(1310-09-08) Cheaper By the Pair
Summary: When a lady goes shopping for one thing she so often finds herself taking home at least two other items she never even knew she needed.
RL Date: 08/09/2018
Related: None
oriane ammy 

Port — Marsilikos

Fortune laid the foundation for the grand port of Marsilikos; look how the arms of the land spread wide to embrace the setting of the sun, welcoming a bay of still waters rendered all the more peaceful by the presence of a small island to the south, on the flanks of which the waves cut themselves into powerless ripples as they move in from the sea. But what Fortune gave the D'Angelines their cunning and craft has improved to a hum of efficiency and culture. The natural bay has had its curved shores sharpened into straight edges bolstered with ridges of heavy stones on which the tides have left long mark when the waters are low, algae and barnacles hung onto the rugged stones. Then stone foundations have been piled out into the harbor to hold up wide wooden pillars and the great treated slats of the piers and boardwalks which extend into the bay, now at wider intervals for massive trading vessels, now at shorter intervals for private fishing and pleasure yachts.

The southern arm of the bay is reserved for the great southern fleet of the Terre D'Angan Navy, which is headquartered here in Marsilikos, and is ever a hub of activity, the giant slips outfitted to haul the massive warships up into the air for repairs, while further inland on the southern peninsula a forest of masts rises into the air where new ships are being built and old ones repaired in full drydock. Between the naval slips and the drydock rises the stately edifice of the Southern Naval Headquarters, glistening with huge latticed windows on the upper floors. Beyond the headquarters rises the massive fortified promontory of the Citadel, with bleached-white parapets and fluttering banners.

Markets and vendors throng the plaza at the innermost fold of the harbor where civilian and military seamen alike might find a bite to eat, supplies for their next mission, a good drink or a little bit of companionship. Far in the bay, that little isle sports a lofty lighthouse to guide the ships in by night.

Ammy is sitting on the ground near a small fire, where a giant pot of wax slowly warms. He's behind an old rickety wooden table, upon which sit an array of rather fancy candles that are for sale. They are finely crafted, and include multiple layers of different colored waxes. The edges are cut and shaped, so beautiful swirls of color wrap along them. He is also surrounded by an array of cats, which seem to really like him. They appear to be strays.

The hour is an early one but the market plaza where the seamen and the landsmen of Marsilikos meet has endured its first apron-armoured charge by thrifty housewives in search of the freshest seafood at the best bargain price they can hammer out of exhausted stall holders. A second wave is no doubt imminent. A few women linger about their shopping. Not all common people or liveried servants, either: a lady of (ahem) mature years, white-haired and black-gowned, is strolling slowly from stall to stall with a basket on her arm and a bored guardsman dogging her heels. Despite the sombre colour and cut of her attire, the absence of jewels, the plain black mask concealing her features from the eye (and her skin from the sun as it rises), she looks expensive. She can't help it, swathed in so much silk.

Oriane has one eye on Ammy's wares even whilst she's turning over a piece of cloth at the next stall along. She lets the cloth fall (some defect in the warp or the weft, perceptible to an experienced shopper) and comes nearer, her gaze roaming over the colourful candles. Her mask's third useful property is that it aids in concealing her interest in any particular item — but there's no denying she's giving the chandler's work a good once-over.

Her basket has got fish in it. The cats are quite certain.

Ammy rises, and steps over to his table. "You seem to be a woman of discerning tastes," he offers, leaning coyly on the table with his elbow. "Dese candles are all hand made by myself. If deres a particular color dat you'd like, I have more." He moves one candle in particular closer to her. "I also have a few dat I've mixed smelly perfumes into de wax, so dey smell your room a bit when you burn dem, if dat's more to your liking." One of the stray cats leaps up onto the table, and he picks it up, snuggling with it a moment, and then patiently tossing it back to the ground. There are more meows from under the tablecloth. A lot more.

As tortoiseshell and calico and tabby beasts of differing sizes and scrawinesses twine optimistically about her skirts — one makes a valiant leap for her basket, drawing her eye from the candles and causing her to take half a step back, then forward again — Oriane concedes that, "They are fine work indeed… Have you any scented with orange blossom? Or jasmine? Or," upon a moment's thought, she corrects herself, "not jasmine, perhaps." She obligingly bends her head to sniff what he considers his model specimen.

By contrast with Tsingano waifs of even the most skillful variety her elocution is exact; her accent speaks not of Eisande, but of Elua itself.

Ammy tilts his head, "I don't… um…" He furrows his brow, "I don't know actually what dey are. I just bought some of dese stinky oils…" He shrugs. If she smells it, it's likely some kind of flower. "Hey, come on, Spot," he says, grabbing the tabby cat, which has stripes and no spots, from the table and away from her basket. He tosses it back to the ground. "Sorry. Dey are all kind of wound up today. Dere's kittens," he offers with an apologetic shrug. Then he nods at her face, "What's wit' de masks, lady?"

"They mean no harm," says Oriane of the cats. "… Well," she explains slowly to their self-appointed minder, "when a lady goes out riding, when she travels, or when she expects to be in the sunshine for a time, sometimes she wears a mask to keep the sun from burning or freckling her skin. When hunting a mask protects also against the chance of a branch whipping one's face. I suppose it was a custom of my generation, for I don't see many young women wearing them now. This one," she nods to the candle she just sniffed, "is tuberose." She picks up another and applies the same test: "This is gardenia." A third: "Honeysuckle and freesias. Very pretty."

Ammy smiles, nodding at her identification of the scents. "Yeah. Okay." He smiles, "De more you buy, de less dey cost," he notes to her. "I don't wear masks." He smiles, flirting playfully with the old woman as a good salesman should. "I'm far too pretty."

Oriane has by now given her basket into the charge of the black-and-white liveried guard waiting the regulation three steps behind her; her black-gloved hands make their way methodically through the scented candles, mentioning aloud each fragrance as she considers it. Of course she's careful in handling the young man's merchandise. Nothing disarranged, nothing damaged. This is somebody's livelihood. She doesn't seem to notice the flirting. "Ah," she says at last, "orange blossom." She holds the candle aloft appraisingly. "But I don't know that I care for the colours."

A tiny white marauder sinks claws into her hem, and commences to climb.

There were six white kittens in a crate under the table. It was probably no surprise that one was going to eventually try to get Oriane to give them some of that fish. Ammy doesn't notice, of course. "Hrm…" He tilts his head and takes the orange blossom one, sniffing it. "Dis one…" He sits it back down, and then moves to a crate nearby, where he sorts through a few other candles in different colors, sniffing them. Finally, he returns with three others of the same scent in different colors. "I have a few of each of dese colors, if dere any better?" he offers, sitting them on the table. "And, if you prefer, you could bring me your own smelly juices from a perfumer and I can custom make you somet'ing in de colors you'd like, but dat's gonna cost a bit more."

While Ammy's back is turned the courageous baby beast progresses to approximately the altitude of Oriane's knees. Then its delicate new-grown claws succumb to their own weakness and it slides a few inches south again, scrabbling for a hold upon the fine black silk of her gown.

This she notices, despite the other cats doing all that hungry felines can to run interference; she bends down not to dislodge her passenger but to take hold of it and detach it, claw by claw, paw by paw, one paw in fact twice, from the torn silk. By the time she is presented with Ammy's array of coloured candles in what seems to be her favourite scent, the white kitten is trapped in a cage made of tender black-gloved fingers. It is purring.

"… The blue, perhaps?" she wonders aloud distractedly. Oh, these fussy old women with time on their hands and no notion what they really want.

Ammy nods, "Blue it is. I have t'ree of dem in dat color, if you like." He sits those on the table, and then he looks at the cat. He reaches over and scruff's it's head. "Dat's Winter. One of the kittens." He smiles, "Dey're trying to explore, it seems. Sorry."

"Perhaps one," Oriane says cautiously, "and I shall see if I like it." Meanwhile the kitten is squirming in her patient hands, appealing to her senses with its tiny fluttery heartbeat and surprisingly resonant purr. On an impulse she inquires, "And are the kittens for sale as well?"

The kittens aren't Ammy's. They are just strays that were born nearby here in the port. So, he of course answers, "Yes dey are. Very much so." He smiles widely. "Here," and he bends down and picks up the wooden crate, sitting it on the edge of the table. Inside are a half dozen little white kittens, all looking rather adorable and mewing. "Dey are born of the finance breeding, as you can see," he offers, totally full of crap.

Oriane answers politely, "Yes, one can see that," and holding the first kitten against her bosom she offers her gloved fingertips to the rest of the litter for their consideration. She peers into the box with more interest, now, than she invested in any of the candles, tickling the ear of one beast and nudging another one the better to see whether it really is all-white. "How old are they? Their eyes are open, but they seem very young still to leave their mother…" Somebody is sampling her glove for taste.

Ammy shrugs, "A few weeks. Maybe five?" He lifts his eyes to hers. "De mot'er was killed by some mean kids wit' sticks a few days ago," he admits, and then he mutters something curse-sounding about them in Tsingani and spits. "I've been using a small soft flask from a wine dealer to give dem warm milk. Dey need more attention den most would care to give."

"Poor creatures," sighs Oriane. She certainly suspects the true origin of the little beasts; but she's of the opinion that, yes, the boy's care for them deserves recompense… "And I suppose they too are cheaper if one buys more than one?" she teases as she lifts another tiny specimen out of the box. Not that she has much choice. It appears to be permanently attached. "They are happier in pairs, I should think, especially at that age."

Ammy nods, "Two kittens, two candles," he says, as if he's decided for her, pushing those two blue candles toward her. "I t'ink I could be pursuaded to let dem go for a fair price." He considers a moment, and then he offers his price. It's just fair, indeed, but it's not GOOD. "I trust you can care for dem?" he questions.

If he hadn't asked that Oriane might have quibbled — she is not, after all, so rich as once she was. But the habit of largesse dies hard, especially in those brought up to reward the good behaviour of their inferiors. "If it happens that I can't, I have a maid who is fond of animals," she says practically. And, having made her choice, she's now juggling two kittens and a purse fished out of her pocket, tucking one squirmy white baby under her arm whilst she battles the second for control of the purse's strings.

Ammy notices her struggle to juggle them all, and he steps around the table. "Here," he says, and he gently takes the two cats. Once she's gathered out her gold coins, he takes them and shoves them in his pocket. He picks up the two candles with the two cats then. "I'm sure you'll be de talk of de town, my lady. Between dese beautiful animals and dese incredible candles, de young women will be so envious of you!" Once she's returned her coinpurse to where she keeps it, he begins handing the cats and the candles over. As he does so, his elbow knocks one of the other candles over, and he quickly moves to stop it from falling. Unfortunately, that movement has him bumping into her. He quickly apologizes, "I am SO sorry!" He hands the kittens and the candles over to her fully, gently giving her shoulder an apologetic squeeze as his other hand steadies her on her back. "I hope you are alright." He withdraws then, the coinpurse slipping into his own pocket as he returns back to the other side of the table. "T'ank you for your kind visit, my lady," he offers, and he bows to her.

The kerfuffle draws at last the guard's attention back from the passersby (any of whom might be carrying a deadly weapon!) to his charge; but since he's already carrying a basketful of fish, and now he's having scented candles thrust at him to be put in the said basket, and the kittens are mewing up a storm, he misses that second sub-rosa transaction.

Oriane is harried but enchanted: clasping a kitten in each hand she steps firmly away from the Tsingano boy and his too-familiar touch. "Of course, of course," she murmurs, peeking down at her tiny white captives, "not to worry. I wish you every good fortune in rearing the others. Good day to you."

And she ceases her pointless wandering and makes a beeline now for the Rue du Port and home, because something just bit her and it is all too apparent that her new babies must be introduced to the benefits of soap and water, posthaste.

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