(Tilean Campaign) The End of Spring, IC2403
Part 8. Glammerscale and the Brabanzon
The wizard-dwarf Glammerscale had found his time in Karak Borgo irksome. Rather than complain, however, he had taken to announcing, in as breezy a tone as he could muster: “A change is as good as a break”. Eventually, one of the mountain realm’s denizens summoned enough momentary curiosity to ask what he meant by this, to which he replied, “The difficulties here are, at least, different from those I had grown accustomed to.”
His questioner’s interest was, however, as fleeting as it was reluctant, and no further enquiry was forthcoming. Glammerscale allowed himself to enjoy the irony, for exactly such unfriendliness was part and parcel of the difficulties he alluded to.
As a dwarf living amongst the men of Tilea, he had faced suspicion and awkwardness on a daily basis. Indeed, as an inhabitant of Pavona, such attitudes had escalated into hatred, then outright hostility, until he and all the dwarfs dwelling there had been forced into exile. After that time, he had moved hither and thither across the peninsula, visiting several dwarfs he believed might help, first to Ridraffa, then to Remas, then to Urbimo. In every place there had been the same old, underlying wariness whenever a man encounters a dwarf. And then here, after the long and hazardous journey to the dwarfen realm of Karak Borgo, he found a new suspicion, no less strong.
As men were untrusting of dwarfs, dwarfs were untrusting of wizards. He had always known this, but on arrival in Karak Borgo he had learned just how deep such feelings could run, especially when the wizard in question was also a dwarf! He had believed his chosen profession a rarity amongst his kind, but it turned out to be entirely unknown. Upon declaring his occupation, he had been met with either with raucous laughter or visible disgust – at least until word got around. After that, few agreed to meet him at all!
Luckily, he had not travelled alone, but was accompanied by several other Pavonan exiles, including Gallibrag Honourbeard and his servant Norgrug. They, at least, knew him from old, were accustomed to his company and even counted him as a friend. His cousin Goldshin – a Tilean dwarf with whom the mountain dwellers had done very profitable business – had remained in Ridraffa, yet had sufficient repute in Karak Borgo to ensure Glammerscale had not been sent away. That repute, plus the presence of the wealthier exiles like Honourbeard, had gained the exiles an audience with the king and even an invitation to stay. Since then, the exiles had become willingly embroiled in King Jaldeog’s plans to re-open his trade routes into Tilea by defeating the brute army of Campogrotta. Having lived among men, their experience was recognised, their counsels heeded, their presence more obviously welcome. They themselves were playing a long game (something dwarfs have time to do) for once they had contributed in the restoration of Karak Borgo’s fortunes, they hoped for reciprocal assistance in restoring their own.
They had gone further than simply offering knowledgeable advice, for it was through them and their connections that the Estalian contingent of the Compagnia del Sole had been successively (and speedily) hired. Furthermore, it was their own monies that had been used to pay the advance payment to hire the Brabanzon mercenaries accompanying Baron Garoy into Tilea. Which was why Glammerscale, Honourbeard and Norgrug, along with several other exiles, now found themselves discussing contractual details with the northerner mercenaries upon the track that ran along the western slopes of the Vaults to join Karak Borgo’s Iron Road.
Glammerscale wore his green hat, leather travelling coat and peculiar red-tinged eye-glasses, and clutched his slightly crooked staff. Standing beside him was Gallibrag Honourbeard, having transformed from his former, urbane self into the very image of a wilderness ranger, with red, hooded cloak, heavy boots and a blue coat belted upon the outside. He leaned on an axe as tall as himself.
Honourbeard’s servant, Norbrug, had also adopted a novel fashion since his days as a clerk in Pavona. Now he considered himself first and foremost his master’s guard, and thus attired himself in chainmail and a helm. His axe was shorter than his master’s, exactly proportionate to their respective heights. Glammerscale, although intrigued to know if his two companions had themselves noticed this fact, had successfully stopped himself pointing it out on several occasions.
The meeting took place at an abandoned mine-shaft – one of the many, diminutive, exploratory kind found throughout these hills, left to crumble if nothing of worth was discovered. The Brabanzon leader, Lodar ‘the Wolf’ de Sevole, had his lieutenants with him, whilst behind them a column of the company’s spearmen filed past at a jog. Lodar’s chancellor, who originally arranged the contract with the dwarfs, had called the band [i]‘Tard Venus’[/i], which apparently meant they were considered brigands now that some war or other in the north had ended. He claimed they would be overjoyed to become soldiers ([i]‘valets’[/i] was the word he used) again, but one look told Glammerscale they were presently unhappy, which he now realised was most likely why they had called for this little rendezvous.
The mercenaries were liveried in dark green and a muted yellow, wearing layers of armour a considered a little archaic by the men of Tilea. To dwarfs, who often wore armour of styles unchanged over centuries, it simply looked human. In truth, what with their faces almost hidden by their coifs, Glammerscale could barely tell the mercenaries apart. After brief introductions, the first to speak was Lodar, and he went straight to the point.
“We have heard you have employed other mercenaries for this venture. This was not made known when our contract was agreed, despite my chancellor’s questions regarding such matters. Who are these others? Under what terms to they serve?”
“Captain Lodar, I fail to see why this could be of any concern to you,” said Glammerscale. “Do you not want to be part of an army that will be victorious in battle? Such an outcome is much more likely if our strength is equal to the task.””
“Ha,” scoffed Lodar. “Victory is good. Spoils are better. We were promised the plunder of Campogrotta.”
“You were promised your fair share of the plunder,” said Glammerscale.
“Which we were led to believe meant sharing with the dwarfen army of Karak Borgo and the baron, not with however many other mercenaries you have also taken into your service.”
Another Brabanzon, clutching a large leather jack from which he had just taken a very hearty swig, interjected,
“Do you take us for fools? Do you think we Brabanzon will allow anyone to treat us with disrespect? To break promises made to us?”
There followed a moment of silence, which Glammerscale deliberately allowed so as not to appear in any way concerned with the mercenaries’ implied threat. The Brabanzon simply watched, neither speaking further nor moving.
Eventually, Glammerscale gestured to Gallibrag’s servant.
“I think perhaps you are under a misapprehension. Master Norgrug here will explain the particulars, that you might better comprehend the due fairness of our transaction.”
“You will have exactly what was agreed, to the letter,” said Norgrug. After decades as a clerk he had studied the contract closely and understood all the details. “You knew full well there were other forces involved in this war, not merely our dwarven warriors and Baron Garoy’s men-at-arms, and you were promised one third of the plunder. Which is what you will receive.”
“How so?” demanded Lodar. “For even if it is only one other mercenary company that makes four parties to the agreement!”
“You are correct,” said Norgrug.
“Three does not go into four!” said Lodar.
“Aah,” said Glammerscale, as if he had just had an insight. “Are you perhaps presuming each party has been contracted under the same terms?”
The cart had now trundled past, its draught horse, a rugged and stout pony, making good speed – enough to keep pace with the jogging spearmen.
Lodar looked askance at the dwarfs, his brow furrowed, then asked,
“Which party has been deprived of its share?”
Glammerscale smiled and looked over the top of his eyeglasses at the Brabanzon leader.
“Consider the parties involved, Captain” he suggested. “I believe that with a further moment’s thought you will deduce which it must be.”
It was the Brabanzon with the leather jack who answered, apparently speaking his thoughts as he put them together.
“The mercenaries, whoever they are, will want their pay and a share of the prize, this goes without saying. You dwarfs love your gold so much that you would never yield an opportunity to amass more of it, especially when you want to recover your already considerable outlay. So … it must be the baron. Yes?”
“You have it!” declared Glammerscale. “I see the ale has not deprived you of one jot of your wits.”
The comment seemed lost on the Brabanzon, but such a stumble in the conversation could not stop Glammerscale in his tracks.
“The Baron Garoy,” the wizard explained, “being of such noble blood, deemed it would disparage the stock from which he came to contract for a portion of plunder. He would never stoop so low. He has come to Tilea upon a chivalrous quest, to liberate the realm of Ravola. A hero such as he cares nothing for what happens to the wealth of Campogrotta.”
“Ha,” laughed Lodar. “The baron might proclaim such a thing, but how will he repair Ravola without the gold to pay for it?”
“How indeed?” agreed Glammerscale. “Still, provided he possesses some proficiency in war, then he should serve our purposes perfectly. Whether or not he struggles during the subsequent peace is of little present concern.”
“Puh!” mocked the Brabanzon with the jack. “He rides like a boy at his first joust, and his battle experience comes from playing merelles.”
“Surely you exaggerate, sir, for comic effect” said Glammerscale. “Yet if true, then hopefully his keenness and the men who ride with him will make up for any inexperience.”
Lodar laughed. “Let the baron and his petite noblesse canter where they like when we lay siege to the city. It is we foot-soldiers who will have to dig the works and mount the guard. It is our arrows that will reach the monstrous foe in the towers, and our engines that will topple the parapets. And when the time is ripe, it is we who will climb the ladders and storm the gates. If Garoy joins us then he will be simply one among the many, and worth half of anyone of the rest. I know not whether these other mercenaries you have hired are capable of such things, but I know we are. We expect to be appropriately rewarded afterwards, as you promised.”
“Have no fear regarding that concern,” promised Norgrug. “I myself will ensure your accounts are settled exactly as agreed, and all will be done openly and fairly.”
“I would have it no other way,” added Glammerscale. “For such transparency will ensure no bitterness, no contention amongst those who have fought so bravely. The fighting will be done with, and all will be peace and prosperity, aye?”