Sarla, now the commanding general of the 6th Army, issued her first order, and had the entire garrison form up in the courtyard just before lunch. There were a few people that had guessed at what was taking place, but when she announced in her booming voice that she was now their commandant, and that von Vorkel was retiring, you could have heard a pin drop.
Grundoon chose not to be there for the announcement. He and Jandle had spent the morning cleaning out the office, and Aggrylia had put her step-daughters to work cleaning out their private living quarters. There wasn’t all that much to pack up. Everything was put on a cart and sent down the mountain to the family estate. Grundoon was looking forward to a few days of relaxation before he had to make his next move. He even packed up his uniform, and Jandle laid out the only civilian clothes that Grundoon had in Vorkelburg. Baggy, comfortable pants and a loose tunic with cut-off sleeves. He felt free. He also felt as though he looked ridiculous. He put on his grey army greatcoat and went out to the stable to saddle his horse.
Jandle had a couple of guards keep everyone out of the stable. Grundoon was not in the mood to be sociable. He wasn’t in a bad mood; in fact, he was whistling a peppy little tune. A crowd of soldiers began to gather outside, eager to say goodbye to their former leader. Aggrylia, her children, and step-children all made it out on the cart without too much difficulty. But Grundoon would have to ride through a sea of soldiers clamoring to bid him farewell.
When the old orc was ready, he nodded at Jandle and swung up into the saddle. Jandle pushed open the stable doors, and climbed up on his pony. Grundoon headed out, and Jandle was right behind him. In front of him was a massive mob of emotional soldiers. They shouted, cheered, and waved as Grundoon slowly made his way through the crowd. He waved, and with a big smile shouted back at the troops. The din was deafening. Sarla was right in the middle of it, urging the soldiers to go louder. The guards on the walls all banged their shields with their weapons and yelled as loud as they could. Buglers trumpeted, drummers pounded away, and the standard bearers whipped their pennants through the air with wild abandon. It seemed to take hours to cross the courtyard to the main gate, but it really only took a few minutes.
Grundoon kept waving all the way to the gate, and had to turn in his saddle to keep waving. Jandle was grinning, proud of his lord and the effect he had on the men and women who served under him. He was also amused by the fact that nobody had mentioned his role in all of this. He was Grundoon’s squire, but was still in the 6th Army. It was beginning to look like the kobold was going to be absent without leave until it got sorted out, and he didn’t have a care in the world. Adventure was afoot!
They were able to catch up to the cart easily as it worked its way down the switchback road to the valley below. Grundoon waved to his wife, who was sitting on the back of the cart kicking her legs like a little child on their way to a picnic. She waved back enthusiastically. Grundoon’s grown daughters waved to their father, too, and the family merrily made their way towards home.
Vorkelvale was, as always, a mess. The apple trees had all lost their leaves, and the fruit that hadn’t been harvested in time had plopped down long ago, turning the ground into a foul, soupy, marsh. The village turned out to welcome home their baron, and Grundoon graciously waved to them as he rode by. There weren’t many people that lived here, but they were enthusiastic. They picked the apples, made cider, grew a few other meager crops to sustain the barony, and basically tended to whatever the estate needed done. Today, they were cheering for their lord, who had just entered into retirement, at least as far as they knew.
Upon arriving at the manor house, the household staff set about unloading the cart while the family went inside and got reacquainted with their home. Grundoon had a small office here as well, but had almost never used it. He went to it now, clutching his beloved battle axe and the parcel of papers the Herzgraf had given him.
His office was in disarray. It appeared as though dust cloths had been draped over all of the major furniture, and then the door to the room had been shut and never reopened. Cobwebs were everywhere, and the place smelled stale. Not a bad smell to an orc’s nose, but not really pleasant, either. He dropped the papers on the desk, and opened the windows to let in some air. He then went to the little fireplace, and hung the axe up on the hooks over the mantle. “There.” He said out loud to himself. “Much better.”
Jandle was occupied with putting away the horses, so Grundoon got to work making his office the kind of room he could actually function in. He threw the dust covers in a pile in the hallway, and used the fireplace poker to knock down the bulk of the cobwebs. His big red leather chair was cracking with age, and it wasn’t as comfortable as the chair he had left up at the citadel for Sarla to use, but it was still a good chair. He settled into it, and gazed absent-mindedly out of the windows for a while. It was a very nice day.
He was jolted back to reality by some of his younger children racing about outside. Orcs were not a quiet people, and their children even less so. They were how old now? Grundoon tried to remember. Must be near to eleven years old, the two of them. One boy, named Porger, and a girl, named Cloe. They had been triplets but the other boy had died in infancy. Porger and Cloe, though, were strong and healthy. And loud. Very loud.
One of the things Grundoon was going to have to decide on was who to leave in charge of the estate. He got out a notebook from his desk drawer, and began to write down the names of all of his children. One of them would have to take on the duty, at least for now.
Grunkler and Fronkler were his eldest sons, born as twins over forty years ago when Grundoon had been a young officer. Their mother had been Grundoon’s first wife, Grelda. Both men had gone into the army, but only Grunkler had made a career of it. He was now a colonel in the 3rd Army in Dreicounty. Fronkler had served for a number of years, but after marrying a fine woman from a banking family in Slothenburg, he had made a name for himself as a banker. He had a wonderful townhome in the heart of the city, and Grundoon had always been so proud of him for taking on a career normally left to humans and gnomes.
Natasha was the oldest of Grundoon’s daughters, not quite forty years old, and lived with her husband and their children on an estate in New Craiovia. Her husband was a count, and a very influential one at that, in the bountiful plains in the southern portion of the kingdom.
Oskar was in his mid-thirties, and had also made a name for himself in the army. He was a major and had been assigned to the high command. He lacked battle experience, but was a genius at logistics. He had never married, and this had always been a concern to Grundoon. But he took his job seriously, and was very highly regarded among his superiors, so the old general had never given voice to his worries. Grelda had died giving birth to Oskar, but that was, sadly, not unusual for this day and age.
Zindel was thirty years old, and lived in Vorkelvale with his wife and their children. Zindel had never joined the military, the only one of Grundoon’s sons to choose a peaceful path from the very beginning. He loved wood working, and had become a very skilled carpenter. He had in recent years become quite adept at turning apple wood into fine, finished lumber. His mother had been Grundoon’s second wife, Linzette.
Trunder was a few years younger than Zindel, and had joined the navy. He commanded one of the small cruisers that plied the waters of the Dolonau River. He had docked in Vorkelvale several times to see his family, and he kept a house there where his wife lived. They had one child, a busy little whelp that was always under foot. Aggrylia loved the kid, but Grundoon usually had to resist kicking him.
Hilde was the eldest of Grundoon’s unmarried daughters, and was in her early twenties. She was unfortunate in that she had inherited her father’s appearance. She had a terrific laugh, though. Grundoon had tried to find her a husband among the officers under his command, but none had expressed any interest. He was terribly fond of her, and felt that she deserved to marry a good man. Maybe she was just waiting for the right one to come along. She had served in the 6th Army for about four years, and was quite accomplished as a warrior. She had decided to leave the service, though, when her father had married Aggrylia. She and her stepmother were very good friends, and they enjoyed each other’s company enormously. Hilde’s birth mother, Linzette, had been killed in a raid by Sikilians shortly after the family had moved into Vorkelvale.
Lizza and Grizza had just turned twenty, and neither of these girls was married yet. Not that they didn’t have suitors falling all over themselves. Grundoon disapproved of their flirty behavior, but Aggrylia had determined to let them be whoever they chose to be. If they were having fun being flighty and flaky, then just let them. Someday they would settle down and start their own families, but until then it was nice to have the extra help around the house. They might not be serious about choosing a husband, but they were wonderful cooks. They shared this trait with their mother, Aranna, who loved cooking more than almost anything else.
Oleysa had just gotten married, and was three years younger than Lizza and Grizza. She had been Grundoon’s favorite daughter, the one he had hoped would never leave home. She had moved into the citadel, and with her husband had set up a comfortable home in a room in one of the towers. Aranna had died in childbirth with Oleysa.
That left Porger and Cloe, who were only eleven and whose mother, Grundoon’s fourth wife, Felinda, had died giving birth to them; and Viktor and Leala, who were just a few months old. It was thankfully a long time before Grundoon would have to ask them to do anything other than being children.
So that was the list. Grundoon sat looking at it. The answer was obvious as to who would run the estate. He tucked the list into his desk drawer, and set out to find the lucky heir, temporarily, of the family home while Grundoon was in Romilmark. On his way out through the house, he asked one of the servants to dust in the office, and tidy up a bit.
He found Aggrylia underneath a tree in the front yard with the babies. He stopped and watched for a while, enjoying the scene. He took a deep breath, and went over to her, sitting down on the ground in front of her with a low groan. He was going to regret this when the time came to stand back up again.
“I’ve been giving some thought to who should run the estate while we are in Romilmark.” He said to his wife. “My first choice, though, is Hilde. And I want her to come with us. So how about Zindel?”
Aggrylia looked at him, a baby in each arm. “They do already live here in the vale. That makes it convenient. What about Lizza and Grizza? Are they going with us to Romilmark?”
Grundoon just looked at her. “Haven’t the Romillians suffered enough?”
They both laughed and laughed. Woke up the babies, who screamed, but mom and dad kept laughing anyway.