Closed With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

A simple pickup proves to be a bit more involved than expected.

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Baelin Holt on November 14th, 2019, 1:10 am

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28, Fall 519 AV

Steel screeched on stone as Baelin finished up a new knife. Just recently quenched, the edge was significantly harder to sharpen now than it had been earlier.

Scree-er-eee-er-eee!

The noise perhaps wouldn’t be quite so annoying if Baelin couldn’t literally feel it in his arm. Still tender flesh raged at the vibration, the fresh burn demanding far more rest that he was giving it. Baelin was no stranger to burns, but usually they were only small blisters. Little things that you didn’t even notice until bells later. But this one was particularly bad and stung like a motherpetcher.

It was stupid how he got it. He’d been transferring red-hot steel from the forge to an anvil when he caught wind of something rotten. The last time he’d smelt anything so rank, it’d been a nuit; his gnosis demanding him to pay attention with one of the foulest scents he could imagine.

And, oh, he paid attention. It may have not been a nuit or anything gnosis related, but Baelin paid attention. So much so that he jerked around, wound up knocking his elbow into a rack of tongs, and practically rammed the hot steel into his left forearm.

“Baelin!”

Baelin looked up from his work and locked eyes with Lawrence. The co-owner of the Knight's Armory waved him over and Baelin obliged, pulling away from the whetstone wheel he’d been working and setting aside the partially sharpened knife.

Lawrence's beady eyes tracked him for a moment―just long enough to be sure Baelin was on his way―before he turned to pull a full coat of scale armor from a shelf. By the time Baelin reached him, Lawrence had the armor unfurled and suspended by its shoulders.

“This'll be picked up today. Give it a thorough once over, will ya?” Lawrence gave the armor a little shake, its many scales rattling with the motion. “We don't want this one going out with any defects.”

Wordlessly, Baelin gave a short nod and reached for the armor. Lawrence moved before Baelin could actually grab it, draping it over Baelin's arm. He’d been expecting to grab it―not to support it on his arm―and the weight caught him by surprise. His arm dipped dangerously low for a split tick before Baelin readjusted.

At least it wasn’t his burned arm. Also, Baelin hadn’t even dropped it. And even if he had, the scale armor would probably have been fine. But Lawrence's weighted silence pressed down on him, and Baelin couldn’t help but grimace.

One day Baelin would have his own shop. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with these kinds of awkward moments with the boss. He’d be the boss. But that day was still some ways out, and for now, Baelin could only bite his tongue.

The moment passed. Lawrence huffed in a way that Baelin could only interpret as judgmental, then waved his hand. That was a dismissal if he'd ever seen one. Baelin gritted his teeth, kept his mouth shut, and turned to take the armor over to a worktable.

“Hey now,” Lawrence barked, “Don't be leaving just yet.”

Okay then. Not a dismissal. Baelin turned back and kept his expression carefully blank. You like this job, he reminded himself, Keep your mouth shut. Lawrence reached back over to the shelf and pulled off a folded set of scaled leggings. Ah. A full set then. Baelin held out his other arm for Lawrence to drape the leggings over, and this time was ready for the weight.

The scratch of steel edges against his fresh burn was almost enough to offset that readiness. Baelin pulled in a sharp breath and held it, counting to five as he waited for the armor to settle. And then he kept waiting, even after he felt he’d no longer recoil. With both his arms weighted down by scaled leather, he resolved himself to hold still until he got an absolutely clear dismissal this time.

Baelin was right to wait; Lawrence turned back to the shelf and jabbed his finger at a pair of gauntlets and a longsword. “Those are all part of the same order. Don’t let them get separated.”

And with that, Lawrence seemed to be done. Already walking away from the storage shelves and Baelin, Lawrence called over his shoulder, “This order matters. We want it all going out together and in good condition.” Baelin gave him a tight nod, and Lawrence’s captious attention finally slipped away from him.

Ladened with both coat and leggings, Baelin picked his way through the Armory towards a worktable. There, he carefully set down the scale mail, and did his absolute best to ignore the sharp agony as scales slipped over his forearm. Steel clinked as the leather backed armor piled atop itself, and Baelin gave both of the converted garments a little shake to straighten them out.

To the best of Baelin’s knowledge, giving the pieces of armor a “thorough once over” entailed checking that all rivets were secured. Baelin stretched out the coat until it lay flat on the worktable. Starting at the bottom, Baelin flipped up the little flaps of steel one by one, checking to see that the rivets in each scale pulled on the leather underneath it. He tried to move quickly. Between the two pieces of armor there was a lot of scales to get through, and he still had other work he ought to get done today.

He’d gotten three rows up when he found the first problem: a poorly set rivet. The other rivets on the scale still held it in place, and it was possible that this would never be a problem, but leaving it alone would make this scale weaker than the others. And while that might not be a problem, it was certainly poor practice.

Baelin picked up a rivet setter from the collection of leatherworking tools on the worktable, and aligned it with the rivet. He had to angle the other scales out of the way to get it properly perpendicular, but once he had it, it was just a quick hit with a hammer to set. Baelin set both aside and then gave the scale a little wiggle. The rivet held, nice and firm, and he moved over to the next scale to continue his inspection. He got through five more rows―all looking good―before sunlight spilled across the table.

Someone had opened the door. Baelin paused―one finger pressed on the scale he was currently checking so he didn’t lose his place―and turned to take a look.

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Asterope on November 16th, 2019, 11:09 pm

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Alard was testing her.

She wasn't so stupid that she couldn't realize that; Aster had accompanied him to his training in the Proving Grounds that morning, watching idly, until finally Alard had deigned to approach her towards early afternoon, planting the tip of his blade in the dirt between her feet where she sat.

Aster tried not to show that she was bothered by the show of casual intimidation, peering up at Alard, squinting slightly as the sun silhouetted him from behind. It was difficult to make out the details of his face, cast in shadow as it was, but she thought she caught a glimpse of the whites of his teeth as he smirked down at her.

She frowned slightly, scooting back a bit in the dirt away from the sharp edge of Alard's sword before she rose to her feet, brushing her pants off. "I need you to do something for me," Alard said, watching her keenly.

She knew the answer he expected; she knew the answer she had to give, but she still hesitated, teeth digging into her tongue as she bit back her instincts, bit back what she really wanted to say. Alard might be trying to train her to behave like some sort of prized pet, but they both knew that it would take more effort to drill it into her. For even now, defeated as she had been before, it was only surface level.

Aster wondered with some fear if it ever would become natural, second nature to her, and brushed the thought away before she could dwell on it for much longer. She was determined that would never happen. "Yes, sir," she answered instead, the words feeling like nails scratching along her throat and digging into her teeth as she spoke them, chewing them like glass. "What can I do for you?"

She wasn't good at pretending; the distaste was obvious in her tone, her eyes, the curl of her mouth. But Alard seemed pleased regardless. "I need you to go to the Knight's Armoury and pick up an order for me. I was told it would be ready today, but I don't have the time to spare. I already paid for it, you just need to bring it back here. Think you can manage that?"

He raised an eyebrow at her, the silent words obvious; without running off, without getting into trouble, without petching it up. The threat was also silent; if you do, there will be trouble. It was the first time since the incident between them that Alard was sending her out on her own actively; she'd somehow still found moments to be out alone since then, but this was the first time she was being given permission.

"Yes, sir," she said instead, clenching her jaw. Alard's smirk widened.

"Wonderful. Don't take longer than necessary. The Armoury is down just by the Pig's Foot." She knew where that was, give or take; she'd had some time to get used to the chaotic city's layout, and she'd been in the tavern before. She watched as Alard strode by her, digging around in his bag for something, abruptly straightening and tossing it at her.

With a sound of surprised Aster fumbled whatever it was, dropping it in the dirt before leaning down to pick it up, a flush spreading across her cheeks as Alard snickered. It was a large canvas bag. "You can use that to help carry it, but it better still be in perfect condition when it gets here."

"What am I picking up, exactly?" Aster asked, as she brushed the bag off, folding it and tucking it beneath her arm.

Alard waved a hand. "Don't worry about that. Just give them my name when you get there and they'll know which order is mine."

Letting out a sigh, Aster inclined her head, and with approval from Alard, left the Proving Grounds. It was a bit of a walk, but she was beginning to be used to navigating the city, constantly checking over her shoulders, walking with just a bit more purpose in her stride, setting her feet down just a little bit more firmly. As always, there was a bittersweet gratefulness for the collar around her neck and the brand on her hand that warned away the petty thieves with any intelligence.

The walk was largely uneventful, as was the ride across the river. Once on the other side, it wasn't overly difficult to locate the Armoury; after finding her way to the Pig's Foot Tavern, it was only a few buildings further down, a sign hanging outside the door with an anvil and the shop's name painted on it.

Opening the door, Aster stepped inside, coughing slightly as a wave of heat and the thick smell of smoke and flames greeted her, along with the clanging sounds of metal on metal; the afternoon sunlight spilled in behind her, casting her silhouette in golden light that refracted off her horns, sending spots of light dancing over the walls. A moment later, the door swung shut behind her, plunging the shop back into smoky dimness, most of the light coming from the fires in the back.

A young human man smiled widely at her from behind the counter, and she noticed a man towards the back turning to look at her as well. "Welcome, miss," he said, speaking loudly to be heard over the din coming from the back of the store. "What can I help you with today?" He was doing remarkably well to politely keep his gaze on her face, though his eyes wandered briefly in curiosity to her horns and then the collar around her neck.

Aster approached the counter with a small, fleeting smile of her own. "Hello. I'm here to pick up an order for Alard Gire?" The man seemed to recognize the name, because he nodded.

"Alard, that's right. Give me just a moment." He turned, shouting to someone over his shoulder. "Ay, Lawrence! Where's Alard's order?"

There was a muffled shout in reply that Aster couldn't quite make out, and the man turned back to her. "One of our workers is just finishing up looking it over," he said, and jerked his thumb towards the back of the store, where a tall, broad-shouldered man stood over a worktable; Aster recognized him as having watched her enter the shop. "Should be done in no time."

Aster nodded. "Thank you." She wasn't sure if she was supposed to, but she didn't feel like awkwardly waiting at the front or making small talk with the man behind the counter, so instead she wandered over towards the man who was apparently finishing up Alard's order.

"Hello," she greeted him, one of those small, impersonal smiles fluttering over her lips in greeting. Genuine smiles were rarer from her than they had ever been, but she was still polite and distantly friendly when the situation called for it. "I'm here to pick up the order you're working on."

She took a few steps closer to the man, since while she wasn't that short, she was much too short to peer over his shoulder, and instead peeked around him to look at the armour laid out on the worktable. Was all of that Alard's order? Aster couldn't help but frown a bit as she looked at the sheer quantity of items there.

"Is everything okay with it?" She asked after a moment, looking up at the man. This close to him, even in the dim shop, she was slightly startled to notice his eyes, a deep green, seemed to have slit pupils. That caught her interest; but despite her piqued curiosity, she knew better than to pry at a stranger with personal questions, especially in a city like Sunberth.

Instead, she glanced away, turning her golden gaze back to the armour that the man's hands rested on; a patch of discoloured skin on one of the man's bare forearms caught her eye as she did so, and almost without thinking, Aster reached a hand out to brush a featherlight touch just over the edge of the burn, being mindful not to touch the actual burn. Her warm fingertips were only on his arm for a brief moment before Asterope's mind caught up with her actions.

Almost immediately, she snatched her hand back as she realized what she'd done, holding it to her chest as if she was the one who had been burned; a hot blush bloomed over the shimmering skin of her cheeks as Aster coughed slightly, looking aside. "Sorry," she mumbled out an apology. "That looks painful. I imagine it comes with the territory, working somewhere like this." Now she was babbling because she was nervous.

She wished she didn't have to be so on edge all the time. It would be so easy to just press a palm over the burn, take away the sharpest edge of pain by healing it slightly, if only by a day; to strike up a conversation, see if she couldn't help further. But she couldn't do that here, with strangers ready to kill at the slightest provocation, and no trust between anyone on the streets. It was wearing on her, having to be so wary all the time, not being able to help when she saw it was needed.

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Baelin Holt on November 18th, 2019, 6:13 pm

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At first, Baelin thought it was the light playing tricks on him. Tall and slender, the woman that walked in almost seemed to glow. But that couldn’t be real; it must be the sunlight shining around her, giving her a halo of vibrant gold.

A halo that seemed to refract all across the Armory.

Before Baelin could think too much on it, Nathaniel caught her attention. With the pair too far away to hear―and Baelin’s own hearing diminished after so many years spent in smithies―he figured he’d leave the mystery be. Turning back to his work, Baelin continued to scan through the remaining rows of the coat. Flip the surrounding scales up and out of the way, give the current scale a little wiggle to check its rivets, and then move over to the next. Over and over again, scale after scale, row after row. Baelin had no idea when the order was due to be picked up, so he tried his best to work swiftly.

He was just about done scanning the coat when he heard an unfamiliar Hello behind him. Baelin paused where he was and twisted to look over his shoulder.

It was the woman. And that definitely wasn’t just a halo of light. Baelin blinked as his brain sluggishly tried to catch up with the fact that she had horns curling around her head. Their spirals held a vibrant, rich gold, shining with their own light. And it wasn’t just her horns. Baelin could swear that her gentle tan gleamed with its own soft, golden light as well, just a touch more mellowed, yet still so markedly luminous in the relative dark of the Armory.

Alright then. She had horns. And glowed. And was here to pick up the scale armor.

One of these things was far more concerning than the others.

“Is everything okay with it?” she asked. Baelin fought back the urge to grimace; he didn’t want her mistaking his discomfort as anything relating to the actual quality of the armor. He just wasn’t finished checking it yet. Baelin struggled for a moment, unsure how to tell her that he just needed a moment longer with her order without making it seem like the armor was somehow defective. Petch, he was so bad at this customer relations stuff.

No problem, he was about to say, but he faltered before he finished so much as the first syllable. Her slender fingers reached towards him, and Baelin could only watch in confusion as her fingertips brushed his forearm, just shy of his fresh wound.

She pulled away so fast that―for an irrational moment―Baelin was scared that he had somehow hurt her. Expression twitching in concern, Baelin held himself carefully still as she withdrew, not daring to move lest he somehow make it worse.

But then Baelin noticed her blush, more rosy and luminescent than it had any right to be with that ethereal light of hers, and he relaxed. As she apologized, Baelin gave a quick shake of his head. No need to apologize, she’d done nothing wrong. Baelin held up one hand in a placating gesture for her to stop―his other still holding his place on the armor―and said, “Don’t worry.” Pausing for a tick as he struggled to come up with the words, Baelin gestured vaguely back to the armor, “I’m nearly done here.”

Baelin faltered again. She was nervous, he didn’t want her to be, and it’d probably help calm her down if he actually explained what he was nearly done with. But he couldn’t think on the spot of a way to do that without triggering sibilance. Pulling in a sharp breath, Baelin suppressed his surge of anxiety at the thought and pushed through it: “We like to double-check all of the rivetsss in ssscale armor.”

There. He said it. Now to move on with his life and pretend he hadn’t. Baelin gave the scale he was holding a little wiggle as demonstration. Then went to the next one and gave that a tug too, making his motions a bit exaggerated to show the leather underneath rising with the scale. Baelin took the opportunity to scan through the rest of the row, flicking other scales up and out of the way as he gave the remaining pieces a tug. “Every piece and every rivet.” Switching up to the next row, he added, “They ought to go out right.”

Baelin glanced at her hand to check just how important she was in the Sun’s Birth―curiosity more than anything else―and faltered when he saw no brand. He’d had his little pet theory that she’d have to have at least four ink-filled triangles for Lawrence to be so on top of this order, but for her to not even have any brand at all? So far, Baelin had only seen the Armory get serious about an order like this if it was going towards someone big in the Sun’s Birth. Was she someone else important in the city?

Oh, wait. Collar.

I’m an idiot, he couldn’t help but think. She might not be a key figure herself, but she definitely seemed to be working for one. You’d think that after spending time in Ravok, he’d be more up to speed on recognizing the signals of someone working as a slave. But he still sucked at it. Embarrassingly so.

No matter. None of that changed the fact that this order needed to go out in great condition, and that this woman was to be its courier.

Baelin pulled back from the coat and held up a finger for her to wait. Slipping back to the storage shelf, Baelin pulled the pair of gauntlets and longsword off. His forearm screamed at him as he reached, and a tiny pulse of fluid seeped from the forming blister at the stretch. Baelin winced, pulled in a slow breath, and then did his best to ignore it. Later. He could worry about it later.

Taking the gauntlets and longsword back to her, Baelin rested them on the worktable and said, “The remainder of your order.” But now, with that said… Baelin glanced around the Armory, wondering if he missed someone else coming in with her. She had a bag with her, but Baelin was having a hard time imagining her getting all that in there.

He shouldn’t doubt like this, she probably had it all figured out. Shaking his head, he gave the scaled leggings a little shake. “If you’re okay with it, I’ll check the other now. It’ll take a chime or two.”

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Asterope on November 20th, 2019, 11:59 pm

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The man working on Alard's order did a slightly worse job at keeping from staring than the man behind the counter; Aster didn't really mind, and her lips quirked faintly with the ghost of what would have once been a genuine smile. It was her vanity speaking, of course, and it wasn't something she liked to indulge in too much, but it was always nice to give people pause or leave them speechless.

The man seemed to struggle to find his words for a moment, and Aster wasn't sure if he was still digesting her appearance or if it was something else. Finally, as she stood with her hand clutched to her chest, the man spoke; despite her embarrassment, Aster noticed the careful way with which he held himself and the near caution with which he chose his words, raising a hand in a reassuring manner.

Somehow, that made it even worse. She was acting like a skittish deer, and judging by the man's quiet and calm, almost hesitant, demeanour, her nervousness was unwarranted for at least the moment. She probably seemed insane. At the very least irrational.

Forcing a breath in, Aster lowered her hand again, nodding at the man's words. He seemed to hesitate before giving a further explanation on what he was doing, and the sibilance in his voice caught Asterope off-guard; it was a soft and subtle but definitely distinct and noticeable hiss, slithering out softly on the man's 's' sounds when he spoke. She'd heard such a hiss before, though more pronounced, and her mind went to the Dhani, the snake people who could shift forms.

Was he one of them? It was difficult to say. It could be a regional accent, or even a lisp. Realizing she was staring, and not wanting to be rude, Aster diverted her gaze to the armour on the table, where he was now tugging at one of the scales on the armour and explaining further.

Somehow, Aster felt that he was doing it for her benefit; he certainly didn't need to explain to himself what he was doing, and he could have just as easily kept quiet. She appreciated being given something to focus on aside from her own awkwardness and anxieties.

"That makes sense," she acknowledged. "I imagine it would be much more of a hassle to have to fix something after the fact and deal with an angry customer than to just take the bit of extra time to doublecheck it." At least that's what made sense to her; she knew Alard would be furious if he ever bought anything only to later find it had any sort of defect, and he wouldn't hesitate to make his displeasure known.

She waited patiently as the man left to fetch something else, taking the brief moment to run her own fingers over the scales of the armour, tapping her nails against them. She wanted to think that it was good craftsmanship, but really, how would she know?

Looking up as he returned, Aster could feel her heart sink in her chest. There was more? The thought of having to lug all of that armour and the sword back halfway across the city, all while trying to stay on guard and not seem like a good target to thieves and pickpockets, was daunting. The task seemed almost impossible, and Aster couldn't help but feel with a pang of bitterness and anger that Alard had done it on purpose, knowing there was no way she could do what he had asked of her. He'd set her up to fail from the start.

Could she ask for help? She somehow doubted the armoury offered escorts or delivery services, even for well-paying customers...and the man she'd been speaking with had been nice enough so far, but surely he would be irritated at such a request. Aster chewed her lower lip in thought, almost missing the man's next words.

"Hmm? Oh, that's no problem. Take your time," she reassured him, trying not to sound as distressed as she felt. As the man lifted the leggings to give them a slight shake, Aster caught sight of the burn on his forearm again, except now it seemed to be leaking.

The burn wasn't too severe from what Aster could see; bad, yes, and certainly painful and relatively large at that, but not incapacitating. Even in her form without her own scars, her flank and side twinged in sympathy, remembering the pain of her own burns from many seasons ago in Alvadas. But regardless of the severity of the burn, leaking was never a good sign; it meant that the blister had at least partially burst, which meant an open wound, which meant the strong possibility of infection if it wasn't cleaned and covered.

Aster's fingers twitched, her hands itching to do something. "You should get that cleaned," she blurted out after less than a chime of watching the man work. "The burn. And covered." She wished she had supplies on her, even just basic bandages, but she almost exclusively catered to Alard now, and any medical supplies were back at their apartment in the barracks.

Abruptly, Aster turned on her heel and trotted back over to the counter; the man behind it raised a brow as she approached, apparently having been watching her and the worker. "Do you have any spare clean rags and alcohol?"

The man blinked at her owlishly. "What?" Aster repeated her question patiently to the seemingly baffled man behind the counter.

"Uh, I guess I could get you a rag or two. But if anybody in here's got any booze on them, I guarantee you they ain't sharing, sweetheart." The man was looking at her as if she was insane, and Aster supposed that was fair.

"Water, then?" She pressed. "Just a little bit. Please." The man narrowed his eyes at her, apparently weighing his options. She may only be a slave, but she was picking up an order for a well-paying customer of the Sun's Birth; was it really worth arguing with her over a few rags and a cup of water? She certainly hoped not, but for a long moment she wasn't sure as the man stared her down, clearly debating.

After a long moment the man shook his head again and left his place from behind the counter, vanishing into a backroom that Aster could only assume was storage of some sort. What was she doing? She honestly had no idea, but damn it all if she couldn't just let the urge to help lie as it was. Besides, it wasn't like she had anything better to do while she waited for him to finish looking over Alard's order, she reasoned with herself.

It was a flimsy excuse. A few moments later, the man returned with a handful of old but what looked like mostly clean rags and a half-full jar of water. "You're lucky we still had a few buckets in the back for today's work," the man grunted, dropping the supplies on the counter and shoving them towards Aster.

Water for work in a smithing shop? She wondered what it was used for. She had no idea how the cooling process for metals worked, or what went into making them, but she wasn't going to question it. "Thank you," she said, as sincerely as she could, but all she got was a grunt in reply and another strange and vaguely annoyed look.

"Petching strange one," the man muttered under his breath, and Aster pretended not to hear. Even in a less chaotic and brutal city it would have been a strange request, to be fair, and she was sure if she wasn't there on business for Alard she would have been refused or forced to pay for the measly supplies. She wasn't sure if it counted as a silver lining, but she supposed she would take what she could get.

Gathering the jar and rags, she returned to where the man was still looking over the leggings, clearing her throat slightly to get his attention again. "May I?" She asked, and motioned towards his burned arm. "It won't help much I'm afraid, but it's better than nothing. You can keep working, I won't be long," she added.

"My name is Asterope." The introduction was a hesitant afterthought, offered as an olive branch; a show of trust in order to request it, because anyone in Sunberth would undoubtedly be suspicious of such a seemingly benevolent offer of help, and not without good reason. "I promise I know what I'm doing. Mostly." The faintest glint of humour shone through in her tone with the last word she added on, mirth shining in the golden gleam of her eyes for a half tick before it vanished behind her serious and earnest expression once more.

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Baelin Holt on November 26th, 2019, 6:20 am

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She seemed upset somehow, after he delivered her order. Was there something wrong with it? A thrill of fear surged up: he had somehow messed up the order. Was there supposed to be something else? Did she not like the construction of the scale armor? Maybe it was the sword that was somehow off.

Whatever thought was running through her head, she didn’t voice it. Perhaps she had wanted it packaged for safe transport. Or maybe Baelin should stop questioning why she didn’t seem thrilled and instead focus on getting this once-through finished.

Chewing her lip, the woman seemed distracted as she gave him the go-ahead to finish. Yep. She was definitely thinking about something. Baelin shook off his worry and instead forced his attention back to rivets. Flip, wiggle, shift. Flip, wiggle, shift. He had gone through another few rows when she spoke up again, “You should get that cleaned.”

Baelin froze in the middle of a scale-wiggle. Was that what she was worried about? That the armor was too dirty to be sold as is? Baelin grimaced. It was true that it wasn’t pristine as far as cleanliness went, and it hadn’t helped that he was handling every scale. Maybe if he had washed his hands before… Baelin glared down at his soot-smeared fingers as if they had personally offended him.

Shyke, Lawrence had straight-up told him that this order needed to go out in good condition. That meant everything. Rivets, sure. But also cleanliness. Presentation! Baelin gritted his teeth; he was such an idiot.

With a grimace, he was braced to apologize to her. He could fix this. Just a few more chimes, and he could get it cleaned until it was positively shining. But then she tacked on, “The burn.”

He blinked. Reran through what she said. And then glanced down at his forearm. Oh.

Well that was a relief. But before he could tell her not to worry, she was already on the move. Baelin frowned as she left, watching her trek back to Nathaniel. He couldn’t make sense of it. What had he done wrong this time? Glared too much?

Whatever it’d been, she was already gone. Shaking his head, Baelin pulled in a breath and resolved himself not to worry about it. Nathaniel would be able to keep her entertained as he finished up. He was, after all, a much better talker than Baelin.

Attention shifted off of the woman, Baelin returned to his work. He moved quickly, trying to get through the rest of this before she decided it’d been long enough and came back. Baelin had reset two more rivets on the coat―both on its back side―before he could claim to be finished with it. Just the leggings left. He glanced up to see if the woman was still waiting with Nathaniel, only to blink in surprise when he saw Nathaniel had vacated his post. That was odd. Had she requested some more items from the back? Was that what had upset her earlier? Something missing from the order that she had hoped to purchase?

Stop worrying about it, he tried to remind himself. He was just needling himself now, and that would only serve to slow down his checking. With a quick shake of his head, Baelin dived back into it. He got up halfway through one side of the leggings before he found his first loose rivet. Moving quickly, Baelin grabbed the rivet setter and lined it up on the scale. He spared a tick to shift the other scales clear and make sure that he was properly lined up, and then he struck it. Setting aside the rivet setter, he gave that scale another check and immediately moved on to the next.

Baelin had made good progress through the leggings when he heard the unmistakable sound of a throat being cleared behind him. Well that didn’t bode well. Bracing himself for anything, Baelin turned around.

She held a jar and rags. Gestured towards his arm. And asked, “May I?” Baelin frowned, not understanding for a tick. Then she continued, and Baelin slowly realized she must mean his burn. Why would she… He was just a worker here. She didn’t owe him shyke. Baelin’s first impulse was to tell her not to worry―that she should go back to Nathaniel and he could keep her company.

But she just seemed so earnest. She gave him her name. Then said, “I promise I know what I’m doing.” And as she added Mostly, she practically lit up; her already mesmerizing luminescence somehow becoming even more enthralling.

Well. How could he saw no to that? With a hesitant nod, Baelin held his arm out away from where he was working. His own olive branch, so to speak. He could check scales with one arm; he wouldn’t need the other until he actually hit a problem.

“Baelin,” he said quietly―almost too quiet in the din of the Armory. Ah, that wouldn’t do. Shyke, he sucked at this. “I’m Baelin,” he tried again, a little louder this time. Gesturing vaguely to the space next to him, he figured she could squeeze in and do whatever it is she wanted to do.

It wasn’t until he turned back to his work―his arm still hovering off to the side―that he realized just how awkward this would be. When had been the last time someone had gone through the trouble of treating him before the end of the workday? Had the last time been with his uncle, all those years ago? He couldn’t remember.

Really, this was unnecessary. He glanced back to her to tell her as much, but faltered as soon as he really saw her.

Sincere was the first word that came to mind. It was an odd change of pace here in Sunberth. Baelin may not have lived here for all that long, but he’d have to be an idiot of monumental proportions to not notice how rarely people helped each other out with sincerity. Was this some kind of trick? His gut wasn’t sending him any warning signs, and it was usually smarter than he was. But still… Shyke, he just couldn’t find it in him to say no to her. Baelin bit his tongue and turned back to his work. Alright then. He could work like this. It would be fine.

Ignoring his left arm and Asterope as best he could, Baelin got through most of the leggings before he reached a loose rivet. He froze, glanced at Asterope, and gave his arm a little jerk. “I need to…” He gestured vaguely to the scale he was holding, giving it a demonstrative shake to show how one rivet didn’t quite hold right.

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Asterope on December 17th, 2019, 8:04 pm

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It seemed to take him a moment to realize what exactly she was offering; she waited patiently while he ran over the information in his head, clearly thinking it over as he realized what Aster wanted to do. Finally, he gave a hesitant nod. Aster smiled faintly as he held out the injured arm, feeling rather pleased.

She began prepping what little materials she had, dunking the cloth in the jar of water and wringing it out before setting the jar down on the edge of the worktable, mindful to keep it as far from the man's working space as possible. As she did so, he spoke. Aster didn't catch what he said at first, but he repeated himself a moment later; his name was Baelin.

At his permissive gesture, Aster stepped closer, sliding into his work space. She reached out, glancing up at Baeline's face briefly for any sign of discomfort before taking his forearm in one hand to keep it still; her fingers were warm and firm on his arm, and she didn't flinch this time. There was a noticeable shift in her demeanour as she focused her gaze on the burn; as she was allowed to do what she knew best, she seemed to relax slightly, more comfortable and confident.

He returned to his work, and Aster noticed that he was seeming to re-evaluate how he would need to do things with one arm. "I'll try to be quick," she said, and then added, "This might sting a bit."

Baelin glanced back at her as if to say something, and Aster blinked up at him, but after a moment he got back to his work, seeming to manage fine with one hand. Satisfied that he wasn't going to stop her, Aster carefully began dabbing at the wound with the wet rag.

She wiped gently around the edges first before dabbing the cloth lightly over the actual burn, cleaning off the fluid from the blister that had burst; she was mindful not to apply too much pressure, wanting to avoid causing it to burst further. It was best if that happened naturally and when the wound was at least covered.

She peered up at Baelin as she worked for any signs of pain, but didn't stop the gentle yet firm cleaning of the burn, and if he tried to pull his arm away, she would tighten her grip to keep it in place on instinct. He seemed to deal with it fine for the most part, however, so Aster put her attention back on cleaning it. There wasn't much to do with her limited supplies, unfortunately.

As she finished cleaning the wound as best as she could, Baelin gave his arm a small tug; she glanced up as her grip reflexively tightened, her gaze following his gesture towards the leggings he was working on. Ah. She gave an apologetic smile, releasing his arm. "Right, sorry." She motioned for him to go ahead, setting the wet cloth aside and fiddling with the other rags as Baelin turned to do his work.

After a moment she peeked up, watching curiously as he tightened the rivet in the armour. His hands worked with the same practiced ease and familiarity that hers did when cleaning a wound. "Have you been doing this long?" She found herself asking. "Working with metal, that is." She didn't know the correct term, exactly - blacksmith? Metalsmith? She wasn't certain so she spoke slightly more vaguely to try and avoid sounding foolish.

Realizing however that she was being nosy, Aster bit her tongue; it was so easy to slip into old habits and forget what was seen as unwelcome by most people in the city. Still, her guard was lowered; the fact that Baelin was allowing her to help and that he hadn't been aggressive so far made her feel safer. Which was probably foolish of her and a terrible idea, but she clung to whatever kindness and potential friendliness she found these days.

"If you don't mind me asking," she tacked on, somewhat lamely, in an attempt to defuse any potential irritation her questions might bring up. When he was done fixing the rivet and went back to looking over the scales of the leggings, Aster reached out to take his arm again, this time with clean, dry rags in hand.

Asterope frowned when she realized the rags weren't all long enough to wrap around Baelin's forearm. Clicking her tongue against her teeth, her brow furrowed slightly, she started with the longest cloth and wound it around Baelin's arm, covering the wound, before tying it off tightly with a knot. Taking some of the shorter rags, she tied them together somewhat clumsily before wrapping them around the wound as well, tying them as best as she could.

She repeated the motions with the remaining few rags until they were all used up and the burn was somewhat clumsily bandaged with the rags, various knots sticking up from the makeshift bandages; it had been enough to at least cover the wound, for which Aster was grateful. "That will do for now," she sighed, clearly not satisfied. "If you can though, you should really try and get that looked at properly." She had no idea if there were doctors or herbalists in the city. She somehow doubted it, given that Alard usually had her take care of his wounds and ailments.

"And keep an eye on it. Keep it clean at the very least with water while it heals, preferably daily, and change the wrappings," she instructed, placing one hand on her hip as she looked up at Baelin, lips pursed. It was that switch in her demeanour again, the sudden confidence and no-nonsense glint in her eyes when she was in her comfort zone.

With that said, Asterope brushed her hands off, and her posture loosened again slightly as faded back into the shyer creature she had been when she had first spoken to Baelin. "Let me know when you've finished. No rush, of course." In fact, she almost wanted to tell him to take his time; the longer she had away from the apartment and Alard, the better. With what little she could do to help done, she took a step back to move out of the blacksmith's personal space, putting some distance between them.

She continued to hover by the table and watch him work, though, clearly curious even if she had no idea what he was doing and no real interest in learning it for herself. It was still interesting to watch, and she could admire when someone knew about things that she had no idea about.

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Baelin Holt on December 26th, 2019, 4:30 pm

While Baelin’s version of healing tended to fall along the lines of “just leave it alone, it’ll heal on its own,” he had to admit that this was perhaps better. An indulgence, he thought. One he couldn’t always afford to enjoy. How often did a healer just walk into a smithy after he jabbed himself with hot steel? Not often, he had to think. And it wasn’t like he was going to step out of work to get it tended to. It just stung a little, he was fine.

Yeah, right. Tell that to his flinch. Here he was, trying to take her careful ministrations like an indifferent champ, and then he went and flinched on her. But to her credit, her grip had simply tightened and he’d been able to continue his business.

It was when he glanced over to steal a peek that he saw it. A burn of her own, plain to see on the back of her hand. Baelin had no idea how he missed it before, but that was the mark of the Sun’s Birth. It looked far worse than any he had seen before, and for a split tick he wondered if perhaps she should focus her healing efforts on herself.

With a minute shake of his head, he turned his attention back to his work. He knew nothing of her life. For all he knew, she wanted her brand looking raw. That didn’t make any kind of sense to him, but then plenty of things people did were beyond his reasoning. Opting to not dwell on it, Baelin immersed his full attention back into his work.

They continued their own respective work in silence. She dabbed his broken blister with attentive care, and he went on with the repetitive check of rivets. When he pulled his arm back to fix one of the few poorly fastened rivets, the lull of companionable silence was broken. “Have you been doing this long?”

Baelin glanced at her. “Working with metal, that is.” She looked awkward for a tick, then added, “If you don’t mind me asking.” The corner of Baelin’s mouth twitched―a smile that couldn’t quite come to life.

He was tempted to just give her a monosyllabic grunt. A yeah, and then move on. But she was helping him, and he figured the least he could do was at least attempt to answer her. He licked his lips and thought about what he wanted to say. “Yeah.” He moved his arm down and held his hand out flat just below his waist. “About that tall.” He’d been what, six? In hindsight, his uncle had probably been so quick to put Baelin to work to keep him preoccupied. Keep him from dwelling on the fact that he’d just been shuffled off to his aunt and uncle. But Baelin was glad for it. He loved to work.

With a shrug of his shoulders, Baelin added, “My family.”

There. A truly loquacious answer, going into depth and detail. He ought to get a round of applause for his attempt. Baelin huffed, annoyed with himself. He should stick with Fratava―it used more hand gestures.

Well, a tried and true method for getting the attention off of himself was to turn it back around. Nodding to Asterope’s setup, he asked, “You? How long have you been a healer?”

He watched as she wound a dry cloth around his forearm, then tied it to another and continued to wrap the conjoined rags. Asterope looked unpleased with her work when she finally pulled away, but Baelin figured it was a sight better than what he would have done himself. Namely, leaving it alone and pretending it didn’t sting. He’d still do that, but the effort to clean it had been nice.

Asterope rattled off instructions for its care. Keeping an eye on it. Keep it clean, use water, change the wrappings. Maybe get it looked at. Baelin gave a short nod, but figured he’d probably come short on those instructions. He’ll do the water thing though. He had liked the water thing.

With that done, she… seemed to shrink? Baelin frowned as he watched her pull back. He could almost swear that she looked dimmer somehow. His fingers twitched towards her―a slight, abortive motion―before he managed to still himself. It wasn’t his place, he reminded himself. Whatever was going on, it wasn’t his place.

Baelin grimaced and turned back to the leggings, repeating that mantra to himself. He almost wanted to mess up and hammer the rivet setter right on his thumb―give her something else to work on so she’d spring back to life. The thought was ridiculous and absurd and he brushed it off as quickly as it came. But still… Baelin spared a glanced back, and felt himself relax when he saw her peer over with obvious curiosity. Not the demure withdrawal he thought he’d seen. Maybe he had imagined it.

Finishing up, Baelin gave the leggings a shake to show off the cohesiveness of all its scales and said, “Done.” He turned back to her and frowned, once again coming back to the thought that this was an awful lot to carry.

“Do you need…” he began, squinting at the bag she’d brought and thinking again that it just wasn’t enough. “How do you plan to move it?”

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Asterope on March 12th, 2020, 3:32 pm

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Aster saw Baelin's mouth twitch; the slightest hint of a smile that never quite appeared, and in that little tick of the corner of his lips, she suddenly felt a clarifying moment of connection. She couldn't quite place it, but she knew that motion; how many times had she herself allowed just the barest curve of her mouth, but then let it die? Because it just didn't feel right somehow, not in this city.

Of course, she was probably projecting. But Aster was willing to latch onto anything familiar at this point. The moment passed as quickly as it came, and Baelin answered her question, humouring her with a few brief words. She was beginning to realize he wasn't much of a talker.

She nodded at his explanation; she couldn't imagine working in a trade for so long, starting so young. But then again, she didn't really know what it was to be a child, did she? One might say when she'd been walking on shaky newborn fawn legs after her fall that, really, her experience was close enough; but Aster knew that wasn't the case.

She had the abrupt realization that she would never know what it was like to be a child, to grow up, to have a genuine mother or family; it was a jarring realization for a casual conversation, setting her aside from everyone else in the building, in the city. But she put it aside as Baelin returned the question.

How long had she been a healer? How long had she been fallen for? "A few years," Aster said after a moment of thought. "It's mostly all I've ever known. I learned it from..." and here she floundered, because Baelin had said 'my family' so easily, and her instinct was to say the same, but could she really?

The Drykas had been family to her. Did it matter that they weren't blood related? They were questions Aster had thought of before, dilemmas she'd worried over, but she hadn't been expecting them to be pulled up now.

"I learned it from someone very dear to me," she finally settled on, her expression softening. "She was...like a mother to me." And that came out naturally, because that much was true, and Aster felt her momentary tension ease.

"I'm normally a bit more adept than this," she continued, "But, well...the supplies are a bit limited here." It was half-teasing, half uncomfortably serious, because Aster didn't just mean within the blacksmith's shop.

Still, soon enough she was done and Baelin was back to finishing his work; Aster noticed the glance he cast at her, though it was quick enough that she nearly missed it. But when he didn't say anything, neither did she. She'd probably been disruptive enough as it was.

A few moments later, Baelin was straightening up. The scales rattled slightly as he gave the leggings a good shake, declaring it done. "Thank you," she said, and her gaze roamed over the pile of equipment she needed to carry just as Baelin haltingly asked her how she planned to carry it all.

She opened her mouth to reply, but then closed it with a quiet click of her teeth as she realized that it would be quite literally impossible to carry everything by herself. The full set of armour could probably fit in the bag, but she had no doubts it would be too heavy for her to lift and carry with ease all the way back to the barracks; not to mention, she would need both hands to do so, but there was still the sword to carry as well.

"I don't know," she admitted, feeling her shoulders squeeze in slightly as she said the words, anxiously wringing her fingers together. "Uhm. I could maybe make...a few trips." Would two be doable? Maybe. Would Alard be annoyed? Definitely. "You don't offer delivery, do you?" She glanced up at Baelin, the joke half-serious and falling somewhat flat. Alard probably wouldn't want to pay extra for that service even if they did.

"I'm not sure...I can't carry it all myself in one trip," she sighed, moving around the table to start putting the gauntlets into the bag she'd brought. "I need to bring it all the way back to the Proving Grounds." That meant crossing the river, too. Ask for help, the voice in her head told her. But she was proud; even among the Drykas, where helping each other was normal, she hated having to ask for it. To ask a stranger? In Sunberth? Her pride aside, the idea was laughable. Who would just help a stranger for free?

But still, if she didn't...then what? She faced trying to struggle home with the whole pile of armour and then some. She'd be lucky to get it all back before the next day; that was, if she didn't drop it and dirty it a hundred times over, or didn't get jumped and stabbed and mugged on her way. Struggling like that would make her an easy target, collar and brand or not.

Alternatively, she could take multiple trips; but she knew that was asking to fail the, granted, impossible task Alard had set for her. He would be annoyed at the very least, furious at worst; she knew she would suffer for it, and she was trying to get herself back onto stable footing with the man.

Aster stared down at the bag clutched in her hands, then flicked her gaze up to Baelin, standing across the table from her. She inhaled once deeply, then breathed out. "I could...maybe use some help. Please." The admission brought heat to her cheeks and a sharp jab in her chest, and Aster stumbled over her words as she continued, rushing slightly, "Only if you can, or if it's not a bother. I know you don't need to and you don't owe me anything, but I just, I don't think I can get all this back and if you don't mind I could really use the help, and I don't have anything to give you but it would mean a lot."

She avoided Baelin's gaze, feeling deeply embarrassed and not entirely sure why; her pride had taken a bit of a dent, sure, but not so much that she should be hiding her face. She was also nervous as she waited with bated breath; he had been more than friendly so far, compared to the typical Sunberther, but that still didn't mean anything. Aster didn't know what she expected. If she was lucky, maybe he would just laugh at her. If she was unlucky, he might yell; if she was really unlucky, well...she didn't want to think about that.

The thought that he might agree didn't cross her mind; she had no idea why she was bothering to ask, really. Perhaps that was why she was so embarrassed by the request, one that would really be simple anywhere else.

She bit her lip hard and continued packing away the armour, risking a peek up at Baelin to see his reaction to her request.

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With Jobs to Do (Asterope)

Postby Baelin Holt on March 24th, 2020, 12:13 am

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Baelin’s brow ticked up as Asterope seemed to struggle with the question. A vague scheme of a few trips quickly devolved into a flat quip about deliveries, which then further fell apart as she seemed to sag under the reality that this was just too much for her. Baelin inhaled slowly, watching her rising anxiety with an uncomfortable twist in the pit of his belly. When she admitted aloud that she wasn’t sure that she could actually get everything all the way back to the Proving Grounds on her own, Baelin could feel the area around his eyes grow tight. Even still, he tried to maintain a blank mask; it’d do no good to show weakness. She may have been kind so far, but there was no saying when that would end.

And yet. Ignoring the way her whole body seemed to draw in with distress...it proved harder to do than he’d hoped. In that moment, Asterope truly seemed lost. With her gaze unfocused as her mind seemed to struggle through her dilemma, Baelin found his own line of sight trailing to the raw brand on the back of her hand. For some reason, his chest felt tight. Why was watching her making it so hard for him to breath?

“I could...maybe use some help,” she said. Baelin inhaled sharply, not expecting the honest request. And when she followed that up with a please, he was done. There was just no way...he couldn’t ignore that. He just couldn’t. How was he supposed to? Baelin winced, breaths even tighter when he realized her cheeks were turning red.

Asterope continued, adding more to her request. But she needn’t have bothered. Baelin was screwed as soon as she said please. His burn throbbed. His breathing was oddly tight. And he just couldn’t.

She wouldn’t look at him. She started to pack away her order in her too-small bag, biting her lip in a gesture that Baelin couldn’t stand to see. Look at me, he wanted to snap. She’d been confident of her movements earlier, back when she was cleaning his weeping skin. Why the petch was she so meek now? Baelin had no idea why this was making him so angry.

No, that wasn’t true. He could guess why he was pissed. It was because this whole thing was such shyke. It wasn’t like this order was coming as a surprise for whomever was behind that collar. And if the petcher couldn’t be bothered to give his people the resources they needed to succeed, then what right did he have to be in charge of them?

Baelin hissed―expression drawn into a furious grimace―and turned on his heel. No. Just no. He wouldn’t put up with it. Heading straight for Lawrence, Baelin started to speak before he even reached his superior, “I’m leaving.”

When Lawrence looked up at him with bewilderment, Baelin realized he should clarify. “The order.” He jabbed his finger at Asterope. “I’m going to carry it back.”

Lawrence stared at him for a moment. For a long moment. And as it dragged on, Baelin slowly began to worry that he just petched up on a monumental scale. Was this worth getting fired over? He hadn’t even thought about it, he’d just acted on impulse. Petch. Baelin could feel his rage drain in favor of trepidation: the sinking realization that he may have just seriously screwed up bringing everything else down with it.

When Lawrence barked a short laugh, then called out to Karos to “get a load of this,” Baelin winced. But Karos barely cast them a glance before grunting something. Baelin couldn’t hear it over the ring of steel, but―whatever it was―it made Lawrence snort. The co-owner of the Knight’s Armory shook his head, but waved his hand in what Baelin thought was a dismissal.

Baelin narrowed his eyes. Didn’t he just mess this up earlier? Yeah...yeah, he did. So he stood absolutely still instead, not daring to budge an inch lest he petch anything else up.

Lawrence frowned at him, then did the same hand wave but slower, as if he was dumbing it down for Baelin’s benefit. “Go on then,” Lawrence said, his voice slowing to match his gesture, “Best be quick about it.”

Careful to keep his face a blank mask―there was no need to show just how much that small gesture of belittlement got to him―Baelin crossed back over to where he’d left Asterope. He picked up what she hadn’t already, but didn’t dare meet her eye or speak. Not after he’d just made a fool of himself.

Without a backwards glance, Baelin pushed out of the Armory. She’d said the Proving Grounds, right? He knew where that was. Staring stubbornly ahead and resolutely refusing to look anywhere else, Baelin began to walk.
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