The next morning, Grundoon arose from bed and took a nice, brisk walk around the city. He was set to meet with Hothror’s nephew, Trangdor Goldenhelm, this morning, and he wanted to clear his head first. This was no ordinary post he was filling. He needed to know that the young man was going to be able to articulate for him the messages he needed to convey, with no softening of the tone or text. Grundoon had a feeling that the job ahead of him would require a very firm hand, if not an iron one, and he didn’t want an interpreter to try and make friends along the way, when the words Grundoon were speaking were anything but friendly. Trangdor would have to be aligned pretty closely to Grundoon if the orc had any chance of pulling this off.
Grundoon made his way back to the inn, and settled in at a nice little table to await Trangdor. The dwarf arrived exactly at the moment he was supposed to, the town clock chiming in the distance as he walked through the door. He removed his heavy woolen coat, and hung it on the rack near the table. Grundoon stood up, and held out his hand.
“Trangdor, I believe?” the orc asked.
“Yes, milord.” Replied the dwarf, extending his hand and grasping Grundoon’s forearm in the dwarven fashion. “I am honored to make your acquaintance, Baron von Vorkel.”
Grundoon motioned for him to sit, and the two men made themselves comfortable. They were alone in the dining room, and the general could talk freely.
“What has Hothror told you?” the old orc asked.
Trangdor tilted his head slightly, and replied “Only that you require a translator for your new post in the lands called Romilmark, and that you requested somebody that would be highly esteemed in the Archduke’s eyes.”
Grundoon nodded his head slowly. He looked carefully at the dwarf. His eyes were a foggy green color, his hair a bright, golden blonde, and his beard only slightly darker. His beard was wonderfully braided into an immaculate mass of dwarven glory. The hair on his head was similarly coifed, and every braid had a small iron ring to hold it in place. His skin was not even tanned, giving him a very pale look, as though the fellow never had left the underdark.
“I trust Hothror’s judgement. If he sent you, then that fulfills a good portion of what I need.” Said the orc. “Are you interested in the assignment?”
Tilting his head to the other side, Trangdor replied “Yes, I am, milord. Very interested.”
Grundoon leaned forward, and folded his hands together on the table. “So, let’s discuss our views on life, and see if we are going to get along in this endeavor.”
The dwarf smiled, at least Grundoon was fairly certain he was smiling, so much facial hair made it difficult to tell even though there didn’t seem to be a hair out of place. There was just so much of it. Trangdor leaned forward too, and mimicked the orc in clasping his hands together. Except for the fact that the dwarf wasn’t able to lean down so much as tilt forward slightly, the illusion wasn’t perfect.
“Ask whatever you wish, milord.” The dwarf said.
Grundoon chuckled. “I have spent my life following orders, and giving them. I expect my commands to be carried out precisely, without discussion, and without any editing. If I give you a message to translate, I need you to keep the flavor of the missive, and not just the text. Does that make sense to you?”
Trangdor nodded his head. “You don’t just want me to relay the message, you want me to mirror your inflection. If you wish to threaten, I need to use the same imagery. If you wish to placate, then I need to convey more deference.” He smiled again. “I can speak for you, milord. I am far more capable of that than wielding a sword or swinging an axe. For that, I am all but useless.” He held out his hands, palms up, and then clasped them together again. “I have the hands of a scholar, milord. But what skills I have are at your disposal.”
Grundoon smiled, and nodded approvingly. “Alright. We are a people of laws. Dwarves and orcs, we love our rules. Slothjemia is by any reckoning an oxymoron, nowhere else have our two races forged such a lengthy and prosperous union. Our laws are what make this possible.”
Trangdor nodded his head slowly, but didn’t interrupt Grundoon’s train of thought. The general continued. “So, if we want to keep Slothjemia strong, we must keep our focus on the power that binds us together. That bond is more important than anything, and must be defended, and enforced, regardless of the cost.”
Grundoon looked deep into Trangdor’s cloudy green eyes, searching for any hint of disagreement. Seeing none, he continued. “Romilmark is an unknown. We might have to crack a few skulls to get the natives in line. I need to know that you are on board with that, and won’t try to soften the verbal blows.”
“If you say poison, milord, I will make sure they hear venom, and not honey.” Trangdor smiled. “I would never overstep my position and insert anything other than what you want said. Nor shall I interfere with any actions you deem necessary.”
The two men sat staring at each other for a moment. “I think you are an excellent choice as my interpreter.” Said Grundoon. “How soon can you join us?”
“I can have my trunk packed and a few books ready to go by tomorrow morning.” Trangdor answered.
“I will see you here tomorrow at dawn, then.” Said Grundoon. The two men stood up, shook hands again, and then the dwarf took his coat off the rack, bundled it on, and left the inn with a jaunty wave. Grundoon sat down again and wondered when they might start serving beer.
As it turned out, the answer was immediately. The innkeeper came into the dining hall, and asked Grundoon if he would care for something to eat or drink. Grundoon smiled broadly, and said “Beer, please.” The innkeeper nodded, and brought out a pint of stout dwarven ale. The orc sat and sipped at it while he waited for his family to wake up and join him.
Hilde was the first one down. She bounded into the room like a thick doe, her hair dangling loose over her shoulders. When she moved, you could see that she was sinew and muscle, but her appearance otherwise gave her the look of a fairly obese and clumsy woman. She had never been clumsy, just hefty, and that was deceptive. She had inherited her father’s physical strength, and was far nimbler than he had ever been. As far as orcish women went, she was perhaps only average in beauty. But she was smart, quick with a quip, and cunning. It was this last trait that Grundoon admired most. He had never seen his daughter loose her temper, although he had witnessed her fight many times. She fought dirty, going for the weak spots on her opponents with a cold, calculated fury that Grundoon found both disturbing and delightful.
This morning, Hilde was going to get her armor refitted. It had been awhile, and she was convinced that she had lost weight, the armor was loose where it needed to be tight. She kissed her father on the forehead, grabbed a quick gulp of his beer, and then went dashing out of the inn to get her business taken care of. Grundoon chuckled and shook his head. She was going to be the absolute ruin of some hapless man someday.
Jandle came down next, and informed his lord that Aggrylia was feeding the babies. Porger and Cloe were getting dressed, and wanted to know if they could run about the city. Aggrylia had said to ask their father, and Jandle was ready to relay the verdict. Grundoon nodded his head, and Jandle went back upstairs. A few minutes later the two children came down the stairs as if they were an earthquake, waving at their father as they dashed outside, squealing like pigs finding a mud hole.
Grundoon finished his beer and left a copper coin on the table. He went upstairs to check on his wife, and discovered her nursing the whelps. Jandle was in his own room, but the orc could hear him whistling.
“I had a nice chat with Trangdor.” Grundoon said quietly to his wife. “He seems to be a very smart lad. Nearly as old as I am I suppose, but young for a dwarf.” He sat down wearily in a chair by the bed. “I reckon the rest of my staff will be selected for me by the throne.”
Aggrylia looked at her husband, and smiled. “Are you worried about who they might assign you?” she asked quietly.
“No,” answered Grundoon. “There is no need to worry. They will want to insure success, so they won’t send along an incompetent.” He smiled at her. “I am going to study those notes some more, my beloved. If you need anything at all, just send Jandle.”
She nodded, and Grundoon reached over and grabbed the papers off of the desk. He spent the next few hours reading, making notes in the margins, and reading some more. It helped to think of this as a military action, not as just a bureaucratic exercise. Instead of thinking of jobs that needed doing, he imagined them as tactical maneuvers to bring about a strategic victory. Available assets became soldiers, and this made all of the paperwork a lot more enjoyable for the general.
Hilde returned midday, and everyone in the inn knew it. She was singing at the top of her lungs, giddy as a child on their birthday, and showing everyone how splendidly her armor fit now. Whether they could see a difference or not, everyone made a point to assure her that yes, it looked terrific. She burst into Grundoon and Aggrylia’s room to show them, and they were suitably impressed. She had a well-worn suit of plate armor, shiny but with nicks and dings to indicate that it was not just for show. Hilde had bought it after she had left the army, and had spent everything she had on getting it custom made. It allowed for her ample chest, her sizeable belly, and her wide hips. In it she looked fantastic. Normal clothes just did not look flattering on her. But armor? She could rock that look.
Her long hair was that deep, jet black color common to orcs. It was still a loose mess, but it didn’t look tangled. She twirled around so that her father and stepmother could really get a good look at the fit of the armor, and satisfied that they were awestruck, she left for her room to find her sword, muttering that maybe it needed to be sharpened. Grundoon and Aggrylia looked at each other with bemusement, and both started laughing.
That evening the family had a quiet dinner in the inn, and Grundoon told his children what to expect the next day or two. They would be travelling down into the swamps, first to the village of Four Corners, and then, the next day, north to Slothenburg. The heavily fortified capital of Jordrakenschloss sat on the cliffs overlooking Slothenburg to the east. Arrangements had been made for the family to stay there in the royal castle. Cloe and Porger were especially excited to see the black, hard-as-obsidian walled capital. It was like a dream come true.
They all turned in early, to make sure they were well rested for the ride tomorrow. Grundoon received a note from Trangdor confirming he would be at the inn just before dawn. Grundoon smiled to himself. This fellow was working out very well, indeed.