Fight, Swear, Loathe; Chapter 4

After the dwarves went to bed, Hilde spent some time in her room polishing and cleaning her weapons. She had an almost unhealthy attraction to what she considered the most beautiful blades ever forged. Jorish bladed weapons had a lot of curves in their design, like elven metal smiths might make, but every curve was exaggerated and, according to the elves, unnecessarily brutish. There tended to be more pointy bits, such as at the backside of the blade, or along the front blade where different curved angles met. Jors did not fancy their swords and related weapons to be double-sided in the traditional sense, but there was plenty of sharpened steel to be had whichever way the blade was swung.

This made keeping the sharp edges well-honed a very labor-intensive task. It wasn’t aJorBlade simple process of running a stone down the blade a few times and calling it good. Careful attention had to be paid to each curve and nuance, to keep the weapon as lethal as it was designed to be. It was this design that the jors had perfected to be used as the finest tools in an assassin’s arsenal. Going in the blade would do a maximum amount of damage due to the design, and coming out it did just as much damage, each wavy arc serving as an almost separate blade in and of itself. In the hands of a skilled warrior there were few things as devastating as these swords.

The axes of the swamp orcs had very similar properties, but for whatever reason the jors had never embraced the axe in the same way they had the sword. From a very young age, Hilde had been enamored with jorish weaponry, and she too had chosen the sword. Any size of sword would do, too, although she found the great two-handed variants to be excessively heavy and awkward. She loved her hand-and-a-half sword, also called a bastard sword because it was able to be used with one or two hands, and was a little longer than a traditional long sword but not as long as the two-handed great swords. She didn’t use a shield most of the time, and she had gotten fairly good at wielding a smaller sword in her off hand. For this reason, she carried not one but two short swords, each about three feet in total length, and at least one dagger that measured about eighteen inches long. She only had one bladed weapon that wasn’t a jorish design, and that was a long, thin, and gorgeous stiletto that Trangdor had given her on her last birthday. It had a couple of small emeralds mounted in the handle, and was the most stunning pewter-colored finish Hilde had ever seen. It was a dwarven blade, made for a woman, and easily concealed. Hilde never went anywhere without it tucked safely and securely into her boot.

After taking care of her many weapons, Hilde turned in for the night. She watched the moonlight for a while, and drifted off as the shadows in her room danced as the shifting lunar illumination peered down from the heavens. The night was calm, and the quiet was interrupted only by the sound of the wind outside and the gentle flapping of the draperies in the drafty castle.

Hilde awoke in the morning feeling completely refreshed. She always slept well at Trelderian Hall, and something about the close proximity of her dear friends put her at ease. After dressing, she bounded downstairs with her infamous energy and perky morning attitude. The only mornings that she felt were bad mornings were the ones that followed great nights of carousing. When she wasn’t fighting the dreadful effects of good booze and fine beer, Hilde was every inch a morning person.

The dwarves were the last ones to breakfast this morning, and Hilde wasn’t about to wait for them before diving in to eat. She wasn’t as passionate about food to the same degree she was about fighting, but it was a close second. She chatted with the servants as they scurried about, getting ready for the day. Hilde wanted to talk more, but the castle had its own schedule that needed to be kept, so she waited until Trangdor and Gelbrand came down to have something to eat.

She didn’t give them much time, either, before she launched into a barrage of questions. Mostly they were aimed at Trangdor, badgering him to just move to Brakoff so he could do whatever it was he wanted to do. But she also pestered Gelbrand, asking if there were any real adventures brewing that she could take part in. She already had a knighthood, and soon would have a squire, and by golly she was going to put them, and her swords, to good use one way or another.

Trangdor spent the entire meal promising to give it some thought, and while he didn’t want to commit to moving this very hour, Hilde kept hounding him, even suggesting that Gelbrand could loan them a cart and a donkey to haul everything to Brakoff. Gelbrand found himself being forced to offer a cart and a donkey to help Trangdor move, and to keep his attention on finding Hilde a proper quest. Neither dwarf was very sure how they had gotten themselves into this mess, and by the end of breakfast all three of them were laughing at Hilde’s absurd devotion to getting things done immediately, if not sooner.

“Come on, you guys! I’m not a dwarf, I don’t have as long to live and screw around like you can!” she said, exasperated and uncontrollably giggly. “I have to get this stuff done! Not this millennium, but now!”

This was a difference between the almost eternal races, such as elves and dwarves, and everyone else. If you had a hundred years to decide what you wanted to do with your life, then you tended to reach a conclusion rather slowly. Other races, though, had to make their mark quickly. Humans were the undisputed masters of this, able to reach the heights of success in their endeavors far beyond what an elf or dwarf might be able to do in five hundred years. On average, an orc didn’t have as long to live as even a human might. Hilde was still young, only now approaching her twenty-fourth birthday, but she was unmarried, and that normally weighed on an orcish woman. Whether it bothered her or not was tough to tell, but she wasn’t keen on waiting for anything. Today, Trangdor and Gelbrand were feeling that impatience in all of its glory.

When Hilde left after breakfast to begin her journey home to Brakoff, she did so with the understanding that Trangdor would be along in a few days and Gelbrand would send her word if anything interesting popped up that might be construed as an escapade. That wasn’t the same understanding the dwarves had, but both of them knew that was how it was going to be. You couldn’t struggle against Hilde any more than you could argue with a thunderstorm.

She loved the ride from Trelderian Hall almost as much as the ride to get there. The best part of the trip getting to the castle was actually arriving at the home of a dear friend. But leaving the little fortress was wonderful for the views it gave of the great valley, the tall trees of the forested foothills, and the other estates scattered about across the countryside. It did remind her to some extent of the Grafdom she grew up in, on the western side of the realm. Only it had been much less populated, and while many of the terrain features were similar, Slothjemia not being a very large domain to offer great diversity in geography, Romilmark felt much more alive. There was a vibrancy in the place that Hilde loved. As she rode Tinza at a leisurely pace down the path towards the main road and home, she daydreamed about what she wanted out of life. The big house in Brakoff was nice, but she wanted something more like the life that Shr Gelbrand had. She wanted a castle, her own little army of retainers, people to cook and clean and take care of everything. That would take work, though. Unless she bought land or leased it, which required working for the money, she would have to hustle up a proper title to be given an estate grant.

The only other ways to see her dreams fulfilled would be to marry a titled gentleman, and become the lady of the house, an option that was never going to happen in Hilde’s opinion, or to inherit enough wealth, or maybe even land, that she could do what she wanted. Inheriting a windfall seemed possible, at least in her daydream. More likely, however, she would have to put in the work and earn her destiny.

Right about the time she arrived at Shr Belmar’s estate, Hilde awoke from her musings to realize where she was. The field hands saw her before she saw them, and took to waving and yelling their greetings. She waved back, and hollered as loudly as she could. Hilde loved being greeted wherever she went. It was the main reason that she didn’t travel more extensively, though. Outside of the handful of places she frequented, nobody really had a clue who she was. If she wasn’t in uniform, she was just another pudgy little orc woman with a loud laugh and a penchant for beer. But here on this path she was a celebrity, having helped free some of the servants of the estates along this road from captivity, and a friend of the most noble knights in the area.

When she reached the farmyard of the estate, she got off of her horse and stretched. One of the stable boys came trotting out to give Tinza some water and feed, and the youthful lord of the manor himself, Shr Belmar, came out of the little tower everyone here called home, to pay his respects to Shar Hilde. She grinned, and in her fashion, gave the startled young man a great bear hug. He had become very fond of her, and while this seemed to surprise him every time, he returned the hug with a laugh.

“Welcome, Shar Hilde!” he declared, after being freed from the embrace. “Would you care for something to eat, or perhaps to drink?” he motioned in such a way that an invitation to enter the tower was conveyed. His Slothjemian had gotten quite good in the last year and a half. He would always have a heavy accent, but the young man had no trouble communicating in most matters.

“Thank you, but no. I’ll get a little something down at the roadhouse.” Hilde smiled broadly. “How have you been, Shr Belmar? Has life been good?”

The young knight shrugged his shoulders, but then added “Not bad, I suppose. But I have a problem you might be able to help me with.”

Hilde’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh? Well, let’s go inside and discuss it!” she said. Belmar grinned, and walked towards the tower. Hilde followed him, curious as to what the lord of this place might need help with. She was hopeful that it was something that needed killing.

There was a large table in the shape of a horseshoe in the main room of the tower, a room that took up almost the entire first floor. Belmar took a seat at the table, and Hilde sat across from him, removing her sword and scabbard from her back in order to rest comfortably while they talked.

She looked inquiringly at Belmar, and he seemed to be summoning up his courage in order to make the request he had in mind. He chuckled a little, and said, “It is not a big thing I need help with, but something dear to me. I am not sure where to go, and it occurs to me that this might be something right along your expertise.”

Hilde nodded her head, still hoping that he wanted a monster killed. Maybe a troll on his property, or some sort of reptile infestation.

Belmar folded his hands on the table in front of him. He looked Hilde right in the eyes, and said “I have a sister, her name is Vena. She wants to enter the service of the church, in order to become a chaplain in the army. But the church here will not give her the training she needs to become a cleric because she is a girl. She is old enough to join the army, and they will take her I am sure, but she wants to serve God in her military service. Is there something you can do, as the Sergeant-Major?”

Hilde hid her disappointment as best she could, and cheered up when she realized that she could do something for Vena. “Of course, I can help! She will have to travel to get the religious training she seeks, but I can secure her a place in the army here when she is finished. Do you have something to write on, and a quill?”

Belmar shouted for a servant to bring the requested items, and they were given to Hilde. She wrote down the name and address of the Archbishop of Slothenburg, and on a separate paper she wrote a brief but compelling request that Vena, sister of Shr Belmar, a Slothjemian knight and keeper of one of the Queen’s estates, be given consideration for training so that she can serve as an army chaplain. “You write out your own request, and send it with this one, that should be enough.” She gave the papers to Belmar. “I signed it as Sergeant-Major, so he knows that you have already spoken to the army about all of this. That should help too. If she is turned down, then we’ll go and get more people to sign in her favor. Shr Gelbrand, the mayor of Kederlenn, even the Graf if we need to. We’ll get this done.” Hilde smiled at the knight across from her, and the joy on his face absolutely made her day.

Belmar couldn’t contain his happiness. “Thank you so much, Shar Hilde! This will mean the world to Vena!” he sprang up, nearly knocking his chair over. “Vena! Vena, come see what Shar Hilde has done!”

A pretty little blonde girl came running down the staircase, followed by several other, younger children. They all clamored in Romillian with excessive excitement, and Hilde stood up from the table, bemused and unsure of what she should be doing during all of this celebrating. The blonde girl, apparently Vena, gave her a powerful hug, and they all began thanking Hilde with great fervor.

The one person that didn’t join the celebration was Belmar and Vena’s mother. Hilde had never met her; in fact, she was never seen outside of the tower. Shr Gelbrand had told Hilde that the woman was bitter about how her husband had died, and that her views on goblinoids more closely reflected her late husband’s biases than they did her son’s views. If that were true, then Hilde was glad that the woman kept herself hidden away. Nobody needed that kind of negativity in their lives.

Hilde made her way outside, and on to her horse, as the children and even some of the servants continued their thankful tributes to her. “All I did was write a letter and tell you where to send it!” cried Hilde with a laugh. “I’d love to see how you people rejoice if I had actually DONE something!”

They all waved as she continued on her way towards home. She turned in the saddle and waved a couple of times, and laughed as they danced about in the farmyard. Humans were a strange people, Hilde thought.

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