Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

Post by Wraithwriter »

Standing at the top of the relief ship's gangplank, Helga took in a deep breath of the harbor air. If her five days spent holed up in an ship's hold hadn't numbed her senses the miasma of rotten fish and human refuse would have taken her breath. Sighing deeply she let the breath out and looked down at her charge.

With eyes wide with apprehension the little monkey goblin clung to her leg. At the shrill call of a whistle the goblin buried its face against her leg. Once the call ended it turned its ugly face up to her.

"It ok," Helga announced in the broken goblin she'd learned in her travels. "Come, we go." Pealing the goblin from her leg, Helga took its hand and started down the gangplank. At the foot of the gangplank she stepped off toward the market place.

Her trek was not what one would call a leisurely stroll after all the Portside district of Andoran's capital, Almas, was a thriving hub of trade. Every so often Helga had pause to let a loaded wagon or heavily burdened work gang to pass. At one point she had to jump back as poorly secured crates tumbled from a merchant's cart. Thankfully, she and her charge made it to the heart of the city's trade, the Portside Market, though conditions were not much of an improvement, if anything they were a little worse.

Where the docks were alive with seemingly chaotic industriousness, the market activity was a roaring press of bodies. Hundreds of commuters representing a dozen races and nationalities pressed shoulder to shoulder as they went about their business. Helga fought for every foot she gained, at times she had to force her way by inattentive shoppers and site seers. This solicited many an irritated comment which she ignored, but for those whose complaints were a little too aggressive she quelled with a cold stare.

After a time she grew tired of the slow pace and picked up her charge and made a bee line for her destination. Oddly, no one bothered her after this and miraculously they'd jump to the side as soon as they saw her. When she left the market stalls and shops behind it was a great relief to enter a less crowded part of the market.

Lengthening her stride, Helga strode down the bustling street, her little monkey goblin ward now slept its large head on her shoulder. Multi storied buildings housing offices and accounting houses of Almas' many merchants lined the length of her route. Eventually, she came to the steps of a three storied building bearing a sign painted with a hobnailed boot.

The sign declared the building as the headquarters of a dwarf owned mercenary company known as Hobnailed Securities. Hobnailed Securities specialized in providing well trained body guards to wealthy individuals and larger contingents to business ventures such the logging expedition down in the Mwangi Jungle. However, the force maintained by the company was not very sizable, numbering only two hundred fifty thanks to its charter with Andoran's Parliament. The charter further denoted that one third of the companies trained personnel must serve in public endeavors. Which brought Helga's back to why she come to the business offices of her employer.

In the last five years it had become as much a Home as it was employment, she'd establish, but Helga had a decision to make regarding her future with the Company. With her new role as mother and guardian to an ugly little monkey goblin the idea of taking her usual long range assignments elicited feelings of guilt. For one the jobs required focus and dedication to the many tasks presented, that leave very little time for her to both care for and tame her charge if she took the child with her. If she left the goblin here then it would be subject to all the cruelties of a society that abhorred goblins and treated them as vermin better exterminated than left alone. She hated having to make these decisions which was why she'd avoided ever having to make them; however, Grandmother Crow thought otherwise and decided to Call her back. Sighing deeply she ascended the stairs.

"Most people who take trophies stop at an ear, hand, or even the head, but bring the whole ugly thing!" Commented the young guard positioned outside the open doors.

"I take no trophies," Helga snarled her usually thick skin softened thanks to the decision on her mind.

"Could've fooled me with that carcass in your arms." At that moment the goblin raised its head opening large sleepy eyes. The guard stepped back in shock before a disgusted sneer not present while discussing macabre trophies crossed his face. "Didn't have the stomach to kill it? Well, that is something I can help with." Reaching for his dagger he stopped suddenly as Helga's own dagger dug sharply into his groin.

"Careful boy," Helga delivered in a menacing whisper while giving the dagger a twist. "You wouldn't want to miss out on creating any by-blows."

"Helga! My office now!" Bellowed a feminine voice in a thick dwarven accent.

"A shame." Helga gave he dagger one last dig before sheathing her dagger. "It appears the whores of Almas won't be spared." Turning on her heels she walked through the entrance leaving a scowling guard behind.

The foyer of Iron Hobnail Securities headquarters was a spacious room overlooked by a railed balcony. Expensive paintings showing artistically styled battles fought both in caverns and on the surface hung on the walls above expensively upholstered chairs and couches. Overall it was very tastefully arranged so to entice and impress future clients, for someone who'd seen it many times before it was only another room.

Having crossed the foyer while quieting the goblin child back to sleep, Helga strode through an opened door that closed fast on her heels. This new room was very sparse and utilitarian containing nothing but a large paper cluttered desk, a loaded bookcase, and a high backed chair. Sitting in said chair with her feet propped up on the desk was a dwarven woman sporting a closely trimmed beard.

"What am I going to do with you?" Asked the dwarven woman mirroring Grunyar's words. The dwarf behind the desk was called Kotri and was the founder of Iron Hobnail Securities. Kotri was a no nonsense warrior who'd fought in the same battles featured in the foyer's paintings, and at the moment her stern gaze was leveled at Helga and her sleeping charge.

"I received the Whisper attached to the ship the moment it made port." Kotri began in a dour tone, "Grunyar briefed me on what happened in Mwangi, but I would like to hear it from you." She then sat quietly waiting for Helga to speak.

Like the well trained soldier she was Helga launched into her brief of events. She told Kotri of the monkey goblin raid on the logging camp and the massacre that was the counter attack. Then she spoke of Grandmother Crow's spectral messenger and the actions of the cruel mob. Here she paused to look tenderly at the goblin child on her shoulder, "I just couldn't let that mockery of decency to continue so waded in stop it. No one was killed, crippled, but nothing truly permeant."

"That is true," Kotri agreed, "and Grunyar's report agrees with or tale of events. Still, there remains the question of what to do." Here the dwarf took her feet from the desk and stood. Scratching at her beard she began to pace, the hobnails of her boots rasped on the stone floor of the office.

"Unlike Grunyar I am not atheistic, so I can sympathize with you." Kotri announced as she continued to pace. "However, that thing of yours rules out anymore far flung assignments, and if your reaction to the door guard's insolence means anything Parliamentary duties are defiantly out. So, what am I going to do with you."

"There really is only one thing left for me to do," Helga answered crestfallenly. "I must resign. These divine shoves are only going continue and Andoletta knows my heart too well."

"I am afraid you are correct Helga," the dwarf paused in her pacing to place a comforting hand on her arm. "You can stay in one of the empty rooms till you know what you are going to do."

"Thank you Kotri, but I have a feeling of were my path shall take me. I will just wait here for my pack to be delivered." Yawning loudly the goblin child woke from it nap mumbling in goblin.

"You can stay as long as you wish," Kotri returned, "and I will have some food brought in, a lot of food." She then kicked the bottom of the door and it flew open and walked out.

Hours later Helga again navigated the busy streets of Almas with her charge in tow beside her. The sun was passed its mid afternoon mark when they exited Portside and entered East Hill. Here there were no throngs of shoppers nor the bustle of high commercial commerce, but wagon and foot traffic still posed an obstacle. Even with the traffic they made the main through of The Avenue of the Gods in record time.

The Avenue housed the temples of all the major deities worshiped in Andoran and many other smaller churches dedicated to lesser deities. It was to such a church that Helga sought entrance to, and if memory served her the one she sought was just inside the Godsgate. Finally she arrived at a large single story abbey decorated with images of crows.

At the door Helga's hand shook as she raised to knock but before she could the doors opened. A stern kindly voice spoke from inside. "Welcome to the Sanctuary of Tranquil Feathers."

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