Bonus Chapter 9 – The Inventive Artificer

For goblins, two things mattered above all else: Community and Survival. To survive, one needs a community, and for a community to grow, one needs to survive. So it went without saying that goblins gained the best skill for that: Adaptability

Whether they made for hunters who lived in dungeons or silver-tongued sellers who made a living in towns, they would keep on going. Perhaps that was the reason they were all so small? It made others underestimate them, thus giving them the upper hand. 

Sadly, that wasn’t enough. 

Such were the thoughts of a young Sieda Yellowrock as she helped prepare the traps in her tribe’s newly acquired home, their former home having been taken from them by some nasty, ugly, terrible hobgoblins. While she hadn’t yet reached the age of ten–at that exact specific time she happened to be at the very young age of six–she didn’t have much of an option when it came to not helping as the hunters were going through the dungeon clearing away anything that could hurt them. 

The hunters were busy, so protection was needed, hence why traps had to be set. In case any new ones appeared. At least that’s what her mama told her. And her mama was the smartest person in the tribe, so she was obviously right. 

Still, these traps were only so good, Sieda thought as she stared down at the string that–once snapped–would drop a large amount of rocks on whatever was beneath. Sure, it was a hastily built one, but with a few modifications… 

“Sieda! What are you waiting for? Come on!” came the familiar voice of her mama, Tefta Yellowrock. 

Glancing up from where she was kneeling, Sieda stood up and ran to her. Grabbing her hand, she grinned up at her. 

“All finished!” 

“So I see! Did you make sure to do a good job?” her mama asked, smiling back down at her.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah! I even made sure to triple check the wire!” 

“Is that why you were taking so long?”

“Yes!” 

“Sieda.” 

“…” Staying quiet, Sieda looked away. “…Yes, mama?”

“What did you do?”

“…I added something.” 

“Which was?” 

“A small, like, really, really, really small fire stone!”

“And why did you do that?” 

“The rocks might not be enough! The stone will break and make even more rocks crash down!” 

“Hm hm, I see.” Looking at Sieda’s trap, Mama nodded to herself. “Sieda, you know why cave-ins are bad, yeah?”

“…Wasn’t gonna be a big cave-in…”

“And you know we don’t got a lotta those fire stones anymore, yeah?”

“Y-Yeah, but was a small one! A really really really small one!

“And where’d you get this really really really small stone?”

“…Found it.” 

“Really? You didn’t take it from the wagons?” 

“No! You told me I couldn’t take stuff from there, so I didn’t!” 

“Then where did you find it?” 

“Over there!” Pointing down the hall, past the trap she set up, Sieda gestured for her mom to come with her. “Look look look!” Heading off without waiting, Sieda led the way to where she found the gem.

“Wh-Sieda, get back here!” Chasing after her, Tefta did her best to grab her daughter, who had gotten a decent head start already. However, she underestimated just how fast her excited daughter was and only grabbed her once Sieda came to a stop. “What’d I tell you about running off like that! You’ll get lost!”

“S-Sorry sorry sorry, but mama, look!” Pointing down, Sieda gestured to a small pile of dirt that looked like it had recently been dug up. 

“Eh?” Squatting down, Tefta began to dig through the dirt and soon enough, her hands felt that warm familiar feeling of heat stones. Several in fact, albeit small ones. “…Where did you find these?” 

“In the ground! You taught me they grew in dungeons, so I looked and noticed it was off! And then I covered it cause I couldn’t carry it cause I had to put traps!” 

“What was off?” 

“The color! It was darker!” Grinning, Sieda squatted down to stare at the gems, nestled in a darker, almost burnt-looking patch of dirt. “You told me we have to cook food before eating, and when the food was cooked, the meat got darker, so, so, so, I saw the ground was darker here, and dug!”

Sieda wouldn’t realize it at the time, but that rather simplistic and childish thinking would change the clan. Before, they simply had to dig and hope to find any gems–looking for the small fragments in the dirt that hinted at where a pocket might be–but now they would be able to search more effectively. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect method, but for goblins that had lost their original stash of gems, it was more than enough to get them going again.

And it was all thanks to Sieda!

Though, for her, all that mattered was that everyone was happier. Especially her mama; she even got to have some special stew as a reward! And, if it meant making others happier as well as rewards, it meant Sieda had to do good things again. First, she needed to figure out what to do though. Trying to figure out traps would be good… 

Most of what they had was good enough to deal with the creatures of the dungeon, but when it came to outsiders, they weren’t as good. Maybe making some kinda weapon would work better…but to do so, she needed to grab weapons, and well, her mama never said she couldn’t grab those, so… 

Late at night, Sieda found herself sneaking around, doing her best to not get caught. Thankfully, her natural short stature made it easy for her to move around and hide behind any rocks whenever she got close to any of the patrols. And soon enough, she found herself where they kept all their supplies, including what they used to defend themselves. 

While nothing there could probably be called high quality, the tribe always made sure to keep everything well maintained, from the daggers to the bows. But she was aiming for one thing in particular. Reaching out, she grabbed the single crossbow the tribe had.

First and foremost to make it better she had to learn how it worked, so within moments she had a dismantled crossbow before her. And with the parts before her, she began to wonder how she could make it better. Changing the string was a good starting place, as well as using anything she could find to replace anything on the crossbow that was in bad shape. 

It wasn’t too bad though, pretty good really. The wood was fine and polished and had that sorta look to it that preserved wood always had, where it was sorta shiny. It was the metal bits that needed more work. Maybe something to make pulling back the wire faster. A crank would probably help there. 

Oh, might also need to work on the arrows. Hm…shaving the gems never really made them burst, so could try coating the arrowhead with shavings…wouldn’t even be able to test it out right away, but if it worked, that would be great! So she got to work! Because the best time to get ideas out was when they were right there in her head!

Sadly for Sieda, she didn’t think ahead of what would happen in the morning, so she spent too much time working and fell asleep in the armory, coming to only to find her mom standing over her. 

“…Hi mama.” 

“Cooking duty, two weeks.” 

“Aw…” Though, maybe she could improve the cookware? They tended to use firestones to heat the pots when cooking, so maybe if she could make it so the pots were always hot…

Her uncle Jordi explained that was even a thing some places did when she asked, so clearly it was a good idea. Most people did cold pots for some reason though. Cold food wasn’t good, so she didn’t get it at first, but then Jordi explained how lots of cold keeps mold away, like how a talisman could ward off bad spirits and mean demons. It needed to be dry cold though, because mold likes wet things, so anything made with that needed to be kept sealed. 

She asked if there was such a thing as drystones, and Uncle Jordi shrugged and told her to ask her mama, so she did and then had to tell her mama why she was asking about stones again when she’d just used up a bunch, so Sieda had to explain the crossbow thing first and then Yela and Sej were putting up targets and testing it and it turned out she did good because the fire arrows stayed fiery even after use!

There was a lot of talking after that, and then Sieda was taken over to the chiefs. Her tribe had three of them, and they were all pretty nice, but also old.

She could never remember their official names, but she knew what they did. Diya was in charge of those who protected the tribe, Maj made sure that the tribe always had plenty of food and stuff, and Kalz took care of all the supplies and made sure everyone knew what they needed to know.  

“Sieda, do you mind telling us how you made this?” Maj asked as he gestured to the crossbow and arrows.  

“Oh oh oh! That’s simple, I just fixed the bad parts, put in new parts, and used fire shavings!”

“…Can you show us just how exactly you did that?” Diya asked, sounding a bit annoyed. That wasn’t new, she was usually grumpy. 

“Sure!” Grabbing the crossbow, Sieda immediately began to disassemble it, taking off what she added with ease thanks to having worked on it all night. Her mama, who was standing by her, and all the chiefs leaned over to look, all looking confused.

“…How does she even know how to do that?” Kalz asked, sounding surprised.

“First, first, first, I changed this string, so it’s like tougher!” Stringing the crossbow, she began to pull at it, digging her feet into the ground to set it. Course it didn’t work since she was still a kid. “And when this happened, I got this crank thingy.” Tying the crank onto the crossbow, Sieda grabbed a second string, trying the first string and the crank together. “So even someone like me can pull it back!”

“Let’s hope that you don’t have to. What about the arrows?” 

“Ah, so so so, stones explode when they break, but shaving them is okay. So, I thought it would be good to put them on the arrows.”

“And how did you get them to stay on the arrows?” 

“Oh, oh, oh, there was like, a jar or something. It was sticky, so I put a bit on the arrows, and it made them stick!” 

“…Sieda, what was the jar you used?” 

“Dunno. Smelled like a tree.”

“…” Kalz tilted her head, her gray-black hair hanging down with it. “…Correct me if I’m wrong, Diya, but isn’t that tree sap flammable?”

“Yeah. Which would explain why the arrows light up so well…We’ve been using it for torches, but if we could use it to light weapons…The arrowheads haven’t melted at all?”

“No, they’re still intact.” There was lots of muttering with the chiefs, then Kalz grinned back at Seona, crouching a bit so they’d be looking eye to eye. “Hey Sieda, did you think of all these cool ideas on your own?”

“Yes! Wait…maybe? Mama read me stories, and like, it was full of fun stories, and I got ideas from there! I think. It’s not the same.” 

“How so?”

“So like. When fire goes, it doesn’t stay on, even though in books they do! So, instead of making the fire go there, we make the fire start there!” 

“…Right. Well, Sieda, do you think you can do more stuff like this?” 

“No.”

“…why not?”

“We only got one crossbow.” For some reason, Sieda thought they didn’t like her answer even though she was being honest. Though, she certainly didn’t expect what was gonna happen. A few days later, Sieda feasted her eyes on the city before her, with only her mom’s hand in hers to keep her from running into the city to see everything it held. 

“Been awhile since I’ve been to a place like this,” Tefta muttered as she walked closer to the gates, leading the small group of goblins. 

“You’ve been here before, Mama??” 

“Well, not in this place, but in one like it. Before I joined the tribe.” 

Sieda gasped. “You weren’t born in the tribe??”

“Yup, your mama’s a city gob! So stay close to me, okay? Your mama knows how to walk in streets like these.”

“Okay! Is there a special way we gotta walk?”

“Sort of. Gobs like us are small, compared to folk like humans and orcs, so we need to keep our eyes out. Big folk tend to keep their heads in the clouds, so they don’t always notice people like us.”

“Can’t we make ‘em notice?”

“Oh sure, we can, but it’s easier to just move in certain ways so they never get in your way to begin with.” 

“Sure thing!” Smiling, Sieda held close to Tefta, making sure to stay close to her as they made their way through the city. And as they did, Sieda began to realize something. A few things, actually.

First thing, cityfolk were really tall. Like, really tall. Humans were pretty tall, with her mama usually being as tall as their bellies, while orcs were huge. Also, really really muscley. 

Second thing, related to the first, was that there was a lotta work going on. She saw plenty of folk going around, carrying things or working on stuff and even a buncha orcs were building a house. She actually stopped for a moment, and her mama stopped with her, just to watch all the big people working around a wooden framework. Some were sawing lumber with handsaws, some were making holes with little handheld drills, and some were hammering nails into boards and shingles and things like that with claw hammers. 

They had so many tools! And Sieda was very interested in them! Already, she was starting to get ideas from them because people needed wood and wood needed to be cut so something that could cut wood faster would be better and people made holes with drills so what if she had bigger drills to make bigger holes going deeper into the caves instead of just pickaxes and hammers would be great for smashing rocks but what about hammers that moved on their own and the same for the claw bits, maybe like shovels, special shovels, claw shovels on arms-

One of the carpenters noticed the little goblin girl staring at them with wide, starry eyes, so he grinned and waved to her and her mom, saying a quick greeting and coming over to ask if they needed something.

And that was the third thing. Sieda had no idea what the orcish carpenter just said.

“Huh?” She blinked up at him, then looked to Tefta, who was shaking her head but smiling as she replied in the same language that Sieda still didn’t know. “Ah, mama? Why’re you talking all weird?”

“Snhk-It’s not ‘weird’, Sieda,” her mama replied, sounding happy, “It’s ‘common’. So, technically speaking, it’s supposed to be the opposite of weird.”

“…What’s that mean?”

“It’s a language, Sieda, like what we speak but different. I’ll tell you more about it later.” Turning back to the orc, Tefta talked to him some more before she led Sieda off, back on their mission! 

Which was getting supplies and materials! Which involved buying things from stores and trading things! And Sieda still didn’t understand a word of “Common”, so that was really boring! Really, really boring!

So Sieda spent most of her time there just looking around the shops and staring at things and getting ideas. Like lanterns, which seemed like better versions of the torches they had. Something about having a fire contained in glass tickled at her brain, like an idea that wasn’t fully there…

Tefta did notice her daughter’s boredom after a while though, and started making an active effort to keep her interest while the others in their party handled bartering and buying. Namely, by teaching her some of the language.

So Sieda learned more things. She learned the city they were in was called “Bigtown”, because a city was like a “big town” and the people there were a lot bigger than goblins so the name stuck, and she learned what some of the tools were called in different languages. Then a funny thing happened where this big orc lady noticed them in one supply shop where a bunch of furs and stuff were and she actually crouched down by them, a wide smile on her dark brown face.

Sieda didn’t get scared at all, she just went behind her mama because the stranger surprised her, but that did get the orc to laugh. In a nice way, not a mean way. Sorta like a cheerful granny.

“So, you learnin’ languages, little one?” the orc said, which Sieda actually understood.

“U-Uh…y-yeah! I am! Mama’s teach me!”

“Heh, good to hear it! Always better to know more things than less things! Ah, but where’s my manners? Name’s Rishak. And you are?”

“…” Sieda glanced at her mama for a moment, who nodded back with a smile, then beamed at the big lady. “My name’s Sieda Yellowrock! I’m from the Yellowrock tribe! We’re here to buy things!”

“Ahh, helpin’ your mama with shoppin’ too! Ain’t you a nice gal!” Rishak glanced at Tefta. “Yellowrock, huh? I thought your tribe was more northern. Hob trouble?”

Tefta blinked, then nodded, slowly. “Yes. Some have been pushing south, further from Olafi.” She glanced at Sieda for a moment, then started speaking in a language she didn’t understand. Which was mean, because Sieda wanted to know what was going on and her mama was leaving her out of it…

“Ah, sorry, I haven’t heard anythin’. I could put the word out to some friends if you want. I’m sorta separated from my tribe myself, though the circumstances were pretty different.”

Tefta winced, then sighed as Sieda looked between the two. “…You know I switched languages deliberately, right?”

“I know. And I also know you shouldn’t hide worries. Kids pick up on that sorta thing, and then they notice you’re not talkin’ to them about it. Ain’t that right, Sieda?”

“Huh?” Sieda paused, a little surprised. “Um…yes? I know mama’s worried about baba, since we haven’t seen him in…uh…long time. Oh, but he’s gonna find us soon, because he’s a hunter and a tracker and they’re really good at finding things!”

“Heh, course he will! I’ll betcha he’ll find you easy, though it wouldn’t hurt for us big folk to help out too, right?”

“Right! Right right right! So, okay, um, right, baba’s got red hair like me but he’s tall like mama, and has big shoulders like you! Ah, but smaller than you, because he’s a gob. Oh, and his name’s baba!”

Tefta snorted, giggling as Sieda pouted at her. “S-Sorry, sorry, just…ah, yes, he is called baba by a certain little girl-” She ruffled Sieda’s hair, earning a displeased whine from her pouting daughter. “-but the adults tend to call him Juel.”

“Juel, huh? Alright, I can definitely put some word out on that. Same for maybe seein’ if anyone’s willin’ to head northward and maybe handlin’ those troublemakin’ hobs?”

“…Well, I wouldn’t mind hearing about those…individuals getting paid back in kind.”

“Heh. Don’t worry, I’m real good at payin’ folks back.” Rishak grinned, then stood back up, using a hand to push her knee on her right leg back into place. Which honestly confused Sieda, who heard the little creak coming from under Rishak’s pant leg. 

“Ah, hey hey, Granny Rishak, why’d your leg creak?”

“…I’m not that old, kid,” Rishak muttered, frowning for a second before she grinned wider and suddenly pulled that pant leg up, showing her right leg was made outta brass, “And this’s why. Nothin’ to worry about, just a-”

“Your joints aren’t right.”

She blinked. “Eh?”

“The thingies there, to make the knee move. They’re not set right. Like…” She pointed back over at the door. “The little things, on the door, like those.”

“The hinges?”

“Yeah yeah yeah! The hinges! Those aren’t, um…they’re not moving together right!”

Rishak paused, then looked down at her leg again. “Huh. Wow, I didn’t even realize…Hold on, how’d you notice?”

“I’ve got good eyes! Mama says so!”

“She is very good at spotting little details,” Tefta agreed, ruffling her daughter’s hair again and earning another pout as a result. Though Sieda made a point of grabbing her hand and putting it back when Tefta lowered it too early.

“Heh. So, how’re they wrong?” Rishak asked, bringing Sieda’s attention back to her.

“They’re too tight. Means your leg won’t move as good as it should.” 

“Huh. Guess that means I should find someone to loosen that up? Less you got a wrench or something.” 

“Uh…..” Sieda patted her dress for a moment, then shook her head. “No.” 

“Heh, figured. Well, since y’all seem to be looking for building supplies, you wanna come with me? I can introduce you to a carpenter friend of mine-” Sieda stood straighter, starting to smile as she realized who Rishak had to mean. “-knows a lot about building things and could help out.” 

“Hm…well, it would help to have someone who knows their way around town. Just, one moment.” Tefta turned to the nearest goblins in the store, who were busy picking out which nails looked best. “Sej, Yela! Sieda and I are going with Miss Rishak here to visit her friend.”

“Oh, gotcha aunty! Stay safe!”

“Yeah, we’ll let pops know.” 

With that done, Tefta took Sieda’s hand and began to follow Rishak to the building site they’d passed earlier. They arrived there pretty quickly, though Sieda did get a little antsy because she was getting excited, though the carpenters weren’t actually building cool things when she got there, much to her disappointment. It looked like they were having lunch, with some tables set out and stuff.

“Yo, Eli! I need your help here! My leg joints are a bit too tight, apparently!” Rishak shouted as she raised her hand toward one of the leaner and shorter orcs in the crew, who paused in the middle of eating. 

“I dunno Rishak, this food is pretty good, would be a shame to have to wait to eat,” the old gramps replied, glancing back at her. He was greener, but like a darker, orc green instead of a lighter, goblin green, and he was super wrinkly and had white hair that was super short but also wow his food smelled good.

“What’s your food?” Sieda asked, staring at his sandwich more than the orc.

“It’s a sandwich, kid. It has ham in it. You want some?”

“…Maybe.”

He suddenly shouted in one of those different languages, which made one of the other orcs look up, and Sieda blinked when she realized it was the same orc that waved to her earlier. The two talked, then Sieda had her own sandwich, and it was good.

“Ah, speak in goblin, if you wouldn’t mind,” Rishak requested while Sieda munched, “For the little one’s benefit.”

“Huh. Your soft spot for kids is showing again,” Eli muttered, then shrugged, “Fine. Don’t complain if I sound rusty though. Having goblin blood doesn’t mean I instantly know the language.”

“You’re half goblin?” Tefta asked, sounding surprised.

“Nah, not half, more a quarter. I’m half-orc, quarter-goblin, and quarter-human. Some people call me Eli the Mutt cause of it, though I like Eli Home-Builder better.”

“And it’s that name that’s bringin’ us over to you!” Rishak chimed in, grinning, “Especially the ‘builder’ part! That’s a real important part.”

“You want me to do some work for your new friends here.”

“…Alright, take the fun outta it, sure.”

Eli shrugged, smirking. “It’s pretty obvious. That is what you want, right ma’am?”

“Ah…well, potentially. I’d need to talk with the chiefs if we want to set up something more official, but Rishak did seem to think talking to you would be a good idea,” Tefta said, “And with what I know about orcish naming conventions, you must be quite skilled to have a name like ‘home builder’.”

“People seem to think so, sure.”

“For good reason! And then there’s one more thing, but related!” Rishak added, still grinning, “I think the young lady here would make a good apprentice!”

“What?” “What.”

Sieda paused in her munching, glancing up. “Mh?”

“Just callin’ it a feelin’. I thought it was interestin’ that a goblin mother would be bringin’ her little one out to town to buy supplies. Most of the time, the older caregivers in the tribe would be takin’ care of the kids when the younger adults handle errands. Very communal, very cozy, and very interestin’ that you brought her along instead.”

“…And that leapt to you thinking my daughter has an interest in construction?” Tefta asked, a little wary.

“Nah, not just that. It got me curious, sure, but then she spotted a little flaw I doubt anyone else would’ve noticed, and then she lit up like a lightstone when she heard we were visitin’ the carpenters, so I came to some conclusions. If I’m wrong, sorry for the misunderstandin’, but no harm, no foul, yeah?”

“…” Tefta glanced back down at Sieda, who was staring with her mouth full, waiting to see what would happen, then looked up at Eli. “…I wouldn’t say she’s wrong. Sieda has shown an interest in building things, though it’s been more like trap construction and trying to fix up our crossbow than building houses.”

“I do other work, ma’am,” Eli replied, his voice dry, “It’s why this big lug came running to me for help with her brass leg.”

“Pretty sure I could have come to anyone with a wrench.” 

“But you came to me.” 

“Yeah yeah, you’re special, get over it.” Pulling up her pant leg, Rishask brought her leg up for Eli to fix it. “So how about it, you looking for an apprentice?”

“I am still eating. I’m on my break. Don’t put your legs on the table while both of those things are happening.”

“It’s just on the bench, it’s not-”

“First lesson, kid,” Eli began, glancing back to Sieda, “Your schedule is what you set. Don’t let clients try to bother you outside the hours you’re willing to hear them or they won’t respect you. They might be important, but you and yours matter more.”

“…ah! Okay okay okay, got it!” Sieda replied, beaming wide. She was an apprentice! Which she was pretty sure was good! 

“Heh. Alright.” Eli put the rest of his remaining sandwich in his mouth, standing as he chewed. “Mm…right, ma’am, I’m fine with taking your daughter on as an apprentice, though I might not have her working until she’s older, alright?”

“Ah, yes, that’s more than alright.” Tefta smiled. “Thank you very much for the opportunity.”

“Eh, no need to get too thankful. I’m just helping out a kid that might have talent. Don’t expect anything too crazy.”

~7 Years Later~

“Holy shit this town is huge,” Claire Valondrac, Marchioness of Inrapaba and future conqueror of all the Dark Lands, even if she was getting a little stuck on Olafiba, muttered as she leaned out of her carriage and stared up at the apparently very aptly named city of Bigtown. Very apt, because those were six-story buildings she was seeing. Six-story buildings for common people. She’d seen shorter manors.

“Huh. Yeah, it definitely weren’t this big last time I was round here,” Leok, one of her generals and a decent bodyguard for this trip, plus the current driver of her carriage, added, “Guessin’ it has ta do with Rishak’s old boyfriend and those ‘patents’ he’s been puttin’ out.”

“Bah, patents…back in the old days, if a coterie wanted a new technology, they would just steal it outright,” Ariel, another general and someone with a vested interest in this area–who was sitting inside the large, modified carriage with her superior/crush–continued.

“Weren’t y’born inna dungeon?”

“Semantics. I can harken back to the old days if I want. Gods knows the rest of those presidential bitches do enough…”

“Alright alright, no talking business issues until we meet this Eli guy, got it?” Claire said, “The Gray-Rock Builders’ Guild have come up with a ton of improved tools in only a decade and managed to keep the vamps and arachnes, and yes, I know you tried Ariel, from stealing the designs, so now we’re doing the reasonable person thing and actually talking to people.”

“Hmph. As you wish, my lady.”

“And that means being polite.”

“…As you wish, my lady.”

Leok snorted, chuckling to herself as they passed through the city gates and taking the time to look around the expanded town. Bigtown had always been a sorta hub town, the kind of place where orc and goblin tribes could meet and trade with the human residents, but now it was bustling. Almost seemed like more and more people were genuinely settling there. She even saw some kitsune chatting up some orc workers. Was certainly rare seeing them in such a clearly urban place.

Leok paused for a second, then glanced around the top of the carriage. She didn’t know for sure if that weirdo Kiyoshi was following them, against orders, but she wouldn’t put it past their admittedly decent spymaster.

Either way, they had a carpenter to meet at a place called the Gray-Rock Factory. Which was a weird name, because Leok was pretty sure the guild used to be called “Grayfield”, and she wasn’t sure what a “factory” was supposed to be, but eh. Shouldn’t be too hard to meet the head carpenter.

“What do you mean you’re not the head carpenter??” Claire asked, staring in confusion at the old, white-haired orc holding a sheet of papers on a clipboard. 

“I mean what I said, lady. I retired from that position. My student took over for me.”

“But-What? You’re still the guild head, right?”

“Sure, if just cause I like still being involved. I figured I earned some time to relax, and Yellowrock was more than willing to take over for me.”

“Yellowrock?” Claire glanced at Leok.

“…Boss, me bein’ from Korikala doesn’t mean I know every tribe out there.”

“Right. Shit. Okay, context clues, adjective-noun name probably means…goblin? Orcish surnames tend to be more noun-noun and relate to deeds. Though I guess she could be a vampire, since they also trend towards adjective-noun or verb-noun as names…”

“You could also ask me what type of person she is,” Eli added. 

“…What type of person is this Yellowrock?”

An explosion, which made Leok and Ariel move to protect Claire, coming from the back of the factory was the answer she received.

“She’s the type of person to do that for one.” Sighing, Eli set down the clipboard and walked to the back of the building, waving at the three to follow him. Arriving at the scene of the explosion, the group found a small goblin in worker’s clothes coughing in the middle of a workshop. Which had a massive amount of broken, burning splinters sticking out of a target on the wall. And the rest of the wall. “Didn’t go well, huh?” 

“Not yet! But it only exploded after I shot the first bolt, so progress!” 

“Excuse me,” Claire spoke up, “But what, exactly, exploded?” 

“My special crossbow! Or well, my thirty second attempt at one.” 

“Special crossbow?”

“Yeah yeah yeah! I’m like, trying to make one that shoots a bunch at once, but to do that it needs more oomph! So so so, I figured I would try to use a wind gem to, like, launch it! Course then I need to figure out how to make it go in one direction, and also not break the gem.”

“…Like a cannon?”

“No no no, cannons are different, they use the wind thingies in like tubes, right? Which makes them really good for launching mail and stuff but not crossbow bolts because the bolts don’t fit right in the tubes! It’s why you need, um…ah, big crossbow things, the ones that people put on walls?”

“Ballistas?”

“Yeah yeah yeah! Ballistas! But smaller, and portable, and completely different because I’m not trying to shoot a bolt, I know how to do that, but I wanna shoot more bolts at once! So so so, I tie a bunch together in a bundle and make a thing to fire them all at once! Like the rapid-y loady type but different!”

“Huh. So you’re trying to get how many bolts to fire at once? Five?”

“Twenty!”

Claire blinked, then grinned as she walked on over, looking around the rather big workshop. There were plenty of devices hanging off the walls, along with some schematics and such, and it looked like the target the goblin fired at was down some type of makeshift shooting range. Albeit an indoors one. And some of those schematics looked familiar… “So, I’m going to assume you’d be Miss Yellowrock, right?”

“Yup yup yup, that’s me! Sieda Yellowrock, nice to meet you!”

“Claire Valondrac, and it’s very nice to meet you too,” she replied, staying standing and just looking down, rather than condescend by crouching, “Did you build all of these devices?”

“Well I didn’t build all of them, since I’m small and stuff, but I did design ‘em! Like the chainsaw and the deep drill and the mega rod.”

“Interesting. And those are?”

“Chainsaws are like saws but we use chains to make the saw parts move faster and we have a little power source with these firestones we keep in glass jars to regulate the heat, kinda like fancy lanterns, and the heat rises to move the parts and it moves fast enough to cut through things easy, and the deep drill works similar but it’s for digging down into mines and the mega rod’s a fishing rod but with a thunderstone hook cut like a fish on the end! The glimmer and the movement attracts fish looking for food and then the lighting zaps them so they get stunned and you can reel them in easy!”

“Ooo, that does sound handy! Though how do you keep it from shocking everything in the water?”

“Easy! The stone stays dormant unless something triggers it, so the rod’s made to work with that! The fisher can be patient, wait for the line to move, add a little magic to the line and then boom, the stone activates while it’s in the fish’s mouth! All the shock goes to the fish and the fisher gets it easy!”

“Clever! And you make weapons too?”

“I do, yup! Though they’re sorta harder to work with, since they’re supposed to be for hurting things and it’s hard to get it so the weapon doesn’t just break with one shot or something.”

Claire nodded, grinning. “But what if you had a much bigger area to work with?”

“Oh, you’re trying to poach me? Because the answer’s no. I like working here, it’s nice.”

“No, not poach, exactly. I’d be fine if you retain your connections with your guild here. Hell, I’d be happy to keep this a business relationship between equals, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

“Huh huh huh, and you only want my weapons?”

“No, I’d like access to your other tools too, if that’s okay. You’ve clearly come up with some great stuff here, which could be a benefit and a boon to my own people.”

“Huh, and who’re your people?” Sieda glanced around her. “Arachnes and orcs?”

“Among others. I’d like to say darklanders in general are my people, but saying that does require that I actually show my stuff and conquer the Dark Lands completely, which I’m working on.”

She blinked, focusing back on Claire, who grinned, open and honest. “…You wanna conquer the Dark Lands?”

“I want to conquer the whole world, Miss Yellowrock. The Dark Lands are my first step in that, but it’s a big step. I want to fix the whole continent. I want changes in infrastructure, changes in how laws are enforced, and changes in the general quality of life for my people. You’re a talented woman, and you’ve improved the lives of everyone around you. I’d like to have that talent on my side, if you’re willing.”

“…” Sieda glanced at Eli, judging his reaction. The old guild leader just shrugged back, his face giving nothing away. It was up to her then. “…What can you offer me, practically? Like, what do I get in physical things, not just ideas?”

Claire blinked, then laughed. “Alright, I can get behind that way of thinking. Practically, you already have guaranteed access to the Woodcourt Coterie’s supplies of lumber and general connections with other coteries of Inrapaba. Lady Ariel Leicester there-” She pointed to her glowering general, who was more than a little unhappy that the little twerp hadn’t jumped for the chance to serve her glorious mistress. “-can go over matters and contracts with you and Mister Home-Builder. I imagine you already have decent connections with the orc tribes around here, so Leok might not-”

“Wait wait wait, Leok? Like Leok Lion-Bane, like Beast-Bane?”

She paused again, then grinned. “Like Rishak Folk-Bane, yes.”

Sieda glanced at the large, blonde orc, who smiled and raised a hand. “Heya!”

“…h-heya? Um, hiya! Hi! Ah, okay, we need to talk stuff later, okay? Because like Rishak told me stuff and you sounded really cool but also I need to talk with Lady Valon-” Sieda paused, then suddenly reached into her overall’s pockets and pulled out a small watch, checking the time just real quick- “AH! Ah, um, okay, sorry sorry sorry about this, really sorry, but I’m supposed to meet mama and baba for later right now so can we put this off for later? I’m really interested, but also I need to go see my parents especially since my baba went missing so early on in my life and it was super duper sad so please don’t break my heart on this?”

“…” Claire just stared for a second, suddenly struck by something. “…How old are you again?”

“Huh? Oh, I’m thirteen.”

“…Y…wha…”

“Y’know you don’t need to guilt all the clients when scheduling conflicts come up,” Eli chimed in, saving Claire from gaping like an idiot. He glanced at Leok, letting a rare smile form on his clean-shaven face. “Her pops wasn’t even missing for that long, and she barely noticed at that age. More excited about building traps and nearly crushing earthshakers with log-apults.”

“Oh damn. I would’a liked ta see that, actually…”

Claire mouthed “log-apults?” as Sieda shot her mentor an indignant pout. “Hey, it was super traumatizing! And sure sure sure, baba found us fine, but it was still three months! That’s super long!”

“Yeah, alright. You don’t mind, do you lady?”

“You could address her by her full title like a proper man,” Ariel muttered as Claire shook herself from her confusion.

“Ah, no, yeah, it’s fine. I guess we can just…hang out? Maybe see some of the sights. It’s not a problem, none of my offers are changing, and hey, just let us know when you’re up to talk.”

Sieda blinked, then beamed at the unexpected generosity. “Thank you! Thank you, thank you! You won’t regret this!” She paused for a second, then went with her instinct and hugged Claire around the leg, giving her a quick squeeze before running off. “See you soon!”

“…Heh. Yeah, alright, see you.” Claire waved as she went, trying to ignore the slightly heavy feeling in her heart as she watched the young teen run off to be with her parents.

Sieda Yellowrock didn’t become Claire Valondrac’s newest general on that day. She would, eventually, but at that moment, she had a meeting to keep. And as she ran up to her mother and father, both waiting for her outside the guild hall with wide smiles, she just had to mentally thank her mentor for that lesson so long ago.

Your schedule is what you set. Clients might be important, but you and yours matter more.

Though, eventually, her definition of who was “hers” started to expand, especially as she spent more time in the company of a surprisingly lonely woman named Claire Valondrac.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: