The land of Libertalia was a peculiar continent, and it was where the monarchy was first toppled by Equalists and the later republics. Monarchies were re-established by the Forty-Five Flags Alliance after they won the Monarchy-Republic Wars. The damage and famine caused by that great war, as well as the corruption of many governments, had led to guilds, criminal syndicates, and mercenaries maintaining order in the settlements themselves until they effectively were the new states as the remaining nobility were overthrown and fled northwest to the Vergel Valleys.

Many services traditionally maintained by the government such as the security of their territories have been handled by mercenary armies. Taxation, law, infrastructure, and many more were handled by guilds, as city-states and major trade routes were now owned by competing companies, the largest of them being the Five Corporations that are equivalent to empires themselves.

The competition between companies in most of the continent had maintained a bloody state of affairs in the continent, especially the Satyr Tribes raiding the frontiers from the Stokeburn Desert for centuries even before the Upheavals, where war and strife were part of everyday life.

A [Thief] stole a pouch of gold coins from a passing [Merchant]. He dashed through the crowded streets, and for a second, he blurred through the crowd with a Feat. The local [Mercenary Guardsmen] under the employment of the Teal Blades Company owning the city of Keisburg are chasing the [Thief]. A Feat has enabled them to part the thick crowd with an invisible force so that they can run without the crowd blocking them for a second.

One of the [Mercenaries], a person with black scleras, curved horns, and a furry lower body with hooves: a Satyr, had pointed a wand towards the [Thief] at the chance that he was sure that he didn hit a bystander. Webs of faint light wrapped around the [Thief]s feet, making him trip. The [Mercenaries] piled down on the [Thief] and tied them up.

”You are under arrest. Tell your family or whoever else is related to you to pay up if you want to get released. ” A bald man with two long tusks told him, as they dragged them off to the dungeon. He was an Orcan, a subrace of Humankind native to the continent.

”Thats quick. ” A brown-haired young man was leaning on his walking stick inside a stone warehouse, remarking on the chase.

”I think there was a gang fighting in Goles Street. Forgot to mention that I had to evade [Bandits] earlier. Well, that is nothing unusual I suppose. ” The young mans customer sighed, a wrinkled Human [Merchant] with patches of reptilian scales on his skin wearing simple red robes.

”Glad that your caravan arrived safely. ” The young man with the walking stick replied. The light from the outside shone on his caramel skin. He was born with a lame leg, making him physically disabled, but he had made it up with his business sense in the family business; to the point when he could lead a caravan alone and trade in another town, although this is his first time in an actual city. ”This batch of wolf pelts are from the wolves of Celfs forests, and these are nearly as soft as sheeps fleece. Each pelt will cost four silver. ”

”I see. ” The other [Trader] inspected one of the pelts, feeling the fur on his fingers. Indeed, it was soft, and the quality of the pelt would make a delicate shawl or coat. ”Seems like it is Feated, am I right? ”

Indeed, the pelt was improved with the young mans Feat: [Products Quality: Softness], improving what quality it already has. [Trader]s Feats aren outlawed anywhere, but if they did, many of them would lose their jobs and cities would lose sources of income in this world.

”Of course. But I didn lie when I said that they were soft, Feats or not. ” The young man smiled, his brilliant violet eyes stared keenly at the older [Trader]. The other [Trader]s necklace glimmered green, a truth stone on a necklace; a magical item that detects truth and lies, yet most truth stones cannot detect half-truths and can be evaded by other means such as Feats. He used a general statement: he did touch the pelts, and they were soft, but he didn know how soft it should be to warrant the price of seven silver: after all, he resold them from the [Hunters] of the village of Celf, and he is not an expert of furs. His family trades all manner of things after all, and their business is a subsidiary of Maldent Trading, one of the larger mercantile companies in the region that also owned several guilds, and the city of Centeil in the south of the Chulton region.

”This is worth three silver. ” The other [Merchant] disputed. ”A silver coin more and that will be too much, don you think? ”

”I guess so. ” The young man agreed, much to his chagrin. He was hoping to get one more silver coin from him, but he does not have enough Levels to match him. ”How many will you buy? ”

”5 bushels shall be enough. Pleased to do business with you, Mister Numisley. ” The other [Merchant] extended his hand.

Numisley Gildin shook his hand, and the older man paid a large pouch of silver coins worth around 75 silver in exchange for 25 wolf pelts to be processed within the city.

”Ill take my leave, gday to you, Mister Gelus, looking forward to doing business with you and your company. ” He turned around leaning on his walking stick. ”Cultrost, can you hold these? They are a bit heavy. ”

A grey Satyr a year older than Numisley, wearing a long loincloth and a shirt with a mace hanging on the side approached him. While Numisley was thin and atrophic, he was a bit muscular for his age from working as a laborer in their business. His all-black eyes looked around the warehouse, a habit from being a bodyguard for his sibling.

e heading back? ” Cultrost asked Numisley.

”Lets see… ” Numisley scratched his chin. ”I would like to head to a gambling house in this city, but its getting late. Pops would kill us otherwise if I gambled away our earnings from this week. ”

”No shit. ” His sibling agreed. They went to the wagon where some of the familys employees were waiting, only four of them.

”Heres your share, boys. ” The two rode in the wagon, reinforced with a cheap enchantment that strengthened the canvas and the wood a little bit. Numisley distributed 7 silver for each of them, More than enough for each of them to live for a week and the rest of the money would be their profit for today.

”Damn, I want to scalp one more coin from him. ” Numisley sighed.

”One more coin is one more risk after all. ” One of their familys employees, a balding Orcan [Caravan Master] commented as he drove the wagon and the two mules pulling it. A famous Libertalian saying of the many [Traders] that rule the continent.

”…And one more reward, Mister Palden, ” Numisley added. ”I need more Levels and Feats and experience with time. Our earnings are enough for now, but I was simply a bit greedy. ”

”The dog of greed bites back, so take care. ” Palden quoted another idiom.

”Without your Feat, how much would each pelt be? ” One of the [Caravan Guards] asked, a red-yellow scaled Lizardfolk wearing a helmet of bone and a thick coat, is one of the species from the southern continent of El-Mira; which also is a minority living in Libertalias southern coastal and swampy cities.

”Probably two silvs. ” Numisley shrugged. ”How ya fairing Mister Laexth? Chilly ain it? ”

”Cold. I wish I was a warm-blood like you, sir. ” Laexth, the only Lizardfolk of this wagon grumbled.

”Its a week or two before winter comes knockin, ” Numisley replied. ”Your family got enough for winter? ” He asked. He cared for his familys employees, but he had learned how to build rapport with their employees or subordinates from their father, who has many talents.

”More than enough. I fear that my hatchling would hoard the food in our pantry. ”

Good-natured laughs and words were exchanged during the duration of the trip. The trip itself was unremarkable. Plains and clusters of trees stretched for miles under cloudy skies. They passed by rotting ruins withered with time, and the occasional wild animal or monster.

Soon, they arrived in the town of Renimburg in the afternoon. The village was built around remnants of a destroyed keep, which is where the town got its name. The stone walls with wooden battlements were built with the aged stone of the old walls mixed with the new ones from the nearby quarry.

They passed through the road among the harvested fields, the perimeter guarded by warding totems erected by the allied Satyr Tribe of Tahchawe: a nomadic tribe that rides and herds Sclenti Deer; magical deer with glittering horns with purifying qualities that are powdered for Shamanic medicine and used in their totems. These totems are from a pact two decades ago that the village and the trading company would have a share of their grain, steel tools, money, and iron in exchange for their purifying powders, warding totems, and an exclusive trade partnership and mutual protection. Some of the Satyrs from that tribe had found work within the town and became part of the community.

They passed by the wooden ”saltbox ” houses outside the walls of the cities, a sign that the town is being expanded further. The wooden guard towers and guardhouses were manned by the Redmond Wolves [Mercenaries] hired by Maldent Trading to patrol their territory.

After identifying themselves by showing their companys identification documents, they were let into the walled section of the city. They headed for their companys headquarters, a wide stone three-story building that also doubled as an apartment aside from being an office beside a wide warehouse.

”Gildin Trading. ” The clean wooden sign on the doorway is displayed.

The wagon was parked inside and its few contents were unloaded. Numisley and Cultrost walked within the corridors of the buildings. Tenants and workers that they passed by knew that they were the sons of the owner of the trading company. Many of them minded their own business, but those who had long worked for the company greeted them. The chime on the door rang as it swung open. A middle-aged man with thin brown hair gazed at them over a cleared stack of paperwork.

”How was the trip? ” Jacias Glidin, the owner of the company, and their father asked as Numisley hobbled forwards, assisted by his brother.

”Good. We sold three-fourths of our inventory. Ill write the details on the report, as usual, Pops. ” Numisley answered.

”Suppose that he didn get into trouble, right? ” Jacias stared at Cultrost with a gaze that can pierce metal.

”Yes. Well, he did complain about not having enough time to gamble. ” Cultrost answered, sweating a bit. He was mindful that even if he lied, he would find out. Their father had a way of obtaining information expertly because of being an [Spymaster] in the past before being a [Merchant] and a [Information Broker], but they haven been told much even back when they were children.

”Good. I got news to tell. ” Their father announced. ”Close the door. ”

The Satyr closed the door. The office was [Muffled], not [Silenced], because [Glyphs of Silence] would consume too much mana and its magical signature would be more obvious that they had information that they want to keep within these walls, especially in a quaint town where there are not many enchanted buildings to blend it in.

As an extra measure, Jacias had commissioned enchanted speaking stones within the walls to play a random pre-recorded conversation as well as less obvious illusions on the blinds that showed them in a false conversation, to evade those who have Feats that read lips.

”A Dungeon has been discovered near us and the neighboring town of Ashiicalom, and it was just announced to be Silver-rank based on the initial floors. However, the news will reach the company of Belias Trading by tomorrow or the day after according to our information sources. Their [Mercenaries] and [Traders] might prevail on their Adventurers Guild and take a share of the loot before we do. It will raise the prices of magical items and raw monster products. ”

”I suggest that we sabotage them- ”

”We shall not do anything drastic. ” Jascias interrupted before Numisley suggested a risky idea. ”Although that would be a missed opportunity for profit, sometimes the risk isn worth the reward. ”

”I suppose I shall send a [Runner] or someone in the Messengers Guild to deliver the report for the higher-ups at Maldent? ” Numisley asked, slightly irked because he didn get to voice his idea.

”Yes. The usual. ” Jacias would send highly important letters by hiring two or three [Runners] to deliver two fake letters and the actual letter so that theres less chance of another company intercepting them.

”I know that you want to do something to help the family. Being ambitious is good. You remind me of your late mother in that regard. Some of your proposals had been helpful to our business, but I do not want to put us in danger as we already are. ”

”I know. ” Numisley moaned as he was being scolded.

”Listen. Our boys in Helmgartis Quarry in the Adymine Mine had been bought out by Belias Trading. One of our wagons was looted by unknown [Mercenaries]. They made their move to acquire a share for the new Dungeon public by declaring it in the Merchants Guild. ”

”It may be a company-to-company war again I suppose? ”

”Yes. ” Jacias gravely replied. ”By tonight, I want you out of this town and stay in the house. Cultrost, what Level are you in your [Warrior] Role? Any new Feats? ”

”Im stuck at Level 20. ” The Satyr answered. Jascias sensed the danger that was right outside their windows.

”Ill use [Priority Order] to charter a wagon fast. Get to the warehouse- ”

They were alerted their one of their Feats, but it was too late even if they jumped behind the side of the desk. The window at their right broke as fire and debris engulfed the room.

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