Hammer 4, The Year of Three Ships Sailing, 1491 DR
Mirna Drendar’s eyes opened slowly, as they did every morning around this time. It had had taken her some time to adjust to living beneath the ground, yet her internal clock was now set, and her day was beginning. The ruin under Hillcrest Manor was warm, in most places, despite the biting cold outside, and Mirna was thankful as she threw off her sleeping furs.
It had taken Mirna a month to get Droop to agree to, and actually perform the task of, keeping the hearths burning through the night. At first, the goblin had shirked this duty, and the finally after more than a few mornings of the goblin waking to find a thin film of ice had covered nearly all of his trinkets and alchemy trappings, the goblin begrudgingly agreed. Sadly, the lack of diligence also resulted in Mirna’s daughter almost catching her death. Nilsa was still recovering, and so Mirna, Nars, and Droop did the work of four at the manor, and trading post.
“Bloody Droop,” Mirna muttered under her breath as she slid on her heavy woolen shift with a thick fur mantle. Droop was a habitual pain her arse, yet he had become her “pain the arse”. Although the effort had almost not been worth it, Droop was an integral part of the now functioning Hillcrest Manor. The goblin did his chores, mostly, and spent most of his free time in the alchemist lab tinkering, muttering, and making foul-smelling concoctions.
Mirna hurried to the make-shift kitchen. Nars needed to be up soon. The boy, now fourteen winters, ate as much as three. He worked hard up top, as he and Mirna were the only one’s who could. Nilsa was still too frail from the fever to face the biting cold, and although some in Phandalin knew about the goblin, Droop, Mirna thought it prudent to not flaunt the little monster’s presence among the trading post.
Mirna quickly assembled breakfast, and madder way to Nilsa’s room, stopping to badger Nars to the point of finally getting up, along the way.
Nilsa’s room was sweet smelling from rose water. The girl looked frail, yet cheery, smiling at her mother as she came in. Nilsa toyed with an affection granted to her by a young man, or woman, Mirna wasn’t sure, of the village at the Midwinter festival. Nilsa would be 19 in the Spring, and it was probably time she wed. Thoughts of nuptials forced Mirna’s thoughts to her own wedding, and the time she spent with her husband before the Redbrand Ruffians had killed him. His body was found in a chasm under Hillcrest, not far from this very room, gnawed upon by a one-eyed monster Brother Seeker Rosch Uskevren had called a “nothic”. Mirna steeled herself, and pushed the memories back for another time. There was too much to do today, she would weep when she had the time.
“Morning darling,” Mirna cooed to her daughter.
“Morning mother,” Nilsa returned. “I am feeling much stronger today. I thought I might cover myself in a heap of furs and help you, and Nars, up top.”
“Did you now?” Mirna asked with a smile. She had heard this every day for a week from her daughter, and Mirna couldn’t help but admire the stuff her daughter was made of. Despite Nilsa’s “feeling stronger” Mirna knew that it was too soon.
“I think you’ll rest a bit more, love,” Mirna said as she laid breakfast down next to Nilsa’s bed. “But, if you can get these dishes to the tub before I get your thick-headed brother ready, I will let you come up top for a bit while we open up the post, and afore too much of the day’s cold has blown in.”
Mirna could feel her daughter’s smile beam at her back and she hurried to Nar’s room to wake him up, again. Just as she thought, he lay half dressed, sleeping furs thrown over his head, sound asleep.
Once more Mirna battered and chided her boy to rise. Once more, he acquiesced with minimal grumbling. Gods but he was already tall, like his dad. He looked a lot like him too. There were times when Mirna swore a ghost stalked these halls. A phantasm out of time, as her boy looked almost identical to his dad when they had first started courting. They had been together nineteen years before he died, and she had lived with him longer than she had lived with out him. But with him dead, the “without him” would catch up, and then pass the “with him”. The thought saddened Mirna, but it was not the first time she had met it.
As she and Nars finished breakfast, reviewing what needed to be done at the post, Droop blew through the kitchen placing a pile of three plump rats atop the table with a squishy thunk. Mirna knew that was Droop’s breakfast, despite her offering to make him some of what the family ate. Droop declined, yet refrained from eating his preferred cuisine until he was alone.
“Morning Droop!” Nars said cheerily to the goblin.
The goblin responded in with something in its own tongue. Although Mirna knew next to nothing of the language, from what she had picked dup, she could recognize the goblin’s response as less than flattering, and likely not anatomically possible.
Shakily, Nilsa made her way into the area they were eating, empty dishes clattering. She looked like she was going to collapse under the weight of her winter furs, yet Mirna kept a firm hand on Nars’ shoulder, letting her daughter make he way to the basin. The dishes landed with a loud clink, and Nilsa smiled triumphantly at her mother and brother.
Nars and Mirna helped Nilsa make her way up the steps. The trap door was cool to the touch, and biting cold over took them as soon as she threw it open. The they climbed out of the ruin, and began throwing back the thick leather tarps that protected the trading post’s inventory. Nilsa brushed away a thin crust of snow that had blown in over night, but even that small effort caused sweat to form on her brow.
“Ehhmmm,” A deep voice cleared it’s throat intentionally loud in order to get the attention of the family busy at work.
Mirna turned to see a stout dwarf entering the trading post. His armor was dulled by a sheen of hoarfrost, and covered in cruel looking spikes and blunted studs. He kept all of his thick red hair piled atop his head in a wild bun. Mirna had never seen a dwarf without a beard, but then again Mirna had not seen a lot of dwarves. Even still, the dwarf before her had a recently shaved, smooth face, ruddy with cold and a little chapped, save some thick chops that covered the tops of his jaw. He wore a broad weapons belt that contained a pick on one hip, and a mace on the other. He bore a round shield on his back, the haft of an axe poked out from underneath the shield.
“Mirna is it?” The dwarf asked raising a thick, red, eyebrow.
“Good morn, sir, the post is not yet opened,” Mirna said with a smile. Looking around, she saw some of the morning patrols in the distance and knew that Sildar Hallwinter’s men would be within shouting distance if needs be.
“I am knowing that lass,” the dwarf thumped to the ground, arse first, is clatter of armor. “Me name is ”/characters/quetson" class=“wiki-content-link”>Quetson, and I were sent by the dwarves of Wave Echo Cave. They aren’t me kin a’course, I got none. I were just hired. Anyway, I am for sitting here, and making sure nothing happens to ye, and them, until they be done."
Mirna was a little confused. She knew of Wave Echo Cave of course, and her master’s involvement with it to an extent, yet she had heard nothing about a visit from them. She looked out on to the road leading up the hill and saw procession of wagons headed toward the trading post.
“Wh-what is all that?” Mirna said a little overcome. Nilsa and Nars were craning their necks to see the strange wagon train.
“What I were sayin’ woman,” Quetson sad boredly. “That is them from Wave Echo. Dwarven mason’s mainly, with a few gnomish and human engineers and fitters. They are a good enough lot. Prone to talking too long for my liking, and not nearly as into breaking things as they are building them. But in total, ye have a good crew in em.”
“I am sorry,” Mirna said, her voice returning to her pleasant, yet prudent registry. "I have no idea what you are talking about. Master Rosch is away, yet I am sure he would have told me if he had ordered a “crew”, as you say."
“He didn’t order it,” Quetson said with a grimace as fished around inside his armor, the confines making him stretch and twist uncomfortably. With a triumphant smile he pulled forth a fist-sized clay pot with a small, stout, neck and rubber stopper. He pulled the stopper with his teeth and spat it into his hands before taking a huge draw. His eye’s began to water slightly, and his cheeks instantly flushed. He offered the black pot toward Mirna and waved it at her. Mirna was over come by a smell like lamp oil, stale beer, morning water, and dill. “Ye be wanting a swig? Maybe some for the girl and boy? It’ll warm ye up.”
Mirna tried not to vomit at the thought. Batting Nars’ eager hand away as he reached for the stranger’s pot, she interposed herself between her children and this so-called “Quetson”.
“What is going on? Mirna exclaimed, "Why are they coming here if my master did not order them?
“Ta build the manor walls woman,” Quetson looked at her as if she was daft. “It’s bloody cold out!”
As if to emphasize his point, a shrill morning breeze picked up, chilling Mirna as she watched the wagons plod up the hill.
“Nilsa, back below,” Mirna said matter-of-factly. “If it is true that you are invigorated, see if you can’t get some water going for tea. We should have something warm to greet our guests. I will be down to help in a bit, and it is fine if you cannot. Oh, and see to Droop. Tell him…tell him not to come up from the ruin for…for awhile.”