Cooper strained to get the first barrel onto the wagon. Tony the Elf watched with barely concealed contempt. “Try using your legs more”, he offered in a tone that suggested he was less interested in being helpful and more interested in seeing Cooper fall onto his face and into the steaming pile of turds the mule pulling their wagon had just deposited onto the street.
“Up yours, long-ears. These things are all kinds of heavy. Why don't you get down and give me a hand?.”
“Well, for one, I just had my tunic washed, and for another, it's taking all of my Handle Animal skill to keep the mule from bolting from the stench.”
"C'mon, the piss doesn't smell that bad. Certainly not much worse than it did when it was beer.”
“The piss? No, that's not the smell I'm worried about. Hurry up, we have five more taverns to hit, and Snulbug at the tannery likes his liquid gold fresh.”
After securing the barrel, Cooper climbed up into the back of the wagon. Trying to spark a conversation, he asked Tony, “So what do you know about Rhonda? I used to think she was the town bicycle, but I walked in on her dropping the kids off at the pool this morning and I could have sworn I saw cobwebs on that thing.”
“Rhonda? I don't know, and I don't want to know. When you're an elf, anyone who isn't another elf pretty much looks like they got rejected from the cast of Deliverance for being too inbred. Even accounting for that though, she just rubs people the wrong way. When I think about it though, it's weird. Most women with her looks develop a great personality to compensate. I actually kind of respect her a little more for staying a bitch.”
“I've got a low Charisma too, and I don't try to compensate”, Cooper protested. “Aren't you being hypocritical?”
“Dude, you could put out an orphanage fire every day of the week and you'd still be the guy who sharts on Dave every other morning. There's only so much a friendship can take, you know? Now don't get me wrong, you and your friends have done a lot since you got here, but if you're trying to get your dick wet, you need to look elsewhere. Even if she didn't loathe you, she has issues of her own. Frostbite on the pecker is the last thing you want, man”.
“What, are you saying she's frigid?”
“Like I said before, I don't know, and I don't want to know. But I was thinking more of her casting Ray of Frost on your johnson. Your actions in this world can have consequences you wouldn't even be able to imagine in the real world. Herpes might look like a blessing.”
At the mention of herpes, Cooper scratched under his loincloth thoughtfully. “That's exactly what I thought after banging your mom! But seriously, I haven't found a hooker here yet willing to take my money. Guess I'll just keep rubbing them out while I think about Stuart's wife.”
Tony shuddered, then twitched the reins to get the mule moving.
Julian wiped the sweat from his forehead before throwing another armload of sliced carrots and potatoes into the giant cauldron. He'd never really appreciated the effort Barney put into keeping all the other real-world adventurers fed before today. After making it clear through a series of sighs and gestures, that Ravenus, with his tendency to drop shit at random intervals, was not welcome in the kitchen, Barney had gone on an extended smoke break, leaving Julian to his own devices.
Julian sniffed the stew. It didn't seem to be burning, but then again, it wasn't nearly as appealing as what Barney managed to dish out every night. Maybe he would put a point into the Cooking skill, the next time he leveled up...
When he turned back to the counter for another round of slicing, Julian saw that Rhonda had come into the kitchen from the tavern's main room. He wasn't sure what to make of the weird little smile on her face, or the way the front of her robe wasn't tightly drawn around her neck as usual. He'd never seen her wear makeup before, but there seemed to be a crude blotchy rouge applied to her cheeks, in much the same haphazard manner as the local whores would wear.
“I heard Frank had you slaving away back here today”, Rhonda drawled, putting her hands on the counter and leaning forward. “I thought to myself, 'I bet he won't know what he's doing in the kitchen without a woman's...guiding touch.” Here, she lightly stroked a carrot on the cutting board.
Julian swallowed. “Um...”.
Rhonda leaned forward, her robe falling even farther open. “So how 'bout it? Do you like what you see?”
With a Charisma score of 17 and a maxed-out Diplomacy skill, Julian was usually able, if not to smooth-talk his way out of just about any situation, at least be charming or good-looking enough to cover up for any social faux pas. However, the laws of Mordred's universe dictated that every so often, the dice that governed it would throw up a 1.
Rhonda picked up the carrot and threw it at Julian. “I don't know what I was thinking, I should have known all you elves are gay!” Drawing her robe tight, she stormed back out the way she had come in. Stunned, Julian picked the carrot up from the grimy floor and wiped it off on his serape. “Five seconds”, he mumbled.
With a squawk, Ravenus appeared at the sill of the narrow window that offered the kitchen's only ventilation. “Is everything all right, sir? It felt as though you were under attack!”
“Nothing like that, buddy, but it sure feels like I dodged a bullet. I don't think I can do any more damage to this stew; let's see if we can meet up with Tim and Dave.”
Gathering his staff and serape, Julian left via the kitchen's back entrance. Ravenus perched on his shoulder, chattering away. Neither noticed Rhonda furtively following them.