Daci spun her elekk around, surprisingly quickly, considering the tight radius for such a large beast. This sweet giant followed her like a lapdog, not aware of its size, and its ignorance in its own dimensions made him responsive as a lynx. (Certainly, on occasion, he bumped into a plinth or two, disturbing the statuaries, but what are a few cracks in clay feet among friends?) Gaenlon couldn't have gone far.
Gaenlon’s reaction rankled her. Who did he think he was, or rather, who did he think she was now? Daci misplaced his dismissive act as a personal insult. She was no longer the little nuisance who followed them, him and the older girl, behind the keeps, cottages, and campsites. Her training had been rigorous and structured. She had earned her place among the paladins, and her devotion was solid: no one was more loyal or dependable. But intuition, sensuality, and sensitivity were not her gifts. When she did have small epiphanies they almost caused her pain. It wasn’t that her intelligence was being taxed; it was that her narrow ranges of emotions were. She knew right, and she knew wrong, and what he did was wrong. He was headed toward the stables, on the southeast side of town. The narrow alleyways in Old Town were in for some bumps and bruises from her sweet elekk.
The gods must have had a change of heart about the day, and the day's glory become a prank. If one had bothered to look up toward the hills, they would have seen the slight-of-gods'-hands: puffy grey clouds materialized out of unseen vapors, like a magician’s trick—surely there were white rabbits being pulled out of top hats on the mountainside, turning clarity into opacity. The fall crispness exited the stage, and the curtains opened to wooly unbleached clouds and muted debris. No applause, but trepidation from the audience of citizenry. The winds picked up. Daci found Gaenlon haggling with the stable master, bits of sticks and straw swirling around on quick air funnels, blasting stinging dust in eyes and discoloring everyone’s cloaks and shields.
Both he and the stable mistress turned in Daci’s direction as she dismounted. She approached the pair with one hand on her satchel, and the other on the hilt of her sword. A heavy elementium shield protected her back. Her posture was perfect, as if her spine and shield were attached. Emeralds and amethysts ornamented the sigil, the only small announcement of femininity and grace.
“Stable mistress, is there an issue with my friend here?” she asked, authoritatively.
“Mudpebble, this is no concern of yours.”
The stable mistress, a muscular human female, leathery as a saddle, believed that paladins should only be of the human race. A Draenei paladin was insulting, and a disgrace to the memory of Terenas. What did those others know of honor? They were really demons in disguise. She could barely mask her disgust, but this paladin may have the gold necessary to buy this deadbeat’s mount out of her stables to make room for paying customers. The stable mistress had taken good care of his horse. She would never be cruel to an animal, only the talking two-legged ones. Besides, paladins still carried some jurisdiction, and though good King Wrynn was preoccupied with recent events, she did not want to bring down the judgment of those in power. Manure piles and shovels did not decrease her shrewdness.
“He owes me 150 gold pieces for the care and feeding of his mount. He has seventy-five. He does not seem to understand math, and I am tired of explaining it to him. He cannot have his mount until he has paid his debt.”
Daci reached in her satchel and counted out seventy-six pieces. “Gaenlon, give her your seventy-five, and here is the balance. Consider it a loan. My good lady, please bring us his mount and tack. An extra gold for your expediency.”
The stable mistress pocketed the money in some secret cavity in her chest piece, and retrieved his mount. She tossed the horse’s plate armor to the ground, along with its other raiment and finery. The horse seemed to be the only creature in the group sincerely pleased to see Gaenlon. She nuzzled her soft chin groove next to his cheek, and when he rubbed her withers, seemed to shiver with delight. Daci helped him pick up the pieces, saddle up his horse, clean the bags, armor, and gear. Her focus on the task distracted her from the sudden onslaught of debilitating shyness. Here he was…behind the pallor, the crust, she still saw him. He wasn’t going to escape now—he owed her. Daci was the one who was momentarily stunned.
Another cruel joke of the gods is this: once in awhile, without reason or sense, a body calls out to another, weakened, armor-less, and vulnerable. Sometimes the other body and soul calls back, or not. Nothing to be done for it. Wait and hope, or wait with resignation. But it never changes. Some call it lust, and some called it true love, but it was something else. No matter how the visage changes, or time steals beauty, the call waits. Only death can change it, and sometimes not even then. Daci felt that way about Gaenlon.
When she saw him, she was right back where he left her. Ignored as a child, and then a maiden, he never saw her, but his being crushed her. A heavy weight. When she was near him, she could barely move, or stay away. Her tongue would tie in knots, and then blurt out silliness. She would punch him on the arm during a serious task, and be devastated at his admonishments.
“Daci, my thanks. You’re an angel, little one. I believe I owe you more than gratitude, however, and am not sure how I will repay you. It was always like you, wasn’t it, that you would just show up?” He was going to add, “…when unneeded,” but didn’t say it. He felt the warmth again from her Draenei aura. And the weight of the remaining 500 gold pieces the rogue had given him in his satchels.
“Mudpebble, or should I call you by your beautiful name, Dacianna? Do you have time for a ride? In any case, we can catch up, now that you’ve helped me back in the saddle.” Tapping into his redheaded charm, he offered her a smile and this request. She couldn’t refuse.