Author note; got sick, not sure how many updates there will be for either story, but each will get equal attention. I might need a few days off, but am thinking still how much I like writing. Thanks for all your support and for reading.
As we go around looking at the dwarven keep, we were walking for a good ten minutes despite this being a fairly small village sized keep. There was a lot to study and look over and the dwarves were anxious to make a good impression, often commenting on how beautiful the cut of the stone is and how great their geometry skills had to be in order to do so. There were at least a good twelve large stone houses within the keep that surrounded the plaza, and a fancy well and fountain area in the middle. All of the houses seemed to branch out in a circular formation in pie sections off the middle plaza area.
They have interesting kerosene style oil lamps lighting up the plaza to keep back the dark and at different intervals on the streets too so it’s not too hard for us to study this out, even though I’m saving mana and have my light spell on a low mana burn setting.
Or at least it seems like their lamps have something very similar to kerosene, since I’m not a petroleum product expert. There are four lamps hanging from each lighting setup in the area at even intervals and they have pretty good light actually with good burn efficiency and fuel consumption according to the dwarves. It’s also clear the dwarves have efficient and organized city planning.
“How come they don’t use magic to do that?” Rina asked me referring to the lighting.
“That’s a good question actually,” Asakura said.
She turned to Oleg, “Dwarves have plenty of mages don’t they?”
“What do you think Shun?” Asakura asked before Oleg could respond. He looks a bit dour and tired. Maybe he was the wrong one to ask and that’s why Asakura had turned to me.
“I’m not a dwarf, how would I know?” I asked.
We all instinctively look over at Oleg, but he remains quiet choosing not to respond. Surely it’s not a big secret is it?
“Save magic maybe?” Asakura suggested.
“Is that true Shun?” Rina asked.
“It’s as good a guess as any,” I shrugged. “Magic uses energy just like engines and electrical systems. It’s also possible they wanted to save that energy for tactical and warfare usage to defend themselves. Even if they had magic commonly in every village it might depend on if it’s being easier for them to have an abundance of energy resources from fossil fuels or magic? That’s also assuming their ability to store magic is even efficient.”
Oleg snorted. Was he glaring at me?
We finally get brought over to take a look at our housing with a bunch of other dwarven troops and scouts with him guiding us. He’d taken us back to a secluded area inside the walls that is on the outer edges of the community. It doesn’t have a mailbox or walkway like the other houses. Plus somehow it doesn’t look right, but I can’t put my finger on it.
Did I miss something?
But we’re shocked when Oleg is the one to bring us to our place. It’s small…really small.
“How do you like your new apartment?” Oleg said smiling at us with twinkling eyes.
“What the hell is this dump?” Rina said when we saw it. She’s not masking her hostility.
Even I’m shocked. This looks like a tool shed…
Asakura doesn’t say much, but looks at me with a look that says she’s wondering if I’ll put up with this.
I almost said the same thing.
Oleg looked offended. “There’s nothing wrong with it. So you don’t like our hospitality?”
Technically he’s right. But this place is way too small. It’s like a ten by ten brick cottage with a flat roof that’s seen better days and almost looks similar to plywood with and thatch together. The door is ajar hanging off one hinge and rusted out in the same hinges. It doesn’t help that the brick looks really old and the mortar in between them looks like it’s not done well and eroded away.
In fact it doesn’t look like the other dwarven housing pieces that all have high gabled triangular roofs. It’s because of that I’m looking at it so skeptically.
“In case you haven’t noticed Shun is a mage, not a stable boy,” Rina argued.
“Yeah that’s right,” Asakura joined in before I could stop her.
“I don’t give the orders, I just follow them,” Oleg growled with his hands in his pockets. He can’t help it but he looks pretty defiant and shifty looking.
“This isn’t going to work. I say we leave this dump of a town as soon as we can,” Rina said putting her foot down angrily.
I’d forgotten how women demand a certain standard of living. Even if we didn’t know how long we were going to stay here.
“We’ll probably only be here like…less than a week?” I raised an eyebrow at Asakura.
“What do you think?” I asked her.
Her eyes betray her disappointment. I can see Asakura going over the situation in her mind. It looks like she’s doing the math.
This is the first time this has come up so I’m actually really curious what will happen. Will the pheromones ‘encouraging’ loyalty from Asakura overwrite her demand for wanting a certain standard of living? Asakura grew up really well off in a rich mansion. How will she act on this? Will she do whatever I want regardless?
This is actually an interesting situation.
If I really want to test the power of the pheromones I could try to get Asakura and Rina to stay in this little crappy hut to see what will happen. It’s so tempting…
As I’m going over it in my mind I can hear Rina’s voice…
“Oh no you don’t! You think you can slink away and make us accept this!” She’s totally furious. Sure enough, she caught him.
Oleg had tried to slink off and get away while Asakura and Rina were looking inside the barren and empty cottage, trying to also go behind the other dwarven escorts. One glimpse inside and I can see there’s no table or beds, and no nothing that a real house needs in order to be inhabitable.
“Dirt floors,” Asakura stated with a dead look in her eyes. She’s giving me a look to plead for mercy. “Surely we’re not this desperate are we Shun?”
“Seriously? You expect us to live in a doghouse with dirt floors while this whole keep is people living in little stone cut block mansions?” Rina screamed.
Ahh crap. She’s right but I don’t really like the idea of her attracting the whole neighborhood here. Do the dwarves have such a thing as ‘disturbing the peace’? I don’t really like noise. We’re also outsiders and a different race so I’m worried they might persecute us or racially profile us too.
“It’s got to be either a barn or tool shed.” Asakura said summing it up. She is shaking her head.
“What?” I asked.
“Oil smell from tools,” Asakura said, sniffing from the doorway.
She points to the house up front that’s closest to us. I finally get what she means. Ahh, she means it’s the tool shed for that particular house. Sure enough there’s a very faint sign of a trail from the back door of that house over leading this way.
“Hey you little shit; this isn’t a house at all. It’s a tool shed. Probably from one of your friends,” I said angrily at Oleg.
“You think your smart don’t you coming in our town. You think you can just take over? Steal our jobs?” Oleg scowled with his hands crossed over his chest.
“Nobody is stealing your jobs. We don’t even like this town. But we need a decent place to stay that isn’t a tool shed,” Rina spat. It turns out Rina is lividly angry and ready to fight the ugly dwarf.
“Shun, it’s your call,” Asakura reminded me again. But her eyes seem to be pleading for me to defend them.
I’d always thought Oleg was a little shit. This just proved it. I stand in front of her before she hits him. But its too late to calm them down. Oleg is ignited by her getting mad as hell. He moves to hit her, but me and my runic shield are in the way. I’m glad I still had it up. I’d been leaving it on even in civilian situations since we didn’t really have any proof that the goblins couldn’t get through the wall.
Oleg’s fist bounces off the shield. There’s actually a crack in it, about the size of what a dagger would do. It means that Rina would have been really vulnerable under him. I better also not let her out of my sight.
About ten minutes later…
Oleg is on the ground with two black eyes. We haven’t really hurt him, but when he went after me I couldn’t stop Asakura from attacking in rush of madness.
It took everything I knew how to do, in order to make Asakura not gouge his eyes out.
Oleg is now tied up while we were herding him through the streets.
Unfortunately the dwarves are getting a bit too interested in this situation. They are getting really angry at us and it looks like a mob is forming. It started by Oleg screaming for help, I think. We were marching and then one or two dwarves started coming out. Then they were following us. Then suddenly it was like a crowd of them following us.
Oleg continued to squeal like a pig. The crowd is afraid of me though, since they know I’m a mage.
“Oh shit.” I said it under my breath.
“Are…are they going to mob us Shun?” Rina asked. It resembles in part certain groups of people wanting to mob policemen in our world that I’d seen in the news before we were brought to this world.
“I was…protecting Shun…” Asakura said sadly and apologetically.
Oleg is trying to get people riled up as we’re marching to go find Svinn. And that’s how Oleg tried to have us arrested and put in the dwarven jail. But Svinn managed to intervene. He’s more popular with the people and seen as a good leader. But despite that, it took some time to get sorted out. Just like humans, it seems that dwarves and their towns have bad apples too.
It takes some time before Svinn gets everyone calmed down and now it’s turned into a town meeting. The dwarves are screaming for our blood.
Svinn has to yell at them for a long time. He’s very courageous and cows them into submission with force of will.
How did it turn into this?
Those freaking pigs…and we helped drive back that horde of goblins in the first wave…and they are still there, yet the dwarves are mad at us?!
This is the weirdest thing imaginable.
“You want to tell me what this is about?” he asked.
“I’m pretty sure the other side has already told you their story with their lies,” Rina spat.
“That’s enough Rina. You’ve done enough damage,” Asakura said. Asakura moves to restrain her and not let her talk at all, keeping her hand near her mouth at all times.
Actually even though this is Rina’s fault, she’s right. Who would want to live in that place? With the gnomes everybody lived like that and it was equal…but here it isn’t like that at all.
“Your pig Oleg basically tried to lead us to a tool shed to live in. Then when Rina yelled at him he got mad and attacked. So Asakura beat him down in self defense and we went to find you to ask what to do. While en route Oleg started screaming something to rile people up while playing like he was the victim when we only arrested him because he deserved it. I don’t speak dwarvish but it probably amounted to us trying to rob or murder him I suspect,” I said.
“That sounds about right,” Svinn nodded. He chuckled and is amused but I can see he’s not led astray by Oleg’s crafty lies.
“Why a tool shed? We killed more goblins last night than your whole guard put together with those little explosions. Surely there’s a better place to stay than that,” I said dourly.
Svinn stopped and began yelling at Oleg in dwarvish. They continue for some time and it’s getting even more heated. The dwarven crowd suddenly gets really quiet after several minutes of this going on. One by one they start to disperse, but not before looking at Oleg with shame.
Nobody is mad anymore but everyone is now glaring at Oleg, who has stayed to watch. Some of them I suspect want him punished.
“So what just happened?” I asked him.
Svinn looks like he wants to tear his hair out. I do hear him mutter something about the stress of his job, but then he brightens up when he sees us.
“So basically Oleg was supposed to lead you to a nice house. Actually one of our best houses in this whole region and not just this town, which someone had voluntarily vacated to setup a military officer’s house so that we could purposefully have a vacant house here for dwarven military and also we’d have an incentive to house and keep specialized soldiers in this keep like yourselves,” he continued to say.
“Makes sense. If they want to stay at the town with the better housing, then by default it has better protection than the neighboring town down the road which would have been the alternative,” I reasoned.
“That’s really sick. That little rat,” Rina said guessing the rest.
Still Svinn wants to clarify it.
“The house…err I mean tool shed he led you to, is the backyard shop of one of Oleg’s relatives. He was hoping to put you in there, charge you rent, and also tell the military he needed compensation bonuses for housing soldiers for government subsidies that we sometimes do, but he wasn’t supposed to put anyone in the tool shed whether human or dwarf,” he said.
“Eh? So he was going to milk both ends of this?” I was even surprised at how ballsy he was.
“That’s a pretty clever scheme, we wouldn’t have been able to speak for ourselves either,” Asakura noted.
Everyone is looking at Oleg, who has a bloody noise.
“That’s a shitty deal,” I said.
Svinn is glaring at him too. “Most dwarves aren’t like this Shun. I’m sorry it happened. Here’s the key to the real house. I’ll also take you there myself.”
“And you are sure this is a closed deal?” I asked.
He gives us a shiny solid silver key that screams that it belongs to a rich house. But he does one even better, “Like I said, I’ll personally take you over to this place.”
He began walking us over right away. But before leaving he signaled for two dwarves to come with him and us each as bodyguards, for a total of four guards all together.
I’m not sure if it’s from wanting to protect us or lack of trust at this time so I don’t say anything. So far Svinn seems reliable and helpful.
“My offer of employment still stands,” he hinted to me after we’d gotten a few feet away from the others on our way to march over to the new house.
“Actually now that things have calmed down, I’ve wanted to ask you a few things,” I said.
Svinn nodded, listening intently. “Of course. Anything that I can do to help promote good relations for the dwarves I will do. I also hope to encourage you once again that very few dwarves are like Oleg. This has never happened before to us in this town.”
“But why is a loser like him even in charge?” Rina said before I could shut her up.
Svinn sighed, “his grandfather founded this keep. So he sort of inherited the position through nepotism, but he lacks the ability to back that up or make proper decisions that will benefit everyone. That’s partly why I was stationed here awhile ago too. I think that’s what’s brought out his sneaky side.”
“Svinn, does this keep have someone that can sell us adventurer licenses?” I asked pointedly.
Maybe I can get somewhere is the feeling I have inside. I’d almost forgotten to bring it up.
“Ahh, that makes sense that you’d ask that,” he retorted. He’s holding a small pipe in his mouth. He looks at me in a new light, like he’d just recognized a shrewd trader.
“You have a pipe but don’t smoke?” Asakura asked him.
“My wife gets mad but I used to be addicted to the long leaves in my pipe. But it’s not worth getting the missus mad at me for. I don’t like sleeping in the guest room,” he coughed out.
His response made Rina and Asakura both laugh a bit.
“Back to your original question,” he turned to me, “this small keep doesn’t have the licensure offices that you are looking for. But the town down the road from the three here that are being attacked has a county seat office that can give you adventurer licenses with no problems.”
“A county seat office?” Rina asked.
“Yep,” he answered.
“Hmm, dwarves are pretty organized,” Asakura also noted.
“As long as we can get a license. We’ve needed it for a while,” I said.
Svinn then suddenly brightened up, “Although we don’t have the licensure offices here I can put in a letter through to the office to count your pay retroactively from today as if we had sold you one here since you pretty much saved a dwarven town with your team. It’s the least I could do.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“No problem,” he replied.
“Sweet! That’s awesome,” I gave Asakura a high five.
“Good. I’m glad,” Asakura echoed after me.
“Adventurer licenses?” Rina asked inquisitively. I hadn’t gotten into this with her yet…it’s a reminder that I need to. I also think that Rina’s personality will be better if she is mentored into being more self sufficient, now that I think about it.
I hadn’t told her yet about a few things, because I thought it was too dangerous for her to come along with her bad health. Plus it was a Sunghee and Fox deal, which would have brought out questions about them.
“I’ll explain it later,” I said to her.
“So you plan to be an adventurer?” Svinn asked me.
“I’m not sure if that’s what I intend to always do or end up doing, but to start out and get acquire skills and funds I’d like to face the onslaught of the demon realm and it’s dungeons. It would also give me a chance to study how others with good skills work things out and possibly gain some better foundation for other things,” I said.
Svinn nodded slowly, “you are well informed. People sometimes forget that the reason we have to have such big militaries is because of the demon realm trying to take over this world. I admire your tenacity,” he added.
We paused for a bit and I realized we were in front of the new house where we were staying. It was a very, very nice house. It was about as good as an 18th century house might look before the advent of electricity and plumping.
I couldn’t help but notice most of these houses also had horse drawn wagons lined up in a sort of “driveway”. The stables and animal fodder areas must be behind the houses I reasoned since I didn’t see large livestock in the front yards. So probably every house has a few sheds and barns behind it, much like the house Oleg had shown us.
I did notice that many of the houses did keep their own livestock with henhouses on the sides of several of the houses, next to coal and wood chutes for storing fuel to heat the homes. It seems a lot of the dwarven houses had chicken pens.
Svinn explained that because we were underground there was a high amount of nitrates in the soil and therefore lots of bugs and worms. That in turn meant that dwarves could pretty much have chicken pens all over the place and hardly even have to feed them and they’d prosper almost like a plague spreading out.
“So that’s how the dwarves produce food underground!” Asakura exclaimed.
“It is pretty ingenius,” I admitted.
“Plus we love meat, almost as much as we like beer,” he said proudly.
“I’m also guessing being underground has fermentation advantages?” Asakura asked.
“Yep,” came his reply.
But did that mean the dwarves were way ahead of other cultures in other areas too? I was going to really like living with them. That’s assuming we can deal with people like Oleg.
“I wish their houses had more windows though,” Rina said aloud as we studied it.
“No windows on first floor?” Asakura said aloud.
Svinn grunted, “Be glad for that. Since we’re underground anyway it doesn’t matter too much. You’ll notice that is a standard for dwarven architecture. It’s not for holding back on comforts but to preserve the lives of the inhabitants. All dwarven settlements are mandated by law to build this way, plus have a certain level height around the houses. It’s to keep people alive.”
“So is it effective though?” Rina asked.
He nodded, “we’ve done a lot of research on that very question. In areas of mixed human and dwarven people in the same communities with both being built together our researchers found that nine times out of ten goblins and orcs would go after the weaker, easier to take house first. They also want to survive and fear fortified areas unless they have overpowering numbers.”
“Well I suppose it’s OK, the second floor having windows is good enough,” Rina answered back.
“Those have inner shutters that are designed to be hidden so you can’t see them until they close. Also they are made of non-flammable iron plates,” Svinn said proudly.
“So how do you get crops to grow though? Since we’re underground that must be a challenge,” Asakura probed.
He chuckled. “We have greenhouses for that with enchantments that use a photosynthesis buff and a synthetic sunlight spell. We keep mandatory greenhouses per house ratios in all keeps and fortresses throughout the whole kingdom too. Plus you have to have a good amount of food production to make hops for beer,” he winked that last part at us.
“Wow you guys think of everything,” I said with big eyes.
He chuckled, “thank you for honoring our genius.” He’s very humble and cool.
“Oh we’re almost here,” he said gesturing to a building that was now in front of us. It was a beautiful house. I was tempted to stay here permanently even after this goblin business was finished.
But Svinn’s next comment tore that idea away. “Unfortunately though, this town has no dungeons. If you really want to be an adventurer you won’t be able to stay here. Dungeon towns also have quite a few advantages over those that don’t. The town I mentioned earlier Drankyl’s Burg has both a dungeon and the license facilities you require. Since it’s also a dwarven town I think it will be to your liking and the houses there are comparable with these.”