They had walked a considerable distance before Zipporah was forced from her thoughts by a shout. She regained her composure in time to level her arm at a figure that was charging at Penn.
“Hey,” a high pitched melodic voice called to the pair. One of the bunny dancers stopped in front of Penn and smiled. Zipporah was ready to defend the gnome if she made any moves to attack. The bunny had other moves in mind, however. “So, where are you from?” she asked the gnome but ignored the shoki.
Penn was about to answer when Zipporah cut him off, “We are from a small city just east of Dundersnuff called Mensch. I am certain you wouldn’t know anything about it.” The shoki gave the wererabbit a look that clearly let her know it was time to hop along.
The girl was either too stupid to pick up on the unsubtle hint or she simply didn’t care; either way she continued unhindered. “Anyway, there are going to be fireworks later out over the water. It would be nice to have someone to watch them with, if you wanted to join us. My friends and I,” she motioned to the other dancers who were standing in a cluster against the wall, “are all meeting up at the Crawl just before dark.” She shifted out from her hybrid form to reveal a very attractive halfling. “My name is Connie.”
Penn blushed in spite of himself. “Yeah, that would be nice,” the gnome-hare stammered.
“I am looking forward to it,” Connie smiled. Then she turned, gave Zipporah a nasty look, and walked back to where her bunny friends waited against the wall. The shoki did not need to read her thoughts to know what she was thinking.
“Come on,” Zipporah practically dragged Penn away. “We have to get back.” She was already upset about having to walk away from the demon, and she inadvertently took it out on the gnome. “Are you stupid?” she asked harshly as they walked.
The look on Penn’s face broke Zipporah’s heart, and she instantly regretted the rough words. She was about to apologize when Penn said, “I saw her the other night when I was with Attilla. I think I like her, and it seems she likes me.”
Zipporah decided not to point out that the bunny could not have known that the gnome she flirted with in the tavern was the same gnome that was now disguised as a hybrid hare. She couldn’t bring herself to hurt Penn any more than she already had. She was not interested in completely shattering his innocence. Every large city, and even many smaller ones, had some version of the Shadowmire bunnies. They prey on men, stealing and gathering information. Penn, like so many others, reveled in the attention the girls lavished on him. Zipporah chuckled to herself, for she used the same tactics to accomplish her goals.
“You deserve so much better,” Zipporah said honestly.
“Yeah right,” Penn said. “You sound like my mom.”
“I am serious,” she continued. “You are a great guy, Penn. Any girl would be lucky to have you.”
“Then why doesn’t any girl want me?” Penn said sadly. Zipporah was not used to dealing with the vulnerability that the gnome so openly displayed. She was more accustomed to the Slanters of the world, and she realized how unprepared she was to answer his simple question.
Luckily Penn wasn’t one to stay down for very long. He was hopping up and down with excitement in no time. He squealed, “Hey, it’s Avie,” as they passed several cart vendors. “Oh my gosh, Avie comes to the fair in Oliveloft.” Penn grabbed three copper coins from his pouch and made his made to Avie’s cart.
Zipporah read the sign which read, “Eat Avie’s Candy! It Is Good!” She was unimpressed with the slogan, but Penn’s excitement seemed to ease the pain of her insult; so she was happy.
“Whatcha need, lil friend?” Avie asked. He was an extremely fat man with a moustache that matched his width. Crumbs were sprinkled all throughout his excessive facial hair.
“Cinnamon pecans, please.” Penn turned to Zipporah, and handed her the small bag. “You gotta try these.”
The shoki opened up the bag, and was entranced by the smell that wafted out. She quickly ate one of the pecans, and it tasted as good as it smelled. “This is great.” Zipporah grabbed several more, and then passed the bag back to Penn. The gnome bit each pecan in half, hoping to make them last longer.
Avie handed each of the customers a piece of candy, “Try that, and let me know what you think.” They both took a bite, and the candy melted in their mouths. “It is something new. I am calling it a praline.”
“It truly is fantastic,” Zipporah admitted. She pulled three silver pieces from a concealed pouch and handed it to the large human. “I would like two more of these pralines and two bags of your pecans.”
Avie rubbed his fat hands together and quickly bagged up the half-elf’s candy. “Thank you,” he stated sincerely. “Take this, too!” He handed Penn a stick with hard candy stuck to the top. “It is called stone candy, so be careful and don’t chip your teeth.”
“Thanks,” Penn said with a smile. The candy was nice, and calmed both the gnome and the shoki down a little. Penn was excited that Zipporah had bought some for Slanter and Syris. It had been a good day, and the gnome almost seemed to forget about being hunted by the Shadowmire guards. Almost.