Slinker, Slayer, Kobold, Squire; Chapter 16

In a few days’ time Jandle had a lot of time to consider his options. He finally settled on a course of action and set down to paper his intentions in a letter to Aggrylia von Vorkel, his late master’s widow. The term of his engagement to try and protect Hilde and further her interests had been described for as long as Jandle was able and willing. Getting himself beaten half to death on a dirt road in the foothills of southern Romilmark was precisely that much of willing and able. Even with magical healing and plenty of bedrest the kobold had occasional ringing headaches and his vision wasn’t always altogether clear. Many squires were forced into early retirement from active questing with their patrons for this sort of thing. If Jandle was ever going to find another lord to serve he would have to have something on his resume other than “brutalized by a dwarf on a country lane resulting in bouts of dizziness.” Jandle detailed in the letter what had happened with the three Kripplinger brothers. He also mentioned his intention to seek active employment someplace far from Romilmark with a new lord yet to be determined, and he would be grateful if she would hold on to his belongings until such a time as he could send for them. He had a messenger take the letter to the stagecoach depot and set about to do one last bit of travelling to close out this chapter in his life.

Before he could move forward, though, Jandle had to tie up some loose ends in the city. This involved settling his debts with the inn which he managed by paying them the princely sum of five platinum coins, arranging for transport north to Kederlenn which set him back another couple of silver coins, and of course his usual chats with Sergeant Thigpen. All in all, the kobold felt good about where his life was heading. There was still a dreadful amount of uncertainty to be muddled through and while this wasn’t something Jandle normally took in stride he was finding it easier and easier to roll with the punches in what was shaping up to be a terrifyingly eventful life.

Pandergriff had returned with the bolts one evening after dinner, and now the quarrels had a slight glow about them as they all but danced with magical energy. He didn’t let on much about what spellcraft he had used to enhance the wicked little darts, but the enchanter’s grin indicated that at least as far as he was concerned, they had turned out splendidly.

The sorcerer handed the bolts to Jandle and said, “These won’t break easily, and if they do, I’d advise standing well away from them. They’ll pierce most any armor made and cause much more damage than a normal missile of this size. They came out particularly well, I must say.”

Jandle could tell from the feel of them that they were going to serve him exceedingly well. He looked up at the wizard and asked, “Are you sure I can’t pay you anything for this kindness? Magic such as this isn’t cheaply thrown about and I wish to somehow affirm to you my gratitude.”

Pandergriff continued smiling and said, “No need for money, my little friend. Your kind is desperately needed in this world. If any of us can assist a hero in their endeavors, then let us do so with gratitude of our own that such men as you still serve as bastions against evil.”

Jandle was at a loss for words. He looked at the shiny, beautiful crossbow quarrels in his hand and back at Pandergriff. In a coarse whisper the squire said, “I’m trying to make amends. I haven’t been a hero much. More of a scoundrel.” he paused as he debated what to admit to and finally settled on, “The only thing that separated me from those ruffians was a matter of timing.”

The wizard’s features softened. He patted the kobold on the top of his reptilian head and said softly, “Do you suppose that you alone are living a better life to repay the evils of your younger self?” He held out his arms and stepped back from the kobold. “Look at me, good sir. A lifetime ago I was but a petty charlatan using magic to pilfer and deceive. But now I have enough skill to give a good man a formidable bit of help in battle. We all suffer the humiliation of poor choices, but a wise man rises above it and takes hold of his destiny. You are not what you were those years and months gone by. You are who you want to be in the days ahead. Be that.”

Jandle clutched the bolts to his chest and stood as proudly as he could manage. “I shall at that, Mr. Pandergriff. Thank you.” The squire then reached into his coin purse and pulled out ten platinum coins, which he handed to the wizard. “Allow me to buy you something nice, then. Your choice. And thank you again for these wonderful bolts.”

Pandergriff laughed and took the coins. He bowed to the kobold and then took his leave. “What a nice old man.” thought Jandle. This wrapped up that particular issue, and nicely too. Jandle carefully laid the quarrels in the rolling sheath that he stored them in and tucked them into his rucksack at the top where he could get them easily.

Sergeant Thigpen helped tie up another loose end on his last visit to Jandle before the squire headed out. On this particular occasion the constable managed to catch the kobold in the dining hall of the inn. Jandle was in the middle of his meal when Thigpen sat down and set his kepi down on the edge of the table. He asked the waitress for some of what the kobold was eating, and then turned his full attention to Jandle.

“You’ll be interested in knowing that Viscountess Shar Hilde Eigenblade and her squire have been spotted leaving Vorkelvale. I gather there is only the one road in and out of there, so that makes keeping track of people easier.” The constable smiled and drummed his fingers on the table as he watched Jandle eat.

Jandle swallowed the food in his mouth and said, “Then she should be here in a few days. I’ll have cleared out by then. I do appreciate your letting me know.” the kobold took a drink of his beer and resumed eating.

Thigpen’s gaze narrowed, and he asked the squire in a somewhat guarded tone, “Why is it that you do not want to cross paths with her? It seems to me that she would be extraordinarily grateful for your actions in thwarting a plot on her life. Not many people would pass up an opportunity to have the indebtedness of a noble come their way.”

Jandle remained enigmatically expressionless while he ate. He took no measures to speed along the process before replying, “That was not the arrangement I had with her stepmother. I was to try and assist Hilde as much as I could without her knowing of it. Something of a final act of love on behalf of her father.” Jandle took another drink of beer. “They hadn’t gotten along all that well there towards the end, you see. This was her stepmother’s way of caring for her from a distance, to perhaps ease her own conscience.” The kobold shrugged. “Who knows. But that was the arrangement. I’m going to move along and restart my life in the service of another.”

The waitress brought out the food, and there was a lull in the conversation until she left the table. Once she was out of earshot Thigpen asked almost in a whisper, “Do you have a patron already lined up?”

Jandle again chewed his food with nary an expression on his face as he looked about the room casually. The squire looked at Thigpen and said somewhat wearily, “No.”

The constable started to chuckle and found he couldn’t contain himself. Jandle just sighed again and stifled his own laughter. The kobold said, “I am going to head north. Maybe in Barokovia or Dreicounty I can find somebody looking for an experienced squire.”

Thigpen took a drink of his own beer and said, “Why stop there? You could probably find all sorts of fun up in the Wenigzustand. I’d recommend getting through Geldenreich as quickly as possible but from there on out it is nothing but adventure for a fellow such as yourself.” The constable began to eat his meal and he could see from Jandle’s face that he was pondering the suggestion.

The squire’s face went from expressionless to thoughtful as he mused aloud, “I’d have to learn a couple of languages, I guess. I know Geldenspeak, but I’d have to pick up one or two others to be of any real use to anyone up there.”

Thigpen nodded his head in between bits of food and said offhandedly, “Compared to fighting dwarven rogues in the street I’d say that would be easy enough for you.”

It gave Jandle something to consider at least. Tomorrow he would head up to Kederlenn and see where life took him from there.

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