An Orc For All Seasons; Chapter 2

Squires hold a unique and, some might say, exaggerated role among the aristocracy of Slothjemia. A hybrid “jack-of-all-trades”, squires are instrumental in helping every knight (shr) and dame (shar) that carry on the long tradition of noble questing. Every ruler of Slothjemia has gone on a quest, some more devoted to the pastime than others, and their squires have served them as close advisors both in the field and in the throne room. And while many squires are members of the more diminutive races, such as gnomes and goblins, this is not a hard and fast rule. The first king of Slothjemia, when he was still just an adventurer, had an ogre as a squire.

 

Chapter 2

 

Grundoon descended the stone stairs inside the watchtower. His mind bounced from the anger he felt at being told to retire, to the fear he had of what happens to soldiers that murder their comrades. It was inconceivable that Hossler’s death would go unnoticed. The man had been sent here for at least two specific purposes: first to conduct the annual inspection, and second to set the stage for the senior officer of the command to retire from the army. The 6th Army was the only place Grundoon had ever served. His internal monologue was running amok with “now what do I do?” He knew that retirement was the least of his problems. He now risked being executed.

From the base of the watchtower, high atop the central keep, Grundoon made his way along the corridors to where his office was. In a bygone age the suite of rooms had served as Frenklar the Brazen’s study and laboratory. When Grundoon and his army moved into Vorkelburg they had to remove tons of rotted debris, parts of corpses, and foul garbage that even the most hardened goblins found disturbing. Now the office was clean and well kept, the various banners of the 6th Army’s individual units hanging on the walls and trophies of past battles scattered neatly about on display. Over the fireplace was his axe, a mighty double axe that had been gifted to him by a soldier that had served and died under Grundoon’s command. Grundoon looked around the main office. He would miss this place.

His squire, Jandle, was already here. Jandle was always here. The kobold had served as squire to Grundoon for the last four or was it five years. He was a scrappy little fellow, eager and willing to take care of his lordship as much as was within his ability. Being a kobold, his abilities were limited. Standing only about three feet high, with lizard-like features and a rat-like tail, kobolds are known for their cunning and clever traps more than anything else. In Slothjemia however it is not unusual at all to have a kobold serve as your squire if you were an adventuring knight or thrill-seeking ne’er do well. Jandle was a fastidious little creature who kept Grundoon’s boots clean and his uniform repaired. In battle, he served as his shield bearer, no small feat considering that the orc’s shield was far bigger than the kobold. While the general had not seen battle in many years, not in the sense of clashing armies at any rate, Jandle still trained with him and the rest of the soldiers in the many drills that the 6th Army practiced each and every month. Jandle was a corporal and took his work extremely seriously.

“Sir, you seem bothered.” Jandle said to his boss, as the orc stood in the doorway gazing about the room. “What do you need?”

Grundoon knew the sound of concern in the kobold’s voice and found it oddly reassuring. “I need you to fetch me Major Deckler. Quickly.”

The kobold saluted smartly and replied with a gusty “Yes SIR!” before scrambling past the general and down the corridor. Not once in all these years had Jandle asked a follow-up clarifying question. Had Grundoon told him to personally gut and fillet Major Hossler, he had no doubt that the kobold would have done exactly that. Probably while whistling. Grundoon’s anger and fears vanished in a moment as he let himself laugh long and hard. He closed the door to his office and sat at his desk. It was going to be alright, he told himself. Not in a “fooling himself” sort of way, but in an “everything will be different and difficult, but ultimately alright” sort of way. Jandle was not the only one who would follow his orders. Grundoon had earned the respect of his soldiers, and he had every belief that they would continue to follow his commands. He didn’t know what kind of mess he had gotten himself into, but he didn’t have to get out of it by himself. He had an entire army to help him figure it out.

As he waited for Major Deckler to answer his summons, Grundoon sat back in his over-worn leather chair and ran his hand absent mindedly over his closely cropped white hair. He had always favored the clean-cut look that the Slothjemians had taken from their human neighbors to the north. The professional soldiers in Geldenreich had either short hair or shaved heads, and rarely bore facial hair unless out on prolonged field duty. Not everyone in the Slothjemian military thought that adopting human traditions was admirable, however. Some, and not just the goblinoids, but also the humans and demihumans that called Slothjemia home preferred to have long hair, braided or not. Same with beards and mustaches, even though most full-blooded goblinoids couldn’t grow facial hair. Some who could grow them liked the dwarven habit of elaborately braided beards. Goblinoids that thrived in the wild lands of the realm would almost never cut their hair. Such fashions were considered to be “tribal” and while the hierarchy didn’t disapprove of such things, Grundoon certainly did. He had been raised in a strict but civilized home, taught that discipline and control were the order of the day. Now Grundoon wondered what his father might have to say about tossing Major Hossler off of the watchtower. Not very disciplined, but Grundoon could not help but smile as he thought how controlled the throw was. What in the hell had he been thinking?

The answer eluded him and before long Deckler knocked at the office door. “Enter!” barked the general. Major Deckler swiftly entered the room and closed the door behind him. He saluted and said, “Present as requested, your lordship.” Typical of Deckler, thought Grundoon; never referred to him as general, commandant, or shr in deference to his knighthood (whereas the humans used the prefix “sir”) but always as lordship, baron, or some other nod to his status as a noble.

Deckler was also a human and had served under Grundoon for a very long time. When the Judicial Corp was first established, and every army had a unit assigned to them, Deckler was the officer assigned to the 6th Army. He grew up in the country’s largest city, Slothenburg, and was a well-read if crudely spoken man. His family had fled to Slothjemia to avoid persecution in Craiovia and had brought their children up to seek positions of authority to avoid being seen as worthless scum. Deckler had a face that reminded one of a weasel, always covered in stubble and his body odor was almost insufferable to other humans. To a goblinoid though he fit right in. Grundoon liked him immensely. The general motioned for him to have a seat in one of the mismatched wooden chairs in front of his desk.

Deckler removed his cap and sat down. He said nothing but looked at Grundoon and waited for him to speak. Grundoon mulled over his words for a moment, choosing them carefully. “Take some of your men to the outside base of the wall at the foot of the watchtower. Our visiting major from the office of the inspector general had a most unfortunate encounter and his body needs to be retrieved.”

Major Deckler blinked slowly. “Ah.” He said. After an awkward moment, he continued. “Anything else sir?” He seemed almost completely nonplussed.

“In the major’s room, you will find his notes on this inspection. Bring them here.” Grundoon looked Deckler in the eye. “We need to secure those notes as I believe they are favorable to our position as a garrison.” The general settled into his chair. “If he was suggesting that we deserve more equipment and better rations, let’s see to it that his suggestions are heard further up the food chain.” This was one of Grundoon’s favorite sayings, and all of his officers knew that he used it more than he should, but he found it amusing even if nobody else did.

Deckler rose from his seat and put his cap back on. “As you command, milord. Are we sending his remains back to the capital, or burning them here?”

Grundoon waved his hand, a dismissive gesture, then added “We’ll have a service here. Then we will send the ashes to his family.” Almost as an afterthought he told the major “Better find out who his family was, Deckler. Have one of the chaplains draw up a letter of notification and I’ll sign it.”

“As you will, milord.” Deckler saluted again and headed for the door. He turned and looked at Grundoon before he opened it. “I’m sorry you had to witness Hossler’s fall, lordship. Must have been quite a thing to see.” He opened the door and stepped into the hall. As he closed the door he said “I understand some men can’t hold their drink and might have themselves a very unpleasant mishap. ‘Night milord.”

Grundoon stared at the closed door for a while, then let out a hesitatingly relieved sigh. He could begin to see a way out.

 

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