Completed Sugar and Steam

What goes around comes around. [Job Thread]

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

Sugar and Steam

Postby Caspian on November 22nd, 2018, 2:46 am

60 Fall 518


A week after Helva confronts Caspian at the café where he’d roosted, Caspian finds himself sitting on a quilted cream divan in her parlor, watching the setting sun bathe the room in vermilion hues.

“You’re sure he won’t be coming back anytime soon?” he asks.

Helva’s entering the parlor with a glossy tray laden with tea and fruit in blue porcelain, accompanied by all manner of its trappings. The mention of her husband suddenly discovering the two of them colluding, and under his own roof, doesn’t seem to phase her.

“Not for two more bells, at least.”

From anyone else, the assertion alone, no matter how emphatically it may have expressed, would not have been enough to assuage him. From the piercingness of Helva, though –

She sets down the tray and takes a seat in the armchair beside him. It’s quilted too, like the divan, though richer in color with tones of gray, and as Caspian looks around he notices that all the furniture in her home is on this side of spectrum - the neutral canvas to pair perfectly with her clothing, which today involves a floor-sweeping muslin train trimmed with emerald grosgrain.

“I think it would be better if I were to take the franker approach to this,” she says, swirling light touches of sugar and milk into her tea. “I’m having an affair,” she says, looking Caspian dead in the eye.

When he says nothing – it’s just the oldest story in the book, isn’t it? A little humdrum, hardly one to cause shock – she takes a sip, peering at him over the rim.

“With?” he prompts, knowing that next step is what she wants from him.

It’s the right move, because the expression on her face is lightening up considerably. Caspian's good at portraying engagement when he chooses. “His name is Simour.”

“And what does Simour do?”

“He’s a chef, at a small sit-down restaurant near the center of the city.”

“Is he any good?”

“I should say so.”

“Handsome?”

“Incredibly.”

“So I suppose the caliber of his cooking matters less.”

Helva laughs, the pitch biting and sharp like everything else she does, though he’s certain she’s in a well enough mood, clearly delighted to have someone to blithely share her secret with, and over tea and doilies, no less. “He is good. It’s how I met him, in fact. Walthaen and I were there for dinner last spring, and the fish I’d ordered was braised to absolute perfection. I asked the waiter to give my compliments to the chef – and he came out personally to thank me. It was his very first night cooking for the floor, he told me. He’d been relegated to washing dishes and chopping leeks for the better part of a year before that.”

“Not so weathered then, is he?”

“No. About your age… if I had to guess.” And accompanying this is a sweep of her eyes across him, from head to toe, concealing very little of the action.

In acknowledgement of the implications, though he doesn’t usher them further, he tilts his head to the side and gives her a winsome smile. (He doesn’t know if he’d go for it, though he’s not opposed, and it’s a refreshing thing to have captured her interest after all the obtuseness of Walthaen. The frustrating thing with Walthaen was that he had never confirmed one way or the other as to whether Caspian would be a body he’d be interested in in the first place – and so Caspian began to anxiously fret that the absence of reciprocity meant that he really has begun to slip, and that his aesthetic peak had long come and gone.)

“I take it that Simour is who you’d like me to keep an eye on?” he says.

A darker expression flits across her face for a moment, and ruminating there, she takes another sip and tucks her golden tresses behind her ears.

“Call it some haughty mode of comeuppance, a ‘what goes around comes around’ turn of events, but… I think he may be having an affair too.”

Privately, Caspian relishes that it’s now a little more exciting.

She tells Caspian where to find Simour. The up-and-coming paramour had turned her down for a tryst that was meant to happen the next night – and if he isn’t with Helva, then surely, he must be choosing to spend it with someone else.

“Follow him. Remember everything, and spare me no detail. Please.”

“Sounds easy enough,” Caspian replies, pouring sugar freely into his tea.

--
WC: 754
Last edited by Caspian on November 25th, 2018, 9:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Sugar and Steam

Postby Caspian on November 24th, 2018, 11:49 pm

There are harder jobs out there – Caspian knows this very well, or at least he can imagine it very well. There could be more danger involved, the bodily sort, the kind involving hidden daggers and loosing crystal venom vials of their stoppers, and slipping wax-sealed scrolls of parchment from one hand to another in the dark. There could, certainly, be more involved to this than simply following a young, bright-eyed cook from the west of Ravok towards the east. It turns out Simour doesn’t live very far from Caspian - though of course he’ll never know it – in an apartment of significantly grander dimensions, with a far neater façade, suggesting in turn that internally it’s also got a greater gleam. The place even has a balcony, overlooking an agreeable set of archways and canals. As far as living in The Docks goes, Simour’s got it quite made.

Given Simour’s age – could even be younger than Caspian, if he were to guess from his stolen glances – and given the fledgling states of his culinary career, someone else must be footing the bill. Not so much a stretch, then, to put two and two together and consider it extremely like that this is where Walthaen’s money has been going.

For years, though, is what Walthaen had said when he first hired Caspian. Over several years certain parcels of mizas seemed to have been stolen away at regular intervals, resulting now in collective sums so great that he’d gone out of his way to find someone like Caspian and bring him into his employ. Simour is too young to have played this kind of hand in Walthaen’s financial anxieties, the ones stretching back that far, so if not just dallying with Simour, what’s Helva been up to?

Things will come to light one way or another - Caspian’s fairly certain of it, so he tears his mind away now from the possibilities, and refocuses on the morning task at hand.

Simour is a handsome man, that much hadn’t been exaggerated. Self-assured, buoyant, his presence more definitive than Walthaen’s way of inhibitive blustering. Together they walk from west to east, Caspian keeping easy distance behind, and at a pace far more manageable than the breakneck hurtles after Helva. Along the way, Simour collects a fair number of glances and smiles thrown his direction by appreciative strangers, and it’s no stretch to imagine that he might reciprocate these attentions as easily as he might disregard them - Helva’s fears for her beloved scandal aren’t so unrealistically founded.

It’s much easier following Simour than Helva, and though Caspian appreciated the challenge it was to tail her, there is of course plenty of value to be found in a relatively relaxing experience that doesn’t have his pulse raising 30 new beats a minute. They aren’t acquainted but Caspian likes him a little already, this part of him that takes the predictable paths across the city, choosing without fail the safer and less-winding avenues, faltering respectably at heavily congested footpaths rather than cutting through, and allowing strangers to move past first should they collide at some crossing.

--
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Sugar and Steam

Postby Caspian on November 25th, 2018, 1:15 am

Unlike Helva, who had mowed her way through the city with relentless urgency, stopping for no one, Simour falls into holding three separate interactions. There’s an older man sweeping stray reeds and soot from his porch with a bundle of dried brush; a woman around their age leaning and whistling in the doorway of a milliner’s shop; and a boisterous fellow who joins Simour the rest of the way to the restaurant upon their recognizing one another.

The first seems innocuous enough, and from the snatches of conversation Caspain manages to overhear, the older man is a friend of Simour’s father, and only asks after his health, his mother’s, the usual. Appropriately, it doesn’t last very long, the man performing his chores languidly, Simour not closing the distance to shake hands, only waving, and pleasantries are all that appear to be exchanged.

The second instance immediately piques Caspian’s interest. It’s the easy suspect, the pretty shop assistant in amaranthine muslin skirts who bestows upon Simour the widest, most unabashed of smiles, and draws him much closer than the friend of his father’s. Without reserve, Simour’s smiling widely back, their energetic gestures and stances, coupled with successive shared laughs suggesting that Simour takes this precise route on his way to work every morning. They miss each other sometimes, maybe, but the shop doorway is where this must take place, in the stages of acquaintance and attraction when some quality of aloofness is still in style, and here, from this doorway, with him on the street, they can pretend for a little longer that these meetings are accidents, with little pressure on either side. Had Simour kissed her, flicked a lock of her hair, or closed the gap between them in some definitive way, Caspian would be more assured that with this, the case is closed. But stark infidelity to the infidelious Helva is one thing, and lingering by shop assistants another – so Caspian will have to wait for nightfall, and see if Simour will choose to return. Then, with any luck, case closed, at least in this regard, and he can redirect his energies towards navigating his own tangle with Walthaen.

The third person Simour runs into that morning is a burlier sort – hair pulled back into a clean, perfunctory tie, forearms wide and veined, hands worn in a way suggesting a lifetime of manual labor. Rougher, clearly more than Caspian’s – though that’s not hard to find – but held with a clear measure of presence and dexterity. They don’t part ways, Simour and his friend, and friend it must be, for Simour is speaking freely about nothing in particular, and at ease. In the end, they both enter the restaurant Helva had identified as Simour’s place of employ – so the friend is more than a friend, also a coworker, and based on their jocosity, maybe even the chef at the station alongside him.

It’s early in the day still, the place opening for lunch and the kitchen serving through supper. It’s likely that Simour will be occupied with whatever prep work needed for that day. It’s a nice place, Caspian observes, the façade neat and manicured, with posted set menus that revolve several times a week. The offerings today feature a heavily spiced slab of meat above the expected arrangements of fish and lilies - the more upscale side of things indeed.

It’ll be a while, then, before any movement on Simour’s part, assuming that if this really is a straightforward case of retributive romantic betrayal. But they’ll let him out for one break or two, at least by midday, surely?

When Caspian determines that Simour is really at work and there to stay, he allows himself to embark on a circuitous walk, killing time.

--
WC: 624
Last edited by Caspian on November 25th, 2018, 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sugar and Steam

Postby Caspian on November 25th, 2018, 2:15 am

In the final chimes before the last bell heralding midday, Caspian circles back towards the restaurant, a rolled newspaper in hand that he’d swiped from an unattended stand some ways back, acquired and brought along for the purposes of serving as a prop. There’s a gray-green filigreed metal bench he’d sighted before leaving the area the first time, at spitting distance from the restaurant’s backdoor. Thankfully, it’s empty now, and with easy strides he occupies it for himself, waiting.

Fortunately, he doesn’t have to wait long, and Simour appears with the same coworker from earlier, the both of them with tobacco and flint in hand. It’s been seamless, the whole thing, tailing Simour from their shared neighborhood to here, with Simour none the wiser, and it’s just going so well and due in no small part to Caspian’s impeccable sense of timing – and he’s treading, privately, towards being admittedly excessively self-congratulating about the basest of accomplishments on this mission, sure, but the whole thing has been legitimately invigorating for him, so maybe Taalviel was right all along, that dawdling alone at home had not done his mental and emotional health any favors, and it’s a nice feeling, proving useful, and satisfying to hide in plain sight.

Nothing out of the ordinary occurs during this smoke break, Simour and his colleague jostling each other as close friends might do, ribbing each other in reference to places and people Caspian doesn’t know, but all of which he deems to be plainly domestic enough that it won’t matter if it isn’t investigated further. There aren’t any covert meetings during this break, with any new figures that haven’t presented themselves already, and the girl from the milliner’s store is nowhere to be seen. More on that one later, then, because these breaks tend to be short and with the work waiting for him back in the kitchen, a little harried.

Someone pokes their head out of the backdoor to shout after them. Dutifully, they snuff their pipes and follow them back in. The restaurant’s hosting a modest capacity for their advertised light lunch, and as before, Caspian feels fairly confident that given the fast-paced nature of the work, Simour will be wholly engrossed for the next few hours, and will likely steal away for another break before he’ll be entirely devoted to the dinner crowd.

For 14 chimes longer – Caspian involuntarily tracking the time with an innate metronomic precision – he waits alone on the bench, pretending to read the newspaper he’s unfurled on his lap. Another walk around the city, then, he decides, to scrounge up a meal and ease time into passing until he can observe Simour on another break again. The meal part is of especial interest to him, the smells of roasting and heavy spices from the restaurant wafting enticingly towards him. It crosses his mind momentarily to enter the restaurant for himself, be that much closer to his target and perhaps pull the same stunt Helva did, sending supposed compliments to the chef to draw Simour out, and surveil him with immediate proximity – but, he acknowledges with a pang, this is a place he certainly can’t afford. There’s a rush he savors from doing this sort of thing, especially when it involves hiding in plain sight, but after the catastrophes of having lost his previous employers due to some of his own unchecked strains of personal hubris, he’s already resolved to play this one safe.

As safe as he can at this point, of course, finding himself employed separately and in contradiction by both a husband and a wife.

It’s just bad luck, isn’t it? If it’s not one thing, it’s another, so safely played this will have to be.

Already counting the chimes in anticipation, Caspian rolls up his newspaper and heads on his next serpentine stroll.

--
WC: 638
Last edited by Caspian on November 25th, 2018, 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sugar and Steam

Postby Caspian on November 25th, 2018, 3:27 am

It’s somewhat disappointing when nothing of interest occurs during the second break either.

That same friend is there with Simour again, the louder one with butcher’s broadness. They’ve got their tobacco and their pipes, and the combination of the sight of anyone smoking and Caspian’s own boredom compels Caspian to break out his own pipe and flint as well. They smoke in tandem, Caspian and his target and the surplus, and it’s not unpleasant, that in his line of work there’s this way he’s always doing things with other people but from a distance, like their long, wordless walks over the city and back.

The dinner crowd comes and goes. It’s fashionably busy, enough that people without reservations are made to wait, but not long enough that any real tension rises, the establishment bustling with a genuine cheer that furthers its own reputation as a desirable place to be. Caspian’s plenty of envy, steadily rising, for the well-dressed clientele entering the restaurant’s gilded oak doors with comfortable stride. He’s not had meat for a while, not that he’s craving, but it would just be nice, wouldn’t it, if one day he’s on the other side of the glass.

There’s the cleaning up that must be done after the kitchen closes. Caspian doesn’t factor the time for that in, and grows mildly irate and confused when Simour doesn’t emerge from the backdoor right at the restaurant’s closing bell. Eventually he does appear, a little bedraggled from a long day’s work but with a marked spring in his step, and he’s whistling, the picture of it visibly exceeding the mood with which he’d begun the day.

To the milliner’s shop, then? Caspian glances around, but he doesn’t see the woman in the muslin dress anywhere in the evening lamplight. Maybe Simour will do the gallant thing and meet her there, and escort her on to wherever they had planned to be, that place decidedly not being Helva’s bed as expected.

Simour’s friend exits the restaurant, but doesn’t stop to chat, only waves Simour his goodnight and heads his own way. But Simour waits, cheerfully puffing on his pipe in the dark –

Until another young woman exits through the backdoor, hair a bit askance, a stained chef’s apron tied around her waist.

“Sorry, just a second,” she’s saying to Simour, and they’re both giddy smiles, Simour bearing none of the cool aloofness he’d displayed to the assistant at the milliner’s.

Another coworker then, another chef - and the one Simour had made plans with for tonight.

Helva’s right, then – of course she is. Caspian isn’t sure how she’ll take the news, though it seemed she’d already made her mind up on the matter. It’s a relief, though, on Caspian’s end, that there’s at least some news from him to be had.

It isn’t hard to follow the couple. They go at leisurely pace, content with things as they are, and share two drinks at a nearby tavern. It’s a ravosala back to Simour’s home after that, and Caspian departs for his own bed, safely assuming the rest.

The next afternoon, Caspian accepts the tea and fruit offered to him by Helva, who accepts the report he offers her with a respectable degree of aplomb.

“I can’t pretend this isn’t disappointing,” she says, mouth in a taut, grim line. “Another one of the chefs, you said?”

“Looked to be.”

For a moment, Helva ponders this, a series of expressions flitting across her face, unaccompanied by explanation. In the end, she sighs, pouring sugar into her tea, the steam rising from their cups between them.

“That’s that, then,” she says, more decisive now than morose, idly combing her fingers through her brilliant blonde hair. “There’s the matter of my husband, then, I know. The truth of the missing money is me, naturally, me all along. Simour was one of many. I have a penchant for… investing in people.” With piercing gaze, she rakes her eyes up and down Caspian as she’d done the other day. As before, he leans back, regarding her silently, letting her present her terms, though he doesn’t know if he’d take them, imagining wildly still that if he lets her any closer, she’ll tear his heart out.

There’s a thud at the door, a step on a cobblestone that Caspian catches before the lock is turning, but it’s too late by then. He’s ready to duck under the divan, into a pantry, anywhere – but Helva clutches his arm and holds him fast, her grip briar-like and cold, and they’re locked eye to eye when Walthaen suddenly appears in the parlor.

The fight that erupts between Walthaen and his wife is over before the next bell. For the duration, Caspian had been relegated to a modest stool in the corner of the kitchen, and when it boils over Helva joins him, Walthaen retreating alone to his study.

“That’s that, then, too,” she says. “I came clean. About everything – well, mostly everything. I’m sure you heard plenty.”

“And he’s still here?”

“Still here.” Helva smiles a little, wry at the state of the things, but, Caspian notes, without any degree of guilt. To each their own, he supposes.

The matter of paying Caspian passes without note, and she pays for the two of them, Walthaen not the type to begrudge Caspian for what had been, for the most part, genuine pursuit of the first task he’d been given.

Before he leaves, Caspian pauses by the doorway. “Can I ask you something?”

“Ask away,” she replies.

“How’d you know I was following you?”

This makes her laugh, and she’s quite herself again, tucking her silky hair behind her ears and looking him over as if he’s something to be consumed. “The gold eyeliner, darling, and that day you were wearing the red linen. If you’re going to be in this line of work, it might be better to consider being a touch less conspicuous?”

At home, the detail amuses Taalviel greatly. “Told you that you ought to have thrown it out.”

“Throw it out?” Caspian laughs and drops his newly earned mizas triumphantly on the table in front of her. “First thing tomorrow - buying another.” And – though he doesn’t admit it out loud – maybe something for his sister too.

--

WC: 1,045
Total WC: 3,580
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Caspian
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Sugar and Steam

Postby Rohka on November 3rd, 2019, 8:54 pm

GRADES
caspian

Experience:
    Interrogation +1
    Seduction +1
    Rhetoric +1
    Intelligence +3
    Observation +4
    Stealth +2
    Larceny +1

Lores:
    Helva: Is having an affair with Simour
    Simour: A chef in the centre of Ravok
    Simour: Is having an affair with a coworker
    Helva: Took money from husband to invest in people
    Helva: Married to Walthaen
    Stealth: Using props to blend in

Additional Notes:

Sneaky fun! Great dynamics between Caspian and the NPCs, I'm excited to read more about the troubles of his work down the line. Just a note for the future, for building points in larceny, I would describe it 'in action' instead of describing it as something that already happened. Otherwise, lovely writing, as always :)



If you have any concerns over this grade, don't hesitate to send me a message on either Discord or Miz. Also, please be sure to EDIT any posts in the grading queue to 'Graded'. Enjoy!
-Rohka ❤
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