Sat Aug 16, 2014 3:44 am
It had been awhile since the Broken Dagger had been so busy! Having grown used to the calm lazy days before the Storyteller, and before the Great Famine Dulcie had almost gotten complacent about running the place. The day to day was smooth and easy, but things had changed! She wasn't sure what exactly had brought so many more travelers recently, but the rooms were filling up and the kitchen seemed like it never got a chance to cool off!
She made her way out of the kitchen, dressed for work rather than in the stylish merchant class clothing she'd become used to wearing. She needed all hands on deck, and that included herself. An apron round her waist and her hair back in a kerchief, Dulcie was back to doing what she loved to do most, bossing everyone about!
Pausing to give instruction to the new bartender before mopping up a spill Dulcie breathed to herself, "I need to hire more help."
Fri Aug 22, 2014 5:06 am
As the woman behind the bar muttered something about hiring help, Vixen perked up on the barstool.
Help. As in, assist. As in, doing something useful for another person.
She was good at doing useful things, wasn't she?
Of course she was. And there was money involved. She may have forgotten her name, but she knew that in a place like Myrkentown, you needed enough of the stuff to eat and sleep under a roof. Things were different now that she was on her own; it had been so much simpler with the troupe back in Foggy Bottom, where all she had to do was dance her heart out in the street by day and stretch out under the stars between the campfire and the covered wagons by night.
But now she needed a safety net. She glanced around the bustling tavern, at the men and women seated around tables talking loudly with intermittent bursts of raucous laughter and swearing. She spied armor and weapons here and there, and cocked her head in thought. She'd seen many of the same faces earlier that day during her performance in the town. Wasn't that what successful business was all about? Establishing rapport with the clientele?
Vixen: exotic dancer by day, helpful barmaid by night.
The latter sounded, admittedly, less impressive. But still, it was something. And she needed something. Now.
"Uh, ma'am?" She gave a tiny wave, trying to catch the busy woman's attention. Unsure of how to phrase her question, she asked simply: "Can I have a job?"
Fri Aug 22, 2014 8:59 am
"Jobs," said someone at the bar, "are not things you simply ask for."
She sat several stools down, her face mostly obscured behind a stained bonnet. A pewter plate sat in front of the girl. Occasionally, iron fork scraped against soft pewter in an attempt to pierce the lumpy potatoes steaming in front of her. One of them kept eluding its fate, rolling left and then right as the prongs refused to break its toughened, half-burnt skin. The blunted knife on the bar beside her was untouched: the left hand that would have wielded it was nothing more than a nub covered in a striped sock, sticking out of her dress-sleeve like an eyeless mole.
When she spoke again, it was louder. Her voice was riddled with rolling consonants and low-hanging vowels, an accent stubbornly pinned to her tongue. "If we all asked for things before we earned them, we'd all be working in -- in trades for which we're ill-suited."
Her capable hand nudged the plate of potatoes toward the nameless woman. She turned. Her skirts were the color of old burlap, littered with stains and darkened with mud. Rings of old sweat darkened her collar and the pits of her arms. An ungainly bulge rounded out her belly.
She was young. An adolescent. A foreigner.
"Do you want a potato," she asked while Dulcie flitted like an aggravated bee behind the bar.
Fri Aug 22, 2014 12:00 pm
Oh, crap. Had she offended the stranger? Maybe she had upset some local custom by being so straightforward. She supposed that simply throwing herself at the woman she assumed to be the innkeeper with such a blunt question could be considered pushy, but she hadn't meant any harm by it.
Too add to her confusion, the one-handed girl was now foisting potatoes upon her. Well-done potatoes. Extremely well-done potatoes. Was that another custom upheld by the citizens of Myrkentown? Offering slightly burnt vegetables to newcomers? She risked a glance down at them, fearing to pause too long before answering. She wasn't used to anyone offering an entertainer of her nature food.
She had a whole sack of potatoes back at her room at the inn in town. They were as cheap as dirt in these parts, and covered in it, too, making for slightly muddy skins even when scrubbed thoroughly. Not the most appetizing meal; at that moment, she would have really preferred a thin soup, chicken, if anyone asked, but she had no idea how her refusal would be taken. For all she knew, she could be burned at the stake for turning down a gift of potatoes. And she'd never gotten around to ordering food from the woman behind the bar, so, it was like killing two birds with one stone.
Fending off hunger and not being burned at the stake, all in one fell swoop. Pretty efficient, when you stop to think about it.
"Thanks! That's really kind of you." She accepted the offer as humbly as she could, hoping that if this was a test, she had passed.
Fri Aug 22, 2014 12:13 pm
She had been distracted, bustling about while the conversation had been going on. In fact she had really realized the conversation had happened after she put together the bits and pieces she had eavesdropped on, despite the original question having been for her. She slowed down and made her way back down the bar towards the two women, wiping her hands off on her apron.
"Did I hear one of you say you were looking for a job? Because I'm most definitely looking to hire." She glanced between one and the other, trying to decide who had said what. "What sort of work are you interested in?"
Fri Aug 22, 2014 1:05 pm
Seeing as how she hadn't ordered food herself, Vixen was without any silverware, and asking the one-handed girl if she was going to use her knife seemed rather insensitive to her plight; the sound of the fork gouging the plate in an attempt to spear the assembled potatoes wasn't exactly inconspicuous. So, she did the next best thing, and gingerly plucked the offered food from the stranger's plate with slender fingers.
She immediately released the steaming potato with a pinched yelp, watching in horror as it bounced once with a dull thunk before rolling across the bar, unobstructed, and off the edge, directly in front of the woman who had chosen that particular moment to reappear and address her earlier question. She held her gaze for a moment, glanced towards the girl at her right, then raised her hand slightly.
"Hi." she said stupidly. She pointed at a serving girl carrying empty tankards in each hand back to the kitchen. "Could I do that? I'm great with people."
Fri Aug 22, 2014 1:29 pm
She watched the potato roll down the bar, tumbling in that sort of odd off balance manner before coming to a stop right in front of her. Sometimes she wondered about the things she missed. She left the potato there, seeing as it seemed to have some sort of purpose. People around here didn't waste food and she assumed that in a moment or two it's rightful owner would pick it up off the bar.
"Hi. Usually folks start off with introducing themselves. Like Hi, I'm Dulcie. I'm the innkeeper, and you are?" She asked of the young woman who was motioning to the barmaid. "and I imagine you might be able to manage it. You ever worked in a tavern before? It's not easy work. You have to be good with people and quick on your feet."
She rested her hands on the bar, giving the woman a good look over. She herself seemed a little young to be running a bar, maybe in her thirties, dressed simply and with features that made her blend in with just about any other Myrkenwood woman. Nothing about her stood out in particular, which perhaps was why she was so good at working and then suddenly reappearing a few minutes later.
Fri Aug 22, 2014 1:58 pm
Oh, right. Names. Most people had those.
"Sorry, I guess I got ahead of myself. I'm Vixen, at the moment. Just Vixen." She extended a hand towards the woman, trying to make a better second impression. The tips of her fingers were red from the heat of the potato that lay between them. "And I may have worked in a tavern before. I'm not really sure. But I'm definitely great with crowds. I'm a street performer during the day, so I'm used to entertaining lots of people at once. Oh, and I'm quick on my feet, like you said. I can run pretty fast, if that's what you're talking about. Like, so fast."
She smiled, pleased with herself, figuring that the information provided just about summed things up. If what she had shared didn't scream barmaid material, nothing did.
"So, if I do get the job, do I need to wear a uniform or something?"
Fri Aug 22, 2014 2:12 pm
The potato was taken. Meanwhile, the girl helped herself to one of those that remained. On her capable hand, not even all the digits were intact -- her ring-finger was but a single-knuckled stump. Dulcie and the stranger spoke; meanwhile--
A shout, a yelp of pain. She watched as the potato rolled over the side of the bar and leered after it with flat-eyed disappointment. The hefty girl's shoulder dropped in exaggerated disappointment, and she said around her mouthful of food, "That's a waste," before she mopped off the oils and juices from her pewter plate with a hunk of yesterday's bread.
You ever worked in a tavern before? It's not easy work, Dulcie said.
And the other: I can run pretty fast, if that's what you're talking about.
But at the name, the commoner girl with the dark-skinned face peeled the side of her bonnet back to leer with embellished displeasure toward the potato-dropper. "A vixen is a thing. One who -- who works her wiles on not-so-clever men with but a glimpse of the skin on her thighs. Dulcie's a name. Gloria's a name." Her palm patted against her breast as if to apply that moniker to herself. "But Vixen? Not a name."
A pause. Enough time to breathe. She flashed a smile full of yellowed teeth toward Dulcie. A flash of playful conspiracy for the innkeeper. Gloria's attention turned back toward the other woman.
"I hope you'd hold tankards better than you hold potatoes."
Fri Aug 22, 2014 3:18 pm
"A Vixen is a thing."
She looked at the girl, startled. She wasn't sure what she had done wrong this time.
"Sorry, what?" she asked, her brow furrowed slightly.
The girl continued, regarding her with what looked to be contempt. "Dulcie's a name. Gloria's a name." She indicated herself with her one mostly intact hand. "But Vixen? Not a name."
At those words, a look of annoyance and something else, possibly frustration, flashed across Vixen's face, looking alien on her features. It was gone as quickly as it had come, but the feeling lingered, hovering over her even as she smiled easily.
I don't have a name.
"Sorry, that's my stage name. I've gotten used to it. You're welcome to call me whatever you like." She glanced at the woman behind the bar. "You too, Miss Dulcie. I'm not picky."
I don't have a name.
Willing the smile to remain convincing, she reached out and grabbed the potato, now considerably cooler, and wiped it with the cloth napkin that had been provided with her drink. She took a small bite of it, working her teeth past the somewhat tough skin, and was surprised by the soft center. She chewed thoughtfully, swallowed, and glanced at Gloria.
"Thanks again. This is pretty good."
Fri Aug 22, 2014 4:56 pm
"Potatoes are potatoes. Good or bad, they taste like dirt, which tastes better than sand."
Gloria was unabashed in her examination of the other woman: her dull eyes were narrowed in scrutiny and her dry lips were tightened into a flat line. Her observation was not entirely unkind -- curious, yes, but it harbored nothing like the disdain or suspicion one might feel from a Constable's gaze. She scrubbed her palm off on her skirt, leaving a smear of cooking-grease on the rough fabric.
Vixen's face, for a moment, had gone through flickers of change. And Gloria, with that leer, watched the contours shift, alter, and return to normal.
"If -- if Vixen is your stage name," she said, "then you ought to call me by mine. Scarlet Glass, at your service."
Her hand flourished itself at the pivot of her wrist, and she swept it down in a grand arc that complemented the half-bow she gave from her barstool. The swollen crest of her belly offered her little room to bend much further, however, so she straightened herself quickly after. That same arm returned to the bar. She lifted her tin mug of tea, sipped at it, and raised her eyebrows from behind the battered mug. "A lady with a stage name is fit for the proscenium and -- and the theatres, isn't she? So why inquire at all about serving drinks?"
Fri Aug 22, 2014 6:34 pm
Vixen's smile grew, becoming sincere when Gloria commented on the overall taste of potatoes. She was beginning to suspect that the things she said weren't intended to be rude; she simply spoke her mind, and you could take it or leave it. It didn't seem to effect her either way.
"Nice to meet you, Scarlet." Still seated, she dipped her head and bobbed a curtsy or sorts. Not that her outfit was suitable for such a thing; each side of the dress was slit to the thigh, so she didn't have anywhere to grab, really. But it's the thought that counts, right? She certainly thought so.
"I was actually referring to a different sort of stage. One that's with me wherever I go. I'm a dancer by trade." She paused thoughtfully, glancing to one side. "At least, I am now." Her eyes returned to the girl. "Anyway, I was with a troupe up until recently, but I left them behind in Foggy Bottom to come here. I, uh, didn't really think about the money, but to make a long story short, I want something reliable. Dancing is great, but I can't guarantee that the tips can put a roof over my head every night. And in a town like this, that's kind of important."
Again, Vixen looked the girl over, taking in more detail this time. She was an odd bird. Not that she was one to talk. "What about you? What do you do?"
Fri Aug 22, 2014 6:58 pm
There was nothing remarkable about the girl outside of the asymmetry of her arms and the girth of her abdomen. Gloria wore a commoner's garb, all tones suited best for dirt and soil. Her shoulders and hips were hefty and thick, her frame lined with unrefined muscle hidden beneath natural weight. When she smiled, her teeth were uneven and discolored, but she couldn't have been more than halfway to her second decade. The Glass Sun had burned her skin to beaten leather.
...a different sort of stage. One that's with me wherever I go. I'm a dancer by trade.
"I don't see a stage," she said, her eyebrows lifting. "Unless you hide one in your smallclothes. Though I imagine that would be terribly uncomfortable." Her head tilted forward. She saw skin on the other woman's leg, from the ankle, up to the bend of the knee, and nearly to the thigh. Then: "I could sew that for you. A rip like that might -- might give wandering minds vagrant thoughts.
"I'm a seamstress." A proud smile quickly flattened. "Was a seamstress."
She pivoted on the stool. With no thought regarding propriety, she unhanded her mug and reached out to gather up a corner of the other woman's skirt. Leaning closer, Gloria's clothes bore the odor of stale sweat -- a symptom of summer's blistering heat. She sought out evidence of a tear, a rend in the fabric; she seemed perplexed that distant fashions would dictate such immodesty.
"Do men like to see skin," Gloria asked, "when you dance?"
Fri Aug 22, 2014 7:28 pm
In the span of five minutes, Gloria had gone from shoving potatoes at her to lifting her dress. Vixen watched her examine the smooth black cloth with her on hand, a hand than seemed familiar with fabric, comfortable running fingers across it. She absently wondered what had happened to the other before quickly deciding that it was none of her business.
She was glad that the modesty clothes she wore hidden under the outfit were present. Otherwise, a few of the patrons would have gotten an eyeful. The corner of her mouth twitched at the girl's bemusement over the dress.
"Do men like to see skin when you dance?" Gloria asked.
"I guess, yeah. Some women, too." Vixen was quiet for a moment, watching the girl reach the conclusion that she was, indeed, wearing an outfit that was designed to showcase her body. "But that's really not what it's about. Not by a long shot. I dance for myself as much as them." Fearing that the girl might not understand what she meant, she changed the subject back to the dress, embarrassed.
"Believe it or not, this is traditional dancer's garb from a desert kingdom in the East. It's actually one of the more conservative styles."
Sat Aug 23, 2014 3:24 am
"You ought to -- to always do a thing for yourself before you do it for others," she reasoned, drawing back from her examination of the fabric. "A candle does not burn at the behest of the wax or the wick. While it does its work for the man or woman who needs its light, the flame doesn't stop dancing when we look away from it.
"It flickers. It spins and flutters even if there's no one there to watch it."
No judgment marred the girl's plain-looking face. Men liked to see the skin; women liked it too, sometimes, the dancer had told her. What she said next was a recitation, a verse stitched into her memory; the words were laborious, translated from the Jernoan in her brain to the Standard on her tongue--
"H'zlz adored his G'leuse. H'zlz blunted his sword on a whole army's
bones and blood
and waded through their corpses like they were
mud, that he might deliver his love to safety;
H'zlz loved his G'leuse
for what a woman could not offer him,
as women were but vessels of necessity."
Gloria stared at a knot in the bar, then tried to wipe it away with her thumb.
"It's from my favorite poem," she explained. "Vixen is too peculiar a name. So I am going to call you Jig."
Her hand lifted. She cut it through the air to her left -- west -- and then to her right -- east -- to acclimate herself to direction before asking:
"What desert kingdom," Gloria asked. "Was it your home?"
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