“Now,” said a voice behind Pluve, “I’m not saying double entry bookkeeping is just writing it down twice. I mean, y’know, it is, in a way, but…”
The gnome took his change and picked up the tray. “Excuse me,” he said, trying to elbow past the centaur, carefully holding the tray in both hands.
“Sorry, dude”, muttered the centaur , moving just enough to one side to allow Pluve past. The elf on the other side shuffled back a little, and murmered an apology when he backed into a troll.
“What I’m sayin’,” the centaur continued, “is that double entry bookkeeping right, it sounds like you just put everything in twice, but s’more complicated than that, right?”
“Uh huh?” responded the elf. Pluve cast a glance back as he put the tray down on the table and noticed that the elf looked even more drunk than the centaur, if such a thing was possible.
He put the tray down on the table and looked around. The effects of the three previous ales was starting to make itself felt to him, and, it seemed, some of the others. The dwarf, particularly, seemed to have become prone to staring into her tankard and swaying a little.
“Lovely,” said Gerch, picking up a tankard and drinking heavily. “Good stuff.”
“So Gerch,” he asked. “What is it you said you did?”
“Hmm?” Gerch turned to look at him,the internal wheels of his brain turning slowly with all the ale inside him. “Oh… soldier. Cavalry.”
“A knight, huh?” Shaixun said. “That must be interesting.”
Gerch turned, his tankard sloshing beer which – this time – didn’t splash onto the dwarf on his right. “Watch it,” she said, and reached over for her own beer.
“Sorry there,” Gerch said, and turned back to Shaixun. “Yeah, it’s incheresting – for sure. I’m not a knight, y’know, that’s sort of a bit old fashioned term now, except for sort of ceremonial stuff, but it’sh the same idea, I mean, you know, I’m out there and I fight for like, everybody, you know.”
“How do you mean?” Pluve asked, noticing that the big man had started slurring his words as well.
Gerch raised a finger to his nose. “That’s the thing, shee. What happens is that, you know, there’s a threat and we in the army, we’ve gotta, you know, go solve it. It’s a bit like the accountant, but there’sh blood and stuff. You gotta learn to just… put it away, like the Accountant does with the ledgersh at the end of the day.”
The dwarf looked up, nodded, and then drank from her tankard. Pluve started to wonder which of them was going to have the worst hangover in the morning.
“I know it’s not the same,” Gerch continued, “because it’sh not clever or numbers or like that, like the accountant does, but I kind of feel like I’m in one of the novels, you know, like Grimgreen would’ve written me as a character and somehow because the accountant isn’t there, we’ve gotta solve it instead.”
“But have you noticed,” the dwarf said, “that there’s no people in the accountant books?”
Conversation at the table stopped, and the other three turned to look at her.
“It’s true,” she continued, earnestly. “But there’s no dwarves, or gnomes, either. Or centaurs, goblins or elves for that matter.”
Gerch looked puzzled, and shook his head. “But I remember… I mean, King Omii was red-headed, wasn’t he?”
“There’s a red-headed goblin works in our local baker,” Shaixun said quietly. “She’s beautiful.”
She pointed at the farmer. “You should tell her that.” The little farmer blushed.
“So what’s your point?” Pluve asked.
“The point is nobody is ever identified by their race, are they?” she answered. “It’s never ‘King Omii was a dwarf’ or ‘King Omii is a human’, it’s like ‘King Omii was red-headed, and perhaps a little balding, but still spry and lean for his age.’”
Gerch’s eyes opened wide. “Oh my – I get it!”
“I don’t?” Pluve said.
“In the books,” Gerch turned to him, wild-eyed, “it’s not about races and wars and stuff, it’s just who’s good and who’s bad and who’s lying and who’s telling the truth.”
The dwarf nodded. “That’s it.”
“Sorry what was your name?” the big man said. “I’m forgetting – I’m drunk.”
“Rohesia,” the dwarf smiled. “For the third time.”
“Rohe-see?” Gerch closed his eyes and shook his head, like he was trying to shake cobwebs out of his brain. “I can’t pronounce that… maybe in the morning.”
“It means Rose,” Rohesia smiled, indlugently. “You can call me that if you like.”
“Rose! I’ll drink to that!” Gerch drank down the last of his ale, held the tankard aloft and promptly fell, face-forward, onto the table. The other three looked at him, incredulously, as he began to snore.
“To be fair,” said Shaixun, “I think he was on the beer much earlier than we were.”
At the bar, the centaur laughed.
The morning was bright and cold. They arrived at the breakfast room within minutes of each other. In deference to their respective hangovers, they maintained silence throughout breakfast.
“My head hurts like someone broke it with a mace,” grumbled Gerch.
Almost silence, anyway.
“I think we all had too much last night,” Shaixun agreed.
“Doesn’t seem to have affected you,” Rohesia said. “And I’m jealous.”
“I’m a farmer,” he said. “We brew our own cider. Lethal stuff. And there isn’t much else to do of an evening.”
Pluve reached under the table, and drew out a briefcase.
“Ooh,” said Rohesia. “I wanted to get one for my costume but I couldn’t find one.”
Pluve grinned, opened the case, and pulled out a tie, which he expertly fastened round his neck in a very corporate manner.
“That’s good,” the farmer said. “That’s very good.”
“Just a little something I picked up,” Pluve said. “Come on, I’m a gnome – we’re hoarders.”
“You look the part, though,” Gerch said, quietly. “Although I don’t suppose you’ve got any hangover cures in that case?”
Pluve shook his head. “Sadly, no.”
“Keeping you up, are we?” Gerch grinned.
Shaixun shook his head. “I was up until three reading the new one.”
“If you spoil a word, I will stab you right here and now with this…” Gerch looked down at the cutlery in his hand. “spoon,” he finished, despondently.
The main hall of the hotel opened at two. Outside was a long line of assorted humans, goblins, dwarves, orcs, elves, trolls, gnomes, a couple of centaurs and even a wizard. Most of them had tried to emulate The Accountant’s dress code as described in the book: white shirt, tie, pencils in the pocket. A particularly well-dressed troll was feted as the success of the day for having gone to the extreme of obtaining eyeglasses. He made sure not to mention that he needed them to see with.
Two small tables had been set up at the far end of the room. One was piled high with books, and a cash box. The other was empty.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said a uniformed hotel worker, “if you’ll all come in here.”
“Wonder what Grimgreen looks like?” Rohesia whispered to Pluve.
“No idea,” the gnome whispered back. “But we’ll find out.”
“Just before we start, can you just stand here, as the author would like to speak to you all first.”
A small ripple of applause went around the crowd. Those who were too hung over just nodded, which even the really hung over regretted bitterly.
Grimgreen, as it turned out, was shortish, with a pleasing, friendly face, dressed in black trousers, white shirt, and a blue tie – just like The Accountant character in the book.
“Thank you,” Grimgreen said, “thank you all for coming.”
The silence from the crowd was immediate. All the muttering, and hangover induced moaning stopped, as though someone had cast a silence spell on the crowd.
“I’m very glad to see you all,” the author continued, “and heartened that so many of you have come so far, just to meet someone who wrote a book.”
“Not just any book”, someone muttered. Grimgreen looked over to them and nodded.
“It’s flattering to see so many of you in costume, as well,” Grimgreen continued. “And I will do my best to sign everything, dedicate your books to whomever you wish, and at least say hello to all of you, before this day is over.
It took about two and a half hours of queueing before the quartet got served. Pluve simply asked for a signature. Rohesia dedicated the book to her aged father, who was bed bound. Gerch turned shy and asked for simply a signature, shook hands, and almost fled. Shaixun spent more time, telling the author about the goblin in the local bakers.
“Look,” he said afterwards, showing the others his dedication:
To Shaixun the farmer,
May the coming year bring you happiness, wealth, peace and love.
All the best
“That’s lovely,” Gerch said. “I just got a signature. Was too flustered for anything else.”
“And you a knight!” Rohesia gave him a small punch on the arm.
“In war, it’s easy,” he replied. “I’ve got training for that. But how do you meet someone when you’ve read those books so many times – when they mean so much to you?”
“Do you remember the beginning of Treasure Room?” Shaixun asked. “When they count chest number three, and compare it to the ledgers and it’s three groats short, and The Accountant has to go and talk to the king?”
“Ooh yes,” Pluve took it up. “And The Accountant is all shaky, worried that the King will blame him and that he’ll be broken on the wheel for theft”
“But he does it anyway,” Rohesia said. “Because at the end of the day, he believes the King is a fair man. And that’s how he starts investigating the problem and finding out about the scandal with the Archbishop.”
Gerch scoffed. “That’s all very well for The Accountant,” he said. “But this is real life.”
“It doesn’t matter, though,” Shaixun smiled. “We’ll all be back next year for book five, though, won’t we?”
Actually, it was fourteen months. And things had changed.
“We read about you in the news,” Rohesia said. “Even over where I live.”
“Not usual, is it, I know?” Shaixun grinned. “Special dispensation, and all that.”
“Humans don’t marry goblins very often,” Pluve said.
“Down to you, it is,” Shaixun smiled at Rohesia. “You said I should tell her I thought she was beautiful, and… well, it all started from there.”
They looked at Gerch, who had been quiet all evening.
“I’m happy for you,” he said. “Really.”
Shaixun’s countenance dropped.
“You don’t look it,” Rohesia said.
“I am,” Gerch said. “I’m worried. There’s a … well, I have to go fight next week, so tomorrow I have to be off as soon as possible. Just got a messenger ten minutes ago.”
“Ouch,” said Pluve. “Sorry about that.”
It suddenly seemed as though Gerch changed. He put his mental ledgers away, thought Pluve. He grinned, and raised his ale. “A toast to the new book.”
“And another bit of news,” Shaixun said.
“Oh yeah?” Gerch looked skeptical. “What’s that then?”
“You know that goblins and humans can’t have children?” Shaixun asked, eyebrows raised. “Well, we’re adopting a baby.”
“Congratulations man,” Gerch grinned, stood up and held out a hand across the table. The little farmer stood up, and they shook hands. Rohesia stood up, and hugged the little farmer, hard. Pluve slapped him on the back.
“Just one question,” Pluve smiled. “Boy or girl?”
“Girl,” Shaixun said.
The three looked at him in expectation.
“Are you going to name her after…?” Gerch looked sideways, and left the question hanging in mid-air.
Shaixun grinned and nodded.
“Wait wait wait,” said Gerch, raising his tankard. “A toast – to the world’s newest special lady.”
“To Grimgreen”, they said in unison.
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