Moche was woken by the sound of someone trying to hammer very quietly. From the sound of it, the hammer they were using was very large and the surface they were striking was very strong. She lay in bed for a moment listening. Frowning. Over the sound of the hammering she could hear what sounded a lot like voices trying to shout instructions to each other very quietly, and the occasional thump of wood and clash of metal.
A shadow moved across the window of her bedroom. She rolled to her feet, pausing to grab her sword belt from the chair beside the bed. She padded cautiously over to the window. She could just make out the sound of someone on the other side of the shutters telling someone else to be careful because it was quite early and people might still be asleep. She did not recognise the voice.
She took a firm grip on the shutter and with a swift movement pulled it open, ready to flick her sword lose of its scabbard if there was danger.
On the other side of the widow, a pair of short creatures blinked at her a little owlishly. They were stood on a wooden gantry that appeared to be suspended from the battlements of the tower above. One held a small hammer in its clawed hand, the other was in the middle of sketching something on a long roll of pale parchment with a stick of charcoal.
From a distance the two creatures - she could not quite think of them people - might have been mistaken for naga. Close up, there was little chance of them being so mistaken. They were squat, muscled, and covered in scales from head to toe. Both had a scaled crest that ran over their foreheads into their thick dark hair. The one with the hammer was a deep, lustrous blue of a summer sky. The one with the parchment was emerald green. Both wore long tunics and leather aprons.
Neither party spoke. The blue creature nervously tapped its little hammer on one of the stones, then frowned. A hoarse whisper from above called down to ask what was happening. Mochey cleared her throat.
The green creature carefully rolled the parchment it had been sketching on and bowed deeply. It bid her good morning. She had expected it to squeak but it spoke with a deep, rumbling baritone that seemed almost to echo in its broad barrel-chest. She returned the greeting.
“What exactly is going on here?” asked Moche, in her best classroom voice. She could see more of the creatures - some blue and green like the ones outside her window, some with scales of vivid scarlet, and the occasional sumptuous black. They appeared to be setting up equipment, deploying ladders and ropes and even in some places scaffolding. Several of them were examining the great thorns that grew over the castle walls, and clearly exclaiming excitedly.
“We have been asked to help your castle,” replied the green creature. She felt there was more of the lizard about it than the snake, definitely. The blue one tapped the stone near the window again and again made a strange face.
“Did you know that your castle has been recently cursed?” it asked, its voice the same bass rumble of its companion, so incongruous in a creature that Moche imagined would barely come up to her shoulder.
“Yes, we had noticed.” she said dryly. “Who sent you? Who are you for that matter?”
“Przysięga smoczych wojowników!” said the blue guest proudly, effortlessly pronouncing a stream of complex consonants and vowels that were certainly not Imperial. Moche asked it to repeat itself a couple of times and in the end gave up.
“We were sent by He Who Sits on the Adamant Throne to look to your castle. At the request of the wizards of the spire of the Auric Horizon. Weren’t you … we were told you would be expecting us?”
Moche simultaneously frowned and raised her eyebrows in utter incredulity. The two lizard-like workers looked at each other out of the corners of their large, round eyes. The green one darted its long tongue a little nervously, then pulled back its lips and revealed very sharp teeth that immediately made Moche tense in expectation of an attack - before she realised it was supposed to be a smile.
“Please, we are here to repair the damage that has been done to this beautiful castle. It is truly wonderful, one of the most beautiful we have seen and we have seen many castles indeed. Did you know that it is covered in rose bushes? That is such a novel idea! And so strong! It would take several armies to breach it’s walls! Could we come in and ask you some questions about it? We would be very grateful!”
Wordlessly, Moche stepped back and let the scramble in through her window. All around, their fellows went to work restoring the damage to the Castle of Thorns.
Castle of Thorns in Astolat. Short, scaly lizard-people with hammers and leather aprons. What more needs to be said? You can learn a but more about this one here → http://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/A_job_worth_doing
The picture is a floorpan of :Hurstmonceux castle. The scrawling is mine.
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