Slinker, Slayer, Kobold, Squire; Chapter 8

The mysterious dwarf didn’t seem to care that he might be followed as he showed no signs of trying to elude Jandle or any other perceived spy. With so little foot traffic out and about tonight Jandle was really having to struggle not to be noticed. He might have been a small, insignificant little fellow but this was borderline ridiculous. Jandle basically just jogged from one doorway to the next and found refuge behind every rain barrel. The dwarf just kept walking and didn’t seem to give a tinker’s cuss about anything else. This was an excellent bit of practice for the kobold should he have to engage in any future skullduggery. Jandle hadn’t ever been called upon to do such things but he had a working knowledge of what might be needed in order to follow somebody surreptitiously. At any rate this was a nice way to hone those fledgling skills while not putting anything dire at risk.

Jandle’s quarry headed out of the downtown area and proceeded through one of the gatehouses on the east side of town. He strolled purposely down the road past the outer suburbs of the city and towards the scattered farmhouses along the bottom of the hill that Brakoff sat upon. These were mostly well-tended endeavors but there were a few here and there that had fallen into disrepair. It was one of the unfortunate places in this latter category to which the dwarf made his way. Once upon a time there was a thriving hog farm here but now the barn showed little signs of use and some of the fencing had fallen down. It was possible that whoever had originally lived here and worked this small plot of land had left Romilmark and never returned and that the new residents hadn’t gotten themselves up to speed yet but Jandle couldn’t be sure what the backstory was. All he could tell from this first impression was that this was not a thriving agricultural enterprise.

There was a lantern hanging on the porch of the partially rundown farmhouse and two large hounds lay in front of the door. They perked up as the dwarf drew close to the house which sat relatively close to the road itself and he muttered to them so that they scooted away from his path to allow him entrance to the house. Jandle could hear the muffled voices of other people inside the house and from what he could hear they sounded like dwarves as well. The kobold’s curiosity wasn’t strong enough to lead him any closer to the house than this but Jandle took stock of where he was in relation to Brakoff and the other houses nearby. There was quite a bit of space between the farmhouses but not an undue amount. The houses on either side of this one were completely dark but had obvious indicators of being heavily used. On the left was an active chicken farm and on the right were more chickens as well as goats. Jandle noted that there were equally busy farms across the road. There were the occasional properties that hadn’t yet been restored to their pre-war glory, but these were few and far between.

Jandle trotted back the mile or so to Brakoff proper. It wasn’t much of a journey even for the kobold and he decided to check back quickly at the weaponsmith where he had first seen the darkly sinister dwarf. The place was owned by dwarves, but the grunt labor was done by both dwarves and humans. The forge was open to a large degree and the work was mostly visible to the street. Jandle found a nice place to watch the night crew working and noted the attention being paid to one particularly well-crafted two-handed axe. The weapon was being handled by the dwarven craftsman that the dark dwarf had been talking to earlier and it was glaringly obvious that he wasn’t keen on letting anyone else get near to the axe.

It was easy to see why. It was an exquisite example of dwarven heavy weapon design. There was well-worn red and black leather strips wrapped on the handle. The haft of the axe was possibly oak and there were small iron decorations embellishing the length. The double-sided blade was as heavy as Jandle and the cutting surfaces were both large and razor sharp. Or more accurately, they were razor sharp following the careful ministrations of the fastidious dwarven smith. Jandle had sharpened many a blade himself and knew the amount of work that went in to honing a weapon used frequently. But this dwarven craftsman was going above and beyond the call of duty. Either he was an obsessive worker of metal or this client was not to be trifled with. Jandle couldn’t be certain but he was leaning towards the option that it was the dwarf with the dark complexion that spurred the frantic level of detail being paid to this incredibly deadly weapon.

Jandle wasn’t sure what all of this was about but he knew the shifty dwarf that owned this magnificent axe was up to no good. The kobold returned to his room at the Copper Dragon inn and decided to get some more rest while mulling over his next move. He would check in at Hilde’s house a couple of times a day to see when she got back from where he had last seen her at the old estate in Vorkelvale. In between doing that he could work on his investigative skills by trying to sort out what this sullen looking dwarf was up to. It might not amount to much, but it would be a feisty little diversion as Jandle tried to sort out what he would be able to do to help make Hilde’s life a bit easier.

Although he was not excessively tired Jandle was a touch fatigued from his trotting all over Brakoff and its environs. He put away his things and climbed into bed. His eyes gazed without any particular focus at the small window in his room opposite the bed and he thought over everything he knew about the mysterious dwarf with the somber, dark countenance. He was a warrior to be certain. He was also of Romillian descent and not a Slothjemian transplant like so many dwarves that had moved here from Kernschloss, Summit Village, and the Grey Alps. He was hanging about with his brother and perhaps more than one other dwarf on a run-down hog farm on the outskirts of the city. The weaponsmith tasked with cleaning up and sharpening the mystery dwarf’s axe took the job extremely seriously, choosing to do the work himself rather than risk letting an apprentice get anywhere near the axe as would normally be the policy, either due to the value of the axe or the temperament of the customer. Or it could be both of those factors. There wasn’t anything obviously unlawful taking place because Slothjemia had no laws forbidding average citizens or foreign travelers from owning or carrying weapons openly.

But Jandle was still wary. Romilmark was a new grafdom and Jandle knew firsthand that the Interior Investigators were set up to handle law enforcement on a covert scale, but they were not as entrenched here as they were in older areas of the empire. It was not unreasonable to suspect that foreign agents might be trying to infiltrate this newly acquired region for nefarious purposes. Certainly nobody would naturally suspect that a dwarf was a foreigner here as the place was all but crawling with them. One or two or even more could slip in from Romillia and nobody would be the wiser. This was perturbing to Jandle because this area had at one time been conducive to harboring an insurrection and it wasn’t inconceivable that there could be the seeds of another rebellion being planted.

Jandle sighed and began to drift off to sleep. “All of this is just crazy guesswork.” He muttered to himself. Odds were that none of this would lead to anything and he was just wasting his time pandering to the wishes of his former lord’s widow. “If it is a waste of time, so be it.” He sighed again, and slumber fell upon him like a quilt.

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