Nestor had just finished wrapping up his left arm tightly with a piece of torn cloth when Grant arrived. He needed to find a quick way to get more gold from the seven other villages. Due to Agnes being missing, their sales from the Bristol market had decreased. He also now owed Asher, the leader of the Ash village, plenty of gold since he ruined her century old priceless gown during his visit.
Grant scurried to Nestor’s side. “Nestor, what happened to you?”
Nestor purposely left a few drops of blood on the table. “I guess I’m human after all.”
Grant poured water onto a piece of cloth and wiped the table. “Not funny. Why are you bleeding? If you are ill…”
“It was the beasts. I was in the fields picking berries with Oberlyn when two of them pounced on me. They have these razor-sharp nails and teeth. That’s how I got this nasty tear in my arm.”
“I can call on your physician. You weren’t bitten?”
Nestor shook his head. “No, but it is so dangerous now for us. I need you to go to Ondello.”
“Tell them that the fee for the berries has just gone up.”
“Gone up? Perhaps we should focus on that later. I want to be here when you speak to the physician. You don’t take care of yourself as it is. You are not indestructible. You know?”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me. If I die, you are to be in charge. I trust you to lead them Grant, more than I trust myself. Now listen, Claudius has died so his son Mattau is in charge of Ondello. We would be risking so much to get the berries for everyone else so tell them that the fee has gone up.”
“Alright, Nestor but they won’t be pleased by this news.”
Grant arrived in Ondello. He walked into the golden palace accompanied by two golden armed guards. Mattau was seated at a table with his two advisors Mislin and Bennet.
“Grant, it is so nice to see you again. Sit down. Why don’t you come by more often? I host a grand game of scatter rocks,” Mattau declared.
“I bet you do. I am sorry to hear about your father.”
“It was a very soul opening time. What brings you to Ondello?”
“I am here to discuss our berry agreement.”
“Well, it’s air tight, I believe. Has some element changed?”
“Yes. The beasts have returned.”
Mattau looked at his advisors briefly. “Ha, those pests! The beasts must love spring and torment.”
“Nestor was recently attacked by a beast. It is quite dangerous. The fee will have to go up.”
Mislin rubbed his chin. “Nestor told you to tell us that he was attacked by a beast in the berry fields?”
“Yes, that’s what happened,” Grant answered.
Mislin wondered, “Did you see him get attacked?”
Mattau changed the subject back to the fee. “I was looking over the deal you made with my father. I couldn’t help but notice that when the beasts were not present the fee didn’t go down. There was less risk involved. But the fee always goes up never goes down.”
“I guess that is a reasonable observation. I will ask Nestor about it. But for now the fee has gone up. We should begin negotiations.” Grant pulled out his ledger.
“Yes, we shall,” Mattau agreed.
Grant figured that if things ran smoothly, he should have enough time to chat with his flame Glodean. He missed seeing her glowing face. He had six villages to go to in the next couple of days. He dreaded the thought of going back to the Ash village. Asher would surely take her frustrations related to Nestor out on him.”
“Grant, I wanted to run some ideas by you for a new deal as well,” Mattau began.
“I had this thought, all these years and you’ve never shown us one so-called beast. I want proof that they exist. You are right. The fee has gone up. My fee for you.”
“Proof that they exist like a beast head?”
“Too easy. You could kill one beast yourself Grant. I want to see enough beasts that would make for such a fee hike. My men will go with you. I want them to see all of these beasts for themselves. With their own eyes.”
“I can’t just take your men with me into Kobo. I’m sure they have long pasts. Nestor wouldn’t allow it.”
“Hear me clearly. If there are no beasts now I will assume that there never were any to begin with. I am not my father. I have an army, I will come and take the berry fields.”
“You can’t move a field, Sir,” Mislin unnecessarily noted.
Mattau gave him a sinister eye. “I will get back what Nestor has stolen from us with his lies.”
“Wait a moment. There’s no lies here. ”
“I might just finish what that witch Mercy started in Kobo.”
“Try it and Kobo will fight you with all its might.”
“Settle down, Grant. We are still friendly here. I want to see these beasts in five days. This shouldn’t be a problem, if they are real. This is the new deal. Go run and tell your Nestor.”
“What if the beasts are gone?”
“How inconvenient it would be for you.”
“Your daughters may grow up and want to live in a peaceful place. You really want to be the one who destroys Kobo?”
“Don’t be a snit they can live in Bristol.”
“Bristol is not a peaceful place. The people live their lives in fear of the Punishere.”
“You only have peace in Kobo because you keep other beings out. You better hope that freakish fool Nestor is who he claims to be. Put your gold where your mouth is and show us the beasts.”
“Your father was a reasonable man. He would never threaten us like this.”
“Grant, if I am right about the beasts, you might want to think about living with us. I’m sure Glodean would like it. You could be one of my trusted advisors like Mislin and Bennet.”
“I protect the humans. I serve Kobo. I stand by Nestor.”
“Good Sir, your village is cursed by Nestor’s greed.”
“Don’t speak of greed inside of golden palace walls.”
“Look how he talks back to me. I like you Grant. I will let you know before I burn Kobo to ashes so you can get out of there, alright? That seems fair to me. Take my two advisors with you. Please, treat them well.”
“The beasts are real,” Grant confirmed.
“O’h, Grant, with all of this fee talk, I almost forgot to tell you something. I recently acquired a gift from a troll that you might find interesting, my friend.”
“What was it?” Grant was emotionally exhausted from the back and forth and his threats.
“Who is it you might ask. Just tell Nestor that if anything happens to my men or if he gets any of his grand old ideas that I will beat Agnes the good until berries pop right out of her.”
Mattau was not aware that Glodean helped Agnes escape right after first meal. They were presently on the Octo Trail headed for Kobo.
“Mattau. Your problem is clearly with Nestor. Agnes is innocent. Just let me take her back with me.
“She’s worth too much gold. At least that’s what I hear.”
“I’ll send a fee for her back with your men. You can trust me if no one else.”
“Trust? Grant you are still from the other end of the trail. No! Agnes is going to share some information with me.”
“At least let me see her. We can all live in peace in this land if we desire to. We don’t have to hurt each other for land or gold.”
“I see why they send you. The dial is moving Grant. As I said you have five days.”