After dinner, Hilde made a fire in the great room’s fireplace while Trangdor cleared away the remains of the meal. When both had finished, they gathered with Belynda in front of the fire, each finding a seat to allow them to soak in the warmth from the hearth, as well as to see clearly each of the other people in the group.
Hilde was the first to speak. “Alright, Belynda. Why would you like to serve as my squire?”
Seated as far back into an enormous overstuffed chair as she could go, Belynda couldn’t even dangle her feet off the edge. She turned her head towards Hilde, but with those eyes she could just as easily have been looking at anything else in her line of sight. “When I first heard that you were looking at choosing me, I did some reading up on you and your family. It was easy to find out quite a lot about you, including your fighting at the mountaintop orc camp and then at the Battle of the Peklender Mine. Your military record is impressive, albeit brief, and your reputation as a no-nonsense tough girl is something that I would enjoy being a part of.”
“Trouble tends to find our Hilde.” Snickered Trangdor.
Hilde laughed, and then turned her attention back to Belynda. “Have you any experience with girding armor? I need a helping hand for my full suit.”
Belynda nodded her head. “Oh yes, they had classes at the academy for such things. They also covered etiquette, bureaucracy, basic sewing, and how to prepare all manner of food in the field. I’m fluent in several languages, including Romillian, Geldenspeak, Craiovian, and a smattering of Drow. What I can’t accomplish in sorcery, I can probably do through engineering. What sort of armor do you have?”
Trangdor chuckled as Hilde replied “Mostly it is plate, but there are elements of chainmail and banded mail, too. I don’t often gird for battle, but when I do, it is quite a chore to get everything on in a quick fashion.” She flashed a snarling glance at the dwarf, who continued chuckling.
“You will also need to keep Hilde’s swords, daggers, and other weapons clean and oiled. This is a challenge just because of the sheer number of implements involved.” Said Trangdor, who noticed Hilde’s glare and continued laughing quietly. Perhaps because of her mild annoyance, he seemed to find it even funnier. His orcish friend was a strong woman, and capable, but in some things, she could easily be defined as high maintenance. She took combat seriously, and preparing for a fight was extraordinarily important to her.
Hilde stood up, and said “Let me go get my full suit. We’ll give it a go and see how well you can help me get ready.” She shot another impatient glance at the dwarf, and went upstairs.
Trangdor turned his attention to the little xvart, and asked “Do you do much reading?”
Belynda smiled, and said “Oh yes, I love to read. I am the only member of my family that can read, actually. I am hopeful that this arrangement will bring me into position to begin acquiring my own books.” She cocked her head to one side as she studied the dwarf. “You have done some writing, yes? I understand from my research that you are described as a scholar and a scribe.”
Surprised by this inquiry, Trangdor could feel himself blushing. “I suppose that is an accurate portrayal. I came to this Grafdom as a translator to the Governor-General, and I simply stayed to continue my studies of the land and its people. I am working on a history of the governance of Baron von Vorkel. It was coming along well until Hilde persuaded me to move here.” The dwarf laughed. “I haven’t seemed to be able to find the time to do much writing lately.”
Belynda’s familiar, Cinder, came trotting into the room, and bounded up to sit next to the little xvart. It was a little unnerving to Trangdor to have a rat taking part in this interaction, but the creature looked so intelligent perched next to her mistress. The conversation continued, and the rat just sat quietly observing. Belynda petted the rat as she exclaimed “Oh, I would very much enjoy reading your work! It would certainly be helpful in understanding Shar Hilde and this region.” She smiled appreciably at Trangdor. “Are there illustrations?”
Trangdor nodded his head, his mustache hiding his expanding grin. “Yes, I have included some maps and sketches to help capture the feel of geography and the beauty of Romilmark. I’m not a terribly good artist, mind you, but they are good enough for a treatise of this nature.” He was pleasantly surprised by the little xvart’s interest in his writing, and unlike Hilde her inquiries were genuine in nature rather than politely indulgent.
Belynda continued petting Cinder as she spoke. “You can use magic to capture specific images and set them onto parchment or canvas. It is almost as if you plucked the essence of a scene and painted it perfectly without needing any artistic skill whatsoever.”
Trangdor looked at her with interest. “Really? They can do that? Use spellcraft to make pictures of things you are looking at?”
Belynda nodded her head enthusiastically. “I have the spell in my book, in fact. I have only used it on a couple of occasions. It certainly helps to keep memorable moments available to share with others.”
Trangdor tugged thoughtfully on his beard. “What a time to be alive!” he murmured.
Hilde interrupted their conversation as she came into the room carrying a large chest that was quite heavy. She set it down on the floor in front of Belynda and Trangdor, and opened the lid. She began to pull out pieces of armor as she talked, and Belynda jumped down to assist.
Hilde was focused more on the armor than the xvart as she said “This is my best suit, the one I wear for combat if I have the time to prepare for it. My other suit isn’t as comprehensive, and I don’t need nearly as much help getting into that one. But this one has numerous latches and straps that I can’t reach when all of this is on. You’ll see as we go. Here, let’s start with this.” With that, she began to lay out the chainmail parts that went beneath the plate and banded portions. Getting into the chainmail was easy, it went on like metallic long underwear. It was essentially sleeves that tied together across her chest and shoulders, followed by individual leg pieces that hung from a thick leather belt. Belynda helped tie the straps up in the rear while standing on a footstool. Trangdor just watched in bemusement.
The next part was trickier, and while it didn’t go flawlessly, it was noted that Belynda was quick to catch on to what went where and how. It was not a fast process. Gearing for combat was something best done calmly and without being rushed. If the parts were not placed in precisely the correct way, it would be disastrous. Taking proper care to prevent errant blades from finding their way in between the seams of the armor, or bolts and arrows from piercing the joints, had to be done in a very methodical manner. Hilde was pleased with this first attempt, and Trangdor checked the spots that were harder for her to see to confirm that the armor was fully in place.
“Well done, Belynda!” Hilde exclaimed, clapping her gauntleted hands cheerily. “Now, help me get out of this and let’s try it again.”
Trangdor sat back in his chair, and watched as the two women worked on getting Hilde out of the armor, and then back into it. He especially watched Belynda. The xvart made none of the same mistakes the second time around, and had improved noticeably in very quick order. Several minutes were trimmed off the last go around, and Trangdor and Hilde were both duly impressed. If there had been any doubt about Belynda’s ability to do tough work it was dispelled.
They ran through the drill for a third time, and Hilde was convinced that Belynda was getting faster and the armor was fitting better than it ever had. When the xvart asked with a laugh “Shall we go for a fourth?” Hilde laughed too, and shook her helmeted head emphatically.
“No, that’s proof enough for me!” Hilde bellowed, her voice echoing inside her helm. Pulling it off, she tossed it to Trangdor, and Belynda began to unfasten the armor for the final time that evening. While they worked on getting the suit off, Hilde said offhandedly “I think we will go on a little trip. Tomorrow, go and find what reagents you might need for a proper adventure. We’ll head out the following day for the town of Dregladorf. One of my officers suggested that as a good place to start looking for trouble.”
Belynda smiled. “I came through there on the coach from the Coreland. Busy little town. Reminded me of home, lots of goblinoids all over the place.”
Trangdor snickered. “There is a story behind that, too.” He said, and winked at Hilde.
Hilde laughed, and pretended to ignore the dwarf. “We’ll start our adventures there. A very good place to start.”