The gnomish crowd loved Gin’s music. That was a relief. I always appreciated his talent, but the only real audience he had played for was his goblin tribe, and from what I hear, that didn’t go well. His catchy beats may not suit his kinsman, but they were perfect for these gnomes tearing up the dance floor.
“Do ye need anything?” The young waitress from before said. She had snuck up on us, or it was just crowded, and we didn’t notice.
“I’m good for now,” I replied.
“You love him, don’t ye?” She asked.
I felt my cheeks turning red, and I felt flustered.
“No. Dara and I have just met. We’re not together,” I said.
“I meant the goblin. Ye keep staring at him with that dumb smile on your face,” she clarified.
I let out a big belly laugh.
“No, Gin is like my brother. I’m just happy for him. He has dreamed of playing in a tavern his whole life,” I explained.
“That’s sweet,” she said. ‘What do ye want?”
“I want to travel and have adventurers,” I said.
“A woman after me own heart,” she said. “Once mam can find someone to work the tavern, I’m plannin’ to get out of here.”
“I wouldn’t mind the company,” I said. Was I flirting now? Is that what flirting feels like?
“Ye wouldn’t, would you? I wouldn’t mind traveling with a big, strong woman like yeself. Ye’re quite the looker too,” she complimented.
I was glad I wasn’t drinking anything because I definitely would have spit it out. I did not expect this gnome woman to find me attractive. I can’t imagine she sees many orcs in this small town.
“I’m Tilly,” she offered.
“Karuk,” I managed to get out.
“Well, Karuk, I hope you’ll look me up before leavin’ town. Maybe we can get to know each other a little better,” she said with a wink. She walked away to find other customers.
I was relieved when I looked beside me and saw that Dara had left. It was a bit less embarrassing that no one I knew saw my first ever attempt at romance.
“I found us a job!” Dara said, plopping back into his seat.
“Yeah? What are we doing?” I asked.
“Apparently, Old Man O’Reilly has been having some trouble with his beag sheep. He’s been losing a couple every few days,” Dara explained.
“Lost sheep? That doesn’t exactly feel like an adventure,” I complained.
“Begging adventurers can’t be choosy adventurers,” Dara said. “And who knows, maybe some sort of monster is eating them or something. There could be some action.”
I relented and agreed to take the job. At least it was something. Dara, Gin, and I headed over to Old Man O’Reilly’s field the following morning. He had a cozy farmhouse and a large, fenced pasture where the beag sheep grazed. I had never seen beag sheep, but they were probably the cutest animals I have ever seen, and I’m not one to typically discuss the cuteness of animals. Beag sheep appeared to be like any other sheep, but they were smaller and pastel-colored. That explained all of the pastel-colored clothing that most of the gnomes wore.
Dara suggested we walk the perimeter of the fence for clues. The fence looked like it had been smashed in on one far end of the field, very far away from the farmhouse.
“Think this is our culprit?” Gin asked. “The sheep are just walking out and not coming back?”
I walked up to the broken wood.
“This looks like it’s been smashed. Maybe there is a monster involved,” I suggested hopefully.
Dara walked up to join me and closely examined the broken fence.
“I don’t think it’s a monster,” Dara began.
“Dammit,” I said.
“But we may still end up fighting something. These cuts are clean. Someone cut this fence to look like it had been smashed. Someone is framing a monster. We’ve got ourselves a livestock thief on our hands,” Dara described.
“WooHoo! This is getting interesting!” Gin exclaimed.
These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!