(123-02-21) Deer Me
Deer Me
Summary: Nothing suspicious in this sack, oh no.
Date: 21/02/2016
Related: None

The dolphin festival has commenced; and Oldtown's centre of gravity has shifted down to the docks and the clear blue waters of the Whispering Sound. The customarily bustling Shambles is half-shuttered, butchers and bakers and sundry tradesmen all out enjoying themselves, albeit in some cases enjoying the opportunity to sell little pies and sausages in buns to others immersed in the annual revelry. Not so the red and yellow grocery shop on the corner of Oldtown Square, and the butchery adjacent: the best business Mistress Esme expects to do this week or next is supplying regular customers, and ensuring the great and the merely well-heeled of the city have what they require for their private dolphin parties. And if one is obliged to remain upon one's premises in any case to attend to such matters, what a crying shame it would be to miss out on even a whiff of passing trade…

Striped in red and blue and yellow, with her head bare and wisps of dark grey har coming loose from her bun, she sets free another flight of delivery boys — each weighted with a heavy basket and severely adjured to be blind to all distraction and hurry back to her if they want to finish for the day in time to have a bit of fun — and then she stands in the doorway of the butcher's shop, watching after them with a pensive expression. In her left hand she clasps the clean strings of a bloodied apron lately removed. Ooh, that Nick, he's mighty careless the way he swings his basket: he'll get an earful later.

Tybalt slinks up to the shop with a large sack with a bloody bottom slung over a wide shoulder. There is a dangerous wariness about him, violence threading it through like a coiled snake. His accent is deeply peculiar. A mix of the far North and Slaver's Bay, with a slight hiss too it from the missing teeth on the scarred side of his face. He speaks slowly and carefully. "Do you buy or just sell?" He cocks his head a little, waiting.

As it happens Esme is aware of his approach before she registers any visible reaction — a small start, her free hand lifting to her heart as she turns to him, and a low exclamation of: "Oh, you startled me, goodman." She gives him a cursory looking up and down, no more than she'd give anyone else who came up to her and addressed her unexpectedly, and not disrespectful. "We buy most of our meat alive from the stockyards," she explains kindly, nodding in the general direction, "and do the killing and skinning on the premises. Ensures the same quality and freshness, you see, for our regular customers… Once in a while I might buy from an independent supplier, dependin'," she allows. "If a customer of mine asks for something that's out of the common way."

Tybalt scratches at his seams absently, "This is fresh. Just skinned it." He lifts it off his shoulder and holds it out towards her. His voice manages to be deep and gravely and slightly nasal at the same time. "Can't get this from a stockyard. Give it a sniff. It was running about two hours ago."

Esme's ancient and work-worn hands remain clasped about the strings of her red-stained apron. "D'you want to tell me what I'm looking at, goodman, first?" she asks softly. Her eyes meet the would-be salesman's without flinching. "And who's like to come lookin' for it next?"

Tybalt nods slowly stepping closer and dropping his voice. "No one's looking for this. Starks and I hunt the same places."

Tybalt doesn't seem guilty at all, though he's likely aware the legalities could be murky. He does seem to be speaking the truth about the age of the meat and the Starks of all people, despite the strong scent of his unwashed body and the fresh blood.

The little shopkeeper holds the great big knife-wielding, beast-skinning foreigner's eyes for another long moment and steps aside, holding the front door, leaving room for him to come into the deserted butcher's shop wherein her son is patiently and methodically making sausages. A dreadful sight.

"Not in the street," she says firmly.

Tybalt shrugs, "You picked the place." Though his tongue is slow, his tuquoise blue eyes are quite sharp and there is amusement playing at the corners of his lips, hard to spot through his deadpan delivery, but there all the same for sharp eyes to spot. he meets her eyes square enough. He doesn't seem at all distressed at the sausage making.

In answer to the amusement she perceives clearly enough Esme raises her eyebrows at him and gives a little shake of her head. "Now, dearie, I can't always pick where I happen to be standin' when someone decides to talk to me," she points out reasonably. And with the door shut behind them she reaches with both her hands (one still trailing her apron) for the sack still held in his, to have a proper businesslike look — and a quick sniff, and a deeper one.

Tybalt opens the sack. It is luckily most of a deer with one haunch missing and not something more alarming. It's been dead the length of time it took to skin it, gutt it, and carry it here. "Too big to eat myself."

Esme takes another deep breath, and still nothing confronts her nose which oughtn't to. Her eyes lift to meet his again, considering. "I daresay I could turn that around, quick enough to be worth the trouble to us both," she concedes quietly; "but I like to have an idea, goodman, who I'm dealin' with. Not so's if anyone asks I can tell, but for my own peace of mind. I've built a reputation in this city. People trust what I sell. Starks and all."

Tybalt nods, taking that in with no sign of insult. "I'm a free man. They call me Tybalt. I swear to no one. I do…" The pause between words here is a scootch longer than his normal slight pause between words, "Hunt with Tellur Snow on occation. We're friends of sorts." He shrugs, "I'm not fond of Starks in general, but Carolis is all right as Lordly types go." No Lord before it, but there is grudging respect in his tone when he speaks iof the Stark heir.

The little shopkeeper listens and nods once or twice, her gaze intent upon Tybalt, weighing every word with the same care as a portion of beef. Or venison, for that matter. "Well, Master Tybalt," she says, rocking once on her heels, "for this I can give you—" And she names a sum, which is perhaps slightly less than he expected, if indeed he had such an expectation.

"I'm sure it's not what you had in mind," she admits candidly, "but all the risk here is on my shoulders — especially in summer. Every minute that's in my shop it's losin' its value," she reminds him, nodding to the sack. "And I'll only take it with first right of refusal on your other leftovers. If I place this as well as I think I can, this morning, I'll be in a position to dispose of more of the same, and with a sure sale ahead I'll give you a better rate. I s'pose you can go elsewhere if you don't like my terms, but I imagine you noticed that half the street's shut up for the festival, and every minute you spend trying to do better what you have to sell will be worth less."

Tybalt listens carefully, head slightly canted, then asks, "What does 'first right of refusal on other leftovers mean?' Do you like rabbits and birds and fish and such or just venison?" He nods, "I noticed shops closed. What's the fuss about? They sacrificing a virgin down at the harbour or something? Man can't get a lick of sleep with the racket."

"Dolphin festival," explains Esme. "They're lucky for sailors, dolphins. The same herd comes every year about this time — and when they go again they leave behind the females who are expecting, to birth their young in the waters of the sound where they'll be safe. For the Faithful it's a time of year sacred to the Mother. The city goes a little mad celebrating, with parades and masked parties and the tourney and what not." She shakes her head indulgently. "First right of refusal means you bring your venison to me, as long as I can sell it. I don't mean every day, mind, but if you hunt fairly regular — you look like a fellow who hunts — and if you bring it in good and fresh, there's a nice little bit of coin in it for both of us. I don't handle fish, and I'm already well set up for rabbits," she adds candidly, "but I wouldn't say no to a brace of pheasants now and again. I can always sell pheasants."

Tybalt looks sceptical, "And they aren't hunting them?" He listens carefully to her directions, "No fish or rabbits. Yes for birds. You want venison and pig butchered or like this?" He guestures at the bloody deer sack.

"Dolphins are sacred creatures here. I wouldn't talk of hunting 'em before anyone else," suggests Esme gently, "especially not this time of year… People aren't likely to take kindly to such talk." Her gaze invites him to understand how it is. "Aye, pheasants and venison, and if you chance upon a good lean boar…" She draws in an appreciative breath, obviously contemplating the rich flavour of such happy wild beasts. "Just like this will do nicely, goodman. If we understand one another, I'll fetch you your money—?"

Tybalt shrugs again, "I'll not speak of it to Southrons." A longer pause. "Thank you." From the sound of it, they are not words often said or heard. In his usual tone he says, "Can't carry a whole boar all this way. I'd need to bring cuts. Smoke the rest, most like. You say which parts you like best and I'll bring them, yes? I don't hunt boar often, but surprises happen to us all." He nods at the offer of money. It's less than he'd like, but the regular custom is worth it.

Esme nods sympathetically. "Ah, well, I can't carry what I used to either," she allows with a rueful sigh. "But if a boar should give you such a surprise, how about you bring me—" And being a woman intimately acquainted with the insides of any creature with blood in its veins she descends into great anatomical specificity, and digresses twice into recipes she considers ideal for such-and-such a bit of boar. There is a real danger she'll make Tybalt hungry with such irresponsible talk of stuffings and glazes, and which leftovers it occurs to her would do nicely in a pie. "… Ah, but I mustn't stand here chattering all day," she concludes, and holds up a finger to bid him to wait as she steps through the door behind the counter.

Seconds later she returns with a pristine white apron in place of the bloodied one, and a handful of coins which she spreads out on the end of the counter for Tybalt to count as she dons her fresh apron and ties its strings.

It is hard to tell from his expression how much of her talk of cooking he follows, but he is still and patient and he nods it the right places, so it's possible he does. His eyes watch carefully as she counts his coins. He slings the sack onto the counter. "Might I trouble you for a new sack? We could trade them back and forth with the meat."

"Aye, that's no trouble." Esme takes another few quick steps across to the door which connects the butchery and grocery; the bell above tinkles as she opens it. "Katla, dearie, pass me over a sack. Biggest you can put your hand on." She looks through, tapping a foot in a worn brown leather sandal. "Yes, that'll do." A blur of blue linen and sacking flits by on the other side of the door before Esme draws it shut again. "Here you are," she says cheerfully, presenting Tybalt with a suitable deer receptacle, not unlike his own. "And if you happen to know the day before you go hunting, and drop me a word somehow or another so I know something's coming, that'd be of help too. Of course you might not know — I know things don't always go to plan — but if you happen to."

Tybalt nods, "Plan to go out day after tomorrow. When I come back depends on how things work out. Likely be birds if I do, unless I see something I can't resist. A haunch goes a long way."

"Good hunting to you," says his new colleague sincerely. "I'm glad we could do business, Master Tybalt. It's a sin to waste such fine meat."

Tybalt offers her a grubby arm to clasp, "It is a sin to waste meat, yes."

"Plenty of hungry people in the world, and plenty of 'em have coin," agrees Esme — and, because she's about to wash her hands in any case, she doesn't hesitate to grasp his arm, in a surprisingly firm grip for a little old lady.

The arm is all corded muscle, lean and hard. A flicker of his eyes suggests he has noted her strength, though nothing else in his expression changes. "The Gods treat you kind. Good Wife?" He's clearly not sure if that's the right form of address, but he gives it a try anyway, then gives her a flash of a quick small smile, fleeting as the eye flicker.

The little shopkeeper's arm looks as scrawny as the rest of her, within the shapeless sleeve of her none-too-well-cut dress of garish striped cloth just beginning to fade, but she's not without a bit of lean muscle of her own. Must be her trade, yes? She's old, but she does still work for a living. "Oh! I'm called Esme," she explains kindly. "Mistress Esme, generally. Seven blessings on you too, dearie, and I hope I shall see you in again very soon."

Tybalt releases her arm, "Mistress Esme. I'll remember." Something in his expression suggest he will, though nothing was written down, not her name or the cuts of meat desired.

Because Esme will remember too, she nods her cheerful acceptance and gives him another quick word of farewell before turning to her lovely new venison. Oh, yes, this'll go over well with one or two special customers, and no mistake.

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