A dented helmet and getting things off of tall shelves
Lightning flashed. Rain lashed at Thezak’s face and ran down his chainmail.
“Confounded weather,” Bukhel yelled. “Why did we leave our caves again?”
“To find fame and fortune,” Thezak said. He squinted as another round of lightning split the sky. Over Bukhel’s head and through the trees he finally spotted what they’d been looking for. He grabbed his brother by the shoulder. “This way.”
Dwarves lived in mines. They knew what mud was, but Thezak had never dealt with anything like this. The thick, viscous, substance tried to hold them fast. It pulled at their boots, as if hungry to eat them.
He’d also been out in rainstorms before, but not when the sky itself seemed to open and pour down every bit of sorrow for the world at once.
“Where are we going?” Bukhel asked.
“I saw a cabin.”
“Made of stone?”
“I don’t know.” Thezak dragged Bukhel to the edge of the woods. Another flash of light hit the edges of the cabin. A cabin with a fence around it, a well out front and a barn to the right.
“Wood?” A hint of panic filled his brother’s voice. “Wood is never going to hold up in this.”
“I’m sure this place has been here for many seasons,” Thezak said. “Come.”
Before Bukhel could object, Thezak pulled him forward. They ran across the muddy clearing, through the opening in the fence and onto the covered front porch. Bukhel pounded hard on the front door.
“Brother!” Thezak said. “It sounds like you want to tear the place apart.”
Thezak sighed and moved close to the door. Rain still ran down his face, dripping off of his nose and chin. “Hello?” he asked in the human tongue. “Is anyone there? We’re seeking shelter.”
Thezak waved him back. “We can pay.”
“That might not be the best way to approach it,” Bukhel said.
“We should start with that before threatening them.”
Bukhel glared up at his brother.
Both of them jumped when the door opened a crack. Light spilled out onto the porch and caught the onslaught of rain beyond as it continued to descend.
“Who are you?” a female voice asked. “I’m armed.”
Thezak raised his arms and moved in front of the light. “My name is Thezak and this is my brother, Bukhel.” He pointed. “We got caught in the storm and were hoping to find shelter here for the night.”
“Are you dwarves?”
The door opened a little further. A pair of fierce, green eyes gazed out at him. “Aren’t you a little tall for a dwarf?”
Thezak sighed. “I am the tallest in my family.” Not to mention the village. “We have a few coins. We can pay you for your hospitality.”
The eyes narrowed. “What’s to say you won’t rob me?”
Bukhel snorted. “We have piles of gems in our home. What could this place possibly have that would tempt us?”
The eyes continued to narrow.
Thezak pat the air with his hands. “If not in your home, could we perhaps shelter in your barn?”
The woman didn’t answer for a long while. Long enough that Thezak wondered if she’d heard.
“Or we can stay here on the porch.”
Bukhel let out a strangled cry.
“No,” the woman said. “You’ll be paying in coins. Come in.”
“Thank you,” Bukhel said.
The door swung open to reveal a tall—for dwarf standards—woman with long brown hair, a thin waist and a sour expression on her face. She held a cross bolt in one hand and kept it aimed at them.
Thezak held his hands up. “We’re not looking for trouble.”
“Take your things off right there,” she said. “I don’t need water all over my house.”
Thezak expected an argument from his brother, but instead found him staring at the human with awe. With more than awe, with admiration. “My lady, thank you for your help. I am Bukhel and this is my brother Thezak.”
Thezak inwardly rolled his eyes. A pretty face changed everything?
The woman kept her expression guarded. “I’m Cyndol.”
“You have a lovely home.”
She looked Bukhel up and down. Thezak sighed. Bukhel always got the girls. Then her eye moved to Thezak, and she finally cracked a smile. Her gaze lingered on him. “Get out of those wet clothes. I’ll put a kettle on the fire.”
Thezak hadn’t even noticed the warmth until that moment. He and Bukhel got out of their wet gear, leaving just a layer of breeches and a shirt.
“Cyndol,” Bukhel said. “What can we help with?”
Once again, her eyes slid from Bukhel to Thezak. “I could use your help.”
She smiled again and pointed at the top of a shelf laden with pots and pans and a random assortment of armor, including a dented black helmet. “Will you get the big kettle there? I can’t reach it.”
For the first time in his life, Thezak puffed up his chest at the mention of his height. He walked across the room and lifted the black kettle down.
Cyndol came to him, touching his fingers as she took it from him. “Thank you.”
Thezak grinned. “You are welcome.”