In Which Vonya Makes a Silly Decision
The dwarf peered at her, then followed the line of her pointing finger. “Eh?…Ach, tha’s not a fit sight fer ye, Lass. Come, I’ll take ye back ter the road, buy ye a bath ter make up fer me mischief.”
Vonya ignored his hint, staring forward. Three dwarves were struggling with a single animal, a ram that, against all odds in this muddy place, still managed to show a pristine white coat. The ram (a female, she would guess, though she wondered if females were still called ‘ram’?) was rearing and pulling against the three sturdy ropes around her neck, each held taught by one of the dwarves. A few feet ahead of them walked another dwarf with a large-muzzled gun. Even from this distance, there was an air of desperation and sadness about the procession.
“No, I want to know. What is happening, please?”
Her companion looked down. “Tha be ‘Elda — Esmerelda, ta be more specific. She’s got good lines, best there is, really. We bought her for a song, thought for sure she’d be the perfect match for ‘ol Ruddy there. She’s a mite on the small side, she’d never be able ter carry a dwarf in full armor, but fleet-footed as a dream. She refuses ter breed though, we’ve put her up with four different studs, and she’s attacked them all. Gave ‘ol Sooty a hoof ter the forehead, nearly busted one of his horns.”
Vonya waited a moment for him to continue, then realized that he considered his explanation finished. She disagreed. “So?” There was an edge to her voice that she could not quite hide.
The dwarf looked at her, confused. “Aye, well, not much good ter us if she bain’t be breedin’, then, is she? We canna sell her as a mount, even aside from her size, she’s nearly keeled every dwarf who’s tried. She’ll be sweet as apple pie one minute, then wicked as a demon the next. We’re puttin’ her down, lass. It’s fer the best, ye have to realize. These be affairs of the ram, ye dinnae ken the importance.”
Vonya seethed. Making a grand effort to control her anger, she spoke. “So, because she is a reluctant mistress to your breeding program, because she refuses to be a mount to man or beast, she’s to be killed, is that correct?”
The dwarf took a step away from her. “Aye, lass. Dinnae get yer skirts in a twist, it’s not an uncommon thing, nor will it be done with wickedness.”
Vonya’s hands tightened to a fist. “I will buy her.” Her voice was flat and expressionless.
“It’s too late, lass, let it go! If ye be interested in a ram, surely I could–”
Vonya spoke again, her voice louder. “I will buy her. You will sell her to me. NOW.”
“Dinnae be so unreasonable, it’s not that–”
“NOW!” she shouted, and she turned a glare of such undiluted anger on him that he dropped his jaw.
When her glare did not decrease in intensity, he nodded. “Aye, ma’am. Jest be a moment, ma’am.”
He wistled sharply and a black ram bleated, running toward them at speed. The dwarf swung up to the ram’s back with neither saddle nor bridle, and took off at a gallop toward the grisly procession, wondering to himself if all draenei were as unfathomable as this one.
Vonya sighed and set off through the mud toward them. This has to be the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. You can’t save them all. Where is the honor in this? She didn’t care. I have to try. I can’t just walk past and pretend I don’t see.
By the time she reached them, the sun had set in earnest and she’d lost her shoes in the sucking morass. Using her staff for balance, she stood as the dwarves approached her. The one holding the gun, a woman with flaming red hair spoke first. “Lass, ye dinnae ken what ye be askin’! This is not an evil practice, tis for the good of the herd.”
Tired, she responded. “I understand that. I wish to buy this ram from you. Are you unwilling to sell it to me?”
One of the other dwarves whispered in a voice that could carry across a crowded bar, “I’ve heard of this one, boss. They say she be dwarf-friend, that she’s spoken to the king hisself.”
At this, the woman’s eyes tightened and she spent a long moment looking Vonya up and down, from the tips of her horns to the bottom of her hooves.
“Me son tells me ye found horn-rot among the king herd? And above that, ye’ve actually got a cure for it that don’t require a sharp knife and mutilated horns?”
Vonya just nodded. This woman was far more astute than she looked, and Vonya was too tired to engage in verbal banter.
“Hm. And ye know this sheep be not fer ridin’, and be not fer breedin’?”
Vonya nodded again.
The dwarf woman visibly mused, standing in the mud with the stars slowly dotting the night sky.
“Then I’ll sell her to ye, but I wager ye’ve no idea what ye be gettin’ yerself into, and that’s a fact.”
Vonya nodded in agreement. She had enough money from her adventuring to cover the cost, and she could find some remote place and release the beast. Let her make her own way.
“Then we have a deal.”