On her way home, Hilde swung by the Wretched Elf and picked up a cask of ale and several bottles of vodka. She walked into the house, he arms full of alcohol, and found that Belynda and Trangdor had not even noticed she had left. They were so engrossed in the maps and trying to figure out what all they might be about, that they didn’t realize she had returned, either. Hilde chuckled, and got some glasses from the kitchen cupboard. She poured herself a drink, and sat down at the table to count the gold from the baroness.
There was exactly a thousand of them, neatly laid out in rows. Hilde made stacks of the drow elven platinum coins, too. Each of the platinum coins were worth five of the gold coins, and combining the two monetary denominations, Hilde was happy to see that she had earned enough to live for quite some time in relative comfort. She got out the little bags of gemstones, too, and set them loose on the table in front of her. Including all of the gems and jewels they had gotten from the corpse of the drider, the beholder nest, and the dark elven ambushers, Hilde counted fifty-four pretty little stones. They would have to be appraised, but it was a lovely little pile.
She put all of the shiny little rocks into the nicest of the pouches, and tossed the rest of the baggies on the ground for Cinder to play with. Next, she got out the motley assortment of art objects, and laid them out to get a better look at them. Hilde couldn’t even guess at their value. She did know that they were worth something, but the trick was finding somebody who had an interest in such things in order to get the most gold. In the meanwhile, they could do very nicely as decorations in her home. At some point, Hilde was going to need to have these evaluated, too.
The ruckus being raised by Trangdor and Belynda got Hilde’s interest. She looked over to see what they were doing, and the two of them were dancing in a circle, holding hands. They noticed her watching them, and both laughed. Belynda sat down on the floor, clapping her hands, and Trangdor plopped himself on to a nearby footrest.
The dwarf tried to catch his breath, and when he did, he exclaimed, “We can’t read it, not properly at any rate, but we have determined these maps were made by svirfneblin explorers. They seem to have been documenting a route to the surface from their realm deep in the underdark, and met some sort of obstacle that they could not overcome. The route you found to the drow city branches off somewhere, and also leads deeper into the earth, to places even more alien and remote.” His facial hair obscured his wide grin, but Hilde could tell that he was overjoyed by this revelation.
Hilde smirked at his enthusiasm, and with her elbow on the table and her head resting on her hand, she said, “I am not keen to go delving deeper into the underdark, certainly not anytime soon.” She glanced at Belynda, who was giddy with the idea of more adventure. “I have a few things to tidy up here in the surface world before I head down to the underdark again.”
The seemingly passive reaction that Hilde had to the notion of going back underground did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm that the learned dwarf and the excitable xvart had. Quite the contrary, they decided to look at the tidy pile of loot that Hilde had amassed in front of her on the table. Nobody here knew anything worthwhile about gemstones, but all agreed they were worth a lot more than those coins. Trangdor knew a couple of dwarves here in Brakoff that could identify the stones with authority, and would take them in tomorrow morning to have them appraised. The artwork would be more problematic, mostly due to the fact that nobody knew if there was even a market for such goods in Romilmark. Jaggerholmschloss would be far more promising to have these valued or sold. Cinder was content with playing with the little pouches that had been tossed on the floor.
Before she headed up for bed, Hilde remembered that she had neglected to tell Trangdor something he might think was important. “By the way, I gave your name to the Hossler family as somebody that might be able to help them negotiate their side of the trade deal with the drow. You’re welcome.”
Trangdor’s mouth dropped open, and Belynda giggled uncontrollably. The xvart struggled to catch her breath, and said amid snickers, “If you had been there, you could have said no. Now you get to figure a way out of it after the fact!”
The two of them stayed up very late that night, looking at the maps, the treasures, and going over all of the aspects of the trade deal that Belynda could remember. But Hilde was sound asleep. The orc burrowed into her bed, and slept peacefully all night long. She had taken control of her life, and the direction it was headed. It had given her peace; unexpected, and deeply satisfying, tranquility.
Hilde woke up late the next morning, and found that she had the house to herself. She was delighted at this, and dug out her good stationery to write some correspondences. The first one she wrote was to her older brother, Oskar. He was about a dozen years older than Hilde, and was permanently assigned to the Army High Command. She had heard that he had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and his positioning gave him a unique insight to the information that Hilde was seeking. Her letter to him rambled a bit, because she wanted to congratulate him on his career success and tell him about her decision to leave the army. She also told him about her adventure in the underdark. Needless to say, she had trouble staying on topic.
The second letter that Hilde wrote was to Rackerby von Slothjem, and it went appreciably better than the missive to her brother. She covered more than one topic, but she kept her words to a minimum. Hilde was equally pleased with the third letter, which she wrote to Baroness Hossler. Her fourth letter was addressed to Polk. When she finished writing, she sealed the letters up, and set out in her heavy cloak for the coach depot. She also took along Tinza for one last ride through the city, before returning her to the 10th Army stables. She would miss the trustworthy horse, but she was now able to afford to buy her own, when she got around to it.
When she got home, she was met by a ridiculously enthusiastic xvart and dwarf, who had gone to get the gems appraised while she was at writing her letters. She surmised by their dancing up and down that they had received very profitable news.
Making her way upstairs to put on more comfortable clothes, Hilde felt like a mother trying to get anything done with two children tugging at her. “If you guys haven’t already made lunch, get cooking!” she hollered in mock exasperation. “If you have made lunch, then set the table! I’ll be down in a few minutes, and we can talk all about the rocks!”
Alone in her room, she could hear the other two crashing away in the kitchen downstairs. She laughed as she folded up her uniform for the final time, and placed it in a crate inside her wardrobe. She took off the medals she had earned, and put them in her little jewelry box, along with her knighthood. She would have to get a better wardrobe, and start paying better attention to fashion. She was going to be somebody, maybe even somebody great. Belynda would have to help with the clothing aspect. Hilde was finally forming a grand plan for herself. More fighting, a good deal of swearing, and, with any luck at all and by the grace of God, an opportunity to stop loathing. But that was for some other day. Today she was dining with friends.