(1311-02-25) Spoiled Goods
Summary: Philomène goes to investigate rumours of poor quality Chalasse flour.
RL Date: February 25, 2019
Related: Cutthroats, Crooks, and Conmen Plot

A small bakery just off the main market

It is not hard to find out who the sources of the rumours are, and within a few days of hearing them, Philomène can certainly trace them to a small bakery off the main square at the market. It is a simple affair, a bread bakery with a pair of wood fired ovens whose smoke can be seen from two streets away, run by an old pair of sisters.

So it is that Philomène finds herself waiting patiently at the beginning of the day (beginning of her day, at least, if not the bakers, who are rather renowned for keeping exceedingly early hours) at this small bakery, hands clasped behind her back and clad not in her usual riding gear, but in a rather more severe outfit. It's still about ten years out of date as far as fashion goes, but there's a simple elegance to it, only marred very slightly by the faint scent of camphor where it's clearly been in storage some time.

The two women inside are trading barbs back and forth as only family can when Philomène arrives. there is a large pile of fresh bread on the back counter, ready to be taken out. On closer inspection, the barbs look to be because the women look harried and stressed, trying to fill out a backlog. When Philomène enters, the elder of the two goes to the front counter and says abruptly, "What can I get for you? We are run a bit short right now, but we have a few loaves to spare Madame."

Philomène gestures vaguely towards the ovens, hand somewhere at shoulder level and shaking her head once. "Please, do carry on with your work, madame. I am not here to buy, but to clear up what appears to be a supply issue. Am I correct in saying you have been having issues? Perhaps I can assist."

"You have better what than that chalasse nonsense?" she answers gruffly, her head shaking as she does return to the work of kneading and pounding out the next bread. "Never had anything like it mind, and we normally get our flours from 'em."

"I have to say I'm surprised," Philomène agrees amiably. "Some sort of personal vendetta against your bakery, do you think, or your competitors suffered the same issues?"

There is a particularly harsh pounding on the dough, "Well I don't think we are the only ones who had to remake half our stock. We get a delivery of flour twice a week, and the flour? It's usually perfect. Three grades. Two bags of the best. Four each of the rest. Most of our stock was cut with sawdust. Something else was in the fine stuff, and I didn't even know until it was out fo the ovens. And the deliveryman swears it came that way."

Philomène nods in sympathy. "And yet it's usually perfect," she echoes, examining a loaf without touching it. "Well, we shall have to arrange for additional flour on the next delivery, certainly, but… well, it's all very odd, isn't it? We're all very aware of the dangers of transporting flour in quantity - even your deliveryman has a leather protective layer between him and the cart, no doubt, in case of sparks. Therefore the wheat must be transported here whole, and milled in Marsilikos." She pauses to let this sink in for a few moments, before asking brightly, "Do you know, might you be able to identify the mill from which you buy? Perhaps you have an invoice tucked into your accounts?"

The younger woman is the one who looks over at her and asks, eyes wide, "Who /are/ you anyway?" the elder is already looking for the slip.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, I have the honour to be the Lady Philomène de Chalasse," the Vicomtesse replies, inclining her head as politely as if she were addressing royalty. "And you fine women are the proprietors here? Once again I can only apologise for any sort of supply issues which have impeded your work, and we shall see that additional supplies are sent. If you're aware of anyone else who has suffered the same issue, perhaps you might let me know so that I can offer my apologies to them, too? And, do you know, wouldn't it be an odd coincidence if they happened to use the same mill?"

"Oh," the younger says, "right then Milady, as soon as my sister gets that. We will be glad of course for the additional sacks, and I will tell the other two I know of, and our deliveryman to bring issues to you." It is clear from her voice that the younger sister is the better educated, or perhaps spent time somewhere else before coming to work in her sister's shop. The slip is passed over, and the mill is a large one near to the docks.

<FS3> Philomène rolls Economics: Good Success. (7 3 8 1 1 4 5 6 3 3 6 5 3)

Philomène accepts the invoice with a smile and a nod of thanks, mentally comparing the figures with those from her own accounts, interest, forecasted figures, tax and delivery costs. There's good reason she was poring over her accounts this morning before she came out. "The usual deliveryman, I assume?" she adds casually. "And would you mind awfully if I were to see the mess they've made of good Agnacite wheat?"

"Sure, the sacks are still out back. I've been trying to get him ot come and take a look, but he swears he just delivers it and the mill won't send anyone around," the younger says with a nod. They both try and give a curtsey. Only the younger succeeds.

<FS3> Philomène rolls Agriculture: Great Success. (4 8 3 3 8 5 7 8 7)

When Philomène looks, she can tell at once that the stamps are not correct. Wheat from Chalasse is stamped with her House crest, in the correct shade, but this is too inky, almost black, and the wheat has been mixed with sawdust in the coarser bag, and what she thinks is chalk in the finer. Even in the muck out back it isn't spoiling properly, part mouldering, and part just turning to mush.

Philomène presses her lips together as she limps back into the bakery to dispense the good news. "Well, it would appear that there's some subterfuge going on," she notes drily. "Not only is that not de Gueret wheat, it's not in de Gueret sacks. Somebody appears to be switching it with that rubbish. If you receive any more like that, do please contact me immediately, and hold the deliveryman until I arrive? This nonsense needs to be traced and stopped, for the sake of your bread."

"Of course," the younger sister answers, and both look completely surprised.

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