Book III - Chapter 3

 

Chapter 3

[Eveth]

“What do you mean you can’t pay? This was in the contract. Every Guild on the continent probably knows the terms by heart.”

“That may be true, but the contract doesn’t cover this type of… exception.”

“Exception?” Eveth glared across the counter of the Imperial office at the attendant. “We discovered a Dungeon entrance. We turned it in. We get paid on a basis, determined when we signed it over.”

“That may be true-”

“With proof, with witnesses, turned over in complete cooperation to the Empire’s possession, in exchange for a regular payment of an agreed sum.” Eveth continued. “Am I missing something?”

“No, you’re correct, Miss Gale. As written in the merging documents, the Partnership of the Farstrider Trade Company has full inheritance of the Royal payment, so long as the conditions have been met.”

“Then, what’s the problem?”

“They haven’t been met.”

“They haven’t been met.” Eveth repeated.

“No.” The blond hair and perfect smile never wavered. “They have not.”

“Why, might I ask, is that?”

“The local forces at our disposal have found the Dungeon entrance location to be… hostile.”

“Hostile. You mean to tell me that the Dungeon is *Hostile.*”

“Yes. There have been numerous, unforeseen, difficulties.” The last word was chosen carefully. “As such, no further royalty shall be paid until these have been resolved.”

“What does that have to do with our original agreement?” Eveth asked. “It’s the bloody Dungeon! Of course it’s hostile!” She shouted. “Why would that halt payments?”

“Well, Ms. Gale, in essence: it’s quite difficult to reap the benefits of such an asset, when several times its expected yearly revenue stream have already been destroyed by…” The attendant squinted, finally frowning ever so slightly. “Giant stone frogs.” She pursed her lips. “Giant stone… frogs…”

“That can’t be right.”

“No, honestly. It says right here.” The attendant pointed to the page. “Frogs and… green fire. Stamped and sealed by an Inquisitor’s crest...” They truly frowned, then. “How odd.”

“I don’t mean the frogs. I could care less about the frogs, or the fire- for that matter.” Eveth slapped her palm down on the polished wood of the counter. “I meant the payment. We did our part, we turned it in. That was the agreement when we signed.”

The attendant’s perfect smile returned, at once.

“No need for that, Ms Gale.” Briefly, they glanced behind her, towards the two armored men waiting beside the door. Deliberately, in motion, so Eveth couldn’t help but notice. “No need for that, at all.”

The barely audible creak of metal, turning caught on the air. Immediately, Eveth’s skin began to crawl, as she felt two sets of eyes fall upon her: peering out beneath thick helms of rune-gilded armor.

“Listen, I’m not trying to make a fuss.” Eveth lowered her voice. “But I’m sure you know, this hasn’t exactly been a good year. Prices are high, for everything. We were counting on this money being paid, in more ways than one. We’d have a safety net to cover this, but we don’t, on account of the fact that someone in your office was apparently bribed to set false bounties on us. Bounties, which we still had to pay-”

“That matter was already resolved, Miss Gale.” The cheery smile was turning frosty. “The personnel involved have been dealt with. Quite permanently, I assure you. The tax credit to provide fair compensation, has already been applied to your Licensed account over the next several years.”

“That’s well and great in the long-term, but it doesn’t help us now. What about today-”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Gale, but I’m afraid my hands are tied on this matter.” The Attendant set the papers aside, hand motion directing Eveth’s attention towards a board on the room’s far wall. “Might I suggest, if it’s simply coin you’re looking for: anyone is welcome to take a look at our listed contracts. On the subject of said recently discovered Dungeon entrance, we’ve just recently raised the bounty for the removal of the beast guarding it.”

“You’ve got to be joking.” Eveth shook her head.

“Perhaps, you might be interested? Five thousand Gold, for kill or capture of whatever seems to have taken root there.” The attendant continued. "As the Farstrider Trade Company is the only successful group to return from that particular location with any profit, it could be worth considering.”

“Light.” Eveth sighed, abandoning her place at the counter, heading towards the door. “How many times do we have to tell you? We’re not doing it.”

“Some might call this a chance for two birds with one stone, Ms. Gale. Perhaps, you might consider it a chance to reap the rewards of a Dungeon entrance, twice. That sort of opportunity doesn’t come around every day, now does it?” The attendant called after her. “Consider it!”

“Already have, thank you very much.” Eveth muttered, pushing the heavy wooden frames aside, while she did her best to ignore the two armored stares following her. Still, distracted as she was, as she pushed back out towards the plaza, Eveth almost collided into someone else heading inside- apparently just turning right outside the door.

“Apologies.” The woman excused themselves, holding the door open so Eveth could proceed. “I was so distracted by the sights, I didn’t realize.”

“New to the City?” Eveth glanced them over.

“Yes.” Blue eyes stared out from a set of second hand armor. At their hip was a cheap looking weapon, more akin to a lump of steel than a true piece.

“Just watch where you’re going, next time.” Eveth shook her head, and carried on past. “This City is dangerous enough as it is.”

“Will do.” Distantly, Eveth heard the armored woman reply. Ahead of her though, was the crowded plaza. Tall buildings and market stalls, bustling with faces and noises aplenty.

“Afternoon, Eveth.” Beginning down the steps, she heard another voice call out, large frame leaning against a stone support. War-hammer slung over his shoulder, Alem was waiting at the bottom of the steps.

“You’re early.” She greeted. “Thought you’d be taking it slower after your last trip.”

“Aye, I was. Until I saw this, of course.” He raised a crumpled paper in his hand, as Eveth carried down to meet him. “Reissued bounty: It’s up another thousand, now.”

“I just heard.” Eveth replied. “As if the Snake’s not already worth more than half the city’s scum put together at this point.”

“What of the royalty payment? Did they budge?” Alem asked, matching Eveth’s pace as they began to cross the plaza. “Anything change?”

“No.” Eveth answered. “Besides that: I thought you said you spoke with him, recently. Made a quick stop on your last trip.”

“Just because the snake decided not to kill me, doesn’t mean he listened to what I had to say.” Alem shrugged. “Tree’s a bit bigger, though.”

“Of course.” Eveth sighed. “Conveniently placed, too.”

“That it is.”

“Where are the others?” Eveth changed the subject. “You seen them today?”

“Probably still making their rounds. Stefano has had them doing some simple deliveries.”

“Together, I hope.”

“Of course.” Alem shrugged. “Not worth the risk, otherwise. Besides, Tuth’s not much of a people person.”

“True.”

“By the way, what did you do to the woman, up there?”

“What?”

“The woman, at the top of the steps. Is she a friend of yours?” Alem tilted his head, back in the direction they’d come from. “I only ask, because she’s been staring.”

“What do you mean?” Eveth turned, risking a glance behind her- catching sight just as the door to the Imperial office swung closed.

“Ah… never mind, then.” Alem accepted with another shrug. “Let’s hope Stefano has some better news for us.”

“Let’s.” Eveth agreed.