IHOW

The orc scratched his cheek, considering the menu. “An order of bloodwaffles, please,” he spoke in a clear tenor voice. He ignored the two children tearing up their paper children’s menus who also sat in his booth.

Hattie took his lead and also ignored the kids. “Would you like your bloodwaffles topped with anything?”

One of the orclings stabbed his – her? Hard to tell – its father with a butterknife through the orc’s flannel shirt. It was already stained with blood, so it just enriched the garment.

“Stop it, Wartfang. Um, what are the options for toppings?”

“Pixiedust, pixie livers, and strawberries.”

“Are the pixie livers fresh?”

Hattie sighed. “Sorry. Frozen for shipping.”

“Mm. Better do strawberries then.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll get all your stuff out as soon as it’s cooked.” Hattie snatched up the one adult menu and tromped back toward the kitchen to hand in the order.

Sally glanced at the order slip. “Work on your handwriting, hon.”

“Bloodwaffles with strawberries and two kids’ mac-n-cheese.”

“Geez. Don’t bite my head off! I didn’t order it.” Sally turned to rip open a cup of the noodles for the kids’ meals. “Don hasn’t called back, huh?”

“No.” Hattie leaned against the counter, crossing her arms. “My guess is he found another quest or something.”

“Well, they’re easy enough to find here. Most adventurers wind up stopping at the Interplanar House of Waffles, after all.” Sally ladled some batter into the wafflemaker and flipped it over. “Gah. I’ll never get used to the smell of that stuff. At least he didn’t order the pixie livers.”

“I told him they were frozen.”

Sally smiled. “Well, a little lie won’t eat into the profits too much.”

Hattie glanced back at her tables. “Elves are getting rowdy again, looks like. Give me a sec.” She shoved off from the counter with a sigh and trudged over to table sixteen. “How are you doing? Need any refills?”

An elf with long pale hair and leaf armor snarled, “Wench, I expect you to keep my Pepsi filled.”

Hattie repressed the urge to sigh again. “Your pardon. I’ll get that taken care of.”

As she reached for the cup, the elf grabbed her wrist. “Do you have any idea who I am?”

The other four elves around the table fell silent, watching carefully. A few reached for what was certainly hidden weapons. Apparently elves didn’t need to pay attention to the “no concealed weapons” sign on the front door. Elves were the most inconsiderate race. Tromping off on quests without ever letting their loved ones know when they’d be back, for instance.

“Do I have any idea who you are?” Hattie almost laughed. “With a line like that, you must be some washed-up dad who used to own a used car business down the street. Or a mom who raises hell at PTA meetings. You want the refill? Let me go. You want to get banned? Keep it up.”

The elf held on for a beat longer and then dropped her wrist as if it were an orcling. “Get me my Pepsi.”

“Before I go, you ever hear of an elf named Donnalis of the Crimson Columns?”

The elves glanced at each other. “No,” the leader finally intoned.

Hattie snatched the plastic cup up and trudged to the fountain.

Debbie was already there, filling up a tray. “Hey, Hat. Thanks for taking table sixteen. I hate dealing with those things.”

“Elves? Meh. They’re stuck-up assholes, but at least they tip well.”

Debbie glanced over at her own tables. “Yeah. I suppose. But elves always try to seduce me. I really hate that.” She filled another glass and glanced back at Hattie. “Oh! I’m sorry, Hattie. I mean, elves have no taste. Otherwise they’d seduce you, too. I mean –”

“Shut up, Debbie. You’re fine.” Don’t cry. Don’t cry. “One seduced me, after all. And then left.”

“He’s a stupid elf.”

“Yeah. He’s a stupid elf.” Hattie forced a smile. She wasn’t going to cry at an IHOW. She wasn’t a stereotype like everything else that wandered through the doors.

Debbie got out of the way, and Hattie filled the glass with Pepsi.

Don was a stupid elf. And maybe, maybe he’d be back here after his quest. Until then, she’d keep serving the elves that came in. Maybe one of them would know where Don went.

Maybe.

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