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Gax and Darlis’eit traveled down the snow-clad streets of Durthlem warily. The particular avenue they traversed sloped downward ever so slightly, making the going that more treacherous. Once already Gax’s feet had slid out from under him and he’d crashed down onto his back to slide a dozen feet down the icy street.

“Ya know, you didn’t need to bite a chunk out ofBeshyn’s ear,” Dar said, picking at her long fingernails with a knife. “He would’ve talked with a few mugs of ale in him.”

Gax looked sidelong at his elf companion. “And a run with you in his bedroll! He said as much!”

“He hinted as much, you dumb idiot. Now we’ll have to keep our eyes out for him and his friends trying to get even.”

“We’re always watching our backs anyway,” Gax reasoned. “What’s it matter if there’s another face to look out for?”

“I bet your orc brain told you he’d taste good, huh?”

Before Gax could berate Dar for insulting his culture, a joyous voice called out to him. “Hey, Gax! Bet you three tankards you can’t ride this here shield more than five seconds.”

Gax looked over his shoulder to see Saryn, a tavern-crawling cretin, standing at the mouth of an alley he’d likely just relieved himself in. A few of his fellows stood at the entrance to the Crooked Sword, a dive Saryn damn near lived in. Saryn quickly wrenched the shield from the back of one of his comrades and flung it down the street. “On your feet, too!” he added as his friend rounded on him and gripped his shirt with two fists.

Gax, being one never to pass up free drink, unslung his massive axe from his back and nearly tossed it to Dar, saying, “Hold my battle axe!”

He shuffled forward, mindful of the slippery road, and caught up to the shield. He hopped atop it and nearly pitched forward immediately, but managed to keep his feet on the oval-shaped piece of steel, despite them barely fitting on it. He began to count aloud as he wobbled back and forth, sliding down the sloping road. Saryn and his compatriots erupted with boisterous laughter and heckling. Dar admonished him with a flurry of curses.

“Three…” Gax looked up from the shield just as a child ran out from a nearby alley. The boy stopped right in his path, turned and threw a snowball at an unseen friend, laughing all the while. “Move!” Gax shouted, his normally deep voice going to a pitch higher than what he thought imaginable, causing embarrassment to burn in his cheeks.

The boy whirled around, squealed, then dove out of the way. Gax attempted to steer the shield aside but only managed to turn, now facing the alley the boy had fled from. A snowball careened from the alley and smacked him square in the face. He wobbled once more, but hollered, “Four!” despite the snow blinding him.

Gax wiped the snow from his eyes and found a horse’s rear looming before him. There was no hope at avoiding it. “Five!” he screamed. Then, he collided with the steed. The beast shuffled forward, whinnying angrily, and nearly lost its footing. Its rider turned and began lobbing insults at Gax as he slid across the snow on his belly.

He lay there, groaning for the better part of a minute while the spectators burst with laughter. A trickle of blood streamed from his nose and painted the white snow beneath him red. He shakily got to his feet, ignoring the rider, then turned and held up his hand, splaying out his fingers.

“I only counted to four,” Saryn shouted between guffaws.

“Dar!” Gax complained.

Dar, smiling with amusement, turned to Saryn and hefted a knife. “Ale or I cut your pecker off.”

Saryn waved her threat away and continued to laugh.

Dar cast the knife at him and it flew between his legs, just inches from slicing into his manhood. His laughter died abruptly. “I don’t miss a second time,” Dar promised, gripping another knife.

Gax ambled up to them, a wide grin plastered to his bloody face.