An Applewood Gallows; Chapter 3

The sun began intruding into the windows of the Harpy Nest and found the occupants of room 304 still fast asleep. Trangdor was the first to awaken, and he dressed quietly while the women still snoozed. He patted Cinder on the head on his way out the door, and with his newly finished book under his arm, he headed out into the city. Cinder began snuffling against Belynda’s face until the xvart woke up.

Belynda sat up in bed and blinked against the intruding sunlight. She looked over at Hilde, still asleep in her own bed, and whispered to Cinder, “Let’s get the gemstones together. We might as well get some of our errands done today.” The squire moved even more quietly than had the dwarf, and after making sure that her mistress was still going to be asleep for a while, she wrote a quick note explaining where she was in case Hilde woke up. She then took the velvet bag in which she had placed all of the pretty little rocks, and with Cinder sitting on her shoulder, the little xvart headed out to find some jewelers.

It was a couple of hours later that Belynda returned, and her entry into the room was anything but silent. She wasn’t alone, either. There were two orcs with her, carrying some very heavy bags of coins. Hilde wasn’t awake when the door opened, but when the heavy bags of coins began hitting the floor, she sat bolt upright, clutching the stiletto she had under her pillow. One of the orcs let out a startled yelp, and the other one was more careful about setting down his bags. Both nodded to Belynda and made a hasty exit. Hilde sat amid her tangled blankets, blinking.

“What is this, now?” Hilde asked, her still sleeping brain struggling to rouse to awareness.

Belynda clapped her hands giddily and tried to keep her voice from soaring into the stratosphere. “I took the gems to the dealers in the city and sold them all! You are filthy rich now, Hilde!”

Hilde continued blinking and flopped back into her bed. “I am already rich, you little blue nut. You were there when Baroness Hossler gave me our cut of the trade deal.”

Belynda opened one of the bags and dug out a double-handful of coins. Dumping them on the foot of Hilde’s bed, she excitedly said, “That is a fluctuating sum every month. This is a lump sum payout, and a lot more than fifteen-hundred gold. In these bags are three thousand, seven hundred and twenty-four platinum coins. Platinum! This pile of coins is the rough equivalent of two full years of income from the trade deal!”

Hilde just pulled the blankets up further, and said with a yawn, “Ok, good deal. When I get up we can go find a clothier and tidy up my wardrobe.” With that, Hilde drifted back to sleep for another hour. While she slept, Belynda made neat stacks of coins on the table. There were too many coins to keep on the table in just one layer, so she made a second stack on top of it. By the time she finished it looked like a cake made out of coins.

Trangdor returned to the room, and while he probably had not had the same profitable day as Belynda had, he was in a very good mood. He had been visiting with a number of people that might be interested in his newly titled “A History of Romilmark; From Military Governorship to Grafdom”, an exhaustive book that would probably be sold as a multiple volume work. He and Belynda chatted quietly, but their excitement got the better of them. Hilde finally woke up and sat in her bed listening to her friends talk.

Belynda brushed out her mistress’ hair while she sat in her bed. Trangdor set his book down in one of the chairs and looked at the two women. “Would you ladies like to go with me and get something to eat when you are ready? It looks like we have some good news to celebrate. A festive brunch, perhaps?” he asked, his mustache still hiding his smile as it always did.

Hilde yawned again. “I am pretty hungry, I guess.” She said. “How about you, Bel? Are ya hungry?”

Belynda grinned. “Oh yes, I am famished. It will be hours before we hear from Oskar. We have lots of time to get things done, too.”

Hilde smiled. “I just have one other thing to try and get done today.” She said cryptically. “But I would love to eat first.”

Once Hilde was dressed and ready to go, the three of them headed out to find someplace to celebrate. There were a number of excellent eateries to choose from, and after walking about for some time, they settled on the Oaken Gnoll Steakhouse. One of the premier restaurants in Jordrakenschloss, it was also the only one of the elite establishments to be open so early in the day. The smell of delicious food wafted out into the street, as if to help pull them inside.

In the foyer of the place was a large statue of a gnoll, carved, of course, out of oak. This was meant to be a tribute of sorts to the second man to serve as Slothjemia’s Lord High Marshal, Duke Shr Bondelar Junkerstadt. It was said that he was a great connoisseur of grilled meats, and most any meat would do. For decades, this place had even served elven filets. That was the kind of place Slothjemia could be; a place that served up other people as a delicacy. Hilde and her friends were quite unaware of the culinary history of the Oaken Gnoll Steakhouse, but if they had been, they might have been given pause in their plan to ferret out the truth of what Baron von Vorkel had done to Major Hossler and the dwarves of the Velferin family. For all of its lauded virtues in viewing people on their own merits and not on racial or social bias, there was still a good deal of work to be done in Slothjemia before they could claim the mantle of enlightenment.

However, none of this mattered to the three friends who soon found themselves immersed in the finest meal any of them had ever known. Everything was exquisite. There were not a lot of patrons here, but the place was busy. Most of the staff here were humans, probably because they had a better knack for getting along with different races than most others did. Whatever the reason, they did a fine job of making sure everyone had full glasses of beer and plenty of gravy, although the succulent nature of the steaks hardly warranted any further embellishment.

It was a terrific couple of hours spent eating, burping, and wondering how they could make anything taste as wonderful as all of this. None of them especially felt like moving at the end of the meal, and a final round of beers did extraordinarily little to motivate them. They did stagger a little bit, but not enough to slow them down. Hilde had a goal in mind, and the other two were just along for the stroll. She led them down a meandering tour of Jordrakenschloss that ended at a four-story building near the heart of the city. A small set of plaques on the wall next to the front door listed the professionals that had offices within. Hilde ran her finger down the plaques and tapped the one she was looking for. It read, “R. von Slothjem, Attorney”. Hilde made a funny squealing sound, and said, “Here we go, gang! Let’s see if they can help us here.”

The three of them made it up the stairs and down a hall, and Trangdor announced that this was the suite. Hilde opened the heavy wooden door and stepped into a spotlessly clean room. There were benches along the walls for people to sit and wait, and a small, but very tall desk. Sitting at the very tall desk atop a proportionally tall chair was a crunchy looking elderly kobold wearing very thick spectacles. He looked at the curious trio and squinted through his glasses at them.

“If you are looking for Master Rackerby, I’m afraid he isn’t in town. Do you wish to speak to one of the junior lawyers? I can set up an appointment for you.” The kobold said in a raspy voice.

Hilde walked to the tall desk and gazed up at the kobold in the high chair. “Actually, I was hoping to find Polk.”

The kobold adjusted his glasses and smiled. “I believe you’ll find him in his office, next door. Polk Detective Agency.”

Hilde cleared her throat, and said, “I thought he was in the same office…” her voice trailed off, and she just stared at the kobold.

He smiled at her again, and stated, “It is a common misconception. He works almost exclusively for Master Rackerby. However, he does have his own office just down the hall.”

Belynda had too much beer to fully gauge how quiet she was when she whispered, but she nonetheless asked in an unnecessarily loud whispery voice, “Polk has a detective agency? I thought he was a chaplain or something?”

Trangdor patted the little xvart on the shoulder and gave her a hug. The only one of the trio that was almost completely sober, he whispered in her ear, “Don’t talk, Belynda. You’re drunk.”

“So is Hilde.” Belynda whispered hoarsely, her little legs beginning to give out.

Trangdor set her down on the bench along the wall and sat next to her. “Go find Polk, Hilde.” He said. “We’ll just sit here until you get back.”

Hilde smiled at the kobold, and told him, “I’ll be back shortly. Thank you.”

With that, Hilde made her way out of the room, and down the hall. The very next door had a small plaque on it, reading “Polk Detective Agency”. Without knocking, she opened the door, and stepped inside.

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