In Which Vonya Dreams of Soap
Befriend them. You will be an emissary of our people. The honor you gain is the honor of the draenei people, and your work and accomplishments are done not only for yourself, but on behalf of our entire race.
The pale draenei stumbled over an unseen stone, barely managing to catch her balance and avoid falling face first into the hock-deep mud of what had been described to her as “one of our smaller ram paddocks, bein’ not jest a wee bit further up tha road.”
Thirty minutes ago she’d been riding along the road to Thelsamar, dreaming idly of a long, relaxing bath at the inn. A bath with scented bubbles and a bar of the soft soap she’d purchased from a Kaldorei herbalist in Darnassus. She could almost smell the sweet and earthy scent of the soap cake from anticipation alone, like an entire garden in full bloom held neatly in the palm of her hand.
Again she tripped, her hooves striking something solid and completely hidden in the muck. Her guide turned back and offered some advice. “Ye’ll want ter be watchin’ yer step there. We be nearin’ the grazing grounds of the herds, and thar may be a few land mines, if’n ye catch me drift.” Deciphering the thick accents of the dwarves was difficult enough, she had yet to capture the knack of reading their emotions as well, and couldn’t -quite- tell if he was laughing at her. She did, however, pay more attention to her surroundings, avoiding some of the suspicious bits of terrain that were rather obviously not mud.
How did she get herself into these situations?! All she wanted was a bath! Was that too much to ask?
But no, she had to stop and politely let the herd of unmounted rams cross the road ahead of her. She had to smile and bow politely, catching the eye of one of the dwarves ushering the herd. And she had to offer praise on the seeming strength and grace of the beasts, as if she knew the first thing about goats. Foul beasts, they were. She’d heard they spit. They certainly smelled awful, like a cross between sour milk and ripe cheese. Nothing at all like her spotted frostsaber — a beast of such nobility and grace that she still felt a thrill of honor that the Kaldorei had considered her worthy of such a mount.
And of course, at her well-intentioned praise, one of the the dark-bearded dwaves had stayed behind to talk to her. And of course, when he’d offered to show her some of their premier stock, she’d agreed. She needed to cultivate friendships with all of the races of their new alliance. What harm could a visit to a ram paddock possibly cause?
And so here she was, “jest a wee bit further up tha road.” She’d dismissed Meena, her spotted frostsaber, when her guide had mentioned that the great cat might spook the shy herd. She had wondered then if perhaps the twinkle in his eye contained a bit more mischief than the situation warranted. But she’d smoothed the fur on Meena’s forehead and whispered a promise of a warm fire and a full belly, then left her at the roadside.
When they finally reached the outer fence of the paddock, she had stopped in horror. Her guide had turned around and laughed (laughed!) while standing in mud up to his ribcage. “A great big adventurer like you, surely ye bain’t afraid of a bitta mud, then? We had a spot a rain t’other day, still not dried up, I see.”
Her suspicions that she was being teased intensified, but she did not let her expression alter. You will be an emissary of our people. She had smiled and made some inane comment about wishing for proper boots, gritted her teeth, and waded in.
Her robes were a total loss. Even if she managed to get the stains out, the smell (Oh, the smell!) would doubtfully never disappear completely. She would burn her shoes at the next crossroads, she could already feel them slipping and squishing awkwardly around her fetlocks.
And still the dwarf forged ahead, as though the waist-deep mud wasn’t even there. Vonya kept her face still and polite and repeated her mission in her head, the litany becoming a prayer for patience and resilience. Your work and accomplishments are done not only for yourself, but on behalf of our entire race.
Finally, her guide came to a stop. Wearily, Vonya slogged the last few steps, the mud sucking against her hooves with each step. Her thighs burned and she felt as though she’d been walking for hours rather than just a few minutes.
“There! That be the finest herd in all of Azeroth, pride an’ joy o’me whole fam’ly.” The undisguised pride in the dwarf’s tone made her glance at him in surprise. She’d almost convinced herself that there was no ram herd, and this was some sort of dwarven initiation rite, a bit like draenei “mana wyrm hunting”. But it would seem that she was wrong — she might as well have not been there, he had eyes only for the animals.
She followed his gaze. Against the vibrant backdrop of the setting sun, a herd of two score animals grazed on a dry, grassy hummock, a veritable forest of cragged horns ranging across the landscape. The nearest raised their heads and swiveled their ears forward as the two of them were noticed. One of them, a great red beast, gave a low bellow and trotted towards them. The others simply lowered their heads and continued grazing, apparantly finding them unworthy of further attention.
The red ram stopped at the edge of the greenery, doubtfully eyeing the mud surrounding the island of solid ground on which he currently stood. She didn’t blame him. Given the opportunity, she would gladly have avoided her current situation.
The ram, however, decided it was worth the effort and waded powerfully into the muck, headed straight for them with a single-minded determination.
Vonya watched with amusement that swiftly turned to horror when she realized that he wasn’t slowing down. If anything, he was gaining speed. When he was just a few feet away, he lowered his head, aiming the flat part of his horns straight at…the dwarf? Confused, she turned to her companion, only to see that he’d braced himself and held his hands out expectantly, a wide grin of manic delight on his face.
He was insane. She was stuck in mud up to her knees with an insane dwarf and a homicidal sheep. Vonya had only enough time to take a single panicked step away before the ram collided with the dwarf in a veritable tidal wave of sticky mud.