Rainald stared at the rather short… man before him, who stood there with surprising confidence, fiddling with the strange little metal object he held as if he had all the time in the world on his hands.
“You may rest assured, Your Honor, that the Emporium is more than happy to provide assistance to such a worthy cause as yours,” noted Ulrich Inkstone. The Goblin smiled at the Duke benevolently. “That said, of course, we are a business. This food and its transport are not free--goodness, the expenses WE have taken in doing this are considerable. Despite what people might imagine, airships do not fly on hopes and dreams.”
Rainald nodded. “I suppose they fly on money,” he stated quietly.
The Goblin quirked an eyebrow. “Not as such,” he declared. It seemed to Rainald that the Meister was looking at him… rather suspiciously. “But they are expensive to run. Requiring much expertise that is… impossible to do cheaply.”
Rainald thought he got the hint. “Of course. I am… deeply marveled at your organization’s accomplishment.” And he really was, actually. Oh, he’d heard RUMORS of great ships that sailed through the air in the Nightlands, but he’d always thought them a myth, a mad rumor that people repeated over their cups, like the tales of the castles in the clouds, or the island where the king strangled his wives if they didn’t give him a son.
But no. They were real. The Goblins--the strangest and ugliest of the Nightfolk--had mastered the skies. It was a profound marvel, but then, as the Duke of Montalban was starting to realize, he lived in an age of marvels.
Rainald took a deep breath. “And naturally,” he continued, “you will be paid for this act, which has saved…”
Inkstone laughed. “You misunderstand me, Duke! I do not ask payment for this shipment! That has been done in full by the Cthoniques! No--no--I am merely attempting to explain that further shipments will require… greater assurances. This is expensive. That stated--this is a side matter. The greater matter for us is not shipping you food--it is shipping you the luxuries that the Merchant Emporium can supply.” He dangled the strange metal object before Rainald.
Rainald nodded. “Yes, well, perhaps some time when my people are not facing starvation and death, Meister Inkstone.”
The Goblin bowed, and clicked his heels. “Of course, sir! Take your time! I will be here… oh, all week. At the very least.”
As Inkstone walked out of the room, his little bootheels clicking, Allard slipped to his elder brother’s side. “For a man who’s found himself in a war zone, that fellow looks like he’s landed in cream.”
Rainald shrugged. “I’d say it’s obvious he has… to a degree.” It occurred to him that he and his brother were having very little trouble calling the Goblin a man.
Truly, an age of marvels.