Jump to content



The day's business - Open thread


Recommended Posts

8th of Aien, 998 - Winternight


The waves of the Errinin splashed gentled through Tar Valon's southern harbor as the noon day sun ceased its ascent to the mark the days apex. The sun burned brilliantly its rays chasing away the last vestiges of winter and illuminating the shining white spire of the Tower at the city's heart. At this time, on this day as it did only one other time each year the sun seemed to float perfectly overhead and for a moment the shadow of the Tower disappeared. And yet back at the southern harbor a man walked in the Tower's Shadow. Though the sun cast its raidance across his path, he did not walk in the Light.


It was early. As Devin cast his gaze across the harbor, searching for a ship that was the one thought on his mind, it was too early. Squinting against the sun's glare on the water he finally gave up on finding his target, all the boats looked the same to him no matter how many times he'd made this kind of trip. Wandering over to the harbor master's stall he called out to the official in charge of tracking the moorings, "Where would I find the Redfish?"


The clerk quickly checked a sheet and replied back, "Third dock from the end, first berth." He gave Devin a second look, likely marking his face in anticipation of his return. Devin had the appearance of a merchant and that meant he'd be back soon to pay the tax on whatever goods the ship was set to receive from the boat in question.


Devin nodded, adjusted his coat and started walking through the crisp afternoon air towards the dock. In any other city he'd have flipped the man a coin in thanks and to grease the wheels on his return, but not in Tar Valon. Here that smacked too close to bribery and while the Aes Sedai weren't so harsh either man would face criminal charges for such a meager act, the clerk wouldn't hold his position for long. Devin of course, didn't need any extra scrutiny on his trip to the harbor. The redfish had a shipment of Tea for Devin's shop and that shipment had a set of correspondence secured inside it. News from his fellow Friends, news for for mistresses. Such things were well hidden, placed between the the double walls of the tin crates the tea traveled in, but scrutiny led only to bad outcomes.


Careful of the wet stones of the wharf,  Devin walked to the Redfish and hailed a sailor working on deck to come aboard. From there the process went quickly and efficiently as it always did. Devin met the captain in his quarters, papers were checked, coin was exchanged, and one of the carts that hung around the docks was hailed. After that a quick stop back with clerk saw a near repeat of the performance. Papers were checked, coin was exchanged, and the cart proceeded through the streets to Devin's shop. The tea was unloaded in the alley by the back door, the last bit of coin needed for the day's errand was shared, and then Devin carried the crates one at a time into the shop. He took them through the back room and down into the cellar. There he kept a room to store and process his wares. Dark and dry the tea would last months here even without the added measure of the sealed tins.


Safe from prying eyes, he hung his coat on a hook, washed the gentle smile from his face, and removed the metaphorical mask of Devin Malasan, tea shop owner. Beneath that mask was another simple seeming man, though his eyes lost there friendly warmth in the dim light of the basement, hardening like water  freezing into ice. This man was Kalen and he too had work to do this day. Sitting at a workbench Kalen lit a flame and set a blade upon it, letting it slowly heat. Once the blade began to glow he took it and slowly dragged it across the flux sealing the tea crates inner lining and outer form. Separating the two a cache of documents sat waiting for his consumption. They were written in code of course, but it was code he'd long ago memorized and he read them quickly.


Finishing the last he grimaced, the letters contained little of value. He'd need to make a report but those he served would not be pleased by the lack of progress. There was little he could do in this case, he was just the messenger, but those he served wouldn't care. Amongst the Friends of the Dark failure always had consequences and those that deserved the blame were too far away to face those consequences. Too far away at least for today, Kalen felt soon he'd be traveling south again to relay his own message. He finished by burning the missives and reassembling the tea crates. Finally, he donned his coat and his countenance once more.


Blowing out the candle Devin left the basement. He'd completed his shipment and it was about time to open his shop. Humming to himself the tea shop owner began the day, while beneath the surface the Dark Friend quietly brooded.



Edited by Kalen
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shortly, Devin walked outside to open the shop. It was a simple ritual he performed five days a week and his mind thought of other things as he did it, his hands and feet moving of their own accord to the daily rhythm of the tasks. First, he went round back and grabbed the bucket from the rain barrel and the rag still damp from yesterday's chore. Then he unlatched and open the shutters. Next he gave the windows a quick wipe down, certainly not a through cleaning, they got that on first day, just enough to remove whatever dust or grime from the night might obscure the view of the shops interior. Then the rest of the bucket was splashed across the stones. Luckily this day there were no leavings from night time revelers, but after the festival tonight and tomorrow he doubted that luck would hold. Finally, he reach up and flipped the wood block beneath the kettle shaped sign with the word "TEA" painted in big black letters, officially declaring the shop open. The block below the salon's sign remained in it's closed position. It would only be flipped closer to evening, once help had arrived. He'd tried his luck at opening for early afternoon tea, but the business simply hadn't been there.


At last he went back inside and began the daily work of prepping and cleaning while he waited for his first customer. Most importantly he had deliveries to prepare. Whenever a new shipment arrived anything new must be portioned out and sent along to the waiting customers. Today's shipment was no different and both its contents of tea and information needed to be quickly delivered to those eagerly awaiting it.


OOC: This thread can now be considered open, feel free to wander in (or join in later as Devin/Kalen enjoy winternight).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Kalen changed the title to The day's business - Open thread

Devin smiled faintly as he mixed his blends: tea, cardamom, mint, cinnamon, even dried ice pepper flakes. He ground and he weighed, lost in the work and the focused catharsis it brought. For a moment, for an hour the rest of the world faded away and it was only him and his teas. It was part of what he loved about the work, that and the story he told with each new flavor he created. It was an art to make the smell and taste of the tea take a person somewhere else, be it a place on the map like Tear or a time of year like first harvest. Devin lost himself for a time, but the ring of the shop bell quickly brought him out of it. Looking up, Devin saw Celia standing in the doorway.


"You're dressed well for a day minding the counter." He quipped to her,  as she shut the door behind her, pushing out the last chill air of winter. Her cloak was a simply embroidered blue and her matching shawl was one he'd never seen before, still bright as though it were new.


"I'm meeting with some friends after work, heading straight to the east side of the island for the festival." She replied, heading quickly to the back room. A few moments later the young woman came back out with her winter wear removed and a simple yet still nicer than usual dress having been revealed. "You should join us, you never get out and have any fun. It is Winter's night."


Devin smiled holding his hands up defensively, "I would, but I've got to mind the salon. The Holiday is fine for others to celebrate, but I can't miss the opportunity. I'll make more tonight than in the last month if I'm lucky. Just be glad I'm foolish enough to let my best tea server have the night off."


She smiled and laughed softly at his joke. Then Celia began he normal chores around the shop, cleaning and straightening whatever Devin hadn't gotten to before starting his blending. He left her to it as he finished the tea he'd been working on. She often invited him along to things, though he felt it was more a courtesy than anything. They were only about five years apart in age, but the distance felt much further, on most days called him Master Malasan rather than Devin. Not dwelling on it, he put the last of his tools away and stood up. "I have deliveries to make, the shipment came in today. I shouldn't be too long." She nodded and he went to the back to grab his coat. He would probably let her off as soon as he got back. If he hadn't been expecting the shipment he doubted he would have had her come in at all today. 


"I still don't see why you don't just wait until after Bel Tine" she said as he prepared to leave.


"Competition. If I wait, someone that doesn't wait will get that customer. You have to work a little harder than the next man." He told her as he walked out the door. Of course he didn't mention that his mistresses would have him flayed alive if he waited two days to deliver his messages.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Devin had already delivered two thirds of his tea and Kalen had seen two of his three messages to the hands of cell members. Now, there was no helping it, he had to go to the tower. He'd stalled as long as he could but saving it until last would be suspicious. Not when we'd first setup shop of course, for the first year he'd always gone to the Tower last. No outlander trusted the Aes Sedia. Well perhaps the Borderlanders, but they were madmen who willingly entered the Blight. And women of course, women warmed to the Aes Sedai quickly. But no man from the South with Cairhien eyes and a slight Tairen accent, one such as that would be skittish around Aes Sedia. Give such a man a few years in their city though, doing business with them, making deliveries to the Tower, that sort of man would grow used to them and certainly wouldn't put off his delivery to the end of his route. That sort of man would walk confidently, not leisurely, confidently to the rear gate of the Tower. He'd wave to the guardsmen announce his name and intentions, show the wares he was dropping off, make a joke about the holiday with the other working class as he walked in, and finally proceed towards the servant that received deliveries for the Aes Sedai.


Devin worked hard not to think these things as he went through the motions, instead letting the man he was simply live his life and make his deliveries. But beneath the surface Kalen's mind said these actions, reminding himself he was Devin, reminding himself of motions and emotions he should take and feel. In the city this game was effortless, in the city he simply was Devin. But here he could feel the pressure of every moment within the walls of his enemies. Out there a slip meant suspicion, a lost edge, perhaps a burnt identity and fleeing the city. Inside the Tower though it was a different game with much higher stakes and much better players. Here any slip meant death, and worse than that failure. In the city his mistresses would learn and punish him, here he would go to meet his Master and his punishment would be endless...

Devin clucked his tongue as he crossed the last bit of the yard. Those weren't his thoughts, those were the thoughts of another man, a Darkfriend. And Devin walked in the Light. Beneath that thought Kalen grabbed hold of his fears and drowned them in the cold pool of Devin's consciousness. With focus and concentration the wrinkles in his mask smoothed over and the tea merchant approached the servant to make his delivery.


"Afternoon Avery, and a happy Winter's Night to you." He smiled a hint of flirtatiousness in his voice as he smiled at the woman inspecting the goods. "I've a batch of the usual for the Aes Sedai, some of it fresh off the boat this morning.

A small smile passed her lips as she returned the greeting, "And a happy Winter's Night to you too, master Malasan." She held out her hand expectantly and waited for him to provide his paperwork. He quickly passed it over, while setting the appropriately labeled packages on the table. She went through the handful of orders from the Aes Sedai patrons, checking off each item as she did. "It looks like you're missing the Andoran breakfast?"


"Yes, unfortunately I've heard a fungal disease went through the citruses this year. It may be another month before we have that in stock. Please convey my apologies to the Aes Sedai."


She nodded and marked it off. It was partially true of course, there had been a disease among the citrus and the Andoran breakfast was hard to come by. But he could have fulfilled the order if he had needed to. That omission was important though, it was his real delivery to the Tower. He didn't know which of the Aes Sedai that ordered that tea was Black. But he knew the message would get to one of those that was watching for it.


Satisfied with the goods, Avery reached into a chest for such things and counted out the coins the Aes Seadia owed. After accepting the payment he bowed his thanks and turned to depart the grounds. As much as Devin had grown used to the Aes Sedia these past few years he'd be happy to be once more at arms reach. Though they were his best customers, a voice at the back of his mind let out a sigh of relief as he headed for the gate.

Edited by Kalen
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Kalen leaned against the alley wall for a moment, as though to catch his breath. Back as far as he was and behind a stack of crates he doubted anyone saw him, or at least he hoped. Quickly, quietly he dry heaved, the acrid taste of bile washing across his tongue. He'd held is nerve on the Tower grounds and even gotten a few blocks, but eventually the crash of adrenaline and anxiety became more than he could control. It'd been almost two decades since he'd felt this way on a job, but then it'd likely been that long since he was so out of his depth either. Whereas in those days we was a neophyte treading with seasoned journeymen, now he was a journeyman himself facing off against grandmasters. It was daunting, but there was little choice in the matter. This was where he'd been stationed.


Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand Devin straightened his clothing and made his way out the other end of the alley. It was shortcut on his route, nothing more. Certainly not an out of the way place to slip off his persona for a moment of amateurism.


An hour later Devin reentered his shop and waved Celia off to her festivities. Between the harbor and the deliveries his true work was done. That work never ended of course and as poorly as it was going he'd soon need to make a trip South to convey the threats of his mistresses. Results were required, not requested. True his spies had reported Logain only months ago, however that had been too late for the Sisters to act. He scowled as he locked up the backroom and went upstairs to prep the salon for the evening. There'd been a glut of candidates before that, but as soon as the False Dragon declared himself word dried up. It was likely just coincidence, but he lived too close to actual witches to discount supernatural interference. Shrugging, he setup the room for the evening, his thoughts returning to the task at hand as he prepared for nighttime and wrapped up the day's work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...