The Stuff Legends Aren’t Made Of

The daft elf stood, stark and pompous, like a tree barely bending to the wind. The wood of his bow curved tightly around slender hands that could barely grip a sword let alone a proper weapon. I imagined smashing the bow but not the hands - I’m not that much of a monster. 

“We should go north, the trail leads that way.” In some all-knowing voice, as usual. Thinks he knows everything just because his precious ears curl upwards like fancy head ornaments. 

“Are you sure?” I always ask, not because he’s not - he always is - but because I enjoy the irritation in his expression from being questioned. 

“Of course.” He denies me my pleasure. Asshole. 

I grunt in my usual form of communication and pick up my axe - the only true partner I’ll ever have - and heft it over one shoulder. Sure, I’m posturing - but this idiot does that every second he breathes. “Then let’s move out. I don’t look forward to being in the forest after sunset.” 

“What, afraid of a big bad wolf?” He smirks and I really, really reconsider smashing some bits of him. 

“No, mostly afraid of you being eaten.” I grin with all my teeth - especially the pointed ones I get from my father - and his expression falls a bit. Ha. Take that, toothpick. 

-----

I can feel her gaze on my back and I know she’s already judging me. I’m too scrawny, too pale, too adorable. She’s written me off probably a thousand ways in a thousand imaginary death scenes. Gods I hate her. 

“We should go north, the trail leads that way.” I never let her ruffle my feathers. I was raised as a ranger, a noble profession, and without my expert guidance her elephantine ass would be lost in these woods. 

“Are you sure?” She always questions me. I hate it. It’s like she doesn’t even listen to me the first time I speak. Or else she’s just trying to goad me into anger - a purely infantile emotional response. I’ve fallen for it before, in moments of weakness. But not now. 

“Of course.” I keep my face calm and serene, always calm and serene. Don’t let her get to you, I remind myself for probably the hundredth time.

She makes a sound indicative of her upbringing before adding, “Then let’s move out. I don’t look forward to being in the forest after sunset.” Always on the move, that one. Probably outrunning some inner demons from her past. She looks like the brooding type. I should have listened to my father and not gotten invovled with people who carry so much emotional baggage.

“What, afraid of a big bad wolf?” I don’t just smile - I smirk. She can tell the difference. She judges me enough she’s probably catalogued all my expressions. Stupid half-orc. 

“No, mostly afraid of you being eaten.” She flashes those teeth - those awful, pointy teeth, the stuff of nightmares - and for a small second I feel a tingle down my spine as I remember exactly what her people are capable of. The people my people helped create, I admit to myself a half-second later, lest I fall victim again to my own bigotry. Her existence is as much my father’s fault as her own. 

I still hate her though. 

-----

“We should go north, the trail leads that way.”  The noble ranger declares, his bow cocked and ready for a fight. His long hair whips in the wind and he strikes a truly noble pose, indicative of his good genes and upbringing. He is the last of the Willowbenders, defenders of the Halls of Eyria. To travel with him is an honor and a delight. 

“Are you sure?” Our fearless leader questions. She was born to lead. Her thick armor hides a noble heart, born out of a forbidden love that brought together the humblest salt of the Earth and the harshest of its so-called defenders. Even the Willowbenders are not without sin, after all. 

“Of course.” His keen sense of direction can never be wrong. 

The daughter of the abhorred makes a deep noise that rumbles in her heavyset frame, her natural strength on display as she shifts her axe over one shoulder with ease. The power in such a motion cannot be understated. “Then let’s move out. I don’t look forward to being in the forest after sunset.” 

“What, afraid of a big bad wolf?”  The verbal volley is expertly thrown, the companionship between these two respected warriors palpable. I hold my breath, waiting for magic to happen. 

“No, mostly afraid of you being eaten.” And there it is! She’s obviously flirting with that expression - such sexual dominance, a Willowbender should be so lucky. I swear I can see a small flush crawl up his ears as they both turn towards the path ahead, the chemistry between them lost to our quest. One day, perhaps, when the world allows them to lay down their weapons, this thing between them might rekindle into the fire that longs to consume them both. 

“Hey - bard. Are you coming?” Oh dear - they’ve spoken to me.

I clear my throat nervously, “Oh, right! Just jotting down some inspiration, maybe some ideas for an edda or two. Coming!” I quickly finish my scrawl and leap to my feet. 

There is no rest for the stalwart witnesses to history. Someone must chronicle these moments, these hidden thoughts and emotions, lest future generations forget or worse disregard the bonds that draw us all together. 

Princes & Towers

Toni had an “i” not a “y” but was still one of the guys. She’d grown up around the motorheads, raised by a kindly old retired biker who had settled down but never truly settled. He taught Toni everything she knew - how to ride, how to change oil, how to rebuild an old single cylinder thumper into a badass bobber - and she had loved him for it. Toni felt alive in the garage more than she had ever felt in school, but her mother had forced her to graduate at least through the high school portion of it. Luckily her father had hired her afterwards so she didn’t have to bother with the vocational school three counties away. 

The other garage rats were all Toni’s best friends, and they went out drinking and riding (just never at the same time - Toni’s uncle had died that way and Toni made sure to count everybody’s shots at the bar). They weren’t just a motorcycle gang - they were a motorcycle family. 

But poor Toni had a problem:  she felt lonely still. 

She had tried dating guys after high school, but most of the boys just wanted somebody to stay home and pop out babies. Toni was too wild for that - she might consider kids one day, but not now. She had life to live first and she couldn’t do that stuck in a housewife’s apron. Her father had told her to take her time and wait for love to find her, yet Toni still felt lonely. When she tried dating other biker guys things inevitably blew up, and Toni felt tired of blowing up all the time.

One day Toni’s best bro Al plopped down besides her as she tinkered under her bike. “Oi. Look at this, T.” 

She slid out and wiped a big swath of grease over one cheek. “What? I told you I don’t wanna see your porn mags, I ain’t a lesbian.” 

“Nah, T, I found you porn. Dig this guy.” He held up the magazine again and Toni squinted. She probably had nearsighted vision, but she refused to get tested. They might give her glasses and force her to be a nerd. 

Snatching the magazine and holding it close, she scoffed. “What, a ‘metrosexual’? What the hell’s that? They makin’ up terms now? How do you feel ‘attracted’ to metros?” 

“Nah, Toni, read the interview. He explains it better.” 

“Is this like when you swear to me you read Playboy for the articles?” 

Al’s eyes narrowed. “I can enjoy both, Toni. It’s called studying your enemy.” 

“Really? Your enemy?” 

“Hey - love is a battlefield, right? I ain’t losing to no girl, and if you ain’t a lesbian then that means I still lost to something else.” He tapped the article again. “Just read it. Tell me what you think.” 

With a heavy sigh, she paused her work and read. She actually read pretty fast - it’s why the boys often asked her to translate their tech manuals for them - but the article gave her a bit of trouble, mainly because the language felt so different. “Huh. He says he just likes to feel ‘handsome’ and that people need to respect men who have ‘culture’ - bro, this guy sounds like a jacked up pompous ass. No.” She handed the magazine back. 

“But is he handsome? Like, did you find him attractive?” 

“Sure, till I read his words - can’t love somebody if you can’t stand to hear them talk, bro.” She went back to tinkering. 

Al took another deep breath. “Toni - I think you need a metrosexual.” 

She laughed out loud. “Really? What the fuck for? Am I supposed to cart his little ass around the city on my bike?” Toni actually lamented the fact that motorcycles weren’t really built for a taller passenger. Most models jacked up the rear so the rider’s legs could tuck under and be safer that way - trying to put a tall guy on the back had caused Toni no end of troubles. Yet somehow Toni never seemed to fall for the guys who liked bikes. Instead she just fell for short guys, most of whom ended up having hot tempers like hers.  

“I think you can be kind of inflexible -” 

“WHOA - what the hell??” 

″- and you need a guy that can bend, but not just put up with your shit.” He nodded solemnly. “You know, how like your mom keeps your dad in line, but lets him play in the garage?” 

She glared. “Gee, thanks for psychoanalyzing me as my Dad, Al.” 

“I’m just saying! I know you’ve been lonely, and I don’t think you’re finding what you need here.” 

“That doesn’t mean I need some ‘metrosexual’ guy!” 

“No, but...” He ran his greased fingers through his hair in frustration. “Look, you know how princes go rescue princesses from towers? Like, think of the city as a big fucking chrome tower.” He pointed to her bike. “That’s your steed. I think you need to ride in there and go save yourself a princess. You gotta take the lead, because you need a guy who’s cool with girls who do that. And you’re always complaining to me that guys don’t like it when you ‘come off too strong’ at the bar.” 

Toni raised an eyebrow. “Really, love master? This is your solution? Besides, what the fuck am I saving that guy from besides his own goddamn arrogance?” 

“Exactly! See, you get it!” 

She shook her head. “You’re nuts, Al. Just get over me already and go hit on Gloria. You know you’re the only one of the guys she gives extra muffins to, right?” 

His face went blank. “Wait - really?” 

“Bro, seriously? You don’t notice how she flirts with you?” 

He frowned. “I thought she was just being friendly. It’s not nice to assume girls like you when they’re just being nice.” 

“Oi vey, bro - she likes you. Trust me. Just go ask her out sometime. Save her from that kitchen dungeon she works in all day.” Gloria loved baking, but even Toni knew sometimes you needed a break from your everyday. She often wished she could think of some kind of hobby outside the garage. The motor fumes alone were probably slowly killing her when she wasn’t outside riding more. 

“Alright, fair turnabout - but I’m only gonna do it if you start riding into the city on the weekends.” Crossing his arms his jaw set. “As your wingman I can’t exit the battlefield until both of us are victorious.” 

With a laugh she spun her wrench. “Fine. You know what? I’ll head into that city. And I’ll go hit on the first corporate shill I see.” 

“No! Fuck, Toni, are you listening to me? I said metrosexual - not corporate shill!” 

“What’s the difference?” 

“I dunno, just - trust your gut, huh? Don’t just hit on the handsome guys, like hit on the polite ones. Like me, just if I were in a suit and maybe more of a confident jerk.” 

“Fine, whatever. I’ll go into a big city bar, all greased up and boyish, and we’ll see what happens. M’kay?” 

Al beamed. “Excellent! And then you gotta tell me what happened.” 

“Bro, you are such a girl. And I don’t gotta tell you shit unless you go and ask Gloria out.” 

“Okay! Okay!” He smiled and slugged her in the arm. “Love you, bro.” 

“Yeah, yeah, big fucking hearts all around, you stupid lovesick ape.” She kicked him back. She always wished she could have just fallen for Al, honestly speaking. Yet sometimes she needed a brother more than she needed a mate - and Al fit the first role too well to lose him. As an only child Toni had never had any siblings, and she took what she could get. Besides, Gloria had had her sights on Al since grade school and Toni respected a woman who baked her way to people’s hearts. She kinda wished someone would bake their way to her heart some days too. Al’s always fucking hungry anyway - Gloria will keep him better fed than I ever would...and she gives me extra muffins too but I won’t say that out loud.

As she finished up taking care of her “noble steed” she paused and looked once more at the magazine Al had left on the floor like the dumb kid he still sort of was. Picking it up she read through the article again. Man, it would be kind of fun to have a guy to debate with instead of just slug out over a bar fight. Bet these guys couldn’t throw a punch to save their souls, they’ll just bitch a lot and think I give a damn. She frowned. Maybe Al had a point - she could be a bit inflexible, but eh, that was her charm. 

Maybe she did just need a guy who could bend more.

Never Split The Party

Mage: “I want to go to the library today.” 

Fighter: “No.” 

Mage: “What? Why not? I went on your silly quest the other day.” 

Fighter: “That quest wasn’t silly - the village leader asked me to take care of the kobold raiding parties and I did. You just tagged along because you were lonely.” 

Mage: “Well, technically that may have been the initial reasoning, but I must admit testing out my magic missle was a bit fun.” 

Fighter: “So see? You enjoyed yourself. I’m not going to the library.” 

Mage: “But why not? Can’t you enjoy yourself in a library?” 

Fighter: “No.” 

Mage: “Fine, I’ll go on my own. Just don’t ask me to help you out on any more quests.” 

-----

Mage: “Hey, friend! How goes it?” 

Fighter: “Annoying. I think this village leader is an idiot. He keeps sending me out to kill kobolds and I keep telling him he could just build a better defense perimeter and I wouldn’t actually have to kill anything.” 

Mage: “Oh, right. Honestly I think the village leader is anti-kobold but anyway -- how about a new quest?” 

Fighter: “You want to go on a quest?” 

Mage: “Yes!” 

Fighter: “For what, a book?” 

Mage: ”...no. It’s an ancient cursed tome.” 

Fighter: “It’s a book.” 

Mage: “It’s hidden inside a cursed temple, filled with danger, traps, and undead.” 

Fighter: ”Wait, undead?” 

Mage: “Yup. Already dead. Didn’t take. No guilt in thrashing those dudes I mean hey, they had their chance, right?” 

Fighter: ”...you’re going to go after this book on your own?” 

Mage: “Well, that, see, I’m not very good with zombies?” 

Fighter: “You’re not very good with most things.”

Mage: “Hey, I killed kobold raiders too!” 

Fighter: “After you took twenty minutes to figure out ‘the best spell to cast’ and do your little incantation.” 

Mage: “Immaterial. Look, do you want to go on this quest with me or not?” 

Fighter: ”...I guess that does sound more interesting than killing kobold raiders.” 

Mage: “Exactly! Let’s do this!” 

-----

Fighter: “Alright, we need to take a quest break.” 

Mage: “What? But I thought you liked quests. I had all these quests planned out for us this month?” 

Fighter: “Yeah, but I’m getting tired. I still have to do quests for the village leader too, you know.” 

Mage: “Right, that bastard. Ok, how about I help you out on those quests too? Then you’ll finish faster and we can go on more fun adventures.”

Fighter: ”...right, so, here’s the thing? The leader already hired me some support.”

 Mage: “Huh?”

 Fighter: “I didn’t bring it up because it’s that Druid you hate.”

 Mage: “Wait, the one who’s always going off about how my books ‘kill trees’, like they’re some fucking non-renewable resource we can’t just grow more of?”

 Fighter: “Right, that would be the same Druid.”

 Mage: “Why on earth would anyone hire that hippie?”

 Fighter: “Ok, honestly? I’ve been suffering a lot of damage taking hits for you because you can be a bit slow -”

 Mage: “You did NOT just call me slow!”

 Fighter: ”- and the Druid casts healing spells, not just blasty ones.”

 Mage: ”...you said you liked my blasty spells? They cleared the crowds faster?”

 Fighter: “And they do! I’m just saying what if we face an enemy that’s not a crowd of angry creatures, right? I don’t think I can handle that much aggro. Druid helps keep me fighting, that’s all.”

 Mage: “Fine, I shall put up with this ‘Druid’ accompanying us on quests.”

 Fighter: “You’re still coming?”

 Mage: “Of course! I can’t trust that hippie not to turn around and suddenly go, ‘Oh, but that evil slime probably had a family!’ and not back you up.”

 Fighter: “Slimes don’t have families, I think they’re just elemental puddles of goo?”

 Mage: “Oh gods, you’re already lost. Let’s go.”

-----

Mage: “What the hell? I thought you said they only hired the Druid?”

Fighter: “Ok, so Druid made a good point that I don’t have very good range -” 

Mage: “You have ME! I have good range!” 

Fighter: ”- that’s tactical and doesn’t necessarily kill the target. We’re attempting this new thing now where we don’t kill the enemy and we kinda just stun them? Because Druid pointed out our enemies now are mainly intelligent, sentient souls...and sometimes we need to get information from them, we don’t just want them dead.

Mage: “I told you that Druid was trouble.” 

Fighter: “He makes a point? And the Ranger has a very diverse toolkit of arrows and sometimes they’re kinda helpful.” 

Mage: “I have a diverse SPELLSET, what the hell?” 

Fighter: “But you kinda tend to overkill?” 

Mage: “I can not overkill! 

Fighter: ”...really?” 

Mage: “Watch me!” 

-----

Bard: “Ta-da! Let’s quest this!” 

Fighter: ”...what are you doing?” 

Bard: “I’m a Bard! It’s a support character thing I’m doing now.” 

Fighter: “A support character?” 

Bard: “Yes! I no longer deal damage directly. Instead, I buff you and the rest of the party and I can de-buff our enemies so their attacks deal less damage! Spiffy, right?” 

Fighter: “So, you’re useless in a fight?” 

Bard: “What the - I thought you said you weren’t fighting as often?” 

Fighter: “Nah, we’re still fighting we’re just not killing as often.” 

Bard: “Do you hear how stupid you sound when you speak, or is it just me?” 

Fighter: “Look, I just think you’re trying too hard here.” 

Bard: “Oh, that is classic coming from the bleeding heart who took in that Barbarian.” 

Fighter: “Barb’s good, don’t knock people with issues.” 

Bard: “I’m not knocking people with issues, I’m just pointing out Barbarian’s parents obviously could have done better, and if it weren’t for you that rage would have leveled a small village by now. Whereas I am perfectly sane.” 

Fighter: “You’re wearing pantaloons and taking a lute into battle.” 

Bard: “It’s a magical lute!” 

Fighter: “Do you hear how stupid you sound when you speak, or is it just me?” 

Bard: ”@!%# you! That is IT! I quit!” 

-----

Fighter: “Wait, our quest is in this tower?” 

Ranger: “Yeah, the village leader said some crazy wizard took it over and is threatening the town.” 

Fighter: “Why does this look so familiar...” 

WIZARD: “OH-HO! LOOK WHO’S FINALLY COME CRAWLING BACK!” 

Fighter: ”...oh gods, no. Please no.” 

WIZARD: “HOW DO YOU LIKE MY ‘SUPPORT’ CHARACTER NOW, MOTHER $!%#@ER! AM I SUPPORTING YOUR NEED FOR CARNAGE ENOUGH NOW? HUH? HUH?” 

Druid: “Wow, that’s a lot of anger.”

Ranger: “And a lot of crazy.” 

Druid: “Maybe we should just put them out of their misery this time?” 

Fighter: “No! That’s not necessary, I know this Mage. They’re just...having a bad year?” 

WIZARD: “IF YOU THINK MY YEAR’S BEEN BAD YOU SHOULD BUCKLE UP, BUTTERCUP! YOU’RE ABOUT TO HAVE YOUR WORST YEAR EVER!” 

Ranger: ”...you truly know this person?” 

Fighter: “It’s a long story, I think maybe we just need to try calming tactics.” 

WIZARD: “OH, CALMING TACTICS? WHAT, LIKE SINGING? SINGING WAS CALMING - YOU $!%!@%ING IMBECILIC SWORD WRANGLER!” 

Fighter: *sigh* “Alright, can we just talk this out?” 

WIZARD: “I AM THROUGH TALKING WITH YOU! ALL I WANTED WAS TO GO TO THE MOTHER $!%!@%ING LIBRARY BUT NOOOOOO! WE GOTTA GO KILL SHIT!” 

Ranger: “Wait, the reason we’re fighting this person is because you couldn’t go to a library?” 

Fighter: “No, no that’s an oversimplification -” 

WIZARD: “YOU MEAN PAR FOR YOUR STUPID COURSE, YOU LOW INTELLIGENCE HACK!” 

Fighter: “HEY! Now you’re just being hurtful!” 

Druid: “I like libraries. I find them peaceful. I just wish they would find more ecofriendly options for their literary materials, I prefer an oral tradition.” 

Mage: “Oh, well if you like I’ve memorized the entire historical eddas of the local kingdom, I can recite them from memory? I could even accompany them on my lute.” 

Druid: “Truly? Gosh, I’d like to hear that sometime.” 

Fighter: “Oiy! Stop encouraging it!” 

Mage: “You know the library over in the neighboring kingdom has strict standards for publishing in order to limit the use of paper. They ask all scholars to submit their drafts, compare for similarities, then ask them to condense their works in a collaborative effort. They even have a local grove they claim stewardship over to prevent locals from chopping down old growths.” 

Druid: “Wow, that actually sounds amazing.” 

Fighter: “Wait, it does?” 

Ranger: “I, too, would like to see these trees. I enjoy canopies and nature very much. I honestly prefer hunting in nature to murdering in cold blood. These traditional quests leave much to be desired.” 

Fighter: ”...what the hell is happening?” 

Mage: “If we left now we could make it in time for their weekly poetry slam, I so enjoy a good poem.” 

Druid: “Words heal the soul.” 

Mage: “Well put, hippie, I must agree.” 

Fighter: “But we’ve still got those orc bandits to take care of!” 

Mage: *scoff* “If the village leader truly cared about bandits he might have invested more time into aiding their kingdom, rather than hoarding resources and wealth for himself.” 

Druid: “I must agree, that assessment rings true to the heavy guilt I have kept inside my heart these many seasons.” 

Ranger: “Is this poetry slam open mic? I too have repressed feelings I would like to express.” 

Fighter: “What the - no! No expressing shit! You’re going to set Barbarian off!” 

Barbarian: “Huh?” 

Mage: “Oh sure, it’s all well and good for somebody to work their issues out blasting the town from a tower, but poor Barbarian has to cage the rage? Typical physical attacker attitude. No empathy for emotional damage.” 

Barbarian: “What’s ‘emotional damage’?” 

Fighter: “Mage, seriously?” 

Druid: “It’s cultural, not his fault. I blame the village leader and possibly the elders too.” 

Ranger: “The cultural healing cannot begin until it has begun within the culture itself.” 

Fighter: “Ok, you’ve all gone mad. I’m just going to go fight the orcs myself!” 

Mage: “Right, see how long that works out without your precious heal-bot.” 

Druid: ”What did you call me?” 

Mage: “Oh! No, see, Fighter thinks they only hired you to keep him healed with spells.” 

Druid: “You’re joking!”

Fighter: ”I didn’t say that!” 

Druid: “What the hell? I have offensive capabilities! My bear form is legend! You’re not the central hero of this party, you know!” 

Ranger: “Truly, such stereotyping feels like a betrayal of our times together. I have never considered you a simple heal-bot.” 

Druid: “Thank you. I also appreciate your non-lethal adaptability in combat.” 

Fighter: “I did not say you were a simple heal-bot! He’s putting words in my mouth!” 

Mage: *clears throat* “Observational diary entry, ’I’ve been suffering a lot of damage taking hits for you because you can be a bit slow -” 

Druid: “Wow, he called you slow? That’s hurtful.” 

Mage: “THANK YOU!  Somebody gets it!” 

Ranger: “It is cruel to mock others for the stats they were rolled.” 

Fighter: “MAGE! KNOCK THIS SHIT OFF NOW! I MEAN IT!” 

Mage: “Sorry! Heading to the scary ‘library’, wouldn’t want some mean old librarian to set off your insecurities about being a slow reader, woooo.” 

Druid: “I am also heading to the library. I feel it is time I reconnected with my roots.” 

Ranger: “My people once had beautiful libraries. Perhaps I will be inspired to rebuild them in this fashion.” 

Fighter: “Wait! No, come back!” 

Mage: “You’ve got Barbarian, I’m sure the two of you can handle whatever bullshit quest you’re doing now.” 

Barbarian: “We’re killing bulls?” 

Fighter: “No, he’s not - Mage! Druid! Ranger! Please, stop! I’m just doing my job, I swear I didn’t mean to cause you whatever ‘emotional damage’ you supposedly have!”

... 

Barbarian: “Barbarian have emotions.” 

Fighter: “Wait - no, buddy, hold it in!” 

Barbarian: “Barbarian have deep emotions. Mother never happy enough...” 

Fighter: “Oh gods, kill me now -- FINE! JUST - FINE! OK? $@!# I’M GOING TO THE GODSDAMN LIBRARY! THERE, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW!” 

Barbarian: ”...we go to library?”

Fighter: “Yes, just deal with it.” 

Barbarian: “Oooh, Barbarian think librarians sexy. Why you no like library?”

Fighter: *facepalm* 

Odd Couple

"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."