“Say, whit did thay fin' out?”

“Not much, th' informant didn’t wanna git too close as thay ‘ave some strange mutt guarding th' house.”

A couple of dwarves were talking to each other while grumbling slightly.

“How come ur we paying them if thay can’t do thair jab?”

One of the dwarves spoke up as he was unhappy about the lack of information that was given to them. They had been spying on their competition and even hired one of the town’s known ruffians to keep an eye out on the house that was outside the city.

“Thay did fin' oot something 'n' it doesn't look good, he reported that thay brought up some streenge shaped lump o' metal…”

“Streenge lump o’metal?”

“Aye, 'twas supposedly movin`”

“Movin’? Is th' basterd already making golems?”

While the information was vague from what their informant described, they came to a conclusion that it could have been a basic type of golem. This information was not taken well as they all finally recognized that they weren’t dealing with a simple Runesmith.

“That human mist ‘ave someone backing him or he is hiding his real identity, ah juist will not believe that someone that young could mak' a golem.”

The dwarves here nodded with their heads. In their eyes, the man that was calling himself Wayland was a true mystery. They saw his wares, in some places they were average at best while in other aspects they overshadowed old masters.

The biggest mystery for them was how a human was doing this. Without the proper guidance and knowledge, it was extremely hard to produce a working rune, even less something complex as a golem.

They could only conclude that he was getting some outside help or he was some old craftsman hiding behind a young man’s face. It wasn’t unheard of people to use illusion spells to alter their appearance. They were up against a crafty runesmith so it was plausible that he could do such a thing.

“Aye, he might be trying tae mak' a name fur himself 'ere.”

The dwarves came to the conclusion that the man named Wayland was probably trying to root himself in this town. He probably had some prior knowledge about runesmithing from an outside source and was trying to undermine the Dwarven Union's monopoly on runecrafted items in a lesser-known location.

“So how do we go aboot getting rid of ‘im? Should we try to employ ‘im ourselves? Ahm not sure if that he wid go for that efter a' that we had done.”

The dwarves from the union that had gathered in this town were sent here on a mission. First, they needed to see if it was worthwhile to invest in the city. Albrook passed that initial test and they sent over more people to establish their own smithies and shops meant mostly for the adventurers.

Most of the union's manpower was focused on the main city of Isgard. They were just a branch with very few blacksmithing masters that were not even tier 3 craftsmen.

The two most established were Bamur the Enchantsmith and Dunan that was both an Armorsmith and Weaponsmith. While the two were not tier 3 class holders they were the closest ones to achieving them.

It was a planned move to have these two achieve a breakthrough in this city and entrench the union’s grasp on it. With how it was looking now, they were faltering as the human Runesmith’s runic wares were more popular than the enchanted ones.

“Aye, too late for dat now. How goes the business though, what off the other artisans?”

Dunan asked while scoffing at one of the other dwarves that was wearing glasses and seemed a bit more refined than the other craftsmen.

“Tis proceeding as planned, we hae been successfully undercutting thair profits. Even th' guild can’t complain as we aren't doin' anythin' illegal.”

While the runic weapons and trinkets were selling rather well this wasn’t for all the other wares. The dwarf-run stores could lower their prices to an extreme and just price the competition out.

This was quite the basic approach which they implemented in all of the cities that they tried to get a footing in. They just lowered the prices to a point until their competition could not sustain themselves. Then they either ran them out of town or had them sign contracts with their union to profit even more.

It didn’t seem like this approach would work with the person called Wayland though. His wares were actually selling and they couldn’t cut off his resources either as he was getting them through the adventurer guild.

The union and the adventurer guild were somewhat in a turbulent relationship. Both of them somewhat relied on each other to make a profit while also having other avenues to earn coins from.

The dwarves could also outfit armies while the guild could get some items from the dungeons and other artisans. The two behemoths walked a fine line and tried to coexist without damaging their own business model.

While no one wanted to get under the skin of the current guild master. The guild stores weren’t really a big part of the adventurer brand. Thus the dwarves here didn’t really feel like they would be getting that much backlash if they ran them out of business.

After everything settled they were convinced that the people above them would strike a deal that benefited both sides. What they were responsible for now was how well this deal would be in their favor. If they took over most of the city's market share the guild would be forced to do business with them as their store reputation wouldn’t allow them to go forward with their business model.

“Good, let us wait now, if everything goes as planned we won’t need tae do a ting…”

The dwarves nodded at each other as the decision was made. This concluded their little get-together. The meaning of the last words could soon be seen a few days later at the adventurer’s guild quarters.

“What is it now Elodia?”

“It’s the shop owners, they wish to talk to you…”

“Talk to me? Tell them to go away, I’m busy.”

The guild master was looking over some papers in his office while Elodia tried to inform him about an unruly mob of people.

“I don’t think they will listen to reason this time around, the months were not good on them.”

“Not good? Is it the blasted dwarves?”

Elodia nodded but as she tried to go into some more detail she heard a loud knock on the door.

“Aurdhan, I know that you are in there, get your ass out here, you have a lot of explaining to do!”

A maddened voice of a woman was heard by both the people inside this office. It was followed up by some more voices and more banging on the door.

“Shit, this is more serious than I expected…”

Aurdhan gave out a sigh but then nodded to Elodia who then unlocked the door. The moment she did about ten people entered the room. It was clear that these people were craftsmen and artisans that had all signed a contract with the guild. All of them pushed themselves inside and at the front was a peculiar beast woman with cow-like horns.

“There you are, explain yourself!”

“Dyana? What’s gotten into you…”

Arduhan looked at the maddened blacksmiths. They all started shouting at the same time so it was hard to understand at first but he quickly figured out what was going on. Due to the dwarven union’s stranglehold on the city, these people were being shunned.

“Please, everyone calm down, the guild master will hear you out.”

Elodia interrupted from the side and was able to somewhat calm the angry mob down and they finally started talking.

“Nothing is selling, the adventurers just take one peek at the prices before leaving!”

“Yeah! How are we to contend with halved prices, I’ve even seen them dropping prices further than that!”

It was clear that these artisans were not able to make a living now. Their products weren’t bad but they just could not compete with discounted wares of the dwarves.

“I have a family, my children will starve if I can’t bring in any coin! The only thing that the adventurers are willing to take are those blasted runic weapons but that’s not enough!”

“Yeah, it’s that Runesmith, it’s all his fault, everything was fine until he showed up!”

“Now wait a moment there…”

The guild master tried to interrupt the conversation as it started going in a weird direction. It was clear that these people were mad and were looking for someone or something to blame. They started blaming the Runesmith that was providing them with some magical items.

Before they started selling those they were doing fine, thus he was an easy target to blame because of the timeframe was produced. To them it didn’t matter that the dwarven union was to blame, it was an entity that they didn’t see themselves fighting against. Instead of fighting, they would rather try to appease.

“Yeah, I bet if we kick him out, the dwarves will return the prices to normal!”

The angry mob continued to shout and most of them agreed with each other. It was all the fault of the Runesmith that they were losing money and their livelihood was at stake.

“Shut up! All of you!”

A loud booming sound that sounded like a bomb going off was heard by everyone. It was the guild master’s giant fist that connected with his reinforced desk. Being a tier 3 class holder was enough to force people's respect. It was enough to intimidate the artisans to quiet down, with just a single one of them continuing to glare.

“Well, what will you do about it? If we are to continue like this we will need a better plan, those dwarven bastards will keep outpricing us and we all know that their coffers are deep and our pockets are almost empty, if you don’t help us out, we will all go under.”
Dyana commented while looking Aurdhan straight in the eye.

“I heard you, I will make a decision but I’m not going to make it now, now leave!”

The craftsmen looked dejected but not like they do anything to the guild master. If he wanted he could easily use his superior strength to toss all of them out of his office. Soon all of them left and only the guild master and Elodia were left inside.

“You can’t seriously be thinking about what they proposed, right guild master?”

Elodia broke the silence as Aurdhan started spacing out while thinking. The bald man leaned back in his chair and gave out a sigh.

“That could be a possibility.”

“But guild master we could…”

“We could do what? Pay our artisans the bottom line and continue this battle with the union?”

“But couldn’t we make a report to the higher-ups?”

Aurdhan shook his head as if that was not an option.

“Those idiots would be glad to laugh in my face if they heard about this…”

Elodia wasn’t sure what this reply was about but she had heard that the guild master didn’t get along with some of the other masters at his level. There was a rumor that he was forced to come here for one reason or another but the information was unclear.

“What will you do guild master?”

“That’s a good question.”

Aurdhan leaned back in his chair and started to think. While the small number of craftsmen that he employed would really affect the guild's coffers in the long run, it would give the guild and him a bad name.

There were only a couple of options that he could realistically go with. One of them would be to stand his ground and not let up. He would need to cover the store owner's expenses if he went with this way.

The adventurer’s guild had a finite amount of resources that were given to him from outside. This little venture of his was created to increase their budget that was barely enough for the guild's expenses.

Everything cost money, the bulk of what he was given went into establishing the guild building and bringing over veteran adventurers to start things off. Bribing the town officials to get the current building and then establishing relations with all the best merchants was a must.

Asking for more funds from the main guild was out of the question. The adventurer guild did things slightly differently than the dwarven union that was more united. Unless he went bankrupt they would not act, then if they did act he would be removed from his position due to failing at establishing a strong foothold.

Aurdhan clearly underestimated the lengths to which the dwarves would go. They weren’t doing anything against the law so he could not use his connections to the mayor. He could also not ban adventurers from using the dwarven wares as they would come for his head.

Thus if he wanted to go with this option he would probably need to use his own savings and compete with the dwarves with lowered weapon prices. While he had some coins, this was not a big enough number to compete with a giant company like the union.

Then there was the second option to give in to the demands of the dwarves and the shop owners. This would probably force him to cut ties with the Runesmith that he had a contract with. He was the main reason that the dwarves reacted this way and he had a suspicion as to why.

They were scared, scared of someone else gaining the top crafter spot in this city. Smithing runes was somewhat of a special profession to these bearded drunkards. It didn’t seem that they even tried to strike a deal with Wayland even though they would be in a better position to use his skills than he or the guild could.

Due to their pigheadedness, they were unable to accept him as a fellow runesmith. They probably deemed him as an imposter that had gained runic knowledge through villainous means. Arduhan knew the young man long enough to know that this was untrue and that he probably stepped into his class by accident.

If cutting the contract short with the young runesmith would appease the dwarves also remained to be seen. Even if he did that, it would not remove the dwarves' problem from the city but would shift their attention towards Wayland and him only.

Aurdhan was apprehensive about doing this as he spent a lot of work to gain the young man’s trust. He also knew that if Wayland continued to improve then he would be a better investment than all of the artisans that he was employing.

‘Hm… I could also go with option three…’

The guild master grinned slightly as he came to a conclusion. While the second option would probably be the most practical one, he wanted to try something different. He was not really scared of some dwarves thus he made a plan while moving forward.

“Elodia, I need you to do something for me.”

“Yes, Guild Master?”

“Arrange an appointment with the dwarves from the union, I need to talk with them.”

“The dwarves? Are you going to…”

Before the woman could ask the question Aurdhan moved his hand up to stop her from continuing.

“This isn’t something you need to know, just perform the task and don’t ask questions.”

While Aurdhan knew that Elodia meant well, the fewer people knew about his plan the better. She didn’t need to involve herself in his schemes and just needed to do her job as told.

“I apologize, guild master, I will contact the dwarven union.”

Elodia bowed and then removed herself from the guild master’s office. The bald man stood up from his chair and walked over to the window. There he could see a busy road where various people were shuffling around.

“This will certainly be interesting, I hope the little Runesmithg will be up to the task…”

A note from Kuropon


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