In Which Vonya Makes a Friend
Vonya lay still for a single, achingly horrified moment. She was covered in sticky, smelly, clinging mud. Covered. She felt the wet strands of her hair slap against her face and when she opened her eyes, all she could see was brown. She could feel the revolting substance trickle down her bodice. She closed her eyes again. Surely this was all some sort of nightmare. A horrible, horrible nightmare, but when she opened her eyes she was still planted tail-first in mud.
Shuddering, she drew herself to her feet. She wiped at a glob on her chest, but her mud-covered hands only smeared more of the sticky goop across her skin.
Nothing could be worse than this. She would rather be staring into the wicked eyes of Shadow Priest Sezz’iz again, feeling the terror of the knowledge that she was utterly alone at the Temple of Zul’Farrak and unable to cast even the smallest spell — rather that, than to be here, now, covered in so much filth and muck that she despaired of ever being clean again.
Her inner litany of honor and duty began anew, and she felt the slightest trickle of manic laughter build within her. All hail Vonya, Draenei of the mud, queen of the muck, friend to the sheep of the Alliance!
Her eyes wide and wild, she turned her attention to the dwarf, certain she’d find him trampled and a crazed ram glaring at her with those wicked rectangular pupils.
Instead, she saw the dwarf, muscles bulging, fists gripped solidly to the horns of the ram as he braced himself with his feet and leaned into the animal’s charge. “Aye, ye’ll have ter do better than that, ye rotten brute! Ye’ll never tip me with a rush as pathetic as tha’!” The dwarf punctuated this statement with a loud laugh, then gave a quick twist of his arms, turning the ram’s head to the side. Unbalanced, the ruddy creature fell sideways into the muck, sending a thick spray of mud globs into the air.
“Ha! Ye’ve not beaten me yet, and ye nevar will!”
Vonya stared at them with stunned and uncomprehending silence.
The ram scrambled to his feet and shook roughly, sending even more mud flying.
Vonya didn’t blink, not even when one well-aimed glob slapped her in the cheek and began to slowly ooze down.
The ram took a step forward, rumbled once, and lipped gently at the dwarf’s long, braided beards.
She was being punished. There was no doubt of it now, this was punishment for some sin against the Light. Whatever transgression, she was heartily sorry for it.
The dwarf laughed and reached one thick hand up to ruffle the fur between the ram’s horns. He spared her a glance. “Dinnae worry about that, ’tis jest an odd game we play, Ruddy here, and me. Best stud ram we ever did have, he and I played together when I was just a wee lad and he’d no horns at’all.”
“Eff ya don’t mind me sayin’ so, ye seem a bit the worse for wear, eh, Lass? Ye highborn folk an’ yer ways, I’ve seen ye before. Ye go ter Uldaman and think ye’re so much better than us normal folk, al’wus prancin’ about on yer fancy mounts, wearin’ yer fancy clothes. Ye wouldna last one day out here in the fields, doin’ real work.”
At this litany of self-important snobbery, Vonya snapped. Drawing herself up to her full height, she towered over the dwarf. An oozing monster of hooves and horns and flashing eyes, she spoke, her voice as even and polite as if she spoke to Velen himself, but her words as sharp and cutting as a rogue’s dagger.
“Perhaps you are right. Perhaps I do prefer to be clean, rather than covered in grime. My clothing more suited to a court than a sheep field, my manners more refined than the companionship of animals necessarily requires. My work may not seem important to you, and for that I am sorry. I am sorry that you cannot see the war going on around you. Yes, your profession is vital to that war, and I respect what you do here and the value of it. I do not, however, accept a geniune compliment, then lead the giver of said compliment in a merry chase for the sole purpose of humiliating them. I see your herd on the dry hummock there, and I can just as easily see the cleared trail leading up to it, and the gate in the fence just beyond. I am no idiot, Sir, no matter what you may think.”
The dwarf had the grace to blush. “Awww, it were jest a bitta fun, ye’ve no need ter be so sallow.”
Vonya leveled a look at him that could curdle milk. He cringed slightly, and she straightened her shoulders. “Well, you’ve had your fun then, I’d imagine. And for pity’s sake….” The mud-covered draenei gave an exasperated sigh and strode forward, reaching into the pocket of her dress. As she neared the dwarf and ram, both took a step backward, the dwarf gaining a look of panic.
“Ah, lass, dinnae attack us! It weren’t so bad a joke as all that! Heh, heh!”
Vonya ignored him, reaching instead for the ram, who rolled his eyes at her and stomped a hoof. “Stop that!” she commanded, and, miraculously he obeyed. The dwarf watched in fascination as she pulled a small canister from her pocket and held it up. She paused for a moment, staring at her mud-covered fingers, then gave in with a sigh. She was nearly out of the oil anyway, she may as well muddy up what little remained.
She unscrewed the lid, revealing a glistening, translucent pink gel. The scent of rose petals wafted out, and her nostrils twitched at the relief from the odiferous mud.
Ruddy, the ram, snorted. She ignored him and dug a finger into the gel, then leaned forward to smear it on the base of the ram’s horns.
“Oh, lass, no! Ye’ll be makin’ him smell like a girl! Dinnae do that, I’m sorry fer the mud, truly I am! Dinnae be punishin’ Ruddy, he’s innocent!”
Ruddy snorted again, and Vonya glared at him. The ram settled, then after a moment began to lean into her hand as she rubbed the gel into his horns. “Would you prefer he lose his horns to rot, then?” she asked, midly.
“Aww, ye’re gettin’ it all over, he’s gonna smell fer…what was that?”
“Horn-rot,” she replied.
The dwarf reached up and grabbed Ruddy’s far horn, pulling the beast’s head down to his level. He eyed the spiralling base of the horn closely, then widened his eyes as he saw the flaking and dark spots around the area where the fur met the horn.
“Well, I’ll be a Maker’s Chamberpot, he’s got horn-rot!” the dwarf exclaimed.
“You don’t say?” Vonya dug her finger into the container, scooping out the last bit of gel and rubbing it into Ruddy’s far horn. The ram grunted and rubbed his head into her chest, smearing the mud even further. Vonya suppressed an aggravated sigh and stepped back, placing the now-empty canister back into her pocket.
The dwarf leaned back, releasing the horn and staring up at her. “Horn-rot! And in our best herd! Me da’ll murder me for not noticing sooner! What was that goop ye rubbed inter him?”
Vonya staggered as Ruddy leaned into her, giving off small bleating noises. Distracted, she tried to push the ram away without being too obvious about it. “Draenei Horn-oil. I’m not certain what it’s made of, I get it from one of the alchemists on the Exodar every time I go home. It keeps horns strong and healthy.”
The dwarf lifted a hand to the back of his head, a wide, nervous grin on his face. “Does it…er…hafta smell so awf…err…girlish?”
She smiled, and Ruddy took the opportunity to give her a companionable headbutt in the small of the back.
“Ruddy, ye behave yerself, ye great beast. Go on, back ter yer herd.” The dwarf unexpectedly came to her rescue, turning the ram with a practiced motion and slapping him on the rump. Vonya watched the ram leave, then responded to the dwarf’s question. “No, I buy mine specifically with that scent. Lucc is the name of the alchemist — I am certain you could get almost any scent added to the…what’s that?” Distracted, the draenei stared intently at a small procession of dwarves leading away from the main body of the herd.