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They Will Tear Your City Down

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Rosé knows an easy mark when she sees one. 

They’re bellied up to the bar of the Moon Hoot Tavern, and if Rosé believed in a god, she’d be sending up some serious gratitude right now. Instead, she watches her mark from a corner table, waiting for her opportunity. 

They are a dwarf, definitely not rare around these parts, but in many other ways they’re quite different from the ones Rosé has seen around. A large straw hat perches unsteadily on their head, wildflowers stuck haphazardly into the hat band, and they’re dressed in loose, flowing clothing. A satchel rests by their feet next to a walking stick perched against the side of the bar.

A strange one, for sure, but that’s not what makes them an easy target. It’s their expression that Rosé caught sight of, happily chatting with the bartender. It’s open, innocent and trusting. Not to mention, they’re halfway through their second ale and already flushing. Rosé imagines that if another dwarf were here they would be shaking their head in disappointment. 

She waits a few minutes, taking small sips of her own drink while the dwarf finishes their second ale. As they happily clink it down on the bar, she gets up, leaving her own drink practically full on the table. 

Rosé raises a hand in greeting at the pretty bartender, then pulls up a seat next to the dwarf, deliberately on the side where the satchel is resting. 

The bartender slides another drink to the dwarf, nodding politely at Rosé. “Another drink?” she asks. Rosé avoids her eyes, even as her heart skips a beat, and tries to stay focused on her objective. 

“Yes please!” she says with a wide grin, playing it up. She’s not drunk, barely buzzed actually, but she wants to dwarf to let their guard down. The bartender nods and hands her another ale, then turns her back to them to serve the few other customers. 

Very aware of the satchel at her feet, Rosé makes eye contact with the dwarf, feigning a small smile. She needs to distract them for just a moment. 

“So what’s your story? You don’t look like you’re from around here.” Despite her forced cheeriness, this makes the dwarf’s expression fall a little. 

“Oh, uh… it’s not much of a story…” Yikes. Good going Rosé, had to find the most sensitive topic right off the bat. But maybe she can salvage it. She puts on her best pitying expression, which isn’t hard, this dwarf has surprisingly effective puppy-dog eyes. 

She leans in, propping her chin on her palm. If it allows her to see the dwarf’s bag more clearly, that’s her business. She widens her eyes just a little, feigning interest. “Oh c’mon,” she pries, “someone as well dressed as you has to have a story to tell.” 

The dwarf reaches up and adjusts their hat self consciously. A petal falls to the floor. “Thank you… um…” They look up at her.

“Rosé,” she answers, “and you sir—or miss?” Rosé finds it hard to tell with dwarves, considering they all have beards. The dwarf shrugs. 

“Either’s good. My name’s Grendan.” Rosé nods, taking a sip of her ale. She slips her foot around the strap of the satchel, slowly bringing it closer to her chair. 

“What brings you to the Moon Hoot, Grendan?” Grendan takes another long gulp of their ale in turn. For such an obvious lightweight, they’re not hesitant at all when it comes to drinking. 

“Just traveling, headed for the Eastern Wilds eventually.” Rosé gives the person sitting next to her a scrutinizing look. She’s heard just enough about the East to know to avoid it, a seemingly endless land of forests and swamps, where its said monsters and wild beasts rule. They look back at her, probably sensing her disbelief. “Don’t give me that look! I’m a druid, I can handle it!” Another petal falls from their hat. 

“A druid huh?” It would certainly explain the strange outfit, though the defensive way they said that makes Rosé doubt the statement’s validity. The dwarf nods insistently, a smile on their face. Rosé shrugs. It’s none of her business really. The bar falls silent for a moment as they both take another drink. Grendan’s eyelids are beginning to droop, and Rosé knows her chance is coming soon. For some reason, she feels disappointed. 

When she’d first seen Grendan across the tavern, they’d seemed like any other mark. Foolishly leaving their bag at their feet instead of in their room, getting drunk in some middle of nowhere mountain town, hell, they weren’t even dressed properly for the weather. Rosé doesn’t necessarily believe in survival of the fittest, but Grendan was practically asking to be robbed. 

But there’s something about the dwarf that tugs at her heartstrings. They’re kind, almost constantly smiling, despite the fact that, from what Rosé can tell, they’re all alone. And maybe, Rosé thinks, that’s why she’s hesitating. 

Grendan reminds her of herself, when she was younger. Optimistic, and sure that, despite the hardships, everything would turn out alright. Rosé had learned the faults in her thinking the hard way. She’d learned that, where there was kindness, someone would always be there to exploit it. And isn’t that what she’s doing right now? Is the life she’s living now any better than the one she’d run away from?

Rosé unhooks her foot from the strap of Grendan’s bag and finishes her sip. Grendan’s looking at her again, and she meets their eyes. 

“Can I ask where you’re going?” they ask. Rosé blinks. She doesn’t really have a good answer for that question. Before she can stop herself, she answers honestly. 

“Just wandering really. Picking up odd jobs.” She wonders if perhaps the ale is stronger than she thought. Grendan nods, slumping slightly onto the bar. They don’t look sad, just very, very drunk. 

“I bet you see a lot of cool stuff…” they mumble. Again Rosé is caught off guard. She really never thought about it in that way. She’s about to try and put together some sort of answer when she looks down at Grendan again. 

They’re asleep, head pillowed in their arms, hat dangerously close to completely falling off their head. Rosé makes a decision. She places the hat on the bar and stands up, waving at the bartender. 

She comes over, and Rosé asks, “Can you make sure they get to their room safely?” pointing at the sleeping dwarf. The bartender nods, and Rosé gives her a smile. She heads up to her own room, leaving Grendan’s bag untouched. 

Rosé wakes up to the sun rising, and an aching regret sitting in the center of her chest. She tries vainly to drive it away as she gets dressed, but it grows heavier at the light weight of her coin purse. She really doesn’t want to spend the night on the streets again. A harsher part of her brain tells her she should have stolen the bag. Rosé smothers it. 

She heads downstairs with her coat on her back and her pack on her shoulders. Surprisingly, she spots a familiar hatted head at the bar, munching on a large plate of eggs and bacon. Rosé’s stomach growls. 

They look up when Rosé sits next to them. “Oh, uh, Rosé! Good morning!” Rosé stretches, slightly put off by the dwarf’s cheeriness this early in the morning. 

“Mornin’,” Rosé yawns. Seeing the dwarf seems so have acquired a coat of their own, she asks, “Headed out today?” Grendan nods. 

“Yep,” they pause for a second, thinking, “I think the next town east of here is… Crescent Hill?” Rosé shrugs.

“I’ve never been there,” she comments idly, then orders her breakfast. This town, though it has a very nice tavern, and a very cute barkeep, doesn’t present many opportunities for earning money, legal or illegal. Rosé supposes it’s probably about time she moves on as well. 

“Don’t the Justice family live in Crescent Hill?” the bartender asks. Grendan nods. Rosé raises an eyebrow. 

“The Justice family?” She doesn’t know that name. 

Between another bite of eggs, Grendan explains, “Very rich family. The dad is some sort of paladin or something.” The very thought seems to bore Grendan, but it sparks many an idea for Rosé. She buries her own enthusiasm in her own breakfast. It’s a few more minutes of eating before Grendan asks a question of their own. “Where are you going Rosé?” 

Rosé can hardly keep a grin from breaking out on her face. “Crescent Hill I suppose. Wanna travel together?” 

The warm smile she gets from Grendan is enough to make her regrets disappear, if for just a moment.