Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)
Year 781 of the founding of the City
10th Day of Meloramensis – Part I
True to my word I led us back to the hall without further incident. As we emerged from the tunnels into the hall I soon started to notice people following us from a wary distance. Mostly children, the figures would flicker in and out of my peripheral vision, disappearing behind buildings only for heads to poke out and peer at us curiously.
During our journey through the streets the number of people tracking our movements began to grow. Before long there were too many of them to be able to effectively mask their presence and even Vicreal noticed that something unusual was going on. By the time we got back to the shop there was something of a crowd behind us. Though they were not acting in a threatening manner their presence was still somewhat disturbing. We entered the shop to find an animated Charrak pacing up and down, beside himself with worry.
“Thank heavens you’re back”. He squeaked. “Brugg is threatening to take away our stock.”
“Why would he take away our stock?” I asked
“He says we owe him money.” The diminutive kobold wrung his hands in anguish.
“Owe him money?” Asked Glen. “In what way do we owe him money?”
“Taxes! Taxes! Oh!” He wailed. “He going to close us down! I'll be all on my own with nowhere to go.”
Eligos attempted to calm Charrak whilst the rest of us tried to infer exactly what was going on. It was all too obvious when you come to think about it. Despicable an activity though it is the slave trade is lucrative and it had made the Bloodreavers rich. Not wanting to risk coming to the attention of those enforcing the law in the hall and the inevitable clampdown that would follow, they had paid their taxes in full and on time without fuss or complaint. Their activity was also therefore lucrative for Brugg and his masters and would remain so as long as the Bloodreavers were left in peace. Us shutting the slavers down had cost Brugg and his paymasters substantial sums of money. They either didn’t know or didn’t care about the nature of the business that had been shut down in the process.
This injustice sent Minron into a rage. He became so agitated that we had to physically restrain him to stop him marching out of the shop and confronting Brugg. We managed to placate the minotaur enough to at least stay in the shop with us whilst we discussed what to do. The conversation did not last long before Brugg himself, doubtless alerted to our return by the crowd outside, stooped under the lintel to enter the shop.
“So.” He rumbled. “The brave boys and girls have returned from their adventures having changed life in the mountain forever and leaving poor old Brugg out of pocket.”
All was silent for a moment before Vic flashed one of his friendliest smiles and addressed the ogre.
“We also rescued several people from a life of slavery and removed the threat of enslavement for many others.” He pointed out.
“True enough.” Brugg conceded, folding his arms across his chest. “And that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside, it really does but money is money and those grey dwarves were good customers, worth a lot to me.”
As Brugg finished his sentence Minron snorted loudly, bared his teeth and strode up to the ogre. Even at over seven feet in height the minotaur was a clear foot shorter than the ogre. Nevertheless he butted up against the tax collector and growled his challenge;
“Those customers raised undead abominations to guard their chattel. They were in league with an active death cult of Orcus. They were enemies of the Imperium, condemned to death for their actions by the holy word of the Raven Queen. A sentence that must be shared by any who stand with them against the balance of life and death.”
Brugg, clearly intimidated by the aggression of the minotaur took half a step backwards and began to glance about as though considering calling for backup. Vic and I quickly stepped between the two beasts, a fight over this would serve no-one’s interests. Vic assured him that we have no intention of closing down the shop and would of course continue to make contributions to the authorities in the hall. The ogre relaxed and turned back to address the half-elf.
“It’s good to hear some sense from the more rational amongst you. There is still the question of arrears however. This shop owes me five hundred gold pieces”.
Rodney stepped forward before Minron could lose his temper again.
“We don’t have that sort of coin but I’m sure a business relationship with us could prove just as profitable as your previous one with the duergar. For example I can enchant some of your equipment if you bring me the materials I need”.
Rodneys suggestion was followed by a number of suggestions from the rest of us as to how we could be of assistance to Brugg and his cohorts. Including guiding them to previously unexplored sections of the labyrinth (sections that are sure to be teeming with valuable artefacts) and the provision of healing if required. I think Minron immediately regretted the latter offer when the ogre proceeded to drop his breeches and show him a boil on his backside.
Glen came up with the idea that we continue the discussion at the Halfmoon Inn. Leaving Charrack to mind the shop we decamped to the
Inn. Brugg immediately showed an interest in Eligos which, to my utter amazement she seemed to reciprocate. Glen turned out to be something of a competitive drunk and insisted on matching the ogre pint for pint despite being only a quarter of his size. Increasingly rowdy and sure of his superiority over Brugg in all things, the night ended with Glen challenging Brugg to an arm wrestle and being thoroughly defeated. Most of us engaged in dragging him reluctantly from the Inn back to the shop to get some sleep. Not Eligos though. As we were leaving I spotted her disappearing into the labyrinth with Brugg in tow. Most interestingly of all she had changed into her brute form. A wild night is in store for the ogre I think. Still it should secure us a favourable tax rate!