(123-12-17) That For This
That For This
Summary: Camillo and Sal strike another deal, this one having to do with the exchange of goods. Namely, hard-won cheese.
Date: Dec. 17/2016
Related: This For That, Old Man Yells at Cheese

Widow's Walk Pension - Harbour Street

This big shabby pension house offers small rooms with narrow beds, including blankets that sometimes even get washed, and half-board — two meals a day, morning and evening. The food's coarse and cheap and the serving sizes are kept sternly modest, but you won't starve. The straw-filled mattresses are almost clean, and the price is small. The Widow's Walk is popular among sailors who want to actually get some rest between voyages. It also serves as a permanent home for some whose poverty is too deep to be genteel, but who still hold on to respectability. The formidable landlady assures that respectability is maintained.

The floors are wide wooden planks, dark with age. The walls are unadorned, just stained plaster and dark timbers.

Here, the ground floor's main room is dominated by a big dining table, kept well-scrubbed but bare. It's flanked with long benches. Near the kitchen door is a large sideboard with a washbasin sitting on it — before meals there's a pitcher of hot water for residents to wash up. There's no other furniture, and residents are not encouraged to hang about in the common areas except for mealtimes. There are doors to three bedchambers on this floor, and a narrow wooden stair leading up.

Camillo has made certain inquiries after hearing that portions of the prize cheese wheel may yet remain…perhaps in quantities greater than the winner needs. So it is that he turns up at the Widow's Walk pension, in his plainest clothes, usual shapeless bag on one shoulder.

Inside the pension house, the evening meal has just been cleared away from the big old dining table in the center of the room. The smell of vegetable stew, as well as the scent of various residents stewing in various degrees of their own filth (though not too much filth, as the landlady is insistent that they wash up before every meal) still lingers in the air, not yet stale. Warmth drifts in from the kitchen, which rattles with the sounds of scraping dishes. Residents are just now trailing away up the single staircase to their rooms — all but a short elderly figure hunched over a bowl of stew at one end of the table and — as Camillo's luck would have it — Sal, henceforth known as Cheese Girl, next to a boy child. He's less than ten, more than six, and taking his sweet time eating the hunks of turnip growing cold in his bowl. He has sandy hair, a slightly upturned nose, and a sweet, round face that doesn't seem to be presently endearing to Sal, who is literally bending over backwards in boredom. Hands crossed behind her head of dark hair, she's stretched so far off the bench that her hair brushes the ground behind it in an expression of rather remarkable flexibility and sheer tedium.

"… can't eat only cheese, mate," her voice is in the midst of drifting up to the boy in pointed complaint for his stalling when a quick turn of her head alerts her to the visitor. "Hey, it's you!" she calls out from this odd angle, sitting up straight only after the fact.

Camillo might be about to ask if he has the right place when the girl sits up and he only then recognizes her face. "Oh," he says. "Then it was you. I suppose it's not surprising. I've come to see if you want to barter."

"Oh, yeah?" Sal's tone is mocking, but her smile is more cheeky than ill-intended. She gestures at herself with a wave of both hands. "You looked at me 'n' thought 'oh fuck she looks like the queen of cheese', eh?" A hint of irritation with her newfound dairy windfall colours her already colourful commentary. She's beaming and giving Camillo a wink a second later, though, and gives the boy next to her an encouraging slap on the back to hurry up with his meal already. "Alright, let's see whatcha got. Not here, though. Can't be hangin' about." She murmurs something in the child's ear and he dutifully takes his bowl to the kitchen to save the cook the hassle. Sal heads toward the stairs, waving Camillo along.

"Well, you're quick and clever, I already knew that." He eyes the stairs cautiously for a moment before following, but then mounts them behind Sal, keeping mum while they go up toward her room.

Mum is not Sal's prerogative, however. "If everyone didn't know I got the cheese, they'd think I was running a one-woman brothel up here," she half-jokes, half-complains. The boy follows along shortly thereafter. He's more plodding on the stairs than his apparent guardian. She practically flies up them. She only slows toward the end of the dim second floor corridor, turning around in front of the fifth door. She looks back, hesitation showing.

"Not that it's any secret to the hungry masses, but don't go tellin' anyone where I'm at, yeah?" Underneath the same leather shirt she was wearing the first time she — rather literally — ran into Camillo, she tenses before unlocking and opening the door.

It's dark as a cave inside, but Sal knows just where to reach to re-light the candle in the sconce by the wall. The room is as small and drab as any other in the Widow's Walk Pension House, bearing no decoration, any belongings hidden away in bags and a chest. There's one simple straw mattress bed and another, makeshift bed a few feet away from it fashioned out of only straw and a wool blanket.

Camillo nods his agreement to stay quiet. "If you prefer," he answers. He stays in the corridor until she seems ready for him to enter. He keeps his eyes on her rather than her stuff, shrugging off his bag. "We'll see if you want anything I brought."

The boy shuffles in after Camillo and closes the door, paying no mind to the bartering adults as he maneuvers around them. "I'm curious to know what a servant've the fancy tower's got tucked away in 'is bag," Sal says with a crooked, amused grin, rubbing her hands together in a show of anticipation more than the real thing, though her look upon Camillo's bag certainly is curious. The boy, meanwhile, has gone straight for the main bed, climbing on and reaching under the thin mattress to fish out a small wooden toy ship, roughly hewn but with a real fabric sail. He goes about making it sail around the ocean that is the blanket, every so often making a quiet splashing noise with his mouth when the ship crests a pretend wave.

"Mostly herbs," Camillo says, kneeling down to pull out a few cloth-wrapped packages. He doesn't seem to mind the boy, much. "Herbs that do various things. Dull pain. Heal wounds. Bring down fevers. Lighten bruises."

"Coulda used that last one just after chasin' the thing down the bloody hill," Sal points out with a glance to an amorphous shadow against one wall — the resting place of the vaunted cheese. She crosses her arms, looking unimpressed. At least one side of her mouth tugs down, considering.

"Sorry, I didn't hear until recently," Camillo says. "But…I wonder if someone like you won't need them again. They're fresh now, but they can be dried for later."

"The kind've stupid person who'd toss herself down a hill after a wheel of cheese?" Sal posits — but again cracks a mischievous smile. It fades as she considers the herbs and their properties further, already defined furrows deepening in her brow. "Well," she says, admitting, "I wouldn't know what to do if 'e caught a fever again." She bobs her head to indicate the boy behind her on the bed without turning to look. He seems happily engrossed in his own world. Her gaze jolts to Camillo, then, latching on. "What are you, some kind've healer? Or just a gardener? If I smell this, it's not going to smell like my dinner, is it?" She swipes for a package as if to test just that.

Camillo smiles a little in return. "Maybe," he says. About Sal diving after cheeses, that is. "I'm not exactly a healer. But I'm from the country, where we don't have Maesters but we do have plants. I helped a little during the plague around the Undercity. That's all." The herbs smell fresh, medicinal. "For a child, pour hot water over half a leaf from the red packet and let it steep a little."

Sal kneels to properly examine the herbs as though with a trained eye and a trained nose when, in fact, their vaguely medicinal smell and unfamiliarity is good enough to convince her they're not household spices, at the very least. She nods to Camillo, seeming to agree. "Yeah, all right." She stands up with a sigh, reluctant to commit even after she's agreed. "A bit've each, then. For a rainy day." She uncrosses her arms; they swing as she goes to the cloth-covered cheese. It's been wrapped and wrapped and wrapped again, nestled against the cold wall. It's been cut down sizably by this point, but there's still numerous pounds to go. Layer by layer, Sal undoes the carefully arranged folds. "How's the high life, hey?" she queries, casually chipper, meanwhile. "In the tower?"

Camillo keeps a few from each bundle for himself, but he leaves more for Sal in the packets than might equal the price of any ordinary, non-prize-winning cheese. Of course, they probably both benefit by not having to put their goods into currency first. "It's the same as usual," he says. "You consider sending the boy out as a servant one day?"

Sal pauses her unfolding of the cloth before she reaches the last layer. She simply stares down for a moment. "… they get a lot of visitors, the Hightowers? From away, like. They must, all those ships in and out of the harbour…" The boy pauses — listening for his fate out of the adults' mouths, perhaps — but goes right back to sailing his toy ship.

"Some," Camillo says. "From Dorne, from the North. From other parts of the Reach. Why do you ask?" he wants to know. His expression gives a hint of kindliness behind its usual neutrality.

Sal glances back, but it's so quick, it's almost too fleeting to catch Camillo's expression. Once she's looking back down at the cheese, she remains so, frozen for a moment longer. Quiet, too, which is the stranger part. "Had some trouble before," she goes on to explain without explanation. "Might not be the best place for 'im." She turns her head far enough to reveal the scrunch of her nose, the light grimace of her mouth. "Surrounded by all those noble folk." She unveils the remaining cheese wheel - more of a cheese wedge, now — along with a knife. It's not a cheese knife, but it's sharp and (debatably) clean. With it, she estimates a generous portion, squints, adjusts it smaller, and looks at Camillo.

Camillo is quiet for a moment at that explanation. At last he says, "I've had trouble in my time. But. If the Hightowers cause too much risk, what about another house? I know some people at the Weirwood Manse."

"Weirwood? They must be from the North," Sal pieces together. She goes about cutting a piece of the cloth big enough to neatly wrap the sliced cheese in. She bites down in thought, jaw tense and square. "I dunno," she hems, her slightly off-continent accent drawing her vowels oddly. "It's up to me to keep 'im safe, yeah? I couldn't just leave 'im to work like that where anythin' could happen." By now, the boy at the center of the topic has looked up from his toy again and sat on the edge of the bed, looking trepidatious. Sal shoots him a reassuring smile, full of care and none of her usual flippancy. "Good of you to look out though," she tells Camillo, standing and offering the cheese (sized at only her discretion).

"I understand," Camillo says, and he doesn't seem casual. He reaches out to accept his hunk of cheese, then looks to the boy. "You like ships?" he asks.

Sal's gaze softens a bit; minute gratitude for understanding. She goes about taking the bartered herbs and putting them away in the chest that also serves as a night-stand.

The boy's eyes — small, a little bit beady in comparison to his round face — go a bit wider at being spoken to, but when he hears the question, they light up. He looks from Camillo to the carved ship and simply nods rapidly.

Camillo kneels down to talk to the boy, just a tad slower on one knee than the other. "Then perhaps one day you'll be a sailor," he says, and takes time to give the toy ship a good looking-over. "When you are bigger and stronger. For now, you are lucky to have someone who minds what becomes of you. Many never do. It's important to get a good start in life. You must take her advice on when and how to do it."

There's a brief wisp of a moment in which the boy starts to look contrarily worried — uncertain, perhaps — over the notion of becoming a sailor, but it's overcome by the following notion of being bigger and stronger. He listens closely; his gaze is a soft one, a gentle little soul behind it. He says nothing: only nods and makes a quick gesture with a flat hand that has no particularly universal meaning.

"He doesn't talk," Sal explains, coming out of a long and thoughtful look at the child brought on by Camillo's words. "He says 'yes, thank you'." She grins at the child. "Hear that? That's a new one! First time for everythin', hey! Wise man, this Camillo. Not wiser than me though," she says and winks.

Camillo stands up, nodding at the boy. "You're welcome." Then he looks to Sal. "He doesn't talk, but he hears just fine, doesn't he?" he asks. "Not talking…that's a boon in many lines of work. I myself… I prefer a deaf landlady." Though surely he lives at the Hightower like most servants. "And I have probably had more coins from nobles for /not/ saying something than for speaking." He hefts his hunk of cheese. "I should stop troubling you."

"Ha!" Sal gives an entertained bark of laughter, all grins as she gets to her feet, the herbs secured in the chest with the majority of the few belongings shared between her and the boy. "Make lots've noise, do ya? Wouldn't have pegged it," she jokes. More seriously — barely — she answers, "Yeah, nah, his ears're fine, as good as mine. Suppose it does make him the best keeper've secrets around." In fact, she winks knowingly at the child, to his amusement. She heads for the door. "Thanks for the medicine then," she says jovially. "You're not as irritating as most've 'em who's come through lookin' for a slice."

"Well, no, but…" Camillo protests, blushing somewhat at this accusation that he could be a noisy neighbor. But he moves along toward the door, picking his bag up again. "If you run out of medicine and he ever gets sick…you can send for me at the Hightower. Camillo."

"Hey, 'ppreciated, mate," Sal says earnestly, even if it is followed up by a decidedly silly smile. She opens the door for him — largely because the wood is old and the lock is warped, and it takes several shakes and a good pull to open and let him into the dark corridor. The boy's crept up behind Sal to wave at the departing visitor.

Camillo lifts his hand in a shy wave to the child, then slips out into the corridor, tucking the cheese into his bag.

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