(123-06-02) Morning Chores
Morning Chores
Summary: Rafe has a few questions for Esme; he's positively floored by the answers.
Date: Oh, who remembers these things.
Related: A Tolerance for Crows

The downstairs door bolted. The furniture pushed against the walls or out onto the landing. The apron taken from its hook and the baldric hanging there instead. The mistress of the flat making pastry and minding the kettle as it begins to boil, and the knight of the Night's Watch on his knees with a bucket and a brush and a cake of soap. A simple, homey little scene.

Ser Rayford is many things, not least of all a man who has scrubbed a floor or two. Not when he could avoid it, but his efficiency with the brush says that he has experience. He's not a man to work in silence, though; he whistles as he works, making up the tune as he goes, or rattles on about life on the road, or asks questions. Questions like: "Do you know anyone as speaks Braavosi? I met a woman the other day, from Braavos, and I reckon she's some sort of lady. She says she ain't, though, and she's a key holder instead. Any idea what that means?" His recall isn't perfect, but perhaps good enough.

Where Esme stands at her sideboard she has set out a slab of pale blue and white marble, almost a square but with one slanted edge: an odd object to find in a smallfolk home, to be sure, but there she is, folding pastry upon it, again and again, pausing only to sprinkle the odd pinch of flour or to dip her hands into a bowl of water in which shards of ice are still melting. She glances over her blue and white striped shoulder at Rafe, eyes narrowed; "Keyholder?" she repeats, her inflection near as nevermind to Ida Imaldi's own. "… Happens I do know that one," she admits, turning back to her work, "heard it before somewhere I know you'll be too polite to inquire into. It could mean… one of a number of things, I reckon, in practice."

"Seemed important," Rayford says, shrugging away the question of where Esme might recognize the term. "And Seven, but she's a clever one. Reckon I'll see her again soon, though I don't know precisely when, so if you might give me any advice on dealing with a Braavosi key holder it'd be well received, and mayhaps put to good use." All of this is set across a backdrop of scrubbing, his voice raised to carry over the sound of the brush on the floor.

It's that industrious accompaniment provided by brush against floorboards which inspires Esme to go on. "In Common it'd be, keyholder," she explains, "and if she's so clever as you say, well. I hardly like to tell you what it probably amounts to — you'll go off lookin' for trouble," she predicts, somewhat dourly. "Mind you get into that corner," she adds with another glance; "just because it's dark over there don't mean I won't be lookin'."

Rafe nods his head in the direction of the corner, but instead leans in to get his face closer to the stone he's scrubbing. "Just let me get…" He trails off into a grunt, his scrubbing suddenly more intense, if only for a moment. "Now, Mistress, you know as I'd avoid trouble if I could," he finally says, once he's satisfied that whatever he was attacking with such vigor is now gone. "I take my ease, when I can."

Whatever it was, was probably imaginary — or no more than a shadow on the stone of the back wall. Esme keeps a very clean flat.

"That's just what I mean," utters the pastry-cook, conveying with each syllable her low opinion of his character. "… That was probably the richest woman you've ever set eyes on," she explains reluctantly. "What d'you know about the Iron Bank of Braavos?"

Rayford, caught mid-crawl on the way toward the corner, pauses to give Esme a queer look over his shoulder. Skepticism meets the certain knowledge that he should not be skeptical, and it makes for a bizarre twist of the lips, a narrowing of one eye, and a thorough wrinkling of his nose. "I know what everyone knows, I reckon," he offers with a shrug of his shoulders, then pushes forward again on hands and knees toward the corner. "Big, rich, some folk say dangerous. What don't I know? Sounds like there's a bit of that."

"Big, rich, dangerous," agrees Esme, flicking Rafe a dark and pointed glance to be sure he hears that word and the emphasis she places upon it.

There are two empty pie-tins on the sideboard; the cook, satisfied with her labours thus far, commences to roll out her pastry and cut it to fit. "… Long time ago, before the Doom of Valyria," she explains vaguely, "when the city of Braavos was bein' founded in secret by slaves escaped from the Freehold, some of 'em hid what they had that was valuable in an abandoned iron mine. The shafts began to fill with other people's treasures as well, given to 'em for safekeeping, and gradually they began to make loans… Well, in those first days there were twenty-three of 'em, sixteen men and seven women, who owned keys to that mine. They've got hundreds of descendants now, all told, who are still called keyholders. Some of those families have lost the power they had. But if you met a clever one, well. There's no sayin', is there?"

His attention split between Esme and the floor, Rafe struggles with which one to look at. His dark eyes flit back and forth as he works, now starting at the corner, and listens to the tale. "Is that so?" Frowning, he eventually pauses in his work to focus on the way the tale plays out in his imagination. "Twenty-three, and now hundreds. Well, Mistress, I dare say I know clever — I'm no halfwit myself — but this one might think circles 'round me. She were on about capital, and revenue streams, and the like."

"If I were you I'd be careful," is Esme's advice, apropos of the expert manipulation of a small knife suitable to pastry, "of tanglin' with any such people. You may fancy yourself a clever lad, you may think rings round your brother crows and most everybody else you come across, but those bankers—" She glances at him again, lips pursed. "They're a different sort. They think on a different scale, they can make trouble on a different scale. A lord can ruin you in his fief, a great lord in a kingdom or two. The Iron Bank, they can ruin you the whole world over. They say a Lannister always pays his debts — well, they say, the Iron Bank always gets paid. No matter what."

"I've no needs worth runnin' a debt over," Rayford protests, indignant. "I'm seen to, Mistress, and a bit besides. Have no worry on my behalf." He continues to work along the wall now, moving out from the room's dim corner. "And no wish to tangle, with her or anyone. Whatever else might be said of me, and there's a good bit I'm certain, you know that much to be true."

The first pie-tin being lined with pastry Esme exchanges it for the other; rolling pin in hand, she turns to Rafe and sighs, "I wasn't talkin' about a loan of coin. Just that such people ain't anythin' near what you're used to people bein'. Well," and she sprinkles another pinch of flour upon her marble tile and briskly wields the rolling pin, "you can't say as I didn't warn you." She sniffs. "What else've you been up to lately? Found yourself any new crows?"

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