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    Yeoldebard
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The Troll Hunter - 3. Ruling for Beginners

CASSIEL

 

“My lord! Congratulations on your new title,” Jhod beamed as he and Tristian entered the study.

“Thank you Jhod,” Cassiel smiled politely, wondering if he had time for a quick nap after this meeting.

“I won’t waste your time, I know it is precious. Tristian and I have been discussing what happened at the Temple of the Elk-”

“I told you I would see it rebuilt, Jhod. But we really don’t have the manpower for that right now,” Cassiel sighed.

Jhod shook his head quickly, the old priest quick to correct the baron.

“We have faith in you, my lord, but that is not why we are here.”

Tristian spoke up quietly, the cleric’s eyes troubled.

“We believe the fog from the temple wasn’t merely the work of Nugrah. He was near insane when it erupted, or if he was of sound mind, he became insane shortly after. A spell like that likely would have strained at his mind, losing power with his descent into madness. It implies that there is something bigger at work, a curse over the grounds themself.”

“We do not believe merely slaying the guardians was enough to destroy the curse. Sure, it ended Nugrah’s spell, but the curse likely still lays latent under the temple. Worse, we have reason to believe it has spread beyond the temple, like a festering wound under your lands. And like an infected wound, it will eventually erupt once again.”

“Well, perhaps we can take a trip out to the temple and let the two of you look around,” Cassiel suggested.

“The temple is not the concern at the moment. That has been blooded, the curse drained albeit momentarily. There is a new hotspot, we believe, a hilltop not far from here.”

Tristian picked up the narrative, a small frown on his face.

“I have questioned the locals, and they believe this hilltop, devoid of nearly all life near the crown, was used in rituals glorifying dark gods. The very air around it is like a miasma of putridness, dark and despairing. We believe it is a rotting wound, closed, but not healed.”

“And you believe you can cure this wound?” Cassiel questioned, looking between the priests.

“Not at the moment, no. Neither of us really understand the nature of this curse,” Tristian denied.

“It is very risky, but I believe we need to see the curse in action, compare it to the effects at the temple. Tristian and I believe the curse will erupt in about thirty days time. At that point, a team of adventurers could be there to meet whatever threat emerges. It would give Tristian a chance to look at the effects first hand,” Jhod said.

“This is what you advise then?” Cassiel asked, looking between the two.

“Yes my lord,” Jhod replied. “It is imperative that we aid the land in freeing itself from this curse, and this, though a small step in that direction, is a necessary step all the same.”

“Then that is what we will do. Tristian, on the seventh of Sarenrith, I will be leading an expedition north to the area around Oleg’s Trading Post. If you wish to accompany me, we will stop by this bald hilltop on our way back.”

“That would be agreeable,” Tristian smiled.

He and Jhod bowed again before stepping out of the room, and Cassiel sighed in relief. That was the last appointment, his papers were signed. He hoped he hadn’t been too short with them, but he was tired, worn out from travelling.

Leaving the study, the half elf spotted Octavia approaching with another stack of papers and he groaned.

“No more… my hands hurt from all this signing…”

“Then maybe I will have to give them a nice massage,” Octavia said, a grin spreading over her face. “These can wait until the morning if you wish; they’re only lighter things, such as the uniforms for the guards, the organizing of a training ground… simple things, really.”

“I’ll look at them tomorrow. I could really use a nice drink,” Cassiel sighed. “Oh, before I go, is there any chance you could draft orders for a claim on the outskirts? It will take a couple weeks, but I would like to bring Oleg under our protection if we can.”

“Of course my lord. I’ll have orders drawn up by morning, and rudimentary banners drawn up for a claim. If we can get a mage in here to cast a scry on them…”

“That sounds expensive,” Cassiel frowned.

“Yes, I suppose that’s true,” Octavia pouted. “I’ll have to think of something then. Have you decided on your coat of arms?”

“Would an argent stag on an emerald field be too presumptuous?”

The woman snickered, hiding her grin behind a hand.

“Oh Cassiel… my lord,” she corrected herself quickly. “It’s a coat of arms. It’s a place for you to brag about lofty ideals. Your image would speak of a graceful hope, boundless loyalty, and the strength to stand your ground if provoked. I think it is perfect. I will draft up a copy for you to look at, and once you sign off, we will have some made up for the claim.”

“Thank you Octavia. I’m not sure what to do about the orders in the office.”

“I will see to it they are organised, my lord. You go enjoy your evening; I know you are likely still weary from the road.”

“One more thing. What are we supposed to do about meals? I’m not sure I can cook for everyone here, even with Theofrid’s help.”

“My lord, you have cooks now. Maybe not a lot of servants, but there are people we pay to take care of your home. You don’t have to worry about cooking until the next time we are on the road. In fact, one of the papers I have here details a sort of menu, so the cooks know what is okay to prepare and what they should stay away from.”

“Really? That’s rather useful,” Cassiel said.

“Oh yes. The whole idea is to leave you free from mundane worry so you can focus on running your barony efficiently,” Octavia smiled. “With the added bonus that none of the workers here are slaves. Everyone is paid a decent wage.”

“There will never be a slave in my lands,” Cassiel added sternly. “In fact that should be one of the first laws I make regarding the barony. I’m not sure if it’s in keeping with Brevoy’s laws-”

“Most of the River Kingdoms are fiercely against slavery. It is one of the reasons Regongar and I fled here,” Octavia replied. “To make a law about it would almost be redundant, and yet, it would serve as a good reminder, considering how close we are to Numeria.”

“Good. If you would be so kind as to draft one up, I’ll make signing it my first priority in the morning.”

“Of course my lord. Speaking of Theofrid, he looked downright terrified after meeting you. What did you tell him?”

Cassiel frowned, trying to remember the conversation they had just had.

“I… I’m not sure. All I remember is a bunch of numbers that still make no sense. But I don’t think it was bad? Just a discussion on taxes and heading north.”

“Perhaps you should invite him out for a drink? He’s seen you as a baron ever since you saved him, or so I’ve heard. That doesn’t exactly bring comfort when in a one on one conversation. I’ve often found that drinking with someone can make them more friendly to your point of view, though it still takes a bit of balance,” Octavia said, her eyes clouding slightly.

“Hey, stay with me here,” Cassiel said, a gentle hand on his regent’s shoulder.

She jumped slightly, looking at the hand guiltily. Stepping back slightly, Octavia forced a small smile on her face.

“Anyway, I’ll get your papers organised for you and get started on drafting more orders for you to sign tomorrow.”

Cassiel groaned quietly.

“Perhaps you would like to join Theofrid and I at the tavern?”

“My lord, these are things that need to be done,” Octavia laughed lightly, her cheerful disposition returning in an instant. “I would love to join you, but I need to work. And don’t worry about me, I’m used to writing late into the night.”

“Don’t strain yourself too much. I know I’m putting a lot of work on you, and if it’s too much, I want you to tell me, okay?”

“Nonsense. This is breadcrumbs compared to the copying and casting the Technic League would have me doing daily. Oh, speaking of which, I have an order to track down the encampment and double check it for arcane traps, if you’re willing. I’m pretty sure there are some traps out there that we never got to remove.”

“If it keeps wandering travellers safe,” Cassiel nodded. “Just put it with the stack in the morning.”

He let out a yawn, hurrying to cover it up a moment later.

“Don’t worry my lord, tomorrow should be easier. You won’t have quite the backlog of paperwork. Why don’t you head out to the tavern? I’ll see if I can convince Theofrid to head out there. Fun fact, he enjoys Alkenstar Iced if you can find a bottle,” Octavia smirked.

“Why do I get the feeling you are trying to get us together?” Cassiel frowned.

“Oh, far from it,” Octavia laughed. “I’m merely trying to facilitate easier communication between the baron and his followers. If people see you at the tavern, they’ll realize you aren’t much different from any one of them. While many nobles would hate to be seen like that, something tells me you would prefer it, at least for now. Of course, if you need to blow off steam, I’m sure Regongar would love to assist you. Though he’d probably pull me in as well.”

“Yeah, that is not something I am interested in. No offense to you or Regongar.”

“Of course not. Having a girl dragged into your fun time makes things a little less fun,” Octavia smirked. “I’ll still send Theofrid to the tavern tonight. Do with that what you will.”

“Thank you Octavia. And please, make sure you get your sleep.”

“Yes, I do suppose I need it. A girl doesn’t stay this pretty through willpower alone.”

 

THEOFRID

 

The gnome sighed as he pushed his papers aside, a knock on the door pulling him away from the complex numbers that danced in his head. Octavia stood by the door, a smile on her face as she twirled a lock of hair. Theofrid wasn’t yet sure if that was a nervous habit or just something she did. He had always been better at reading books than reading people, and the gnome gave up trying to figure her out quickly.

“Can I help you, Octavia?”

“Actually yes. Would you mind heading down to the tavern? I’m in the mood for some wine, but I need to keep working. A barony doesn’t run itself, you know,” Octavia said.

“I do know, which is why I’m busy trying to work out ways of getting more gold in here,” Theofrid frowned. “I don’t really have time-”

“Oh, did I mention Baron Cassiel said you need to take the evening off?” Octavia added with a smirk.

“He… he did? But I need to finish the report on potential gain from the outskirts-”

“Theo, stop. Take a break. You can finish it tomorrow morning, can’t you?”

“Well, yes, but then Baron Cassiel will have to wait for it to be done.”

“I don’t think he would mind too much. He’s pretty fried as it is.”

Sighing quietly, the gnome looked at the paper he had been working on. A hand set the lid back on the inkwell, and the parchment was set aside.

“Very well. But if he gets angry at me-”

“It was my fault. Yes, I know well how to take blame for things. Well… maybe not as well as Regongar…”

A troubled shadow passed over the regent, Octavia blinking rapidly to clear the minor malaise.

“Anyway, you get on over to the tavern. I hear they’re serving up a wild hog tonight. Should be rather delicious. And tomorrow, we get to eat the finest cuisine in the barony right here,” she added with a delighted grin. “I think I might sneak some warm bread. Oh the things you miss when on the road…”

“Why sneak it? Couldn’t you just ask the cook to make you a loaf?”

“Well, yes, but then he’d want to sleep with me, and then Regongar would want to claim me again, and it becomes a whole hassle,” Octavia sighed. “Really it would be easier to make a loaf myself, but I never learned to bake.”

“Well perhaps I could make some for you? I spent fifty years learning to bake in Osirian; the process can’t have changed that much.”

“That would be amazing, but you’re not getting out of going to the tavern,” Octavia smirked. “Go on, get going.”

Sighing quietly, Theofrid slid out of his chair, grateful that at least his office was properly sized. It would have been an absolute pain having to do all his work while straining over a human sized desk.

Flipping a coin into the air with a murmur, Theofrid held out his arms, a cloak draping over them before tying itself around his waist. The copper vanished, a minor transaction complete.

“Oh, you have to teach me how to do that,” Octavia gasped.

“It’s conjuration based, calling a spirit to serve you for a time,” Theofrid said. “Her name is Gara, a djinn. There are a few others I’ve talked to, but gaining favours from them is a little more expensive.”

“And you pay them in mortal wages? Can they even use gold?” Octavia asked.

“I would assume so. That or they hoard the coins in hope of buying favours themselves,” the gnome shrugged. “I’m not a true conjurer, it’s just a trick I picked up from the Qadirans.”

“So why would you pay her to dress you? I would assume that isn’t worth even a copper.”

“It’s part of the deal I made with her. I try to call her every day if I can, to keep the pact fresh,” Theofrid replied, making sure his spellbook was still in place. “Besides, it’s not often her summoners actually pay. Most people just treat her as a slave for their use. Sure, I could have dressed myself, but for the price of a copper, I can make a friend happy.”

He looked at where the coin had landed before vanishing, a small smirk on his face.

“I have had to tell her not to play around though. One time she tried to get my cloak on fast enough to catch the coin before it landed. Got me all tangled up.”

Sighing fondly, the gnome pushed in his chair before heading to the door.

“Anyway, I’ll head to the tavern, since you seem so intent on me getting drunk tonight.”

“Well, maybe not drunk, but certainly a little more loose. Come on Theofrid, get a little happier. You have a role in the creation of a barony. Isn’t that exciting?” Octavia asked.

“I suppose. But it just seems like a lot more work than anything,” Theofrid shrugged. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The gnome made his way through the small manor, a pair of guards nodding respectfully as he passed through the front door. He wondered what made him so special. He was just a simple gnome caught up in an adventure that quickly spun out of his control. And if there was one thing Theofrid liked more than throwing fire around, it was being in control. How often had he knocked down an enemy with a well placed grease spell or held them in one spot with a patch of burning grass?

But here, he felt like he was out of his league. Sure, Theofrid knew he was intelligent enough; hells, the diadem Cassiel had gifted him made him even better suited for his work. But he still felt like a fraud.

Walking down the only real street in the town, the gnome turned left, following a small path toward the large tavern. He knew upstairs were beds for those not fortunate enough to have their own place to rest, but he had his own small room in the manor, complete with a sizable bookshelf and a desk. It was more than enough for Theofrid.

Pulling out a gold as he entered the building, the gnome stepped up to the bar, ordering a goblet of Galt wine. He carried it over to a table, freezing in place as his eyes met with Cassiel. Goosebumps travelled over his body, the gnome gulping as he was beckoned toward the half elf.

“I’m glad to see Octavia got you out of the office,” Cassiel smiled.

“She… she said you wanted me here, my lord…”

“Theofrid, please, you’ve known me for a while. You should know I don’t really hold to titles, especially not after a mug of Brevoy’s finest ale. Cassiel is fine.”

Theofrid nodded quickly, sitting in the chair across from his lord. He set his goblet down, suddenly not sure he should drink it.

“I’ll have the report on the outskirts done by morning sir,” he said.

Cassiel waved his promise off.

“How about this? You don’t talk business while we drink, and you can have your report on my desk whenever. Deal?”

Theofrid nodded again. A moment of silence passed, Cassiel studying him as the half elf lifted his mug. Taking a drink, the magus let out a quiet sigh, setting the cup aside again.

“You and Octavia seem pretty close,” he mentioned suddenly.

“Yes sir. She… she helped me out in the encampment, gave me her portion of dinner that night. I thought Regongar was going to lose his mind.”

“Yes, he seems rather opinionated, doesn’t he? But is there more to it than that? She’s rather pretty.”

“Yes, but she’s not really my type,” Theofrid shrugged, remembering how the human had looked naked in Regongar’s arms.

It wasn’t his fondest memory, even if he had found it rather adorable at the time.

“No, your type is more tusky, right?”

The gnome’s eyes widened, staring at Cassiel in shock.

“Hey, no judgement here,” the half elf chuckled. “Though personally I find Kassil a little more alluring than Regongar. Don’t tell him… either of them…”

“If I can be open sir?”

“Please,” Cassiel beamed. “I want you to feel at home Theofrid. Never be afraid to speak your mind around me.”

The gnome took a deep breath, thinking.

“To be honest, I’m not a fan of Regongar. He’s brash, and rather dark at times. Nine hells, he encouraged you to murder Kalannah in cold blood.”

“To be fair, she had it coming,” Cassiel said darkly. “What did she expect after taking you prisoner? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I do not abandon my friends. And you are one of my closest friends. But I understand your point. And yet there is little I can do about it, not without alienating Octavia, and we need her.”

“Diplomacy was never one of my strongest points,” Theofrid frowned.

“It was a necessity for me. Try having to tell a bunch of elves that your human father was not a traitor to the crown. Go figure, I’m the one who abandoned Kyonin for a barony.”

“Are you okay sir?” the gnome asked.

“Oh, I’m just tired,” Cassiel brushed off. “I think I might head to bed after this mug.”

“I think that would probably be best sir. You haven’t had any rest in a few days it seems. If you’d like, I’ll see if someone can warm it for you.”

“No thanks, I just want you to enjoy some time off. Oh, by the way, did you get the pay figured out for my inner circle?”

“Yes sir. Pay for scribes is a gold a day, twenty eight gold a month.”

“Excellent. And you included yourself in the pay, correct?”

Theofrid squirmed in his seat, staring at his goblet.

“Theofrid, you are part of my inner circle, you are under my employ. You are earning gold every day. If I have to order you to take money for yourself, I’m not going to be very happy.”

“I… I just feel like I’m stealing from you. What am I doing that is worth being paid for? A little bookkeeping? It doesn’t feel right.”

“Well, what would you do if you had someone watching how much you spend, trying to come up with ways for you to make money, setting up pay for people, helping you run a barony? How much do you think their effort is worth?” Cassiel demanded.

“I… I would pay them like any other skilled worker,” Theofrid sighed.

“Good. Then we are agreed. You will pay yourself, and make sure you account for your pay in the weekly or monthly budget, and we will not have to discuss your pay again. Correct?”

“Yes sir,” the gnome said quietly.

“So much for a drink away from work,” Cassiel sighed, draining the last of his ale. “I’m heading back to the manor. Feel free to enjoy yourself here.”

He stood up and patted the gnome gently on the back before heading toward the door with the slightest hitch in his step. Theofrid groaned quietly, finally taking a sip of his wine. That had been far too stressful for a night on the town. Maybe he needed to stay closer to the manor.

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.

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30 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

Theofrid needs to be naked under the sheets with someone or someones!!!

Oh for sure. Sometimes there's nothing better than a warm body or two to cuddle up with.

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