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   Chapter 8 Skyside

Skyside: Book Five of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 14344

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:21


Chapter 8

As Peter Wells, merchant extraordinaire, arrived, Benjamin took his leave, nodding to the nervous merchant and his overloaded assistant as he passed. Thompson smiled and took the reports of Matrovean attacks off to the side where he could remain in the background, but still be available should need arise.

"Welcome, Mr. Wells, please come in, " Elena said, gesturing towards the living room. Peter Wells stepped forward, taking Elena's free hand in both of his and shaking vigorously.

"Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me Captain, " he told her. Elena noticed that his pudgy hands were free of calluses and slightly sweaty. As he shook her hand, his round cheeks wobbled with the exertion. He smelled of breath mints and candied violets, with the unmistakable tang of fear lingering below.

"Of course, " she said, feeling relieved when he let go of her hands and moved towards the couch.

"This is my assistant Burgess, " Wells said. Burgess had his arms full of paperwork and merely nodded in Elena's direction rather than attempting to shake her hand.

"It's nice to meet you, " Elena said, wondering if Burgess was a first or a last name. The assistant was tall and thin and extremely angular. Where Wells looked the picture of a round faced, red cheeked, well-off merchant, Burgess looked a bit like an aesthetic monk. Burgess took a seat to Wells' left.

"May I get either of you something to drink?" she asked.

"No thank you, " Wells replied. He smoothed wrinkles from his pants as Elena took a seat across from him.

"I must confess, " Elena said as she settled herself. "I'm not quite sure what sort of trade agreement you are looking for as your message was rather vague, " She told them. Wells smiled genially at her.

"Of course Captain, there is no reason for you to have ever come in contact with our…consortium, if you will." He told her swiftly. "We pride ourselves on working in the background you know."

"Consortium?" Elena asked, not really liking the word or the warnings it sent up her spine.

"Yes Captain, " Wells told her leaning forward a little in his eagerness. "I am the duly elected representative of the textile merchants and workers collective." His chest puffed up slightly with the pride of his office.

"Really?" Elena said. "Is that anything like a union?" Somehow that word was more comforting than consortium.

He nodded, pleased that she understood his role. "Very much like a union. And it has come to our attention that you have contracted with Ms. Dupry and her House and that this contract includes a temporary relocation to the port town known as Haven."

Somehow Elena was not surprised Wells heard of her arrangement with Evalene, but his use of the name Haven momentarily startled her. Apparently word spread, or at least one very specific word anyway. "Um yes, we did reach that arrangement. Does it violate any of your union rules?" She asked.

"Oh no, of course not Captain. No. We merely found it an interesting point and decided that it might be a reasonable place to offer our services."

"Your services?" Elena repeated.

"Yes Captain." Wells replied. "You see while Ms. Dupry's House is quite excellent at doing what they do, one of the best actually. They would not be quite so successful at what they do if we were not as good at what we do. Namely creating and providing fabrics for her to use."

"Naturally, " Elena agreed, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"And for her to continue to provide the items you and your people need, she would need to continue to work with our people."

"Of course, " Elena replied.

"Therefore it might be advantageous to have our people close by to eliminate all those …shipping delays and avoid any of the general…unpleasantness that seems to be the hallmark of our current times."

"You mean the Matroven incursions?" Elena asked wanting to make certain that he was talking about them rather than some sort of vague threat of shipping delays to inflate prices, strong arm dressmakers or whatever covert sabotage his union could indulge in should they take a turn towards the dark side of commerce.

"Of course, " he said, his evident distaste showing on his face. "They have no sense of commerce. Blocking trade routes, cuttin

.

"The shoe maker, " Elena replied with a smile. "Although I think he prefers, high end leather goods provider. He specializes in boots though, so I think it counts."

The rest of the day followed the predicted path with individual merchants Elena previously worked with looking for relocation. It was a relief to negotiate for single businesses rather than with union representatives trying to relocate entire industries. She made sure to keep everything on a business like level, but couldn't escape the looks of relief on people's faces.

The Windsong docked and as Elena was writing up her second letter to Mateo, they arrived in quarters. Elena arranged for their laundry to be quickly cleaned so they could ship out the next morning on a return trip.

"I'm sorry for the quick turn around, " Elena told their pilot Jillian, knowing they counted on at least a couple of days at the DF. "But we have to get this information back to Mateo and Kiera as quickly as possible so they can start the prep work."

"I understand, " Jillian told her seriously. "We sort of figured things changed when we saw the cruise ship docked. It gave us a bit of a start. We are going to take advantage of the hot water here though, " she said with a smile. As Jillian and her crew showered and relaxed, Benjamin arranged to have them fed.

Elena slipped out and picked up several more treats to ship back to Mateo to hopefully sweeten the news of the new arrivals. She also added a little something extra for Sam Harris their new harbormaster, knowing his job was going to be getting a lot more complicated. While she didn't write anything in his new log book, she did write him a long letter explaining the basic upcoming schedule.

"Because why would I send supplies home when I can just send those who can create the supplies, " Elena muttered to herself. Thompson, who insisted on walking with her, smiled.

"At least they are all useful, " he pointed out. "You aren't sending a ship load of tourists."

"That's true, " Elena replied. She thought about the docked cruise ship. "Yet." She amended wondering how long it would be before someone decided Haven would be a great place to spend the off season. She mentally shrugged. 'Perhaps they can tour the archaeological sites, ' she thought. 'It would give them a reason and a captive audience for a lecture series.' In the market, Thompson once again spotted the man following him. Elena managed to catch a glimpse of him, but couldn't place him.

"If he is in on a plot then it is not one of our current players, " she told him. Thompson nodded and seemed to let it go as the watcher did not approach. Elena wondered how long that would actually last, but ultimately dismissed the watcher as out of her control; so much else demanded her attention at the moment that he failed to hold her attention.

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