With a heavy sigh, Lien caught the waiter’s eye and motioned for him to avoid her again. He’d be here. If there was one thing Durkon was, it was dependable. But he was late, and she was already feeling lonely.

She was dressed in a slinky dress the color of her eyes (and most Azurians eyes, due to an oddment of biology). It suited her, and meant that almost every male in the room had been looking at her speculatively over the half an hour she’d been waiting. Her ears weren’t pierced, so she was wearing mother of pearl clips, and her hair was too short to bother styling, so she hadn’t bothered with it. She didn’t need to, she knew she looked stunning.

Leaning back she crossed and uncrossed her legs, trying to get comfortable on the too big chair and too small table. At long last the door swung open and her date arrived.

Durkon had cleaned himself up. He was freshly scrubbed, and had combed his thick beard. Rather then the armor many people suspected dwarves were born wearing, he had dressed himself in a thick, sky-blue robe, plain and conservative that put her in mind of religious attire. Which made sense, as he was a priest. A belt of gold disks went around his waist, and he was wearing soft leather boots.

Pushing himself onto the chair next to her so his legs dangled beneath him, unable to touch the floor, he held up his hand to signal the waiter over. Unfailingly polite, as always.

“Take tha lasses order.” He said gruffly, his thickly accented voice seeming a little deeper then usual.

Lien, still a little annoyed at being left waiting for half an hour, leaned forward as she made her order, her eyes flashing challengingly. “I’ll have the mixed Sashimi, octopus, and plenty of wasabi, please.” She said, like a general at the opening of hostilities in a midrange war. The challenge wasn’t articulated, but it was there all right.

Durkon, unsurprisingly, didn’t back down. Men never did. “Gi’ me some o’ that to, then.”

As the waiter left, she winked at him, and the man smiled, nodding slightly to show he understood.

The food arrived promptly, and Durkon, after fumbling with his chopsticks for a minute or so, his thick, blunt fingers lacking the shape or the dexterity to hold them correctly, sighed and put them down, removing a knife from his belt she hadn’t noticed before and using that to prepare his food.

For a moment, the taste was pleasant, if a bit bland, then he started chewing, at it hit him like a sneak attack. It felt like he was swallowing molten metal. A cloud of something acidic seemed to burn through the lining of his throat and make its way up to his nostrils, bringing tears to his eyes. He wondered vaguely if this was how dragons felt before they breathed fire, and barely restrained himself from spluttering.

The aftertaste felt as though his teeth had dissolved his teeth and coated them to the roof of his mouth. Looking up, he saw Lien had stopped trying to hide her amusement, and was laughing. For a moment he was hurt, but then a wry smile made itself onto his face.

“Tha’ was cruel.”

She shook her head, still laughing softly. “Funny though. And you can always atone me later.”

He shook his head. “Ach, Ae couldnae dae tha’, ye ae to prove ye’re righteousness first, an undertake ae quest.”

Her smile widened, and turned wicked. “Oh?” She said, in mock seriousness, “What would redeem me for such a heinous act?” She asked, her voice deepening, and suddenly his loose robes felt to tight. He tried to think of something to say, but the moment passed and she sat back.

“So.” She said, starting the conversation again, “this is the second time you’ve taken me to dinner, in three days”

Durkon nodded “Tha’ way Roy tells it, that’s how ye humans dae this. An’ Ah like spendin’ time wit’ ye.”

Lien nodded. Right. Experienced in some ways, not so experienced in others.
“Well… what would dwarves do?”

Durkon leaned back. “Weel, if’n ah had a tad more ranks in craft, ah’d make ye a ring ta tell ye how beautiful ye are, but ah fear e’en tha god’s themselves couldnae do justice to ye lass.”

A flush started to creep up her neck, "That’s… sweet of you.”

“it’s nothing but the truth, lass.” He replied, and smiled again.

Suddenly he pushed the plate away, and stood up, barely changing his height. Behind him, musicians, three men and a women, had arrived unobtrusively, and were readying a variety of instruments, most of them stringed. They wore simple clothing, but their manner and appearance were enough to set them off as strangers to the city at a glance (no Azurian would wear green). Lien watched, enraptured, as they each played a cord, forming a soothing sound.

“Well then lass, ah ‘spose thar’s joost one thang left.” He said. Taking her hand in mock gravity, he asked with a smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes “Ye dancin’?”

She smiled right back, a crooked smile he’d come to love. “You asking?”

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