The evening hour was past its prime. Vain, vernal northern light exited the stage protesting. Spring peepers boasted amorously to their larger, less-interested ladyloves. Pink-grey mist of the spring’s night drugged the clover, punctuated by orange cabin fires and hearthstones. Travelers and vagabonds moved down the silt path quietly. The peepers’ cacophonous croaking drowned out all other thoughts and inner meditations. One amphibious amante sat under a bush and loudly, profoundly, exclaimed his intentions to any female frog that might be within a two-kilometer distance. Early spring lavender-green frosted the pots and planters. Smaller worlds behind the veil shifted unseen.
Inside the unassuming hovel, Mataoka bent over a bit-too-small woodblock, mincing sungrass herbs for the evening’s spring roasted lamb. This was not her choice. She wanted to be sitting in the over-sized stuff chintz chair by the hearth, one hoof curled under her leggings, with her head rested against the chair’s headrest, but the chef of the house had put her to work. She held the blade carefully so as not to cut her own fingers. Draenei blood does not make Shattrath lamb taste better, contrary to goblin lore. She suppressed the urge to take out her mace and pound the delicate grass to smithereens.
“Please, Guarf, tell me you won’t burn it like you did last time?”
“Burn? No, my dear…not burnt. Flame kissed!” said Guarf, in his own kitchen, completely in control.
“Guarf, it was inedible. Confess, sir, last spring you were utterly and hopelessly sapped by that widow-woman next door, hanging her dwarven-sized bloomers on the wash line…that would distract anyone!” laughed Mat. “Did you ever get in those knickers, my friend? Never mind…please don’t answer that!”
“Aye, lassie, you must admit: getting in Widow Shannon’s knickers is enough of a defense for any red-blooded male! She’s got a backside like an iron kettle.” He then muttered something about stirring the widow’s pot, which Matty chose to ignore.
The spring lamb was basted, browning, and made her mouth water. Guarf, without the protection of hot pads, took the clay roaster out of the oven in his well-calloused hands, placing it on the counter. She was deeply hungry, as if she hadn’t eaten in months. A profound, saturated hunger. With one smooth swipe of the butcher knife, he swept the minced sungrass in the pan, throwing the herb like confetti over the lamb.
When he cooked, he seemed to need by divine right, almost a do-or-die quest, to dirty every dish, pot, pan, and cup in the house. Their living arrangement was based on Mat’s being able to stay there as long as she needed (she was habitually homeless), in exchange for her doing the dishes if he cooked. Normally, he was an excellent cook, with the one exception of the Widow Shannon’s backside distraction, so she didn’t mind being the sous-chef. Her duties did not include laundry or cleaning. She wondered if subconsciously he created such a performance and abuse of resources because she refused to keep house. The bewitched critters of Azeroth stopped short of scrubbing chamber pots while Matty sang, or dusting ancient tomes of lore with their squirrelly tales. They were no help. She skipped gingerly across piles of dirty linens, danced around leggings and sheets piled on floors, and barreled through the stacks of books, books, and more books. Perhaps Guarf’s attraction to the Widow Shannon had more to do with her washboard room skills than her bedroom skills. (So far the buxom widow had shown no interest in giving him, or his linens, a scrub-down!)
However, he took meticulous care of his weapons and armor, and had only spoken sharply to Matty once, when she had accidentally knocked over a row of axes ready for grinding. Her big hooves and tail sometimes made her a bit clumsy.
(To be continued)