Over the next two weeks, Hilde went in to the 10th Army headquarters exactly twice to stay caught up on her paperwork. It took longer each time than it should have, because Hilde was not a fast writer nor a particularly speedy reader. She had not inherited her father’s love of calligraphy, and nobody in her family was especially fond of literature. Hilde knew enough to get by at her post, and that was fine by her.
At the end of the two weeks Hilde got a knock on her front door on a particularly cold evening. She opened it, and squealed with delight to find Trangdor bundled up against the near-freezing temperatures. He had borrowed one of Belmar’s carts and one of the dwarven knight’s servants, and true to his word, had given the idea of moving in to Hilde’s house plenty of thought, and had decided to go ahead with the notion. Hilde helped him bring in the chests of clothing and crates of books off the cart. Hilde found herself unable to stop talking, and in just a few minutes she had gotten Trangdor completely up to date on what had been going on in her life. It was a combination of having very little going on and her ability to talk extraordinarily fast when excited. Trangdor had very little chance to say anything, so he just laughed and tried to pay attention.
Hilde set her dwarven friend up in a large room across the hall from her own room. It also had a fireplace, and other than the bed there wasn’t any furniture. Trangdor just piled all his belongings in the middle of the room and announced that was good enough for the time being. The servant, a dwarven lad named Wenstle, made himself at home in the great room downstairs for the evening. In the morning, he would return to his lord’s castle, and not a minute too soon. He was somewhat terrified of the lady orc that ran this house, and although his master considered her a good friend, Wenstle wasn’t nearly as fond of Hilde.
Wenstle didn’t waste any time in getting back on the road in the morning, and Hilde and Trangdor spent the day sorting through the available furniture in the house to make the dwarf’s room feel more like home. They found a bookshelf in one of the other bedrooms, and Trangdor placed his precious books in it with the utmost of care. Few things were as valuable as books, especially when so few people knew how to read, and the dwarf wasn’t going to take any chances on them being damaged. He told Hilde what each book was as he placed them in position, and she dutifully paid what attention she could. She didn’t read for fun, only out of necessity. Most of the books were not what Hilde would define as being necessary. History books, texts of legends and myths, political treatises, and a smattering of tomes devoted to less academic pursuits. There were also maps and illustrations that Trangdor had drawn when he had served as the Governor-General’s translator, and his own copious notes of all that transpired while Romilmark was still under military rule.
Trangdor knew that his friend was not a woman of literary means, but he appreciated her willingness to feign interest. Hilde did her share of eye-rolling, and they both snickered as the idea of her being in any way genuinely fascinated by books settled over them. It was nice to have Trangdor around, and Hilde didn’t try and disguise her all-consuming glee that she didn’t have to live in this huge house alone. Of all the people that she had crossed paths with, Trangdor was the most unlikely and yet welcomed. It wasn’t just that they were Slothjemian, or that their initial contact had been because of Hilde’s father that Trangdor and Hilde had hit it off so well. Had they met any other way, and in any other place, they would have been the best of friends. Both had reached this conclusion on their own, and had never spoken of it with each other. They just knew that theirs was a strong and durable bond.
Hilde had been planning on going in to the army headquarters today, but she put it off until the afternoon. There wouldn’t likely be enough to fill her day there anyway. Trangdor had expressed a desire to go along with her, and the two made their way through the city. Hilde wore her uniform, of course, as she was setting out to work for a while. Trangdor wore some puffy brown pants with a matching overcoat that had puffy sleeves. His tunic was a mustard yellow, and he wore a great leather hat that had a flat top and a huge, floppy brim. To outward appearances, Trangdor looked like a dwarven nobleman. The only aspect of his attire that suggested that he wasn’t a man of wealth and influence was his lack of jewelry. He didn’t even carry an ornamental dagger. Hilde never went out of the house without some sort of weapon, and today she wore two short swords, one on the outside of each thigh, and in her right boot she had her beloved stiletto. Being armed allowed Hilde to feel comfortable and at ease, but Trangdor felt the most relaxed just being around somebody that was heavily armed and knew how to fight. The two of them were quite a pair.
Passing by the Royal Slothjemian Coach Line depot, Hilde and Trangdor were startled by one of the clerks calling out “SERGEANT-MAJOR! SERGEANT-MAJOR!”, and waving a small, flat leather-bound parcel. The clerk jogged to catch up to the pair, who had stopped to see what was going on with a mixture of curiosity and bemusement.
The clerk handed the little parcel to Hilde, and said “This came for you today in the mail on the coach. I was going to send a messenger over to your house later to deliver it, and then I saw you walking by.” The clerk smiled. He was a somewhat elderly fellow with a shock of mostly white hair. Having delivered the parcel, and saying what he needed to say, he now realized that he had run out of anything to follow up with.
Hilde reached into her pocket and pulled out a copper coin, and handed it to the clerk. “Thank you, sir. Thank you very much!”
The clerk flipped the coin in the air, and caught it with a smile, and headed back to the depot. Trangdor had to restrain himself from snatching the parcel from Hilde to find out what it was. Hilde looked at the parcel with intense interest, her brow furrowing as she tried to read what was stamped into the leather.
“This is addressed to me.” She said quietly.
Trangdor’s eyes rolled so hard he thought that Hilde must certainly have heard them. “You don’t say. What are the odds of that?”
Hilde looked at him. “What, now?” she asked, a note of confusion in her voice.
Trangdor pointed to the clerk as he walked back inside the depot. “That old guy just told us that was for you. How can you possibly be surprised to read your name on it?” Trangdor started laughing.
Hilde started laughing, too. “Shut up.” She managed to say, fumbling with the cord holding the parcel shut. “I am not used to seeing my name on things. It throws a person off their guard.”
Trangdor continued laughing. “That’s nice to know. If we are ever locked in battle, I’ll be sure to warn you if the enemy starts waving an envelope.” His laughter bellowed with every breath. “Watch out Hilde! That looks like it has your name on it!” Tears began to roll down the dwarf’s cheeks.
Hilde threw her head back and let her laughter roar forth. Her laugh was a cross between a cackle and a belly laugh. Other people that were out and about in the neighborhood couldn’t help but look to see what was going on, and were undoubtedly perplexed by the sight of a foppish dwarf and an orcish woman in an army uniform just standing in the street laughing their fool heads off.
Hilde thrust the parcel at Trangdor, and laughingly said “Read this for me. I can’t read and laugh at the same time.”
Trangdor dutifully took the parcel, and deftly opened it. He pulled out the letter inside, and unfolded it. The parchment wasn’t of very high quality, but the writing suggested that the sender had been well educated. Trangdor began to read the letter aloud:
Most esteemed Shar Hilde Eigenblade C.B.,
My name is Belynda, recently graduated from the Royal Squire Academy, and former student of the Royal Academy of Arcane Studies. Have received your invitation to come forthwith to Brakoff and will be arriving by coach on the 23rd. Eagerly anticipating making your acquaintance and looking forward to many years of serving you as your squire and aide.
Sincerely, Belynda of Slothenburg
Trangdor never did stop laughing throughout, and that last line tickled him all over again. “Glad she specified that. There is only one Belynda in the whole of Slothenburg. I did not know that.”
Hilde howled with laughter, her stomach aching. She wrapped her arms around herself and said “Oh, do shut up!” Trangdor bent over, his hands on his knees, wheezing and desperately trying to catch his breath, the letter crumpled in his right hand. He reached up and handed the letter and the leather envelope up to Hilde.
She took it from him, and the two of them just stood there for a couple of minutes laughing like idiots. Trangdor was the first to gain his composure. “I certainly hope she has a sense of humor. She is going to need it.”
Hilde wiped her eyes. “We have two days. Do we need to fix up a room for her? Do we wait until we know if she is going to work out? Hope she isn’t allergic to dwarves.”
“We’ll pick up some ointment on the way home.” Quipped Trangdor.
Hilde parted ways with Trangdor at the entry to the army headquarters. The dwarf went off to do some shopping for food, having seen what Hilde had stored away and determining that they would need better fare than that if he was going to be living there, too. Hilde went in and headed upstairs to the large hall filled with desks and all sorts of people doing the mundane day-to-day work that keeps an army functioning.
At the small desk Hilde used, there was a short pile of documents that required her signature. She read through them all, and signed off on everything that she approved of. There were a couple items that she simply wrote “request denied” on, and a handful that she forwarded on to the general to have him deal with. It took a few hours to wade through it all, and it was the least favorite aspect of her job. She would have much rather taken troops out to train them in the field than read through their requests for leave of absences or the much rarer complaint against a superior officer. These latter issues did amuse Hilde, because it gave her a chance to intimidate some of the junior officers. As the voice and muscle of the enlisted personnel, Hilde carried a lot of clout. Even the senior officers knew that an unannounced visit from the Sergeant-Major was almost never a good thing, and would go to almost any length to avoid such a confrontation.
Having completed her duties, Hilde tidied up her desk and put her great coat back on. She waved at some of her fellow soldiers as she headed out, and looked around once she reached the street to see if Trangdor was around. Of course, he wasn’t. Hilde buttoned up her coat and walked home. Her potential squire would be here in just a couple of days, and she was getting excited. Trangdor was finally home where he belonged, and everything was coming together for her. Hilde couldn’t help smiling as she walked through the streets of Brakoff as the sun began to set.