“This came for you sir,” the aide handed him a rolled missive with a wax seal from one of the many noble houses of Stormwind.

Looking up at the aide, he nodded his thanks and waited for him to leave his office before breaking the seal and unrolling it. His mouth moved silently as he read the elegantly styled lettering written on the parchment. “You are hereby invited to attend an evening dinner party, hosted by the Countess Battenburg, in celebration of her son’s recent promotion in the Alliance Military. Formal wear will be required.” Sitting back in his chair, which creaked loudly, he let out a slow sigh. “Well, I guess I’m due some sort of appearance,” the man said to himself. His hand moved to stroke the thick left braid of his hair, still adorned with a golden ring inscribed with Draenic symbols.   His voice softened as he felt the band.  “If only you were still here to make these sorts of events tolerable.”

After sitting there for a long moment thinking, he stood and strode to his office door, opening it to address the guardsmen outside, “Send a message to Knight Champion Bearwalker.  I need to request her opinion on a sensitive matter.”  He walked back to his desk to wait for her arrival.  Fingers formed a steeple in front of his mouth as he said quietly to himself, “I hope I’m not making a big mistake.”

 

Lifting her head from her paws at the cautious approach of the young soldier, Elli gave him a warning hiss.  The poor man stopped, torn between potentially being literally torn apart and doing his duty.  Noticing the messenger insignia on his tabard, and deciding to cut the kid some slack, Elli yawned loudly, stretched, and laid her head back down on her paws, eyes half-closing as she watched him.  It took a bit of time, but her nonchalance and his sense of duty eventually pushed him to come closer.  �Knight-Champion Bearwalker?  Grand Marshal Walkinson needs you.  There�s a sensitive matter he requests your help with.�

Yawning once more, she rose, gave her fur a good shake, and shifted to her worgen form.  �Tell him I�ll be there shortly.�  Her lips twitched at the solider hurried disappearance before she made her way towards the keep.  A few birds flew overhead, causing her to involuntarily lick her lips.  I should eat soon.

Upon arriving, she gave her customary snarl at the guardsmen at his door before walking in and closing the door behind her. 

�Ah Elli.  Good of you to come on such short notice.  I need your help with something.�

Her eyes narrowed.  �Whatever it is, it�s a no.  As soon as you say �good of you to come on such short notice� I won�t like what you�re wanting.�

�But you haven�t even heard what I need your help with yet.�

Keeping her eyes glued to him, she walked over to a seat in front of his desk and flopped down.  �No, I haven�t.  But when you�re being that congenial, I know something�s up.�  She leaned forward and tapped a claw on the desk.  �I know you, Ace.�

Ace smiled at her and nodded.  �That you do.�  His fingers rotated a sheet of parchment to face her before sliding it over.  �Read it.�

She leaned over to read the paper without touching it, like one might inspect something poisonous.  Nose wrinkling as she finished, she returned her eyes to his.  �A formal dinner party.�  Grumping, she sat back in the chair and crossed her arms over her chest.  �So, I need to find something to do instead of worry about stupid nobles plotting against you, I assume.�

�Even better.  You�re coming with me to this dinner as my date.�

Elli blinked.  �I can�t go as your date.  I�m your bodyguard.�

�I don�t see why being my bodyguard doesn�t mean you can�t.�

Opening her mouth to object, she snapped it back shut and thought.  �But it�ll be odd.  You�ll be the only one there with a bodyguard.  A bodyguard as a date even.�

�Well,� Ace planted his feet on the desk and leaned back in his chair, �You don�t have to be there as my bodyguard.  Especially since you�ll be my date for the evening.�

�Won�t the nobles with their delicate sensibilities freak out over you bringing not only your bodyguard as your date but your worgen bodyguard?�

Ace looked at her, annoyance in his eyes.  �Elli, if I go to this thing by myself, I�ll never get a moment�s respite.�

�Why not?  There will be plenty of other high ranking military people there.  The nobles can pester those people.�

“Everyone knows of Seella’s death, so they’ll be single noblewomen lined up just to try their luck.�  A flash of pain, quickly suppressed, crossed his face at the mention of Seella.  �Just think about it. A nobleman bachelor, rich and with a successful career in the military, showing up at a dinner party by himself.”

Unable to find a rebuttal to that comment, Elli sighed.  �Fine.  I suppose I can�t threaten to eat anyone who annoys us either.�

“No. No, you can’t. You’ll need to be on your best behavior. Some of the people there will try to get a rise out of you, or me, or both of us. Don’t let them.”

Grabbing the parchment in her claws, she rose and almost glared down at him.  �You�re going to owe me for this one.�

“Relax, Elli. Maybe you’ll enjoy yourself for once.”

Her lips lifted over her fangs in a very feral smile.  �Just because I can�t threaten to eat them doesn�t mean I can�t think about it while we�re there.  That will be enjoyable.�

“Just as long as it doesn’t happen, Elli. Do you remember me having to deal with the Council of Lords? Like that. Everything you do will reflect on me directly.”

The smile disappeared to be replaced by a serious look.  “You know I’ll never do anything to hurt you, Ace.  In any way.”

Ace lifted his feet off the desk and leaned over it with his hands clasped together.  “I know, Elli. It’s just … I can’t imagine going anywhere by myself. Feels strange, wrong even.”

Elli’s ears drooped and she turned her face away from him.  “I miss her.”

He looked down at his hands for a moment, nodded, and spoke gently. “I do too, Elli.”

Keeping her head lowered, she swallowed hard.  �I�ll do this for you.  And for her.�

“Thank you, Elli. Who knows? You might enjoy it.�  He offered her a wry grin.  �I mean, aside from visualizing killing the people who prove bothersome.”

�Maybe.�  Swinging her head back to him, she gave him an impish grin.  �Imagining shattering their legs works too.�

Ace gave her a mock scowl.  �Hey!  The only legs you�re supposed to be shattering are mine.�

“True enough.”  She turned to leave but stopped to look over her shoulder at him.  “Should I meet you there or here?”

�Here is fine. We’ll both show up together at the event.�  When she nodded and started to leave, he added, “Or I could pick you up at your place here in Stormwind.”

Elli stopped, looking over her shoulder at him again.  �Whichever you want.�

“I’ll pick you up at your place and we’ll ride there together.”

Nodding, Elli left the office to make her way home.

A smile lifted the corners of his lips as the door closed behind her.  “Well that went better than I expected.”  Pulling open a drawer in his desk, he picked up a small tin of armor polish and began polishing his insignia.

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