Chapter 7: The Dwarf Village

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We reached the Lacdonian River by nightfall. I had caught myself looking over my shoulder more than once during the day to see if we were being followed, but so far, my spell seemed to be working. Still, the sight of the river evoked an inexplicable sense of relief within me. We were not safe—we probably wouldn't be for a long time—but we were making progress on our journey. From this point forward, we would start checking the river banks for a bridge that would grant us safe passage, and gradually make our way toward our destination.

However, our current objective was to find a place to spend the night. An hour had passed since the last rays of sunlight had disappeared over the horizon, yet we still hadn't come across an inn or a village. At least, not on this side of the river. My eyelids were becoming rather heavy and I felt as if I had walked a thousand miles into a stiff headwind, which only added to my grumpiness. I glanced aside at Rowan, who had been unusually silent for the last thirty minutes. He looked just as fatigued as I was.

"Perhaps we should just pitch the tent by the roadside?" I suggested hopefully. "Honestly, Rowan, I could use some sleep. I don't know how much longer I can keep going, and the same goes for Inna."

"It's not safe to sleep out in the open like that."

"We could take turns to keep watch."

The look he gave me told me exactly how he felt about keeping watch right now. The more rebellious side of me wanted to stop my horse anyway, but I gritted my teeth instead and kept my eyes on the endless road before us. Being obstinate and troublesome would not bring me anywhere closer to a bed.

Absorbed in my own moodiness, I didn't see the woman crossing the street until she bumped into Inna and fell hard on her butt. A series of exceptionally creative curses burst from her mouth when the bag she was carrying hit the ground as well and was ripped open, spilling out its contents onto the dirt road.

Ah, come on. That's just great.

I slid off Inna's back and walked toward the woman. I held out my hand to help her stand, but she slapped it away and pushed herself up. Standing so close to her, it struck me that she was extraordinarily small. The top of her head barely reached as far as my bosom. Nevertheless, that didn't stop her from staring me down, her hands placed firmly on her hips.

"What the hell was that good for?" she spat.

I wanted to be mad at her, because she was the one who had run into my horse, but to be honest, it was quite difficult to remain serious when a tiny person was screaming at me like that. I bit my bottom lip to keep my mouth from breaking into a smile.

Unfortunately, she noticed my restrained laughter anyway. "What are you laughing at? Oh, it's my height, isn't it? You tall people are all the same; always looking down on us, always feeling so superior with your heads high in the sky!"

Her sudden tirade rendered me speechless for a moment. Someone put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed, a silent warning. "Forgive her for her rudeness, ma'am. She has never seen a Dwarf before and she is too ill-mannered to hide her surprise," Rowan said apologetically, his warm breath tickling my ear.

I snorted and shrugged off his hand. Was it really necessary to insult me in front of strangers? I was just curious, that was all.

"Hmm." The woman gave me another disapproving look, but it seemed that she had finished reprimanding me for now. Thank goodness for Rowan's charisma. "You two look like you're a long way from home."

"We are," Rowan answered, evading her unspoken question. "Actually, we were just looking for a place to sleep. Do you know anyone who would be so kind as to lodge us for the night?"

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