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A young woman settled into a chair as a cool breeze blew. A plain envelope, unmarked except for its delivery address, lay open nearby as she read the letter she had just received. 

 

To our most gracious benefactor: 

I have personally inspected all sites and can confidently assure you that all operations are in compliance with your request to be respectful of Pandaria's environment. While this has greatly reduced productivity, we do seem to be on target thanks to your generous schedule. You should receive your next dividend payment within the month. As long as prices remain stable (and we have no reason to believe they won't), we estimate this payment to be in slight excess of thirty-five hundred gold pieces. The next payment after that should arrive around two weeks later, at an estimated minimum of thirty-eight hundred gold pieces.

With greatest respect, my men are uneasy and I have nothing to tell them. The payment has been magnificent, but they worry that they are empowering a Hellscream sympathizer, and I have little assurance to offer them in that department besides your good word. They've taken to calling you the Shadow Trader, and I don't even have a name to correct them with. I should like to meet you face-to-face, at least once, so we can better understand each other's goals. 

Finally, additional funding is requested for your project in Ashenvale. My men are experienced in cutting down trees, not planting them. This is something we will have to research. 

Your humble agent and steward,
Razboom Crankshaft

 

She set the letter aside, picked up a quill and considered her reply. The goblin wouldn't need much money for his "research," he was just finding an excuse to request more. She hated acting like this, but it was necessary for dealing with such businessmen. The dividend payment seemed about right…perhaps a bit low, but not enough that she felt compelled to call him on a bluff. It was a minimum, after all. As for the rest…she began to write.  

 

Trade Prince Crankshaft,

While I appreciate your business savvy, I am afraid I must deny the request for funding in Ashenvale. However, a shipment of books related to tree-planting will arrive at the same location as this letter within a day of the letter's delivery. I will expect a further update along with next month's dividend. 

As for meeting me, there are concrete reasons that my privacy must be maintained, which would affect my bottom line (and yours) much more than empowering a Hellscream sympathizer. You're a skilled businessman, and that means you would doubtless have me followed after our meeting. You would use the acquired intelligence to hassle me and haggle the terms of our deal, which would force me to hire security to keep your men away, and charge you a greater interest rate to recoup the cost. Ultimately, our arrangement would sour and someone else's ordinary price would be better than mine, and you already know that wouldn't work out as well for your finances as our current deal. 

In short, I am able to offer you such an excellent price because my anonymity remains secured. 

While I have no love for Hellscream or his goals, the nature of the projects I have requested of you should prove enough that I am not of the same mind as he. I cannot provide you a name either, except for a fake name that would be of no assurance to your men. The Shadow Trader will do, for now.

Finally, your work in Quel'thalas is noted and encouraged to continue. Additional funding is offered toward that end, in the amount of seven hundred gold pieces. 

I look forward to your next report. 

I remain,
The Shadow Trader

 

She smiled to herself. The Shadow Trader. It sounded so sinister. She wondered if Razboom was half as scared of her as he sounded. If he wasn't yet, he probably would be after reading the mention of Quel'thalas. That was a personal project of his, unrelated to their deal and it hadn't been discussed before. That she knew of it would surely send a chill down his spine. It usually took a great deal of intimidation to render a goblin into such a humble and respectful state, and that was more than half the reason she had declined to meet him. One glimpse of her and the intimidation factor would be gone. 

She dated and carefully duplicated the letter, stroke by stroke, then folded and sealed it. She put it into an envelope and sealed that, and headed outside.

Looking to the edge of the trees, she just caught a flash of eyes. She nodded her head upwards as a signal, and approached. 

"The usual correspondence?" the worgen growled quietly. 

"Yes. I'll have a large package tomorrow containing five books, and that will need delivery to the same place too."

"Of course," the worgen replied. "We'll see to it, Mallory."

 

Author Rann
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