Talnara ti'Valcas entered a room with a single slave attendant. Inside sat the leader of House Darltas, a great house that was of intermediate disposition. A newcomer to the great houses from a merchant background and was still actively involved in trade. In the last two centuries they'd branched into agriculture in the colonies while raising more household companies to gain their position. Several of those companies, two of their cutters and several of the House's promising sons and daughter were cut down outside Daagsgrad. She gave the requisite pleasantries and got down to business.
She extracted a small glass and metal object from her pocket and clutched it in her hand "I have good feelings about the course of this war." She said calmly. With that the Truthstone glowed a faint green. The Dartlas representative nodded. "We've taken massive losses against the Coldlanders, the Eternal Foe hunts the seas with Infrastructural guns and Venoa is mobilizing for war to protect their debters." The enchanted quartz quickly blinked out. "Moreover we have reports from the Human Realms and Coastal Dwarves that all speak of the same thing: foundries, workshops and shipyards casting new guns, building engines and testing new designs. Many of whom are doing so to use against us when the opportunity arises."
"And what of the mechanical marvels you've been promising?"
"All of our progress reports have been accurate and we have a few private projects I have confidence will impress upon revelation. Leaving aside the Committee's pet humans we are still a leader in many fields and Valnothron should be able to keep that position if we manage our affairs properly. However there is a considerable complication in regards to any major industrial project that anyone of our state might plan: Raw Materials. Specifically coal and iron. Simply put we've been consuming them faster than they can be procured and what reserves we have had are nearly exhausted." She tightened her grip "Our mines are not up to the task, Galthririth's output is being bought out at an alarming rate and the human states, who are running low on it themselves, are gouging our buyers for every vaul of it at a time when the cost of a fresh slave has gone up by eight to thirteen scimitars."
The Darltas leader chuckled. "If this is such a problem we would be glad to begin serious mining in the colonies, our lands have some hills that more than meet the needs of our local smiths. Beyond that you could scower the city for scrap, and in the end there's always raiding. There was that Coldlander ship full of scrap and ingots that was brought in yesterday."
"In regards to the point about mining, the gesture is appreciated and it will be useful in the Long Term. But said expansions would take time and our problems are more immediate. Anyone with an interest in metal based manufacturing has been buying up scrap metal at three times it's usual price for some time now. And yes, 344 ven of iron appearing on the market was a welcome development. However as it stands it's load was five days worth of of consumption for our foundries alone, it leaves aside the matter of fuel and capturing Infrastructural ships is risky at the best of times. We've been looking into places to cut corners, but even a sloop needs 40 ven of iron and steel for it's engine. An ironclad needs at least 700 ven, which is leaving aside the new cannons, shot, stoves, anchors, chains, nails and the machinery to produce and maintain them. At current rates given our estimates Valnothron two or three months before we'll exhaust what stores we have and the flow of new iron and steel products will come down to a trickle. We have more specifics in this summery." The slave walked forward head bowed and offered a folder to him.
Ti'Darltas took it as his eyes narrowed. "Why is this matter of tradesman's logistics of my concern? This predicament seems to be of your own doing. You've pushed steamships and ironclads as the only solution to our problems and took more orders than you could manage."
"Oh don't play the fool." Talnara snapped. "You've read the battle reports. Against an Infrastructural fleet traditional warships are just floating piles of kindling. If we want to maintain naval dominance upgrading our fleet is a necessity. We had a gunnery advantage in the last war with the High Elves and steam engines and armored hulls mean that we can keep it and improve on it. But as it stands we're loosing ships and skilled sailors too fast, we won't be able to keep up replacements and more foes are gathering. If we continue on at best we're looking at a drawn out conflict that will deplete our fleet and leave the colonies vulnerable for little gain. At worst, this costly mess spirals into another Great War." The last two words said in a calm matter of fact way. Great Wars were not just the regular campaigns of the High Elves where both sides tried to set the other back, they were fights to the death in which the kingdoms of men get drawn in that go on for decades. They were costly at the best of times and saw states destroyed at the worst. Eventually the Drow States would lay waste to Illvanas, enslave humanity and the dwarves and establish an eternal dominion over this world, but now was not the time.
"So what do we do?"
"At this point, the best option is to cut our losses and seek peace with Infrastructure."
"And let them get away with establishing a foothold on our continent?"
"Our continent is thousands of miles away from their little fort in an area the Raptors have denied us. This was a petty ill conceived war launched against a foe we did not understand without anything but the most basic planning. We might have been able to smash them and reap the Coldlands if we'd moved more quickly and we probably could still do so if all four of us threw everything at them and nobody else interfered, but that's not happening. What we can do is stop the Coldlanders from laying waste to every slave port, prevent escalation and let us get the resources we need to drive the Eternal Foe back to their realm."
"And what's in it for us?" he asked.
"Besides avoiding a long disastrous protracted war leaving your Household destitute or dead?"
"Very well. Your estates include a lot of inland territory well away from the major waterways. If you support our efforts, we'll build rail line from your estates to the nearest port and we'll provide you with a locomotive at the conclusion of the conflict."
"A reasonable start, add a five year slave feed contract and a 20% discount on farm equipment and we have a deal."
And with that the discussion came a negotiation for price which went on for the next five minutes, eventually she got his vote for the initial rail proposal and a considerably reduced version Lord Darltras's counter offer, which was an obvious probe. With that she she had the majority that she needed. She would have her people work on the orders right away. Dark Elves had a reputation for lies and backstabbing, a reputation which was the bane of any Drow who sought a career in commerce. The only real solution for those who sought to trade with them in the long term was counterbalance: be as honest as possible in in your commercial dealings with humans and Dwarves. House Valcas had learned this fact, her parents and tutors had instilled it to her and she kept it up, even to a degree with her fellow Drow. Truthstones were a bit of an annoyance, but unfortunately a bit of unambigious clarity was required at times.
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