Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:56 am
Mayor Treadwell, at the Meeting House.
Master Treadwell, the toymaker. He has a shop, that way.
Treadwell; he's your man. Just returned yesterday.
A morning spent asking questions steered her in the direction of one individual in particular, and yet she still felt as if she was missing some vital clue, a hint of something in the words of others. Some smiled at the question with genuine warmth, only too happy to direct her to the man they clearly held in high esteem due to his character, his actions or both. Others exchanged looks with one another or lofted a brow before answering with tongue in cheek, gauging her reaction to see whether or not she would pick up on the unspoken inside joke.
To her great frustration, she had not.
"What manner of official possesses time enough to oversee the affairs of both an entire town and a novelty shoppe in the same sitting?" she muttered darkly, navigating the crowd that flowed like clashing streams along main street. The morning sun, herald of the punishing Summer heat that would only become more oppressive as the day wore on, was at that moment only the span of one hand above the roof of the Meeting House, where she would insist on seeing him--not in a toy shop. This was business, and she would not conduct hers while surrounded with frivolous, colorful trinkets intended for children.
She carried a a chaste looking portfolio with her, two cuts of rosy cedar that were bound by a sturdy leather cord wound about them three times and knotted by precise fingers. Between those wooden planes were documents of every sort that would be presented one after another to make her case, should the mayor need further convincing than the payment that would be offered. And she desperately hoped that he was a learned man--not out of arrogance or contempt, but out of a desire to expedite the matter at hand. She had never before overseen the exchange of money on such a grand scale as this promised to be, and it made her fingers itch and her throat sweat beneath her starched collar.
The lantern burned and swayed upon its chain as she came to a halt before the front entrance of the building that certainly looked official enough, at least in the context of Myrken's overall style. It was nothing like the grand Hall of Commerce and Concerns in Fonte, of course, where the citizenry formed lines out the doors of the ground floor of that towering structure, waiting impatiently to lobby complaints about everything from trade routes to the capital being compromised by marauding bandits to the desire for more elegant waterfowl to be placed within the Garden of Fountains in Central Park. Although separate lines were formed according to one's status within the myriad echelons of Dornan society, the actual division of priorities given to each matter was mired by the sort of bureaucracy that only the most talented lawyer could understand.
But there was no winding line. No cane-carrying gentlemen in impeccable coats or top hats, no fan-wielding ladies draped in furs with taxidermied birds or floral arrangements affixed to their heads. The door opened to reveal a simple-but-furnished lobby that was...comfortable, she supposed. A far cry from luxurious, but, she scolded herself, more than enough for discussing a transaction.
"I would speak with the mayor." she said without flourish or pomp to an aid seated at a desk near the doorway, who might have wondered what such an austere looking woman, dressed as she was in that no-nonsense black habit stitched with gold along the hemline and cuffs, would need to discuss with a man like Aloisius Treadwell.
Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:17 pm
"The Lord Steward? That-a-way." A thumb is hitched over a shoulder, and then said thumb's owner rises to show the visitor past the chairs and table adorning the meetinghouse's floor into a back hall. The door to the office in question is cracked to allow ventilation, as are the windows within, and, there, reviewing some manner of figures in charts in a book and carefully updating them with small tick marks, is the fat old fellow she seeks, wormed close to his desk in a rocking chair sized for his ample self. Unlike the black habit on the new arrival, the seated gentleman is a touch more colorful, wearing a burgundy velvet robe with a large golden medallion gleaming from under the voluminous white bush of a beard.
Beady eyes squint and stare over the top of the eyeglasses slipped low on the bulbous shnozz, and, with quill set aside and hands gripping the edge of the desk to help the great girthed gent grunt to his feet, his belly upsetting the delicate positioning of book on desk and bumping it back a few inches.
"Mmph," comes the breathless wheeze from lungs overworked with summer heat and decades of smoking from pipes like the one lying on its side extinguished to the left of the book of numbers and names--a census, it seems. "Hullo, hm hm, madam! I am Lord Steward Aloisius Treadwell, mmph, and, well, what, erm, what might I be able to do for you?"
Fleshy left hand wiggles to the exorbitantly cushioned chair opposite his rocker.
"Sit if you like."
Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:55 am
Elrin found herself wondering how long it would take to grow accustomed to the informality of Myrken's people and their dealings as she was irreverently lead to a back office, the door of which was slightly ajar. Sounds issued from within that vertical strip of the unknown: the scratch of a freshly sharpened quill, the brush of parchment-on-parchment, and what she could only compare to a light breeze gusting through treetop leaves, rising and falling in a steady rhythm.
The aide, his objective reached, showcased the door with a flap of his hand that more-or-less said Wow, would you look at that? So easy to find, and you still bothered me before turning on his heel and returning the way they had come without a word. That manner of casual dismissal of her station would have played out much differently in Dornant--the man would have been dragged outside and made to kneel in the middle of a crowded street before her proffered lantern, to recite a supplication to Goddess learned in his childhood, asking her (and Her) forgiveness while the heat of the flame inches from his nose coaxed beads of sweat from his forehead and parched his wide eyes. Onlookers in Fonte adored this sort of spectacle, this public shaming that reduced a person to a groveling wretch for all to see, and so often the clergy within the Illuminated Faith aimed to wield that perverse interest as they would any other weapon, often to great effect.
But there was no one present to witness any punishment she might administer in that silent hallway, with the exception of the man who sat a few yards away in his office, and she highly doubted she would be given a warm reception were she to make an example of his employee out of foreign custom. More importantly, the aide would not understand why he was being forced to apologize, and that, at least in Elrin's mind, was of paramount importance when correcting others. She was a guide, not a schoolmarm.
So, instead, she gathered her thoughts, summoning all of the bearing and authority that was associated with her title as an Illuminatrix and delivering two sharp knocks to door, pushing it open and entering the room without waiting for an invitation, intent on establishing the idea that she was not to be trifled with before any words were exchanged. She felt the familiar confidence, the self-assuredness, that went hand-in-hand with doing Goddess's work begin to unfurl in her chest, fancying herself ready to face the world itself as the man behind the desk was revealed to her.
One would think Mayor Treadwell had thrown a bucket of water in her face, the way her preparedness sputtered out in an instant.
She was shocked, frankly, unable to fathom the creature that sat behind the desk. Every inch of him was expansive, rotund, gratuitous excess. A mass of flesh and white hair that mocked the human--is this a human being?--form in a way that she had never imagined possible. She knew a prelate within the church, Dellinea, who looked much like the overstuffed furniture her guests reclined upon while working their way through the never-ending courses of her famous dinner parties, but even Dellinea remained within the realm of realistic proportions despite her appallingly ravenous appetite for fatty cuts of meat and sweet red wine. This was something else entirely.
The flame whipped about in a lively dance within the confines of the lantern, curling madly as the mayor embarked on the arduous journey from seated to standing, something she might have considered a remarkable feat worthy of praise if her jaw had not turned to stone, her tongue as heavy and lifeless as an ingot of steel. She still held the handle of the door in her left hand, clutched in numb fingers--I can turn and leave--when he spoke, an introduction broken into pieces by frequent pauses to resupply his abused and overworked lungs. His words were met with an unblinking stare.
An amiable creature despite his monstrous appearance, he offered her a seat. She glanced hesitantly at the chair he indicated, mind blank, and back up the length of his pudgy arm to those jovial eyes which peeked out from above the frame of his spectacles. There was a long and awkward silence before she realized that she had to do something, be it step further within the room or flee through the doorway, and she swallowed thickly. Slowly, with the outward appearance of being at ease, she closed the door behind her before traversing the room atop wooden legs, stiff beneath her skirts. She ran the very tip of her tongue over her dry lips, keeping her eyes on the desk rather than the man behind it.
I will have what I came for.
"Tha--" she started, fingers moving to alight on her throat as a surprisingly high-pitched syllable issued forth. She tried again, clearing her throat as her cheeks colored. "Thank you."
Normally, she would insist on standing when offered a seat during such an encounter, as much to prove that she could as to renounce material comfort and hold herself to a higher standard. In this case, her knees gave her little choice in the matter as they essentially surrendered and deposited her into the plush chair behind her. She stared at the desk and the stacks of books, charts and maps upon it for a moment longer, the cedar portfolio balanced squarely on her lap, the silver chain on her wrist draped over the arm of the chair to where the lantern sat, quietly observing the proceedings, having calmed since she had first opened the door.
"Mayor Treadwell," she said, more steadily than before, forcing herself to look him in the eye, "I am Sister Elrin of Mershe, Illuminatrix within the Church of Dornant. I have come to Myrken on behalf of his Holiness, Pontiff Raleigh III, to spread the message of the Illuminated Faith to the good people of the Amysinian Province, in hopes that they too will welcome the light of Lumistè into their hearts."
A pretty speech said in a pleasing tone, utterly rehearsed and obviously so. A pinprick of frustration over the clockwork nature of her own words pulsed in the back of her mind. She pressed on, attempting to sound more natural, less like she was reading a public notice aloud.
"I have in hand a number of documents detailing the nature of the work that I wish to accomplish during my stay in Myrken, an amount of time which is still unclear to me at this point." She lifted the portfolio a few inches from her knees in indication. "Within you will find writs of approval signed by the pontiff and the members of his council that validate my representation of the church, as well as legal documentation defining the terms of the included promissory notes which are intended for the purchase of land in Myrken", she inhaled, "upon which I fondly desire to construct a house of worship."
As she spoke, she regained a modicum of the confidence she had felt before, and she visibly relaxed, the initial shock of the other's appearance fading by the second. This was a man, whatever his form, and he was the gatekeeper to the only course of action that would see the church constructed.
"I would very much like to discuss the details." she said, offering him the portfolio across the desk, "And of course, answer any questions you might have."
Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:57 am
Back into cushioned rocking chair does Treadwell slump, back and knees and seat a-squeak as he settles, listening carefully to the words being spoken to his lightly twitchy, wiggly ears. Years spent as an actor and a politician have long since trained him to pick up on what people say and what people mean. The words a house of worship catch his interest, of course, and, as this Sister Elrin sits and explains and hands over documents, he reaches over to take the information in question.
"I think, Sister, that we can find some place within the borders of the Wood, very likely somewhere in or around the town, mmph mmph, where we can house your faithful, hm. I should think we can, hrm, even locate it far enough away from the other churches in town, mmph, so as not to risk any concerns. We try to do that as much as possible, you see, hm hm. I would not have worship leading to problems."
Pages are carefully unfolded and pulled close to the old man's nose and the glasses nearly hanging off it. A pudgy pointer rights the spectacles in question, and he takes a few moments to read.
"I know a little of the basics of your church, Sister, from my own reasons and studies, hm hm."
Extinguished pipe is propped in-between teeth and lips, there to hang, even if empty, from the side of his jaw, resting against jowl and fluffy white beard.
"To speak truth, mmph, most of the folks in Myrkentown and the rest of the Wood follow, at least in the simplest terms, what is known locally as the One True Faith. Some, of course, mmph, are more devoted; there is a good reason that the Chapel of Saint Iona is Myrkentown's largest house of worship at present, hrm hrm." Treadwell pauses here to puff at a few breaths, still squintily studying promises of payment.
"A few, hm, follow instead the teachings of the Church of Tubbius." Pudgy fingers here scritch-scratch absently at the great stomach under the burgundy robe. "That last group is, ironically enough, rather slim in numbers despite the emphasis on growth and size."
Treadwell grunts and nods, here, setting the documents back on the desk. "We should be able to find your faith somewhere in, around, or just outside the town, mmph mmph. What manner of location, mmph, would suit your needs best, hm?"
Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:04 am
She refrained from sighing in grateful relief when the mayor assured her that in all likelihood, the deal would be made. Myrken would have its gold once all of the pertinent documents had been reviewed, signed and exchanged, and she would have her church. The swell of warmth in her chest did, however, manifest as an entirely genuine smile that softened some of the sharper features of the Illuminatrix and hinted at the woman behind the mask, lovely despite the modesty she wore like plate armour.
It was gone as quickly as it came when Treadwell resumed speaking, this time in broad strokes concerning the religious practices already observed in Myrken.
"Yes." she said, a hollow word that hung between them like smoke might curl through the air from the well of his pipe, had it been lit. "I too have a vested interest in religious studies, particularly those of foreign peoples. An ambassador of Goddess should be informed of whom she is to break bread with. That said, I fear that most of what I have read concerning the One True Faith, and what little is known of the Tubbian Faith, was authored by the hands of my own, and as such, suffers from an overly-familiar flavour."
She watched him openly from where she sat, meeting the subtle implication that she might incite conflict with a steely gaze. "I will admit a certain curiosity to witnessing these exotic beliefs firsthand, as my own faith has provided me with the answers that shall sustain me in this life and the next. I would welcome those of any faith, excepting practitioners of wicked crafts, to join me within the walls of the church once it is built, and share their beliefs, that we might foster a greater mutual understanding. And should the ideals of said beliefs resonate, all's the better."
She made no indication that there would be an issue should they fail to, and she was content to leave it at that lest she begin peppering her responses with half-truths. Or worse yet, give the man a chance to misinterpret her zeal as hostility.
"What manner of location, mmph, would suit your needs best, hm?" he asked, his reading concluded for the time being. Back to business, then, it would seem.
"I find the relatively detached nature of the Southbank Common quite pleasant." she replied, smoothing her hands across the soot-colored fabric covering her thighs, flattening the wrinkles that had arisen during her descent to the chair. "I had the opportunity to experience it for myself en route to the Fireside Inn, where I will be staying in the foreseeable future, at least until the construction is complete. The separation from the town itself in no small part due to the river lends the place a certain tranquility that I believe will benefit my parish. And though I do not make a habit of romanticizing, I imagine that a literal departure from the woes and vices of their daily lives within the walls will be welcome relief when they cross the South bridge to join their brothers and sisters in prayer within the church."
"But," she added quickly, pointedly, "I would seek a place apart from the Broken Dagger. 'tis not my desire to turn away stumbling drunks or those with malicious intent in the dead of night should they seek to disturb my flock. Theirs would be a harsh penance indeed."
Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:59 pm
"And that is quite understandable, indeed, my dear Sister! I am quite certain we can arrange something to that effect, hm hm!"
Treadwell nods, here, his neck a-squeak with the motion, and grins wide. Out comes the pipe that has merely sat between teeth and lips, unlit, set again on the desk.
"And what shall you do for the present, hm? Today and tonight, I mean, while I look over everything and see what I can manage here. You are more than welcome, mmph, to join me as a guest for a meal, if you like, either here--we have plenty in the kitchen and stores, hm hm, and a table out front--or elsewhere, mmph. Surely an evening's supper, hm, even with the head of one of those other faiths, hrm hrm, is not out of the question? We do not even have to, mmph, make it about comparing your Church of Dornant and my Church of Tubbius, hm. You, err, do eat sometimes, I should hope, madam?"
With that, Treadwell huffily-puffily hefts himself back to his feet again, soon laying hand on walking cane and other hand on his great belly, bouncing lightly with the rising as he steadies himself on his feet.
"What could I fix for you, Sister, if you would be a guest so gracious, mmph mmph?"
Thu Jul 19, 2018 7:42 am
As Treadwell inquired about her plans in the moment, he made casual mention of his position within his respective church, and Elrin could practically hear the musical accompaniment that framed the steps of their dance fade into nothingness before returning as something new, something more lively and insistent. The imagined punch of a harpsichord indicated that their slow waltz had shifted into a minuet, the most socially refined way in which two animals might circle one another, their eyes locked as they kept a tantalizing distance between themselves without ever straying too far.
It was a dance that was all too familiar to her, one that filled her with confidence and distaste.
"You, err, do eat sometimes, I should hope, madam?" he squeaked in that disarming voice of his.
"Less than some." she replied in a neutral tone, a touch quickly, biting her tongue before anything decidedly offensive could issue from lips so rosy that she had once been accused--falsely--of staining them with pomade by a superior. She straightened in her seat, giving careful consideration to what action should be taken at that point, the fingers of her right hand straying to toy idly with the silver links of chain that were draped across the arm of the chair.
An invitation to dine. No doubt upon a veritable feast that must have been standard fare for the mayor, judging by his girth, at a table dressed in white cloth that caught the fallen crumbs of freshly baked loaves carelessly bitten and the stray droplets of wine enjoyed to excess, smeared with the prints of fingers dripping with the grease of succulent fowl flesh until it was so thoroughly stained that it mocked the purity of its original coloration. The sin of Gluttony, on his part.
The chance to learn more of those faiths which she would be competing with to save the souls of Myrken. The opportunity to gain a better understanding, and therefore more equal footing, by asking seemingly innocuous questions sprinkled throughout the course(s?) of the meal while at the same time, playing the part of this "gracious guest". A part of her chastised this thinking, reminding her that she already had what she had come for and that a polite refusal followed by an apology and a swift exit from the Meetinghouse was in order. Another part, a larger and more demanding part, insisted that she remain where she was and seize what answers she might during this rare meeting with such an open and accommodating individual, an occasion that may very well elude her in days to come. The sin of Greed, on mine.
"The journey overseas was overlong, a departure from the comforts of my home in Fonte. Comforts whose absence I became increasingly aware of each day I spent in the midst of grey waves." Her words were slow, thoughtful, turning the idea over and over on her tongue before pushing forward. "It has been some time since I enjoyed a meal which caters to taste as well as nourishment."
She stood with him, the smile returning, a gentle thing. "I would be delighted to join you for a meal, Mayor Treadwell. Anything you might suggest would be wonderful, as I am eager to sample what delicacies Myrken might have to offer. And there is no cause to shy away from such topics as religion; as I said before, I am a student as much as a teacher. I welcome the chance to learn more of your faith."
Let us dine with sin, then. For the greater good.
Thu Jul 19, 2018 4:44 pm
"Splendid! Though, err, well, mmph, 'Mayor' is a little more than is necessary for a mere bit of supper, hm hm?" Shoulders shrug as Treadwell huffs past to the door, cane in his left hand. "'Aloisius' will suffice, if you wish; if you do not, mmph, well, 'Mayor' or 'Lord Steward' or what you wish will do!"
Door opens, and through it he wobbles, favoring that left leg of his as he plods out.
"It should not require me very much time, mmph, to find us something small, eh? Seat yourself where you like out front, hm, and I will join you soon enough with something or other!"
Away from the office Treadwell then shuffles, a burgundy-velveted ball rolling up the hall. Sister Elrin is left behind, free to examine what she wishes, to follow her host, or to make for the meetinghouse main room with its table and chairs.
Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:24 pm
"Of course, Mayor." she said, acquiescing only in part to his suggestion that they do away with laborious formalities. "It is customary in Dornant to stand on ceremony even when dining with friends, and old habits are difficult to escape. Still, a modicum of familiarity might lend spice to our meal. 'Sister' will serve, or simply 'Elrin', if you prefer."
He continued to extend pleasantries and invitations as he embarked on the apparently taxing journey to the door, and her smile held until his back was turned, the revulsion she had subdued with great difficulty upon entering the room freed of its shackles at the sight of this previously unseen side of his bulk.
"I will be but a moment." she said tightly, forcing her voice to maintain its appreciative façade. "I must gather my things."
But he was gone, the sounds of boards creaking in protest beneath cushioned footfalls and the staccato tap of his cane retreating down the hallway beyond the door, which had swung partly shut following his exit. She exhaled slowly through her nose, as if banishing a held breath, staring at the entrance for a long moment as she wondered what exactly she had just agreed to.
Turning to the desk, she bent slightly to gather some of the scattered documents that had been solely for her presentation and of little consequence to the Mayor now, sifting through those that he would need to review and sign to see if she had missed anything. The silence of her activity was interrupted now and again by the rough drag of parchment-on-parchment as she lifted and set aside various sheets, sparing cursory glances at each before they were placed here or there in neat little stacks. Eventually satisfied, she moved to pull the portfolio she had brought towards her to bind the documents she would be taking within, the motion causing the chain dangling from the band on her wrist to clink against the corner of the desk. She mindlessly gathered the slack in slender fingers and lifted the lantern, placing it on the corner of the wooden slab so that it would not thump against the side facing out towards the rest of the office.
The lantern burned fiercely, the tongue of flame within snapping with sudden insistence, demanding her attention.
She straightened, holding the implement aloft and staring at it as it swung ever-so-slightly on the chain. A wisp of fire detached from its larger collective body to lash the air pointedly, once, twice, three times. She followed the motion with her eyes, allowing it to point the way as she would the needle of a compass, shifting the metal frame in the indicated direction. The finger of flame retreated, and she glanced downwards to find that the shadow of the lantern had come to lay upon the open ledger that the Mayor had been writing in only minutes before.
A glance was thrown over her shoulder at the door, still half-shut, no sounds issuing from the hallway. She wondered how alone she really was in the office of a public official. She considered many things in that instant, none of them pleasant guests in her mind. Wandering eyes alighting upon a politicians written accounts was, perhaps, an understandable mistake, and forgiven easily enough depending on the contents of the writing. Knowingly reading that same content, however, without invitation or authority, was altogether less innocent.
But of course, she had all the authority she would ever need.
Mind made, she slipped as quietly as she could around the desk, stepping lightly across the planks that had so delightedly betrayed the movements of the man who routinely traversed them such a short time ago and wincing as one particularly traitorous length of wood groaned beneath her booted toe. With a grimace, she leaned toward the book, lantern held above its pages, and quickly scanned their contents.
Census information, by the looks of it, penned in a surprisingly capable hand; regardless, the scores of tiny numbers and countless names ran together in a parade of curling ink. The pages were headed identically--late 213 AR--, indicating their age alongside their somewhat yellowed coloration. It was not just an orderly arrangement of text; it was a meticulously written list of all men and women present in Myrkentown, Foggy Bottom and other outlying communities five years prior. Scattered about were various other pages that had increasingly recent information, with the most recent still bearing damp quill scratches upon its fresh surface.
What significance is there in these pages?
In answer to her unspoken question, an ember lifted from the heart of the flame and drifted languidly towards the book. Just before it touched the page it threatened to fall upon, it slowed, hung in the air, and came to hover above a single entry before evaporating into nothingness. Elrin leaned further towards the desk, peering at that particular line with burgeoning astonishment showing in wide eyes.
Could this possibly be--
There was a rap on the door that hammered the stifling silence that cloaked her prying, causing her to very nearly release the chain in her hand and send the lantern crashing down upon the desk. She snatched the portfolio off of the paper-strewn surface and stuffed the pile of documents she had collected previously inside it, snapping it shut as she rounded the desk just as the door swung open to reveal the unimpressed aide from before, a single brow lofted as his lidded gaze slowly swept the room.
"I did not mean to linger." she said, her cheeks tinging slightly as she wound the portfolio's leather cord about it several times, forcing herself to slow the motion. "I thought that I had misplaced a form."
The man made a noncommittal sound, making it unclear whether he believed her or even cared. "There's a fresh pot of lemon tea waiting in the lobby. S'posed to cleanse the palate or something. Can't remember what that shopkeep said."
She honestly wasn't sure how to respond to that. She returned his blank stare for a moment, blindsided by the casual nature of his statement.
"Er. Yes. Of course." She attempted a smile that was more of a twitch. "That would be wonderful. Please."
He remained where he was, glancing pointedly down the way which he had come, and she stepped past him after a fashion, clutching the portfolio to her breast. She walked stiffly, trailed by the other after he firmly shut the door behind them.
"Sit anywhere you like." he said once they were in the lobby proper, gesturing vaguely. "I'll see to the tea. The mayor shouldn't be long."
She seated herself near a window, back straight in the chair, and waited, her nerves battling with the surprise of what she had seen in the book.
Sun Jul 29, 2018 2:25 pm
It takes a little bit, but not terribly long, merely a few minutes--an astonishingly brief time for the sizably stocked platters that the Lord Steward brings out with the help of the aide in question. Just how did this man, now dripping sweat from those flushed and scarlet cheeks and brow, manage a feast large enough for a family of four or six (or maybe just one of him) in such time? And why is he so suddenly exhausted?
There are no answers as he sinks unceremoniously into the one cushioned seat large enough for him at the head of the table. A mug of warmed milk is brought to him, downed, and replaced in short order.
"Meats, cheeses, breads, mmph, fruits, vegetables, nuts of some sorts. . . we can fetch, hm, what you will to drink. I like milk," he waggles a lightly trembling hand, equally sweaty, at the mug just plunked before him, "but there's ale, water, tea, and I think a little juice might still be around somewhere in the pantry, mmph mmph."
Here, Treadwell sets himself a-quiver with a thunderous cough as he finally sets his cane against the table leg nearest him, hanging said cane from a hook there for the purpose.
"Now, what might you care to discuss, dearie, hm hm?" comes the aged squeak again, with no trace of the thunderous boom he used to be able to project when much younger and atop a stage in Westenford. "Ask me what you like!"
Wed Aug 01, 2018 11:06 am
She had calmed herself by the time the mayor reappeared with the first platter in hand and placed it on the table, a silver disc heaped with slices of spiced ham and strips of herb-crusted chicken. It was joined in short order by seven other similar mounds of plated food that practically overflowed onto the tablecloth: plump clusters of grapes that ranged in hue from green-white to wine-red, an artfully arranged crudité of bright carrot slivers and crunchy green celery stalks with a bowl of amber lemon vinaigrette in the center, warm loaves with cracked crusts and a dish of pale golden butter, wedges of cheese that ran the gamut from firm and mild to soft and creamy, with flavors of every sort, and various piles of tree nuts and legumes, lightly salted. Bowls of colorful sauces filled what little space was left in the center of the table, oils and dressings and relishes intended to enhance the feast that had unfolded before her in minutes.
She was, admittedly, quite astonished.
"Something small." she muttered to herself, his own words a short time ago when he departed his office. Elrin remained where she was by the window for a moment, watching as the mayor seated himself with an almost visible impact and huffed as the breath fled his lungs, crushed from his body by his own weight. The subsequent recovery was nearly as loud, a rumbling wheeze as he grasped the clay mug of warm milk and drained it with a single loud gulp. His attendant was already poised at his side and refilling the small vessel before it was fully set upon the surface of the table.
She hoped that her tightly pressed lips would free her other features of their need to express her disgust in that moment, as she crossed the distance from the wall of the lobby to the seat across from Treadwell. Seeing the obvious evidence of his routine lifestyle in the excess flesh that hung from his pillowy frame was one thing; she had a sinking feeling in her gut that witnessing the act itself would be something else entirely.
He indicated each platter with a wave of his hand before offering her a drink--"I like milk"--of her choosing. She opened her mouth to insist that water would be more than enough, her voice faltering as she watched a bead of sweat break free of his pudgy fingers and fall squarely into the milk set before him. In her momentary loss for words, the aide calmly approached and set a small porcelain dish in front of her, followed by a teacup filled with a dark, steaming liquid that, as promised, smelled faintly of lemons. She glanced up at him from where she sat, intending to thank him, but he was already moving away to attend to something else.
The mayor, meanwhile, had just finished filling his plate (presumably not the last), and so she mechanically began to pick and choose what looked most appealing to her. Two dates stuffed with creamed cheese and drizzled with honey; a modest slice of cake-like bread with a smear of butter on one side; a portion of roast duck the size of a deck of cards dressed with a tangy mustard sauce; a small handful of shelled walnuts, plain and simple. She was not sure that she would be able to eat it all, as her appetite had steadily diminished throughout the course of their encounter, but she made a show of picking at each morsel in a clock-wise manner around her plate, spending half of her time methodically wiping her fingers on the cloth napkin she had been provided before refolding it, time and again.
"Now, what might you care to discuss, dearie, hm hm?" he hm hmed at her.
After a very long pause in which she clutched her fork far too tightly, Elrin relaxed her fingers and forced a smile that showed no teeth as she looked up at him across the way.
"Well, Mayor," she replied blithely, disregarding her earlier agreement to dispose of formality in hopes of infusing the conversation with some acknowledgement of their respective stations, "I fear that Myrken is unknown to me at this time. With or without a house of worship, I can do little to aid the needs of the people, spiritual or otherwise, if I do not know what ails them."
She paused, taking a walnut half and jamming it into the heart of a stuffed date before biting into it--it was essentially candy at this point, and she felt a small twinge of guilt in partaking.
"In Fonte, the city is sectioned into quarters that reflect purpose and prosperity. Political clout along Midas Row, with both the Commonwealth Crown and the Maison de Lumière representing state and church respectively. There are, of course, the mercantile and industrial districts, as well as the academies of technological and magickal sciences within the Scholar's Heights. And naturally the residential quarters, with divisions of their own."
The treat in her hand was eaten to completion, then, and she automatically wiped her fingers as she continued.
"But the one section that is never discussed in polite company, and only with great disdain by city officials, is the slums. The less appealing side of civilization. The homeless, the sick, the hungry. Orphans, prostitutes, the mentally afflicted." She lifted the teacup to her lips and sipped quietly, searching out the citrus flavor in the otherwise bitter drink. "So often, these unfortunate souls are discarded, forgotten and broken, in the back alleys of our communities, with no one to look to for help."
She looked at him sternly. "How do the poor within Myrkentown's walls fare, Mayor? Are they provided for? Do they have a roof to huddle under when it rains, or blankets thick enough to ward off Winter's chill? Does the guard heed them as they would any other, or are they seen as the source of your town's problems rather than the victims?"
She gestured at the food before them, the almost ludicrous spread that he had prepared for the two of them to dine on.
"Do the poor of this town eat as we do, Mayor? Do they feast as kings?"
Wed Aug 01, 2018 4:37 pm
Do the poor of this town eat as we do, Mayor? Do they feast as kings?
"Well, Sister, the Hollows are in the southwest of the town, mmph, surrounded by most of the industry. That is where you find the poor, hm hm, and, well, no, they do not feast as kings do, although they are certainly cared for and their needs seen to--quite regularly, mmph, by my own faithful in the Church of Tubbius. We might be gluttons, hrm hrm, but we do know the importance of looking out for the less fortunate. In fact," he waves at the massive spread before them before resuming his noisy gorging, "they are fed routinely from the Church's own ample stores."
A nod to the table of food and drink.
"My own supplying, mmph, for this meeting. I hope it is sufficient."
Another nod, this time to swallow a mouthful of chicken sliced and wrapped around ham.
"Now, we have, like your own Fonte, our own sections and areas. The marketplace is central, of course; the rich folks live to the north, beyond Ravensridge Road for the most, mmph mmph, with your average common folks in the northwest and the east. Most of those have their day to day jobs and roles, yes yes, either at home or at a shop front. I have, mmph," a pause here to huff lightly for air, a fat hand patting at that heavy bosom, "my own toy shop in the middle of town, on Beauregard, you might know by now, mmph."
Treadwell pauses here to get a better lungful of breath before continuing, a gulp of air to match the gulps of food and milk he's been working at already. "Nearly every town has such, hm, sections. In my own Westenford, in Amasynia, mmph, it is the Aeryn River that serves as a natural boundary, as it has for ages, hrm, running straight through the town. It is, mmmm, quite the natural thing in most places, having it all sorted out neatly."
He waggles the empty (again) mug at his aide, who moves to fill it once more.
"Why do you ask, eh?" comes the inquisitive pipe of age. "Have you some notion, mmph, to start with the poorer people in town as your first converts?"
Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:33 pm
He supplied his answer in a calm and conversational tone, the words she had both anticipated and desired spilling from his lips without any further prodding on her part.
How noble. The good mayor's own faith, of which he was a figurehead, made a show of feeding the poor. The same people who would be more than happy to cast their votes in favor of keeping him in office when the question arose, not to mention the more well-to-do citizens of Myrken who would rather advertise their supporting the good deeds of others rather than affect any sort of real change themselves--virtually no effort on their parts while garnering the same amount of praise in the eyes of their peers and superiors. An age-old mummer's farce that unfolded predictably, time and again, executed expertly by the outwardly unassuming heads of the same familiar beast.
Elrin couldn't think of a more appropriate creature to have its fingers in multiple pies at once than the one who sat across from her in that moment.
A second lengthy sip of her tea was cut short by the subdued huff she made in response to the meal between them being called "sufficient". Sufficient. Her gaze was leveled at him over the rim of the delicate cup, but he was more concerned with the assorted meats he was wolfing down just then. She lowered the teacup to its tiny companion of a dish and allowed the conversation to lapse into relative silence while he continued to eat, loudly, her eyes never straying.
"The downtrodden are blessed to have someone who seeks to ease their worries." she said eventually once her patience had been expended, ambiguity tinging her response. "And you are quite lucky to enjoy such...surplus. As are the members of your faith, of course."
He briefly compared the town to Fonte, and she half-listened, feigning interest with a distant smile. She had not mentioned her home to compete in any way with the mayor; it had been a catalyst in the conversation and a vehicle to transport them from the subject of food to the topic at hand. A partial success, at best. But then the toy shoppe was introduced in passing to their back-and-forth, and her already tepid expression lost another fraction of its warmth.
"Yes. Your business." She inhaled, thinking that she had more to offer on the subject. Apparently, she did not, so she released the held breath and made an attempt to revive her smile. "It is known to me, though I have yet to see it in person. I have never had much use for toys, even as a child. Trinkets are discouraged within the convent. You understand." More of an insistence than a question, followed by another pause in which Treadwell sucked down air as if it were more delicious that the food and drink he was ravenously consuming.
He then asserted that most communities followed a similar-if-not-identical pattern when it came to dividing its citizenry. Whether this was due to physical barriers and manmade structures or the invisible rungs of a loved and hated hierarchy was of no consequence to her. "Such divisions mean little to Goddess, Mayor. She offers comfort to all within her flock, regardless of which bank of the river they find themselves on. The Illuminated Faith believes that one's origin and station is ultimately meaningless in Her eyes, and that it is for our actions that we are rewarded. Or punished."
He motioned for another refill and casually inquired about her intentions with the poor, whom she seemed suddenly very interested in. She cocked her head at him slightly, the dark veil pinned behind neat blonde bangs shifting slightly when she did.
"As I said before," she replied carefully, the dance again framed by a new musical backdrop, a new tempo, "I would offer what aid I am capable of providing. All are welcome, but a tangible show of Goddess's affection is typically more comforting to the hungry, the cold and the sick than a grandstanding speech from atop the steps of an altar. That is," and here she paused, drawing out the abrupt halt in the sentence with a third sip of tea, savoring it as it rolled across her tongue, "if I am permitted. If they are not already...claimed, by the One True Faith, or the Church of Tubbius."
Mon Aug 06, 2018 4:36 am
Punished catches Treadwell's attention the most. Therefore, it is not the final question of permission that the Lord Steward and would-be Mayor hangs on but the brief description of the faith at hand.
"Punished, Sister?" He asks after swallowing a slab of thick ham. "I do hope that your faith's representatives are not the instruments of such punishment, mmph mmph, as with some I have encountered in my time. Brutal beatings, mmph, starvation, chains, enslavement! Rather horrid practices, hrm, especially when coming from the Church. I should hope, hrm, that such is left up to your Goddess. Remind me," the elderly fellow smiles kindly, "to learn a bit more of Her, personally, for comparison's sake. I would care to know more, hm."
A moment to swallow back yet more milk, and then?
"There is certainly room enough for a third faith, mmph, without bumping too heavily into each other here, I should think, hm hm. I can think of a few possible locations," a pause here for another wheeeee of breath, strained out, "where you suggested earlier. We can find you something suitably distant from all else, and we could, mmph, easily make use of one of the larger buildings once used for a mill or such, if your fellows would accept working to alter it to your liking, mmph mmph. Otherwise, there is always the possibility of building a new place, if you need, hm hm."
Here, Treadwell actually stops eating, folding his sweaty, greasy hands atop his burgundy-robed belly and setting the gold medallion around his neck that rests on his bosom under his beard to jiggling to one side with the shifting of fleshy mass.
"So, I think, hrm, we are making some progress! Tell me a little more of what you might like in a location, mmph. How much space would you want? Would any of your faithful live there, tending to the building and grounds, mmph mmph, as we Tubbians sometimes do, or would there be something else in mind, hm?"
Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:38 am
She shook her head as he described the torturous practices he had witnessed at the hands of other faiths, seeking to head off that line of thinking before it had a chance to develop.
"Please do not mistake my intentions, sir. We Illuminators, and indeed the Illuminated Faith as a whole, serve as soldiers to Goddess, that much is true. But we carry no blades, and we do not strike blindly at the symptoms of sin; we seek instead to battle the root causes of corruption using the gifts our Lady has graciously bestowed unto us. Our lanterns guide us, that we might guide others in turn, and in doing so lead them to enlightenment. That is our duty." She straightened in her seat, staring boldly across the table as she spoke in plain terms. "I said before that I have no interest in inciting conflict within the walls of Myrken, or without. And while I cannot speak on the inclinations of every fellow Illuminator and Illuminatrix within my order, we are not a militant group, at least in the traditional sense. However, I consider it my sacred duty to stand against the tangible evils of this world that would do others considerable harm." She waved a hand dismissively. "Not the baser vices of mankind, or any other vague concepts that lead to sin, though I will ever counsel against them. I speak of dark arts, witchcraft, sorceries. Fraternizing with wicked entities, deals made with devils and the like. These I will not abide, and I will do what I am able to purge their stain from the realm."
It was an unapologetic promise, spoken with a crisp tongue, but the elderly mayor seemed more impressed with the ham he was stuffing into his gullet than her conviction, and it took the wind out of her sails if only just a bit. She sat back in her chair, bemused, as he continued to make sounds of contentment around his food and his own labored breaths fighting their way in and out of whatever passage was momentarily unoccupied by their meal. After a momentary interlude, he asked about Lumistè in general, and she involuntarily launched into a passionate recitation of the highlights.
"She is wise and benevolent, qualities that she fosters in her flock. She is our mother, but She is not our creator; the gods of yore abandoned the people of Jernich, the wellspring of life on the Arpaesian continent, when we turned upon one another in foolish conflict, wielding the divine powers we had been granted against our own brothers and sisters. But She appeared to those who fled North of the desert towards the Dorna mountains, offering us a chance to redeem ourselves, and it is through Her blessing that we have flourished since, enjoying the rich bounties of the promised land that She revealed to us in our darkest hour. In return, we seek to spread Her radiant Light to the very corners of the earth, so that others might benefit from her compassion."
She finished the brief history lesson, feeling the swell of warmth that she always did when she spoke on the mission of the Church. Treadwell, meanwhile, polished off yet another mug of milk before circling back to the business she had initiated earlier that morning, reaffirming that her earlier decision to build the church South of the river was sound. He suggested that old or otherwise unused structures could serve as frames to expand upon in the construction, but she quickly shook her head.
"No, it is my wish that this house of worship be built from the ground up. If it is to serve as a beacon to the faithful, then I would have it look the part, and I fear that repurposing a barn or some such building would limit the way in which others see it." She leaned forward as he (astonishingly) ceased glutting himself and met his questions with answers, light dancing in her eyes. " The area should be easily accessible, but also spacious enough to account for small fields for planting as well as a cemetery--one that lines the river itself. The initial chapel will be enough for the near future, but additional wings with bedrooms, a kitchen and dining hall, a garden in which to reflect on scripture, and perhaps even a library..." she trailed off, sighing fondly. "I have such high hopes for this church, Mayor Treadwell. I only hope that I will find others in Myrken who will come to share in my vision."
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