(A brief excerpt for your entertainment)
The gathered crowd laughed at Ron Brandywood, as he stood there, sleeves of his rough spun shirt rolled to his elbows, and his bare feet, dusted with curled brown hair, tracing a line in the dirt outside the inn. Three feet tall, in proportion, and far shorter than the half-orc stood across from him.
He grinned at Ron through a pair of yellowing, blunted tusks, his body swollen with muscle and tattooed with old scars. Filed down, Ron observed, which meant a degree of vanity uncommon to his kind.
Ron had his hands up, palms facing outward.
‘Sir, offence is taken, not given, so why don’t we come to something of an accord?’ he said.
The man across from him grunted and spat a bolt of yellow phlegm at his feet. Ron looked at the globule in the dirt and sighed, before he raised his eyes to fix the man with a dismayed expression.
To those onlookers paying attention, it resembled an expression, though incongruous.
‘Now, sir, in my part of the world, such a gesture is an insult,’ he said.
The man gave a rough chuckle. A ragged mix of cheerful laughter and indistinct murmurs of concern rose in the air. He clenched his hands into enormous fists, the knuckles protruding enough to turn the skin pale where they strained through.
‘Sir, I did not get your name?’ Ron said.
The man chuckled.
‘Kadd Shield-Breaker, I’ll carve it into your dwarf chest after,’ he said.
Ron failed to keep the resigned amusement from his face.
‘Mr Breaker, I’m not a dwarf. Simple mistake to make, but I’m a proud halfling, and such matters are important, are they not?’ he said.
‘I’m still going to beat the blood out of you,’ he said.
Ron nodded, as though Kadd offered some insight worth debating.
‘Well, sir, it’s like this,’ he said.
Kadd went to speak, but before his words emerged, something in Ron’s smile gave him pause.
A pause which came all too late.
The echoing impact of flesh in brutal collision, a brief paradiddle of multiple blows and the crack of breaking bone before they watched Kadd Shield-Breaker collapse and fall into the dirt. Ron stood there, shaking out his hands as though he had handled something hot. The crowd did not see the halfling move. A blur, perhaps, but nothing more.
Kadd rolled onto his back, expectorating a fine red mist as he coughed and one of his tusks hung by a thread of tissue, dangling from a jaw which had moved two inches to the left, sickening those onlookers paying attention to the incident. Kadd breathed in wheezing, grating gasps as he stared up at the sky.
Ron stepped with care and looked down at him, shaking his head.
‘The difference, sir, and pardon the pun, but it’s a small one, is I’m faster than any dwarf you’ll meet,’ he said.
Ron reached into the small pouch sewn into his canvas belt and took out a copper piece.
‘Something towards your injuries, or a drink. There’s no apology necessary, Mr Shield-Breaker, should I incline you to offer such a thing,’ he said.
Ron looked at the crowd. They stepped back, all the mockery scoured from their expressions, and parted to allow him to amble back inside.
He saw a face he recognised and gave a nod of surprised delight.
‘Ma’am, it is a genuine delight to see you,’ he said.
Moira grinned and knelt to plant a chaste kiss on his stubbled cheek.
‘Why is it when I see you, you’re fighting in some fashion, Mr Brandywood?’ she said.
Ron shrugged and took her hand, kissed it and gazed at her with warmth.
‘Ma’am, that man requested to settle our differences in a time-honoured tradition. I obliged him,‘ he said.
Moira sighed and rolled her eyes.
‘What differences?’ she said.
‘Why, the outcome of a fair game of cards, but Master Shield-Breaker sought to cheat us of said fairness,’ he said.
Moira watched as people tried to move the injured man, who resisted their efforts, crying with pain at the simplest touch. She went to move towards him but stopped herself. She was not there for the cheat, but her instincts overrode her sense of the world.
‘Are you working?’ Moira said.
Ron shook his head as a curious light made his hazel eyes gleam.
‘No, but I gather you might be about to change that,’ he said.
Moira gestured to the inn.
‘I might, Ron, I just might,’ she said.
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