(1311-09-09) Not The Usual, Tonight
Summary: Serving ale in the Kraken’s Den, Marisela finds herself receiving in return an unusual opportunity…
RL Date: 09/09/2019
Related: None
garance marisela 

The Kraken’s Den — Port of Marsilikos

A tall-tottering inn with a variety of rooms to let on the upper floors, from three fine suites just above the main floor to a collection of ramshackle one-cot rooms that sway with the harder gusts of wind in off of the sea in the upper levels. It has seen its share of fires and renovations, and every time it falls in ashes it seems to rise higher in the aftermath. Outside, proudly burnt-carved signage displays a huge black-tentacled kraken winding its limbs about in repetitive knotwork patterns. It hangs from a post on four links of bronze chain, and creaks when the wind hits it.

The main floor is part restaurant, part lobby, with a warm hearth next to a counter at which guests in the rooms above can pay their bills or ask after vacancies, many fine chairs and some a little less fine to fill out the number. Small tables amid all the seating provide room just enough to have a tea or a beverage and maybe play a game of cards with your mates. A low bannister-fence separates off the dining area from the lobby, to keep some semblance of order among the diners and to keep out the riff-raff.

Riff-raff, of course, is welcome to make its way downstairs, or else to descend into the alleyway behind the tavern and find the rear entrance into the half-basement, where a bar slings some of the hardest-scorching liquor known in Port Marsilikos, and attracts some of the roughest elements of society. It's dimly lit, with rough stonework walls and flooring and sturdy oaken furniture which must have been built in order to best resist any effort to shatter said furniture over someone's head. Fights are the nightly norm here, black eyes and sopping intoxication, and for those without the coin to attract the contract of a proper courtesan, some affable ladies are usually present in the evenings in case any gentleman wants to buy one a drink.

The blonde woman who conceals her sightless eyes behind smoked glass lenses held in a delicate filigreed framework of gold, has been an increasingly common sight in the Kraken's Den in the last month or two since she first appeared, on the arm of a soberly-dressed older man with a mournful smile, or more recently clearing her own path with a long narrow stick whilst he follows at her heels.

She comes in once a week or perhaps twice, for a few hours, in the early evening. She dresses for the summer heat in simple linen gowns of yellow or green or light blue, which by their very simplicity embody an elegance unattainable to the women of the port quarter in their workaday garments or their colourful finery. She likes to sit with her back to a wall, or in a corner if she finds one free— sometimes she takes a meal in the fenced-off area devoted to dining, but more usually she prefers a tankard of the house's best ale from which to sip as she listens, and considers, and occasionally — with her attendant whispering in her ear — essays a casual game of cards with one or two other customers who haven't met her yet. She likes to play for money, and they say she always wins.

Somehow, perhaps because there are fewer ships in port than usual — foreign vessels looking to return home ahead of the autumn storms, d'Angeline merchantmen likewise hoping to complete another run or two while the fine weather holds — perhaps because some other amusement nearby, a cockfight or a prizefight or the performance of a famous bard, has decoyed away some of the regular clientele, it's a quiet evening in the Kraken when the blind woman makes her next appearance. She pauses just across the threshold and she seems to be listening: "Shall we sit by the hearth?" she murmurs then, to her mournful companion. And she moves unerringly — in silence, she's counting her steps — across to a table between hearth and counter, from which she can keep an ear upon all who come and go from the chambers upstairs and stop for a word about service, bills, or keys. The mournful man draws out a chair for her and, having found the back of it with an outstretched hand, she sits down there with a grace the Kraken but rarely sees.

With this quiet night at the Kraken, Marisela sees to some cleaning duties that often get left for last, or the next day. She wears her usual work clothes. Nothing fancy, but not a dress. Her blouse, corset, pants, and boots, comfortable things able to get dirtied. None care here in his place, especially with the work she is put to do. She keeps herself busy when there is no one to serve with wiping down the underside of the tables. She has a cloth in hand with a bucket of warm, soapy water nearby. When Garance enters she lifts her head up to see who it is, and where they are going, so she can determine if they will need her soon or if another maid is available. She watches Garance and her aid enter and walk to that chair by the hearth. Marisela stands up to pick up pail and rag, and set it quickly within a storage closet to be out of the way, before drying her hands and setting off to help the arrived guest. She approaches slowly as not to startle. "Greetings," Marisela welcomes the two with a pleasant tone, that matches the smile on her face. "Will it be the usual tonight?"

Seated, Garance gives up her stick to her companion, who props it against the side of the hearth before he takes the chair opposite hers at the small table she has chosen. She inclines her ear toward Marisela's footsteps as the rhythm of them comes nearer; her own rosebud mouth quirks into a sideways smile, charming if one appreciates asymmetry. "I think ale for us both, yes," she declares, the crispness of her Eluan accent just barely sullied by the drawl of Eisande.

"Aye," Marisela answers with a slight nod. "I'll get that right away." She leaves the two to fetch the order: Two tankards of the house's best ale. In returning her experience with her job is noticed, not letting a drop of the poured ale fall from the tankards that holds it. She sets each down on the table. One in front of Garance, the other in front of her aid. With Garance's she adjusts the tankard so the handle is in the proper position for the lady to take hold of it with ease, having noticed that small detail in the past regarding this particular guest. Marisela felt that the little things could make a difference. "There you two go. Will there be anything else?"

There's little talk between the two in the barmaid's absence, casual conversation having been over between them years ago; besides, Garance likes to listen to the flow of business through the Kraken, to piece together a fragment of this and a tidbit of that, to pick out a familiar voice or a familiar tread. Including Marisela's own: when the girl returns and the pewter tankards sound just so upon oak, before she even takes hold of hers Garance declares, "Thank you," and then asks, "I've heard your voice before, haven't I—? What's your name?"

Marisela nods slightly, though knows that Garance would not notice it. "Marisela," she answers Garance. Uncertain if she should ask a question in return, she does so with true curiosity in her tone. "What are yours?" She looks to the woman's companion as well, and glances between them to give her attention to both.

"Well met, Marisela. I'm called Garance," that lady answers plainly, smiling; "and this is my good Ézéchiel, who aids me in a thousand ways." She makes a graceful pale-handed gesture toward her companion and then, cautiously withdrawing her hand, finds the tankard where she heard it placed and the handle turned so neatly toward her. Her soft fingers curve about it, and the smile she's directing into its depths deepens as she brings the two steadily together and sips.

Across from her Ézéchiel, whose accent in most respects matches hers, though his voice is less mellifluous and possesses fewer delicate tonal variations, is inclining his head courteously toward the barmaid. "Charmed," he says simply, because it is his job to be charmed when Garance wishes him to be.

Garance drinks a little more and then sets down her tankard. "And have you worked here long, Marisela?" she inquires of the young woman beside her.

Marisela smiles softly to Ézéchiel, and inclines her head to him in return. "Nice to meet you both," she says, and looks back to Garance. "A few years. I lose track of time. Or at that, I don't keep track of that time. I've been from tavern to tavern, any place that requires the help of skillful hands as mine. How long have you enjoyed the atmosphere of the Kraken?"

"Some of the Hellenic sages would have it that time is not a line but an ocean," muses Garance, with a whimsical tilt of her dark blonde head, "and that we dip in and out of it… I've been coming to the Kraken for a few months, haven't I?" And she seems to be consulting Marisela upon the subject, despite the girl's disclaimer of how little heed she pays to such measurements. "It's a useful test for me," she confides, "to see what I can hear— and what I can't." A little laugh. "I'm sure you hear a great deal too," she suggests, as if the thought has just occurred to her, "bringing ale and wine to so many people made thirsty by talk." And she smiles whimsically at Marisela, and lifts her tankard again to drink.

Marisela grins slightly with the memories Garance's mention of talking brings to mind. "Aye," she states, "I've heard a great many things. Many would be surprised how open guests can be when there is a pretty face that is open to listening. The ale does help with their thirst, while a barmaid can be wonderful conversation and company in addition to the drink. Though with enough drink, anyone can become pretty."

Garance wrinkles her retroussé nose at Marisela's observation; and she can't help but chuckle. "That's quite true, isn't it? A pretty face always hears more than a plain one. And it's rather good drink, too," she herself observes, taking another sip before she lowers her tankard again. "Do you know how to read and write, Marisela?" she asks then, with the same note of innocent curiosity.

"I do, yes. Self-taught. Thought it an important life skill to have," Marisela answers with a small smile. "A mighty one to have, next to holding a blade."

"… Oh," breathes Garance, whilst Ézéchiel looks on wryly, "it's far mightier than that, my dear." She pauses; then, smiling up at Marisela from behind her smoked glass lenses, she idly suggests, "I do find the talk in the Kraken so entertaining, but I'm not free every night to come in and drink and indulge my penchant. I wonder whether I might prevail upon you to write down for me a little account, sometimes, of the most amusing tidbits you happen to hear."

Marisela pauses to consider Garance's request. "You would like me to send you letters, Garance?" She asks, a slight tip of her head to the side with the question directed at Garance.

"Why not? I think it might be rather fun, don't you? Since we both like the amusing talk one hears round the port," Garance pursues, one corner of her rosebud mouth lifting again into her habitual lopsided smile as she regards the air slightly to the left of Marisela's face. "But of course—" She remembers herself. "My dear, I don't mean to imply that your time hasn't value to you, however scarcely you may reckon it up," she says more seriously. "I would not like to think you were the loser by your kindness to me." On cue, Ézechiel moves his hand away from the place where it has been resting upon the table, revealing a golden coin.

Marisela's eyes go to the shiny gold coin on the table. Her curiosity turns to pleasure at the sight. "Aye, I understand," she says slowly, knowingly… It wasn't anything she wasn't used to in this talk. It had been some time. She reaches to take the coin from the table and slips it into a pouch at her belt, before any other might see it. "Yes. I agree that it will be rather fun. Anything in particular, or simply anything I might share?"

To this too Garance awards a moment of consideration, brushing waves of soft dark blonde hair back from one shoulder as she tilts her head toward the barmaid. "Whatever you like, at first," she suggests easily, "and then we'll see. I might have a question for you sometimes. Although— my dear, I think such games are best played by two. I shouldn't like to think you were writing letters to anyone else. I'm sure you wouldn't, of course," she reassures Marisela gently.

Marisela smiles and nods politely. "I've none others to write to," she says calmly and with assurance to Garance.

Garance beams up at the younger woman. "How delightful," she declares softly. "Then if we're agreed not to let any others know our game— if you go out through the kitchen door around dusk, tomorrow, there'll be a boy waiting to take your letter and deliver it to me, and he'll come again every second evening, in case. And next time I come in for a tankard of ale," she suggests, "we'll settle the rest, shall we? Do you know, Marisela, I think we might become friends."

Marisela nods in understanding. "Yes, I do understand. And…" She pauses at the thought of a friend in Garance and smiles, "I look forward to the next time you come for ale, Garance."

“I’m glad. I always look forward to the Kraken, too,” confesses Garance, as if owning a mischievous secret; her nose wrinkles again as she smiles. She raises her somewhat depleted tankard toward the sound of Marisela’s voice and purrs, “To friendship and correspondence, my dear. But you mustn’t let me keep you any longer from your duties.”

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