That all sounds good Mike, but we’re in a bar right now, and I’m a few drinks in, and I’m more interested in the women at that table then your stories.
“When I was told by my assistant that I was invited to a famous Orlando Desden luncheon, I couldn’t really resist.”
Orlando looked up from his table and smiled at the women to stood next to him at the small bistro. She carried herself like a Tasnican multinational, her chest out and her shoulders squared with confidence, but still postured with a sense of grace and ceremony. She had long auburn hair and classical hylian features, but her face was distinctly Elbaneese.
“Evelyn. A pleasure to see you again. When I heard you were town I had my people extend an invitation. I tried to avoid weekend gatherings, but it would a shame to let such splendid weather be wasted in solitude. Wouldn’t you agree my beautiful friend?”
He spoke with the familiar song to his words as he gestured for a waiter to bring coffee. The woman stat across from the former Diamond CEO, extending a hand that the man clasp in greeting as he kissed her knuckle gently.
“There is that Canto charm that I’ve missed so much. If only I had the luxury of working with just Canto Businessmen.”
“If only were were more canto businessmen. Such a small country that I think I can count us all on one hand.”
He took a moment to brunch his thick brown hair back away from his ear, grinning before sipping on his coffee slowly. “I haven’t seen you since my days with Diamond. An associate of mine mentioned you were here for business for a few weeks so I’m glad we could connect again. What have you been doing since our last stint together?”
The woman rolled her almond shaped eyes and smiled. “Nothing special really. Still working the old import/export game. There’s a few major players still in Brush that I’m heading out to see. Things coming out of there slowed last quarter so they are sending me to light a fire under a few people’s asses. The usual.” she turned to a waiter who arrived with a large porcelain mug of Trianble’s best brew. “Oh, no sugar please. Just cream. Thanks.”
The woman leaned in to place her elbow on the table, smiling at the businessman. “And you? You made a big splash with your…. What were they? Acronoforms? And a custom mecha for the King of Hyrule.Impressive. Nothing else since then. What have you been up to?”
Orlando leaned back in his white metal patio chair and stared out to the street, thinking. “I’m working on a first for the Web of Worlds. I looked at some of the companies that were fast tracked to AAA status–my experiences with Diamond specifically–and I distilled that to a model of how to develop a roadmap to large scale stability of a conglomerate level multi-planetary enterprise.”
“So you’re a AAA corp builder now?” asked Evelyn.
Orlando grinned and smiled. “It’s more like an AAA Corp incubator. Since right before the last Robotics Tournament I’ve been working with… political influencers in Hyrule to establish several brands and industries that show promise within the core world logistics model. Kuat, Saeder-Krupp, Diamond–you see these brands here in Hyrule but they’re just as common as the local brands. The ideal is to start developing names that Hyruleans identify with on a national level while building out a solid logistics lateral. Once we pass a incubation process on this, then we can focus on quality of the products and start disrupting interplanetary core markets.”
The woman smiled. “You sound like you’re given that pitch more times then you know how to count.”
The man gave a heave sigh as he swirled what remained of his wine in his glass. “Yeah, you’ll have to forgive me, sometimes I go on autopilot. It’s been a long road. I’ve always seen myself as a man of the web, but I feel that I lost a sense of what it means to be from this world. I was reminded when I barely missed the subway bombing a while back. I heard the explosion from the next stop over.”
Evelyn looked down at the floor beside the table. “I herd a bit about that back in Tasnica. There was a travel warning for a few months, a few mentioned of some smaller attacks, then suddenly there was a no-confidence vote or something? And now we’re back in an upgraded Hyrule, not Hyland.”
Orando shrugged. “Something like that. Even with the omninet, the details are a bit fuzzy. Lots of backroom deals. The military tried to leverage their northern peacekeeping victories to take control of a branch of the government. That backfired.”
The man looked out into the street to see the typical Trianble traffic–several taxis, a few freight trucks and the usual fairweather tourists on the street. “Those of us in the know suspected it wouldn’t pan out–the whole enterprise was backed on essentially a proposed conquest of the entire dimension, and these days such a venture would be… disadvantageous.”
She smiled at the phrasing before taking a sip of her coffee. “I’d love the be a fly on the wall to hear Shana Cole try to explain that one to her husband.”
Orlando rolled his eyes and the thought. “I’d hate to be Celiose Cole in that conversation! Any member of the royal family is very intimidating. I’d rather deal with the typical corporate psychopath, they are only thinking of the immediate future for themselves and their legacy. The Hyrule family… they’re on another level. They don’t think in family generations, they think in empire dynasties. A pure blooded Hylian can live centuries. I’ve been learning from every encounter I have with them.”
Evelyn sat upright. “You work with them closely Olrlando?”
The man rubbed his neck lightly, thinking about it, “some. I have a proxy that I work closely with. We’re both going to the palace today though, Alexander wants to have a few words with me.”
The woman relaxed and smiled back playfully. “Maybe we should order lunch. You might need a last meal.”
“So you were saying Wes never made the drop.”
“He called in Hark. Little bitch made the drop, just to the wrong person.” muttered Onk as he sipped on hs porter and stared more at the monitor on the wall of the pub and less at his cousin.
“Yar seeing this shit Hark? A moblin Chairman! I can’t believe the little shit actually won.” spoke Onk as he slammed his glass down on the pup counter. His broad weathered face curled into a grimace as he pointed up at the monitor above the bar.
The man next to him typed a message on his phone, only half engaged with his drinking buddy. He was thinner with a beer belly and a stringy black beard. “I heard last night. Was all over Omninet last night, Mole Barte is the new Chairman of the house. You need to keep up.”
Onk spat before taking another sip of his porter. “No shit. Don’t get me wrong, I know moblins–some of my friends are moblins–but I never thought any of there had enough of a lick o’ brains to pull this kind of shit off.”
“Well, when our last chairman is hanged for his botched military coup, what would you expect?“
The man looked up from his phone briefly to drink some of his pilsner, his eyes glancing up momentarily at the screen above a whiskey collection behind the bar. The moblin chairman as shown in a small window as the news stream replayed the highlight reel of trial proceedings of the former chairman, the silver haired Dylan Rufus. Flashed across the screen were clips of Hylian generals in their blue royal military garb, as well as a close up of Chairman Rufus in the courthouse appearing unkempt, disheveled, and defeated.
“Dunno, I was expecting it to be some hylian or some other arrogant prick to come clean everything under the rug, just like how’s they’d did da referendum back to ‘Hyrule’. No more ‘Hyland’, no more coup. This just shows how much of a farce the whole fucking thing is.”
“Maybe. Maybe not,” uttered Hark as he glanced back at his phone. The man’s grey eyes seemed abnormally fixed in the phone screen. “As they say, “Hyrule has been returned to Hyrule.”
“Hyrule hasb’n returned to Hyrule.” muttered Onk, raising his glass. The two men toasted as scene of a tall lanky leathery blue skinned creature with a bulldogish face and a light grey suit and tie spoke to the press flicked across the screen.
The older hylian reached out a hand across the steering wheel. Orlando shook it firmly–there was something about shaking this man’s hand that always felt reassuring to him. It was perhaps part of the reason why he was a retainer for the King himself.
“Good to see you again Giorgio my friend. My apologies for having to play chauffier on a weekend.”
The man shrugged and adjusted his faded brown ascot cap before he put the car into drive. “No worries. Most of my business is weekend business anyway .Ferrying this person there, this to that, so on and so forth. Gives me time to have little chats here and there. Builds perspective.”
“I hope that’s not all you do. I’m not too clear on the position of a retainer, but you’ve always struck me as a man who is much more capable than he lets on. Very respectable I must say.”
Giorgio tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. “All I can say to that is that you’re pretty perceptive. I think that’s it just a trait of most Hylians. I was probably born the same time as your great grandfather. Living for so longs makes us all seem like a well sorted out lot.”
“I’ll tell you this though, we’re ‘bout a sorted as the next lot–be it man, ‘blin, goron, or what have you. Just more time for regrets and promises to sink in is all.”
Orandlo looked at his hylian’s face, it was rare to see someone with delicate features and old weathered skin. The businessman slouched into the seat of the coupe.
“You know it I forget you’ve been around for so long. You must remember the Great War like it was yesterday.”
Two centaur-like creatures with lion-like faces stood on either side of the gate–they were massive in size, each were larger than their car, both wearing what seemed to be a mix of a mounted soldier uniform and armor for a horse. Both held firmly massive assault rifles in their bulky muscular arms.
“Friends of yours? I think those guys were as big as some of the robotics tournament entries.”
Orlando nodded to one of the guards as it spoke into a device on its wrist. “The Lynels are a secretive and reclusive lot, mostly relentless mercenaries for hire and innately protective. Get them on your side, and mate, you have a guardian for life.”
The gate rolled open and the coupe drove into the lawn driveway. Orlando thought for a moment if he had been to this particular palace of the Hyrulean royal family. In the outsider’s mind It wasn’t a castle in the strictest sense but more of a mansion. Still, it did seem to have a few towers indicative to Hyrulean architecture. Large glass windows appeared to flow from one floor to the next, with the front entrance boasting tall modern pillars.
“No, you haven’t seen this one in any storybook, “ spoke Giorgio, grinning at the man’s interest in the palace. “Tis actually a fairly recent construction, completed only last month. We decided it would be best to build a location closer to the southern port cities for visitors like yourself and other dignitaries. Something more modern than a dusty old stone fortress.”
A valet met them at the front steps. Orlando took a deep breath. Before him were two oversized doors that opened into a spacious foyer. “I’ve worked with executives who are worth more then more then the royal family, I don’t know why I find this so intimidating”
Giorgio patted the businessman on the back.
The lanky middle aged man was sitting on the sofa half dressed when the door opened. He laid there with his mouth half open as a Guardian sitcom, Imp Ace and Me, flickered on the television. Onk stepped in between him and his screen. The stout cousin’s face looked agitated and his body was fidgeting.
“Get your shit, we’re going to go see Wes.”
Hark looked back at his cousin for a moment to gauge the expression on his face. He nodded slowly. He turned off his monitor and raised from the couch.
“Did you ring up Umby yet?” he asked Onk. The man was digging through a closet, pushing away a false panel.
“No. Good thinkin’. Ring ‘em and let him know his services are requested.” he spoke as he pulled a shotgun out from the wall. He leaned in arimpit-deep into the crevice in the back of the closet to retrieve a box of bullets and a pistol.
“You think you need that?” asked Hark as he peered out a small window on the door. Onk stuffed the loaded pistol in his jacket pocket.
“I hope not, it’s my wife’s nephew. I just got done sleepin’ on the couch for a month.”
“Right. Texted Umby, he said come on over as he’s primping.”
It was a short drive to Umby’s house to which the goron greeted the two men pleasantly, offering them water or tea. As the two men stood in the hired goon’s parlor, Onk noticed the assortment of small plants against the wall.
“Nice little baby trees Umby.” muttered Onk as he petted the foliage on a small conifer in a bowl. The large pale goron packed away a small toolkit and put it into a cabinet before heading to another room.
“Keeps me being delicate. Hey, you guys see my floss over there? I don’t see it in the WC.”
Hark glanced over to a bowl of rocks next to a recliner. “Is it in a blue box?”
“Yeah, thanks. Flesh is like taffy, get stuck under my teeth on the gums.”
The goron stuffed the box into his denim pocket and headed to the door. As the trio reached the car, the passenger side noticeably dipped as the massive goron crouched inside.
“Got enough leg room Umby?”
“I’m good, thank you.”
“Umbs, this is my wife’s kin, so we need your delicate touch on this, alright?”
“You don’t have to worry, I’m a delicate flower.”
The goron smiled from the back seat. Onk looked in the rearview mirror to see a wide grin exposing more teeth then he could imagine a creature having. His breakfast seem to chun a little in the driver’s seat.
“We’re going in gentle then?”
Onk shrugged. “Gentle for Umby.”
As the car came up to the driver’s apartment, Hark noticed his cousin’s face grow red, and the the vehicle sped up instead of slowing. As it came to a screeching halt, melted tired smell and all, a jolt of anger filled Onk’s body. He slammed the car door behind him. He smashed a window in an attempt to unlock the door.
“Gentle,” muttered Hark as he spat. The goron stepped out of the car, causing it to lurch. As he went up the steps the massive goron, Umby, sidestepped the gangster at the window and letting himself inside, smashing the door off its hinges in the process.
Hark heard a wailing scream as he stepped through the smashed threshold. He entered the living room to see Wes with both arms twist behind his back, one arm [pulled lengthwise into the bite of the goron.
Hark reached into the restrained young man’s pocket and pulled out his wallet and phone. He looked at the boy, zit-faced complexion covered in peach fuzz and tears.
“What’s the code?”
“One five fo-seven! Ahhh!” he cried as Umby adjusted his bite.
Onk took a deep breath, raising his hands in frustration. “Man up here boy. You gonna keep screamin’ and I won’t have a choice but to be offin’ you. I don’t wanna make your auntie mad, alright?”
The young man nodded, trying to hold still as the Umby held his arm firmly between his teeth, gnawing gently for a goron.
“Nothing on the phone Onk. Let’s see what’s in the purse.”
Onk nodded. “Wes, you met the driver in Shibiton by the border, you took the truck from Shibiton to here in Daruna Town, you called in to say the tuck was handed off,” he spokes lowly, his anger subsiding as he used hands to pantomime. “The truck never arrived to the shop though. What happened to the fucking truck?”
Hark tossed the boy’s wallet on the floor. “Wes, where’d you get this money? This is twice what we give you on the payroll.”
“The guy! The guy who took the truck!”
“He bribed you?”
“No! FUCK! I dunno!”
Onk placed his hang on the body’s free shoulder. He could smell the hot tears streaming down the young man’s face.
“You don’t know if you were bribed? How stupid are you?”
“He said Boss Grunn sent him!”
“Who did? What was his name?” asked Hark, pocketing the money.
“I don’t know his fucking name! He said he had a deal with Boss Grunn!”
Hark looked up at Umby, who crewed down a little deeper.
“I TOLD YOU I DON’T FUCKING KNOW!”
“Gah… look, you’d didn’t even think about it, did you? You can’t just had over the dust to the highest bidder. You’re a courier. Could you imagine if you ordered something off the omninet, and the post mad decided to sell it to your neighbor? We’d wouldn’t be able to function as a civilized society, would we? Would we?” spoke Hark, turning to Wes, then to Onk. The cousin nodded in agreement, his arms folded in annoyance.
The skinnier cousin put his hand against the wall in frustration. Onk ran his hand though the curls of his mutton chops, staring at the man whose arm was firmly pressed between Umby the goron’s incisor and molar.
“Ok. Ok. Wes. Stop with the tears. Man up. Just–just sush. Shush.” He patted the boy on the cheek, slapping him gently.
“You understand this is a problem for me Wes, that’s why you’re blumberin’ and hollerin’ like you are. I gotta make an example out of you–hush! Hush… Look, you’re my wife’s kin, so Unc Onk can’t off ya. You not gonna die.”
He looked up into the black beads of the goron’s eyes, “So I dunno Umby, could ya do me a favor and just glaw his arm a little? Make it look more messy than it is? “
Wes gave out a loud sheik as blood streamed down the goron’s chin. Onk grimaced.
“Fuck! I think you pulled some muscle off the bone there. It’s fine–hush! He’s done! Wes! You fucked up and we had too. Man up boy!”
Unlocking his jaw, the bow clenched his arm, writhing on the floor. Blood smeared into the ground and soaked his shirt. Hark gave a sigh and pulled out a box of cigarettes. Lighting on for himself, he placed a second in the boy’s lips. He began to rock back and forth, curled in a puddle of his blood.
“Take Umby home Onk. I’ll ring up a mate and get our boy here fixed up before he goes into shock.”
Hark grimaced as he saw a glimpse of bone, taking a deep puff on the cigarette. “Well, worse shock then this sorry mess.”
He wore a dark green suit with an arythian woven white shirt, a green silk tie (clearly Canto in pattern, a homage to his guest) and coal grey vest. There was two things Orlando Dresden was known for: being the third CEO of Diamond, and being consecutively Tasnica’s best dressed list of AAA executives. Looking at the king of Hyrule, he had wondered if perhaps he had finally been bested.
“I want to be considerate of your time, so I’ll keep this meeting short,” spoke the King. He motioned for the man to sit. “I am sure you are aware that the nation elected a new Chairman last night. I am delighted that a moblin was elected and not a human.”
“Certainly. I’m not sure if you’re keeping up with the indexes, typically the numbers plummet when governments show this kind of instability. But the stocks haven’t soared this high since right after the last robotics Tournament.”
“Spoken like a businessman,” spoke the king, smiling. He gestured to the wall behind his desk. “I am still learning to think like one. You see that sword and shield? In my youth that is all I knew of the world. Now–” he gestured to the coffee table between them, “now my world–our world–is discussion, talk. I am not good at the art of debate. I’m hoping this Mole Barten will be out land’s Rhodes Palmerson.”
Orando grinned. The chairman of the house of commons was a recent development in Hyrule history, a publically elected position with more authority then the king himself in most cases. There was an odd feeling in the CEO’s gut at the thought that the whole endeavor was to promote an eloquent speaker for the kingdom.
The king leaned in. “That’s a bit of the reason why I called you here. Hyrule is not all human and hylians. It is gerudo, it is goron, zora, blin, and dragon! All these centuries, and there is never been a unified Hyrule. The only times when Hyrule has been the most unified, was when the forces of darkness unified against us.”
King Alexander leaned back, his gaze not on his guest but lost to the room itself. “My brother-in-law banished all the gods away with mere words. The dark gods who worked against Hyrule are no more. Now I feel it is the time of words to show their true power to this Kingdom. I feel it is time to let words empower us like they have empowered other countries and other worlds.”
He turned his gaze back on Orlando. The King’s face looked younger than his own, with bright blue eyes that seemed too fantastical in vibrance. “In my youth, defeating dragons was something heroic. Now that the line between good and evil is not so black and white, it is a handicap to my vision for this Kingdom. There is still a very powerful fire dragon in fact, Volgea is her name, and I wish I could extend a sign of sign of good will. However, there are still people loyal to her family–people who would not stand against me, but rather ignore the rule of law I have set into practice simply to better themselves and act as an obstacle to kingdom I envision.”
The executive nodded in agreement, his hands folded in his lap as he listened. “Needless to say, we’ve discussed such roadblocks in the past in regards to the development of archnioforms, and automatization in the kingdom. I’ve taken steps forward where I can, but I can only move so far in the macrocosm of the web of worlds marketplace.”
The king leaned in, patting the man on the wrist with his fingers. “That has been my greatest dilemma in the most recent years. How do we ‘uplift’ ourselves to be a web of worlds leader economically. I need to make it clear that these… civic figures in Hyrule don’t need to take avenues that block the overall prosperity of the kingdom. There is a place for them at the table if they are willing to step up and be leaders of our world and not just influences from the shadows.”
“I completely agree. I do see that with the recent elections there are those who are now seeing themselves as a part of the conversation now, and not simply tossed aside and looked down upon.” spoke Orlando with a face of sympathy.
The chamber door opened. Gorigo stood, his cap in both hands, as he coughed to get the King’s attention. “Sir, the envoy to Polias is ready and waiting for you. With your permission, I’ll escort your guest home if you’ve had your words.”
King Alexander grinned, extending his hand. “A pleasure to speak with you as always.”
The executive shook hands, smiling. The retainer motioned for Orlando to follow him out of the room and closed the large double doors behind them after after they ended a long palatial hallway.
“As much as I enjoy a visit with the King of Hyrule, I wonder if he speaks to me just to get some things off his chest sometimes, “ spoke Orlando with a smirk to the retainer. Gorio pulled his ascot cap back on.
“Hylure politics are a subtle thing.” Gorgio mused. “I think the biggest problem you’ve had since working here is you haven’t mastered the art of the Hylian ask. The King tells you about a dragon. The King tells you about a requirement he has that needs to be fulfilled. The inferred ‘Hylian’ ask is that you speak to the dragon to about the requirement. If the dragon is as smart and resourceful as they claim dragons to be, he’d put one and one together and deduce by himself that it is an ask from the King and act accordingly.”
“But he has people like you, why put this on me?”
Gorgio grinned and patted his friend on the back. “Mate, it’s the Highness’ way of saying you’re now people like me.”
The expanse that was the basin still surprised him when he drove over the last hill. The rocky barrens that were the landscape he had known since childhood gave way abruptly to a sparse dry forest of tall sequoias and conifers. It was about an hour and some odd minutes from Daruna Town, but for Hark the city of Morgueton could have easily been another dimension.
The trees and grass slowly filtered out from the landscape of give away to tall shrubs and swampy marshes on either side of the road. The mobster began to drive slower, but was quick to realise the other drivers were passing him up.
This was not a sightseeing trip, Hark told himself, this was a quick meet and greet, a swift in and out transaction. He looked at the clock on the dash of the car–there was a good four hours before he had to meet with Boss Grunn. If he could get this meeting to run smoothly, it should lighten the blow. He had seen the old goron’s temperament volatile temperament first hand, but he had worked with him long enough to know that there was a time box to the man’s wrath before the next big frustration overtook his concerns.
If he could only push this deal though before then…
Hark found himself turning off the highway and pulling into a stip mall. A shiver of anxiety crawled up his heels to his leg, and he began to shake it as the other boot slowly navigated the unexpected amount of shopped on a weekday morning. The facade of the chops were freshly painted to feel like an old Hyrulean castle but strips of white painted cement walls and brake asphalt parking spots broke up the illusion.
He parked, stepped out, and took a moment to get his bearing as he pressed his palm against the side of the car firmly. Deep breath, then a quick look around for the sign.
“Perry’s PC Cafe and Cellphone Repair.”
A digital bell chimed a full 8 bit tune as the door closed behind him. A teenager shot him a glance from a counter but remained focused on his phone, his fingers nonchalantly thumbing a text. The walls were covered in small cell phone cases, some with floral patterns, some with Omninet-drab digital colors.
“I’m here for Perry.” muttered Hark as he appeached the young man. He glanced up from his phone, and then looked back down, his thumb spasming on the touch screen of the device.
“Yeah ok,” he mumbled. The boy’s posture adjusted slightly but he didn’t take his eyes off the device. His free hand slowly wandered to something to the side of the counter. Hark smiled nervously.
“Ok. You’re Hark from Daruna Town?”
He young man pressed a button behind the counter and a door bussed and unlocked.
“All the way in the back.”
A sickly looking middle aged man in jeans and a dingy once white hoodie crouched over what could have not be anyone older then a middle schooler as he pointed at a computer monitor.
“That’s not even a real team, you little window licker! That’s why we have a wiki, it lists all the teams and where they are from. Look: Centwerp–Centwerp Scimitars. Right. Fucking. There. You just have to read the damn thing if you’re confused. Just keep to the script and copy and paste. How hard is this?”
He stood up and looked at the visitor. “You ever run a skull kid farm?”
“A skull kid farm. These are my skull kids.” he muttered, gesturing around the room to children each, typing furiously at computers. “We’re trying to edge some wealthy Tasnican snobs to place some bets. All it takes is a room full of opinionated brats who can hit the right triggers on some message boards.”
“And that works?”
“Some old grift, just online and en mass. People are too stupid to realise they’re being manipulated. Paid for a condo on the shore last month in full. And these kids work for minimum and free internet, its great.”
Perry gestured to a door. Hark rubbed the back of his head and he walked across the room of computers. Each person head phones one and seemed not net notice his presence as he passed by them. “A new condo? I need to get out of the shipping business and get into this.”
“Close the door.” he muttered as he opened a filing cabinet. He placed a manilla folder on the table.
“That’s for you. Clean cards.”
“How’s it run?”
“Did a few jumps on the Omninet, cross enough dimensions and time zones with simple buys and sells of some crypto coins and the cash comes back before the ink even has time to dry.”
“Ruga-coin, omni-coin, gato-coin, Generalissimoos sometimes.”
“Right. What’s the cut for the services moving forward?”
Perry shrugged. “Was told the dust was enough. More we can spread this kind of operation out the better it is for us. Vol is more interested in service over profit at this point in the operation.”
The alleged cellphone repair man smirked, revealing a mouth go pointy teeth. His eyes glowed slightly as he thought of something wicked-the tell tale signs of a wizzrobe.
“Besides,” he said as kicked up a pair of black boots onto a office desk, “ A Skullbreaker like you coming here to work a Underhill operation? I’m damin certain someone is paying for this somehow.”
Dragon’s Den was much to what he had expected it to look like. The long windy cliffside roads lead up to the crest of the death mountain range, exposing tall jagged red volcanic rocks piercing the earth. The cliffsides were barren and only small shrubs occasionally peppered the cliffsides.
As his car reached the summit, what appeared to him to look more like a prison then a home awaited him. Tall slabs of grey concrete darted out to form a fortified wall, complete with guard towers. A set of moblin guard motioned him to drive through the gates and up to the windowless warehouse-looking structure. A reptilian main in a burgundy suit opened the door for him and motioned him to follow.
“Nice suit! I used to wear a suit just like that. Is it from Canto? That might be one of my brands.”
“This way please.”
He knocked on a door and it opened. As expected, the complex was in face one massive warehouse, with the floors and some of the walls lined with a heated ceramic tile. Large gold and black ornate patterns lined tall pillars which extend up to the warehouse ceiling.
In the center of the room, laying on what looked to be a dragon’s perch made of tile and gold, was the magma dragon herself, Volgea, the daughter of Volvagia. Her long serpent-like body emitted heat that produced a mane of fiery long locks that flickered and glowed ethereally in the room.
He wasn’t sure at first if she noticed him, as behind her a massive theater screen projected what appeared to be an empty conference room. Which seemed to hold her attention.
“Good timing, Mr. Dresden. My meeting just concluded. I’m sure you are aware of the difficulties of working with BAFTA counties overseas. Not as cheap as alter labor, not as good as homespun operations.”
The man’s face lit up. There was at least a common interest. “I’ve found myself working more with the southern countries-- Polias, Hill, those sort. They don’t have their export game as strong as Brush does, but I’ve been seeing some consultants over to work with them.”
The dragon uncoiled its head around to face the businessman. He stood motionless, forcing a smile on his face as the creature’s snout rested in arms length of the man. The heat of her face made his skin feel as ift it was beginning to sear.
She took a large sniff of the heat, and coiled back to her pearch. “You still have that smell of sea salt of fabric dye to you. Other smells I cannot place, you are definitely a traveler. A shame that traveling is a fool’s errand. I have people to do my errands.”
Orlando pressed his palm to his chest, still grinning. “It is Canto tradition to meet a potential business partner face to face. Traditionally we would also break bread, but I’ve been informed you prefer a gluten-free diet.”
“A lady has to watch her figure, Mr. Dresden.” she spoke, the beat voice giving an air of coyness to it as the bellowed across the warehouse floor. “ We each have our own special diets. I’ve been instructed by my doctor to avoid getting gorons, too much sodium. Do you know what is something different between a Hyrulean dragon and the dragons of lands beyond?”
“I’m sorry, I’m not too familiar with dragons as a species.”
“In other lands dragons live for so many generations of other creatures that they are seen as almost immortal. A typical hyrulean dragon has only the lifespan than a pure blooded Hylan. I may be speaking to your great grand children in my senior years, but I don’t share the grandiose plans of Hylian royalty. I’m just a lowly dragon, trying to make it in this crazy world.”
Orlando chuckled. “If that’s the case, I’m sure you and the King went to grade school with my grandmother.”
“King Alexander murdered my mother.”
Orlando’s smile faded. “You know what is the funny thing I’ve learned, being around those who live longer than myself, is that typically the sophisticated ones can see past their grudges as it doesn’t affect them a millenia down the line.”
“An interesting observation I’ve made is that the shorter-lived ones have a more profound tenacity for calling horse shit,” the dragon spoke as he adjusted its fiery wings, sending streaks of flames against the warehouse walls. “My mother was a prisoner of a dark noble, and the king was forced into combat. Stories tell they had even known each other as children. But that’s becoming a degree of myth.”
“All things Hylian seem simple on the surface, but more complex the deeper I dive into them I find.”
“It is a sign of the times. To think that such a man as the king of Hyrule would offer his services to me only proves that waning power of kingdom fairy tales.”
The executive fidgeted his feet. He ran his fingers across his pearly white teeth, trying to discover words to say.
“No, I feel you’re mistaken. I’m not here to offer you carte blanche to continue business as usual. I don’t hold the authority for that. Nor am I here to remove your competitors. All I can offer you is clemency moving forward if you wish to conduct yourself on a level of business that is acceptable to the global community.”
Orlando stepped closer to the perch. He gestured his hands open–it was his own tell that he was losing control of the situation, he knew this. “Look, I’ve been brought on in the last few years by several active parties–yes, some nobility–to develop and boost Hyrule into a global competitor. This is not something a single individual can do alone, it’s a group effort. Its been expressed to me that this group should include all walks of life at the table moving forward–yourself included. However, this group is only a subset of a transglobal marketplace, and if you think you can work outside of this massive multi world, multi dimensional system, you only expose yourself to being a threat to not only the web of world community, but your local Hyrule as well. So not only is it in your best interest–”
“You come into my home to make threats? Is that how the Tasnicans taught you to do business?”
Orlando thought about this for a moment… ”Well, yes. Look, This is the a new era we are in now, where you’re not defined by your alliances, but buy your actions. If you think you can work in the shadows, I can guarantee you that there will be a spotlight on you sooner than later. The best practice, I find is establishing a relationship with the people in your global network so that–”
“ENOUGH” roared Volgea. The massive creature turned away, her large serpent-like tail whipped past the executive’s brow so close the man reached up to make sure his hair wasn’t signed.
“You come here unarmed, boasts threats to me, one who has no qualms in devouring humans on the spot? I would eat you, but your madness would upset my stomach. If your feeble mind doesn’t understand that, I mean to say you disgust me.”
Orlando broke out into a sweat, he loosened his tie. He wasn’t sure how, but the beast had managed to make an already hot room suddenly feel like an oven.
“I think it may be in your best interest to take a moment and reconsider–”
The dragon curled up into a pale in the corner of the warehouse. “Leave. We’re done here, Mister Dresden. Before you go back to your masters, you may want to save them the disgrace and find a lovely ditch on the side of the road and end yourself.”
Onk took a deep puff of his cigarette as he tapped his foot.The goron boss’ office was standing room only with the familiar faces, and a few fresh ones. The proximity of everyone made him on edge. He glanced over to Hark, who stood front and center, his voice calm and even toned as he spoke.
“Since the product loss was substantial, I went forward and made agreements to scrub the loads faster. Got a guy out of Morgueton who’s doing that omninet cleaning. Goes out to the net, comes back as prepaid cards. We have some accounts now, I’m going to to feed them to the mules, and give them some cards for deposit.”
Boss Grunn leaned back in his chair, a massive metal and wood edifice that seemed more for moving freight then people. His kettlebell shaped head tilted slightly as he eyed the man with his charcoal nuget eyes.
“What’s the monthly Hark?”
“Not a good haul, but not our worst month this year.”
The boss reached for a saucer of rocks, tossed a fistful into his mouth, and crunched on them. He looked over the men in the room. Gorons, human, even a zora.
“Onk, Omby told me what you got up to with Wes. Do you think breaking his arm was enough of a lesson to our enemies?”
“Nuh. But you know he’s family.”
The old goron leaned back in his desk chair, squeaking loudly under the load.
“Onk,let’s talk about family. Everyone else, out.”
The portly main darted his eyes over to Hark, who left the room without even a glance to his cousin as the mobsters slowly and solemnly shuffled out.
“Tell me Onk, what’s harder: blood or stone?”
Onk’s face tightened at the sound of the goron crunching on another fistful of granite. He stared at the man silently, examining the features of the fleshy soft face. The boss turned in his swivel chair to face an old cube beige monitor resting on top of a rusty and battered filing cabinet. He reached the a remote and turned the screen on, his large bulbous hands thumbing multiple buttons at once.
“You know this place?” he spoke at a street appeared the screen. A video played of what Onk assumed was security camera footage.
“Dunno, looks like the shops on Carson street.”
“Yeah Carson street. Do we have any holdings on Carson.”
“So then Onk, you dumb piece of shit, what that then driving up the street? Oh hey, its our truck! Oh look, a nice broadside view of it turning into that driveway there. Yeah, yup. Definitely our truck.”
“I’ll go grab Umby, Burt and–”
“WE ARE NOT DONE YET!” roared boss Grunn as chunks of rocks spurted out of his lips with spittle. An arrowhead chip of stone drug into the door, next to the man’s feet.
Boss grabbed another fitful of rocks from the bowl. “Because look, a few hours later who’s that? That guy there who just drove up? Oh he looks so familiar! Tall skinny hairy human with a balding head a long scraggly beard. Looks so familiar but I can’t just place the name…”
Boss Grunn paused the video and turned to Onk to stood expressionless but mouth wide open. “Fucking surprised to, aren’t you? That’s good because now I don’t have to have someone be the shit out of both of you.”
“I mean yeah, it looks a little like Hark, but the video is kind of blurry, and , it’s like, you know, how everyone kinda has a beard this time of the year—”
“The fucking tape don’t lie Onk.”
The man rubbed his face firmly in his palms, staring back at the boss. He tugged on his chops, twisting them into a curl as he gauged at the rock eater’s stiff expression.
“Ok. Yeah. That there is Hark. But listen, Hark’s game has always been the long cons. He’s always gotten in thick. That’s gotta be it.”
“Since when has he even done a play without tossin’ it to me first? I know he’s got lines in and out of here now, but he should know better then to cut me out–to cut all of us out Hark.”
“I’ll take care of this.”
“Look at me,“ spoke Boss Grunn as he pressed both his hands firmly on the granite table, “if it’s a con, we want the lion’s sare for this kind of disrespectful horseshit. If he’s flipped…. you need to take care of it like a Skullbreaker. Solid?”
Hark stepped back, his body tense at the thought. “Yeah, we’re solid.”
Boss Grunn gested to the door as he stuffed a fistful of rocks into his large toothy face. “Get out of my fucking face before I make both of Zuata sisters unhappy tonight.”
Onk downed the porter completely before slamming the glass on the bar countertop loudly.
“Don’t worry about it he says. Dun fucking worry about it?! My boy Wes has a gimp arm for months, maybe for life! And you know Grunn was half ready to chomp down on my head like it was taffy to ‘em because of being your cousin, you selfish fuck!”
Hark smiled, half looking at his cousin and half looking at the screen on the wall behind him. “Don’t worry about it. This is bigger than just Skullbreaker business. The lines are changing, and it’s gonna be big. If Grunn wants to be a part of it then he needs to give me some working space.”
“Working space? You lost a whole month’s worth of product! You handed a months working of our livelihood to a ducking dragon. ”
“Oh look, The little guy’s gonna make a speech now. Sweet mother he’s a runt for a mobin! Barely can reach the microphones.”
Onk grabbed his cousin’s shoulder. “Don’t try and change da topic and act like nothing’s gonna happen! This is fucking serious!”
Hark placed his hand over his, squeezing it. “You’re scared, I get it. Change it scary. But don’t worry–it’s gonna be ok. You’re family, and I have your back. Always. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
The portly man slunk back into his seat. “You don’t understand Hark,” he mumbled and he downed what remained of his beer, “I’m not you. I can’t talk my way out. I have to get this done right by Grunn.”
“Just just just–hush, ok? We’ll talk about the future first thing in the morning. Let’s enjoy these drinks and watch history happen, solid?”
The cousin folded his arms and stared at the screen, ignoring his cousin. After a moment he pulled on his mutton chops and absently toss town a porter. Hark slumped down over the bar counter and stared into his pint, slowing it in the glass.
“She told me that I should go kill myself.”
“Of course she did. You went yourself. I thought I told you about the ask? You need to be more subtle then that. By yourself makes you appear bush league to her.”
The stress his his own words caught his attention and the man’s body collapsed into the couch. Even when he was substitute CEO for a runaway Abidel Zion, he never felt so torn. Orlando took a deep breath.
“I can fix this. The dragon saw a weakness and exploited it. In a way this is good, because she played her pawns first. I can still get on the board and set a tone.”
Giorgio snarled, which sounded almost like a cough over the phone. “Mate, how daft are you?! She’s not going to work with us now, you’ve made it clear that she has nothing to gain! You’re not on the board because you’re even playing her game!”
Orlando blurted back, indignant. “No, I’m not playing some little nonsense game of pretend influence. That’s not how we establish relationships in Tasnica, or even in Canto.”
“You’re not in fucking Tasnica anymore, mate.” spat Giorgio. The call ended.
The executive tossed the phone on the table, and rolled his eyes.
“I don’t think we’ve ever gone this way back before.”
The two men staggered out of the pub far past closing time and into the streets of village of their youth. Onk nodded to the statement–this was not the usual route they had taken so many times before. He had walked these streets during the day, but in the cold dead of night it felt more like a phantom of days past.
“Yeah,” Onk starred as he huffed in the cold morning air, “just need to take a quick piss though.”
“We’re not too far, just hold it.” muttered Hark.
“I thought I could, but I can’t. I don’t want frozen piss down my leg. Just in this alley real quick”
“That it then, gonna off me an alley?” muttered Hark. Onk paused. The air was cold on his fingers and his face felt numb leaving the pub. He reached into his jacket and pulled out the pistol, almost feeling ethereal to his numb frozen fingertips.
He stood for a moment, frozen in thought. He raised the gun to the man’s back, and questioned to himself why he hesitated. There was a glow of warm yellow light that filled the alley from a set of frosted windows a story above, the glass to thick to see through but soaked the alley in fragments of lamplight.
“Daruna Town is for the the Skullbreakers, and the Skullbreakers are Daruna Town. Underhill is Volgea, but Volgea is Hyrule. If my own blood is gonna end me, I’m glad it’s for Hyrule, and not for some little pissing contest like it’s always been.”
“Come on! Go for the fucking gun or already!”
Hark turned to face his cousin. His red beard had frost on its tips and his eyes seem grey like the dirty snow that surrounded them. He stood expressionless, with his hands calm to his sides.
“You kill me, you kill an Underhill. Not a stray Skullbreaker, not Knobthrasher, not Northlander. Daruna will feel the dragon’s bite. Do you understand? This chicken scratch shit we’ve been apart of all our lives as boys is gone now. You saw everyone tonight. They want this. They want blood.”
Onk grimaced. He pulled the trigger and watched as his cousin fall. The stout man spat into the snow as he walked out of the alley and down into the empty street to feel a undisrupted draft of cold early morning air splash across his face.
“Fuck Underhill.” he uttered.
“You still mad at me?” asked Orlando as the two stood in line at a hotdog stand. The marine layer of thick ocean fog had yet to burn away by the afternoon. The Trianable pier was mostly empty for this reason with the exception of some early morning fishermen trying to catch one last bite before a late lunch.
“Mate, I was never mad at you. We wished for a better outcome. You know that the king and Volgea have a sordid past, and this complicates things further. To be an optimist though–“ spoke Giorgio as he handed the man a hot dog, “–now the dragon has someone to fixate and piss on that isn’t King Alexander. You ever have a dragon conspire against you?”
The thought of Lowfr flashed into his mind. Business built for decades, only to be bankrupt overnight from some pretty whim of a dragon who woke up on the wrong side of the den.
“I called in a favor, not the way you’d like me to get done, but I know how to make things happen. I offered some… token concessions. I have to give a position or two to a few brats of a few old military generals, but I’ve made worst deals in the past.”
The old hylian cracked a smile. “My people told me that military ‘exercise’ in the paper this morning was your doing, but frankly mate I didn’t think you had it in you. Three dead Skullbreakers in a shootout at a checkpoint exercise north of Duranga Town.”
The executive’s face flicked a brief moment of solumness. “There was an incident the night before, some in fighting, so it was a matter of working off that momentum. Besides, I told you on the phone, I don’t play games.”
The old hylian folded his arms, turned and stared off across the beach.
Giorgio pointed to to a rock jutting out at the edge of the shoreline. “ You see that? What is that you think?”
Orlando squinted, “looks like granite to me.”
The Hylian pulled off his ascot cap and ran his fingers through his thinning gold hair. “So when I was a lad my auntie would take me down here to this pier and we’d have some chowder, sometimes salted ice cream if it was summer. Very good stuff, it was this Zora couple that had a recipe from the the Zora royal family cook–so they claimed. Anyway, I’d stare at that rock, and my auntie would tell me that there once was a whole row of rocks going all the way to the end of the pier. That was the ‘true pier’, as she put it, from her great grand-dad’s day. They used to make sturdy rafts and voyage to the southern continent from that spot.”
He braced himself on the pier rails he peered at the stone exposing against the surf. “And when I was a kid, there was four of ‘em. Now there’s just one. Just a lump left from the rising of the tides over all these so many years. I haven’t taken my grandkids down here yet, but I’m sure when they get to that age there might not be even a lump in the sand to talk about at all. All that work to make a launching point out of stone, and in a few generations the ocean still washed it away as if it never existed.”
The man pulled on the cuff of his shirt and adjusted his jacket. “So are you saying it’s all pointless It all gets washed away by the rising tide in the end?”
The old hylan smiles softly but shook his head. “Naw mate. I’m saying that pier is gone, but a pier still exists. This deck of wood and cotton candy stains wouldn’t be here if not for the old stone one from long ago. Everyone always gets nihilistic about the individual effort, but that’s what makes this land so beautiful–it’s not about the individual effort, it’s about the efforts of individuals over and over again. It’s not a single man’s linear progression from the crib to the crypt, its cumulative, its exponential.”
Before he headed back to the car, Gorgio put back on his cap and patted the business man on the shoulder. “Mate, Hyrule may not be your legend, but your its story. Enjoy that story while you’re apart of it.”