(123-06-04) The Doubtful Guest
The Doubtful Guest
Summary: Tybalt pops round to visit Esme with another of his deer friends. She's a bit doubtful about the smell. Of Tybalt, not the deer. The deer is very fresh.
Date: 04/06/2016
Related: Related Logs (Say None if there aren't any; don't leave blank. You have to use full URLs, like http://gobmush.wikidot.com/logtitle)

Tybalt turns up in the back with most of a deer. His hair is wet, but his clothes are above average nasty smelling.

The first voice he hears from the shop itself is female, familiar, and raised in grand sarcasm. "And wat d'you call that, then?" A pause to see whether her unwilling interlocutor dares call it anything — anything at all. "I thought we were runnin' a clean and decent butcher's shop here; obviously I was mistaken! Must be a backalley slophouse after all."

A spooked apprentice scuttles into view. It can't be said the sight and smell of the former gladiator turned venison entrepreneur conduces to any improvement in his morning. His eyebrows furrow and though he nods to Tybalt he contrives not to take his eyes off the man till he's fetched soap and brush and bucket, and borne these things and the news of a special delivery back into the front of the shop, where Esme is continuing to deliver a lecture on the proximity of cleanliness and godliness. This breaks off briefly. Then, her parting remarks concern the duty owed by apprentices, such as Exhibit A, unto the respectable master butchers, such as Master Edmyn here, who undertake to drum the rudiments of a very fine and lucrative trade into their fat heads.

Then she bustles into the back to see Tybalt. There is no other word for it.

"Well, let's have it out of the bag," she says briskly, sniffing the air and narrowing her eyes at today's unusually pungent venison fairy.

The stag has been gutted and a haunch is missing. It was likely shot close to dnner time last night, this being a few hours into the next morning, but kept creasonably cool overnight.

Esme rolls up her sleeves and affords the late stag her usual more than cursory inspection. With the meat laid out on a long counter beneath an impressive array of sharp things, awaiting further attention, she scrubs her hands and forearms clean of its blood, eyeing Tybalt with an unmistakable thought in her mind. What she says out loud, however, is the date of Lord Carolis Stark's nameday. "It would be mighty convenient if you could bring me somethin' or another that day, or the day before," she mentions. "Venison or birds, good ones — no boar, though, the customer don't fancy boar."

Tybalt nods, "I can make that likely, Mistress Esme. There was another thing I was thinking. Might you be wanting cheap spices like? Not that I have them just now, but I might have some soonish. From Dorne likely, or maybe further?"

Drying her hands in a cursory manner on her apron (which does, at any rate, suggest a clean and decent butcher's shop) Esme turns the rest of the way to face her visitor. "Cheap?" she echoes, lifting her eyebrows in question. "I've nothin' against a bargain, dearie," she's shaking her head, "but my experience has been that you do get what you pay for, with spices. There's a great difference in the taste dependin' on where they come from and whether or not they've been prepared well. Now, some of my customers, they ain't so picky — I do cater to the lower end, round here — but some are, and so'm I on their behalf. So I'd say it depends what you've got hold of."

Tybalt thinks that over. "If you were wanting spices, could you… make a list of what and where? So a man might hunt them out?"

Esme folds her arms over her chest and narrows her eyes at the man. Her air is patient up to a point, but undoubtedly sceptical. "You'd hunt them out, would you," she echoes. "At a better price than I get from my contacts in Lys and Volantis — merchants who owe me favours in turn — and brought over on the ships of men who owed my late husband their lives. That'd be some remarkable huntin', I'd think, Master Tybalt." Then she waits.

Having kicked the puppy, Esme sighs and unfolds her arms and pinches the bridge of her nose. "I don't run my business on sentiment, dearie," she points out softly. "Beat the arrangements I have now and I'll deal with you gladly. But you line your pockets and I line mine, eh? It's the only way it works." On which note she reaches into her own and comes up with a handful of copper and silver, from which she counts out their agreed-upon rate for the better part of a fine fresh stag. "… What kind of offer?" she asks grudgingly.

Tybalt looks down, "Help starting the business maybe. And I've contacts of my own. It'd be sort of like the meat, right? Irregular sort of."

Some coins go back into Esme's pocket, some she jingles in her closed hand. "If it's just now'n again," she allows, "I might be able to take somethin'; but spices, well, they're often in small quantities, and they don't move fast, and I'm not goin' to want to rock the apple-cart with my suppliers over the water. But it'll depend on the quality. I don't know who it is you're dealin' with, but if he thinks you ain't an expert you don't know what you might not end up with," she warns him, a tad sourly. "Some of 'em'll try anythin'. Mixin' in somethin' cheaper that's the same colour, even."

Tybalt nods, defeated, "So spices are no good… what about.. hair dye? Or is there something else small but worth the importing?"

Esme sniffs and breathes out thoughtfully. "I have had a couple of requests lately for hair oils, though I've never dealt in those—" She waves her hand vaguely. "Powders and pastes and whatnot, there ain't much call round here and I need the room on my shelves for things the customers I already have already want… What is it you're tryin' to do here, Master Tybalt?" she asks at last, as she reaches out her hand to drop the coins into his. "And why've you fixed on importing as a means of doin' it? Because you know sailors, reckon it'll give you an edge? I've already got that edge," she points out. "Ask me in ten years, mind, all of mine'll be dead," she allows, concerned to be just, "but I've got it right now and to be goin' on with."

Tybalt looks defeated. He nods miserably, "In ten years I'll have done what I needed to do or have failed. Thank you for the coin, Mistress, Esme."

Esme regards him, a trifle nonplussed. She hesitates. "… Don't think what people already want," she suggests. "Think what you can make 'em want. Start a fashion for somethin' you're the only man can provide. That's what I'd do, if I had to raise a bit of money in a hurry through trade, and I hadn't necessarily an eye to makin' long-term arrangements in a particular place."

Tybalt thinks that over, "Like… hair beads or scented oils for rubbing backs?"

"… Somethin' along those lines, might be," concedes Esme. "But you'd have to get people talkin' about it, and about why your whatever-it-was was the best. Get it into the hands of a few of the nobles round here, that sort of thing. It don't have to be somethin' useful, just somethin' frivolous people would like havin' and showin' off. So not too personal — nothin' a lady, or a woman who fancies herself a lady, would be reluctant to tell her friends about. They're the ones with the coin to throw away, after all."

Tybalt nods sadly, "I will… talk to my business partner."

"Mm. Well," and Esme squints at him a little, obviously wondering who this might be, "that's what I'd do, in any case. Better'n trying to sell people who've already got somethin' what they've already got."

At which juncture the apprentice of earlier note pops in to notify Esme that one of her favourite customers has just come into the grocery: Master Camillo from the Hightower. He (the apprentice) still has wet soapy hands.

"D'you want to step in and say hello?" she asks Tybalt.

Tybalt ducks his head and looks particularly shifty, but fter a moment nods yes, and starts trudging after her.

Esme's squint deepens, but she doesn't rescind the invitation.

They make a charming pair, arriving together in the grocery shop; Talia behind the counter appears delighted both to see her employer, resplendent in red and blue and yellow stripes and in a mood not much better than the one she's been spreading about all morning, and to smell their visitor. Working in Esme's shop has opened so many new horizons for her, the poor girl.

"Mornin', Master Camillo," calls Esme as, having pushed open the connecting door with a joyous tinkle of the bell above, she holds it for Tybalt; "and look who I found at my other door. Such a coincidence!" she exclaims. Her eyes gleam with innocent amusement as she looks from one to the other.

Tybalt's impressive funk proceeds his into the more enclosed space of the shop proper. "After sausages," he explains.

Camillo lifts his eyebrows a little to be greeted by Esme and a rather ripe Tybalt. He bobs his head at both of them, more a duck than a nod. "Hello," he says softly.

It really has got worse. Esme looks as though she's thinking better of bringing these two friends together on her premises. She hasn't shut the connecting door yet; she calls through it to one of the apprentices, and gives him whispered instructions concerning the back room, and sends him on his way with a shake of her apron in his direction. Then, standing where she can keep an eye on his comings and goings through the small panes of thick, bluish glass set in the middle of the door, she glances again from Tybalt to Camillo and asks, "What can I do for you this mornin', dearie?"

Tybalt gives Camillo a small half smile and actually makes eye contact, "Good Morning."

Camillo returns the eye contact that Tybalt does him the favor of making, then looks to Esme. "Um. I thought…I'd like some candles, for myself, the tallow of course," he says. "And…you wouldn't happen to have a small lamp?"

Esme regards this exchange with no small amount of friendly, not to say grandmotherly, interest. "Might be a couple of the little lamps left like I have upstairs, at the back of the shelf behind the candles — I bought them in a job lot," she explains helpfully. "Talia, will you have a look? And Master Camillo's usual tallow tapers, please." She nods to the shop girl, whose grim fate it is not only to come out from behind the counter, but to pass nearer to Tybalt en route to the shelf in question. "Shall we step out the back for a moment?" the shopkeeper herself suggests, rather pointedly, gathering up her visitors with her eyes, the smelly one first. And she holds the door her son's apprentice has just hurried past, and lets them precede her.

Tybalt's smile widens almost imperceptably at Camillo's order. He nods obediently enough to esme's suggestion and head down enough for braids and loose hair to hide most of his expression makes his way out the indicated door, luckily none of him brushing her clothes. He is careful about touch.

"Thank you," Camillo says to Esme, but once she's suggesting a back room meeting, he bobs his head again and seems immediately ready to follow.

The room behind the butcher's shop contains little besides a long wooden counter sporting fresh bloodstains, and a great many tools with very sharp edges. Its floor slopes helpfully toward a central drain.

Leaning nonchalantly against the edge of this table, Esme remarks, "I've been meanin' to ask, if you don't mind my bein' so nosy, how are the lessons comin' along?" She lifts an eyebrow, glancing between the men.

Tybalt thinks over the question, "There are two els in Camillo and I am not a cat."

Camillo nods to confirm Tybalt's remark. He translates: "We're working on reading short sentences." His eyes don't linger too obviously on Esme's implements of butchery or the blood stained surfaces. He looks to Tybalt instead. "I think Tybalt is learning quickly."

Esme eyes Tybalt. "That cat you're not, it wouldn't happen to've been sittin' on a mat?" she inquires drily. Then she smiles, perhaps her first real smile this morning, at the teacher and then the pupil. "I'm glad it's goin' so well. And you know I don't mind passin' such messages as you might have, that's no trouble." She nods. "Though you do seem to meet pretty well just as you are, comin' in like this again. I might start to think you were doin' it on purpose," she chuckles, though of course that could not be the case.

Tybalt is eyeing the implements with professional interest but no alarm. At the compliment he hides deeper in his hair. Is he blushing? It's hard to tell with his tendancy to stand in shadow, but there's a good chance he is. He shakes his head, "No. The King of Cats. From the Story." Which he assumes everyone knows, even though odds are his version is regional and likely the stories popularity too." He takes a step further away at the suggestion it was apurpose.

Camillo knits his brow a little, but he also comes up with a faintly hopeful smile. "You're very kind," he says to Esme. "Though I am sure you see so many people of Oldtown in your shop. We just…have cause to notice when it is friends whose visits overlap."

"That may be so," says Esme kindly, agreeing with Camillo. "Plenty of folk I see I just try to put out of my mind, rather than noticin' as such… There's a story, eh?" This to Tybalt, with a crooked and curious smile. "I don't reckon I've heard that one. Perhaps you might tell me sometime."

Tybalt nods, "It's from a long time ago. There was this man up North before the Andals came."

Camillo looks between the two of them. "It's, um…not so easy, teaching letters after all these years. I only half-remember what it was like to learn, myself."

For the length of time involved Esme has a respectful nod. "That must've been a long time," she agrees. Then, to Camillo: "I remember when my son was tryin' to learn his letters. I couldn't teach, he couldn't learn — a right pair we were," she chuckles, for she has long since made her peace with that particular failure. "The things in life that are really worth doin', they're not apt to be easy, are they? … Now, what were we sayin', Master Tybalt? Same sausages as last time? I'll go and wrap 'em up for you, won't be two ticks."

She smiles from one to the other and steps through into the shop again, though several minutes pass before her return with a sack in each hand. Sausages for one, an oil lamp swaddled in cloth and straw in the other — and Camillo's candles tucked under her arm, for he can put those in his other bag, can't he. She seems to be treading more heavily than usual on her way back in.

The momment she's out of sight Tybalt whispers, "I thought you were still sleeping. I was going to come back with the sausages…."

Camillo rolls a shoulder at Tybalt. "We can go back if you like," he says quietly. "I um…It occurred to me that it's dark. In that room of mine. So…" Things to make light. But Camillo quiets again on Esme's approach. "Thank you," he says, tucking the candles away in his bag and taking the wrapped lamp. "I know you're busy. But it's a help." Not that he doesn't pay like any other customer.

Tybalt flashes him that small private smile of his, and murmurs, "I'd like that. Next time it rains, I'll come." He had moved close for murmuring, but on hearing her return steps back to where he was, all innocent like. he fishes out coin for the sausages, knowing how much his regular order is apt to cost.

The exchange of goods and coin occupies a moment or two and everybody's hands, in turn: "Bless you," says Esme to Camillo, and "There we are" to Tybalt, and then "I don't sell the oil for it, but her three doors down should be able to set you right," to Camillo again, with a nod. "Thank you both for comin' in to see me," she adds, helping make believe this is a social more than a mercantile occasion, "and you know I'm never too busy, eh?"

Camillo dips his head thankfully to Esme. "You're always kind," he confirms, and looks Tybalt's way. "I'm sure she's as good to you." In the sale of sausages and that alone.

Tybalt nbobs his head politely, "Thank you, Mistress Esme. For everything." He follows his friend out, clutching his sausage bundle and new sack.

Esme sees them out and then opens all the windows.

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