“What is the deal with you, anyway!?” Frey’s brows were furrowed and her lower lip pouted slightly; a childish expression, wracked with the sting of injustice.
Bado laughed with his head back. Her indignant face reddened.
“Aaah. Sorry Frey, but it was worth it for that face, I gotta say.” He chuckled again, shaking his head. “But here, don’t be mad. Here is the real thing.” He slid a small box toward her across the counter and smiled. There was no malice in him. The crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes cut deeply into his features, inscribed by years of carefree laughter. Her sour expression loosened a touch.
“hmph.” She rifled in her pack for a moment and briskly pulled out a large hunk of raw emerald, knotted together with bits of the rock it was chipped from and rapped it hard down onto the counter. Snatching the box, she spun around with such force her long pigtails trailed around her in an arc, an afterimage of her flippant attitude. She took three long strides and whipped open the door. Turning as she stepped out she stuck out her tongue at the tall dwarf and slammed the door as she left.
The shop seemed very still after the noise of the door dissipated. The corners of Bado’s mouth pulled into a silent, suspended laugh as he watched her huff away through the window.
“Jeeze you better cool it with the pranks, man.” Doug sighed, letting out the breath he had been holding in suspense. “You don’t want Lady Ventuswill to come down on you for ruffling the princess’s feathers do you?”
Bado was holding up the rough emerald in one hand and looking at it with an incredulous expression.
“BADO!” Doug fumed. The Blacksmith turned.
“Huh?” he glanced at Doug blankly and then looked back at the emerald chunk. “Can you believe she paid with this? I’m gonna hafta set her straight next time…” He said shrugging and set the thing down on a nearby shelf.
“I’m SERIOUS!” said Doug. “You are already on thin ice for your so-called ‘marketing strategies’.” The last two words dripped with mockery.
“Yeah, yeah.” Bado said, waving a hand. “There’s no harm in it. Just relax!” He threw himself in a chair, leaned back and propped his feet on the counter top.
“Suit yourself.” Doug sighed. “But when your ass is getting grilled, don’t expect me to vouch for you.” He started toward the door. Bado shrugged again and put his arms up behind his head, the picture of carelessness as he closed his eyes for a nap. Doug looked back at him as he opened the door. “Hopeless!” he heaved a great sigh, and walked out, closing the door behind him.
The shop was empty, silent. After a few seconds, Bado’s eyes opened. He lowered his feet, righting the chair and looked down at his hands in his lap. If any could have seen him, they would have wondered at the suddenly drooping posture with his head hung low. He was, in a moment, transformed. He fidgeted with his thumbs for a moment then stood up. He looked around his shop with his arms folded, drumming his fingers on his bicep. Something green caught his eye and he looked sideways at the rough emerald on the shelf. It was perched close to the edge. He stared at it a moment, then seemed to shake something off.
He puttered around the shop for a few minutes, periodically glancing back over his shoulder. He shook his head again and strode into the forge room, gathered up some scale mail armor and walked it back out to the front. He arranged it clumsily on a rack, brushed off his hands and turned. There was a sudden clatter as he stumbled into the chair, which toppled back into the shelf, jostling its contents. He swore under his breath and rubbed his knee where it had met the chair. There was something on the ground in front of his foot. The emerald gleamed softly in between the rough chunks of rock adhered to it, seeming to look innocent where it had come to rest after falling. Crouching on one knee, he picked it up with a big, square-ish hand. He turned it over a couple times, frowning slightly, then sighed through his nose. His eyebrows pitched a soft, sad angle on his forehead as he looked down at it.
“Don’t be mad…” he said quietly to it.