth the 35 gold you were given, by themselves." She laughs once again at the situation.
"May I ask why Lady Pitz feels the need to rub my failure in my face?" I try to hold my anger back, less she becomes mad at me.
"You should be happy; I decided to come by. You wouldn't have realized your mistake by yourself and likely would have continued to sell the weapons at horribly low prices." She says to me with a snarky tone.
She's right; if she didn't explain to me the true value of my goods, I would've continued to sell them as I was. Were all of Aaliyah's goods worth more than what I was selling them for?
Wait, something isn't right here! A general wouldn't leave their fort just to teach me a lesson. She must need me for something else.
I straighten myself up once I realize she has a job for me. "Lady Pitz is truly generous. Is there something I can help you with as a show of gratitude for your wisdom?"
"You finally stopped shivering, huh. Are you going to stand up now?"
I slowly get up from the floor, followed by my two guards, and address the 6th strongest person in the kingdom. "May I ask why the general really decided to pay me a visit?"
She gives me a predatory look. "The blacksmith you bought the weapons from, who is she?" It takes everything I have not to blurt out the answer to her question while under her strong presence.
"What makes you think it's a she?" I hesitantly ask.
"The maker's mark is too feminine for a male blacksmith. Is there a reason you're avoiding my question?"
"The blacksmith in question and I have a good relationship that revolves around secrecy. I won't jeopardize my future with them that easily."
"Future, huh? That means she's improving. She must be a young blacksmith if no one has heard of her yet. I'm even more curious now. Her work is already top-notch, and she just reached level 50 in her blacksmithing skill." I try not to show the shock on my face. How does she know all of that?!
"Don't be surprised; I noticed you sold me her work from before she made her maker's mark and the spears she made after reaching level 50 in blacksmithing. For you to find a gem like that around here, I'm impressed. Why don't you tell me where she is so I can send her an offer to come to the fort? She can help us win this war." The look in Lady Pitz's eyes becomes fiercer.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm sure she has no desire to leave her village." Her eyes widen at the slip of my tong. I curse myself with every obscenity I know in my head.
"Is that so, then that means I'll have to have you act as an intermediary for me until I have the chance to meet her in person." She calmly states. Oh crap, this isn't good.
The General reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small rolled up piece of parchment and hands it to me. "What is this?" I ask.
"That is a note I want you to deliver to your company. It has my seal on it and states I want to purchase specific goods from your blacksmithing contact." She had this already filled out before she even came here. Word will definitely make its way back to the company's headquarters after what happened here today, and I can't pretend I never received a message from Emily Pitz. If she's giving it to me in person, she's forcing my hand, making sure I report everything personally to Silver Herd.
I'll have to tell Silver Herd about Aaliyah, making things even more complicated.
General Pitz sees the difficult look on my face but ignores it. "I need the best arrows your blacksmith can make. You can do that for me, right?" Her face says she knows I can't refuse her request.
"I'll send word to Nathanael about our arrangement. Bring me the best arrows you can, and I have no problem paying you full price for them." Lady Pitz touches her necklace again, and I once again hear the surroundings outside my room. The general flings then door open, sending three men scurrying away, tripping over their own feet.
Before she leaves my room, she turns to me one last time. "I need the arrows immediately. I expect the first shipment in a month. This matter involves the safety of the kingdom; I hope I've made myself clear."
"Crystal," I grit through my teeth.
She gives me one last wicked smile before she walks out of sight.
"Did that just happen?" Ryiba shakily asks me.
I ignore his stupid question and turn to Lurte. "I need parchment and a quill, now." In a slight daze, he nods to me and rushes out of the room.
I have to shoo away multiple people who come to ask me questions about why the General was looking for me while I wait for Lurte to return.
When he makes it back to our room, I shut the door and have Ryiba barricade it with his body. I don't have an even surface to wright on, so I use the floorboards of my room. I write out a quick note for Aaliyah and address it to Camden in Spotted Creek Village with instructions to pass it on to her. I need her to start making arrows as soon as possible.
I dig out three gold coins from the pouch at my side and hand them with the letter to Lurte. "Take this to the nearest postal station and pay for an express delivery. It needs to be sent tonight."
I sit back on the cheap tavern bed and watch Lurte run out the door once again. If it's sent now, it should arrive at the village sometime tomorrow, mid-day. Paying for a carrier falcon to directly take the message to its destination might be expensive, but I have no choice.
Tomorrow we'll have to head for the company's headquarters to explain myself to the higher-ups. Then I'm reminded about my promise to Aaliyah; I'll have to explain the situation to her once I see her again.
I fall backward onto the bed, worrying about what's to come.
Emily Pitz Point of View:
I sit and recline my feet on the table in front of me, sipping a bland cup of tea. I patiently wait for the information I requested to arrive.
I don't have to wait long, and soon a man in a faded blue jacket enters the room with a parcel in hand. "Lady Pitz, this is highly unprofessional. If the postal service finds out I did this; I'll be fired and put on the blacklist!" The man snivels in front of me, pathetic.
I lean over and slap five gold coins onto the table to shut him up quickly. "The parcel," I demand, holding my hand out.
He shakily hands me the parchment and explains. "It's just as you said, soon after you arrived here, a man came and requested an express delivery to a small village in the north known as Spotted Creek Village."
I smile as I open the tube that is supposed to be attached to one of the postal services birds. I skim the note and memorize the important information. She's in Spotted Creek Village, and her name is Aaliyah. The wording is vague, but the merchant is asking her to switch her production over to arrows.
As soon as I have some free time, I know which village I'll be visiting.
I down the last bit of tea and stand up. "Send the message on your best bird and make sure it isn't intercepted. If anyone asks questions, I want you to notify me immediately at the fort. Is that understood?" I use my Intimidating Eye skill on the man, and he nearly falls over.
"Yes! Yes, my lady, I understand!"
"Good," I walk past the man and out of the postal office. I use my skills to blend into the shadows cast by the falling sun on the buildings.
It took longer than I thought to find and talk to the merchant, but it was worth it.
I smile to myself as I speed back to the fort with the best news I've had in a long time.