Deals With Devils:
Machiavelli returned to the offices of Cavalli Steel and Smithing shortly after making plans with Constance. He was a little nervous about what they’d talked about and felt that he needed something he was more comfortable with, something he could control.
When he got to the door of his office he turned straight to Emilia, asking sharply, “How’s your progress going on Mister Ryll’s dossier?”
“It’s all done and on your desk, Lord Cavalli,” Emilia nodded, giving him a little smile. “I’ve made a few notes on the sections you might find particularly interesting. I hope you find it helps,” she added, looking up at him through long eyelashes.
“Thank you, Emilia,” he said, opening the door to his office and closing it behind him. He crossed the room and took a seat at his desk, finding the dossier laying before him. Picking it up, he flicked through a few pages, reading them intently.
Arthur Ryll was a fairly avenge person, born to Taylor and Jeremy Ryll, he’d grown up in Divinity’s Reach and come out of school with fairly normal grades. Fresh out of school, he’d gotten a job as an associate at Black Incorporated, brokering trade deals between companies and negotiating the terms of contracts.
He’d gotten quite good at it in fact, so much so that he’d landed several large deals with some of the leading companies in their field. His dedication to his work and been recognised and he’d risen through the ranks of Black Incorporated, and had eventually made junior partner, all through nothing but hard work.
Emilia’s notes directed him to Arthur Ryll’s most notable success, landing the Harding’s group, a multinational retailors that designed and sold ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories. It was that deal that had landed him the junior partner position.
The relationship between the two however, Emilia had written, had been strained of late. Miss Harding, the head of the group, and Arthur Ryll had been reported to have several disagreements on certain business decisions, and their views on one another seemed rocky at best.
Machiavelli placed the dossier down on his desk and leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers. He pressed them to his lips as he thought, the gears of his mind whirring as he formulated a plan that would rid him of Arthur Ryll.
Once he’d figured out what he was going to do he got to his feet, heading out of his office again. “Emilia, good work, your additions were very useful,” he said as he made his way out. “I’m going out of the office again for a few hours, if anyone calls for me take a message and tell them I’ll be back shortly.”
Emilia beamed as she watched Machiavelli walk swiftly out, bowing his head in appreciation. “Thank you, Lord Cavalli! Stay safe!” He didn’t look back, but Emilia had not expected him to. She wriggled in her seat happily basking in the rare moment of praise that had been given to her.
The carriage ride to Black Incorporated had taken around twenty minutes, and Machiavelli now sat waiting outside of their offices. He’d bought a newspaper from a news stand close by and was flicking through it casually, not really paying much attention to its contents.
It took about ten minutes for the security personnel on the door to tell Arthur Ryll that Machiavelli was down stairs, and a further five minutes for him to make his way down to meet him in front of the building, that same triumphant and cocky smile plastered on his face.
“Hey there, Mach!” He announced, raising a hand in greeting. “I was wondering when you’d show up. I was beginning to think that you wouldn’t come, and that would be such a pity, I was looking forward to our meeting.”
“Arthur Ryll,” Machiavelli said by way of acknowledgment, folding up his newspaper and sliding it into his back pocket. “You’ve been making yourself quite the nuisance and have become a bit of a thorn in my side, so I thought it would be best to come and meet you face to face.”
“I’m so glad you did,” Arthur chuckles. “Tell me, did you like the little surprise I had waiting for you the other day?”
“You mean how you stole the Pact airship contract from me?” Machiavelli inquires. “I can’t say I did, no. I don’t suppose you’ve any more unwelcome surprises planned for me in the near future?”
“Quite a few in fact. I did tell you before, didn’t I? I’m going to put you out of business,” Arthur smiles, the smile not reaching his eyes. He had an almost predatory air about him, a dark and primal hunger for power.
Machiavelli takes a breath through his nose. “I see,” he says solemnly. “Could I ask you why? As far as I’m aware, I’ve done nothing to deserve this kind of prosecution. It must have been only the other day that we first met. Why is it you’re so intent on putting me out of business?”
“Do I need a reason?” Arthur asks with a shrug of his shoulders. “You’re one of the big dogs, Mach, and while I hate to admit it, I’m only a little dog. All the little dogs want a piece of the big, it’s the way of the world. You’re the competition, and it’s best to snuff any competition out, isn’t it?”
“We don’t have to be competition,” Machiavelli pointed out. “There’s plenty of the metaphorical pie to go around, there’s no need to go around stealing slices from each other’s plates.”
“You see, here’s the thing, Mach,” Arthur continued. “I don’t want just a slice of the pie, I want the whole thing, and doesn’t it taste that much sweeter when you’ve taken it from someone else? You’re just a stepping stone for me on my way to the top, and once I take everything from you, I’ll be made named partner and be set for life.”
Machiavelli sighed heavily. “I’m going to be fair with you, Arthur. I’m going to give you this one chance. Back off, or you’ll come to regret it.”
Arthur let out a laugh. “I’ll come to regret it will I, Mach?” He smirked mockingly. “You can’t do anything to me. You’re at the end of your rope, old man, and I’ve already won. You might as well give up now, just lay down and let me roll on over you.”
Machiavelli shook his head in disappointment. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” And with that he turned on his heel, calmly walking away.
“You’re finished, Cavalli!” Arthur yelled back at him. “You hear me!? Finished!”
When Machiavelli had sent letters to Mister Baldus, Captain Grattus Steamcatcher, and Miss Harding, he hadn’t expected much of a response, but to his surprise they’d all agreed to meet with him, even the elusive Miss Harding who had only managed to fir Machiavelli in a small window of her schedule.
The four gathered in the meeting room of Cavalli Steel and Smithing, Machiavelli wearing his best suit, his shoes polished to a shine and his tie ironed, Mister Baldus, looking just as grey and nervous as the last time Machiavelli had seen him, his watery eyes peering anxiously out over his spectacles, and the other two.
Captain Grattus Steamcatcher was a large, fierce looking Charr with huge razor sharp teeth that might have been as long as Machiavelli’s arm, deadly gleaming claws that could rend flesh apart, and curled, angry looking horns that were similar to a ram. His fur was dark brown, his mane a vibrant red, and his eyes a deep amber. Dressed in battle hardened Vigil armour, with an axe strapped to his waist and a shield on his back he looked very out of place in the office.
Miss Harding however fit right in. She wore an expensive looking black suit, with a knee length skirt, and a pair of black stilettoes on her feet. She looked to be a little older than Machiavelli, with a sprinkle of grey in her otherwise long black hair, which was tied up into a bee hive style. Her face on the other hand showed no signs of her age, her skin was clear and she wore little make up other than a deep red lipstick. She watched Machiavelli with mystical violet eyes.
“Thank you all for coming,” Machiavelli said as they all but Captain Grattus Steamcatcher, who chose to remain standing, sat dawn. “I appreciate you all humouring me on such short notice.”
“Yeah, well this was short notice, Cavalli,” Captain Grattus growled, “So if you could hurry up and get to the point? Some of us aren’t here for pleasantries.”
“Quite right, Captain Grattus,” Machiavelli nodded. “Some of us here did not part on such good terms when we last saw one another, and I can sympathise with your reasons for stepping back from our negotiations, but I was hoping that you’d allow me to run by you a business proposition that I think you’ll be quite intrigued by.”
“And what of me, Lord Cavalli,” Miss Harding pointed out. “We’ve had no such interactions before this point, this is our first meeting in fact.”
“Indeed, Miss Harding,” Machiavelli conceded. “And I’m grateful you took the time out of your busy schedule to meet with me today. The proposition I’m about to put to you all I’m hoping will be enticing enough for you all to forget Arthur Ryll’s generous proposals and consider doing business with Cavalli Steel and Smithing instead.”
“Would you get on with it?” Captain Grattus roared impatiently. “I’ve not got all day!”
“As you with,” Machiavelli said, inclining his head to Grattus. “As you’re all no doubt aware, there has been something of a crisis in Lion’s Arch of late. Refugees have been flooding in from Elona, all looking for shelter and security.”
“Are you suggesting there’s something we can do to help?” Mister Baldus piped up, looking a little small and mousy compared to the others in the room.
“I am, Mister Baldus,” Machiavelli continued. “Cavalli Steel and Smithing has recently started to employ some of these refugees, and we are hoping to take on more as they continue to flood in, and look for stable places for them to live and work.”
“What’s that got to do with any of us?” Grattus grunted, his voice rumbling savagely.
“I’m glad you asked, Captain,” Machiavelli smiled. “You see, I believe that with the employment of these individuals, we can take advantage of the good will that is being shown and monopolise on it. You see, our customers are not in any position to help the downtrodden, yet they wish to feel like they are doing something, no matter how small, to help those less fortunate than them, so I suggest we give them that chance.”
“We’re going to be doing that how?” Miss Harding asked, her head tilted to one side curiously.
“Well, Miss Harding, what I am suggesting is putting a certification on our products to tell people that some of the profits we receive from our customers purchasing our products will be going to help Elonian refugees in whatever capacity they need. In this way I am hoping to double our profits, which mean, for you Mister Baldus, I will be matching the deal you made with Arthur Ryll to produce your cutlery for half the cost, and with double the profits. For you, Captain Grattus, with the added workforce, I can match Arthur Ryll’s estimated time of completion on your airship, with the added bonus of a boost to your reputation by giving out work to the desperate and needy.”
“And what of me and my company, Lord Cavalli,” Miss Harding smiled, leaning forward a little and intertwining her hands. “What is it you intend to do for me? Unlike the two beside me, I’ve no such history with you or your company, what is it you can promise me?”
“For you, Miss Harding, my offer is simple,” Machiavelli smiled, matching her seating position. “I can make your products at half the cost, with my share of the profits making up for it. By my estimates you and I should end up more than enough to cover both our expenses and make a profit, and I can get you out from under Arthur Ryll’s thumb.”
Machiavelli then looked up, taking in the whole room. “That is my proposition to you, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you will consider it.”
“There is no consideration needed here, Lord Cavalli,” Mister Baldus spoke up. “I for one will gladly take your offer.”
“Same here!” Captain Grattus bellowed. “After Mordramoth, the Pact needs a little boost in the public’s eyes. I’ll gladly sign your contracts.”
All eyes turned to Miss Harding.
She gave a little chuckle. “Yes, all right, I’ll agree to your proposition, Lord Machiavelli. It’ll be nice to see the look on Artie’s face when he finds out.” She then leaned into Machiavelli, whispering in a conspiratorial manner. “He hates when people call him Artie.”
Machiavelli’s brows rose. “Does he now? I’ll have to keep that in mind.”