Theadin, daughter of Lodin, glanced around cautiously. The great hall was filled to the brim, but no one was paying attention to them.

“All right,” she grumbled. “But be quick abou’ it.”

Kippy Longroot, Shadow of Brightdale, Vault-Scourge, and Curly-Haired Thief of Legend (she made that last one up herself)scrambled up the back of her dwarven compatriot. Before her lay an incredible spread of treasures, a dream turned real. Each one looked more beautiful than the next, and she didn’t know where to start.

“Would ye hurry up?” Theadin snapped. “For one of the Wee Folk, ye weigh a ton.”

“Flattery will get you no where,” Kippy replied. Theadin shook her head, wondering what had made her think to use an insult that really only worked on humans to insult a halfling. The fact that her breastplate probably weighed more than Kippy didn’t help any.

Kippy jumped down, her arms, pockets, and mouth, filled with pastries.

“Honestly,” she said, her cheeks bulging like a chipmunk’s as she spoke around the food. “If they’re going to use such ridiculously large tables, they could at least put some stools out for folks like you and me, who aren’t five-foot-tall giants.”

“I can reach just fine,” Theadin said. Like any good dwarf, she didn’t like getting lumped in with halflings and gnomes, just because she was a bit shorter than most other races. Besides, she was almost five feet tall. Four foot six, at least. On a good day.

The point was, she was closer to a human’s height than a halfling’s.

“If ye’d just tell me what ye wanted, I wouldnae have t’ make a fool of m’self, acting like a footstool.”

Kippy rolled her eyes. “Well, I didn’t know what I wanted until I was up there. I can’t really tell you what I want if I don’t know what they have. I mean they could have-”

“Ye grabbed everythin’ within arm’s reach,” Theadin cut her off. “No point tryin’ t’ deny it.” Her fault, really, for giving a halfling any excuse to rant about food.

“Why, if it isn’t the Vault-Scourge herself,” a wry voice said. It was the kind of voice that manage to turn politeness into a kind of insult. It belonged to a tall, but scrawny man, made of lean, whipcord muscles. Even his beard (if you could even call it that) was scrawny – a tuft of black hair on his chin and a thin line across his lip.

“Blackblade,” Kippy said, with the barest amount of professional courtesy possible.

Theadin was not so polite.

“You back-biting son of an orcish whore! I’ll feed you your poor excuse for a beard for what you did to us.” And she pulled her hammer loose from her belt. Or at least, she would have, if it had been there. No weapons were permitted in the hall. Loazin the Wise had realized that with this many adventurers, it was only a matter of time before one of them would want to do exactly what Theadin had wanted to do. And he felt that this was rather against the spirit of the Heavenly Celebration.

“It was nothing personal,” Blackblade said.

“Ye almost got us killed!” Theadin snarled.

“I didn’t even know you were in the dungeon until the trap was already sprung. It’s why I don’t bother with adventuring parties in the first place. They always get in the way. Besides, you both got out just fine, didn’t you? I suppose Sir Perron did, too?”

“That was it, wasn’t it?” Kippy said, clearly realizing something Theadin hadn’t. “That trap was too obvious for even you to have not noticed. You were hoping to get Perry killed.”

“I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said, looking away.

Kippy grinned wickedly. “Joke’s on you, Blackblade. He’s more intent on getting you locked away now than ever.”

“I don’t know how you stand him. You’d probably be a decent rogue without that weight around your neck. Always preaching on and on about the greater good and all that rubbish.”

Kippy shrugged. “He doesn’t bother me about it. Maybe he just doesn’t like you.”

Sir Perron had confessed to Theadin once that, as much as he didn’t care for what he called ‘the shady way of doing things,’ he didn’t mind Kippy. Despite her attempts to come across as a ruthless thief, he had realized that she mostly kept to the type of burglary you came across on the adventuring road. When she did resort to actual theft, she almost as a rule stole from men who made gold off of the suffering by others, usually ones who could avoid lawful punishment in one way or another. Sir Perron had even expressed… well, not quite approval, but as close to approval as a paladin could come for such things.

The petty pickpocketing, he wrote off as simply a product of her being a halfling, something far beyond the ability of him or his gods to change.

Blackblade looked rather surprised by the implications that Sir Perron could actually like a thief. He glared at Kippy, trying to gauge if she was bluffing.

Theadin had noticed that you could tell when Blackblade was upset by something, because his insulting politeness vanished. His condescending tone was vastly preferable to what replaced it.

“So he likes little women,” he said, with an ugly smirk. “I should have known. I’m disappointed in you, though. I thought you had better taste in men. Not good taste, mind you, since I thought you were shacking up Theadin, but at least he’s better than a paladin.”

Theadin turned away, blinking back tears. She wouldn’t let people see her cry.

If Blackblade had merely insulted Kippy, Theadin would have punched his face in. If he had limited to the suggestion that Kippy and Theadin were sleeping together, she would have just laughed (like most dwarves, she didn’t have much preference for gender in her partners, but the idea of sleeping with a non-dwarf, much less a halfling, was ridiculous to her).

What hurt her was the fact that he wasn’t trying to insult her. He was demeaning Kippy, and tarring Sir Perry with the same brush, but he had honestly mistaken her for a guy.

Sure, she was tall for a woman. And not many female dwarves were adventurers. And yes, if she didn’t shave regularly, sideburns started growing in, but that was perfectly normal for almost any dwarf woman over four feet tall, and she never missed a day so that didn’t matter any way.

Honeyed laughter filled the air. All three of them turned to see a golden haired woman standing nearby, holding a glass of wine in one hand. She was dressed in a green dress that appeared to be made of leaves (Theadin had never been completely sure if elven dresses were actually leaves, or just sewn to look like them). Her only slightly pointed ears suggested she was half-elf, half-human.

“You never learn, do you, Blackblade?” she said, still laughing slightly. “I would have thought the lack of a beard would have tipped you off. Don’t take him to heart, goodwoman. He seems to have problems telling the genders of other races. Has he told you of the time he tried to bed an snow elf maiden, only to learn that it was a man?”

Kippy burst into peals of laughter at this.

“Oh, I haven’t even gotten to the best part,” the elf-human said. “This was early winter, when any snow elf woman should have been storing fat.” She made exaggerated motions in front of her own chest. “Honestly, Blacky, I would have thought you’d notice something like that. Most human men do.”

Blackblade was, for once, at a loss for words. His face turned bright red, and he stammered something completely incomprehensible before fleeing.

“Disgusting toad,” the elf-human said when he had gone. Then she bowed to the dwarf and the halfling. “Lerra, at your service. My apologies for interrupting.”

“Are you kidding?” Kippy almost shouted. “That was amazing! I doubt I’ll be able to see him without laughing for years! This is the best Heavenly Celebration party ever!”

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