The emperor’s decree was enforced with might and savagery, causing fear to spread across the orc empire. The Neon Merchant Group dumped much of their goods along their way, using iron, food, weapons, and magic artifacts to trade for great amounts of precious metals. The orcs gave out some special items of the north at unimaginably low prices.
Gems were but stones for the orcs, and to exchange them for weaponry, rations, and clothing was a great bargain. It led to a great environment for the Neon Merchant Group as they finally arrived at the Moonwood.
This was the Blackblood Tribe’s base, a place where Leylin had fought hard in multiple times in the part. Trade with the Blackblood Tribe was also what caused the paladins to notice the Neon Merchant Group, but with the urging of the Giant Serpent Church they continued with the transaction…
At the same time, another mounted group entered the Moonwood as well. They quickly passed the strange branches and obstructions, the slight wind in the forest raising their robes a little to reveal a silver lustre.
“The North, the Moonwood, and the Blackblood Tribe… I’m back,” their leader muttered as she glanced at the Moonwood, lost in thought. She pulled off her cloak to reveal a young face.
“It might not be where everything started, but it was where the most blood was shed… It seems like a good place to end everything…” She muttered.
One of the cloaked figures halted beside her, revealing a benevolent and sorrowful face. “Are you feeling at a loss, Captain Rafiniya?”
“It’s nothing, Cardinal Karal!” Rafiniya shook her head, “I spent a long time here before, so I’m just feeling nostalgic…”
“Mm. Your familiarity with the terrain will be to our advantage. We need to make use of that,” Cardinal Karal made a hand gesture in front of his chest, “We’ve received intel that the sinful Neon Merchant Group is going to make contact with the Blackblood Tribe’s werecreatures here soon, and supply the other side with materials for a blood sacrifice…”
“Those unscrupulous souls should go to hell!” Rafiniya gritted her teeth, her terrifying energy raging at the back of her hands as she grasped her sword. Just the thought that they were using the blood and souls of innocent beings to please the evil gods made her feel like a frightening bundle of flames was about to surge out of her chest.
“In the name of justice, I shall purge all evil and sin!” The high-ranked paladins began to chant alongside her, their faces glowing with a faint white light.
The Neon Merchant Group quickly met a group of werecreatures after entering the Moonwood. However, they’d obviously traded with the other party many times. The leader of the werecreatures even knew who they were, and once they showed their tokens they were quickly taken to the core of the forest where the Blackblood Tribe resided.
“It’s been a long time, Shaman Gara…” Fagus greeted a shaman that was smaller than the werecreatures around him, with many strange ornaments all over his body.
“I smell something different on you…” Gara said as he moved forward to sniff at Fagus, causing Anya’s heart to clench.
Fagus froze for a moment, but then he replied coolly, “Haha… what are you saying, my friend… Maybe it’s that darned chef of mine who put too many onions in the morning soup…” Her father’s calm expression caused Anya to feel ashamed for herself.
“Perhaps…” Gara didn’t press on as he led the way, “You’re late, my friend. You almost caused us to miss the ceremony this time. If the Lord gets angry, I swear your head will be hung to dry on a tree branch!”
The werecreature opened his mouth to reveal terrifying teeth. His tongue was barbed, and the disgusting smell of flesh coming from his mouth gave Anya the urge to throw up.
“You should know…” Fagus began to complain immediately, “Silverymoon’s guards were switched out with a bunch of paladins. All the businesses have come under great pressure… It took me far too much to make sure I didn’t miss the transaction…”
“Indeed, there’s fewer caravans coming over recently. I heard your queen is squeezing the merchants dry to start the next war…” Gara nodded, as if sympathising with Fagus. He then pulled at the man’s body in a friendly manner, making the difference in their builds all that more obvious.
“We won’t let a friend of ours suffer, I promise you that!” he exclaimed as he patted his chest. If Anya hadn’t seen how brutal the werecreatures got in their hunts and ceremonies, she would’be thought this man to be kind-hearted and honest.
“Come, let me see what you’ve brought for me!” After the chatter, Gara soon got to the main topic.
“Of course, my friend. I’ve prepared for this trade for a long time…” Fagus smiled. A dozen servants moved forward with a clap of his hands, bringing over heavy boxes with large bronze locks. One could see a thick layer of elven silk within, the fabulous material reduced here to a tool that pressed down on and prevented the items from shaking.
Fagus then opened up a smaller box after he removed the layers of silk, one made of mahogany covered in thick veiny lines. The blood essence within glowed with a radiance that caught everyone’s attention, and the dense stench of blood it emitted caused Anya to wrinkle her eyebrows.
“This is it… This smell…” Shaman Gara took a deep breath. He seemed intoxicated, a flush rising upon his face, “I can confirm that this is an item of the greatest quality!”
“But of course. You don’t know what I had to go through to—” Fagus started, saliva spraying out, but Gara waved him off in annoyance.
“I know what you want, my friend.” He gestured to two werecreatures, and they lifted a box of items to bring it before Fagus. The wooden box seemed rather shabby, not at all comparable to what Fagus had brought. However, the light shooting out from within dazzled Anya the moment the box was opened.
Silver, gold, rubies, emeralds… All sorts of precious materials were within the box. It stroked a thirst for wealth within the group, the kind that caused adventurers and merchants to throw out their fear of even death!
“How is it? Are you satisfied?” The werecreatures burst into laughter, watching as Fagus practically pounced onto the wealth. This was a box full of gold coins and many other valuable jewellery. With some of it twisted and bloodstains still on some because of a lack of protection, it was easy to imagine how pitiful the original owner had been while the werecreatures were ‘collecting’ them. However, O Goddess Waukeen, which merchant cared for that?
“Enough! It’s enough! Shaman Gara, your generosity is as great as the mountains and seas, more beautiful than the stars in the skies…” Fagus started to repeat his words.
“I’m glad you like it. As long as you can bring us even more weapons, magic artifacts and important ceremonial items, you can have as much of this stuff as you like…” Gara took charge, and they quickly finished the transaction. The shaman then personally brought Fagus to the edge of the Moonwood.
“You know this… When our Blackblood Tribe conducts ceremonies, we never left foreigners stay unless they are offerings to our god…” Gara laughed.
“Of course. I understand, I understand. I’ll leave right now!” Fagus used a white handkerchief to wipe at the oil and sweat on his cheeks. The werecreature shaman stood at the boundaries of the forest, watching as the Neon Merchant Group disappeared into the horizon. His smile had a deep meaning to it.
“We should have left the territory of the werecreatures by now.” Anya watched the forest disappear into the horizon, urging her horse to catch up to Lonce and the native next to him. “Are we leaving just like this, my lord?”
“Of course. The Church will deal with the rest. The Lord does not treat anyone who trusts in him poorly. All that wealth belongs to you!” The native who looked like a servant spoke stiffly in the language of the mainland, and his body began to transform. Light flickered as what seemed like a layer of water slipped off from his body, revealing his true appearance. This was the legendary devil hunter!
“Wait… I’m willing to donate half of my profits to the church!” Fagus quickly interrupted. The mission he’d believed to be extremely dangerous had gone so smoothly, and it had left him overjoyed. Even if he gave half his profit to the church the rest would still be a huge windfall for him.
“Thank you for your generosity!” The devil hunter did not hesitate to accept Fagus’ donation. A budding church needed the donations of its worshippers.
The Goddess of Wealth even used income as an important criteria to measure the accomplishments of the priests of wealth, and this was used extensively by others as well. While Leylin himself had a great amount of property, the Giant Serpent Church was still developing, and he naturally would not reject this.
“This is a final warning… There will be a war and conflict here soon. Leave immediately!” The devil hunter told Fagus before leaving with his men.
Fagus waited till the devil hunter, Lonce, and the rest disappeared into the horizon. He then yelled, “Leave behind all the carts. Bring just the food and gold, we’re leaving immediately!”
The mournful sound echoed in the empty plains, full of urgency.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter