On a platform within the city hall of New Silverymoon, Alustriel was dressed in a beautiful cloak and a small crown as she leaned against the railings of a balcony overseeing the bustling city. There was a bitter smile on her face.
“Do you hear it, Your Highness? Do you hear the city mourning?” A scholarly old man adjusted his spectacles beside her.
“I hear it… But apart from this, what other ways do we have?” Alustriel turned around and the bitter smile on her face vanished, now replaced by a solid determination. “Our people fear the ferocity of the orcs, and my backers have been unable to gain the protection of the northern kingdoms. We even have to take on their troubles instead, those merchants want to sell at ten times the cost in this kind of time! Heavens… I even pawned the jewels of my crown for such a low price, what more do they want?”
Alustriel sounded exasperated the more she went on. Although she had the support of two greater gods in Tyr and Mystra, Tyr’s church had never been a wealthy one. Besides, Mystra had to cater to the rest of the world as well, so her support was limited. Even if she managed to latch onto the church, the Silverymoon Alliance was facing the assault of the orcs. Having lost everything, even with the help of the northern lords she wouldn’t be able to afford the resources of this war.
From the beginning, the war had been one between Mystra and the orcs. However, the Goddess of the Weave wasn’t particularly either, and without enough krona mercenaries and adventurers wouldn’t take the risk to participate. They couldn’t even equip or feed their own soldiers!
In a sort of silver lining, some ‘generous’ people had been moved and were willing to donate their money, items, and even food for the war. Still, Alustriel’s heart only felt a chill when faced with the sheer enormity of her foes.
The old scholar hesitated before speaking his mind, “But Your Highness… If you behave like this, won’t you offend the Goddess of Wealth? The church of Lady Waukeen supports the merchants…”
“I am left with no other choice…” Alustriel waved her hands in exasperation. “Waukeen is a goddess who stands in neutrality. Besides, rumour has it that she conducts some business within the orc empire, so we cannot rely on her help…
“Furthermore…” Alustriel blinked her eyes, “The ones executing the operations are the paladins of Tyr’s church. We should be rest assured of how they conduct their business, shouldn't we? They wouldn't treat a good person unfairly…”
‘But… They will also never let any bad people go, yet the merchants are filled with such people…’ The old scholar sighed, yet he did not dare speak his mind this time.
As Alustriel’s right hand man and her consultant, after such a long period of time working together he had understood some things perfectly. While Alustriel seemed to have matured after the annihilation of the previous kingdom, her original naivete was still very much there.
“Sage Elminster has already arrived here. I hear he’s come with a good plan…” The scholar looked through his records and reported to Alustriel.
“That old pervert?” Alustriel said in disdain.
The scholar’s face turned beet red in embarrassment, but he corrected his facial expression and reminded Alustriel, “Please refrain from such words, Your Highness! You must watch your image and conduct yourself appropriately in a public place. Moreover… He is your foster father!”
“Alright alright, help me send him away on my behalf… Tell him I’m not around!” Alustriel waved her hands, and immediately opened a portal and stepped into it, leaving the old scholar smiling wryly…
As this unwelcomed guest of Alustriel’s came, the conversation between Alustriel and the old scholar had ended abruptly.
However, they’d missed one point. Despite how they’d planned some actions, the ones executing them would change it completely.
Although Alustriel had told Rafiniya to have a certain tolerance for the merchants backed by the Goddess of Wealth, who were the paladins? If their thick heads made of granite would know how to adapt then there was something seriously wrong here!
One of the paladins searched the warehouse of a priest belonging to the Goddess of Wealth, acting out of order to cast an appraisal spell. He discovered traces of evil, and once the clues led to the capture of a devil everything grew irreversible.
As a torrential wave of ‘justice’ swept past New Silverymoon, the ones who suffered the most were the merchants under the Goddess of Wealth. In order to obtain higher profits and margins, these unscrupulous merchants had been willing to do anything, including bartering with the devils. There was no better way for the paladins to deal with them, and with Alustriel’s authority they began to cleanse the city.
In the process the paladins had captured several merchants that had connections with the devils, sending them to be burnt at the stake. There were even more found guilty of corruption.
Very soon, the citizens of New Silverymoon were greeted by a different sight. Most of the shops had reopened, and the shopkeepers had bright and friendly smiles on their faces as they treated every customer with respect. They were afraid of complaints or criticism, something that would cause the paladins to come looking for them once more.
Deep down, these merchants who had suffered heavy losses cursed the paladins, especially Rafiniya who was at their head. The commoners went to sleep early at dusk, but even more schemes were happening in the dark.
The priests of wealth seemed unaffected by all this, and with the Goddess Waukeen backing them, they did have the right to feel that way. As long as Alustriel had an iota of intelligence she would repay them for their losses. If not, they could immediately seek the orcs and support them with materiel.
The ones who’d suffered the greatest losses were those merchants who peddled on the small and medium scales. The violent purge had put them on the verge of bankruptcy, and the unlucky ones without any backing suffered great losses. Some of them had been gobbled up by larger merchant groups…
A dim oil lantern flickered in the room, reflecting the pale faces of the leaders of the Neon merchant group.
“Someone say something! What’s wrong? I specifically rushed here for this meeting today!” A loud voice sounded. It came from a lady sat at the middle, a ravishing woman in her twenties seated on a leopard pelt.
The leaders’ bodies shuddered, and they did not dare to lift their eyes to meet her gaze. It was as if a threatening beast or poisonous centipede was in front of them. A leader gritted his teeth before speaking, “Those paladins want us to keep to the same prices as before. We already lost about 1500 gold from the frenzied buying, and the losses will only rise…”
This loss was extremely alarming for a medium-sized merchant group like theirs. “Moreover… Once the paladins discover out dealings in the dark…” Another leader’s teeth clattered, before he collapsed to the ground, “Big Miss… We beg of you to let us leave first…”
“Dream on! Do you think you can still run away? Once our deals are discovered we won’t be able to escape those paladins at all. It might even bring your families to harm…” The harsh truth was spoken in an icy tone, condemning these people to damnation.
“Relax, it’s not like I don’t have my own preparations. The family dispatched its elites, and as long as you hide well and take the chance to send the next batch of goods you’ll be able to leave. If we succeed, the profits will be large enough for you to buy a huge villa in the south, and even marry the daughter of a noble. Who knows, you might be able to start a noble family of your own after a few generations…”
With such guarantees and temptations, the leaders’ faces grew better as the look of suffering went away. However, a shadow appeared on the lady’s face when they’d left.
After waiting a while and confirming that nobody had remained, she went to the corner of the warehouse and fumbled around for a hidden mechanism. A wall opened in the corner to reveal an underground passage, and she took up an oil lantern and walked into a narrow basement.
There wasn’t much stored in the basement, and in fact there was steam rising from the ground that caused the lady’s clothes to grow damp. There was a spell formation at the centre, shining with mysterious light.
Inserting two powerful energy crystals into the spell nodes, the woman took out a silver mirror and placed it in the middle of the spell formation.
*Tss!* Light flashed, and a middle-aged man dressed in silver robes appeared in the mirror.
“Anya!” the white-haired man began, “How’s the situation there?”
“Thanks to the Lord, our deals haven’t been discovered yet. We only incurred some superficial losses…” Anya frowned, “I’ve put the leaders at ease, so we won’t be discovered for the time being. However, there isn’t much time left, Father!”
“This situation is far worse than we had imagined…” The middle aged man’s face turned dark, “Blake isn’t giving us any more updates, he’s likely met with mishap. He had a lot of information on hand, and we could be exposed at any time. The God of Justice and the Goddess of the Weave definitely won’t let us go if we’re found out…”
“The orcs can’t be trusted, nor can the Blackblood Tribe… Are we going to become a common enemy?” The resolute front that the lady had put on was broken. She almost crumbled to the floor, her face filled with despair.
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