The guard stepped around us and said, incredulously, “That isn’t what was harassing people in the gorge was it? Surely not.” 

Elohel Standing
“What in Moradin’s blessed mug do we have here?” she exalted, rushing around the bar toward me.

“Eh, no.” Reaching for one of his many bags, the dwarf tossed him the smelly bag of goblin ears.

Squealing, the guard recoiled from the grisly bag, and it landed on the ground where the guard had been standing. “I don’t want that,” he said, his voice pitched an octave too high. “Take that to the captain.”

“Aye, I intend to,” the dwarf responded, snatching up the bag as he passed and chuckling the entire time.

Inside the gate, the city was every bit as grand as the view outside had been. We had stopped just inside the city when the dwarf turned toward us. “I’m going to take this cat to the tanners, and then turn in our goblin ears. I’ll meet ye all back at the inn later and split our reward.” With that, he turned on his heel and dragged the feline down the road, people dodging out of the stalwart fellow’s path as he went.

“Hey, Elohel,” Fred said, “you want to go to the inn with us?”

“Sure,” I responded, and followed the duo through the crowds. The tabaxi towered over everyone, so keeping up was not difficult, despite the press of citizens.

The kittens mewled in distress as we traversed the streets. I imagined that they were probably hungry, not having eaten since we found them.

Finally, my new companions turned and headed into The Evening Nip inn. The tabaxi pushed open the massive wooden door that marked the entrance. We stepped into a simple, common-looking tavern. A hearth split the back wall of the room with a couple of comfortable looking chairs and a small table between them. Four round tables lined the left side of the room, and a bar with ten stools lined the right wall.

A stout dwarven woman stood behind the bar, wiping down some mugs. Her ruddy complexion and laugh lines revealed a pleasant demeanor. The shelves behind her housed many bottles of different alcoholic beverages, and a swinging door led to the kitchens in the back.

She looked up at us, and her eyes brightened. “Good evenin’, Fred and Jerry. Will it be the usual? Oh, who’s this that ye bring?” she asked as she leaned to her right to peer past Jerry. 

At this point, I stepped forward, flashing her my most dazzling smile. “My name is El . . .” I started to say, but her squeal interrupted me.

“What in Moradin’s blessed mug do we have here?” she exalted, rushing around the bar toward me. I’d had girls chase me before, but never in this manner, so naturally, I was shocked by this brash charge toward me, and I took a step back, recoiling from her outstretched arms. Then she snatched the tiger kittens from me and turned, with them mewling in her arms. “What a bundle o’ joy!” she exclaimed, cradling the kittens to her bosom. “Ye sweet little things seem hungry. Let Chrissy get you some food.” With that, she carried them away, behind the bar and past the swinging door, raising a finger for us to wait as she disappeared into the kitchen.

I stared after her, a little flabbergasted, and quite a bit more embarrassed due to my misunderstanding. “Well, that’s taken care of,” I said. Fred was sniggering, and the tabaxi rewarded me with a half-smile. “What?”

“I don’t think you’re her type,” the tabaxi said.

“Was it that obvious?” I asked, incredulously.

Fred laughed. “Your eyes were as big as an owl’s. Did you really think she was going to kiss you?” His shoulders shook with more laughter.

Smiling, I said, “It’s a perfectly understandable misunderstanding. After all, I’m used to a fair amount of flirtation. She just surprised me is all.”

“Surprised ye how, darlin’?” she asked as she stepped back behind the bar.

Michael C. Sahd, author of The Unfettered Child and Assassin Marked

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