Solo [West Street] Orchids on the Windowsill

Oleander's 1st job thread for Spring 517 AV

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Center of scholarly knowledge and shipwrighting, Zeltiva is a port city unlike any other in Mizahar. [Lore]

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[West Street] Orchids on the Windowsill

Postby Oleander Soleran on April 26th, 2017, 7:20 pm

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12th & 13th of Spring, 517 AV
They had only moved to Zeltiva a season ago, but the Solerans were already struggling to survive.

While on the road from Syliras to Zeltiva, all their troubles had been far away, fading into the cycle of days upon similar days, dust on faces, dust on clothes and step after step after step, repeated over and over until he stopped counting days and the blisters on his soles that had bothered him at first turned into callus. His sister had lost motivation even before he did, and his father was the only one singing a traveller’s songs, taking his confidence from Aquiras-knew-where. Rendan had rebuild his life multiple from scratch before, and was prepared to do it again.

Only this time, preparation might be too little.

The winter had been harsher than most, and in an unprecedented way. In fact, it had been the mildest winter anyone he knew had ever experienced, and that alone had turned it into everyone’s worst nightmare. Nature had been turned upside down, no snow had covered the plants, nothing had given fish and birds the signs they needed to move their location into their usual breeding spots for spring. It was a disaster. Some flowers and trees had been blooming through all of winter, but now the fruit lacked the sun to ripen and the usual spring rainfalls turned them sour and rotten before they could ever be harvested. What followed was close enough to a famine, a novel experience for the young herbalist. Food was gaining in value and it was becoming increasingly taxing to obtain enough to keep three bellies full, especially when they had to use much of their savings to buy a house and basic furniture in Zeltiva. Rendan was out and about looking for work, taking occasional jobs near the port, unlading the first ships that came in after the blockade or lumbering. After a few weeks, he had found work in another man’s large shop as a vendor. He would work his way up from there until he could open his own, small store. One thing was set in stone: Oleander’s father never lost hope, and he never gave up.

Hortense was silently playing her part. She had used the first week to introduce herself to all of their new neighbours, and they had taken it surprisingly well. Granted, she had a beautiful and trustworthy face and knew how to wind people around her finger. Nevertheless, Oleander certainly had not expected them to invite her for dinner the next evening. And while she spoke to people amiably, she showed off her self-made clothes and convinced them that she was an able seamstress. After five weeks, she was fixing the clothes of three family’s little boys, and they payed well for it.

Oleander was not as socially able as his sister was, nor did he care to be. He had never been good at talking his way into people’s hearts. It was a trait that seemed to run in all of the family, just not in him. And while neither Rendan nor Hortense pressured him, he knew they expected him to play his part now, to grow up, stop digging around and help his family survive. They would never pressure him beyond gentle teasing from his sister, and in a way, that made Oleander feel even worse.

He knew he needed to make a change, to get to work, but on his terms.
Last edited by Oleander Soleran on July 9th, 2017, 10:58 am, edited 3 times in total.
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[West Street] Orchids on the Windowsill

Postby Oleander Soleran on April 28th, 2017, 1:50 pm

A small bell rang when Oleander moved the heavy door that led into the apothecary and the man behind the counter looked up from the book he had been reading, a touch of annoyance written across his face. He looked the young boy up and down, deciding what to make of him, trying to determine whether he was one of the university’s pale whippersnappers or just a boy of the streets who’d come in for drugs or on a dare. When Oleander stepped in with uncertainty, he guessed that it was one of the latter, and that the boy was more trouble than he was worth. His frown deepened as he considered the fastest way to get rid of him.

Oleander eyed the pharmacist in turn, wondering how much knowledge hid behind those squinted eyes and whether it was wisdom that streaked his once-brown hair with white. Behind the counter, shelves filled with jars lined the wall, containing all kinds of dried herbs, pastes and mixtures. Some of them, Oleander recognized, but most were unfamiliar to him.

“What do you want?”, the apothecary grumbled at him before he had a chance to say good morning. He looked back down at his book for a moment, obviously unwilling to tear his attention from the chapter. Oleander really wanted to sneak a glance at what he was reading, but did not dare to.

“My name is Oleander…Soleran. I moved to Zeltiva last season-“

The man cut him off with a snort. “Get to the point. I don’t have time for your biography.”

That gave Oleander a moment of pause. With some effort, he willed the wavering out of his voice and announced: “I’m here to ask you for a job.” He looked at the man’s face, trying to read his expression, but he remained as stone-faced as before, as if he had eaten the wrong thing for breakfast or felt generally loathed by the world. “I’ve worked with herbs before I can tell many of them apart. For some, I know their usage and how to prepare them. I can brew teas for bellyaches, headaches, fevers and colds make a poultice that helps wounds heal faster and many more things. I can work, and I’m a fast learner.”

His pleading did not have the desired effect. “…and I’m sure you can’t afford to visit the university”, the apothecary concluded and shook his head in disgruntlement. “I don’t care what leaves you collect in your undoubtedly dirty hut, kid, but this is not a playhouse for the poor and bored. I sell medicine here, do you understand that? I don’t need a good-for-nothing street rat to spoil my inventory and steal the narcotics. I suggest you leave this establishment and return to where you came from. Let qualified people do their work and find a job you are fit for… Sweep the street, clean the sewers.” With a dry chuckle, he added: “And if you’re so keen on plants, maybe someone will let you cut back their roses.”

Oleander’s breath caught as the foulness of these words slowly sunk through to him. Not only was his request being declined, but the man was also mocking and belittling him. He opened his mouth to answer back, smash those words right back into the apothecary’s face or ask him to reconsider, but he had already turned his attention back to his book, unwilling to waste any more of his precious time on a boy who did not belong into his shop.

Oleander averted his gaze, and with his head hanging, turned around without another word. The bell above the door announced his defeat.
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[West Street] Orchids on the Windowsill

Postby Oleander Soleran on April 29th, 2017, 10:15 am

If he returned home like this, with drooping shoulders and the corners of his mouth hanging half an inch lower than usual, his family would immediately guess that something was wrong and he knew he could not stand their comfort or teasing right now. The apothecary’s words rang in his head as he trudged through the streets, never minding where his feet would carry him. Was that really all he was good for? Cleaning up? Doing the dirty work for people with a higher calling? Was all the work he had poured into plants, his faith, his curiosity, for naught, just because he did not have the money for a seat in a University classroom? And how was he supposed to earn that money if nobody was willing to employ him? He was caught between a rock and a hard place, and did not see a way to escape the situation.

Except… Except if he distilled what little advice the rough dismissal had contained into one fact: He could work outside his area of expertise until he had the money he needed. It would be rougher, of course, given his lack of skill in most areas and it would probably feel like a burden, but as long as he knew what he was working for, he could do it.

His steps were more firm now, and he had a direction in mind. It took him a little longer to reach West Street than it would have most native Zeltivans, as he did not know the shortcuts and rat runs… Rat runs. Shouldn’t a rat like him knew them? Shaking off an insult like that was harder than he wanted to admit.

A few chimes later, he finally reached the market stalls of West Street. There was a constant huzzle and buzzle of townsfolk here, housewives making their daily round to catch the freshest vegetables and strike the best bargains, despite the times of hunger. Certainly, prices were higher than usual, but if anything, that just increased the volume of their bartering. Oleander wriggled through the crowd like a weasel, jumping out of the way of an approaching cart a couple of times in the process.

There was a board to the far side of the plaza where citizens could pin notes with general information and requests, like when they had a chicken for sale or needed someone to watch their kids from time to time. When Oleander approached it, he found it to be relatively empty. People had no money to spend on extravagancies; they spent it all on food.

Someone was offering to exchange old jewellery, all family heirloom, for a sack of grain. Someone else looked for a nice young man with decent income to marry his daughter to. The last snipped was hard to decipher, the hand it was written in was a little shaky and old-fashioned. It belonged to a woman who needed help clearing out her attic. It felt like a task that could probably wait until easier days, but she still offered to pay two nilos per hour that the task would take, so it must have been urgent.

Without a second thought, Oleander plucked the snipped from the board, double-checked the address and stuffed it into his pocket.
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[West Street] Orchids on the Windowsill

Postby Oleander Soleran on June 5th, 2017, 7:44 pm

He arrived in a large front yard that had once been beautiful. It was wilderness now, thickets of roses and thorns that had spread well out of their constraints, rotten petals, some frozen, some withered. Chive and clover had spread between too-long blades of grass; the last remnants of herbs were being suffocated under one huge ligneous thyme. The young man shook his head, thinking of a million ways to improve this bit of land into a beautiful garden. He made a high step over a large, unearthed root of the pear tree next to the trail leading from the street to the doorstep of the small house nestled into the greenery. The façade was as worn as the garden around it was. His imagination told him how pretty it must have looked – a touch of yellow and cream to its hue, surprisingly large windows, one story and a pointed roof. Somebody had painted a dark blue bordure beneath the gable, but the paint was old and peeling. Oleander curled his hand into a fist and knocked on the wooden door – once, twice, and then he waited.

The door was opened slowly, and a weary old woman came into view. She walked bent over and crookedly and Oleander wondered why she was not using a stick to support her. Her eyes were bright enough, obviously not dampened by the mists of age, but a shadow lay over them. Her entire body language spelt “loss” to him, from the sagged shoulders to the position of the corners of her mouth, low, too low. It took no master to read and guess at what had happened. “Who are you, boy?”

Oleander chose not to push at the obvious and ask about her grief. Instead, he gave a small bow before he addressed her. “Oleander Soleran, missis. I read you needed help with your attic.”

She eyed his slender frame, but did not dismiss him. In the end, her eyes rested on his own. Grey and deep with the currents of life that had dragged her under. “Well, come on in, boy. Call me Anna.” She turned around in her slow manner and left the door open for him to follow. There were three small steps leading into the first room, all worn and slippery from years of steps taken up and down. Two pairs of shoes stood on the lowest one. Oleander opened his own boots, dirty with mud and earth and street dust, and placed them next to those already present.

The door at the top of the stairs opened into a short, narrow corridor with doors on either side. Anna was taking the first door to the left, and Oleander followed her into a simplistic kitchen. He was offered a seat at a small table, and Anna dropped onto the opposite one. “Well, Oleander, the note you found is at least a season old.” Oleander kept himself from sighing. So much for the work he was seeking. But the fact that she’d asked him in probably meant that she has use for him nonetheless. And the snipped had been at the board, after all, so perhaps…

“You’re the first one who’s sought me out.” The woman’s fingers drummed a nervous staccato onto the wooden surface of the table. “Everyone around here knew my husband.” Before Oleander had a chance to reply, the elaborated: “He died when winter had just settled, if that’s what you want to call it. He was a carpenter for most of the families on the street, and he had a way with children. We didn’t have any, so he played with the neighbours’.” Was that a tear in her eye? Oleander could not tell, but he was beginning to feel uncomfortable. As if she had noticed, Anna sat upright. Her fingers stilled, and she brought her second hand up onto the table to fold it into the first one. “The attic is full of his old works. I cannot bring myself to look at them, and nobody will buy them. They remind people of a good man who passed to early.” This time, her sob was audible.

Oleander got up and approached her, placing a hand on her shoulder, unsure of how to consulate her. “I moved here this season,” he explained quietly. “I did not know your husband, but I can tell he was a good man from the way you remember him.” He could fix a bleeding wound, but not one of the heart. Reaching for the right words, but never finding them, he retracted his hand as Anna looked up. “He was, boy.” With a sigh, she blinked the wetness from her eyes and pushed the chair back heavily as she stood up. “Let me show you the ladder and hatch.”
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[West Street] Orchids on the Windowsill

Postby Oleander Soleran on June 16th, 2017, 5:49 pm

The attic was less spacious than it had looked from outside, but he could stand upright in the middle of it, where the tip of the roof was the highest. It was stuffy with dust, and the idea of how it must feel in summer, when the air was rich with humidity and sultriness, made him grateful for the current season. As Anna had said, the walls were lined with old pieces of furniture, stretching as far as the narrowing space between ceiling and floor towards the edges of the room would allow. In the back, two racks and an armoire lay on their sides to fit in. The room was not stuffed, but he imagined he would need the rest of the day and perhaps half a second one to clear it. He did not allow himself to look at the furniture too closely. They could use some in their new home, where all they owned was a little worn and uncomfortable… But these pieces were too good just to take, even if Anna wanted to get rid of them, and he was not in the position to ask for anything.

“What do you want me to do with the furniture once I’ve taken it downstairs?”, he called down towards where the woman was waiting while he got an overview.

“I’ve thought about that”, she said. “We burn the ones the timberworms had a snack of”, she announced, but he could hear her heart hurting with the idea of turning her husband’s work to ash. “They aren’t pretty to look at and a chair full of holes would give way under someone’s rear sooner or later. The other ones, we give away”, she elaborated and sneezed from the dust that must have rained down on her when she opened the hatch.

“Bless you”, Oleander said absent-mindedly while he looked around the room once more. Indeed, some of the furniture carried the telltale signs of housing worms. “Maybe I can…disintegrate the bad ones before I carry them down”, he suggested. “It’ll be easier than carrying an entire wardrobe down those narrow stairs.” Looking down through the hatch, he could see Anna nodding.

“That’s a good idea, boy. I’d prefer if you did not break your neck in my house.”

Or at all, Oleander silently added.

- - -


Oleander spent the better half of the afternoon breaking down pieces of rotten furniture with an axe Anna had dug out from her “tool stall”, an actual old stable filled with what Oleander supposed was a carpenter’s equipment. All of it had belonged to the deceased husband, so naturally, Anna had hardly touched it. It looked used, but was in well-enough shape to be sold off after the famine, and Oleander told her as much. “No, boy”, was her quiet reply, “this is where he spent most of his time. If his spirit lingers, which I’d like to believe, it’s here. He wouldn’t mind us using it, but he would never have let me sell it when he was alive, so I will not sell it now.”

Where one piece of wood was infested with timber worms, a second one usually was not hard to find. Upon closer inspection, almost half of what lay preserved in the attic was unusable, including all of the large pieces. Oleander pried the pieces apart with arms and axe, and by the time he had disassembled two shelves, he was already sweating. By no means was this an ideal job for him, but in dire times, money was money. Anna gave him a large basket to carry the pieces downstairs with, and provided him with a glass of water when he needed it most.

By the end of the day, all that was left of the furniture were two small tables, a bedframe, a drawer, all lacquered and in good condition. The jewel of the collection, however, was a beautifully painted rocking horse, fashioned to fit a small child, complete with a saddle of leather and stirrups. It had been tucked behind the wardrobes, in furthest corner of the room. “For the child we never had”, Anna explained, “A collaboration with his friend, who had a way with colours.”

- - -


These were the pieces he left for the following day, when he bounced out of the door right after breakfast. While the reason Anna was clearing out her attic was sad, he had started to like the lonely old lady over the course of the day and inexplicably looked forward to meeting her again. Maybe it was her age, the questions he did not ask, and the excitement she did not show. Oleander was a quiet one, and the silence of working in Anna’s house was of the comfortable variety.

Two bells after his arrival, he carried the last piece out of the front door and into the garden, where Anna had spread a piece of canvas to even the ground for display. She had told the neighbours to take their pick of the remaining furniture that after noon, and a few passersby had shot them curious glances already, but none had come to ask about the tables or anything else. Either they thought it would cost them after all, felt reluctant about taking good wooden pieces from an old woman for free or remembered her husband too well to stand his crafts in their homes.

Oleander stacked the axe away and swiped the attic floor with a large, old mop, stifling more than one sneeze. He cleared the cobwebs from the only window and took a moment to swipe it with water. With nothing left to do, he went to Anna for payment.

With five bells of work the previous day and two that day, he could have asked for 14 nilos, but he felt bad for Anna. She was as poor as he was, and grief had driven her to offer so much money to a stranger. “How about seven nilos?”, he offered, but she shook her head.

“You did good work, boy, and I stand by my word.”

“Ten?”

“Fourteen, boy.”

“I’ll take it”, he gave in, “but only if you let me work in your garden for a while.” The thought had come to him the moment he first entered her front yard, and now he had a reason to fix it for her if she let him. “I know a bit about plants, Anna. This is a beautiful garden, and it pains me to see it suffer.”

She took a long moment to look at the thyme and the roses, then at him. Then she nodded. “Fine, Oleander. I haven’t had the strength to see to it, and there’s hardly anything you can destroy here. And since you insist…”

“I do.”

“But I’ll pay you –“

Any further conversation was cut short by a young couple entering slowly through the garden gate, a young child clinging to the mother’s lap at first, then bouncing towards the wooden horse with joy in his eyes once he had decided that Anna and Oleander were no threat. “It’s a horsey, mama! Can I have it? I’ll be a better rider than the Drykas, I promise!”

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[West Street] Orchids on the Windowsill

Postby Oleander Soleran on June 16th, 2017, 6:47 pm

Ankles-deep in earth, Oleander was happy. After a teary-eyed departure from her rocking horse, Anna had showed him an assortment of gardening tools, hidden in a niche behind the tool stall, not nearly as numerous as the carpentry equipment, but he did not need the extravagancy. He needed a shovel, a spade and a bucket, a bit of time, a bit of greenery, and he was fine. In fact, his transformation from a taciturn young man to a joyous kid was quite the amusing shift to the observer: A smile tugged at his mouth and his eyes lit up much like the small child’s had when he had spied Anna’s horse. The woman watched him work in between customers and felt happy herself. There was life in her garden, for the first time in many weeks.

Instead of digging out all the weeds that littered the garden at once, Oleander started small. He chose a tiny space underneath Anna’s bedroom window and marked out a square bed with pebbles he had found. With the spade, he dug out the wild grass that had spread, and even just in that small space, it took him time and sweat. The roots ran deep and tangled in various places, and clover and dandelion with its long taproots had settled in as well. The soil was dry, but he found an old watering can full of algae and moistened it.

Anna’s customers paid him no mind. She got rid of every last piece, although the final table stood there until dawn, when an elderly man asked about it. He refused to take it without payment, and despite Anna’s resilience, finally convinced her to take two nilos in exchange for it. She took the money with a grim mouth but grateful eyes, then folded her canvas and settled in an old lawn chair while Oleander worked.

In the process of freeing the small piece of garden of weeds, he had dug it over automatically. He wanted something nice here, something pretty, flowers. Something Anna could look at when she woke up, a little bit of happiness and sunshine among the wilderness. With some time, he could turn the entire garden a little more pretty and organized, he had done it before. But he had learnt that he needed to start somewhere, start small, not attempt to control the entire chaos at once.

He cut wooden stems off the old rose bushes, removed the lower leaves and wounded the cuttings with inch-long slices into the stems. Then he made small holes in his new, clean flower bed, all of them two or three inches deep, stuck the stems inside and watered them. He had heard about this method of growing new roses before, but had not tried it out. He felt like it may be a little too early and cold to succeed, but it was worth an attempt.

Finally, he wanted something that bloomed immediately. He had left a spot in the middle of the rose field where he dug his hole a little deeper, then went home for a small plate of dinner to sooth his grumbling stomach and to assure Hortense that he was doing fine. He had an orchid plant on the front porch that was quickly outgrowing its pot, and he took the entire, heavy plant and took it to Anna’s home. Some people on the West Street shot him curious glances as the flower pot swayed precariously in front of his head as he stumbled along. It was hard to see where he was putting his feet.

When he returned, Anna and her chair were gone. He suspected that she had gone inside, but all the lights planted it under the window, where Anna could see it. It was a matter of chimes, now that the hard work was done. The plant had a small layer, and he separated it and put it into a small pot with fresh earth. In time, it would develop the same beautiful flowers, white with rosy dots along the petal’s edges, that the mother plant had.

He left it on Anna’s doorstep where she would find it the next time she left the house with a note:

“Put it on your windowsill.”
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[West Street] Orchids on the Windowsill

Postby Karyk on June 16th, 2017, 8:36 pm

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Oleander Soleran
Skills
Observation: 3
Rhetoric: 1
Planning: 1
Bodybuilding: 1
Salvage: 1
Negotiation: 1
Gardening: 1
Lores
Middle class people don't want to hire poor people
Any job will do when you have no mizas
Zeltiva Contact: Anna the widow
Furniture infested with timberworms should be burned, not used
Negotiation: Giving more when offered more
Gardening: Pebbles make for good flower bed borders
Miscellaneous
None


 
Notes and Comments
CS Checkmarked: ✓
CS Reviewed by Me: ✓
Season Request was Submitted for Grade: Summer 517
Season of last IC post: Summer 517
Season of last Paid Seasonal Expense: Spring 517
Eligible for grade? Yes





Gosh Oleander is such a sweetheart, you sure he's not a true Zeltivan? Well done, and please mark your post as Graded or remove it from the queue. Thanks!
Follow your heart, and the plot will follow.
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