After resting for a while and pondering the significance of what he had found in the dwarves’ hovel, Jandle put on his studded leather armor and secured his short sword on its belt around his waist. There was no way of knowing for sure what the suspicious dwarves were going to do next. It occurred to Jandle that they might just try and harm Trangdor as well, though. After all they might have him down in their book of enemies as a turncoat dwarf that aided the Governor-General in his own revenge scheme. Jandle sighed. So much revenge. Where would it all end?
The kobold was well aware of his own role in this ongoing morass of death and vengeance. Like a classical tragedy a feud had been engaged and there wasn’t a readily painless way out of it. Baron von Vorkel had attempted to make a clean sweep of those he viewed as having started the Romillian war but in so doing he manufactured more enemies for his own family. A nagging thought occurred to Jandle that perhaps these unknown enemies had already taken steps against the other children of the late baron. Hilde could easily defend herself even if taken by surprise. But not all of her siblings and stepsiblings were as well versed in battle as was she. This epiphany did nothing to ease the troubled mind of the squire and he set down to immediately write down as detailed a description of his fears as he could. He was going to have to get this warning to somebody that could themselves spread the word quickly.
Tucking the letter into his armor, Jandle went over his equipment. Satisfied that he was as ready as he could be for trouble, he then left his room and locked the door. With his customary jogging gait the kobold set out for the headquarters of the 10th Army. He would not necessarily be known there, but the message he was carrying needed to be delivered. As he trotted through the lobby of the inn Jandle scanned for any sign of the three dwarves that he had eluded earlier in the day. He didn’t know how determined they were to find him but if they went checking on inns for any kobold guests they would surely find out he was at this one.
With no threats visible Jandle proceeded to jog out into the street and towards the headquarters of the 10th Army. He chose to stay on the main streets because he wasn’t afraid of being spotted as much as he was concerned about being delayed and the alleys would only slow him down. There were plenty of people about and the occasional constable gave some reassurance to Jandle that he was safer here than in the shadows. At least right now.
The feeling of relative security lasted about five blocks when a quick motion out of the left corner of his eye caused Jandle to duck down and with a smooth motion gained from years of being small and in battle, roll forward. The short sword that had been thrust out at him made a tinging sound as it slid across the brass studs of Jandle’s armor on his back. Bouncing up with his own short sword in his hand, Jandle danced backwards with a startling grace that itself threw his attacker off balance. It was the oddly lithe and ashen grey dwarf that Jandle had first encountered outside of Hilde’s house. The dwarf slashed at the kobold and missed by a mere whisker and only because the squire was quicker than the dwarf had accounted for.
The street was busy, and the commotion had caused a number of folks to holler in surprise. The dwarf had been lurking in the shadows of a convenient alley when Jandle had happened along. No doubt the intent of the dwarf was to have quickly stabbed his quarry and dragged the tiny corpse into the alley with few if any witnesses having been any the wiser. That plan had not been well thought out and Jandle supposed that this had been an attack of convenience more than of thoughtful design. The two men squared off and eyed each other warily.
Jandle took a good look at his opponent. The dwarf moved with greater ease than one would expect, but while dwarven rogues were not considered common they were nonetheless prudently avoided. Jandle kept his left hand close to his body to keep his options open if he had to bat away the dwarf’s next move. The dwarf did not appear to have any armor on, so it was going to be in the rogue’s best interest to play a defensive fight. The commotion that rippled through the gathering bystanders was sure to draw the attention of the constabulary and that was going to play in Jandle’s favor as well. All the squire really had to do was avoid being killed right here and now and he would come out on top.
Whatever the thoughts were that were running through the dwarf’s mind they must certainly have followed along these same lines. Had he made his first attack the dwarf would have been in an entirely different scenario. Now he was facing a decidedly well-trained and skillful fighter who had the benefit of armor and pending reinforcements. Jandle could detect the hesitation in the dwarf’s eyes and feigned a swing to the right. The dwarf moved to block the attack and Jandle redirected to thrust his short sword straight into the dwarf’s stomach. The ashen grey dwarf yowled in pain as the razor-sharp blade pierced deep into his gut, and as Jandle pulled the blade out he did so with a back-slashing pull to the right. The effect was to disembowel the rogue and only by clutching his stomach was the dwarf able to prevent his innards from spilling out into the street.
Jandle took a couple of steps back and held himself in position to strike again. There were several gasps from the crowd as the dwarf began to bleed profusely from the gaping wound in his gut. The dwarven rogue kept his grasp on his own short sword, but it was now abundantly clear that he had lost this fight. He continued making agonized howls as the pain began to increase beyond that of the initial shock of infliction. Jandle hissed at the dwarf in Romillian through tightly clenched teeth, “Have you had enough, then? You missed your chance at an easy kill and now you are going die in the street.”
The distinctive whistles of the constabulary were heard up and down the street and both men knew the fight was about to be concluded. Backing towards the alley entrance the dwarf’s eyes darted from one person to another in the surrounding crowd. There was a mix of fear and anger in his sunken, despair-ridden eyes and Jandle carefully kept pace with him as the dwarf retreated slowly.
The first constable to push his way through the crowd was a bruiser of a half-orc that had thick curls of hair popping out from under his kepi. The way the man held himself marked him as somebody not to be trifled with and even before spotting the constable’s rank insignia Jandle recognized him as an authority merely by his poise. The half-orc bellowed at the two combatants, “WEAPONS DOWN ON THE GROUND! THIS FIGHT IS AT AN END!”
Jandle dutifully set his sword on the ground but stood on it with his foot to show he had no intention of surrendering the weapon completely. The constable turned his attention to the dwarf and bellowed his order again, “I SAID TO RELINQUISH YOUR WEAPON! ON THE GROUND!”
Jandle pointed to the dwarf and said, “I believe he only understands Romillian, sir.”
The constable sighed and motioned with his truncheon for the dwarf to set down his weapon. The second constable to arrive was a human and having caught up to what was already being said he hollered at the dwarf in Romillian, “SET DOWN YOUR BLADE IMMEDIATELY!”
There was some hesitation on behalf of the dwarf to comply until the second constable added, “You have a nasty gut wound, you really wanna add a crushed skull to that?”
The dwarf tossed his short sword in front of him and appeared likely to collapse from blood loss and pain. He never had uttered anything more than cries of agony. A third constable popped out of the crowd and with the second constable began to fully subdue the dwarf who now clutched at his stomach with both arms.
The first constable hooked his truncheon on his belt and said to the other two, “Get him to the station and send for a healer. He needs to be bound up until such time as we can ascertain what transpired here.”
Nodding in agreement, the constables grabbed the dwarf under his arms and dragged him yowling to the police station. Looking around at the crowd, the constable in charge bellowed loudly, “WHO HERE SAW WHAT HAPPENED?” Jandle started to say something and the constable held out his finger indicating he needed to remain silent for the time being. More constables began to arrive and the assembled observers to the quick, yet bloody fight began to discuss amongst themselves what they had seen and heard. Motioning for the incoming constables to start taking down notes, the curly-haired half-orc turned his attention fully to Jandle.
“Ok, so what happened?” he asked quietly. Jandle was thrown off balance by the sudden change in demeanor exhibited by the constable. From his collar insignia he could see that the man was a sergeant of some sort, but Jandle wasn’t altogether as familiar with law enforcement ranks as he was with those in the military.
Jandle cleared his throat and replied, “Well, sergeant, I was heading to the 10th Army headquarters to deliver a message that needs to be sent to the Imperial Army High Command in the capital when this dwarf leapt out and tried to skewer me. His second swing missed as well, and I stabbed him right smack in the entrance to the alley.”
The constable stifled a smile at the cool response of the little kobold before him. The sergeant had been doing his own examination of this witness and had arrived at a number of conclusions. First, this wee lizard was wearing an exceptionally well-made suit of armor. Second, the sword he was standing on was undoubtedly enchanted somehow and this kobold knew how to use it. Thirdly, whoever was to blame for starting this fracas it was likely that this well-educated and highly trained kobold was telling the truth. And lastly, this was not by any means the entire story. Dwarves rarely leapt out of alleys intending to kill people, even kobolds, in this part of the realm. One might expect this kind of jackassery in Slothenburg, but not in Brakoff.
Taking out his notebook the sergeant asked, “What is your name, sir?”
Jandle straightened up and answered, “Jandle, sir. No surname. Just Jandle.”
Writing this down the sergeant then asked, “Do you have a written message in your possession for delivery to the army, or is it a verbal relay?”
Jandle replied, “Written, sir. It is here inside my armor.” Jandle tapped his chest with his finger.
The sergeant studied the kobold closely as he said, “Please show it to me.”
Jandle hesitated and then remembered that there wasn’t anything resembling any military secrets to be had in the letter he had written. However, that was the impression he had just given to the sergeant.
The sergeant sensed his reticence and said quietly, “There is no need to break the seal. I just need to confirm its’ existence.”
The kobold undid his armor enough to reach in and draw out the letter. Handing it to the sergeant he said, “It isn’t sealed. It isn’t even military in content, or especially secret. It regards a possible threat to the lives of the children of the Governor-General that used to rule this province.”
Taking the letter gingerly, the Sergeant opened it up and quickly read the contents. Folding the letter back up the sergeant handed it back to the kobold. “You suspect that the dwarf that attacked you is part of a conspiracy to do harm to the children of the late Governor-General?” he asked with nary a trace of skepticism.
Jandle nodded his head. “Yes sir.” he replied. “There are at least two others that I believe are going to try and make a move against Viscountess Shar Hilde Eigenblade when she returns from the Coreland.”
The crowd was beginning to disperse now and the constables on hand had gathered up plenty of affidavits stating that indeed the dwarf had attacked first albeit futilely. Satisfied for the time being that the kobold’s story held up to scrutiny the sergeant said to Jandle, “Go ahead and pick up your sword. I’ll accompany you to the 10th Army Headquarters.”
Jandle bent down and picked up his short sword and looked around for something to wipe the blade off on. The sergeant handed him a kerchief and said with a smirk, “Keep it. I wouldn’t want his blood on my hands.”
Taking the kerchief, Jandle wiped the gore off of his blade and with a smooth motion sheathed the weapon. Unsure of what to do with the little piece of gruesome fabric Jandle wadded it up and waited for a chance to toss it into a garbage pile along the way.
As they walked the sergeant introduced himself. “My name is Thigpen; I am on loan from the Slothenburg Constabulary to assist in finishing the training of the police force here. And how are you connected to Brakoff and the former Governor-General’s family?”
Jandle looked up at the sergeant from time to time as he replied, “I was the Baron’s squire.” Jandle’s voice was softer than he intended. It was an unpleasantness for a squire to have to admit they were without a patron. In a more confident tone he added, “I was entrusted by my lordship’s widow to do everything I can to look after Hilde. So, I came back to Brakoff and stumbled right into this.” He held up the bloodied kerchief. “It has been an eventful time to be sure, but I haven’t had much of a chance to concoct a plan to really do any good.”
The sergeant listened intently as the squire spoke. He seemed to be processing the information and offered little in response until Jandle finished at which point he said, “It would seem that you arrived precisely when you were needed. If you are a religious man then I suggest you give thanks for the gift of divine providence. If you are not, then I recommend that you buy a lottery ticket.”
Jandle laughed and in short order they arrived at the series of buildings that housed the 10th Army. The constable sergeant showed no sign of not following this through all of the way so Jandle went right on in with him to see if the commander was available. Feeling suddenly rather foolish for assuming that General Wolstheimer was going to just let him use the army’s resources to send a message to Colonel Oskar von Vorkel. It was worth a try. Looking up at the constable Jandle wondered if he wasn’t thinking the same thing.
There were two orcs at the front desk, one of them a man with the rank of lieutenant and the other a woman with the rank of first private. Jandle stood on tiptoes and still couldn’t see over the top of the desk very well. “Excuse me.” The kobold said. “May I see General Wolstheimer, please? I have urgent business relating to the former Governor-General.”
The orcish lieutenant stood up and looked at the two visitors. He recognized Jandle right away but didn’t know who the constable was. “Jandle?” the lieutenant asked. “Is that you? I thought I’d seen the last of you when the family left for the Coreland.”
Jandle now recognized the officer, and a grin spread across his reptilian face. “Targul! You have done well for yourself!”
The lieutenant laughed and said, “The tough part was the reading test. Everything else was a breeze.” He nudged the woman next to him and told her, “Go see if the general has a minute to spend with an old friend. Tell him it is of some urgency.”
The orcish woman smiled at Jandle and proceeded up the stairs in the back of the room. Thigpen watched her ascend the steps and then looked at Jandle. Almost in a whisper he said, “I’m only superficially familiar with the Viscountess Eigenblade. Would you say she more or less resembles the soldier going up those stairs?”
Jandle looked at the orcish woman and then at the constable. “Why yes, from a distance there is a good deal of similarities.”
Thigpen smiled thinly. “How about in the dark, getting out of a coach?”
Jandle returned the man’s knowing smile. “Her squire is a girl, and a xvart at that. Can you fill that part in too?”
Thigpen looked back at the woman as she reached the top of the stairs and headed down a hallway. “How much do you think these dwarves know about the Viscountess? Would they be aware of her squire?”
Jandle shrugged and answered, “Hard to say really. They knew where her house is but then that wouldn’t be tough to find out. A smart person would know who lived there too to insure a successful attack.”
The constable looked at the kobold and whispered, “How is it that I believe you have planned more than once a similar deed, sir?”
Jandle fell silent and his smile vanished. He didn’t look at the constable when he whispered back, “I followed the orders of my lord. When he said to do the thing, I did the thing, whatever it was.”
Thigpen sighed and said quietly, “I’ll try and find a lady xvart. Where will the Viscountess be travelling from exactly? Will she pass through Dregladorf or Kederlenn?”
“Dregladorf most likely.” replied Jandle.
The constable nodded his head and said, “Then I will have her stopped there if she comes in during the setting of our trap.” Looking at Jandle he continued, “With any good fortune there will only be the two dwarves left and we can wrap this up in a nice little bundle for the magistrate.”
The orcish woman came back down the stairs and said to the two waiting men, “The General will see you now. Please follow me.”
The constable and the squire did as they were told, and on the way up the stairs Thigpen said to her, “How would you like to have a little fun this evening?”