So want to peak at the new title? Of course you do! While it’s a little hard to explain Olde School as a whole (though I’ll try later on), there are some great character interactions. I think that’s probably my favorite part of writing this world…everyone is so unique and unexpected, and they tend to run all over each other.
This bit is from a few chapters in. Paddlelump has several problems going on, but the one that irritates him the most is the fact that his new maid, Nobody, isn’t holding up her end of the employment bargain. His friends finally urge him to talk to her and, well, this happens…
Her eyes were a vast, clear sea that stable hands, checkout boys, and princes alike would probably pay good coin to fall into, especially if it would lead to more enjoyable tumbles later on. All that mattered to Paddlelump was how utterly devoid of intelligence the cerulean pools were. It was ridiculous, especially given how professional and polished her online profile had been! Nobody was not only clean, but truly beautiful. Her golden hair was immaculately braided down her back, her skin was flawless as fresh milk, and her simple peasant dress hinted that although she was willowy, what lay hidden under the fabric was a rare treat, indeed. She only came up to Paddlelump’s waist, and her delicate frame, her sharp and lovely face, her vast eyes made him want to climb up a wall.
“Let me get this straight,” he sighed, and rubbed the base of a tusk stump in an attempt to focus his center. She batted her lashes and he cleared his throat, forcing himself to keep looking at her. “Not only are you almost an hour late—”
“Forty minutes,” she corrected in a soft, melodious voice that clawed into the troll’s last nerve. “And it wasn’t my fault! I was on time until I got to Juniper Street! The motor coaches are never that dense on a weekday. Everyone was going to market and I couldn’t get through!” the pert, cherry mouth was quick to interject.
She doesn’t even stop to think up a good lie, Paddlelump mused, full-well knowing that not only was Juniper Street was nowhere near the common market, it was also the organization’s day off. “At any rate, I laid out a purse for you yesterday, a purse that was gone from the table last night, though there were no groceries in my cupboards—”
“I took it home,” Nobody explained, twisting her hands in front of her. “I didn’t want to lose it. I thought I’d have enough time to go to shop on my way here! It wasn’t my fault I got slowed down.” Her sharp chin raised haughtily and the troll fought a shudder. He’d seen the town girls get snooty, of course, but this was different. From Nobody’s expression, it was obvious that she expected her employer to not only say her behavior was just fine, but she looked like she expected an apology!
“I understand you’re still learning the area and getting settled in, but don’t forget that I’m paying you good wages and letting you board your cow on my land for free.” Paddlelump took a deep breath and loomed over the maid, doing his best to channel any inner brute that might be buried way deep down in his genetic makeup. Remember how Da could scare the dung out of you when you snuck out as a youth. Channel that. “The lists that I give you aren’t that involved,” he growled, and worked up a good glower while he was at it. “Not doing the work is one thing, but if you’re stealing from me, lass…”
For a moment the twin oceans darted away. Then Nobody was staring at him again, wide-eyed and brainless. It was an expression he had never seen on Flora’s face, nor on any of the other hired lasses in town. The young maidens and shepherd girls had their moments, but they never walked around as if they were trying to be unintelligent. “It was the oddest thing! I took it with me last night so I could shop before I arrived this morning; it was my intention to arrive early with the goods in hand! But I was so flustered from the birds outside my window—dear little things, though a bit noisy—that I completely walked out without it!”
Paddlelump paused and tilted his head, his effort at rage deflating at her inane conversational parry. She was lovely, but not as sturdy as Flora or the other union wenches in town. He couldn’t imagine her doing a full day’s worth of lugging grain at the mill or carting a barrow around with her thin little limbs and lithe build. Her speech was altogether different than the rough melodies he regularly heard in the streets and meadows. While he was a young-ish troll, he was far from stupid and it didn’t take a lot to sniff out that something was afoot. Still, it was clear that she wouldn’t willingly give the game away. “Do you still expect to leave at the regular time?” he demanded, his throaty tone gruff from his frustration.
The girl’s eyes darkened to a stormy grey and narrowed just slightly. Paddlelump’s eyes darted to her fingers that flicked with restrained movement, as if they were doing their best to withhold from reaching up and giving her golden braid a huffy flip. “But that’s union rules,” she pleaded. “I can only work so many hours in a day!”
The pain near his tusks rose up his jaw in a full-fledged migraine. He hated to crush her spirit, but she was wearing on his last nerve. The troll took a deep breath, silently counting to five. I am deep, still water. In his mind’s eye, he could almost see the pool come into being as he attempted to get the girl to see reason. “But you came in late,” he persisted. “I could easily get a copy of the rules from a friend of mine just to see what proper procedure on that is. It seems to me that there’s a vast exaggeration on the use of the word ‘work.’ For a week now more than half of the list has been left unfinished! How am I supposed to accomplish anything when I’m picking up all of your slack, Nobody?” The calm pond water his mind clung to rippled on the surface. Just do it. Let her go. Better to find someone else than constantly be paying her for work you’re doing, he realized. “I really don’t know if this is working out—”
To his horror those little round pools of robin-blue sweetness grew wider as they filled with tears. Her apple cheeks deepened to the hue of overripe tomatoes and her face scrunched up and she began to cry. “I can’t help that there’s so much to do! I’m only one person!” The soft, lilting voice that was often annoying as blazes rose a few octaves, and she put a hard accent on the last word. “I just found a place to rent in town; how will I live if I don’t work? How will my poor cow survive? I promised my family I’d make it in the big city!”
The water of his mental image boiled and churned, and before he could count himself back to serenity the troll got a very clear image of a giant, tentacled sea monster slashing through the water, mouth snapping for any prey it could reach. His head throbbed and he fought the urge to rub his temples. It took Paddlelump a moment to find his voice; he had to shut his eyes to continue. “There are a lot of girls who’d love to have your job instead of making a living cleaning stables or working the telemarketing lines!” he snapped and shuffled blindly towards the door, his hand fumbling to grab his cloak from its hook. “You said you didn’t mind hard work—damn!” he hissed as his nose squashed against the doorframe. He bit back his more colorful remarks and rubbed the sore area. Turning from the door, he was confronted with those blasted eyes again. They were like something out of a horror movie: large, devoid of humanity, and apt to follow a poor soul anywhere, ready to suck the life and will right out of a warm body.
Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.
Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.
Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians.
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