Fight, Swear, Loathe; Chapter 11

The room they were given was on the ground floor, down a hall that ran past the dining room and lobby, and behind the living quarters of the innkeeper’s family. There was one other room down here as well, directly across the hall from them. Their room was number twelve, the numerals carved into a wooden plaque that was nailed to the door. The room across the hall was eleven.

Inside the doorway, the girls were treated to a marvelous display of orcish decorating. There were two medium sized beds, and each had a plain pottery chamber pot beneath it. There was a wash basin, and an ewer in a pottery bowl. A small table sat in the corner, and there was one chair. The window was small, and had bars set into the sill on this side of the glass to prevent anyone from breaking in. The glass itself was of poor quality, but thick, preventing anyone from spying but permitting light to freely flow in during the day. There was a box of candles on the table, and a little wooden dish to stand them up in.

Belynda lit a candle, and left to stable the animals in the inn’s barn. Cinder bounded about the room checking every corner, and then settled in on Belynda’s bed. Hilde set their baggage up on the beds, and thought about her next move. She shouldn’t have any trouble finding this baroness, and with any luck at all she would be able to secure a contract for doing whatever it was that needed doing. Hilde removed most of her armor, leaving the lower arm and leg portions in place. Hilde had been in enough goblinoid bars to know what parts of armor were important to have on if things got rough. People tended to do a lot of kicking at legs and stabbing at forearms held to protect one’s face. She would forgo the rest of the armor, but would carry her short swords and stiletto. The bastard sword was too big to wear to dinner, at least here in town. Hilde didn’t want to give anyone the idea that she was some sort of barbarian amazon.

Belynda returned, and set about getting dressed for dinner. She had not brought a lot of clothes to select from, but she had made stylish choices. She hummed softly as she went about her task, and Hilde couldn’t help but smile at the little xvart’s mannerisms. She was so very small, like a child but fully developed in mind and scaled-down bodily dimensions. Belynda brushed her long ponytail, and fiddled with her hand mirror to make sure her eyebrows were just right. Hilde had never given thought to her own eyebrows before. She was now, though.

Before she had time to give the matter serious consideration, however, Belynda was ready to go. She had on wee little suede boots with furry cuffs, and an orange dress with white lace trim. Hilde looked at her own plain brown skirt and blue and gold bodice, and felt instantly underdressed. She shook her head as they left the room, wondering what had happened to her. Belynda was supposed to be the squire, and Hilde the lady, but right now the orc wasn’t sure who was who. She chuckled. Great start.

The dining room was already filling up by the time the ladies arrived, but there was a small table reserved for them as guests of the inn. They took their seats, and surveyed the room. Hilde whispered to Belynda “We’re looking for a baroness here. She might have need of an adventurer or two.”

Belynda stood in her chair, holding on to the back of it for support. Even then, she wasn’t much taller than anyone else sitting down. “Any notion what she looks like?” she whispered to Hilde.

Hilde giggled. “Nope. Just that there is a baroness staying here, and she was looking for some help. Something to do with her property.”

Belynda snickered. “We’re going to have to ask somebody, m’lady. Either all of these women are baronesses, or none of them are. Not one of them stands out.” She whispered.

The serving wench, an orcish girl with a big smile, took their dinner orders and as she was about to leave, Hilde said to her “Is there a baroness staying here? Somebody looking for help on their land?”

With a smile, the serving girl replied “Yes, there is. She is right over there by the window. Her name is Ronnella Hossler. She is staying here with her young son, Lorenz, and her aged mother-in-law. I believe he is actually the baron, but his mother has been referred to as baroness as a courtesy.”

Belynda set her satchel containing her spellbook down in the seat of her chair, and sat on it so that she could better reach the table. “That’s an interesting fact.” She muttered quietly.

“What is?” whispered Hilde, motioning for the serving girl to depart. The serving girl smilingly obliged and headed for the kitchen.

“A young noble, clearly human. His mother must be serving as a sort of regent for him. They might be natives, and not transplants. But they came to a clearly non-native town to seek help.” Belynda shrugged. “Interesting.”

Hilde understood the insinuation. “Maybe this is just the closest town.” She whispered to Belynda.

Belynda smiled. “Or maybe this is the kind of town that has the kind of people you need to get a certain kind of job done.” She whispered back to Hilde.

They took turns looking over at the young woman and her little boy. He couldn’t have been much older than six years old. His mother was simply attired, entirely in black, her blondish hair pulled back into a tasteful bun. Her features were almost gnome-like, her nose just a tad too large for her face. The little boy was dressed like most little boys in Romilmark, breeches and a long-sleeved shirt and thick heeled boots that were probably a size or two too large. They seemed unaware of the two women looking them over, and seemed completely at ease with being in a crowded dining room filled with orcs and their ilk.

Hilde and Belynda ate their food when it was brought to them, and kept an eye on the two humans near the window. The humans were further along in their meal than the orc and xvart were in theirs, so they had to make a choice when the woman and her child showed signs of being finished. Hilde set her fork down, and quickly moved to intercept the woman as she led her child by the hand out of the dining room.

“Excuse me!” Hilde called out. “Baroness Hossler! Excuse me!”

The woman stopped, and turned around. Her son looked up at Hilde expectantly. The woman said “Yes? Is there something I can do for you?”

Hilde extended her hand. “You are Baroness Hossler, yes?”

The woman took her hand, and shook it graciously. Hilde noted that it was not the handshake of nobility as she had known it, but as a more common sort of person.”

“No, not technically. My son is the Baron, I am only looking after his interests. And you are who?” asked the woman, no trace of smile on her face.

Hilde smiled despite this, and said “I am Shar Hilde Eigenblade, and I understand that you are looking for some assistance?”

The woman looked Hilde up and down. “I take it that you are some sort of warrior? That is what I need. Let me put my son to bed, and check on his grandmother, and I will come back down and we can talk.”

Hilde bowed her head respectfully, and the woman and her son left the dining room. Hilde returned to her table, and resumed her dinner. “She’ll be down soon.” She said quietly to Belynda. “Says she needs a warrior. Sounds like we might be in business.”

Belynda giggled and clapped her hands again. “How exciting! I wonder what she needs done. I hope it is something grand.”

Hilde sipped at her beer. “Be careful what you wish for, squire.”

The two ladies finished their meal, and each had another drink brought to them while they waited for the baroness’ return. Hilde had another beer, and Belynda had a little glass of sherry. The woman came back into the dining room, and walked determinedly to their table. Hilde stood, and the woman took a seat. Hilde sat back down, and asked “So, what is it that you need?”

The baroness sat rigidly in her chair, and motioned for the serving girl to bring her a flagon of ale. She waited for it to be delivered before she spoke.

“I am a widow, and have the duty to look after my mother-in-law who is also a widow, but my son was given some land here in Romilmark, and a title he has to grow into. We are grateful, make no mistake. But the estate that my son was bestowed has as its central resource an old gold mine, and it needs to be properly evaluated before I can determine what the best course of action is from this point.” The woman took a drink of her ale before continuing.

“I have already found some gnomes to do the mineral assessment, but they refuse to go in to the mine without somebody first going in to make sure there aren’t any threats inside. There was a battle there, during the war, and the dwarves that once worked the mine say that there are things in the depths that even before that had terrified the miners. This mine could be haunted, or perhaps there is something alive down under the earth, but whatever it is, I need you to seek it out and eliminate it if it is a threat to the operation of the mine.”

Belynda was intrigued, and took notes while the woman talked. But Hilde already knew all about the mine, the battle, and the lands that were given to the little boy. What she didn’t know was why these lands had been given to him. But she knew the place, and right now that was the important part of the story.

Hilde finished her beer in one gulp. “You speak of the Peklender Mine, and the land was given to you by the former Governor-General himself.” She said somberly.

Ronnella was surprised, and her face showed it. “How did you know that?” she asked incredulously.

Hilde smiled. “Because that is where I earned my knighthood. I am willing to tackle your task, and clear the way for the gnomes to do their work. I ask for two things in payment. First of all, one thousand gold coins and we get to keep any loot we find during the quest in addition. And secondly, I want to know why your son was given this estate.”

Ronnella looked skeptically at Hilde. “Why would you need to know this?” she asked quietly.

Hilde replied “To sate my curiosity. You can wait until the job is completed if you like, but I will be wanting to know.” Belynda looked back and forth at the two other women, certain that she was missing some glorious portions of a story she had been dropped into the middle of. She knew her place, though, and would only listen.

Ronnella took a drink, and then said softly “The fee is agreeable. I’ll give serious consideration to your other request as well. How soon can you start?”

Hilde replied “We’ll head there tomorrow. Is anyone at the location now?”

Ronnella shook her head. “The gnomes are here in town waiting for the all-clear to begin their work. There isn’t anyone else around. We haven’t even settled into the manor house yet, further up in the mountains. It is difficult to hire help when the locals think your estate is cursed.”

“Then maybe we can clear all of that up, too.” Said Hilde. “We’ll be in touch, baroness. Your son will soon enough be a proper lord.”