(123-02-28) Unsettling Jewellery Club
Unsettling Jewellery Club
Summary: Esme has a new necklace. Camillo has feelings. More feelings than you'd think any man could have about a necklace he neither gave nor received.
Date: 28/02/2016
Related: Where she got it.

The red and yellow grocery shop in Oldtown Square remains defiantly open despite the lack of custom — though a few people have wandered in on their way home from the tourney, among them the shopkeeper herself. She is wearing a green and orange striped dress, familiar to her regular customers, and a cheerful blue headscarf which is not the one she went out in this morning.

Her usual shop girl is with her behind the counter, stationed with a ledger. She from her stool is dictating quantities and prices and names as fast as they can be taken down, a regular shopping list of someone's. But when her front door bell tinkles of course she looks up, and a welcoming smile paints her plain and elderly features as she recognises a friend of sorts.

"Master Camillo! Come in. Did you get to the tourney after all?" she inquires. "I didn't see you…" But he may, all things considered, have seen her.

Camillo may be hung over, or just tired, but his face looks a bit odd: circled under the eyes, and clean shaven, which it almost never is. It makes him look younger, perhaps less rough. Perhaps less guarded and concealed. He slips in quietly. "I've only come to buy candles for myself," he says, so she won't expect a large Hightower order. "No, I didn't attend." He pauses, then does ask: "Was it…? How was it?"

"… Oh!" And Esme can't help but chuckle and shake her brightly-scarfed head. "Katla, I'll finish that; you fetch down the candles Master Camillo wants, eh?" And the girl ducks her head and nudges the ledger and the inkwell along the counter towards her employer, and smooths her apron as she comes out from behind it and steps across to the shelf where candles live. Her fresh young gaze is questioning. Esme plucks the quill from its rest on the edge of the inkstand and takes over, slowly, the task of book-keeping. "It was interestin'," she confides, her amused dark gaze flicking up to Camillo's face. "Ser Malcolm Storm won the jousting. Did very well for himself, I'd say. I don't know whether you've seen him fight before, of course…" She trails off.

Camillo blinks back at Esme's chuckling and amusement, obviously unsure how to react, but it's plain that the news of the tourney matters to him. "He won?" he echoes, nodding. "I've seen him fight several times. I think he is the best among those who fight in Oldtown. And a very good knight. Did he contend in melee, or only jousting?"

Esme looks to the shop girl's hand still faltering between beeswax and tallow, and breathes out a vexed little sigh and reminds her of Master Camillo's usual order for candles, which she certainly knows and is patently disappointed that her employee doesn't. (He's a wee bit earlier than usual but she assumes it'll be the same. Late nights meanwhile, eh?) Then, as the candles arrive next to the ledger, she underlines a number in it and looks up at Camillo again and sighs. "Aye, well." A faint smile threatens to take over her colourless lips. "Only the jousting this year, not the melee. You may've noticed if you've seen him before that he's apt to ask a favour of some old woman in the smallfolk stands… I didn't know what to do, dearie, a lance comin' right at me like that," she complains, sounding pleased.

Camillo doesn't ask for anything different, certainly. But his eyebrows loft as she puts in her part of the tourney story. "Yes," he agrees. "He did that last year. But this year…you? Did he bear your favor for the joust? Do you know him?"

"Well, he's got an account here," admits Esme, "he likes the sausages we do, the little ones with the Essosi spices. So I s'pose he may've recognised me when he saw me and thought he'd do the same again, I don't know why… Yes, I gave him the scarf I had on," she says seriously, "and every time he broke a lance his squire would tie it onto a new one. Down by the hilt so it was safe. Lance after lance—!" She sucks in an impressed breath. "Half a dozen at least. Someone could've had a right good fire from the pieces. I didn't know all of 'em in the heats, o' course," she explains, "but later on I did see Ser Malcolm go up against Ser Loryn Tyrell. He's another customer of mine — they were very well-matched; it went on quite a while and it was just six of one and half a dozen of the other — till Ser Malcolm finally unhorsed him… Then at the last, he fought one of the Hightower lads, Ser Brynden I think it was, and he bested him too but only on the points. Only on one point. Neither of 'em lost their seats," she concludes. Her quill pauses now and again but never quite stops writing, till the columns before her are almost filled by her neat and legible hand, and the totals added up.

Camillo holds still while he listens, obviously keen for the details. "I don't know what they do with broken lances," he admits quietly, but obviously he doesn't mean that to interrupt her tale. "Ser Malcolm is surely stronger in a joust than Ser Loryn," he opines. "At the last Dolphin games, he defeated an enormous brute."

"That's what I thought too — but p'raps Ser Loryn's been practicing?" suggests Esme. "Either that or my scarf wasn't very good at its job—!" Another shake of her head, marveling. "He did give it back to me after," she hastens to assure Camillo, "and it had a mark on it from the first round, you know, when I'd only tied it on the end and it fell off in the dirt — but that'll come out. They were very careful with it. That surprised me," she concedes. And then she eyes the square through her windows, and the glass panes in the connecting door which leads to the butcher's shop next door; "Mind you," she confides leaning nearer, "so did this." And her hand comes up from under the counter and spills a silver dolphin necklace, glittering with sapphires and a single firegem, over the side of her ledger where the ink is dry.

Camillo shakes his head at Esme's admission of surprise. "Ser Malcolm is different from the rest of them," he claims. "He cares about—" He stops short when the necklace makes an unexpected appearance. The way his eyes change shape suggests that he recognizes the piece. He stares for a moment, then looks up at Esme. "He gave you this?"

Looking not as another woman might at her prize — but at Camillo, for his reaction to it — Esme's own eyes narrow. "I grant you it ain't much in my line," she concedes, referring to the necklace's value as much as its style. She purses her lips. "You look as though you've seen a… Somethin', anyway."

Camillo reacts Esme's reference to his expression by removing the traces of surprise from it. "It looks very like the one he was awarded last year," Camillo says, though it is questionable how he might have seen the details of a necklace amid a crowd at a tourney many yards away. "Did they…give these again?"

"It was first prize for the jousting," explains Esme, still studying him minutely, "and when Ser Malcolm came across with my scarf, he gave me it as well… If he'd already been given one like it," she speculates, "I can't think what he'd do with another, unless he has a great many sweethearts."

Camillo looks somehow vaguely doubtful as he eyes the necklace again, reaching out a hand to turn it over unless that seems to upset Esme. "It…must be expensive," he says softly.

Merely touching it doesn't bother Esme. It's so shiny, everyone who's had a look at it so far wanted to touch it. "I don't know what I'm going to do with it," she confesses, "and that's the truth. Not much call for jewellery such as that down the Shambles. I didn't like to refuse it, though."

"Don't sell it," Camillo requests, looking up quickly. But then he looks aside, realizing that that sounded a little too invested, and too rude. "Or… Well, does it mean something to you? It's very nice that he gave it to you."

The necklace vanishes beneath the counter again with a sweep of Esme's hand. No need to show it off to anyone else who may or may not come in. "Katla," she calls to the shop girl without looking, "go through and start cleaning up. We'll close soon, eh?" And as the door shuts behind her hapless and hard-working employee, she meets Camillo's eyes again and says pointedly, "It don't mean as much to me as I'm thinkin' it does to you."

She waits.

Camillo looks a little worried when Esme sweeps the thing away and starts talking about closing. He takes a step back. "I'm sorry," he says. "I don't mean to…I have no right to say what you should do with it. Only it's very nice. You deserve to keep it. If it was given to you. If you can."

Her left hand reappears and she leans it idly on the edge of the counter, appearing in no hurry to get on with closing now that it just so happens they're alone with nobody listening. "I've often observed," she mentions in a friendly enough way, "it's the things one doesn't know, because other people think one doesn't need to be told, that are apt to trip one up unexpectedly. If I were to keep that necklace — if I were even to wear it, someday or another — it seems to me there might be something in that I didn't intend. Now, I'd not like to do anything I didn't intend, if you see what I mean, dearie."

Camillo shakes his head. "No," he says. "I don't think so. He gave it to you, so he can't possibly be offended that you would wear it." He pauses, looking aside. "It's…last year, when he was given one, he gave it to a lady. And she sold it. I… Not that you can blame her. I'm sure it bought a lot for her family. But I thought it was… A shame, I suppose. That it was just sold to a jeweler for anyone to pick up. I just think that's sad. I think it would be better if you kept it because you were meant to have it and you know where it comes from and you saw how it was won and you can tell people the story if they ask."

These strike Esme as very complex and intense feelings for a man to have about a piece of jewellery which has never so much as passed through his own hands. "Friend of his, are you?" she nudges thoughtfully. "Ser Malcolm's I mean."

"I know him somewhat," Camillo admits, nodding once. "I fought once under his command. Just…a small thing, but…when people were needed. He has been kind to me when we have met after that."

The shopkeeper nods. 'A small thing' isn't a description to be taken too seriously when it's a matter of men and warfare, by any means. He might mean casual comradeship; he might mean a bond of eternal loyalty. "And you think he didn't like last year's necklace being sold," she says, "though anyone who knows the world…" She shrugs one thin shoulder. "A necklace don't put fuel in the fire and food in the children's bellies." The page before her being dry enough by now she closes the ledger, and restores the cap to the ink-well. "If I weren't to keep it, and I weren't to sell it, I wonder what you'd think was best…" She clears her throat. "As someone who knows the fellow who gave it."

"No," Camillo says quickly, shaking his head. "He knew she would sell it. He would not have begrudged her that. I just thought…" He closes his mouth again, running out of the power of explanation. "But…why not keep it?" he asks. "It's well made, wouldn't it give you pleasure to wear it?"

Esme's head in its fresh blue scarf tilts. "Then wouldn't he assume I'd sell this one?" she suggests. "Wouldn't you?" Assume, or sell, or both.

Camillo seems uncomfortable now. "I'm sure he did," he admits, nodding. "And it's not my business. It belongs to you, so…you should do what you want. I wasn't thinking, before I said that."

"You were thinking something," Esme chides him gently, "but you're not going to tell me what. And that's a mite unsettling for us both, isn't it? I don't know that I'd ever care to put on a necklace that was so… unsettling to people," she mentions, sitting straighter on her stool with both hands now resting in her lap. "As well as it not really bein' suitable to someone like me."

Camillo looks unhappy with Esme's motherly chiding. "But I think you do deserve it," he says. "I think it would be suitable for you. Just because you are smallfolk does not mean you should not have it. Does it? I think it would be fine on you." His shoulders climb a little. "It isn't /unsettling/, I only think it's…special. It's a shame for it to go and sit in a case with everything else and no one know what it is."

"Every tourney has a few pretty prizes," mentions Esme in a mild tone. "And if they gave away the same style of necklaces last year, it's not even one of a kind, is it? There might be half a dozen or more all the same."

Camillo's face looks a little tight around the eyes and cheeks, but he nods, forced to admit the truth in these things.

Whereupon she tacks back in the other direction. "Mind you, it's not a bad story, is it?" she agrees. "Famous tourney knight asks a favour of a wrinkly old shopkeeper, and bestows upon her the fancy necklace he won bearing it. You think it's a story I ought to go about tellin', then?" Pick, pick.

Camillo shrugs at the question. "I don't know," he says. "If it makes you happy. But I didn't… How much for the candles?"

Esme mentions the usual price of his candles, and then just sits on her stool and looks at him. She hasn't worked it out yet. She probably will eventually.

Camillo looks down to get money out of his purse and pay for the candles. "I didn't mean to tell you what to do," he says apologetically. "I think you should do as you please."

"Aye, I'll do as I please with it," the little shopkeeper assures him lightly, sweeping the coins off the counter with her left hand into her right, and filing them away in the vicinity of the necklace. Clink, clink. "But you know I'm always interested in your opinions of things, Master Camillo."

"Well, I…said," he says. "But it's not my business."

Esme breathes out and nods, agreeing with him, still speaking easily, nonchalantly. "It's my business, right enough. But I did ask you, didn't I?" she reminds him, because to her way of thinking that makes it all right to say. In fact, that makes it downright obligatory to say…

Camillo squints a little, maybe not sure what that means. He picks up his bundle of candles. "Anyway, I… Sometimes I have strange opinions. But I don't mean to delay your closing the shop."

"It ain't quite time yet," Esme promises him sincerely, "I only sent the girl away in case you might speak more freely without her listening, see? And you're entitled to your opinions, of course," she adds, "and you've no reason to be shy of givin' them to me. I don't ask things I don't really want to know."

"I just…I don't know," Camillo says, tucking the candles under his arm. "I know he gives them away to help the common people. I know he would want you to do whatever you please with it."

"I've no doubt he would." Esme pauses. "I met your lady for a minute today," she mentions in passing. "Lady Marsei Hightower. Very nice she was too."

She's perched on her stool behind the counter, with a bright blue headscarf in place of the green one she donated earlier for other uses, and her hands folded in her lap; and Camillo is standing across from her with a bundle of tallow candles under his arm. Of her shop girl there is presently no sign.

Flox steps in, wiping his feet. Is that… is he wearing some sort of moss and smoke smelling cologne? Certainly his greying hair is freshly combed.

The change in topic puts Camillo momentarily off-balance. "Lady Marsei?" he repeats. "Oh, she is always very kind…" He doesn't turn yet to see who's come in.

The turn of the doorhandle, the tinkle of the bell — Esme's head swivels, of course, according to her inevitable custom, and she gives her latest customer (well, not really) a little nod of greeting. "Evening, goodman," she says mildly, and then to Camillo, "She was very kind to everyone, of course." The most innocent of remarks. Not at all accompanied by any change in her eyes.

Flox has a covered basket on his arm. A sharp nose will pick up an herbal smell to the contents, though the smoke in the cologne masks it well. The man is neatly dressed as usual, in the same gray tunic from earlier. Soft boots carry him quietly into place as if waiting in line behind Camillo, slightly to his left so he might watch her face.

"I should go," Camillo says, and turns towards the door. And Flox is standing there. He's briefly taken aback by an unexpected familiar face. "Master Flox," he says. "Is there anything needed at the Hightower?"

"Aye, good evening, Master Camillo — I'll not keep you any longer," says Esme in amiable answer to Camillo's assertion of his imminent departure.

Behind his back however she risks giving Flox a very slight sideways smirk. Let's see what's needed at the Hightower, shall we?

Flox gives Camillo a bland smile, "Nothing. My Prince and your Lady have turned in for the night. Mine has had his special tea and likely will be under the bed until after lunch tomorrow. It was a bit of a tiring day. Do tell the kitchen best to make Jam cakes for tomorrow afternoon. I'll wager he'll be wanting them." So bland, so professional.

Camillo dips his head to Flox. "Very well," he answers, "I'll see to it." But he doesn't stop for a personal chat. He heads out with one last nod for Esme.

Esme nods once more to Camillo and gives him a friendly, innocent smile.

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