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The restaurant is small, which isn’t surprising since kobolds are tiny. Rhynn isn’t especially tall, but he looms like a giant in here. Both Podlihob and I, who are shorter than Rhynn, still seem unreasonably large for this place. The kobolds act like this isn’t a problem at all and seat us at a table. The light is dim, and a small candle on the table barely illuminates our faces and the table.
A waitress brings us menus and asks us what we want to drink. Rhynn immediately orders us all waters and beers, along with an appetizer of stuffed mushrooms and tomatoes. I stare at the menu in confusion for a minute.
“Kobold food relies on a lot of mushrooms, meat, and dairy. Their usual vegetables are onions and potatoes. If you haven’t had much kobold food before, get a baked shred-loaf.” Rhynn speaks authoritatively, which makes sense if he’s a chef.
“What’s a shred-loaf?” I am intrigued by the name.
“They shred a bunch of ingredients with their claws and mix it into some ground meat and bake it, then cover it in a sauce. It’s basically a meat loaf, but their seasonings and the sauces are different enough to make it unique. It’s a basic dish, and most people are okay with it. Usually comes with a potato side. This place does some good green onion croquettes.”
Music starts to play from somewhere around the ceiling. We’re probably their first customers of the day if they don’t serve breakfast. The music is high pitched wind and string instruments playing lingering melodies, punctuated by percussion.
“Why are the instruments so high-pitched?” I ask.
“Kobolds are small. So are most of their instruments.” Podlihob goes back to scanning the menu.
The waitress comes back with the appetizer and to take our orders. After we place our orders, Rhynn raises his beer.
“To new friends,” he declares. Podlihob and I also raise our glasses and say it as well, and we all take a long drink.
“So that thing I wanted to discuss,” Podlihob says after our toast. “Rhynn, you topped PVP leaderboards back in the day, right?”
“Oh yeah. I specialized in taking out support and ranged classes to make enemy groups crumble and could solo whole parties if I surprised them.”
“And Zav, you’re a mage who uses magic in a manner most people are not used to, right?”
“I guess? All I can cast are cantrips, but apparently the way I cast them is… different.”
This beer is really good. It has a hint of orange and leaves my tongue feeling cleansed.
“And you need to prove legal income, right? I need a way to get money and renown quickly, and it needs to be legal as well.”
Podlihob takes a drink of his beer.
“What do you guys think about forming an arena team?”
“Tell me why you need the money and fame and I’ll consider it.”
“There’s this girl from Tornado Alley, and I have to prove myself.”
This is a classic love story. I am okay with the flags this discussion raises.
“What’s Tornado Alley?”
That name raises flags I am less okay with.
“A land to the west of here where tornados are common. The people who live there have built a gigantic city in the sky, supported by tornados as pillars. Who’s the girl?” Rhynn’s eyes never leave Podlihob as he answers me.
The city is built on top of tornados? That sounds crazy and dangerous.
“Sakura, the Queen of Swords.” Podlihob finishes his beer, and waves at the waitress.
“You want to marry the shogun? Okay, that makes sense. But I’m not sure about the furball going into the arena.” Rhynn is worried about me, and I get warm fuzzies on the inside knowing someone cares.
“I figure he can train some in Mage Duels before we start doing threes. My cousin said he has contacts at the university, but that’s with researchers. I have contacts in the athletics department and can probably get him a recommendation for a dueling team, which includes a scholarship. Zav just needs to be able to win a couple of duels and based off what we saw him do in the gym, I don’t think he’ll have any problem winning.”
Another round of beers arrive. I quickly finish mine to exchange the glass with the waitress.
“So even if the kid is okay in duels, that still leaves you as an unknown. You’ll need to tell us about your fighting style.” Rhynn crosses his arms.
“I’m a sniper. I use a spear if combat gets close, and I can make an impromptu sniper’s nest with the spear and surround it with traps.”
“You turn yourself into a stationary target? Your style sounds bad for the arena. You got any stealth skills?” Rhynn idly sips his beer.
“Yeah, and skirmishing. I can also perform ranged nerve strikes.”
“What the hell, I’ve been single for a while. Maybe this will get me some fresh groupies. I’m in.” Rhynn grins. “I’ll put you through the wringer to get you ready for the arena, Pod. What about you, Zav?”
“I like the idea of getting a scholarship, and I’ve already been forced into combat a few times. It can’t be worse than that. I’m in.” I raise my beer for another toast.
Podlihob raises his beer as well, saying
“To future champions.” Rhynn raises his beer as well, and we toast again.