Ruck was reading some intel papers from his province when he got the notice via magic message that the meeting was postponed. The king was absent to accompany his daughter on one of her crazy ideas.
“Great, I´m halfways on my way to the capital and now that"
A vein was showing on his forehead and he gripped the papers and threw them into the corner.
“Somehow I feel she only does that to annoy me, but since the king called for all of his chancellors I doubt that. Still, that little pest goes on my nerves a lot since she started helping commoners.”
Ruck held a clear ideology. The nobles were the shepherds and the commoners ungrateful sheeps, that had nothing else to do than pester the upper class with their claims. He always held a grudge for them and in his domain a strict order was kept.
Any commoner that got on his nerves was quickly dealt with, one way or another.
And they could do nothing, because the best mages and soldiers always served directly under their lord. Only the king and the Royal Court could lift the command of a lord or order against them. The commoners were left with day to day magic to help them a little in their daily struggle.
Ruck always loved the sight from his castle when he saw his people working and not being able to help themselves.
Even when a sudden prodigy came up, they were quickly found and placed under a royal command to learn magic in a faraway institute, unable to assist their family.
Snapping out of his daydream he knocks on the wood of his carriage and slowly after it came to a stop.
“What is it, my lord?” , the carter asks after he opened the door, avoiding the gaze of his lord.
“Where are we, carter?”, Ruck asked annoyed.
“We are half ways to the royal capital, my lord.”, the carter promptly answered after he heard the angered voice of his lord.
“So half ways, hmm, if I remember correctly Caer Gaden is near, I could make a detour to visit him. Given that he is still alive.”
He saw his lord mumbling under his breath but didn’t dare to raise his voice.
“I'll go for Caer Gaden. Make haste to reach it as fast as you can.”
“Absolutely, my lord.”
At least the trip won’t be for nothing, I can pay my old friend a visit. Who knows, maybe he even has a new toy for me. I think I was too harsh to my old one.
The carriage started to move again, faster than before.
Caer Gaden was one of the most developed cities in the empire thanks to the various trading routes that ended and started in this town. Guilds, academies and trading companies profited from goods, services and the people that came along the routes.
Caer Gaden was only surpassed by the royal city and Elandin in wealth and growth.
Under the various merchants, traders and businesses you could get everything you wanted and much more if you knew where you had to look.
One of these merchants was well known for those who looked for more than just buying normal goods.
His name was Aden Melan, selling goods to the public but trading slaves in the underground. From an old man to the best youths of both genders, warriors and even mages were no problem if you paid the right price.
Ruck knew him since their service in the military and their adventures throughout the years. Aden was never a military person and after the required draft time he immediately left and used his little wages to start his own trading store.
They stayed in contact but after he got involved in politics he had to sever their bond, at least to the public. Even the public would recognize his name even though they never knew about their shared past or how Aden looked like.
He always got in contact with him between the whiles but they rarely had time to meet.
Years went past and Aden was the only one he trusted. Political farces were too much for him and he only helped him once when he got into troubles with another counsellor.
Under the various goods Aden only sold for those who knew it, he was mostly known for the “willed” servants.
Though slavery was frowned upon and mostly abolished, the nobles still bought them under the disguise of being normal servants.
“I bet this sly bastard raised his prices again, last time he wanted an unbelievable sum for just one girl", Ruck sorted his thoughts while making his way through the masses.
I still can’t understand why he built his business in the public ring instead of moving into one of the higher rings.”
He left the carriage behind at the gate to the 6th ring because he didn’t want to be recognized and tailed. His reputation would suffer greatly if someone saw him enter the store of his old friend. He disguised his expensive clothes with a plain leather mantle and moved through the less populated districts of the ring.
The bigger cities were separated into multiple rings. Back in the days were the empire was under war every city was build like that. If the enemies captured one ring, the defenders could move into a higher ring without giving up the city.
After the war ended, the walls weren’t demolished but used by the nobles to separate them from the commoners, moving into the higher rings.
In the noble districts everything was cleaner, better built and more expensive. The richer a noble was the more place he occupied and thus giant mansions were erected, slowly pushing the commoner district further away.
Nowadays only the outer 3 of the 7 rings in Caer Gaden were occupied by commoners and some even had to flee and build barracks outside the walls, slowly transforming into the scourges of many cities. Every now and then a major riot went through the cities, but they were quickly suppressed, thanks to the lack of forces to resist against the royal mages and soldiers.
Ruck came to a hold before a simple storefront. Nothing would indicate one of the biggest merchants in this town would operate from here.
He entered, leaving the the small side street after he made sure no one saw him standing in front of the store.
The insides were shabby and the shelves were mostly empty. For the public, the store sold magic components and materials, such as plants, books or even technic parts for magic machines.
The shelves were positioned all around the walls and in the front was the cashier, an old man, that didn't even bother to look up.
The old man knew that the most of his visitors were guests of his master who knew what was behind the store. In case someone entered the store and they didn't know about the background, the most promptly left after seeing what the store had to offer. 90% of the stores in the public areas sold better and less expensive goods. The rare cases of interested people who wanted to buy something wouldn’t stay for long. The gloomy atmosphere left no one unimpressed.
He passed by the man, taking a turn behind a shelf, and knocked on a door.
Shortly after, a small part of the door was opened
“May radiance shine and the sun be eternal”
A finely dressed servant opened the door completely and let him in.
The difference between the store and the room behind was like day and night. Along the floor, laid out on an expensive looking red carpet, were the finest shelves, goods and other expensive things showcased. The craftsmanship surpassed what a mere soldier or commoner could buy in their entire life.
“Dear honored guest, could you please wait a moment? I'll announce your presence to the master, but I´m sorry to say that he is currently busy with his trades. It might take a while until he´ll be able to receive you.”
The servant was by no means impolite but Ruck hadn't the patience to wait and swiftly ignored him, walking towards the stairs and entering the second floor.
He knocked a few times and entered, seeing an middle aged man looking up from his papers.