Chapter 8~•~ EMISSARIES
How different it was from her home. She peeked outside of the carriage to grasp the distinct colours of the fine, tall buildings around the city as she journied through the city of Hobart. Her appreciation for the world around her was one thing no one could take away from her
Being born into the lowest class of society, Raven was always exposed to the worst of the worst, the parts of humanity nobody wanted to see. In a country that held strongly on its aristocratic system, being born as the bastard of a lowborn, with an unknown father was a fate no one wished for - not even upon their enemies.
Her childhood was at first, a rat race, and a constant fight for survival, until the day that she met the head of the Von Hadelio house.
A tall and strong looking man he was, with a confident gait. Always had an entourage around him, and always wore a smile that brightened the world around him.
On that day, he was visiting a warehouse he owned in Rhode when he found her scavenging the garbage for food while eating first any edibles she could find. His guards tried to throw her back to the streets, but stopped on his command. He moved closer and took a solid look at her, looking deep into her big brown eyes. "Do you have to eat that, child?" She nodded slowly, grime streaking down her cheeks. "Here...eat this," he brought out some biscuits from his breast pocket and gave them to her.
Day after day, she returned to the warehouse, expecting more biscuits, and one day, the patriarch took her back to his house to feed her properly. She was raised as the patriarch's child after they noticed her remarkable talents in learning the arts of diplomacy and business.
Raven would become the next head of the household. However, she did not stop there, she became the Marquis of Rhode - a single rank away from Duke. As one would expect of such accomplishments, a myriad responsibilities followed which she handled with a chin up in the air and an iron fist. She could somehow make people do her bidding by several means.
The carriage faltered as a result of the collision between one wheel and rock, thereby bringing her back from her state of admiration to the world in front of her. She remembered her goal wasn't sight-seeing, but an investigation.
One of her factory managers was under suspicion for embezzlement - a crime which she hated above most. She hated that people just took what wasn't theirs just because they had the opportunity, they fill their pockets without having any value to show for it.
Occasionally, her authority would be tested in such manner by those who work with or for her, and in most cases, by other nobles. Repeatedly proving herself was very exhausting.
The carriage stopped, and the door was opened by a huge man with buzzed yellow hair who was awaiting her arrival. The man held out a hand and supported her steps out of the carriage.
"Thank you, Edward," she said. He nodded and followed behind her.
Edward was her bodyguard and the chief of security in her household. Strong and thick-built he was, with an undoubted loyalty towards his mistress. His swordplay was exceptional as was his strength. The perfect bodyguard.
"Do you have them stationed?" She asked. Her voice, somewhat high pitched and filled with authority.
"Yes ma'am," Edward replied.
The Marquis held her skirt in her hand as they tread carefully towards the factory.
Edward nodded his head and gave a little hand signal to his left and to his right, just before making a big entrance with the Marquis.
A ferocious noise from the heavy metal engines and the clank from other solid tools filled the air and reverberated across the walls of the factory. A terrible place for a noblewoman it was.
The factory workers came to a pause. The uncanny sight of a highborn woman in such low parts was enough to turn their heads and make them leave whatever they were doing.
As she would expect, she was surrounded. It did not matter, her target was sitting behind a desk right before her. The manager got off his chair and welcomed her with a warm greeting.
"Good day, madam. How may I help you," he started.
"Good day to you, manager. I won't be needing any help today sadly." She pulled back the chair in front of the desk and sat comfortably.
The audacity in her tone. Noblewomen were infamously known for having a sense of entitlement, but she was going a way beyond.
"Then might I ask, what are you doing here?"
"I received some reports about some illegal trade going on in this factory. I need to make sure of it myself."
The factory grew silent as all the engines were turned off. The manager sent a gaze towards Edward, and then returned his attention to the Marquis. "I don't know what this has to do with you, madam. But here we obey every code of ethics as proposed by the production and trading guild. You have no right to question what we do here."
The Marquis sank into her chair, carefully scanning the manager with a completely disdainful look. She observed his his dark, receding hair. His puffy cheeks and thick mustache, and the red hue at the corner of his eyes.
He was lying to her, therefore he could not be trusted. "It seems you do not understand the gravity of what you have gotten into." She extended a hand towards Edward, and he gave her a file containing some papers. "These are records the duke obtained from the guild. If what you say is true then show me the your own records."
The manager dug his fingers deep into his palm while clenching his teeth. His forehead glistened from the drops of sweat that sprawled down his skin. "Just who do you think you are?" He managed to ask.
"Now you start to become aware," she retorted. "I own this place." She felt no need to mention her identity to someone she perceived as low as he was.
The manager's eyes widened as he came to the qrealization, she was one of the richest people I'm the empire, the owner of the factory.
"You cannot do this!" He remonstrated. "Did you think I was going to let have all that money? All you rich folk think about is yourselves." He pushed his chair backwards while getting to his feet, and then he slammed his fist on the table. "Don't let her leave this place!" He cried out to his men.
Just as she expected.
Whatever made them assume that they could attack her successfully, was something she did not understand.
As calm as she had ever been, she waved a hand before Edward, and he drew his sword and pointed its tip at the manager's neck, ready thrust through his throat at any second. Moments later, the factory was filled with soldiers by Edward's signal.
"Thank you for your cooperation, manager. You shall be arrested now," she said. "Arrest them...all of them." Her voice echoed, and the soldiers obeyed with enough force.
The Marquis made her way back to her carriage once the squabble was over. Her work was done and she could get back to driving around the city, taking in the brilliant colours of the buildings, and their fine architecture.
Upon getting to the carriage, a tall man with a white coat and a broad chest intercepted her. She gasped at the sudden sight of him - almost not aware of how he got there - then she tilted her head up to his face and sighed.
"Your irrationality still precedes you." He said.
"Why are you here, lord Crowley?" She asked dryly.
"This is my city," he replied.
"Well, then...What brings you here in particular?"
"To see how you would manage, of course," the duke replied.
"Don't you have better things to do?"
"I do, but I find this well entertaining."
"I'm glad I was entertaining enough," she gave an awkward smile, and the duke responded with a hard laugh.
"What will you do with the factory?" He asked.
"Seeing how all workers just lost their jobs, I think I'll close it for the time being."
He narrowed his eyes, and put two fingers on his chin and stroked his beard.
The duke was a close friend to her family and her foster father, which made him one of her biggest supporters after his death. Every time he moved between cities, he would pay her one of these short visits to see how she was keeping up, but in most cases, he didn't need to.
"How would you like to visit my manor?" He asked
"That would be wonderful. I planned to go there later."
"Good, please, use my carriage," the duke offered, pointing a hand towards a white and gold designed automatic carriage, with two large wheels on each side.
"What do you think of Alister's supposed expedition?" He asked her whilst the carriage tread through the city.
"His plan holds much promise for us, I must say. There will be a lot to benefit if he finds what he is looking for."
"Do you think he plans something else? A hidden motive, perhaps."
"There is certainly a lot for him to gain." She peeped through the window, unable to keep her eyes away from the clean roads.
"Does it bother you?" He asked.
"No...no it does not. Whatever he hopes to gain is his business."
"What about the explorers?"
"What about them?" She retorted.
"Not that I know of. He hasn't said anything since our last meeting."
"As expected, of Alister."
Birds chirped blithely as they flew away from the trees and above the canopy. Small animals and insects bumbled and slithered on the ground beneath the shade. Akin hiked through the forest along with Thomas, who was under his protection as per Shaka's request.
A day before, Shaka introduced Freya and Thomas to Akin and gave them details of what he wanted from them.
Shaka's demands were simple; they would allow Thomas to go back to his country so he could arrange a meeting with their ruler while Freya stayed behind as collateral.
His reasons for wanting a hasty meeting was not stated, but Thomas had no option as his niece was being held hostage.
"Outrageous!" One of the council members exclaimed during the meeting Shaka called for in the present day. "You will bring foreigners to our lands?" His voiced echoed between the palace walls.
"You dare to defy me?" Shaka said gently, his hand cupped in a fist supporting his chin. "I don't think you should be reminded your place and your relevance in the kingdom...myself as well a hundred others would love to replace you and running mouth after you are finished at the ropes." His voice was as asserting as it was deep.
The councilmen kept quiet and swallowed all their doubts as the were aware Shaka meant the execution grounds when he said 'the ropes'.
"What do you plan on doing with the other spies they have around the city?" Mbah then asked.
"We shall give them two days to withdraw, if they do not, you have my permission to hunt all of them - without killing them." Mbah held a look on his face that spelled satisfaction as much as it spelled disappointment.
"My king!" another councilman called out. "With all due respect, why do you choose to make allies of these people, when we all know they can't be trusted.l? And why do you insist on not killing them? Do you not trust our warriors to go to war with them?"
The councilmen began murmuring and chatting between each other. Shaka assumed the last one who spoke said the worries of the council.
"I understand your worries, my chief. But it will be unwise to start a war now, don't you think? We don't know their numbers, we don't know their warfare. And thanks to their explorers, they know our terrain. You have to understand that I do this with the interest of the soldoers at heart as well.
The throne room fell in silence ad there were no more questions to be asked. Shaka brought the meeting to close upon realising this, and all the councilmen left the palace.
Shaka soon got off his throne and sent someone to bring Ayala to him.
Ayala was a young and very good looking soldier in Amina's army. She was short, with dark skin and puffy, round hair, like an exaggerated version of Shaka's.
"Good day, my king," she started.
"Ayala!" Shaka said joyfully. "Welcome."