Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chapter Eighteen

Cinderella clears away the Dwarf’s plate. He ate quite a bit – the stories about Dwarves’ appetites are true, apparently – but she doesn’t mind. After the day’s events, he certainly had cause to work up such a hunger

The Dwarf grunts and wipes his hands on his red tunic. Even after being forced to wash, he still stinks of smoke and charred flesh. He grunts again, this time in distaste at the fancy, frilly chateau, and pushes back his seat.

“Well… thanks fer dinner,” the Dwarf concludes. He hoists his pack, takes hold of his poleaxe - which was never out of arm’s length - and stumps toward the door.

“Wait…” says Cinderella. “Where are you going?”

The Dwarf snorts and looks at her as if she’s half-mad. “Didn’t you hear what I said? I’m gonna find this prince.”

“But… now? At this hour? What about the dead?”

“Bah. We’ve handled ‘em under the mountains, we can handle ‘em aboveground, too. Besides, I can see in the dark better’n they can.” Foolish girl.

Cinderella smoothly rushes forward to stand between the front door and the Dwarf. She remembers her stepmother’s sudden departure and her animal friends who’ve disappeared over the lonely months.

“At least stay here tonight. You shouldn’t be traveling in the dark, especially after all the hard work you’ve done. You must be exhausted.”

“Pft, this ain’t nothin’. You should see what it’s like down in the mines. That’ll put some creak in your spine,” says the Dwarf. The girl is probably just afeared of being left alone again, he figures. And he doesn’t want her slowing him down.

He starts to push past her, and then it’s Cinderella who hmphs.

“Well,” she says, “I’ve heard Dwarves were discourteous, but I never imagined they were like this.”

He stops and scowls at her. “Discourteous? What’re you talkin’ about, woman? I ate yer food, didn’t I?”

Cinderella chuckles mockingly. “Yes, you definitely had your fill. But now you’re leaving, not only turning down hospitality, but leaving a poor girl to fend for herself after eating the last of her food.”

“I didn’t ask fer it!” The Dwarf snaps back. “And I cain’t be lookin’ after you and everyone else who’s been caged up by them deathlings. You ain’t my responsibility.”

“I didn’t say I was,” says Cinderella. She changes tactics quickly. “But if you’ll accept food but not lodgings, then clearly my home isn’t good enough for you.”

He stammers, unsure of which argument to attack first. “Yer house is fine,” he finally says. “I just… Bah. Fine, fine.”

The Dwarf steps away from the door, drops his pack, and stalks over to the settee, where he sits with his arms folded. He vows that he’ll get no sleep tonight. With his luck, the thing’ll either be lumpy as cottage cheese or full of springs.

“But first thing in the mornin’, I’m leaving,” he says defiantly. “I got a prince to find.”

“Of course,” says Cinderella. She’s learned very quickly how to deal with this Dwarf.