Completed Prance and Parry

72 over 36. [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]

Prance and Parry

Postby Caspian on August 20th, 2019, 1:31 am

20 Summer 519


Seventy-two times, the cook had said - seventy-two swirls clockwise and thirty-six counter. The halving of turns from the former direction to the latter is an arithmetical and methodical mystery, based on principles and foundations unknown and consistent adherence by his neighboring line cooks murky at best. After the third instance in the past quarter-hour alone of being vocally bludgeoned about the ears with all manner of attack, again his mien, his personhood, the metaphorical representative extension of his long-dead mother - not that anyone in this city knows his mother’s long rotted and gone, but it would just be better for everyone all around and of baseline decency if assumptions weren’t so hastily made - or not made? - all this to say that from the moment Caspian stepped into the kitchen, in full guise as one of the lowly line staff, it became abundantly deduced that he’s being singled out by the head chef, and subjected to scrutiny to merciless degree. He wonders what it is about him that the master of the kitchen has decided he doesn’t like - because it must be volitional, a consequence of having nothing better to do than pick on the pretty one, pretty one in this case being Caspian and not the slicked-back blonde, as popular opinion might elect, whose well-crafted biceps are threatening to split his sleeves apart at the seams, and their sartorial integrity in jeopardy with each downward press of his knife.

As far as the profession of spying goes, this does not bode well. Ideally, one melts, one is a fly on the wall, one is wallpaper itself, or even better, the glue just beneath. The frustrating part is that he isn’t even wearing his usual magical suit today - who knows what it might have turned into? The apparatus always seeming to know best, and preemptively to the day’s events, it might have added predictive insult to future injury, and transformed into a spangled caricature of the getup the head chef’s got on now. Better than that, of which Taalviel found herself pleasantly mollified, is that he’s got hardly any makeup on too. Before being unceremoniously ushered out the door that morning, he’d succeeding in darkening his eyebrows and intensifying their angularity, and applied the lightest dusting of shadow winging out from the slants of his eyes. Practically nothing, compared to his usual, his skin feeling conspicuously bare - effectively incognito, so for the life of him he can’t understand why the head chef’s gone and identified him as the most suitable target for his animosity. (When he sees Taalviel later, though, he’ll very likely leave this part out - the part where for a split second it might have occurred to him rather distantly and foreignly that perhaps wearing less makeup in a steaming kitchen was the sensible decision, given the steaming pot of stew before him, on which he’s just reached clockwise stir number thirty-four - or was it counterclockwise stir number twenty-five?)

If he doesn’t visibly grimace, no one will notice - that conviction proving short lived, as the head cook immediately pounces on his minute faltering, hurtling a tomato his way, that ends up sloshing him in its overripeness across his chin, and tumbling into the stew below. The splash of its boiling contents has him hissing and flinching, that reaction sending a subsequent further hail of vegetables from the chef towards his head.

He isn’t getting paid nearly enough to shoulder this level of abuse; in fact, Taalviel isn’t paying him at all to stalk the middling chef here who is - past tense was? perpetual keyword allegedly - her boyfriend.

The uncanny thing here is how normal and well-adjusted the guy looks -

Caspian curses and ducks, narrowly avoiding an onion to the temple.


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Last edited by Caspian on September 11th, 2019, 1:49 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Prance and Parry

Postby Caspian on August 20th, 2019, 2:10 am

The objective for the day had not entirely been made clear.

If Taalviel wants a timetable, Caspian can keep a timetable, with all minute manner of comings and goings lodged down to the - well, minute. There’s not much sense in requesting one kept of how he fares at work, especially when the manner of work keeps him as busy me on his feet as this. But it’s what she wants, as she’d made evident with a series of deadpans and glares. It’s always to the extremes with her, extreme apathy, or extreme concentrate vectors of caring, interspersed with extreme modes of communicating the direction of those extremities.

He had been tempted and did in fact succumb, before being sent out on this task, to posit to her that she might more closely accomplish what she dares not admit - that all she wants, not that she might do anything about it, is some sign of his remembrance of her, of some form of quotidian longing and regret - well, it would be all as well and just as good if not better if, say, she’d instead requested he creep into the young man’s room and document whether or not he utters her name in his sleep. Or, upon catching sight of the moon, gazes up deeply and forlornly while stroking a representative feather duster.

For the record, she hadn’t found the images nearly so amusing - but when has a difference in opinion ever stopped him?

It’s more than a little challenging, given the setting, to perform the actual action of documenting her past flame’s every movement. For one, the billows of smoke emitting from the bubbling and bursting steel cauldron before him are thick enough to haze the room’s only clock face; though even without the smoke, the front of the glass looks to be so smeared with years’ worth of edible emulsions that discerning the chime might yet prove challenging. Then there’s the mandate for seventy-two turns over a set of thirty-six, the enormous stewpot necessitating a correspondingly enormous ladle, that ladle’s successful operation subsequently necessitating the use of not one, but two hands.

That, or he just has pathetically weak wrists.

The head chef certainly seems to think so, the opinion corroborated by an entirely inappropriate and violently unprofessional series of comments on the manner of debasements Caspian must commit in his spare time.

Were he in possession of any leverage here - had he not, perhaps, just taken that rather girthy leek right between the eyes - he might have pointed out that the common conception is that if he performed a certain act as frequently as suggested, wouldn’t his wrists be all the stronger for it -

An unnamed food item on the pointier side of the spectrum guts Caspian right between the ribs. When it clatters, though, he realizes it’s not something that ought to have been added to the stew, but a spare ladle that wouldn’t have fared well in the concoction he’s meant to be tending, but manages nicely as a javelin.

It’s difficult, this one, not snapping and sending one hurtling right back, or drawing the dagger slipped into his right boot. The thought crosses his mind as he’s doubled over, clutching his sides, willing the ache to pass. When he straightens back up, he’s met by a familiar face - familiar only by rapt and repeated description by Taalviel.

“You alright?” Matthiel says.

Yep.

Absolutely weird, how normal this one seems.

Not sure what there might be to report - except for a basest modicum is decency.

Which admittedly is a bit of a novelty, where he’s from.

“I’m Matthiel,” he says.

“I know,” Caspian replies without thinking.

“Oh, have we -“ Matthiel furrows his brows. “- met?”

First the conspicuousness - which he can’t seem to help, today of all days - and now the stutter. He can do better.

“No, sorry - well, lord of the land here,” he replies, jerking his head towards the head chef thundering at someone in the back, “has made it abundantly clear I could stand to be a little more like a certain Matthiel here, and a lot less like me. You’re the only one here I’d trust with a proper knife, so - figured you must be the one.”

Matthiel grins sheepishly. Ah, so he’s infuriatingly appropriately modest too.

“I’m just alright.”

“Artist with a knife. You slicked the eels to ribbons. Practically to lace.”

“Practice makes perfect.”

If he only knew.



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Prance and Parry

Postby Caspian on August 28th, 2019, 1:28 am

After another hour of running surveillance, Caspian isn’t sure, aside from the masterful knifework and an uncannily imperturbably upbeat attitude, what’s worth noting about his sister’s ex. Like the other cooks, Matthiel’s focusing the majority of his energy on his work, and also like the rest of them, he’s held in much higher esteem by the head chef than Caspian is. In contrast, though - he’s from his head to his toes rather kempt, with the sides of his head shaved to an enviably symmetric pair of fades, and the rest of his locks kept waved and of dashing length. It’s like Caspian’s hair, except maybe better -

Chagrin at the concession, however brief and despite being stifled, has Caspian too distracted to prevent the head chef from depositing a second enormous pot of stew on the burner directly beside his already broiling first.

Where the sense might lie in categorically doubling the responsibilities of someone who’s been dubbed the greatest dunce of a drudge in the room, and allegedly of all who’s crossed the threshold into this, the undoubtedly finest of establishments - and how the petching hell is he meant to stir both pots if just one ladle requires both hands, and is the way to do this to start the rotations of both pots at impeccable synchronicity and then hold his breath for great fear of losing count until -

“I’ve got you,” Matthiel says, commandeering Caspian’s new burden before he can protest. He’s brimming with gallantry, rather reeking with reliability, and the task can be left to him to be done impeccably - this Caspian senses without asking, and believes without running reconnaissance. Should food be needed, Matthiel’s the sort who could by hour’s end take and scrounge it; if a dearth of water, in all assuredness he’ll scry; if without shelter, with his own two hands, tirelessly and for you he would build.

Case in point - Caspian’s having a fair spot of trouble sussing out why Taalviel would want anything to do with him, above all on a personal and - he shudders - intimate note. It’s not for any lack of balance in competency, because Taalviel’s a razor’s edge, morning gloss threaded through a needle’s eye, a trail of pins stacked vertically to high heaven and impervious to zephyrs’ gall. It’s the strain of his adroitness, namely in the interpersonal, juxtaposed with her stalwart and virtuoso-like apathy for the very same that has Caspian almost visibly shaking his head in shame.

Has he any friends here, though? Excessively popular as one might predict?

That’s always high up on the list when it comes to watching and waiting. At times, when Caspian’s found himself at a loss, the thing to do is pause direct surveillance of the target in favor of surveying - well, everyone else. How they react to the target, to being in their vicinity, whether they flock or huddle or sneer. If anyone lingers - if that interest is reciprocated, and what motivations might lie behind doing so.

From his impeccably crafted and hard-won vantage point directly to Matthiel’s right - all Caspian gleans from the remainder of the bell is that everyone on the staff adore him, and he’s almost effortlessly cultivated a knockless rapport.

“Putting this one to rest, now,” Matthiel says in regard to his stew, which came together in a fraction of the time it’s taking Caspian, perhaps because he’s simply better at counting to 72 and 36 and not consistently running the latter over into 38. “Meet you out back for a smoke?” he asks Caspian with utmost geniality - practically paternal, bordering on fraternal.

Still seething, Caspian nods.

Really - if Matthiel only knew.



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Prance and Parry

Postby Caspian on August 29th, 2019, 12:50 am

To Caspian’s further consternation, even Matthiel’s brand of tobacco is right proper. It’s on the sweeter side, which is just fine to Caspian, and even finer is the generous heaping that he’s being treated to. Matthiel has a way about him, of smiling just the right amount, not to an intensity to betray he’s ulterior motives in mind, or that he might be hiding something beneath it - the overall effect is that even the most stoic and impervious of recipients to his attentions fall under his spell, and dare to believe that the power is contagious enough that they’re imbued with a semblance of it, at least for the moment.

There must be something wrong with Matthiel. Caspian’s putting his foot down about it, that suspicion accelerating when he does for a second feel that he himself could be slipping, and the vertigo and fear of the plunge bolstering that resolve. Matthiel’s just too perfect in the ways he ought to be, in the quotidian sense, and somehow also lightly imperfect in the ways he should. Take the immediate presentation of his occupation, for example. Demonstrably so, he’s highly proficient at his job, for there’s the appropriate number of splatters on his apron, illustrating grand, foreign qualities like preservation and determination! and knowing the difference between roasting and broiling and when to turn the heat up or down whilst poaching an egg - but there aren’t so many stains as to suggest excessive clumsiness, or that he’s someone unable to exercise caution, or that if attempting to multitask one should steer clear.

Taalviel wouldn’t have bothered sending him to dig, though, if there weren’t something vital. Then again, she’s never regarded his time as valuable - but would it have killed her to be a smidge less cryptic about what he’s meant to find?

“This is great,” Caspian blurts out suddenly, when he realizes he’s been staring at Matthiel while monopolizing his tobacco in pensive silence. “Actually...” Caspian glances down, going a touch cross-eyed, at the thick, dulcet plumes emitting from Matthiel’s pipe, which he’s now realizing is striped with a half dozen bands of gold, and inlaid with an intricately carved wolf’s head, between the jaws of which the bowl rests. “...really great.”

It’s a conspicuously handsome thing to own, even for the most spangled and starry-eyed of cooks. It’s something one might see in the clawed grips of an old bachelor with a mass of disposable income only destined to be spent on such trifles for himself, or just one item out of many in a collection owned by a patriarch with just as much of a disposable income, if not more, and a seasoned disposition for spending it. In Matthiel’s possession it’s an odd sight; in Caspian’s, giving off the impression that it’s been stolen, and its rightful owner is not far behind on horse and buggy, jeweled cane waving through the air wildly.

“It really is,” Matthiel replies.

Caspian narrows his eyes. The thing is, it is, and that is is mutually agreed - but is that what he’s left to report to Taalviel? That Matthiel’s great sin is a touch of pride - no, not even that, just of being proud of something even the most disparate of tastes would regard as handsome - and that the consensus should there be one is that he’s as abominable as they come and she was right to end their relationship -

Because she was the one who ended it, right, and not the other way around?

He supposes he never outright asked; though if he had, he doubts she would have outright answered.

With great effort, Caspian relinquishes the masterful piece of craftsmanship and perhaps the finest tobacco he’s ever smoked in his life and must cost a pretty pile of mizas per ounce.

Maybe he’ll fabricate something to Taalviel when returns home, something ultimately banal but abhorrent - something believable.

But his job isn’t to assuage - it’s to take stock, and if he might be afforded the chance, synthesize a conclusion.

“Have you got much family in Ravok?” Caspian asks, casting a line.

Matthiel exhales an enviously voluptuous haze. “Oh, sure. Three generations still kicking. Ravok born and raised. But you -“ He pauses to inhale, exhales swiftly, the smoke dancing about their ankles and curling round their toes. “- you’re not from around here, are you?”

Fortunately, Caspian’s had a lot of practice with the question and all of its variants, ranging from the innocuous to the unfilteredly aggressive. “Better than where I was before.”

To this, Matthiel nods enthusiastically.
Rather so.

“Doesn’t get much better, hmm?” he reiterates with another go at the pipe.

The vigor of the sentiment has Caspian wondering; the self-assuredness and piquing for this topic over anything else that’s happened tonight sends a touch of unease up his spine.

“With the blessing of Rhysol,” Caspian ventures, “naught but blue skies above.”

This has Matthiel nodding all the more vigorously, and passing the pipe back to Caspian as some demarcation of fraternity, one that’s perhaps taking on new meaning. But everyone’s like that here - mostly everyone, effectively the lot of them. What’s a little zeal out of a young man who’s known nothing but the temperate, the controlled - but also the covert and the clandestine?

“What does your family do?” Caspian asks, wanting to stall returning to the kitchen, for reasons that go beyond investigation.

As nonchalantly as can be, Matthiel shrugs. “Packing and shipping,” he replies. And then gives Caspian a name for the family business that rings a discordant, eerie bell.

Back in the kitchen - his reinstatement in this purgatory inevitable, though for personal crimes yet to be levied against him - Caspian turns over the name in his mind. The stews have been replaced with scrubbing pans with a ball of wire, water and sand, and Caspian much prefers this task for its absence of arbitrary arithmetic, though the water spewing from the faucets is nearly as broiling. Out of the corner of his eye, he continues to watch Matthiel, but he doesn’t spend time chatting with more than one person over any other, doesn’t pass or receive suspicious scrawls - doesn’t even go out to the back for another smoke, though as a cover for operations unknown it would have been the one to default to.

It occurs to Caspian suddenly, as he wipes the condensation from his brows with the back of his hand, the metal pan he’d let go of to do so clattering against the other steel objects in the sink, that the name of the company is familiar for a reason.

Matthiel’s family business is playing run-of-the-mill middleman to a subsect of slave traders in the city. Not much to bat an eye at when compared to the Larks, but they bloody the heartbeat of the lake all the same, and in Caspian’s eyes, with just as little remorse.

For a few long seconds - until the head chef barrels over to clobber Caspian upside the head for inattentiveness - he stares at the grit and grime collected before him, and lets the water steam and flow.


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Prance and Parry

Postby Caspian on August 29th, 2019, 1:37 am

To maybe most anyone else, the discovery would not have mattered. It would have barely registered, maybe even have been considered as something admirable or enviable or desirable in a partner, suggesting stability for the long term.

But to Taalviel?

The both of them have never expressed it out loud to each other, not in so many certain terms, that to own another life is a repulsive thing. The shared perspective is likely in the minority in a city run rampant with it - and it’s not that Sunberth was any better, but in Ravok the buying and selling of flesh is a way of life, held in ostentatious presentation, as of late he’s found his gaze lingering and his stomach turning and his usual amusements no longer potent enough to help him shake off the sight. He doesn’t need Taalviel to say directly that it’s something to despise - between the two of them and the mother they shared, it’s a given and known. And that’s enough for him, and more than enough to be the reason Taalviel decided a relationship ought to end.

On aching feet and clicking knees, Caspian drags himself back to his corner of The a Docks, and with the rest of his limbs groaning, up the flight of stairs to his apartment.

“Was that your way of getting me to work a day in my life?” he begins half-blithely, part-scathingly upon entering.

She’s seated at his table in the dark, moodily wrapping and rewrapping a silvery grosgrain ribbon around her thumb.

Scathing, then, may not have been the right track.

“I smell awful,” he goes on, shucking off his horridly stained uniform and retreating to his wash basin where he is determined to purge all evidence of the cauldron’s toll.

When Taalviel remains silent, and Caspian’s contented himself with how much he’s managed to scrub, he takes the chair opposite her and watches her wind the ribbon about her wrist.

“Tell me,” she says.

And he does. In halves, and piecemeal, starting first with the tasks the head chef had given Matthiel and precisely when, the chopping and mincing and steaming, and the sweeping and scaldings and then the stew, then backtracking to the curious aptitude for the knife.

This, though, she doesn’t react to with any surprise or even aversion.

“Good, yes,” she says. “And better than me.”

So she’d admired him, then.

At least she’s proving to be attracted to something, even if that something is the process with which one can flay.

But he goes on, to the part that hasn’t sat right with him since he’d heard it, and which he’d reflected over each step of his return home.

“I mean -“ He frowns. “If - I missed something, if that wasn’t it - if you dropped me a hint this morning that I vastly misunderstood - and if that’s the case I just want to say -“ He pauses. “Sorry. I’ve fumbled it, haven’t I? I can go back tomorrow. The head chef might not even recognize it’s me again, with how often they turn and burn the staff. Even if he’s not in, I’ll ask around, find out who’s he’s really close to, if he’s mentioned or done anything he shouldn’t. Though - it would be helpful if you could spare a moment to point me in the right direction. He was just so - normal, Taalviel, like mostly so. I thought the pipe was a bit much, but suppose he just likes tobacco, really likes it? Unless you wanted him to be entirely normal and are disappointed he isn’t, because of some - well - elitist tobacco fanaticism.”

She shakes her head. “No - it’s what you said. His family’s business, held for generations, and likely for generations to follow. That was it.”

Caspian pauses. “Really?”

A shrug, a sigh, the ribbon slipping from her wrist and pooling onto the table as silently and seamlessly as melting ice.

“I found out about it a little while ago. I didn’t know right away, but then I did, without having gone looking for it. I just -“

“Abominable, isn’t it?” Caspian says quietly.

She nods.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

The ribbon, abandoned now, seems to shift and glimmer beneath the ray of moonlight streaming in through the window, like a serpent waking from its slumber.

“It’s alright,” she says. “I knew, but I just - had to hear it from someone else.”

Eyes dark, and in the shade glimmering, she reaches across the table to grasp him briefly by the hand.

“Thank you, Caspian.”

He regards his sister carefully; chooses, at some point, to regard something else, as if looking away might afford her more privacy for her thoughts.

Behind her, Akvin’s enchanted painting rolls onward, the sky shifting to twilight murk, the land bowing into the jagged azure seas.

He can’t recall if he’s ever seen it perfectly unclouded and bright; he doesn’t know if it’s something worth the pursuit.

Of the thoughts over which she mulls, she’s none more to share with him, and a breath later both she and the ribbon sweep themselves out the door.


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