Once they had arrived back at the city square, Grundoon had Hilde and Jandle round up the party. There was a large house nearby that had been converted into a makeshift barracks, and they would stay there for the night. Having dinner with the troops was something the family had always been accustomed to.
The next morning the party awoke and had breakfast, after awaiting their turns in the chow line. Aggrylia and Grundoon talked while they ate, mostly about Grundoon’s impressions of the city and the people in it. She decided to spend the day with Sasha and the whelps. Porger and Cloe wanted to explore, and promised to avoid trouble. Kreg was going to spend the day relaxing and grooming the horses. That left Trangdor, Hilde, and of course Jandle to tag along with Grundoon for whatever adventures awaited.
“I’ll see the mayor about a house for us. I told him you would make the final choice.” Grundoon chuckled, and Aggrylia laughed. “We don’t need a very big house here. Something large enough for just us, something we can rent out later, if we need.” His voice took a quieter, more serious tone. “Something abandoned. We don’t want to push anyone out of their home.”
Aggrylia nodded. “I understand, Grundy. Leave it to me.” She said, and kissed his cheek.
Grundoon and his entourage headed for the Lord Mayor’s office, and found that it had been taken over some time ago by the staff of the 2nd Army. The old orc’s face betrayed his dismay at this, and after a junior officer told him where the Lord Mayor could be found, Grundoon headed there, trying his best to contain his anger. Jandle noticed his master clenching and unclenching his fists, and was thankful that the baron wasn’t carrying his axe.
Jandle’s relief was short-lived, however. The Governor-General made a detour to the barracks house, and grabbed his axe. “Just in case.” He muttered to Jandle. Trangdor was torn between feeling amused and worried, while Hilde cackled and grinned. Her own sword was right there on her back if she needed it.
Grundoon then headed straight for the Lord Mayor’s home. Once there, he grabbed the great brass door knocker and gave it a loud thud against the oaken door. The door was opened by a surprised looking human butler; old, and in no shape for surprises.
“Inform your lord that the Governor-General is here, and would like to speak to him, if it is convenient.” Grundoon was unaware of the anger still settled in his voice, and the roaring growl did nothing to put the butler at ease. Trangdor repeated the request in Romillian, and the butler opened the door wide, bowing all the while, motioning for them to enter.
Standing in the entry way while the butler hurried off to tell his master of awaiting guests, Hilde let out a low whistle. “Pretty house!” she said in a loud whisper. Hilde didn’t possess much in the way of an indoor voice. Jandle did one of his tongue-clicking sounds and winked at her. The home was nice. Not too large, but quite elegant.
Lord Alderschon came around the staircase, and did his best to smile broadly. He held out his hand, and bowed slightly. “Your honor, to what do I owe this privilege?”
“Have you someplace we can speak, privately?” asked Grundoon.
“Certainly sir, right this way.” The little group followed Alderschon and he led them back around the staircase to a lovely little library, complete with an ornate desk and a couple of chairs for visitors. It was not a large room, but then books were very, very expensive. The shelves were about half filled with tomes and scrolls, and the rest of the space was taken up with knick-knacks and decorations.
Alderschon took a seat behind the desk, and Grundoon motioned for Hilde to sit as well. He looked at Trangdor, who shook his head. Jandle closed the door and stood in front of it. Grundoon sat down, his axe standing next to him with his hand resting on the pommel.
“First of all, why has von Draeger taken over your office?” asked the orc, his anger somewhat assuaged but still simmering.
Alderschon cleared his throat. Speaking in his best Slothjemian, he said “It was not presented as an option, my lord. At the time, we were still at warring. The army took what steps it felt to be required, to run and keep the city.”
Grundoon nodded his head almost imperceptively. There was silence for a while.
Alderschon began to sweat, although he wasn’t entirely certain why he was nervous.
Grundoon finally spoke again, and asked “I will need to find a permanent place for the army to be headquartered here in Brakoff. Will you walk with me through the city, and show me what buildings are empty?”
“Certainly! Would you like to do this today or sometime else?” replied Alderschon.
“Let’s do it today, if you are free. We’ll combine forces and see if we can find ourselves a home here, too.” Said Grundoon.
“I am relieved, your honor. I wasn’t sure what to expecting from you today.” Said Alderschon with a smile.
Grundoon chuckled. “You will find I am very easy to get along with, Lord Mayor. Just remember who swings the axe, and do your best to not be a sapling.” The orc stood up, and Alderschon did as well. “I will be at the town hall for the next couple of hours. Come by whenever you are free. I’ll have my wife ready to choose a home, and I’ll be choosing the new army headquarters. Let’s get you back into your office.”
With that he shook the Lord Mayor’s hand, and Jandle opened the door. Grundoon and his party left the library, and as they were leaving the house, Hilde turned and told a startled Alderschon, “You have a wonderful home, sir. Just terrific. Smells like beer everywhere.” She grinned.
Alderschon wasn’t sure he heard her correctly, but he laughed and thanked her. As he closed the door he wiped his brow. “What was all of this about?” he asked himself. Then he shook his head and went upstairs to get his jacket. He wouldn’t leave the Governor-General waiting.
As they walked across the square to the city hall, Grundoon said quietly but with enough emotion to make himself understood, “I’ve no idea what the rules were before, but they are about to change.” He tightened his grip on the axe, and the rest of the group was delighted to be behind him, and not against him.
Grundoon went up the front steps, and returned the guards salute. He then pushed open the big double doors and stormed into the main hall with enough force to cause everyone inside to stop and see what was happening. The Governor-General went up the main staircase with Hilde close behind, Trangdor and Jandle had to practically run to keep up. Grundoon headed straight for the Lord Mayor’s office, and if the guard there hadn’t opened the door for him he may very well have kicked it down.
The old orc paused for a moment once inside and took a couple of deep breaths. Von Draeger stood up from behind the desk, and saluted. Grundoon returned the salute, and Jandle closed the door.
Von Draeger was about to speak, but Grundoon held up his hand to silence him. The Governor-General continued breathing deeply, doing his best to calm down. Once he was composed, he would say what he had to say.
At last he felt calm enough to speak. “General, it is time to return this office, and this building, back to the city leadership. The Lord Mayor has graciously offered to show us some other buildings that we can choose from for our new army headquarters here in Romilmark. Once I have made the selection, you and your staff, and indeed mine as well, will move our operations.” Grundoon felt quite calm now.
“As you command, milord.” Said von Draeger. “I was reluctant to commandeer a building without knowing its ownership status.”
Grundoon could feel himself frowning, and was powerless to stop it. In a low growl that was far more menacing than it needed to be, he asked quietly “Did it occur to you to ask?”
Von Draeger was deeply embarrassed. Everyone in the room realized he was looking rather badly in this scenario, and all but Grundoon did their best to avert their eyes. Jandle looked at the window. Trangdor looked at the baseboards. Hilde examined the ceiling. Grundoon watched the general’s face.
“No, milord. It did not.” Said the general quietly.
Grundoon stood there silently for what felt like an eternity before saying “Alright. I don’t think there is any harm done. The Lord Mayor seems a reasonable fellow, and I think perhaps his councilmen are level-headed men as well. But general, this is going to be our challenge. We, and by that I mean Slothjemians, are viewed as barbaric, ill-tempered, marauding scoundrels by these people. If we are to absorb them into our empire successfully, we must prove them wrong at every turn. We cannot fail. The alternative to winning them over gently, is to wipe them out entirely. The Empress would prefer that to be ‘Plan B’, understood?”
“Yes, milord. I understand.” Von Draeger said. “I’m not much of a diplomat. I apologize.”
“Don’t dwell on it.” Said Grundoon. They stood there in silence for a moment. “Truth be told; I’m making this up as I go. If I fail, feel free to take over this office again. I’ll even let you sing ‘I told you so.’” He smiled a little, and von Draeger chuckled.
“Thank you, milord. As you command.” Said the general.
Grundoon went into the outer office, and had the staff bring out the maps and documents that the army had accumulated so he could take a look at them. These were property maps and deeds that the Romillians had left here when the exodus had begun during the war. Grundoon put on his new spectacles and gave them a good looking over. These were probably the most recent documents for this county. “Do we know what estates have been abandoned?” he asked the nearest aide.
“Yes, milord.” Answered the clerk. “We have scheduled dates to go out and obtain loyalty oaths from the remaining nobility.”
Grundoon nodded. “Get me a copy of that schedule. I will need to meet all of these people.” He said.
The clerk fetched him a copy of the document, and had just given it to him when Storg Hammerclaw came in to the office with several of his dwarven comrades.
“Good news, Governor-General.” He said with a grin. “We found a place to call home, at least for a while. Down near the creek there is an old millhouse, and there is a smithy there and everything. Locals say the place has been left alone for years. Can we move in there?”
Grundoon laughed. “Go ahead, Hammerclaw. Find out what else needs doing around here, will you?”
The dwarf saluted, and laughed as he left. That took care of the Kernschloss dwarves. They now had a place to operate out of. Next it was time to find a house for the von Vorkels.
Alderschon arrived about an hour later, and Aggrylia was with him. “Sasha has the babies over at the barracks,” Grundoon’s wife announced. “Kreg is with her, just to keep an eye out. I’ve no idea where Porger and Cloe have gotten off to.”
Grundoon called for von Draeger, and once the general was present, the entire group went out to tour the city. There was a lot of city to be seen, and a large number of buildings that were empty and in very good condition. They started in the part of the city that was protected by the walls, and worked their way outward. Grundoon and the general listened to everything that Alderschon said about the various places under consideration. The Slothjemian officials gave careful consideration to all of the options, and decided on a large three-story building to serve as the new army headquarters. There were several other buildings nearby that were empty, and they could easily be converted into proper barracks and stables for the army. Alderschon told von Draeger that he would be happy to draw up deeds for the properties, and Grundoon asked who had previously owned these buildings. The Lord Mayor replied that he would have to look it up.
Tucking this bit of information away in his mind, Grundoon now turned his attention to finding a home for his wife and children. Von Draeger departed to arrange the movement of the army to these new quarters, which while not right on the city square, were still very much centrally located in Brakoff.
The Lord Mayor took the von Vorkels to see all of the larger homes that had been abandoned, and some of them had been vacant for quite a number of years, not just since the war. But there was one that stood out from the rest, partly because it was more run down than the others. It was a very large home, and during its heyday had probably been terribly impressive. But now it was in an almost uninhabitable state. The roof had collapsed on much of the upper floors, and only the lower level could be safely occupied. There was a terrific basement, and a wine cellar. There was no furniture though. Alderschon said the house had been empty for many years. The damage had been from various winter storms, and after the last occupant had died, the city had reclaimed the house. Now it was just moldering away.
“We’ll take it.” Announced Aggrylia. “It is perfect.”
Grundoon left the details up to Aggrylia, and she began excitedly asking about who in the city did carpentry work. Alderschon was swept up in her enthusiasm, and in his somewhat broken Slothjemian told her the names of woodworkers and laborers she could contact.
While they talked, the Governor-General and his squire took a little walk around the house on the outside. It was outside of the city wall, but it was right against it on the backside. There was a small backyard, and the wall formed the back of the property. This would be a great place to plant the apple tree sapling, too. The sides of the house had a fairly high brick wall, and there was a lot of litter and refuse that had piled up around the house. Jandle climbed the walls on either side and peered over at the new neighbors. On either side were humans, and the fact that they were still living there was a good sign. Whether or not they would continue living there after a family of orcs moved in, was another matter.
The house had a wonderfully gothic look, one of the most popular human designs with goblinoids. They loved the dreadful angles and dark colors. The house would need extensive work, and Aggrylia seemed to be completely enamored with the prospect. The ground floor was big enough for the family to live in, with a great main room, a kitchen, and three large rooms that could have been used as anything from sleeping quarters to a library or even a study. The basement was even better. It was divided into several rooms for storage and whatnot, but the goblinoids would have had no problem living there.
Alderschon said that there would be no difficulty in getting the deed transferred. Grundoon looked at him with a sly smile.
“How much is owed in back taxes on this property?” he asked.
“That isn’t a factor, my lord. You are the Governor-General, and it is our honor to provide you with a house here in Brakoff.” Said Alderschon, a bit confused by the question Grundoon had asked, and slightly bewildered by the direction it was about to take.
“It very much is a factor, Lord Mayor.” Replied Grundoon. He paused, looking at the house, and around at the neighborhood. “If we are ever to be seen as anything other than savage conquerors, we must take proper ownership of everything we lay claim to. Including a run-down house, an abandoned millwork, and whatever buildings the army is moving in to. Back taxes are owed, and they must be paid. The rules are no different for those that wield an axe.”
Alderschon looked at the axe in Grundoon’s hand. He smiled at the orc. “Understood, my lord. I will have to check the records, and provide you with an amount.”
Grundoon winked at his wife. “Start setting up the repair work, my love. Have Sasha help you with finding some furniture too. You know where the money is, right?”
“Yes, darling. I’ll start getting things in motion.” She said with a little laugh. She clapped her hands, kissed her husband on the cheek, and went off to find her children and the nanny.
Alderschon and Grundoon walked back to the city hall, followed by Jandle and Trangdor. After several minutes of walking in silence, the Lord Mayor said quietly “You are nothing like I expected, Baron von Vorkel.”
Grundoon smiled. “I rarely am.” He said with a chuckle.
The next several days were quite busy in Brakoff. The army moved all of its operations to the new headquarters, and while the Slothjemian flag remained on the dome of the city hall, the building was once more under the direction of the Lord Mayor. No longer was civic business being done out of the Black Boar, but the office of the Lord Mayor was once again humming with the day-to-day business of running the city. The von Vorkel family introduced itself to the neighbors around their new home, and although their initial reactions could not be said to be overwhelmingly positive, they were pleased that a building that had been an eyesore was being repaired and cleaned up. Between the local workmen that were hired to do the work, the city leaders speaking of how judiciously the Governor-General acted on their behalf without them even having to ask, and the Slothjemian money being spent on wages and taxes, word spread like wildfire that this old orc that had taken over running Romilmark wasn’t the boogeyman that Slothjemians had always been made out to be. More people started to be seen outdoors, conducting business, and rebuilding their city.
One of the first things to be tackled was the reestablishment of the local constabulary. There hadn’t been a very thorough police force in Brakoff before the war, in fact they relied heavily on a few appointed bailiffs and the local militia to keep peace in the city. Grundoon had several meetings with the Lord Mayor and his council, to introduce to them the notion of Slothjemian law and order. This meant a professional constabulary, and that meant knowing the laws they would have to enforce. Grundoon gave to the Lord Mayor a large tome, and in it were the laws of the land as followed throughout Slothjemia.
“These are the laws that you must follow.” The Governor-General announced. “Where your traditional laws and these new rules contradict, you must always follow the new laws. Everyone in Slothjemia abides by the same rules, and none are exempt. Until we have civilian authority, everyone in Romilmark is under martial law. I am the ultimate judge in that hierarchy. Is that understood?”
All present had nodded in agreement, and listened to Grundoon explain how they could make the transition away from military rule more quickly. It all boiled down to security. Once all estates were occupied and governed, full civil governance would follow. There was now a large map on the wall at the army headquarters, and it covered all of Romilmark. Every estate was labelled with small pins, and one by one these would have to be examined, their nobles sworn to uphold the laws of Slothjemia and to serve the Crown. There were a number of nobles that had been in control of Brakoff, and the handful that remained had to swear their fealty in order to continue as respected leaders. Those that had fled, must be replaced.
The Governor-General stressed repeatedly that there would be Slothjemian constables that would help guide the various law enforcement efforts as they changed from the old Romillian way of doing things to the new Slothjemian methods. Two constables would serve in each of the three cities to provide assistance. In the rural areas new constables would have to be found and trained by four teams of constables on loan from elsewhere in the empire. Grundoon did his best to assure the native-born leaders that they would not be left without support as they learned how to function in their new reality.
Grundoon had a list of names for the men in the city that were now due to swear their allegiance to Slothjemia. He spent several days visiting each of them, and obtaining from them signed oaths declaring their loyalty to the Crown. He thanked each of them, and invited them to join him for drinks at the Black Boar after every meeting. One by one he won them over to deeper support than they would have if he hadn’t already shown them that he wasn’t the kind of orc they were expecting.
The Governor-General delegated a good amount of work to the Lord Mayor as the populace of Brakoff began to seek out their own way in this bold, new country. The mayor compiled names of worthy candidates to serve in the posts abandoned by Romillian lords, and Grundoon went through the lists and met personally with each person. Some were excluded because they refused to shake his hand. Others were left off of the lists because Grundoon didn’t fully trust them in that first meeting. But some were quite likeable, capable, and respectable. He then forwarded these names on to the Office of the Chancellor, and once he had sent off those notices he went back around to the candidates and personally welcomed them into the Slothjemian Empire. The Empress would bestow upon them their actual titles at a later date, but for now they could call themselves “Noble Initiates.” They were provided with detailed written instructions to help guide them into proper governance, and a new generation of enlightened feudal lords were set up in and around Brakoff.
The new lords of Brakoff owed their position to Grundoon, and while he did nothing to lord this over them they found themselves keenly aware of their new responsibilities. Perhaps because he didn’t remind them of how they earned their roles, the new lords developed a fondness for the old orc. He demonstrated a trust in them and they were determined to reward that trust. One thing that none of them said aloud was that Baron von Vorkel was not somebody that they wanted to disappoint. He had made a point to take that axe with him everywhere he went. It was a very effective way to remind them that he was still in charge, still an orc, and still capable of forcing change if needed.