The gnome calmly wiped the dwarf's spittle from his cheek and smoothed back his silver hair, “As I was saying, I’m Jengins, son of King Brennio. Perhaps that name rings in the cobwebs of that empty head of yours? The King, whose family raised these mighty walls, who with incalculable intelligence brought the city to its greatness with his fleet of airships, who with infinite wisdom created the ten districts of this city, who with-"
The dwarf shook him roughly by the back of his homespun shirt sending the gnome’s short legs swinging and he growled, “And I’m sure he poops gold and pisses wine too! What’s all that gotta do with yer thievin’?”
Jengins narrowed his gold eyes at the dwarf, “I was getting to that before your rude interruption. By law, the King owns all within the mighty walls of this Ninth District and all the districts of this great city of Gadgean! And as the King’s son, by the transitive property, I too own all within these walls. Therefore, the savory pie in question is actually mine, and I've stolen nothing.”
A few snickers and questioning murmurs came out of the market crowd that had gathered around them. The dwarf’s eyes quickly scanned the small lanky gnome’s body, taking in his rough, dirty burlap clothing, and young boyish face. Unimpressed, he shoved his face in so close that Jengins could feel as much as smell the onion and garlic on his breath.
“Ya may use big words like a noble, but by my ancestor's beard, a mule’s arse is more royal than yer beardless hide.”
Jengins rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh, “That's the whole point, you ignorant, pig-headed oaf. If I want to mingle among the common plebeians in this lowly district unnoticed then I have to look the part, do I not? Now do yourself a favor and put me down before I lose my patience and have you shaved.”
The dwarf scoffed then grabbed and squeezed Jengins’ wrist hard, causing him to wince. “By yer father's law,” the dwarf mocked, “This hand is mine to take and display, to warn off any other theivin’ rubbish that are thinkin’ bold. Maybe I should take em’ both. One fer being a thievin’ gutterpup and the other fer being a lying mutt!”
A buzz of excitement went through the crowd, as cries of “Take it, dwarf!” and “Shave em’, prince!” began erupting from the gathering. Either way it was going to be an exciting moment in an otherwise lackluster market day, and the gathering crowd was expecting entertainment.
Jengins smiled grimly and stared hard into the dwarf’s brown eyes, “I tried to be merciful. I tried to let you save yourself. But with your small brained stubbornness, you have forced my hand, and once forced, it cannot be held back! Reach into my right pocket and you shall find my royal seal. Upon seeing it, I suggest you immediately fall in supplication! Beg your hairy ancestors that having you shaved and flogged is all I will do to your worthless sack of flesh.”
Unhesitatingly, the dwarf let go of Jengins's wrist and plunged his hand into the pocket. Jengins heard the satisfying snap and crunch as the rat trap closed on the dwarf's fingers. The grasp on the back of his collar gave way as the dwarf howled in pain, and Jengins was free. The dwarf grabbed his hand while shouting curses, trying to get the trap off his now awkwardly bent fingers, as the gathered crowd broke into laughter. Jengins quickly grabbed another pie off the cart and dashed into the crowd, grateful for the hundredth time for his small size that made it easy for him to navigate the forest of tall human and elven legs.
He quickly broke through the gathered crowd and put distance between himself and the scene he had created. Soon, the howl of dwarf curses and mocking laughter gave way to usual sounds of a busy market day in the Ninth District. He walked for a few minutes until he reached the square at the center of the district. The sides and the four roads leading into it were lined with merchants, their shouts occasionally rising above the murmur of hundreds of shoppers milling around. He made his way to the center of the square where a large, circular fountain was surrounded by tied up mules and horses, and the occasional beggar. Finding an open spot on the edge of the fountain, he took a seat and looked into his satchel. One of his pies had survived the journey, mostly intact, but the crust of the other had broken, leaving a pool of brown gravy at the bottom. Putting his head in the satchel, he began slurping up the greasy sauce with gusto, bringing relief to his rumbling belly.
“So Smiggles, I heard a rumor that we had royalty in the district. Do you know anything about that?”
Smiggles popped his head out satchel and saw a tall human in leather armor, trimmed in blue fabric with the shield and sword insignia of the Ninth District guard, standing in from of him. His wry smile wrinkled the large scar running down from his right eye. Smiggles returned the smile, “Oh, hello there Scabs! You startled me. Why would a little urchin like me know anything about royalty?
The guard chuckled, “Well, I just got a report about a gnome with silver hair making threats, stealing pies, and spouting wild claims that he was a prince. You sure you don’t know anything about that?”
Smiggles scrunched up his face in concern, “That certainly is a ridiculous thing to do and say.” Then his face brightened, “But it would’ve been fun to see! Too bad I was here all day by this fountain, minding my business, doing and seeing nothing exciting, or illegal.”
Scabs stood there, with his wry smile unchanged but his eyes narrowed. “Are you sure about that? I don’t remember seeing you here today. You’re going to have to refresh my memory.”
“Ah, well, you look hungry, and that might be making you forget things.” Smiggles pulled the unbroken pie out of his bag, “I’m sure all that work you’ve been doing at the brothel has left you famished. Here, Scabs, have this pie that I found.”
Scabs’s wry smile turned sour as he roughly swiped the pie from Smiggles outstretched hand, “You know from someone who is supposedly good with nicknames, Scabs isn’t even that good. Big deal, I have a scar on my face.”
Smiggles laughed, “That’s not why your Scabs, Scabs. You’re Scabs, Scabs, because you’re dry, crusty and fun to pick on!”
Scabs’s sour expression turned angry, “Whatever you little trash rat. I’ll never understand why the Captain puts up with you. Not like you ever bring in anything worthwhile. Just go back to your rat hole in the Tenth before I decide to give you over to that pie merchant.”
Smiggles belched and patted his belly as he hopped off the fountain, “Oh, it’s not that bad in the Tenth, Scabs. The rent in abandoned buildings is cheap and the ghosts don’t make a lot of noise. You should come visit me some time. I could introduce you to all my spooky friends!”
He tucked the pie away in a belt pouch, “Bugger that! If the ghosts want to be friends, they’d do us all a favor and take themselves, you, and all the other rubbish in there to the afterlife were ya’ll belong.”
As Smiggles started to walk away, he called over his shoulder, “Well, if the ghosts do decide to take me away, I’ll make sure to say ‘Hi’ to your mom and tell her what a naughty boy you’ve been, Scabs. I’m sure she’ll give you a spanking…and you won’t even have to pay for it.”
Scabs growled and took a hard step towards Smiggles, causing Smiggles to run forward quickly. “That’s right, run away trash rat! We don’t need you around here.”