The night was mercifully uneventful, although Forte realized that Vaun tended to snore loudly and toss in his sleep. Nightmare curled beside Forte’s pillow, still exhausted from his extended flight the day before.
At the break of dawn, Vaun shook Forte awake, and the two made preparations for a day’s work.
“You know, I never got to ask. What kind of pet is that? And where can I get one?” Vaun asked, nodding at the dragon perched on Forte’s right shoulder.
Leering at the messy haired boy, the tiny dragon snorted dismissively. Forte laughed, “Hahahaha, you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you. It’s a baby dragon.”
Vaun let out a whooping laugh before subsiding into his usual, toothy grin. “Why, you don’t say… dragons are supposed to breath fire. I don’t suppose that pathetic little bugger can breath fire, can it?” he joked sarcastically.
Nightmare’s regal gold eyes narrowed menacingly at the commoner boy mocking him.
The tiny black dragon let out a stream of scorching black fire. Vaun’s jaw dropped in disbelief before yelping in pain as the flames scorched his hair. Nightmare ended the flames with a definitive sneer, as Forte chuckled.
“Believe me now?”
“Yes... yes yes. That little monster can breath fire!”
A more serious expression settled on Forte’s face, as he responded, “Keep this a secret, okay Vaun? Can’t let the whole world know I have an animal from legend as a pet.”
“And,” Forte continued with a mocking expression on his face, “if you tell anyone, anything—hell, if you so much as whisper to your own blankets, we might just have to come hunt you down and burn you alive.”
“Alright, alright. I got it. Not a word,” Vaun said as a mischievous glint appeared in his eyes, “I’ll let you in on my own little secret later. Now let’s go get some food, I’m starving.”
The two headed downstairs and paid one silver for a breakfast of porridge, while Nightmare spent the time hunting for rabbits. Once outside, Forte tossed the newsboy a piece of silver and picked up a newspaper.
A dozen raptors made their way into the checkpoint city of Adith two nights ago. Over thirty casualties were sustained… raptors were eventually cleaned up by a returning big game hunter caravan. New security measure are being implemented for all at-risk cities. Rest assured that Sawen is not classified as at-risk…
Charles Blankwick has been appointed as Sawen’s new mayor…
A drunken man wearing a ragged overcoat stumbled down the street, rambling at the top of his lungs. “heed… Heed my warning! A great storm…hic… great storm is approaching…”
Something had alerted Nightmare. Forte span around, and a green glint caught his eye. Three fighters bearing Count Florien’s sigil patrolled down the street, sending shivers down Forte’s spine. As long as he was in the western part of the Kingdom, he’d have to watch his back.
Forte observed a merchant caravan enter the city. It was stopped by Sawen’s heavily armored guards, whereupon the cloaked merchant filled out paperwork, declared his goods, and paid the city taxes.
A few job postings were available on the general job bulletin board.
The Bundle Butchery. Help required processing several slog carcasses. Previous cooking experience required. Reward is 15 silvers.
Merchant’s Guild. Seeking experienced caravan protection. Mission length is twenty days back and forth to the western plains.
Seeking B-class or A-class fighters. Must be able to handle raptors. Pay is negotiable. Food and necessities will be provided. Merchant’s immunity will be granted for the duration of the trip.
Merchant’s Guild. Seeking transcribers and document sorters. Must be able to read and write. Three day’s work. Reward is 12 silvers per day. Breakfast and lunch will be provided by the guild.
Hunter’s Guild. Recruiting a healer for a hunter’s caravan heading west in two days. Pay is 25 silvers per day, negotiable. Food and necessities will be provided.
Adventurer’s Guild. Seeking adventurers to cull the recent bear epidemic. D-class fighters and above. Reward is 10 silvers per bear. Basic lodging at the Adventurer’s commons will be provided.
Forte and Vaun agreed to sign up for the transcriber job, and to consider the bear culling job afterwards.
The two had very different backgrounds. Forte was a bright child who received education for nobility until seven years old, inheriting his father’s fascination with economics and military studies.
Vaun was an orphan and did not receive much formal education, although he could manage basic skills.
Nightmare flew off to hunt and explore the surrounding area as the two headed off to work.
After filling out the necessary paperwork, the duo arrived at the opulent Merchant’s guild of Sawen. They took off their shoes and walked barefoot on the fine carpeted floor. A hooded merchant greeted them with a drawn, raspy voice.
“Ah, I’ve been exsssssspecting you. Welcome to the merchant’s exssssssschange post. While you work here, you are exsssssspected to adhere to our guild’s…. rules,” the merchant explained.
To Forte’s surprise, the rules were fairly lax for transcribers. When working, they had to wear the merchant’s garb of flowing brown robes and a signature hood. Document confidentiality did not apply since they were handling non-confidential documents.
The cloaked merchant led them up a long winding stone staircase to separate offices that seemed like they were once jail cells. In each stone walled office was a tiny window, an unassuming wooden table, a quill and ink, and a mountain of documents. Meals would be brought up to them, so they did not have to stop working.
They were assigned to copy figures from documents regarding mithril ore storages in Sawen to the merchant’s records, which was dry work that nearly put Vaun to sleep.
But Forte was intrigued, as his eyes darted between the figures on the two documents. From what he understood, mithril was a metal commonly used to forge weapons and armor.
Judging by the merchant’s records, the King was mobilizing his troops and placed an order for a large quantity of mithril. However, naturally occurring mithril was rare in Rottheim kingdom, and most of the supply had to be imported via ship or caravan.
Forte gripped the parchment in excitement. He reasoned that the recent stormy weather and influx of monsters in the west was about to destroy land trade routes with other sovereignties.
So that means the only mithril we’re gonna get is by sea trade routes…. And those are coming here, through Port Sawen.
According to his records, tonight a ship carrying raw mithril would dock in Port Sawen, selling its cargo to the usual local mithril buyers. This happened every month. What those local buyers did not know, was that tomorrow a royal caravan would come to town and purchase as much mithril as possible.
If his calculations were correct, he could turn a quick profit. Unfortunately, Forte only had 252 silver coins left, and he probably couldn’t afford a single piece of mithril. But this opportunity was too good to give up. He’d have to resort to other means.
He’d have to play a dangerous game.
Forte and Vaun finished their work, collected their pay, and headed back to the Hog’s Pit Inn. As the night approached, Forte decided to reveal his plan to Vaun.
Author: Dun dun dunnnnn