"I think I'm in love."
"What, already? It's barely been an hour!"
"It's been longer for me." Tripp stared towards the other end of the tavern, eyes lost.
Roald frowned. "Is it the elf? You know how picky they can get."
"Nah. It's her." Tripp pointed, and Roald nearly spit out his drink.
"The centaur?? Oi, did you order in pints again?" He smacked his friend on the back.
"She saved my life," Tripp argued. "On the way here I was nearly run over by those daft human rangers, riding in like they owned the place - she picked me up and carried me to safety."
"You're a third her size, she may as well have picked up a stray cat."
"It was fate. She's my person." Tripp continued to stare over his full tankard.
Roald shook his head. "If you fancy some hooves there's a nice satyress over there, at least aim for the same weight class."
"It has to be her."
"I hate to break this to you, but you're a halfling. She's not gonna go for it."
Tripp looked hurt. "You don't know that! I've plenty to offer a woman."
"Sure, you're easy to carry. They love that in a man." Roald rolled his eyes.
Tripp breathed deep. "I'm gonna go talk to her."
"And say what? You'd make the perfect jockey?"
Tripp leaned over his stool and asked the bartender for a gallon of his best. The middle-aged human only nodded and disappeared behind the bar.
Roald frowned. "Tripp - seriously, think about this. If you offend that filly she could kick your head in, although I'm not sure it hasn't already taken a hit."
"I am nothing but a gentleman." Tripp replied with an air of finality.
Before his friend could offer another protest, the door to the tavern banged open as a burly centaur male with warrior braids and a leather harness entered. With a huff, he trotted over towards Tripp's dream date. Roald gulped and grabbed his buddy's tunic.
"Oi, hold on there, lover boy. I think your competition just walked in." he hissed softly.
Tripp's face fell, as they watched the slayer sidle up to the lady centaur, his face contorting into a smirk that made even the halfling's stomach knot. "He can't do that! I saw her first!"
"How do you know? He could be her boyfriend."
"Not all centaurs know each other - that's racist." Tripp muttered, but his eyes betrayed his worry.
"Face it, friend. That's her type - not short two-leggers like us."
Roald kept a steadying grip on his friend's shoulder as they watched the pair across the room. The male centaur laid a hand on the lady and said something. Tripp's expression turned pained.
Then the lady centaur smacked away the hand on her arm and laid into the male with a fierce kick, her rear legs connecting with bare abs and her horseshoes leaving an imprint that made every looker-on wince in pain.
"I've told ye, Duncan - I'm not interested. I don't go for brutes like you." Her voice rang across the bar, heavy with finality.
"It's your loss, you stupid mare." He spat back, hand still pressed to his stomach to hide the bruising. "You'll not find a stud willing to put up with that temper!" With a snort, he turned and exited the bar, slamming the door on his way out.
After a few moments the din in the bar rose again and the lady centaur turned back to her table. Roald sat in shock.
"Wait - Tripp, hold on."
Too late. His small friend was already halfway across the bar, hefting his gallon offering like a small pilgrim. Roald's face met his palm as he groaned, waiting for the worst.
The bartender leaned over, "He bought that for someone else, right?"
"Aye. Let's pray he doesn't end up soaked in it." Roald took a long drag of his own drink, steeling himself.
Together they watched as Tripp approached the centaur, who turned as he called out. After a pause she looked downwards and saw him, holding up his gallon of ale with shaky arms that could barely hold her liquor. Roald's heart skipped a beat.
"Gods, let him be short enough she kicks over his head."
The centaur's face turned puzzled as Tripp continued to hold out the giant mug. Slowly, her expression changed and to Roald's shock it turned into a smile.
Effortlessly taking the tankard, she held it in one hand while she gently picked him up by the scruff of his tunic and - seeing no open barstool - placed him down onto her own back. Tripp modestly adjusted himself, sitting astride her while she turned and faced him, lifting up the mug in salute. He beamed, his lovesick eyes filled with admiration. Roald's jaw fell.
"My gods, she didn't kill him," he breathed, watching in awe as the two continued chatting away.
The bartender shrugged. "They say true love is blind."
"Aye, but if it were he'd be trampled to death." Roald shook his head. "He's still an idiot." As he finished his ale, he glanced over periodically to check on his friend. After twenty minutes he hadn't been bucked off.
Finally, the lady centaur set her empty mug on the table and motioned to Tripp, who blushed and nodded. Roald's eyes zoomed in on this exchange, watching as Tripp shifted forward, his hands gently gripping around his lady's waist, delicately avoiding her bosom. She turned around and began trotting out of the bar, halfling in tow.
As they passed, Tripp waved at Roald, who sat dumbstruck until the pair had already exited into the night.
The bartender looked over at Roald. "Need another?"
Roald shook his head. "I'll take a full pint. I think I need it."
Nodding, the bartender went to fetch a new mug. "Ya know, there's a fair Arachne who frequents this place. I hear she's widowed."
The halfling sighed. "Maybe after that pint."