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A Day in the Life of Kerghyd Estateby John Calvin
"This will not do!" Despite the fearsome appearance of the guards, decked out as they were in red lacquered armour and demonic face plates, they visibly quailed at the tone of Ellrini's voice. The old gnome's grey hair was done up in a tight bun that pulled the skin back around her face. Her eyes, framed by thin wire glasses, remained frozen on the crumpled and bloody form lying on the stone tiles before her.
The slave, a man from the west she thought, with olive complexioned skin and jet black hair, met her gaze. He was one of the kitchen servers, and had been caught whispering to his peers while clearing the Elder's table. Had her mistress overheard that effrontery, all of their lives might be forfeit. "Cut out his tongue," she said, turning to leave. "And blind him. Mistress is running low on animals for her... work..."
Ellrini clasped her hands together as she walked down the long semi-circular hall of the outer estate. Although she moved swiftly, she took great care that her steps were soft and made no sound. Even though the mistress rarely graced the outer halls it was always good practice to behave as if in her presence. Quickly she made her way to the Servant's Gate and exited the compound. Two of the guards there silently nodded to their fellows and fell into escort exactly seven feet behind her, as was proper. Ellrini and her small entourage made their way down a narrow gravel trail several hundred feet away from the estate to a small stone building with a roof covered half in shingles and half in thatch. Muffled growls and whimpers came from within and two figures stood outside speaking to one another in hushed tones, one with the stockier frame of a dwarf and the other slightly shorter and with a much leaner physique.
"Good, you're both here. It will save me an additional trip to track you down, Hiskel," she said acknowledging the tow headed gnome and lifting one eyebrow. "Your shipments are late. The food stores are running low. We are down to our last weeks worth of flour, and oats, and the last of the tubers. And that shipment of wine from Fyngul that you promised me two months ago still isn't here."
"I know Ellrini. I was just telling old Sehg here to expect some company. Supply caravan should be a day away now."
"And the wine?" she asked.
"...uh, that's coming too," Hiskel stammered.
"See to it." Hiskel gulped, not daring to respond. Under the pressure of having Ellrini stare at him for several seconds he sullenly walked away. When the gnome was gone she turned her attentions to the dwarf. "Sehgdar, speaking of company, I hear we've had some recently."
The grizzled dwarf nodded and gave her a grim smile. The Wasting had taken hold of him and his lower jaw and half of his upper had been replaced with silver. "Aye," he rasped. "Something out there on the border with Derygk Estate. Seen them twice now. A small group, and fast. Could be treasure seekers. Could by spies from Derygk. Could be the Black Prince and his hounds. I've already doubled the patrols, so you've no need to come down here."
"Fine," Ellrini responded, her arms crossed. "With the day I'm having I needed to be sure." She turned to leave, but then hesitated. "When Hiskel's merchants get here, make sure they are followed at all times. See to it they don't know they're being observed. I want to know if these merchants and your recent visitors are connected in any way."
Ellrini sat down at her desk and let out a long sigh as she kicked off her slippers. A slave placed a hot cup of tea in front of her and then gingerly stepped out of the room. Ellrini took the cup in hand and inhaled its aroma... a hint of cinnamon, just as she liked. She took a single sip before a light knock on her office door interrupted her. Her brow furled, she set down the cup, and waited several minutes before replying, "Enter."
"I need to see Mistress. It's urgent." A burly dwarf entered into the room, dust from the road still thick about him. Tossing his sack into a corner, he began rummaging through the pouches at his belt.
Ellrini stiffened in her seat. "I take all matters to Mistress Kerghyd, Drugyr, and besides I can still smell the scaled stink of Isshum on you. What's so important that you had to interrupt my evening tea, even before washing yourself?"
"Not this time, Ellrini," Drugyr replied as he pulled out a scroll sealed with the symbols of Mogreth and dangled a polished teak token hanging from a leather strap in front of her face. "Mistress will see me. I've come straight from Tuurash' palace."