Ondurin Visits Carefree Carp

By René Dario Herrera

Ondurin, a dwarf traveler from Mahakam, would soon be arriving at Carefree Carp. Ondurin wasn’t looking forward to visiting such a small village, but Carefree Carp was located near the delta of the Carp River, and it hosted a summer craft festival. Wealthy visitors and merchants from nearby cities would be visiting Carefree Carp to attend the festival, and Ondurin would be there, ready to steal from anyone.

Ondurin entered the village and walked along the unpaved streets towards the Hidden Fox Inn and Tavern. The structures lining the streets were made up of sturdy stone buildings, wooden shacks, and wooden sheds. The buildings formed a maze with their arrangement. The sign above the entrance to the Hidden Fox featured a handsome red fox with a gray hare in its mouth. Ondurin had heard from others in nearby cities that the inn was renown for its wild hare stew. Once inside the inn, Ondurin found an empty table in a corner, where he could observe the patrons and activities within the inn. The tavern was quiet, but not empty. At this time, in the early afternoon, there were only a few others inside. A hearty stew cooked in a large cauldron behind the bar. It added an appetizing aroma to the tavern.

An older man walked out from behind the bar and approached Ondurin. The man was neatly groomed and clean-shaven, but dressed plainly. He asked, “What’ll it be? A bowl of stew? A pint of ale?” Before Ondurin could respond, the man continued, “We don’t get many dwarves in these parts, so far from the mountains. You can appreciate a good stew, can’t you? Can I help you with your business here in Carefree Carp? You must be here for the summer craft festival, is that right?”

Ondurin fished into his purse, placed several coins on the table, and said to the server, “Yes. Ale. Stew. And privacy. I’m here to rest and refresh before the festival begins.”

Crappie, delighted by the coins, said, “At once, Master Dwarf. This is my inn. My name is Crappie. My Pa named me after the crappie fish. Second most famous fish in Carefree Carp. Can you guess the first?”

Ondurin ignored Crappie’s invitation for dialog, and the innkeeper walked back behind the bar. Ondurin began packing tobacco into his pipe. His plan had been to stay in a room here at the inn and scout for his next series of victims. With so many outsiders visiting Carefree Carp for the festival, Ondurin could blend in more easily and go unnoticed.

Decades ago, when he set out from Mahakam, the last remaining dwarf fortress, he made his living as a thief. He took what he could from wealthy merchants, drunk landowners, and when the terms suited him, he worked for crime bosses. It wasn’t the life he had wanted for himself when we left his family home in Mahakam, but it is what he found a talent for.

When Crappie returned with the ale and stew, Ondurin asked, “Have you got any rooms?”

Surprised by the request, Crappie fumbled the wooden bowl and tin pint of ale as he set them down on the table. He said, “Rooms? I haven’t got any dwarf size rooms, Master Dwarf? As I said before, we don’t get many dwarves in these parts and when we do, they tend to camp outside the village.”

Ondurin took a long, slow draw from his pipe. He had stolen this premium tobacco from a merchant recently, and Ondurin wanted to savor the flavor. Exhaling a deep puff of smoke, Ondurin said, “A room is a room. Isn’t it? What difference does it make to you if I am a dwarf? I’m here for the summer festival and I plan on trading for coastal goods.” Ondurin flashed a disarming smile and said to the innkeeper, “Goods like pearls and fish scale leathers. Goods we Dwarves can appreciate in Mahakam. You see, dwarves are a hardy, tough race. We’ve got backs made of stone. Our teeth crush diamonds. Our beards make the strongest rope. A dwarf’s eyes can spot a hint of gold and silver under a meter of soil. Our noses can detect the faintest of scents that can elude a pack of hounds. But we must have a comfortable bed to sleep in and a pitcher of ale to quench our thirst. Give me the smallest available room and refill this pint.”

“It makes no difference to me, Master Dwarf. A customer is a customer,” said Crappie.

Crappie rushed back to the bar and returned with a pitcher of ale and an ornate brass key engraved with the number four. “Here you go, Master Dwarf. This key is for room four, my last available room. You’ll find it upstairs at the end of the hallway.” said Crappie.

With one hand, Ondurin took the pitcher and refilled the tin pint. With his other hand, he snuck the room key to a hidden pocket inside the breast of his vest. The festival would begin in two days, and it gave him a chance to set his social traps. Ondurin had learned to achieve his crime goals by using his cunning, intellect, and stealth. People could be cheated of their coin in any number of ways, and it didn’t always require use of force or intimidation. Ondurin settled onto the bench seat of the table and began to enjoy his meal. The hare stew, served with vegetables and a piece of fresh rye bread, would satisfy his hunger and nourish his body. In a few days, his business in the village would be complete, and he could take the ferry across the Carp River where he could plan his biggest heist yet.