Incidental Inquisitor e-book cover

Incidental Inquisitors Book 1: Last Gasp

Loving father, husband, and hard-working foredwarf Harlun, is just trying to do his job. Something is brewing in his town however that might make that task difficult.



Incidental Inquisitors 01 snippet – 


“You in?”

A few days ago, someone had deposited a small piece of parchment bearing these two words in Harlun Prammelkoff’s lunch pail.

He swallowed as he shoved the parchment into his coat pocket, stepped out into Southern Stair, and breathed deep in the gathering gloom. He wasn’t going to think about it. Not yet. Hoping to distract himself, he looked up and down the street.

It was a decent neighborhood, all things considered.

Sure, it raised a few eyebrows when they’d first moved in over a decade ago. A dwarf in the goblin quarter. Over time the stares stopped, and they became part of the neighborhood. Harlun had always heard goblins were the first to see past race, but he’d never seen it firsthand growing up.

Yet he supposed it made sense, as he’d never heard of a goblin staying in the dwarven communities.

He stepped down from the stoop and crossed the street to his minuscule excuse for a car. A few paces later, he stopped and turned back toward the tiny apartment made of brick and limestone. Half of it was embedded in the cavern walls. It was a modest setup but home, nonetheless. Tiny, like his car, though it was enough for what they needed.

Something moved in the apartment window.

Harlun glanced up. He could see his wife Ferla and his kids waving from the window, thanks to the bright tunnel lights. Harduk, his eldest, was hitting his adolescent years, with his bearding not far off. Little Kouryn was still a toddler by dwarf standards, but she was already growing to look much like her mother.

“I’ve got to go,” he mouthed.

“Love you,” his wife pantomimed with exaggeration before she smiled and blew him a kiss. She hid it well, but he made out the gnaw of worry at the corners of that smile. It pained Harlun to see her like this. Behind the smile was an insurmountable struggle due to their clanless situation.

Living with the goblins wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It didn’t make life easier, though.

Harlun waved back and hopped into his car. He grabbed his keys from his pocket and turned the ignition. The car started up, the small but hardy spectrol engine giving the hint of a cough as it cleared out some ectoplasmic residue.

After one last look at his family beaming down at him, Harlun left for his daily commute.

He hadn’t gotten more than a few blocks when he remembered today was grocery day, which meant his lunch pail was empty. He’d have to pick up lunch before work.

He made a slight detour to stop by a small, rundown food stall. The goblin staffing it was barely five feet tall, old, and sported a gray wisp of a beard.

“The usual, please,” Harlun said as he pointed at the goblin’s display of steamed dumplings.

The goblin nodded and packed half a dozen into a carton box, which he placed in a brown bag. He added a fork and a tissue.

“Grocery day, eh, Mr. Prammelkoff?” the goblin chuckled as he handed the bag to Harlun. He held out his hand, which bore a silver ring with a white gemstone. “That’ll be four and a half, sir.”

Harlun forced a smile on his face as he raised his hand with a similar ring. He reached forward and allowed the bands to touch. “Four and a half silver,” he commanded. Both rings glowed yellow as the transaction proceeded. Once complete, the gemstones pulsed blue and returned to their natural white state.

These snacks are getting more and more expensive.

Harlun bid the goblin farewell and hopped back in his car.

A buzzing alarm sounded. He glanced at the dashboard and groaned tiredly.

Almost out of spectrol. Again. He cursed under his breath. He’d have to fuel up after work. That meant dipping into their savings account again. A surge of anger coursed through his chest with the thought of spending money and —

Always money! Harlun slammed a palm against the steering wheel as he pulled out. Wait…

He reached into his other pocket to ensure the cash was still there. I need to deposit this today. I don’t want Ferla to get black-ringed.

Getting black-ringed wasn’t that bad of a situation, but it would impact their clan re-admission application. They didn’t want to look financially unstable, after all.

The dwarf rummaged through the coins he’d made doing odd jobs for neighbors and tried to draw confidence from the soft clinking. It almost worked until his fingers found the piece of parchment still nestled in his coat pocket.

Thinking of it made Harlun’s stomach knot. They don’t understand. I can’t go on strike with them. It’ll cost me more than they know. I only want to get through these next few months and be re-admitted into the clan. After that, the department can go straight to hell.

Through the window, Harlun observed the vast ley lines and air channels that kept everyone alive and comfortable. As he began to descend, the numerous cavern roads filled with a bustle of beings and vehicles. It made him take a good, hard look at his bag of maintenance tools.

All these folks going about their business like my work doesn’t exist. Like I don’t exist. If they only understood the pain we endure to keep these lines operational.

He was leaving the Southern Stair neighborhood when he spotted the webbed wings of low pixies flitting about the alleys and the darker tunnels.

Wee folks getting into the garbage. No wonder it stinks down here. Where the hell are the Verminators? It ain’t my job to clean up. I do my part. Why can’t anyone else?

He caught a glimpse of a goblin sprawled in an alley, one bone-thin claw clutching a clay pipe that emitted blue vapor.

Pixies loitering in the caves and washheads everywhere else.

Harlun looked away before the junkie could make eye contact and drove off. Throughout his drive, he couldn’t get the thought of debt and their clan re-admission out of his head. Plus, there was the damn strike at work.

Goblin politics, he pondered. Poor bastards are set against themselves as if they didn’t have enough problems.

The new supervisor was a Crusty, a goblin from the surface, unlike the Drips living here in the undercity. That made things complicated. Why couldn’t the company hire a Drip to take over the position and keep everyone happy?

It didn’t matter. Sooner or later, the new supervisor would fall into the temptation of corruption. Everyone down here did. When that happened, the Crusty would get kicked out, and the goblin workers would get what they wanted. It was only a matter of time. He just had to wait it out. Siding with his workers would make him look rebellious, and he could get fired. Siding with the company would make the goblin union censure him. If they all went on strike, the department could close this branch.

Either way, being jobless would be bad for their re-admission.

Harlun followed the road down into the bowels of the quarter.

“Only a few more weeks or months, and this will all be behind me,” he whispered.

He’d been born clanless—thanks, Granddad—but if he could keep things together for a little longer, that would change.

There was the work site. The dwarf calmed himself before parking. He sat in the vehicle for a moment to breathe.

Before stepping out of the vehicle, he pulled a small ARC pistol from the glove box. The automatic recocking pistol glinted as he stared at it before checking to ensure the bolt magazine was full, with no bolts in the channel. It wasn’t much of a weapon, but it was better to have one and not need it than the other way around. Everyone’s emotions were riled up. One could never be too careful.

With a last heavy sigh, Harlun stuffed the weapon inside his coat and stepped out.

He hadn’t made it ten steps from his car when several goblins approached with visible eagerness. “Mr. Prammelkoff, are you joining the strike?” some of them asked. “Please don’t block the strike, sir!” cried others. “If you’re not joining us, you’re against us!” accused the rest.

Harlun didn’t fight back. He wove through them to get to the office. I don’t want trouble, he thought. I only want to get through the day.

“I’m sorry, everyone. Your concerns were brought to management, and there’s nothing more I can do. I’m just a worker here, like you all.”

The goblins groaned and complained.

“Mr. Prammelkoff, you’re the only one we can talk to,” one of the goblin workers pointed out. “We don’t trust anyone else.”

I’m the only one who puts up with this, you mean. Harlun turned to the crowd and raised his hands. “Look, I’ll see what I can do, okay? Let’s get to work today and finish what we can so we can all go home and get paid.”

“Mr. Prammelkoff!” a group protested in unison.

He shook his head and fell unwittingly into his “Dad voice.” “We’ll discuss this later.”

Before the workers could push him further, he headed into his trailer. Harlun didn’t even wait to settle in. He tossed his coat to the side, tucked the dumplings into the fridge, and pulled out his coveralls and a helmet. He dressed fast and shoved his ARC into his belt before heading back out.

“Let’s go. We’re behind schedule!” Harlun commanded. He had to bellow to make sure everyone could hear him. The workers got in line and headed over to the main worksite, which was a collection of small lakes. In each pool of water was a cave leviathan, a gigantic lungfish that provided oxygen for the undercity. Piping connected to the pools, and small tunnel openings surrounded them.

These care tunnels allowed workers to crawl under the pools and access the bellies of the leviathans through special water-impermeable fields. Some of the tunnels led deeper into the cavern networks to unexplored spaces that the city hadn’t mapped. It was a dangerous idea to use these tight tunnels to clean the leviathans, but it wasn’t like the company had any other options.

Harlun’s main concern right now, however, was making it through the day.

Despite being a foredwarf, Harlun believed in working with his employees. Setting a good example and getting his hands dirty was his style of leadership. He figured he’d never truly trust someone who wouldn’t step into the frontlines themselves.

For the first hour, work proceeded as usual. Harlun and a team of goblins hopped onto a trawler and started cleaning the scales. Leviathans were sensitive creatures, after all. A few barnacles and other parasites could slow down their natural processes, which meant slower oxygen production for the undercity.

Everything was going so smoothly that Harlun felt a brief moment of pride and ease. They finished cleaning three leviathans in a row before he even heard a whisper about the workers’ strike. Harlun even managed to bust out a whistle during work.

Problems only piled up once they stepped out of the trawler and got back to the airgrid, where the main pipes from the leviathans connected to processing machines. Harlun wasn’t even fifty paces away when he noticed the large crowd of workers shouting in chaos.

“What’s going on here?” Harlun asked the crowd as he approached.

“What’s going on? What do you mean, ‘what’s going on?’ You know what the problem is here, Mr. Prammelkoff, don’t play stupid with us!” one of the goblins retorted.

Another worker threw his helmet to the ground. It almost smashed against one of the ground lamps. “Exactly! We know we don’t matter to you in the grand scheme of things, but all you got to do is let us have our strike!”



Poor Harlun is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but what was that mysterious note in his pocket? Find out on October 19th, when Incidental Inquisitors Book 1: Last Gasp is released. Until then head over to Amazon and pre-order it today.


Last Gasp e-book cover