Slinker, Slayer, Kobold, Squire; Chapter 13

General Wolstheimer was perplexed by the visitation of Jandle and the half-orc constabulary sergeant. Jandle nodded to the general and held out his hand in greeting. Knowing Jandle from the Governor-General’s reign in Romilmark, the bugbear in the impressive uniform who was himself a knight and a viscount shook the kobold’s hand and motioned for his guests to have a seat.

“The private said you had something to discuss about the Governor-General? What is on your mind, gentlemen?”

Thigpen and Jandle sat down and the kobold pulled out the letter and handed it to the general. Jandle said, “I believe there is a plot to harm the descendants of the former Governor-General. If you could please send this message to his son, Colonel Oskar von Vorkel, at the military high command in Jordrakenschloss, I’m sure he can get word out to his siblings and their immediate kin.”

The words could have knocked General Wolstheimer out of his chair and through the window. “I’m sorry. Did you say a plot to harm the family of Baron von Vorkel?” the look of baffled disbelief lingered on his face longer than it should have.

The constable said, “Our friend here has apparently discovered that there are an unknown number of dwarves, probably from Romillia, that look to be targeting Viscountess Eigenblade. One of them attacked Jandle on the street on the way here less than an hour ago.” Pointing to the letter in the general’s hand he then added, “If you could send that message on to Colonel von Vorkel that would be appreciated.”

Opening the letter Wolstheimer sat back in his chair. He either read the letter twice or else he was an abysmally slow reader. When he finished the general set the note on his desk and leaned forward. His voice was loud even in a whisper tone because bugbears have never been known as a quiet folk. He did his best to keep the volume down as he said to his guests, “I will of course pass the word along. This fits my definition of fitting into the military’s jurisprudence for use of resources. I’ll notify the garrison at Vorkelburg as well so that they can keep an eye out on the family right under their noses.”

Jandle smiled somewhat sadly and said, “Thank you, sir. It is my sincere hope that all of this is for naught.”

The three men rose from their seats and the general said, “That is my hope as well. Good luck, gentlemen.”

Thigpen and Jandle headed back down the hall and descended the stairs. At the front desk the constable said goodbye to the kobold and turned his attention to chatting quietly with the female soldier. Targul shook Jandle’s hand and bid him farewell. The squire had to leave much of the rest of the organization for this upcoming charade in the hands of the helpful constabulary sergeant. All that was left was for Jandle to get his buckler. The shield was going to be necessary after all.

Now that he knew for certain that there was the possibility of violence Jandle was more wary and traveled down the middle of the streets whenever possible on the way back to the inn. There seemed to be more constables out and about too but that could have been his imagination playing tricks on him. The squire wasn’t going to take any chances though. He didn’t pause on the jog to the inn and he went directly to his room once he got there. Fetching his buckler, he slung it on his back. He looked at his crossbow and after a moment of indecision grabbed it too and went down to find some food. All of this racing about had given him a healthy appetite and there was only so much the pot of beans from this morning was able to fill. He took the eggs with him and handed them to one of the scullery maids in the dining hall.

The maid took the eggs gladly but wasn’t sure what to do with them as she returned to the kitchen. Jandle made himself as comfortable as he could in a place that allowed him to see the doors and also kept him away from the windows. This was no time to be taken by surprise, but then the kobold mused that there was never an ideal time to be taken by surprise. Especially by angry, bloodthirsty dwarves.

After he ate, and it was arguably the fastest meal that Jandle had ever had, the kobold headed out to see what was going on at the weaponsmith where he had seen the first dwarf getting his axe sharpened. He didn’t want to hang out at this place too long because it was by definition crawling with dwarves and Jandle didn’t personally know any of them. From there Jandle trotted down the street and over to Hilde’s house. It was getting late in the afternoon and the carpentry workers across from her house were getting ready to leave. Walking down the street from the opposite side that Jandle was on the squire couldn’t help but notice Sergeant Thigpen strolling as casually as you could please as if on a thoroughly routine patrol. A small child ran past the sergeant and right up to the front door of Hilde’s house. The lad knocked repeatedly until the door opened, and Trangdor and the child had a chat for a few minutes.

Jandle couldn’t hear them, but Trangdor went back inside the house briefly and came out wearing a cloak. The child then walked with him down the street past where Thigpen was meandering slowly towards Hilde’s house. The sergeant made a visual sweep of the area and satisfied that nothing was amiss, he motioned with his truncheon towards Hilde’s house. None of this had been discussed but Jandle realized what was being set up. The kobold looked around to be sure and then dashed across the street and up to the door of Hilde’s house.

Jiggling the handle the squire was disappointed to find that the ever thoughtful Trangdor had locked the confounded door. Jandle looked at Thigpen, who motioned with his head indicating that Jandle ought to run around the back and find another way in. Taking the cue while shaking his head, Jandle trotted off to see if there was another way in that didn’t require lockpicking skills, which he didn’t have, or muscle to smash down a door, which he was lacking as well.

He didn’t want to break any windows, and as luck would have it there were three back and side doors into the sprawling home. Jandle tried the first one and it was bolted tight. Running to the second door the squire was thrilled to find it unlocked and Jandle dodged inside. He went ahead and locked the door for good measure and then went to find a good place to hide and see if the renegade dwarves were going to take the bait. It was probably the first time that anyone had ever been thankful that this huge house was not fully staffed. There were lots of places to hide in this rambling old mansion and Jandle had to pick just the right spot. He wished he knew more magic than he did, but the handful of spells he had at his disposal were really only good for assisting and defending somebody else. Squires didn’t often have access to the sort of magics that would make them in any way terrifying opponents.

Knowing this house as well as he did for having lived here the better part of two years, Jandle was confident that he could guess with a reasonable degree of accuracy the manner in which the dwarves might make their attack. With one of their number in custody already there was a good chance they might just call the entire thing off, at least for the time being so that they could regroup and come up with another plan. Jandle gave fleeting thought that this might not even be a part of their plan to begin with. Just because he would hit an opponent here in their home as they walked in from a long day of travelling didn’t mean the dwarves would see it that way. However, the nagging suspicion that the squire had told him that this was not only the most likely time for a would-be assassin to strike but it was also the most advantageous. Their target would be unarmored, lightly armed if armed at all, and the element of surprise would be too much to pass up. Anybody that knew Hilde would also know that she was never unarmed but it was all but guaranteed that she wouldn’t have her bastard sword handy, and it was going to do the most damage to anyone trying to take her down.

There were a number of places that the kobold could hide and witness anyone coming in or out of the house. He unlocked the front door and found a place just under the main stairs where he could see everything in the main room and entryway. He scooted a coat rack to provide better cover and then hunkered down to wait. He loaded his crossbow, readied his buckler next to him, and waited for something to happen. Assuming that Trangdor didn’t come home early and unannounced, the first dwarf through the door was going to be in trouble.

Hours passed, and the skies outside began to darken. Long shadows fell across the main room of the house and it was easy for Jandle to imagine that the two dwarves were already in the house lurking in the creeping gloom. The house was prone to providing plenty of eerie feelings. It was large enough and ornate enough that one could believe it was haunted by a dozen restless spirits and these impressions were only made worse when there wasn’t anyone else in the building. Every sound made Jandle cringe as he sat in his hidden impromptu lair.

There was finally sound from outside the front door. Jandle picked up his crossbow and aimed it carefully. If everything had gone according to plan, the constabulary sergeant would have everything in place on the outside of the house. After a bit of fumbling with the unlocked front door, it swung open and the mostly obscured form of a woman stepped inside out of the night. The room was just as dark as the outside but the streetlight on the corner helped provide enough illumination that Jandle’s infravision could make out the rest. It wasn’t Hilde, but the orcish soldier looked enough like her to fool somebody that didn’t know Hilde. At her side was a female xvart wearing a turban. Jandle had never seen her before but she fit the bill of Hilde’s squire well enough. The two women dragged their luggage inside and tossed them in the entry way. The xvart was closing the front door when there was a commotion on the porch, and the unmistakable form of a dwarf pushed the door back open with a violent shove, tossing the xvart off her balance. A second dwarven figure took advantage of this opening and muscled his way into the entry hall as well.

Jandle had a split second to identify the two dwarves and realistically speaking it just wasn’t enough time. But the kobold determined not to lose a moment to indecision. He squeezed the trigger and the crossbow twanged musically as the bolt sailed with deadly accuracy through the entry way and right into the first dwarf’s chest, his hand still on the door. He yelped with the unexpected attack, and held his battle hammer up to swing at the xvart. She in response stumbled backwards and fell over the small suitcase she had set down moments earlier, and her turban went tumbling off down the hall and came to rest in front of where Jandle was hiding. The second dwarf was undeniably the one that had taken his axe in for sharpening because it glimmered slightly in the light of the streetlamp as he raised it over his head to attack the female orc who was now screaming at the top of her lungs and backing into the main hall as fast as she could.

Whistles outside heralded the rushing reinforcements of the constabulary. Jandle decided that he dare not let the xvart come to harm though, and the way she was skittering along the floor indicated that she was no match for the hammer-wielding dwarven warrior about to bring down upon her the damage from a well-handled bludgeon. Jandle set aside his crossbow and sprang out with his buckler in his left hand and his short sword in his right. The dwarf noticed the incoming threat, but it was too late to do anything about it. Jandle rushed forward with surprising speed and he hopped over the flailing xvart to drive the short sword right into the dwarf’s chest. The sound of the steel blade slicing effortlessly through his opponent’s steel breastplate made the squire cringe. He intensely hated the sound of metal scraping on metal. The blow was a solid one, though. If it wasn’t a fatal strike Jandle would be shocked.

The dwarf slammed his hammer down awkwardly against the kobold’s buckler with enough force to make Jandle’s arm go numb. The xvart continued to scramble away from the melee and Jandle withdrew his sword from the dwarf’s chest. He immediately slashed upwards again and drove the weapon deep into the dwarf’s stomach. He couldn’t be as easily disemboweled due to his armor but Jandle used every ounce of his strength to make the injury as grievous as possible. The hammer fell from the dwarf’s hand and he collapsed on his knees momentarily before falling forward on top of Jandle. The kobold’s buckler and his numbed left arm were pinned between the dying dwarf and Jandle who was gasping for air as the weight of the dispatched warrior forced the air out of the squire’s lungs. Unable to see what all was going on in the rest of the area Jandle used his hearing to try and sort out what was happening as he tried to free himself from beneath the mortally wounded and foul-smelling dwarf on top of him.

There was pandemonium in the main hall as the decoy Hilde ran around the furniture and threw loose objects at her attacker. The dwarf must have been swinging that great axe of his with deadly abandon though as Jandle could clearly hear the sound of chairs and couches being hewn asunder. There was a mighty clamor in the entry way around Jandle as constables flooded into the house to try and get a grip on the dwarf with the axe. There were multiple people shouting instructions and a few bright lights being brought in to illuminate the otherwise darkened battle scene. None helped move the dwarf off of Jandle, although somebody had gone after the fleeing xvart to make sure she was alright. More hollering in the main hall as the dwarf must have been facing off against the incoming constables. Jandle worked feverishly to extricate himself from his entrapment.

Squirming out from under the dying dwarf, Jandle was at last able to see what was happening in the main hall. The lady decoy had fled into another part of the house, and the dwarf was surrounded by seven very determined constables. Two other constables had been injured and were retreating towards Jandle. Setting down his buckler Jandle placed his still numb left hand on one of them and with a soft prayer restored some of the injured man’s life force. He then did the same for the second constable and took stock of the situation. The dwarf was encircled but showed no signs of giving up. He was better armed and armored than the constables, who despite coming with better armor than they normally wore on patrol, were woefully outmatched by the dwarf in the specially constructed plate mail. The scowl on the dwarf’s face only served to make him appear even more wretched and despicable.

The constables were talking to the dwarf in Romillian, but it only seemed to agitate him. None of them were keen on making a rush on the fellow because that axe of his was without a doubt imbued with some sort of enchantment. Jandle turned to look behind him and as he did he noticed the dwarf that he had mangled had managed to get himself in a seated position and was shakily aiming his blunderbuss into the main hall. Knowing that if this thing managed to fire properly it would decimate everyone in the path of its cone-like spray of lethal shrapnel, Jandle called out, “HIT THE GROUND, HE’S ABOUT TO FIRE!”

The constables scrambled for cover as the stricken dwarf squeezed the trigger on the blunderbuss. The mechanism clicked, the hammer fell, and there was a small explosion as the weapon backfired spectacularly. Jandle had succeeded in spiking the weapon and the dwarf hadn’t noticed the sabotage. The blunderbuss had blown up in his face and the dwarf let out a dying scream as his facial hair ignited.

The dwarf with the axe meanwhile took full advantage of this diversion to race out of the hall and out of the open back door where the decoy Hilde had fled. Jandle sprinted after him as the constables began to recover their senses. Eagerness to make an escape spurred the dwarf on as he raced around the house. He barreled into the picket fence along the side of the property and tore unimpeded through the neighbor’s yard and into the street. Jandle had to jump over the scattered debris in order to keep pace at all with the fleeing dwarf. Four of the constables were behind the squire and were able to run faster than the kobold but they weren’t able to see where the dwarf was. All they could do was keep up with the squire and hope that he could at least see where their quarry was.

Jandle was able to keep the axe-wielding dwarf in sight as he ran further away from the downtown area and into the scattered farms and houses on the west side of town. But as they sped away from lighted areas and streetlamps it got harder and harder to see the dwarf. Jandle was losing track of him more and more and then suddenly he had lost him altogether. The constables had caught up to Jandle, but they too had lost the dwarf. They spread out and by their whistles Jandle could tell where they were. Unfortunately, the dwarf could tell where they were as well and was probably using it to his own advantage. Jandle wasn’t sure what to do next so after he paused for a bit to catch his breath he began to jog back to Hilde’s house.

Sergeant Thigpen was here chatting with a couple of constables and the decoys of Hilde and Belynda. They turned out to be named Wendla and Janylynda respectively. There were a pair of constables carrying the body of the dead dwarf out of the house on a stretcher. Trangdor Goldenhelm had come back to the house and was being briefed about the goings on by a senior inspector of the constabulary. There wasn’t much of a chance that the dwarf would be back, but it was still the prudent thing to let the residents of the house know that there was a possibility of his return sometime in the future. Trangdor was distressed at this information to say the least and didn’t notice Jandle creeping up to talk to Sergeant Thigpen.

Jandle whispered to the sergeant, “Can you please fetch my crossbow for me? I’d rather that the occupants of the house didn’t know I was a part of all of this.”

Thigpen looked bemusedly at the kobold and said something to one of the other constables. The constable went into the house and returned with the crossbow as well as the bolt that they had pulled from the body of the dead dwarf. He handed them to the squire and Jandle smiled in appreciation.

“Thank you.” he said in a quiet voice. “I’m going to try and track down this dwarf now. The only lead I have is the house on the other side of town.”

Thigpen nodded his head and asked, “Where exactly is it? I’ll send the squad over there immediately.”

Jandle wasn’t precisely sure of the location enough to say, but he did have a general idea. He described the rundown hog farm and roughly how far out it was from the city proper. Then, with crossbow reloaded, Jandle set off at a trot to try and find the escaped would-be assassin. Constabulary or not he was going to try and end this foolish game.

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