Dreamweaver Chapter 162
“OK, everyone stop. Full troop go west straight left quickly and don’t delay. There should be a small ravine there. Hurry, an orc patrol will hit us in less than two minutes if we don’t get off the road,” Saiya suddenly said while looking half panicked and with eyes that screamed stressed out.
The others didn’t need to have to be told twice, but still she urged them on.
“Oh crap, they are moving fast! Hurry!” Saiya said with a lot of stress in her tone. That made the rest of us really worried when she said it. As she said it that way our team tried to increase their speed without having all their gear clank around making noise, which is way freaking harder than it sounds.
When Saiya speaks they all listen. They know the radar geomancer enchants are just probably what’s keeping us alive, thought to be fair she hadn’t mastered it yet but only had a basic functioning level. So everything out of her mouth has the power to make them cringe or cry out in joy.
I feel jealous of that skill. Although in a way it’s inhibiting to growing your skills if you always avoid fights.
There’s a string of curses as our group suddenly sprints booking it to try to get out of the way noiselessly and without giving ourselves away. The brush makes a ton of swishing sounds with all the booted foot running through it quickly to hit cover asap while their eyes are full of fear. We’re breathing hard and there’s a jingle of a ton of equipment shaking as everyone is trying to book it as fast as we can.
Nobody wants to have a skirmish if we can avoid it.
Nobody wants to die if it can be avoided.
Nobody wants to be maimed for life or lose a limb.
But how long can we avoid it? There’s always some risk every time you pick up the blade. There’s a chance one or more of you won’t come home, or that someone will get a knee or spine injury even with good training and good decision making.
I tried to steady my hand, but my fingers are shaking a bit.
And does avoiding a fight now, mean the next one will be bigger? I didn’t dare ask the group that because it might scare them out of wanting to work.
Even the little earth spirit guy that Saiaya controls can move fast when he wants to. It’s funny but the little guy looks pretty tough despite being small. I think it understands life and death situations well because it’s quieter than all of us.
Is that thing sentient? I’m not sure how much intelligence it has now that I think about it.
My breathing and pulse are going up as we’re jogging to get to cover while trying to keep our gear from jingling and without trampling too much of the long grass. We’re lucky deer have been through this way recently so our presence of laying down a bunch of the tall grass is less noticeable because the deer have already done it.
One of the dwarven recruits tripped, but we were so short on time that the others just dragged him by two guys grabbing both shoulders and pulling him into cover.
Our team hits what probably was some kind of really old really big irrigation ditch and we all duck and cover. It’s now overgrown with weeds and hasn’t been used much but at one point it was big enough for a major agricultural operation.
“Did we make it?” one of them asked.
Everyone is deathly quiet while we hold our breath. Damn this part is stressful.
“Get down!” I ordered. I hit the ground so hard I can feel the dirt on my chin, but it’s better than fighting for my life. I can always wash my clothes later.
Saiya doesn’t like all the mud and dirt here but somehow gave in as well. Actually the mud and dirt isn’t as bad as the orc blood, now that I think about it.
“Why are we hiding?” one guy asked. He’s looking at me.
“Duh, because we want to live?” Saiaya said sarcastically.
“We should fight…” he naively said. He looks like he’s one of the those kids that things he’s going to save the world and slay ten orcs with every sword swing. He’ll be the first to die out of any of us I think.
“We don’t need to fight every orc. We aren’t getting paid for orc kills,” I reminded them.
He also probably thinks I’m his own personal ninja warrior. I hate that shit. They all think because I’m big that I’m their personal little tooth fairy to solve all their problems. I have a hard time too. And when stuff is deadly you have to put yourself first. And sometimes orcs want to fight the big strong guy as their target too, which makes no sense at all.
Saiya’s radar system checks out. We avoided the orc patrol but only just barely.
“Nice,” she whispered while it’s passing.
Jeez the time goes really slow while the orcs are so close we can hear some of them breathing. If that doesn’t scare you what will? We like it when she’s spot on with no surprises and we can avoid battles but it isn’t foolproof and we’d paid for it in the past with bodies.
A full patrol takes awhile to get out of earshot and we aren’t in the clear yet. It’s crazy how close to us some of them have come as they are passing through.
All scouts like we’d thought. We had the confirmation of light armor or no armor, light weapons that you can carry and use while moving fast. Also there were a lot of expendable guys, and ones that looked like they knew some woods craft.
And we’re still alive because there weren’t any shamans with this group. That’s a big ticket too; the shamans can tell when their enemies are close by. I don’t know how they do it but they have some spell probably that does it, tied into finding blood sacrifice victims for the blood god they worship.
As they are slowing getting out of earshot, we are praying like crazy and sweating bullets even though we should be able to get by. And some of us probably hadn’t ever prayed before.
It’s definitely a war party, probably scouts and rapid response units. That’s the only kind of orc war party there is actually. I’d almost missed it until they were almost gone but then Saiya, pointed out that some of them have some kind of weird flares for when they spot the enemy.
My blood chills as they are rolling past.
“Is it safe to get up?” one of the younger dwarves asked.
“Let’s stay here a bit longer,” one of them pleaded with a serious worried look. Actually I think we all have that look so much, our foreheads might crack open from stress.
“No,” another said.
“Oh good….hey what about…” the first guy was about to ask something and we told him to stay quiet.
“But they are gone right?” he asked.
“I don’t want to take a chance,” Saiya said carefully.
I wiped the sweat off my brow with my handkerchief.
I tried to keep my mind off this is the same handkerchief Yuriko gave me right before she died.
Orcs are a lot tougher than people say they are. They are often taller and nearly always stronger compared to humans, even if they don’t have the full benefits of a stable civilization and still in a hunter and prey mindset as a people.
And people give you this idea that you can just swing a sword and a whole troop of them fall which is a total lie. It’s not like that, at all. They study war everyday for their whole life. They are tough as hell and get all beefy from eating meat every single day of their lives. And because the bad and poor hunters starve, they systematically cull their own weak, diseased, or runts of the litter by their aggressive and horrifically violent lifestyle. They know to use their weapons. They kill each other more than others, and they don’t even blink when they in a fight. They are scary even when in small numbers.
In short, they scare the hell out of me. And I’m a veteran that specializes in killing them. Well that’s what I sell myself as with mercenary work, but I don’t really enjoy it. It pays the bills and I want to do something better.
Man I hate this world. Nothing goes right here.
The last time I’d fought orcs I’d lost two of my best guys on the mission. I’d wanted to change jobs after that, but nothing else can pay the bills and dwarves won’t hire a human tradesperson over one of their own. That only leaves soldier work, prostitution, working an illegal trade, or begging. Sometimes dwarves will let you be a mining assistant but it’s basically a 14 hour job 7 days a week being worked to death because they exploit non-dwarven labor a bit too much; and there’s no commission but just a daily wage of a like 1 silver.
This is one of the few jobs they’ll let outsiders do. Even where there’s a lapse in the law to allow humans in, there’s no way for us to compete with a dwarf whose lived for a hundred or two hundred years working the same crafts that whole time.
Long minutes go by before Saiya gives us the OK to move, because she had gotten really paranoid when we lost out two teammates last time, though that wasn’t her fault. But she looked like she was holding her breath and biting her lip in fear until it was all clear, meaning she was under serious stress. She has to do it that way while studying the radar. Orc troops will often have a couple scouts that are hanging way back and that are looking for what the others have missed.
“Let’s go, people. Move,” I barked.
Now we’re moving more quickly. Everyone has urgency to go back and survive. The jingle of the leather and metal buckles on their gear is never completely silent and it’s strangely a bit comforting knowing others are near me; except that not enough of them have good solid combat experience and training.
A lot of these had just finished the Rookie Adventurer School, here in town. It boasts a pretty decent survival rating for mass producing adventurer and soldier fodder, which is the running joke in town.
We try to not be in a full out run.
One of the men then suggested using this irrigation ditch probably should go right by the rancher’s manor house that’s only a good two miles from here. I hadn’t thought of that but it’s a clever idea and should work well. And the plan is we could get there directly by just staying low in the huge high sided ditch and run like hell all the way in.
We agreed it’s a good plan and people are more positive now that they see we’ve got a secret tool to get us through with less trouble. Orcs don’t think about farming, so they might not notice an irrigation ditches potential though they would look for wells and rivers or streams. And this one has high walls on the sides of the ditch covered up by quite a bit of long grass growing on the banks, though I’d have to bend over most the way.
Still…are the ranchers even alive?
This patrol of orcs seemed like it was coming from near that direction.
I hope we can bring back even one survivor. If we don’t we’re broke. Come on just one survivor even. Please!
Saiya POV one hour later;
Our pace has continued as best we could. But once we’d seen our first orc squad sighting all bets are off and now we’re all pushing it and using our adrenaline as best we can. Everyone wants to be able to come home alive, so we’ve increased our pace. Increasing your pace can be dangerous though because if you do it too much you can be all worn out when a fight breaks out. And you can’t just run non-stop from battle to battle like you see on TV. Even one little skirmish can clean out all your energy for a good half a day.
“I hear something,” one of them whispers.
I cringed after I heard it too. The sound of wrecking stuff and destruction.
Crap…I just hope our targets are still alive. Please be alive…please…I kept saying to myself over and over in my mind.
We can hear the skirmishing before we can see it. Everyone is mad as we hear what’s going on. We’d wanted to get through without a fight but now we’ll probably have to. If that’s fighting between the targets we’re here to rescue then every second not helping them is money falling out of our pockets.
There are orcs running around all over the place too, all per the geomancy radar screen. And then after that we heard their individual and collective war cry and their braying in the woods likes mules gone bad. Actually come to think of it it sounds more like a mix between a man, a wild boar, and a donkey. They’re dodgy little shits. Why doesn’t Akira kill more of them? He’s been falling off his game recently and I think he’s still rattled from the deaths we’ve had the past month or so. Often they shoot and load and then move back and forth trying to adjust where the best place to have protection is.
There are two compounds of heavy dwarven structures ahead of us. We can see little crossbow bolt points sticking out of all the broken windows.
“We’re here!” one our men triumphantly exclaimed.
“Shut up dude! Don’t be so loud! They’ll hear you!” I exclaimed.
Yeah, can’t you see those guys were shooting at orcs out of those windows? It means they are close by!” another temporary hire guy said.
Every once in a while a bolt comes out of the top window that’s a good distance away but not so far we can’t see a sniper in there on the second floor.
But the orcs aren’t weak.
Some of them have little wood and bone shields. They are cleverly made but require a lot of maintenance partly because the orcs really are hard on their equipment, but don’t care because most of their gear is made from living organisms…not all of them the four legged kind. I’d recently learned that the human femur bone is the bone of choice for making orc clubs. This is partly because of its ideal size and length but also because you can make soup on the same day. And yes, you guessed it, they whittle down and cut open the human skills to make into soup bowls.
And they know how to use their weapons pretty effectively. They try to block some of the bolts coming at them. Some of them actually are pretty good at it and I’m surprised. They will block or one two shots, and rarely a third shot before hitting the dirt for good.
Damn it. I hate this. Being an adventurer is risky and every day is a challenge and a fight to live.
In no time we’re already skirmishing before we even knew it. It started as just one or two orcs, then a couple more. Now the whole team is being engaged.
I’m glad Akira has kept me from getting taken by orcs more than once already. But I wonder how long that will continue? It aggravates him that I don’t put out for him and like girls instead of him. And the sting of losing Yuriko is still there. Satyrs are really horny a lot of the time maybe is my conclusion.
So I wonder if some day he’ll pressure me too much or decide to abandon me to die in combat.
My little earth spirit guy is already chewing on an orc and has shot giant porcupine like spikes into one wounding one but now two other orcs are surrounding it to try to kill it. This guy isn’t too strong yet, but has an advantage in a one to one battle versus an orc or goblin. He can’t take more than one at a time though and is still small at about a little less than a dwarf’s height.
More bolts shoot at them from both our side and the dwarves in their compound, but narrowly miss my earth spirit.
That pisses me off when they do that. They have almost shot it several times and aren’t careful of friendly fire. This thing is priceless to have since it doesn’t need to be paid, will fight for me, and only uses earth and vegetation to feed it. And it’s hard for them to understand what it is actually.
Akira’s uses his spear to block an orcs overhand axe chop, and then follows through with kicking it with his goat legs so hard it’s disemboweled with such force that it’s like its guts exploded.
Damn that’s creepy.
Akira is scary; with him having them get disemboweled like that. I think it’s partly because he sharpens his hooves and also has some kind of half horseshoe, half blade thing going on that helps puncture the skin. And he partly did it because it’s a weapon that he can sneak into civilian areas that have anti-weapon carrying laws.
We wanted to keep under cover. Now we can’t.
It’s a mess.
There are more orcs here but they are pinned down.
Some of them charge us.
One of them pushes me down throwing me to the earth. Somehow I’m on my back trying to get back up before he gets on me. It’s grip is terribly strong while I cry out in fear after nearly having the wind knocked out of me. He’s already going to try to get his knife to cut my clothes off.
I nearly panicked but kept up my concentration just in the nick of time.
I barely got my shock spell up in time and he’s stunned and burned both but not dead yet. It’s one of my best self defense moves that keeps them down a few seconds, enough to finish them off with a weapon blow to the head since my shock spell only stuns and doesn’t really do much damage since it’s not my true element, and it uses too much mana. If this keeps up I’ll be done for the day.
If I’m going to get out of here I have to hurry fast! The important thing is it kept me from being taken or getting killed or worse.
I managed to slit the orcs throat after pushing over off me and to the side. There’s a huge gasp and that damn black green blood is flooding everywhere. I should have slit its throat before it was off me but their blood is so gross and a mark of being demonic creatures.
Yes! I got one! I’m excited too! I cut his purse from his loincloth waste band, but it’s probably slim pickings like the others. Orcs can never carry much money around without killing each other for it.
I don’t enjoy killing but I want to be effective, stronger, and tougher.
The other dwarves near me are being tackled by huge orcs and I’m struggling to pick something doable without losing time to hesitate before jumping in. They supposedly have a bunch of training for anti orc fighting but it’s a fifty-fifty chance it will work, nothing is ever a perfect scenario. And it’s for sure we’ll have a casualty at some point. If I don’t help them soon they’ll be overrun.
Akira kicked two more orcs with that wicked unreal ferocity that maims them on a first hit as they scream while their guts are practically scythed through. They never see it coming because the sharp heavy bladed spear he’s carrying throws off their game, and you wouldn’t expect something to kick you even if it’s a satyr man.
By the time they realize the real weapon is his feet they are already wishing they were dead or will be soon while they bleed out. It’s creepy the way he purposely lets them bleed out while they are dying instead of finishing them off. Some of them try to put their guts back in while they cry for vengeance and for whatever orcs cry for while they are dying.
Old Sharphoof strikes again. But don’t let him hear you say that nickname to his face. But he could do more to protect us with such wild strength like that, but he’s still holding back in fear.
I got thrown like five feet back when I tried to get the orc off the dwarf next to me and got backhanded down a small incline jarring my neck and skull. Damn that guy’s strong, and even worse I’m a better target than the dwarf…sort of. They love torturing dwarves. I think their only eating meat makes it that much harder to combat them when they are only eating protein.
I hit the ground so hard the air is knocked out of me. I’m lucky it didn’t hit me in the eyes or face or a major organ. I try to get up. I have to get up! Shit. But I can’t breathe! I have to get up before he jumps on me! No!
Another orc jumps on me before I can get the wind back in my lungs.
He’s trying to cut my pants off. Shit. I don’t want this! No!
Just as he cuts my belt lose my earth spirit stabs him so hard through the back that the pointed pierce claw on his hand is poking out the lower torso of the orc while I got showered in orc guts and blood instead.
Somehow I’m still thankful. But it’s lucky I didn’t get any of their filthy blood in my eyes.
One of the other dwarves helped me up. My clothes are OK for now but I may need to fix my belt later.
We lost two dwarves that were our troops by the time the skirmish ended which seemed to last for an hour but was actually only about fifteen minutes. And everyone is cut up and unhappy it seems. I’m probably the least scratched up. Even Akira got scratched up after a few orcs tried to gang up on him.
For one skirmish that’s not going to look good on paper for Akira, who has the leadership chit; although technically he has an exception to have a leadership chit without having a full adventurer’s license. It was some kind of mercy grant, because of both performance and pity working for the dwarves.
The other orcs are driven off but I already know they are coming back with another troop. They just want more numbers and to get away from being shot at from both in front and behind.
One of the dwarven elders of these compounds rushes out. He’s got a long thin beard in a V shape and bushy eyebrows like I’ve never seen before.
And a gnome hat; wearing their clothes must seem strange to his people.
I thought dwarves scorned gnomes and gnome products? You’d never see them wearing gnome crap. Why?
A few other dwarves have followed this guy out and are sizing us up. They also want to see what their …patriarch leader is going to say. Everyone except the patriarch guy is armed to the teeth. Some of them have a few cuts and scrapes from fighting orcs.
“I’m elder Vrenn. I sent a request to the city for help with magic. Are you here to protect us and guard our compound?” he asked. He looks totally desperate but is also trying to look fierce too.
“What?” I asked in surprise. Some of us look at each other in shock. This isn’t what the job details were. It was to escort them out of here, not hole up with them.
The elder looked confused because we’re confused.
“Wrong answer, we’re here to get you out, not to protect you if you don’t go with us,” Akira said firmly and stating the objective clearly so they didn’t manipulate us.
Good, I’d coached him to say it that way, though it was also true.
“But these are our homes! Help us stay and defend,” he protested.
“Orc armies will be here before dark. Like thousands and thousands of them. We have to get everyone out asap. No time to even pack, just get a few weapons, and the shirt on your back and what food you can carry, get your kids, animals, and all your people. Let’s move! Time to go now,” Akira barked.
“Shit. I was afraid something like this would happen someday. There was always a slight chance.” The dwarven elder sounded defeated.
“Go, get everyone ready fast. We have no time,” one of the dwarven soldiers with us adds.
Everyone is rushing to get moving fast.
“It’s not fair. They’d reinforce this place more if it was a mine,” the elder protested.
“Well I told you dad, it isn’t a mine and to expect this. They only put up town walls around mines anymore,” a middle aged guy that is obviously his son said from nearby. He even looked like him.
“We lost people coming to save you guys. If you aren’t ready to leave in five minutes, I’ll be tempted to kill you myself,” Akira said.
The elder’s eyes got big. “Ahh…right, just a sec,” he said trying to by time.
“He means that figuratively. But we will leave,” I explained quickly to keep them calm.
The dwarves look uncertain.
He didn’t need to be so rough with that guy. It’s just an old dwarf jeez. The elder would have come with us anyway.
From what I can tell it looks like the two big compounds are two clans living together with a mutual defense and protection pact probably with some economic alliance stuff mixed in too, not one clan like we’d originally thought.
They are moving as fast as they can. They are also pretty afraid already. I think they’ve seen signs recently that this area had gotten dangerous and not just this morning.
As soon as they excitedly disclose what’s going on in each compound, almost instantly there are cries out in fear and all kinds of blubbering by the women. Funny though, the kids seem to take it more than the dwarven women and some of their old people that are attached to their homes; I’m told dwarves are like that, they are courageous but get caught up in loving their possessions too.
Within minutes they are emptying the barns.
It’s the barn work and getting the animals ready that takes the most time. Then they have to hook up their wagons as fast as they can. We wanted to leave the wagons, but someone argued that they can put the chickens and some of the young children in the wagons. And turns out there are a lot of children.
Using the language enchant I can pick up on one of the little dwarven kids trying to get my attention while the others are running every which way.
“Are you helping my daddy?” she asked.
I frowned. I stared back at her without saying anything. I gave her a scary look but she’s still hanging onto my leg. She looks at me with beautiful brown deep looking eyes. Wow, she’s cute.
Ahh hard to resist kids, even dwarven kids, they are so cute.
Hmm funny kid. Doesn’t she know I’m a stranger? She’s looking at me expectantly.
We’re lucky this ranch isn’t as big as some of the others. They have some cattle, some goats, and a hell of a lot of chickens. There’s maybe a hundred head of cattle. That’s going to be the hard part.
With miraculous speed the dwarves somehow got a couple horses hooked up to the first wagon, which they put the kids and chickens in. They aren’t even being careful at this point, and some of the kids start crying because they aren’t used to this kind of stuff and picked up on that the adults are scared as hell and can’t hide it. Finally they get the first wagon out.
There are all kinds of panicky voices around me.
“We have only a couple minutes!”
“Hurry! We have to reach the turnpike before dark!”
“Move out!” The elder finally said.
They only stopped long enough to burn both compounds. That surprised me. I didn’t expect them to do that, but the dwarves would rather burn their own houses and property down than let the orcs have it. They also worry that anything salvaged will enable the orcs to cause more murder and mayhem on others. So when they are igniting flames on their own homes they look all teary eyed even if its the right thing to do.
Remarkably we were able to get them moving in record time. My heart picked up hope a little bit. Maybe we’ll actually get out of here alive?
“OK, we’re off finally,” Akira said next to me.
Officially our unit is acting as rear guard. We have volunteers from the dwarves themselves acting as the lead and points because we expect the advancing orc armies and patrols to be coming at us from behind. That means we intercept anything coming at us from the orcs before it can hit the civilians.
“I don’t like this. They are going too slow,” Akira said next to me grating his teeth.
“It’s not their fault. It’s the animals and old people, kids. We can’t ask them to leave them behind,” I replied.
“I know…but I can be tempted can’t I?” Akira retorted.
The other dwarven soldiers in our platoon are looking nervous.
“How’s the radar?” one of them asked.
Odd…I keep checking the little blue screen.
Why is it so quiet all the sudden? There were tons of orcs before. Where’d they all go? Something about this doesn’t look right.
An hour later we’re getting closer to the dwarven citadel’s hill and mountain turnpike area where it joins another road before going into the citadel a bit later.
“Hey isn’t it weird that nothing has hit us yet?” Akira asked again later.
“I thought there would be more of them too,” I said. I tapped the radar to make sure it’s not ‘lagging’. Although I don’t know if magic screens can lag, can they?
An hour later …
I’d panned out to get a broader area view even though it costs more mana to do. I was surprised by what I saw and wished I’d done this sooner. It was at the edge of the area that had been just out of my previous zoom view before I’d changed it.
I see a whole shit ton of blips on my screen. It looks like several allied platoons together on the road behind us about two miles. But something is engaging them. It keeps going and its’ almost like a wall is there protecting us from approaching…orcs?
How can that be?
Maybe it’s one platoon? But how can one platoon be holding back that many orcs?
This set of blips is keeping the orcs back and it doesn’t echo like an orc blip, which was how I’d figured out it’s killing them. Plus when one of the orc blips on the radar screen gets close to that set of blips, then they often disappear which is what happens when you kill someone or something.
What’s stopping the orcs from pursuing us is this special platoon or platoons. Sometimes when they are close together it’s hard to tell the exact number.
Then there are more of whatever skirmishes I can see after that.
Another hour passes.
The wall of orcs is moving but won’t go past that one slow moving platoon at our tail? There’s nothing wrong with my radar. But the movements aren’t making much sense. They are slow, way too slow. But there are more orc platoons than before now, all chasing that one allied platoon in a semi-circle formation.
How come they don’t overwhelm that other set of blips with such huge numbers like that?
Gosh there must be like ten platoons out there closing towards us. But every time they get close to us somehow they can’t pursue because of that one platoon. And it looks like they are getting whittled down too.
So are they …nah it couldn’t be another adventuring team. Maybe it’s some dwarven special forces guys or something? But I can’t exactly ask the dwarves about something sensitive like that.
We’re now in the dwarven citadel. It’s nice to be in a safe place. The guild hall here is comfortable too. Out in the courtyard people are still going over the job boards with their wooden tickets and chits even though it’s after dark.
“Please wait in the lobby while we work out the tallies for the teams. We’re still getting a full record of the mission results,” The guild secretary asked. She smiles really big and beautifully. She looks nice too.
Then my face fell. I could totally go for her, but…she’s wearing a wedding ring. When I see it instinctively had to cover up my facial reaction to hide my disappointment.
When Saiya sees me frowning and the direction of my eyes she giggled. “Hehe. Looks like another one escaped you huh?”
“Bastard. Don’t rub it in,” he cursed at me but it’s kind of playful.
Our team of men is waiting outside while the two of us are waiting for the report.
“I don’t get it. Why is it taking so long? They should just pay us and be done with it,” Saiya whispered.
“Well they have to do their counts and verify it,” I yawned tiredly.
A few minutes later the secretary came back in.
“There’s a problem with the job requirements,” the receptionist’s aide said. That’s all she could say. I’d slipped her a tip of 10 copper for just that inside information. She had to wait for the main receptionist to leave so she could come back to tell us.
“What?” Saiya is flabbergasted.
“I’m shocked too,” I said.
“That’s not right. We did everything right,” Saiya said argumentatively.
“I understand you did your best. It’s not up to me though, I’m sorry,” the guild secretary girl said.
“Guess we better tell the men they are sorting things out,” I said.
Naturally when I tell the men, they are mad as hell. Of the twelve dwarves that came out with us, also having the two or three deaths has made it more difficult. When you tell people there are problems with the job after having two people die you better have a strong leader or they’ll want to start a fight too.
That’s probably why the receptionist isn’t saying much. We’d seen her go into the guild office with another mage and one of the military officers. They are discussing something serious in hushed tones.
All of us decide to wait out together while we’re staring at the main inner office, which is visible from the front doors while we’re green with anger and envy.
“They better pay us. That’s what the job entailed and we followed it to the teeth. Plus we saved everyone without fail from that second ranch,” one of the dwarves is complaining.
“Yeah, yeah, we agree with you. But they are sure talking about something in there,” Saiya said.
She’s smart, she can see it too.
In a minute the secretary and one of the dwarven military officers is approaching us. He’s sighing heavily because he can see we’re pissed off and want to be paid even before anything has been said as bad news. And the men naturally know something is wrong because they kept us in here for like forever.
“Well for starters, I want to congratulate you on a job well done,” the receptionist said while clearing her throat. She looks nervous though.
“Spill it. I can tell something is off,” I said. “What’s going on?”
“You better pay us. Two of us paid with their lives,” Stallk said.
Whatever…that guy is only thinking about how much alcohol he’s going to buy as soon as he leaves this building.
“Three, if you count that missing scout,” Saiya corrected him.
Why do we always forget about that guy? Even when he was alive we kept forgetting about him.
“Easy, easy, calm down or I’ll have some of the soldiers babysit you. And no bullying the adventurer’s guild receptionist. Will you like that if we babysit you?” the dwarven officer replied. He looks solid somehow and not like a pushover, plus he’s got scars from surviving several battles all over himself. And he’s also up front and very strong with how he deals with us psychologically as if expecting us to mutiny on him.
He’s in a staring contest with me, and because of that two other dwarven soldiers come over to listen in and watch.
“Who the hell are you?” Saiya asked staring at him.
“Nice to meet you. My name is Svinn,” he said authoritatively. He looks like he can carry himself well. Instantly a lot of the dwarves picked up on the name and are really alert now with big eyes.
Ahh come to think of it, I’d heard that name too. I scratched my head trying to remember.
I don’t get it really but for some reason Svinn has been a big name here. Something about cleaning the goblins out of town a couple days ago; he’s supposed to be some kind of dwarven hero I think. But that might just be rumors. Maybe it’s just a big fish story, it sounds unlikely. I mean if we were kidnapped to this world, shouldn’t one of us be the hero, not some dwarf? Whatever that means…I don’t know if hero is a title…it can’t be a real class I think.
There was another name too going around about the same time that was responsible for part of it. But I can’t remember the other team’s name that helped him…it was Sung something. But we don’t know much else.
“You want to tell them what’s going on?” the receptionist gestured to Svinn.
Svinn sighed again. “I hate giving the bad news. Everyone just gets angry at me.”
“So what’s the problem?” I asked.
“Well you did do the job successfully. We’re happy with you. I also want you to know you did a good job. We’re also happy with the men and for how well they’ve done. Thanks for taking care of us. And you did manage to bring in that whole homestead with no losses to that clan homestead’s people. So good job,” Receptionist girl said nodding.
The more I look at her the more I think dwarven girls are hot. Too bad she’s married.
Is she stalling?
“Spit it out,” Saiya said.
“You did do what was asked of you. And you are going to get a reward for doing your job. But…” Svinn started to say.
“Here it is, there’s always an exception,” Saiya muttered.
“Yeah…” I’m sure I look upset too.
“Of the dwarven compounds you rescued, there were twenty three adults, and fourteen children. Of those adults, five were retirees taking care of children. Four were in apprenticeship programs to become ranchers but weren’t actually trained ranchers so you won’t get the full rate on all of them as food producing bounty monies for the full 1 gold each,” Svinn continued.
Saiya’s head and some of the other dwarves’ heads looked like they might pop a vein from stress. They can see the gold slipping through their fingers already. Already she looks stressed out.
Damn, we need this money! This is our money! Somehow I can feel my teeth grinding on their own.
Someone started but Svinn held up his hand.
“But we were told…”
“You were told the full job details, no more and no less. The preferred rate was for food producing dwarves, not full value for children, and old people,” Receptionist Girl said.
“Right that’s true. We were told about that,” one of the dwarves muttered.
Shut up. Don’t say that I thought but can’t say in front of Svinn and the guild secretary.
“So that leaves 14 food producing ranchers from both compounds altogether,” Saiya concluded.
Stallk near us has been quiet this whole time and looking respectful in how he’s holding his hat in his hands with head lowered. But his eyes look murderous.
Yeah I forgot beer money to him if you take from it can get some weird shitty I’m going to kill you looks.
Svinn has the job instruction paper parchment in front of him, in fancy calligraphy writing which he is reading to us to quote,” job instructions are to bring in the ranchers and their animals. 1 gold reward per dwarven settler in a food production occupation, 2 silver pieces for adult dwarves, and 1 silver per dwarven child,” he finished saying as he looked us over.
It’s quiet while they work up a tally; receptionist girl is using her abacus.
-5+4 non food related workers
She redoes the numbers.
“14 food production based jobbers, 14 children, 9 non-food based jobbers,” she said.
“Nice. That’s a good haul,” Stallk said in his coarse voice.
Receptionist girl frowned, “there’s more to it than that. It’s complicated.”
“Actually, what about the animals themselves?” Saiya asked.
“Told ya someone would ask that today? They always want a bit more,” I heard one of the other secretaries in the back mutter. Other secretaries and clerks agreed with her right after that. She’s kind of got a point. That’s a gray area. And part of the point of rescuing the food producing job people was that there would be food for the citadel still.
“That is kind of ambiguous,” I said to support her.
Svinn and Receptionist Girl frowned, “It can’t be helped. This job chit was put on the wall literally as an emergency chit with no time to haggle and look over every detail. We had to get it up as soon as the job came in knowing we needed every minute of time to save them,” Receptionist Girl defended.
“Yeah, I get that point of view too,” Saiya admitted carefully while a bit downcast.
“Which is partly why I’m mediating this situation,” Svinn said while staring us down. I think he expects we’re going to start a fight.
And I’m not sure how the angry looking Stallk would have acted if Svinn and I weren’t here actually.
“There won’t be a reward for the cattle because it was already given that 1 gold per person is an obscene and huge amount of money. If people had jobs like that, they’d be rich in just a year,” Svinn said.
There’s a groan among the men.
I hate when he’s right, I thought to myself as he continued.
“We will also give a dwarven military funeral with high honors as if fallen for defending the nation for free for the two or three men you lost. Their families will have a chance to apply for state help programs too, at least for those with dwarven citizenship,” Svinn said.
The humans in our team flinched on hearing that. It’s not the dwarves fault on that, since this isn’t a human country. It’s kind of a catch 22 situation that the more stable countries are non-human sponsored on this world.
Some of them brightened up hearing that about the fallen’s families getting help though since that’s a good sign. The dwarves are sober on something like that and some of them bow their heads in respect. I don’t see what the big idea is, but dwarves are really big on prestige and respect for each other and their families.
Saiya and I know something is up however because it seems like the two in front of us are dragging things out.
“Why are you taking so long then?” Saiya asked.
“Well…this isn’t easy to say so I’ll just spell it out. You guys didn’t fight any orcs on the way home while escorting your settlers,” Receptionist Girl said.
“The job wasn’t to slay orcs,” I defended. And I’m right. And I know I’m right too.
“And that’s true, but the problem is the other team that went to the third location made it possible for you to make tons of money at their efforts and having to take up the rear guard while they took on all the danger and risk of many orc companies for themselves fighting all the way home solo; so that’s why this is a strange situation. So they had to fight all the orcs for both your team and theirs and ended up doing 90 percent of the work,” Svinn said.
Shit. I can’t accept that. It’s like a loophole.
“That’s impossible,” Saiya said, but something in her eyes looked doubtful.
“Who was the other team again?” Akira asked.
“I can’t disclose that,” the guild receptionist frowned. I noticed she stiffened a bit so I’m sure she knows who it was.
“I heard it was this Sung or Sunga person’s team,” someone whispered in the back. It was another team’s personnel that I’d just heard as an offhand comment by mistake.
Sung? Sungy? Or was it Sunga?
I’ll find out about them. Then I’ll give them a piece of my mind and take our money back. I won’t stand for them stealing our gold!
Ahh, so now we have a name to look up at least. Maybe someone at the inns knows something about them. It won’t take much to bribe someone for information even though it’s supposedly classified. That being put down as classified just means; only those paying bribes can get access to information now days.
Svinn and the receptionist still wouldn’t tell us who it was.
“So, just give us our fucking money,” Stallk spat out. This is his alcoholic side coming out again.
Ahh crap, he’s going to rage again isn’t it? I saw him start to get this way in a bar once. It didn’t end well and I was nearly arrested along with him.
“Um…I don’t want to get arrested for being in this team if he gets out of hand,” Saiya said to the people we’re talking too.
I should have said that too but it’s too late.
“Easy there, young man. Don’t make me discipline you,” Svinn said with eyes ablaze with anger like a hot forge. Svinn looks really powerful and strong. Why the hell is Stallk messing with that guy? That Svinn guy looks like he could crush you with his bare hands.
Stallk is cowed and steps back while shutting up after he got his arm twisted behind his back by Svinn harshly. But he still looks shifty and exploitive, which worries me.
“So did the other team have any losses?” Saiya wondered. She seemed curious about that other team for some reason.
“That’s not the point and we can’t legally disclose the other team’s biographic traits anyway. The point is you shared off the benefit of another team’s effort while they did all the work. And we have to be fair about that. They essentially had to fight off something like seven to ten orc platoons by themselves while you guys were able to get back with no risk. We have to account for that in how we divvy up the job payments,” Svinn said.
There’s a whole minute of swearing while I’m doing the math in my head.
Saiya and I look at each other.
“How could someone be that strong?”
We can’t admit they are not being fair to calculate it that way. If we were in his position we would probably do the same. It’s only fair to consider who is actually doing their duty. But it still sucks and we are desperate to need the money. Plus I think Saiya owes money for a medical healing life transfer service from about a week ago. If she doesn’t pay it off, she could be sold as a slave. Then the rumor among the men is that Stallk has some kind of bookie he’s paying off too.
It would have been 14 gold, 18 silver, plus another 9 silver for a total of 14 gold 34 silver. But now it will be less than that.
“So naturally we’re going to have to work it out with the other team leader to decide how we’re going to handle the payouts. We may even consult with one of the Prince’s aides on this to make sure what we decide is the right way to go if we decide to escalate it to have another look from the government,” Svinn explained.
“Like some fat rich prince is going to care about us,” Stallk said.
That was a mistake to say.
Svinn is instantly angry. “I’ll have you know the prince in charge of this city is a good man and does care about his people. He’s remarkably untouched by corruption and greed and strives daily to make the kingdom a safe place for dwarves to live in and thrive. That’s why he was sent to hold the southern province together. Do not speak lightly of him again.”
Stallk shut up immediately.
Seriously I thought Svinn was going to hand Stallk his ass on a plate.
More groaning…Saiya and I are really quiet. Two of our guys are holding Stallk down so he doesn’t cause a fight.
“Can you give us an idea at least of what the options are?” Saiya asked politely to make up for Stallk being a near criminal.
The problem too is that Stallk is cheap labor, and you need someone in your party who isn’t afraid to fight.
Svinn nodded, pleased at how polite she’s being. Of course he doesn’t know that under the surface she’s probably shaking in her boots because of that medical debt she’s got to pay off.
“There’s the possibility of giving the other team half of your job’s gold since they killed close to two hundred orcs. I won’t lie to you, that is the most likely foreseeable outcome at this point,” Svinn said openly with his arms folded over his chest.
“Oh my hell!” I exclaimed. It’s taking time for that to sink in.
“T-two hundred?! That’s freaking not possible!” Saiya’s mouth is hanging open.
“Did I hear that right?” Another guy said.
“What did you just say?” Stallk near us is also surprised.
“T-two hundred?! Holy shit!” Saiya explaimed again, looking at me.
“Fuck…must be some kind of special forces elites. Don’t let Stallk go anywhere near them,” I warned the others.
They nodded, seeing the danger. There’s a murmuring of astonishment. And if Stallk did meet up with them or try anything an elite special forces time would come after us next because of him being stupid. We better not mess with them actually if they can pull of something like that.
“Shit, those guys must be like top rank people,” I hear one guy say.
“Must be all hired killers all of them,” another said.
“Um, did they have any losses?” I asked. I couldn’t help it but I’m curious.
“You don’t need to worry about that for now,” Svinn said curtly. He looked pleased at our reactions for some reason though.
“How could they have killed two hundred?” Saiya whispered to me as Svinn is getting ready to leave.
I wonder why he avoided that question. It also made Saiya give me another weird look.
“And you guys killed less than twenty orcs the whole time, when you factor in that the compound you pulled the people from actually helped with half your kills. Just be glad we’re not going off kill ratio to settle this,” Receptionist Girl said.
“Yeah that’s true,” Saiya admitted.
Shit, if they paid us by kill ratio instead we’d be broke.
“So you can see if we paid both teams equal pay when only one of them did most the work, then we would be accused of unfairness and corruption. And no matter how we handle it someone will get more and someone will get less. So it’s natural we need to confirm with the higher ups on the best way to take care of this,” Svinn said diplomatically.
Saiya scowled, “You guys were spying on us huh?”
Svinn shook his head back and forth. “It was a given we’d need an espionage mage watching all three teams to provide backup and if necessary provide a rescue force for any teams that either weren’t going to make it in or that would get pinned down. So don’t feel bad about it. It means that if you got in trouble we’d have tried to help you if we could justify doing it with no losses. If something bad had happened we’d want to go in to help. It had nothing to do with trust or spying, but just keeping our people alive.”
“I-I guess that’s true,” I admitted spitefully.
I still don’t like that they might give half our gold to the others.
“Fuck them. I want to grab one of them in the street and maybe beat the crack out of them in an alley somewhere. Actually, I might do just that. Hell, I’m tired of this eeking by just to survive crap,” was heard as we reacted in horror realizing this voice was Stallk shooting off his mouth again as some team members of ours, four total, were leading him away out of the building to get some fresh air.
“So who is the other team’s leader? Maybe we can meet with them and help resolve this,” I said.
Svinn doesn’t seem to mind. But looks happy with that; I think he’d rather not deal with the headaches.
Eventually we got a name because we kept nagging him for several minutes.
“Sunghee, is the name listed as the team lead,” Svinn sounded puzzled why he read it. Why did he do that? He seemed surprised by something.
Oh OK, so it wasn’t Sunga or Sung at all. That doesn’t sound like a dwarven name though.
I wonder why Sunghee was listed as the team leader instead of Shun? He’s obviously strong and Sunghee does whatever he says. If he says jump, she says how high. This Sunghee person I’ve also heard good things about but it seems like she was semi-retired for awhile. But I also thought he was with Asakura or something like that.
Oh well. To each their own business…maybe he has reasons.
But to think that they cleaned out nearly two hundred orcs. If the geomancer trackers hadn’t verified it themselves I would have thought it was some big fish story like the humans tell to show their prowess.
“Hey thanks for helping out today. I’ve got to go. That one guy was scary,” Receptionist girl said smiling at me and waving.
“yeah he was,” I admitted.
“Stay safe!” I said to her as I was leaving.
“You too,” she called back politely.
Right she probably wants to get away from this semi-mob…I can’t blame her.
“So when will you let us know the decision on this again?” the girl called Saiya asked.
“Tomorrow morning. We’ll send a messenger to your inn with the payments too. Don’t worry, either way you’ll still get a lot of money for your team. And we’ll try to have your names on priority for other jobs that require good performance for what you’ve done for us,” I said.
“Hmm, sure…” she sounded like she had mixed feelings about that when she replied.
Somehow that probably won’t make them feel better. Saiya and Akira act a little odd hearing that. They are a bit stuff and their goodbye greetings seem forced.
But right then another dwarven messenger distracted me.
I wish the Prince and his cronies would lean on some other people for awhile. I’ve got so much to do. I don’t have time to deal with this mess. But that Stallk guy probably is one step away from going to jail.
They want me at the wall. It seems the first orc army has arrived. The Prince and the City Lord want a veteran leader at the gates to coordinate defense.
And it’s a full twelve hours ahead of schedule. That bothers me even more.
14 gold 34 silver to split among the ten of us survivors. That’s not as much as we thought we were going to get. I thought it was going to be higher.
And now we hear it’ll be even less than that!
Will that be enough to repay my medical loan? It’s coming due soon. I don’t know yet how that will work out. It’s going to be tight.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
If I don’t repay it I could be sold as a slave. That scares me. And you can’t run because when you take out the loan they do some kind of blood magic tracking that records you and how to go after you. But at the time I had been injured and there wasn’t another option besides the loan.
So if they split our fees with that other team.
When I work it out on paper…
They will give half of that; 7 gold and 17 silver to the other team. Sunghee or whatever her name is right? Someone said she’s pretty good at adventuring and one of the old names of people good at fighting but then disappeared into retirement awhile ago.
Maybe she’ll let me work out some kind of deal with her? Supposedly she’s rumored to be really beautiful too.
Is she single I wonder?
So 7 gold and 17 silver divided by ten.
I frowned. It seems so much smaller now. Its like how will I make that work to pay my loan. I need a drink to solve my depression.
So each of us would get 71 silver 70 copper. Did I figure that right? Let me check my work…
The math doesn’t look too good but its right. I bang my head on the inn dresser in frustration. None of us also has adventurer’s license either, so we aren’t getting a preferred cut.
71 silver 70 copper each would be a pretty good haul if I hadn’t received that medical debt awhile ago. It would have been over two months worth of room and board. But I’ll lose 50 silver of that for the medical debt, leaving me with only 20 after my inn fees. That won’t pay it off either. Because it was an alchemist the health potions came from real materials that cost some money. After this I’ll only owe another 4 gold 50 silver plus interest with next payment due next month.
I hear Stallk is pretty mad. I worry he’ll do something stupid. He wanted that money to ‘open a new business’ as a legitimate brewing company to make dwarven bear, mead, and some other stuff. But we know that the truth is he’ll drink half of that money staying up all night. Even if he hasn’t decided that himself, that’s how the end result will be because of lack of willpower.
He seemed pretty freaking mad.
I can’t get it out of my mind. Maybe I should say something so he doesn’t do something stupid.
I told Akira to talk to him but that ass won’t get out of his stubbornness to do anything. He keeps saying it’s going to be fine. But it won’t be.
Stallk is very predictable at being attracted to trouble naturally.
I didn’t like him being on the team, except he was pretty good at fighting and didn’t run away because of his obsession with having beer money.