The Adornment of Rhianon
Feathery white clouds speckled the otherwise clear sky over Stormwind that morning, hints of gray on their plump underbellies promising afternoon rainstorms. Even that ill portent, however, couldn’t dim the sheer brilliance of the morning sunlight or the boisterous bustle filling the streets of the Trade District. A parchment-wrapped pastry clutched in one hand, Rhianon moved among the tradesmen’s booths in the main market area, absently eyeing their wares. She wasn’t shopping for anything in particular, simply letting the pleasures of the cheerful bazaar and the pristine morning clear her mind of any errant worries.
“Baubles! Come get yer baubles and gems! Best cuts in the land!”
The shouts of the jewelry vendor rang out to Rhianon as she passed his booth and she paused for a moment, glancing over at the proffered goods. Glittering bracelets, gleaming rings and ornate brooches were lined up on the velveteen cloth covering the top of the rough wooden stand, much like soldiers preparing for battle. She ambled closer and leaned over to inspect the wares, careful not to let pastry crumbs fall on the velveteen.
The vendor saw her inspecting his goods and quickly turned his attention to her. “They’re fine, aren’t they? I only purchase my gems from the best sources – dwarves themselves, you know. Mining them out of the dust and grime of that Ironforge place! Can you believe that?”
Rhianon wasn’t about to give a geography lesson to the tradesman (or a cultural one, at that), so she just nodded dumbly, one of the glimmering necklaces capturing the bulk of her attention. The necklace stood out among the jeweler’s more ordinary goods; starry-eyed sapphires and pearls were strung on a cord of pure silver, and the clasp had been shaped to look like an eagle soaring in flight. She ran a finger alongside the necklace, careful not to dirty the polished gems with the oils from her skin. It reminded her of the night in Zangarmarsh, the way the stars twinkled over the glassy surface of the lake. It reminded her of the starless nights in Icecrown, where the ice itself, pure and clear, provided a candle in the darkness.
“Would you like to try it on?” Without waiting for a response, the tradesman picked up the necklace and undid the clasp. He gestured for Rhianon to come closer, and as she did so, he strung the necklace around her neck, indulging in a salesman’s gasp. “It looks as if it was made for you! Beautiful! Here, look!” He fetched a chipped hand mirror from beneath the stand, handing it to Rhianon. “I can hardly bear to take it off you now!”
Rhianon looked in the mirror. She wasn’t one much for focusing on looks, although she knew that she was at least passably attractive from the cat-calls and winks tossed in her direction. Yet, this necklace…it seemed to somehow stir some rarely-used part of her, part that wasn’t shaman, wasn’t draenei, but was wholly feminine. She had always admired the more elegant, stately women around her. Henii, in particular, always exuded an effervescent beauty – hair, clothes, attitude – that held everyone around her in rapt attention. She was confident and strong, but still delicate and womanly.
And, suddenly, being desirable seemed incredibly important to Rhianon. She wasn’t quite sure why the feeling surged over her at that very moment as she watched the pearls lay gently across her curved collarbone or the sapphires dance in the morning light, but she very much wanted to be the one to shine and gleam in the center of the room. She never knew quite what to do with attention, ordinarily. She had completely fumbled Dolraan’s compliment at Serpent Lake a week ago, but now, wearing this necklace, such things seemed so easy and natural. As if, she could be a shaman, do her duty, and still be beautiful and elegant. Still be wanted.
She watched Saphra open the small chest on the vanity from the edge of the bed, knobby legs swinging wildly in the air. “Whatcha doing, Momma?”
Saphra did not look up at her daughter. Instead, she lifted a tray from the chest, rifling through the contents. “I’m picking out something to wear tonight, my Rhia.” The older draenei then lifted out a long strand of gems from the tray, holding them up in the air. She turned back towards her daughter. “What do you think?”
The little girl shrugged and kicked her legs. “I dunno. It’s pretty. But you are always the most beautiful, Momma.”
Saphra laughed, leaning over to pat Rhianon’s cheek. “Thank you, my Rhia.”
Rhianon then watched as Saphra turned back around, slipping the delicate strand of gems around her neck. The jewels shimmered in the pale light, sparkling and winking against her dark skin. Saphra smiled and tilted her head, running her hands along the length of the strand.
“Momma,” Rhianon asked, eyes not leaving her mother, “why can’t you just wear what you were wearing all day? Why do you have to look fancy?”
“It’s not about looking fancy, my Rhia,” Saphra explained. She was now selecting bracelets from the tray and testing the colors against the necklace. “I want to shine.”
Rhianon pursed her lips, kicking her legs even more furiously. Saphra, hearing the noise of Rhia’s little hooves clattering against the bedside, chuckled.. “One day, my Rhia, you will understand.”
She had to have the necklace.
“How much is it?” Rhianon blurted out, placing her pastry on the velveteen so she could pull out her purse. The vendor grinned toothily and replied, without skipping a beat, “Two thousand gold, usually, pretty miss. But for you, I’ll let it go for one thousand five hundred. A song!”
Rhianon balked. Her purse was full enough to pay for food and repairs, but it certainly couldn’t take a hit like that. “Wha…what about eight hundred?”
The vendor sneered. “Lady, that would barely pay for the chain.” He snatched the necklace off her neck, and put it back on the velveteen. “I’m sorry. I gotta put a roof over my head, you know.”
Rhianon stared at the necklace, lying sadly on the velveteen, acutely aware of the wind whipping around her bare neck. “….Nine hundred fifty?”
The vendor didn’t even reply. He returned to his barking and spinning around so his back was toward Rhianon. The shaman glanced down at the necklace again, a lump forming in her throat. She firmly ordered herself not to get teary. It was one thing to get teary over a failed battle or a hard day, another thing entirely to sob over a necklace she couldn’t afford. Swallowing hard, she picked up her pastry again and took a bite, but the sweet dough and filling just felt dry and clumsy in her mouth.
She forced herself away from the jewelry stand, stuffing her mouth with the tasteless pastry. Sometimes, there were things you couldn’t have. She knew that well enough. And perhaps, there would be another vendor with something a little more affordable. Or maybe next week, she could talk him down a bit further. Or she could get lucky and make some extra gold.
Or, perhaps, she thought soberly, she would just be doomed to be necklace-less and plain old, ordinary Rhianon. A respected shaman, a good healer, but not the one shining in the center of the room, and she would spend the rest of her life stumbling over things that came easily to others.
Just what was expected from good ol’ Rhianon.