B.3 Chapter 39: Booming Businesses
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The wind blew past James peacefully, lifting his cloak and nearly blowing back the blossom in his hand. It had been nearly a month since the day he got it. After weeks of preparing and building up his clan, the black part of the blossom grew smaller.


“Is that a good sign?” Dahlia asked from behind.


“I guess so.” James raised the pink object. He compared it to the distant figure of Yorktown, which had grown in size since.


“You know… I never thought we’d make it this far,” the shaman admitted.


“Same.” James couldn’t help but smile as he tucked the blossom into his tunic. He took another look at Yorktown, this time focusing on the harbor. Arenian ships were docked there, their merchants already moving in to trade with the local marketplace. They were the second wave of trader ships, a followup to Tahir’s initial two. While the town was far from rich, the resurgence in trade was enough to stabilize the economy and give James some coin to work with. That is, thanks to his friends.


While he couldn’t see it, James knew well that Elaine was currently acting out her second play in the town square. While embarrassing to watch, it did what the bard promised. The clan was able to fund Bjorn’s booze venture and still have coin to rattle around in the coffers. Speaking of which…


“We’re going to have to go back to Vindis soon.” James sighed.


“More ingredients for the alcohol?” Dahlia asked. “Can’t we get some from the traders around? I’m sure we can work out a cheaper deal from them.”


“It’s not that. Bjorn wants the stuff to go to Vindis’ taverns,” James explained.


The shaman raised an eyebrow. “That’s a dangerous move.”


“I know I know.” The clan leader nodded in agreement. “Adversity and all that. Thing is, Bjorn wants to move it through the Thieves Guild. He thinks they could do it under the table without risk of tipping other clans off.”


“Still dangerous. Aren’t you on bad terms with Markov?”


“He told me we were good,” James responded as he headed off to the trail that led to Yorktown’s borders. “Besides, even if he’s still sore about what happened with Malik, I doubt he’ll turn down an opportunity to make some money.”


“Criminals are still criminals, James,” Dahlia called out. That made the young Jarl laugh.


“Did you forget we’re criminals?”


“Not the same thing…”





“Take thee, vile creature!”


“Agh! I have been conquered!”


Seamus could only watch with a grimace as the play actor knocked over the other with his wooden training sword. The actor struggled to keep his straw wig on, giving the illusion that he had blond hair.


“And so, the orc fiend Blood-Irk, fled in terror at the sight of the draugr!” Elaine’s voice boomed off-stage. The orc actor that represented Blood-Irk jumped dramatically, his ridiculously deep voice shouting out.


“I’ll get you next time, draugr!” The orc then fled offstage, leaving the actor hero by himself.


“This is actually pretty funny,” Helen chuckled nearby.


“You’re enjoying this?” Seamus asked in disbelief.


“It’s not supposed to be taken seriously.” The ex-marauder shrugged. “Why should I care if it’s bad?”


“Helen has a point,” Kate whispered from behind. “It’s bad in a fun way. It beats training honestly.” Her comment earned a couple of the trainees’ agreement, their murmurs overlapping each other before they were shushed by Harald, who stood nearby.


The ‘auditorium’, as Elaine called it, was nothing more than the training center the guardsmen used. The bard had offered free shows to the guardsmen as payment for using the grounds for her plays. Seamus was sure that it was going to do terribly, as the premise of her plays were ridiculous reenactments of past events. Yet, here was half the town, watching with bated breath as ‘James’ was dramatically stabbed in the abdomen.


Seamus only watched out of curiosity, which had developed to complete disbelief and second hand embarrassment. Yet he couldn’t take his eyes off the play itself. It was like watching an accident unfold in front of him, both morbidly fascinating and entertaining. Even Lilith was obsessed, her starry eyes watching the actors with excitement. At least she was having fun.


The play acted out the rest of the fall of Aldren, showcasing how James and his allies escaped the burning island. By the time Elaine had called for the makeshift curtain to fall, most of the onlookers were murmuring and applauding awkwardly. Seamus could only stare at the patched up cloth that covered the stage. He had very mixed feelings about the bard retelling events that had only transpired months back.


‘Gods, I hope James doesn’t tell her about my actions. The last thing I need is a reminder of it all.’


The vividness of his fights was still raw to him. To approach them would surely make him go insane. Seamus wasn’t quite ready to face them yet. As he pondered about the possibility of bribing the bard to keep his life story out of the play, a hand touched his shoulder.


The young man jumped, his gaze moving to the person who grabbed at him. It was Kate, her other hand outstretched to him.


“We have work to do, Seamus. Don’t forget,” the guardswoman said. Seamus was reminded of his responsibilities, which resulted from forgetting his recent training sessions. He groaned and grabbed at the young woman’s hand, helping himself up.


“I’d rather be training,” he complained as he followed Kate to the armory. Lilith noticed this and signed over to the young man.


Where are you going?


Seamus signed quickly to the berserker, his facial expression changing to exaggerated exhaustion.


I’m being held hostage. Send James for me.


Five months ago, a sign like that would’ve sent Lilith into a fury and rage. Now, the red-haired woman simply chuckled, her hands signing back.


Good luck.


“Guard duty is an honor,” Kate started, as she pulled Seamus along. “You’re Yorktown’s first line of defense, sworn to keep it safe from intruders,” she stated sarcastically. The guardswoman was repeating the same line Harald repeated in every training session. The veteran had always made it his mission to ingrain it into their heads. Seamus himself had grown sick of it, despite missing out on a month’s worth of training.


Seamus frowned. “I don’t understand why I can’t just do exercises like before. Just make me run, dammit.”


“That’s what I told Harald,” Kate responded. “Do you want to know why he rejected that punishment?”


“Why?” Seamus raised an eyebrow.


“Dirk sprained his ankle doing laps last week. Laps that the entire unit had to go through because of your absence.”


That caused the young man to cringe internally. He had forgotten about Harald’s tactics for Seamus. By forcing his teammates to pay for his mistakes, Seamus was outcast and therefore pressured by their spite and frustration. The punishment was common practice from where the veteran was from. Seamus was regretting skipping sessions, as Harald was upping these punishments and forcing the unit to exert themselves even more. He could still feel the gazes that were burnt into his head from the last time he went in for training.


The two reached where the armory was located, which had a shiny new building to show for it. Inside, there was an assortment of weapons, most of them confiscated from the fighters of previous raids. Swords, maces, axes, and even a few bows. The new building was made to take in all the new weaponry, as the previous armory was far too small. Seamus swore that the new armory could arm a sizable militia if James really wanted to.


Kate walked past the weapon racks and hooks, her focus on the folded garbs and gambesons. She threw one to Seamus, who caught it.


“You don’t have a smaller size?” He asked as he fit it on.


“The guardsmen are growing, Seamus,” Kate called out as she fitted on her gambeson. “There’s not enough to accommodate everyone’s size. You get what you get until your Jarl makes enough to rearm us.” Kate tightened her gambeson across her waist and arms, making sure that her movements were as unrestricted as possible.


“James is making the money. Slowly but surely,” Seamus answered. He grabbed at the guardsman garb, his eyes passing over the white raven painted over the tabard. It was a recent addition, one made a couple of weeks back.


“He’d probably have more of the funds if he stopped feeding those bastards in the jails,” Kate muttered as she equipped her garb.


Seamus stopped for a moment. The jails of Yorktown were currently home to the survivors of those who attacked the town back during frost. Lumen soldiers and even a couple of orcs. They were responsible for the deaths of fellow guardsmen and the last raid. Kate was one of the few that despised their existence and wanted nothing more than to execute them. James was the only thing standing in the way of that, however, as he wanted to spare them and allow them to serve their time. It was a confusing state of things, one that would need to be solved soon.


“Giving them three square meals a day… What a merciful lord,” Kate added as she grabbed a sword from the rack. Seamus only watched as she headed to the doorway. He couldn’t blame her for the resent she felt against those prisoners. She had watched people die in front of her and even killed some in defense. Still, Kate was naïve to how horrible true bloodshed was. How hellish it was to watch everything go to the flame.


‘I hope she never experiences what I have.’


Seamus grabbed his sword before he moved to join Kate on their patrol.





Falrick sighed as he rested back in his chair. He could feel the fabrics of it almost caress his tried bones, the material enough to nearly null him to sleep. Yet he forced himself to stay awake. The parchment in front of him was far from over. Falrick leaned forward and read the runes once more, the ones that he had copied from Frostbite. He had already concluded of what they were weeks ago, but he still found it hard to believe that James had come into possession of it.


The ship given to the blond man was nothing short of an artifact grade vessel. It was enchanted with gate runes, ones that could transport a man across vast oceans. That is, if given a clear destination. Falrick was currently trying to trace its origin, to see where the ship came from. From the age of the hull and the engraving, he guessed it was a recent enchantment, possibly done during the Outsider Wars. The sorcerer that had done it was skilled, no doubt, but his handiwork was unrecognizable. Falrick guessed it was someone lesser known.


“Would they work?” he muttered to himself. The wizard hadn’t tested out the theory, out of fear that he would bring attention from the surrounding clans in the south. If they knew that this small town had an artifact grade vessel, Yorktown would be subject to a forceful annexation. As he pondered the possibilities of the runes and the validity of their magic, his door opened. The old man turned to the footsteps, his gaze meeting with that of Lowe.


“You got those potions ready?” The gnome asked.


“Got them prepared just the other day.” Falrick reached for the satchel of vials he kept nearby.


“Good. The last thing I need is another repeat of the bloom festival.” Lowe grabbed the satchel with care, his tense shoulders relaxing a little.


“Midsommar, it’s that close?” Falrick raised an eyebrow.


“It’s tomorrow,” Lowe revealed. “Bloom was already a mess after the festival, with Haggard and Helen alone causing more damage than necessary.” He looked through the satchel, checking the vials.


Falrick turned in his chair. “Big enough for a mess that you need vitality and health potions?”


“Bloom ended with some injuries. From what I recall, Haggard had a stab wound and Helen injured her ankle. More people had similar injuries. With these potions, we can at least prepare for something similar,” Lowe explained all of this to the wizard, who could only stare.


Falrick had been a part of the last bloom festival, but he had mainly stayed on the sidelines and watched from a distance. He had never known about the magnitude of damage it caused.


“With Midsommar, there’s going to be a higher turnout,” Lowe continued. “Arenian traders, merchants, and possibly some travelers from Vindis who want to see Elaine’s plays.”


“This sounds as if it’s going to be chaotic,” Falrick commented.


The gnome closed the satchel, a satisfied sigh coming out. “Honestly, I just hope I’ll be relaxed enough to enjoy myself. I’d live a little longer too if I’m allowed some peace.”


“I could monitor the celebrations if you’d like,” Falrick offered. He gestured to his crystal ball, one that he recently bought back on his last trip to Vindis.


“You can do that?” Lowe asked.


“Of course. Just a wave and a couple of words, and I’ll be able to watch.” Falrick nodded.


The gnome furrowed his brow. “There’s no catch, is there?”


“None that should worry you.” The wizard shrugged. “Just a couple of meads delivered to my door. Keep me up with the celebrations.”


“It’s a ten-minute walk from here to the center,” Lowe muttered.


“Well, I guess you should run it.” Falrick smiled. The gnome sighed tiredly, his hands carrying the satchel over his shoulder.


“Fine. You’ll get your damn beers,” he grumbled on his way out.


“Honeyed mead,” Falrick called out. “None of that barley stuff.”


Lowe didn’t respond verbally or protest. Instead, the wizard was treated with the amusing sight of the gnome’s middle finger.