The lodgings were not exactly high class, but at least they were dry and somewhat protective against the ice cold wind that stalked the city at night. Of course with Tess being sent there by the Bailiff meant she enjoyed the least amount of hospitality the owners could offer while still claiming favour; that is to say a floor instead of a bed, cold slop as opposed to the delights of a full roasted chicken and a spot as far away from the fire as possible. Still, it was not in her heart to complain.
The same could not be said for the diminutive man who had been sent to the lodging house with her. His name was Derek and to look at him was to gaze upon a man who was all hair and muscle. He was mean tempered and foul of mouth, but the more booze he consumed the more he seemed to calm. Tess did her best not to stare at the man, but he was her only real company and one could only stare at the cracks in the ceiling for so long.
“What ya looking at girl?”
His voice was gruff but not without a certain quality that hinted at the possibility of a kind heart underneath all that beard and sinew. That hint was all Tess needed.
“I am trying to work out how a man can be so small yet also so large.”
The man grunted, but there was a smidgen of humour in it. Tess was really warming to this fellow.
“A man, as in human, could not. I am a dwarf, sent to this awful city on the orders of my Lord to setup a shop showcasing the latest in the dwarven technology. Of course no one told me that almost all technology is seen as an affront to your collective religions, so I ended up in debt and now I am being forced to spend my time in some retirement home for delinquents?”
“Oh no. The Shaded Dragon is where those brave souls who saved us from despot dragons, mischievous magicians and destructive demons go when they are no longer able to care for themselves! It is an honour to serve there.”
The dwarf laughed, a hearty sound that earned a chorus of disgusted muttering from the paying guests.
“If you looked like you believed that I would have written ya off girl! The names Derek.”
“Derek the Dwarf? I like it. My name is Tess.”
The two shooks hands, which Derek followed up with a hearty, albeit a bit grabby, hug. Tess didn’t mind. Having someone to enter The Shaded Dragon with was a big plus, and that he seemed to be someone she could get along with was even better.
The night at the lodgings was uneventful. People slept, snored and some even suck off to the darker corners to exchange grunts with each other. When the sun rose the owners cooked a massive breakfast of bacon, eggs and sausages for the guests and served Derek and Tess the grease they had used to cook.
Shortly after the transport arrived. A slight man entered followed by two men who were the definition of heavies; big, muscled and dumb as posts. The slight man looked at Derek and Tess.
“Not chained, makes a change. We normally only get the criminal or the insane, more than often both. Either of you going to try and run or can we have a nice pleasant trip?”
“Depends. If I run what happens?”
“On those short legs, I doubt very much. These two here will catch you and your sentence will be doubled. If they fail to catch you the Hawks will scour the world until they find you and drag you back, where your sentence will extended to cover the duration of your life and any offspring you may have sired.”
“Okay then, no running from me. Tess?”
She shook her head. It was not that she was shy, she just didn’t like the look (or smell) of this skinny little man and saw no reason to waste her voice on him.
“Good! Be nice to have an easy trip! Off we go then!”