Second part of my Oldhammer style novella, Holiday in Orkrania. If you missed part 1 – why not go back and read it!
Holiday in Orkrania Part 2 – Drew Complains to Gundrun
Six pence and 2 farthings a night was perfectly reasonable as far as Drew Hafepenny was concerned. After all his name was Hafepenny was it not, and as his old gramps had always said, “Look after the hafepenny’s and the rest will look after themselves,” no one knew exactly what was meant by this—whether it referred to budgeting matters or an attitude to the rest of the world outside the family was never quite established—after all old gramps Hafepenny usually disappeared behind a fug of pipe-smoke after giving this sage pronouncement.
These dwarves were certainly good for it. Hacking bits of gold out of the Orkranian hills as they had been for the last year certainly wasn’t going to make them any poorer. But, their “leader” Gundrun Rocksplitter, didn’t see it the same way. Drew would much rather be stirring tonight’s rabbit stew and checking it had enough salt than arguing over the cost of boarding per dirty dwarf prospecter.
“It’s daylight robbery, that’s what it is,” grumbled Gundrun, gulping the ale, his grey moustache coming away from frothy as he looked up at Drew across the table.
The cheek of the dwarf, thought Drew, to sit drinking my ale and say that—I don’t think I said on the house did I—he’s going to pay for that pint if he keeps arguing this.
Containing his anger, Drew twiddled his thumbs as he always did when he was agitated, and said, “It’s always been six pennies and a farthing for a pallet in the common room. I can’t start giving preferential rates—besides your lot aren’t always the easiest of guests.”
Gundrun harrumphed loudly at this. “If it weren’t for the mining boys there’d be no other guests in the common room—besides dwarfs who else is even staying at the inn!”
Drew scowled. Gundrun had a point—they were in the back of nowhere, like an old cupboard someone had forgotten about—but Drew knew that Nstaad was just waiting for boom time—not as a gold town, but as a destination for the rich of Hyperia who were all abuzz with the new fad of “holiday-making”. He’d bought the old coaching inn to take advantage of that—the old Orkranian hills were particularly picturesque and no one worried about the threat of orcs and goblins now—just legends they were.
Drew’s silence just prompted another verbal assault from Gundrun—he was unstoppable—”and what do you mean by ‘the easiest of guests.’”
Drew wouldn’t let this one go unanswered. “Hah well—I would call dragging in lots of dirt not particularly easy, and also there’s the brawling and the breaking of chairs …”
“All paid for and settled on account,” cut in Gundrun, beetling his eyebrows at Drew in a deep frown.
“And worse of all,” countered Drew, “they hardly ever eat our meals—always off cooking on their own fires—I even caught a couple of them using the hearth to spit-roast a couple of coneys the other week—the cheek of it.”
“These are hard-working dwarves—not made of money—they’re here to work hard to support their families—most of what they make goes back home.”
Drew was about to respond when there was a yip-yap from around his ankles. A small dog with tight white curly fur was sniffing around under the table looking for food. Drew frowned and then noticed a couple more dogs lolling around near the hearth of the common room.
Drew bellowed to the barkeep—his cousin Odo, “Who let the dogs in?!”
One of the dogs near the hearth started barking gruffly and loud—the poodle sprang away from under the table and all three of them exited from the front door or the inn.
Odo shook his head. “Dunno. Gone now though. Almost as if they could hear you Drew.” The Halfling jumped off the step that ran behind the bar and came round to shut the front door. “There. That’ll keep ‘em out.”
Drew shook his head. That was odd. Now he just had to get rid of these penny pinching dwarves. “As bad as dogs,” he muttered.
“What was that,” snapped Gundrun, putting down his tankard with a slam.
Drew took a deep breath. “Your lot need to clean up your act and start paying your way, or you’re out as well.”
The dwarf’s face started turning red above the grey of his beard. He punched the table with a fist. “You want to send away paying customers then that’s your choice, but don’t expect us to protect your midget backsides.”
“Protect? From what?”
Gundrun curled his lip, revealing a set of larger than expected yellowing teeth. “There’s more in these hills than gold and goats you know.”
Drew shook his head. “The goblins all disappeared down their holes years ago. They’re not in the Orkranian hills any longer, cleared off to the Granite Mountains long ago.”
Gundrun shook his head. “That’s the story the King and the Duke might spin—that we’re all safe and nothing to worry about, but my boys they can tell there’s something not right. We can smell them.”
Drew barked a laugh in Gundrun’s face. “Smell your own stinking armpits more like! Go on. Enough of this. Unless I get the rent I’m owned for all the miners by tomorrow then that’s it—they can find somewhere else to stay.”
Gundrun stood up and straightened his leather jack and smoothed down his beard over the key that he always wore around his neck. “They’ll be gone by this evening. We have tents enough up at the Exchange and Mart.”
Drew stood up as well, but regretted it. At least sitting across from Gundrun he didn’t feel his lack of stature compared to the dwarf who now had nearly two foot of height on him.
The front door opened. “Don’t let any dogs in,” shouted Odo. But it was just two of the human hikers that entered. The tall posh one with floaty hair and what looked like an expensive longsword at his side and the one that had the appearance of a bodyguard or a bouncer. Drew wondered idly if he’d like a job at the inn—collecting debts from non-paying dwarves perhaps?
The tall one smiled. “No dogs, just us. A glass of red I think would suit me. Shilby?”
“Ale,” the other said.
Gundrun turned on his heal. “Last you’ll be seeing of me, then,” he said, his back to Drew as he walked towards the door, grabbing it from the man called it Shilby, who gave him a nasty look. “The boys will be gone by nightfall, I’ll spread the word.”
“There’s bar tabs to settle,” shouted Drew as Gundrun walked through the doorway.
The tall man smiled. “Hmmm, the little people are arguing, how quaint.”
Drew said nothing, but turned and went to polish some glasses. He didn’t know who was worse tight-fisted dwarves, or arrogant humans. At least the humans had paid in advance.