(123-02-01) The Most High and Noble Guild of Piemakers
The Most High and Noble Guild of Piemakers
Summary: We made some pies, and then someone felt grandiose about it.
Date: 01/02/2016
Related: Invitation to pies was issued herein.

The sun has set upon the Shambles, a hot rainy day yielding to a close, muggy, rainy night. When Audra came across by arrangement from the bakehouse to the butchery, to be initiated into the finer points of steak and kidney pies, she found Edmyn the butcher waiting to lock the door behind her and usher her up the stairs in his usual courteous fashion — and his mother, Esme, clad in her green and orange stripes and with her head bare, already setting out ingredients and laying a place for the butcher's well-earned supper.

Edmyn looks on with interest from the far side of the table, eating two bowls of a thick and fragrant beef stew and plenty of the leftover bread Audra kindly brought with her, and speaks only when he's spoken to. He finishes his dinner in due course and his mother reminds him he has those sausages to get on with downstairs; he nods seriously, as though this is a very important duty, and promises, "And then I will do the washing up, Mother," lest she suppose he's the sort of undutiful son who'd forget that, too. Esme blesses him and tells him he's a good boy and returns to her explication to Audra of the finer points of the different knives she employs for different tasks in her little kitchen, and the great help it is to have the right tools.

In time two pie tins sit side by side on one of the narrow sideboards flanking the hearth, each freighted gloriously with steak and kidney, each with its pastry crust pinched into a different pattern to show which is whose. And the washing up may be Edmyn's duty, but Esme waves her visitor to sit down first while she straightens up a few things — and produces from one of the higher cupboards a jug of apple cider and a pair of plain wooden cups. "You catch on quickly, I'll say that," she remarks judiciously, ferrying these important items to the table. "If you didn't already have a job and a half, I might be inclined to offer you one," she chuckles, pouring generously.

Audra's kept her sleeves rolled up as she works, no stranger to getting in and down to the task. She pays close attention to the detail work and asks only a few questions to clarify the ingredients. She takes her cup of cider and toasts her hostess, "Seven keep us both well enough to enjoy this pie and many more. A job is kind but I'm quite happy with the bakery I've found. Kneading dough is incredibly relaxing and it always smells delightful in there; not that these pies aren't incredible."

"Seven keep us all," agrees Esme, lifting her own cup an instant later, after she's fitted the stopper back into the stone jug. She sighs then as she sinks down into her usual chair, the one which has two cushions in it, one to sit upon and the other for her back. "You're a fortunate young woman," she agrees with a nod and a sip, "it's a good, steady trade to be in, and think how cosy you'll be come winter… and I hope I've been of some help to you and Terris both," for he's bound to enjoy the lion's share of that pie! "He's been that happy since he brought you home with him— it does me good to see."

Audra blushes a little as she sits in the chair opposite. "I have been blessed, and I am very thankful. It will be nice to spend winter in a place that's always warm. I just hope we have years before then." She raises her cup again. "To Terris." She drinks for her husband. "I didn't realize I had such an effect on him. He was so sweet and so shy, I didn't think he would even be able to speak to me." At the tavern. Where she was working tricks. Ahem.

To be courteous, of course, Esme raises her cider and sips again. "Terris," she agrees kindly. "And thank you again for the bread — you saw how well it went down with Edmyn. He's always so hungry at the end of the day. Watching him eat you must think I don't feed him properly." She gives a small shake of her head and lifts her eyes to the heavens as though to say, what can one do with these ferocious masculine appetites? Not that Audra would know anything about that.

Audra waves that off. "He works hard, he needs his strength no doubt." She gives her warm cherry-red smile. "And with your cooking, goodwife, how can he not enjoy his meals? I'm just glad I can get these eaten instead of throwing them to the dogs. I hate seeing food wasted."

Compliments always cause Esme's dark eyes to dart away and find something else to look at; she misses thus some of the effect of that charming smile, but has a superb view of the inside of her cup. "Oh, we agree on that," she reminds her neighbour. "How's business over the way, with all this rain we've been having, though?" she asks sympathetically. "More leftovers than usual, or are your regulars keeping you going—?" Her tone implies she hopes so.

The young wife frowns at that before she takes a drink of her cider. "It's never good for buisness. Folk don't hit the streets, don't buy the wares from the carts. Sometimes things get wet and we just have to toss them before the mold sets in. I try not to do that, I'd rather go down to the docks and give it to the poor or see if the sept can hand it out quick-like." Audra gives a faint sigh. "The goodly houses of the realm, though - they don't mind the rain or shine, the servants get a good soaking but they take their orders regular."

"And those are always the biggest purchases," notes Esme with wry understanding. "My boys go out all over the city every morning as always, with my standing orders, but I wrap them up in decent cloaks and make sure they have a hot meal, at least. People do have to eat, whatever the weather." She taps her finger on the edge of the table, in what isn't a nervous gesture but what she likes it to be supposed is one. "And how are you yourself, dearie? No little difficulties at all?" She tilts her head, her thin pale forearms resting on the edge of the table below her own rolled-up sleeves, presenting a picture of warm and sympathetic but not very specific grandmotherly interest.

Audra says, "Me, myself?" Her green-grey eyes blink at the question even as she shakes her head. "Nothing to complain of, Mistress Esme. My shoes keep the rain out when I leave the shop, my cloak has no holes, and my belly is always comfortably full." She gives a soft and easy smile, motioning with her hand carrying her cup. "No bun in the oven yet if -that- is what you're dying to ask."

"Oh!" And Esme leans away then, chuckling. "No, that wasn't the first thing I was thinking, dearie, but it's kind of you to set an old woman's curiosity at peace. You might like to tell Mistress Talana at number seven, she's been swearing blind you're getting thicker round the middle and suggesting we ought to know what that means — you know how people talk," she sighs. "No, what I meant," and she meets Audra's eyes with a frank gaze across the table, "is that people do talk, and there's some gossip they enjoy more than most. I daresay there's not a soul in these parts who doesn't know by now where you came from. I was wondering whether you'd had any trouble at all, whether anyone's ear needs a word dropping in. You've been working hard for Terris and keeping a smile on his face morning till night, and you don't need people making any more work for you than you've already got," she suggests gently.

Audra's hand grips her cup more tightly but her smile stays perfectly in place. "Oh, that. No, none… no such trouble with -that-. In fact, from what I know, things may be more quiet now than before. The… person in charge of such things is actually happy for me being able to put the past behind me and find happiness in the nicer parts of the world." She tries to relax in her chair but there's still a slight wariness about her. "As for our neighbors, no- none of them have said a word, kind souls they are."

The little shopkeeper remains as placid and comfortable in her chair, as Audra is poised for flight in her own. "Good, good," she murmurs soothingly, "I'm very glad to hear it. People do talk sometimes, you know, over my counter, people who've known me longer than they've known you; but they don't mean any harm and I think they're getting tired of the tale and that's the best thing, isn't it? In another few months no one will think anything of it, I'm sure. As long as you're receiving the respect you're due, I shan't say another word."

Audra's body language relaxes a little as she nods. "Oh yes, if they're saying things, it's well out of earshot. And it's to be expected. I'm not entirely… a mystery." She glances down with a touch of shame. "But as long as they're not saying it to him, about him, then let them talk. I have a rolling pin and know how to use it." That is a joke, met with a wink.

"Ah, now," Esme is quick to point out, "every day you're proving — right where the city can see! — that Terris was wise to choose you. It's because there are one or two souls you've already proven wrong about you, that I wondered whether you might have heard a mean-spirited remark or two — people don't always take kindly to being put on the wrong side of these things. But if you say it's all all right, it's all all right. And as you say, you've a rolling pin." She winks, taking the remark in the spirit in which it was intended; though she makes no reciprocal remark about the implements of a butcher's profession, which as Audra saw this evening are indeed no joke in her expert hands.

Audra glances at the pair of pies. "Seems they're set up well enough. I should get this in the ovens for our suppers then! I'm looking forward to trying it myself." She gives a small but earnest smile. "Thank you for the lessons. And the kind words. It's reassuring to know my dear little man isn't the only one on my side."

"You're most welcome," the little shopkeeper promises her fondly. "And don't worry, I'll come over in the morning for my pie — I'll not disturb you and Terris tonight, when you've both had such a long day." Again she winks, as she sets down her cup of cider and rises from her chair to see Audra out.

Audra frowns slightly as she rises. "Are you sure? We can send one of the bake-boys over when it's done, I know how your lad enjoys your pies."

"To tell you the truth, we've still got half a beef and bacon pie from the other day that needs eating first," Esme confides. "So don't send your lad out in the rain on my account, mmm? Tomorrow's soon enough."

The slender young lady gives a chuckle at that. "As you wish then. I'll give Terris your warm regards as well." She picks up both the pies and covers them with her apron to keep the rain off. "Seven give you a good eve."

"Oh, of course. And thank him for sparing me your company for an hour." And Esme takes up an oil lamp from the mantel over her fireplace, one of a pair which have contributed their light to the proceedings, and opens the door to the stairs. "Let me go down first to show you the way — you're not used to our stairs," she insists, "though I hope you'll get to know them better soon."

With repeated courtesies on both sides — and a genuine attempt on Esme's part to shield Audra's innocent eyes from the sausage-making procedures in the butchery below — the women take their leave and the pies are seen safely across the narrow street to the bakehouse and its waiting ovens. A triumph of neighbourly co-operation. The menfolk don't know how lucky they are.

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