"I filled up an extra water jug-"
"-and someone should be by around lunchtime to check on you-"
"-and of course I'll bring dinner home with me."
The tauren huffed irritably from his throne of cushions. "You went over all of this last night. It's not like my memory was injured."
"Yes, well," the orc frowned. "I need you back in fighting form as soon as possible. Going to work by myself is boring."
"You work shifts opposite mine all the time when we don't have a project!" he protested. When the orc ignored him in favor of adding another blanket to the frankly alarming pile of things he might need "just in case," he flopped back against his pillow and sighed noisily. "I'm going to go completely mad being cooped up like this."
The orc glanced at him disbelievingly. "You're welcome to read any of my books."
He snorted. "Animal anatomy textbooks and every issue of Chainmail Monthly do not a library make."
"Fine!" The orc threw up her hands, grabbed her keys, and went to the door. "I'll get something more appropriate for you. Perhaps a book of tauren fairytales."
"Tauren do not have fairytales!" he shouted at the slamming door.
It was true that they didn't always work alongside each other when they weren't working on a specific set of gear. But the orc normally didn't spend her solo shifts worrying that her partner had managed to fall on his cracked ribs or bump his bruised head.
Now she was frowning over a shoddy piece of novice work, unable to find any redeeming feature, unless the wearer for some reason had one leg half a foot longer than the other. The shop bell tinkled and she looked up, eager for any distraction.
A grey-furred, grey-maned tauren stepped inside, looking around shyly. She clutched a familiar parchment in one hand. The orc stood, inviting the tauren to come and sit at her worktable.
The tauren unfurled the parchment across the desk. "I'm here on behalf of the Earthen Ring. We're looking to commission a set of new chainmail for the Pandaria exploratory forces..."
The orc leaned over the specifications, scanning the parameters quickly. "Ahh, this is shaman gear, isn't it," she said unnecessarily.
"That's right," the tauren agreed.
The orc muttered possible materials and locations quietly to herself, drawing a finger down the parameters outlined in the document. The tauren looked on with obvious interest. With a sigh, the orc sat back heavily. "I'm afraid to tell you, Ambassador..."
"Kamalia," the tauren supplied. She seemed surprised by the orc's sudden change in mood.
"Ambassador Kamalia, I'm afraid to tell you that although there are several leatherworkers in this shop that specialize in blacksmithing incorporated into leather, neither I nor my partner are qualified to do this kind of work. I would offer to canvass potential materials and send them to another leatherworker to craft, but my partner was injured on our last assignment and isn't fully recovered, so I can't even do that." The orc grimaced.
Kamalia made a sympathetic noise. "I'm very sorry to hear that." She peered more closely at the orc, evidently putting some rumors together. "So, you mean that I could get the materials from one leatherworker, and then have a different one craft the gear?" The orc nodded. "But you can't, because your partner is out, and you can't work with anyone else?"
Something in the orc's cheek twitched. "No, I'm afraid not."
"Oh, well, all right! I understand. So...I should go somewhere else?" Kamalia asked pleasantly.
The orc sighed with obvious displeasure. "Yes, as much as I want this commission, Ambassador, I'm afraid the best I can do for you is to refer you to one of our sister workshops. Of course, our guild is committed to providing only the highest quality work, and as such I'll give you the name of the best mail armor specialists in town."
Kamalia smiled. "That would be very helpful! I'm afraid I haven't done this sort of thing before, so I simply asked around my friends for workshops..."
The orc smiled. "Well, I'm glad they gave you our name. Give me just one moment; I'll bring the shop information and a token you can use to show that we referred you."
"A token?" Kamalia asked.
"Yes, as I recall, not only will they give you a referral discount but there is a special deal for commissions from the Earthen Ring..." She slipped through the privacy curtain cutting the back room off from the main work area.
Two apprentices were working on studding a large pile of belts. One of them, a troll employed for less than half a year in the workshop, was in the middle of ranting to the other. "I heard that he was beaten up by a night elf!"
The orc froze.
The troll continued. "And do you know why he became a leatherworker in the first place? He used to be a hunter, but his pet died..."
Her eyes unfocused in quickly mounting rage.
"...and he was so sad that he quit right then and there!"
With a snarl, the orc seized the troll and slammed him against the nearest wall. He struggled, spluttering and indignant, when her forearm pressed dangerously against his windpipe, then immediately went still when he felt the pinprick of a knife just under his ribs. The other recruit, a soft-spoken forsaken, had practically fallen out of her chair and now hovered uncertainly just out of the orc's reach. The shop owner, who had been surreptitiously snoozing at his desk, was now looming apprehensively over the pair.
"How dare you speak about your better in such a way. You shouldn't even be allowed to think about him!" she snarled, resisting every urge to plunge the knife home and twist. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a very quiet voice repeated that this reaction was definitely more than was called for.
A large hand landed firmly on her shoulder, both a comfort and a warning. "All right, then," the Master Leatherworker said. He tugged gently at her, and she reluctantly released the troll. In response, the troll rolled his shoulders and made a show of not being terrified. "Frankly, we shouldn't even have to have this conversation," the shopkeeper told the troll calmly, "but you don't go speaking ill about your coworkers, especially ones who have been putting themselves in unbelievable danger to protect their partners for longer than you've been legally allowed to use juju. You're off the rotation for the month, and I hope you spend all that time with no pay thinking about how I could justify letting her gut you for such comments. Get out." He folded his thick arms and watched the troll slink out the door with a grimace. Then he turned to the orc. "As for you...are you all right? Should you even be here right now?"
The orc sniffed. "I'm fine, as long as I can stay away from fools like that." They sized each other up for a moment, then the larger orc shrugged his shoulders.
"Whatever. As long as you don't kill anybody...well, as long as you don't kill anybody who doesn't deserve it. I'm gonna go get some lunch. Try not to slaughter any customers while I'm out."
The orc returned to Kamalia, who had waited, face stiff in wary politeness throughout the entire interaction. "Listen, do the tauren have any sort of fairytales? I need to get a friend a gift."