Slinker, Slayer, Kobold, Squire; Chapter 17

The stagecoaches ran between Brakoff and Kederlenn several times a day, every day of the week. It was about twenty miles in between the two cities, and it was easily the safest route any coach line ran anywhere in the empire. All of the stage companies ran along this road and Jandle could have had the pick of the best of them, but he settled for the earliest departing carriage because he had a detour to make before leaving Romilmark altogether.

The coach wasn’t crowded at all and Jandle had the entire seat to himself. He sat with his rucksack and crossbow next to him, and the great axe wrapped in enough velvet to have made the kobold two suits of fancy clothes. Across from him sat a rather concerned little human man and his smiling, utterly unconcerned wife. They didn’t talk on the trip except in whispered voices with each other, and it didn’t take the insight of a squire to realize that the husband was deeply worried about the kobold in the fancy armor and toting more weaponry than any man had a need to in this part of the world. The wife didn’t care, and even if Jandle had snapped and stabbed her husband forty times it seemed unlikely to perturb her.

Rambling up the road to Kederlenn, the coach made very good time, and once in the city Jandle was all too happy to get out. The nervous little fellow was the first out, though, and such was his hurry that he nearly forgot his wife. After the two of them had bustled off to a safe distance, Jandle climbed out of the carriage and with his worldly belongings on his back and the carefully wrapped axe over his shoulder, the kobold began hiking out of town to the north towards the Idyllwild Inn. He reached it in the early afternoon and had worked up quite an appetite, so he decided to just take a short break and grab something to eat.

Despite every other time that the squire had been in this establishment being one of high drama and emotion it struck him curious that not a single soul in here had any earthly notion as to who he was. No sign of recognition at all. Jandle sighed and set his things down at a table out of the way so as to not accidently inconvenience anyone. The place was full of happy customers enjoying a break themselves from the farming and ranching in the surrounding estates. On the bar itself, prominently placed and still an object of fascination for everyone, was the big jar containing the pickled head of a dead orc chieftain. The diversity of the clientele hadn’t broadened much in the last few years. The place was still mostly occupied by humans with a couple of dwarves and two or three folks of goblinoid lineage. Jandle ordered a turkey leg and a pint of dark beer. He savored his meal in relative silence, thankful that the people around here no longer stooped to harassing the likes of him.

Once his meal was finished the kobold paid the bill and left a couple of copper coins as a tip. He then shouldered the axe and began the long hike up the trail towards Trelderian Hall, the home of Shr Gelbrand, a dwarven knight that had been a curiously supportive noble in the rebuilding of this Romillian province as a Grafdom of the Slothjemian Empire. Jandle had fought alongside him in battle once and had found the man every bit as formidable as a dwarven knight ought to be. The squire had also heard through the grapevine of gossip and intrigue that Shr Gelbrand had become one of Hilde’s closest friends and allies. It was for this reason that Jandle now made the long walk up the foothills of the eastern alps to the tidy little castle at the foot of the mighty mountains that separated this land from the Romillians.

The axe was heavy, although not as heavy as it looked. Jandle had to repeatedly transfer it from one shoulder to the next as he walked. His short reptilian legs were not designed for this kind of travel and he wished that he had just gone ahead and bought a pony. He might have to yet before he reached whatever final destination he set down for himself. It just took so long to get anywhere unless you were riding or being carried. He mused about hiring a troll to just carry him about on his shoulders. It would certainly make the view of the countryside more interesting. But taking a troll into Geldenreich was not a good idea. The entirety of Geldenreich was hostile to all that they deemed as being “monstrous types” within their border. They had a wary alliance with Slothjemia but primarily because it gave them someplace they could shoo their own goblinoids into without having to hunt them down and kill them. Wherever Jandle traveled he could promise right here and now that he would not be staying in Geldenreich.

The afternoon wore on peacefully enough as Jandle made his way up the trail that led through a number of estates both large and small. He remembered one of the farms particularly well and paused to pay his respects at a well-tended grave therein. Nobody paid much mind of him as he hiked along, being both too small and too unknown to peak anyone’s curiosity. Kobolds and goblins enjoyed this benefit to living in Slothjemia. It was the easiest thing in the world to blend in and not be noticed. From what Jandle had heard of the Wenigzustand he could probably enjoy the same sort of life there to a fair degree. That sat well with the squire.

As evening set in Jandle could at last make out the shape of Trelderian Hall and its brightly lit windows. There was even a hint of music wafting through the air as no doubt the residents of this fine keep were celebrating another peaceful day in a land that had once, and not that long ago, suffered terrible wartime deprivations. Jandle could feel his energy surge and he sped up his pace. He was spotted by a sentry on the wall, and in addition to the music he could hear the castle portcullis being raised. A couple of backlit guards stepped out and called to the approaching kobold.

“HELLO THERE!” the voice boomed in the evening calm. “WHO ARE YOU, AND WHAT DO YOU SEEK FROM OUR LORD?”

Jandle kept trotting along as he yelled back, “I AM JANDLE, FORMER SQUIRE TO THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL! I HAVE BUSINESS TO DISCUSS WITH SHR GELBRAND!” The exertion of jogging under so much weight and trying to holler was taking its toll on the kobold. He could feel his headache returning with a vengeance.

One of the guards went back inside the castle while the other remained in place outside. The remaining guard called back to Jandle, who was now nearly to the door, “WELCOME JANDLE! COME AT ONCE INSIDE! DINNER IS STILL BEING SERVED!”

That was good news. Jandle doubted that he had ever heard anything that welcome before. As he approached the gate the squire slowed his pace to a more respectful march. He waved at the guard as he walked inside, and the guard followed him in. Then the portcullis began to drop back into place, and the big doors swung shut and bolted. Jandle paused in the courtyard in front of the main keep and took a deep breath. It almost felt as though he had come home.

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