Slinker, Slayer, Kobold, Squire; Chapter 9

It wasn’t a long night’s sleep, but it was more than enough for the kobold to feel alert and ready for action. He decided today to take along his dagger with him, and while he wasn’t going to suit up in his armor it gave him a slightly better feeling about being that much more prepared than he was yesterday. Jandle wasn’t expecting trouble but there had been a number of times in his life where being prepared for a skirmish paid off handsomely. Whether or not this day was going to be one of those times wasn’t a chance that the squire was willing to take, so the dagger was going along with.

Jandle grabbed a bit to eat before heading out to see what was going on in Brakoff. Today he mused about just meandering around the city to see if he could spot any sign of who might be living in Hilde’s house and what they’re daily routine was like. Simple enough project. Jandle wasn’t even certain that Hilde had any household staff. The size of the house would warrant it under normal conditions but then Hilde wasn’t normal by anybody’s definition of the term. A large house usually meant a lot of occupants, be it a large family or just an active estate with numerous ongoing enterprises that required manpower to get things done. The evidence from last evening’s scouting trip was that this wasn’t the case, though. Jandle was going to have to find out if helping Hilde surreptitiously was even a thing that needed doing. If she had enough capable people then all of this was going to be a waste of time.

The city was teeming with life this morning. The noise in the town square was all but deafening with merchants, tradesmen, and laborers bustling about and getting themselves organized for the day. Brakoff was a decidedly industrious place with a long and proud tradition of hard work and profitable commerce. There were plenty of things that weren’t easily acquired in this place, the largest city in the grafdom, but anything essential was readily available. The first winter after the Slothjemians had taken control of Romilmark was almost painfully bleak. The Governor-General and the Queen had managed to insure everyone got enough to eat and that there was enough firewood to keep everyone from freezing to death but that was the lowest point in the history of Romilmark. Just a year later conditions had improved enough to enable the populace to feed themselves and even manage to store up a surplus. Industry had resumed as well and there was virtually no need to import metal goods or woodworked items such as furniture, barrels, and wagons. Much of this clamor was evident now as Jandle made his way quickly and discreetly through the streets to Hilde’s house.

There was a jumble of activity right outside of Hilde’s house this morning and Jandle took advantage of the bedlam to blend in and get a good solid look at the house in the daylight. The bedlam in the street had to do with some construction work on the house directly opposite of the old von Vorkel mansion. Apparently there was a dispute between two different carpenters that had been erroneously dispatched to this jobsite by the guild. To further complicate matters there was an irate plasterer and his crew that were trying in vain to access the job to do their own work in another portion of the house. None of this was going to be quickly settled until the carpentry guild representative arrived so Jandle got himself into a good vantage point among the clutter of lumber and tools scattered about in the road and in front of the other house.

From where he had stationed himself Jandle was able to see Trangdor Goldenhelm on the stoop of Hilde’s house. The dwarf was well known to Jandle because he had served in the Governor-General’s staff as his primary translator for the entirety of the time that Romilmark was under military rule. Although eventually Jandle would master the Romillian language it was primarily due to the close association that Jandle had with Trangdor that allowed it. From the time of their first meeting Trangdor and Hilde had been friends and their camaraderie had only grown over time. Jandle had all but forgotten this fact until now and seeing the dwarf smirking on the stoop watching the arguing tradesmen reminded Jandle that there was rather a lot about Hilde he didn’t know.

Jandle watched Trangdor closely as the dwarf spent a few moments surveying the arguing carpenters before taking his watering can and tending the extensive herb garden that was flourishing in the front yard of Hilde’s house. Jandle remembered that Trangdor had always enjoyed cooking so this made perfect sense to the kobold. It was also clear that the dwarf felt perfectly at home in this house and that there was no sign whatsoever that there were any servants to be seen. That meant that from all available data Jandle could conclude that there were only three people living in this huge house that could have easily been comfortably occupied by two dozen. There was a part of Jandle that felt this was bordering on a waste of great house.

Jandle glanced down to his right and immediately his attention was drawn to a gaunt-looking dwarf that was loitering near the southwest corner of the street. This fellow was new to Jandle, but his face had the same dark, scowling look as did the dwarf Jandle had followed last night. But this dwarf had greying hair, somewhat unkempt and his skin tone was on the ashen side. He was wearing the clothing of a tradesman but showed no interest in anything to do with the arguing workers just a few yards away from him. Jandle could tell immediately that this guy didn’t belong here so now it was a matter of figuring out why he was just lingering on the street.

Following his gaze, Jandle quickly realized that this suspicious dwarf was here for the same reason that he was. The gaunt dwarf was watching intently as Trangdor tended to his herb garden. If ever there was something that didn’t need two people covertly observing it was Trangdor showing off how fearfully non-dwarven he was. Jandle would have laughed at the absurdity of the situation had the foul intensity of the gaunt dwarf’s expression not created in him a sense of dread. This was all rather disturbing to Jandle.

The guild representative showed up at last and began to sort out the issues between the feuding carpenters. Jandle took advantage of this turn of events to move away from the fracas and move closer to the ashen grey dwarf. The dwarf was still focused on the activities of Trangdor and only after Trangdor finished his watering and went back inside the house did he look around to see what else was going on around him. He noticed the kobold making his way slowly towards him and seemed to sneer in contempt before turning and heading down the street away from Hilde’s house.

Jandle tried not to stare but took stock of how the dwarf carried himself. He was leaner than most dwarves Jandle had known and moved with a more fluid grace than their people are regularly noted for. Jandle noted that this particular dwarf managed to avoid being touched by other people with remarkable ease. This guy was a rogue if ever Jandle had seen one. The kobold’s instincts were in overdrive as he made mental notes about this dwarf and where he was headed in the city. Brakoff did not have a large criminal element to speak of but there were some seedier elements that had made themselves a place to operate. Jandle had no earthly notion what all they might be dealing in unless there was a market for contraband potatoes. This aside, Jandle didn’t care for the prospect that one of his former lord’s daughters was potentially being cased by a recognizable rogue.

The southern side of town was the closest to the foothills of the alpine range and was also where the seedier elements of the city congregated. There were also more constables here making sure nothing untoward was happening right out in the open. Jandle wasn’t aware of anything obviously shifty other than the questionable nature of the people that hung out here. The dwarf that Jandle was following went to a busy outdoor café and sat at a table by himself. Jandle ducked behind some barrels in front of a warehouse a short distance away so that he could watch without being spotted. The kobold hunkered down and waited, thankful that he was a small, easily overlooked kind of creature.

Jandle couldn’t hear anything the dwarf was saying but since he was just talking to the waiter it could be assumed he wanted something to eat or drink. Jandle cursed himself for never having taken an interest in learning how to read lips. Not that knowing what this creepy dwarf wanted to eat was a high priority to Jandle but somebody else might happen by and there could be a conversation worth eavesdropping on.

After the gaunt dwarf got his morning beer and started drinking, a more interesting person did happen along and take a seat at his table. It was the dark, sinister dwarf from last night. Jandle could feel his brow furrowing. None of this was a good thing.

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