The manor house was easy to find; its newly constructed facade stood out like a sore thumb against its ancient neighbours. Huge marble lions flanked the as-yet unfinished gate, their gilt eyes shimmering in the late afternoon sun. This flaunting of wealth was never a good look, but against the rugged backdrop of Fortitude it was laughable.
As Raen passed the gate posts and ambled down the path to the house, she amused herself by predicting which parts of this gleaming monstrosity would be stolen or vandalised first. The perfectly manicured shrubs lining the path? The gold-plated iron gate that lay on the lawn waiting to be hung? The… “gods! Is that a gem-encrusted door knob!?”, she thought, disgusted.
Despite her distaste, all of these things were good signs to Raen – this client had more money than sense. She mentally doubled her rates.
Raen stretched to grab the door knocker, another lion, and just out of easy reach for a dwarf. She knocked. After a moment the door was answered by a stern old man. He was dressed well in a butler’s attire and he surveyed Raen with a steely face and his nose turned up. Raen had taken care to scrub her worn clothes and plait her hair more neatly than she usually would; apparently she still failed to impress.
“You must be the new help”, said the butler with a sneer. “Please come this way”.
Raen followed him up through the gaudy entrance hall and through a side door into a cloak room. “You can leave your… belongings… here”, he said, gesturing to her beaten pack and various axes. She reluctantly obeyed, some clients would insist on this despite the guards they undoubtedly employ.
Raen was led in silence through several corridors until they reached a large mahogany door. The butler knocked once sharply and was bade entrance by a booming voice on the other side.
The doors swung open to reveal an immaculate wood-panelled study. One wall was lined with book cases, each stacked high with old leather-bound tomes; the opposite wall housed a fireplace. Against the back wall, behind his desk, sat her client.
“Do come in, Raen is it?”, beamed the man behind the desk. He was dressed extravagantly and his hair and moustache were slick with oil. The common twang in his voice confirmed Raen’s original suspicion, this man wasn’t born into nobility. Knowing Fortitude, his wealth wouldn’t have been gained through legal means.
Raen approached and sat in the seat that her client was motioning to.
“I’ll cut straight to the chase”, said the client, leaning back in his chair. “I’d like you to take care of a problem for me, you come highly recommended as a…"
“…person who solves problems”, Raen cut across. This man had no subtlety.
“Yes!”, he agreed, enthusiastically. “Well my problem shouldn’t be difficult to solve. I’m looking for a gnome.”
“Any particular gnome?”, Raen enquired.
“Yes a gnome who, and I’m sure it’s an innocent mistake, seems to have borrowed a very precious item of mine”, replied the client, his brow furrowed.
“I see”, said Raen, “what can you tell me about them?”. She got the impression that there was something more to this job, something personal. “And what did they steal?”
“Oh no”, replied the client, far too quickly. “As I said I’m sure he’s just borrowed it. The item in question is a rather rare book of mine.”
“And you want what, the gnome? The book?”, pressed Raen.
“Ideally both, you see he’s a nice chap and I’m sure this is a misunderstanding, so I’d rather like to speak to him about it”, said the client.
Raising her eyebrows, Raen said “alright then, tell me more about this gnome I’m supposed to kidn… bring to you, and then we can discuss my fees”.