Temperance narrowed her gaze, her blade still at the ready. The Bridge Troll wielded a club that was twice as wide as Temperance, armor included, and looked like a fast way to answer the unspoken question of what could knock an entire dimension worth of depth out of a knight in plate armor.
“Let’s start with the simple questions and work our way up to more complicated things, please,” Monty said, his hands up to showcase his empty palms.
“I weren’t born yesterday, elfling,” the Bridge Troll said. “I smell the iron of two daggers in each of them sleeves. Best keep those hands up and not make any sudden moves, lest you want your paladin pal here to become a tin of holy shit.”
“That’s a thought that’ll haunt my dreams for a while,” Aranza muttered. “What’s your name, friend?”
The Bridge Troll cocked his head, his eyes now on Aranza. “Brazen of you to call me friend, friend,” he replied. He hesitated. “Suppose no harm in telling. It’s Brutus.”
Temperance smirked. “Let me guess,” she replied. “Your last name is something like ‘Skullcrusher’.”
Aranza knocked the sword from Temperance’s hand. “We’re going to have a long, unpleasant chat about that kind of nonsense later.”
Brutus nodded. “It’s Smith, I’ll have you know, and that was my family’s trade back before the village was stolen from us.”
“The Troll speaks lies! Lies!” shouted a voice from across the bridge. The party and Brutus turned their attention to its source. A number of humanoid faces were visible between the towering doors that closed Ankheim off from the world, the doors having been opened just enough.
“Oh, good, we can have a pleasant little conversation about how you damned humans and elves conned me and me family out of our rightful homestead,” Brutus sneered.
There was a collective muttering from the people just inside the doorway, and one was shoved forward. He was an older man, his eyes sunken in and his beard down to his knees. In another life, his garb may have suggested he was a powerful wizard. His stagger and sway, however, accompanied by the silver flask gripped in his hand suggested that life was not one he remembered well unless it came to needing to not pay a bar tab.
“You rob us at every turn!” the old man shouted.
“Just like you did to me and me family!”
Monty whistled sharply enough that the old man, Brutus, and Temperance had to cover their ears. Aranza shrugged, her hint of a smirk enough to suggest she was used to hearing the noise.
“Let’s get to the bottom of this, shall we?” Monty said. “I hear two tales of taking, and I want to know the truth before we come in and do…What it is that the Guild would deem appropriate.”
The old man perked up.
“No, you shut up,” Aranza said. “I trust Brutus. He seems honest. You smell like you could catch fire if you got too close to a lit match.”
The old man furrowed his brow, though his anger gave way to acceptance. “You raise a fair point, rude Orc.”
Brutus waved a hand at Ankheim. “Several years and generations ago, what before the swamp was drained and diverted, Ankheim wasn’t Ankheim,” he said. “It was Murkmuck Heights.”
The old man made a gagging sound. “Your family had nothing more than huts and ravenous alligators that plagued you!”
“Stop talking or I’ll throw you off of the bridge myself,” Aranza replied flatly.
Brutus offered a slight nod to Aranza. “Like I were saying, they came along. It wasn’t always bad, no. They helped us build up the village from the swampland. Make it less miserable living as it was, but as is often the case with humans they inevitably betrayed us and took the results of our hard work for themselves.”