When Grundoon awoke the next morning, he still felt cheerful about Karpaburg. He finally had a place that he could go anywhere, speak to anyone, and didn’t need Trangdor to communicate for him. It was just like being home. He was going to see the mayor, and Jandle would be the only one accompanying him. Everyone else had things they wanted to do, mostly with exploring the town, and at long last nobody else would be needed. Grundoon might even be able to head back to Brakoff today, and that made him even happier.
Graffendorn was in his office, busily dealing with whatever issues were facing Karpaburg. There was a line of four or more people waiting to see the mayor, and Grundoon wasn’t immediately sure if he should cut in or get in line himself. He glanced at Jandle, but the kobold only shrugged and gave a faint smile. The old orc chuckled and took his place in the queue behind an elderly woman with three very young children clinging to her dress. The children stared wide-eyed at Grundoon. The orc did his best to not make eye contact with the children, but Jandle grinned at them and waved. He was just about their size, and one of the children grinned back at him and waved enthusiastically.
It wasn’t but a few moments when the door to the mayor’s office opened, and three men exited while saying their farewells to the mayor, who was showing them out in order to invite in the next person in line. Upon seeing Grundoon, the mayor smiled broadly and motioned for him to come straight into the office. Grundoon nodded, and told the old woman in front of him “I promise not to take very long. I just wanted to drop something off. Please excuse me.”
The old woman looked surprised that an orc would be talking to her at all, but she smiled and said in heavily accented Slothjemian “As you wish, my lord.”
The mayor closed the door, and waved his hand to one of the large, soft chairs for visitors. The Governor-General handed the law book to Graffendorn and had a seat. Only then did he realize that there was no desk here. Just five big chairs in a circle, in a room surrounded with cluttered shelves.
The mayor said in a loud, appreciative tone, “Ah, an updated book of laws. Excellent! I was hoping for something like this.” He sat down in one of the chairs and set the book on the chair next to him.
Grundoon smiled, and replied “Yes, and the constables who will oversee the training of your police force are due to arrive any day now. They have finished with their initial work in Brakoff and are headed up this way. In the meanwhile, you have a chance to look over the laws of the land. If you have any concerns about the new regulations, just let my office know and we’ll see if we can’t clarify whatever problems you encounter.” Grundoon shifted in his chair. “For now, of course, the entire area is under martial law. Once the move is made to civilian governance, these laws will take full effect.”
The mayor nodded, and then, in a thoughtful tone, asked “If there is a criminal matter then, who deals with it? For the last few months we have just been doing what we have always done. Those who break the laws are taken before the magistrates, and sentence is imposed.”
Grundoon answered, “Using these new laws, continue doing exactly that. If there are to be changes, then we’ll deal with them as they come up. The military is doing most of the policing in the rural areas, but that will change when the two sets of constabularies are fully operational. Anyone the army arrests, we’ll deal with. Otherwise you are free to prosecute your own criminals. Just use the new laws, of course.” The orc smiled. He wasn’t sure how many ways there was to say it, but it seemed to him that he had made his point.
The mayor smiled too, his crooked teeth on full display. Grundoon wasn’t sure what Graffendorn might be thinking, but he decided to just let it go for now. He stood up and offered his hand to the old human. Graffendorn took his hand readily and shook it with strength and vigor. It was the kind of handshake you felt good about, but all it did was make Grundoon feel a tiny bit uneasy deep in the pit of his stomach. Jandle opened the door, and the Governor-General and his squire made their way out.
Grundoon waited until they were past the line of people, down the hall, and out of the building before he whispered to Jandle “I am not certain about that fellow.” He didn’t say any more but went straight to the 8th Army headquarters to see Colonel Ornsha. Unlike the civilians milling about in the town hall, Grundoon wasn’t worried about cutting in any lines here. Jandle pushed the door of the colonel’s office wide open, and Grundoon leaned across her desk, his fists on top of the papers she was looking at.
“Got a minute?” he growled.
The colonel was noticeably stunned by this, but managed to say “Yes, my lord.”
Grundoon lowered his voice. “You keep a close eye on that mayor. I’m not sure that I trust him. He led one coup, let’s make sure he doesn’t get excited for a sequel. Understood?”
Ornsha blinked, and said “Of course, Lord General. Anything else I need to do?”
“No.” said Grundoon. “I’ll tell the constables to do the same, and our new judicial command envoy. I like this town. Would be a shame if we had to rebuild it from a pile of ashes.”
The colonel nodded and laughed nervously.
Grundoon stood up straight, and grinned. “But then again, we could widen the streets the second time around.”
Jandle laughed, and Ornsha realized this was acceptable, so she laughed too. She stood from her chair and saluted the Governor-General.
Grundoon returned the salute, bellowed out a rambunctious “Carry on!” and left her office as suddenly as he had entered. It was time to go home to Brakoff, and Grundoon wasn’t about to waste any time.
Once everyone knew they were leaving town, it didn’t take long for the group to get moving. Jandle and Kreg got the horses harnessed while Trangdor, Hilde, Cloe, and Porger loaded up the luggage. Grundoon made one last look around the town, and in pretty quick time the entire party was in the carriage and headed towards Kederlenn.
The weather had turned cold and stormy, with a wind from the north blowing what felt like needles into Romilmark. It wasn’t until they had reached Kederlenn that the snow began to fall. They paused here, and swapped out the horses with the Red Guard, taking four of theirs to finish the journey. Sunset was hardly noticed, the dark storm clouds and falling snow having made everything prematurely dark much earlier in the day. Kreg warmed himself up, and when Grundoon asked if he could make it through the night to Brakoff, he nodded his head yes, leering creepily. The group grabbed some food from the Red Guard mess hall and jumped back in the carriage.
It was a race against the elements to reach Brakoff before the snow became too deep for the carriage to pass through. Nobody was able to sleep that night; every eye was looking out at the drifts that were building up. Hilde climbed out of one of the doors and scrambled up on the roof to help Kreg spot where the road was as the terrain became engulfed in snow. There were a couple of near misses as the coach rolled loudly down the road, but there were enough walls and fences along the length of the road that it was not horribly difficult to tell where the path was. Sometime after midnight, the party spotted the lights of the city, and Jandle shouted a cheer that everyone echoed. The gates were flung open, and with a wet crashing sound the carriage splashed through the streets of Brakoff, and out the southern gate to where the Governor-General’s home was. The only people out this night were the soldiers on duty, and they were equally bemused and startled by the carriage’s rapid transit through their jurisdiction.
Servants that Aggrylia had hired during her husband’s absence came running from the house, still in their night clothes, to unload the coach and usher everyone inside. The roof was fully repaired now, and fires were burning in every hearth. The whole household was awakened, and Grundoon embraced his wife, halfway up the staircase where they met trying to get to each other. The baggage was piled in the main room, and everyone else from the coach collapsed exhausted on the floor. The new stable hand took the horses and brushed them down, but the rest of the house gathered to hear about the adventures.
They were to be disappointed, however. All Grundoon wanted was to get to bed, and he waved to everyone as he and his wife disappeared to their room. Trangdor did his best to tell about what had happened on the trip, but even he was tired. All resolved to deal with the luggage later, and one by one the people of the great house made their way to their rooms to rest. Out in the street the massive brown coach became buried under snow, and when dawn finally began to press into the city, it found a huge white lump with just a bit of the carriage visible beneath. Winter was in full force in Romilmark.