Solo Broth and Broil

It all comes down to the sauce. [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]

Broth and Broil

Postby Caspian on November 17th, 2019, 7:49 pm

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30 Fall 519

“So... what are you? Some sort of petty thief?”

Expression stony and unerring, Caspian stares back at a woman with glossy brown hair pulled back in a lavish set of braids in triplicate. It takes him a long moment - hence the delay in his displaying any measurable reaction - but he eventually connects her with his memory of an individual whom he once sat beside at the start of spring, while feigning professional experience and interest in laboring by the unit as a churn-and-burn landscape painter.

At the time, she had been dressed in a bell-sleeved blouse and culottes, both black satin, and more notably than that, pranced and lounged about on sky-high platform heels, the dimensions and weight of which had proven to be, to her, as cumbersome as a pair of slippers. Compared to then, today she’s far less the embodiment of a dirge, not so much the picture of sleek and recently widowed, her presentation more of the harried and quotidian bend, with the appropriate number of flyaways and commiserable depth of the baggage of adulthood beneath her eyes. The last bits are commons and expected for someone of her age - of their age?

The dark glosses of her exterior in the spring studio had kept him from properly discerning it then, the overall effect of her outfit having suggested she’d just crawled out of an undead bridal crypt - and he’s having trouble now, because it’s not that she hasn’t got a sense of humor about her, just that she’s floating both a wry intrigue and a rising impatience at their reunion.

Though he’s not such a fan of the way she’s peering down - down, yes, because even without the towering heels, those stilts diminished to the modestly stitched, inoffensively beige leather loafers she’s wearing now, she’s got a good half-head on him. To her credit, that last time they’d encountered each other, she’d very much taken notice of his pilfering and stalking about, and elected to keep admirably mum.

To that end - because there are still things he can respect, as known of those in his line of work and the adjacent - he’s only a fraction of the degree of ascerbic he’d throw down on default.

“A thief? As might be recorded for judicial proceedings, never - though petty, there’s plenty.”

“The painter thing was a crock and a half, then,” she goes on flatly, not enough of a fool nor one to parley with pleasantries to grant him the respite of an inquisitive uplift.

“Hold a broom and shimmy up a floom, and isn’t one a chimney sweep? Wield the knife and - well, there’s many a profession and an accusation to be lobbed there.”

“Don’t tell me, then,” she retorts, “though I know you went poking around Melvin’s back office.”

“Me? There? And with him?” Caspian says, feigning overblown aghastness at her unintended euphemism.

Impatience gains a lead on intrigue - but it’s a little spark of satisfaction for him to see how easily she allows herself to be riled.

“I’m going to assume you don’t feel badly about spraining that kid’s ankle either? You’re at least decent enough not to pretend.”

In order to slip into the office back in the spring, Caspian had needed a diversion, which had taken the conveniently timed form of a fellow and passing landscape artist in Melvin’s employ. Truth be told, Caspian hadn’t known that his forcibly sweeping his short-term coworker off his feet had had such physically detrimental consequences; he simply hadn’t stuck around long enough, the directive of the aforementioned petty theft in mind and calling.

With emotion arrested on his face once more for a tick longer than etiquette and common propriety deems acceptable, she’s somehow swung back to looking bemused with her having rediscovered him this afternoon.

“So don’t tell me,” she repeats, “because all that’s long and gone. You will, though -“ and here she glowers from her apex, “- explain to me, now and quickly, what the petch you’re doing here, in my house.”

Sighing, Caspian glances down at his starch-stiff black-and-white uniform, and the apron tied around his waist that grows more ragged and stained by the hour.

It is, as of late and against all expectation he had for himself as a child, an ensemble that has become fairly familiar.

“Some of us,” he snips airily, “still have to work for a living.” He eyes her well-sashed and tasseled kaftan and neatly tailored slacks with a pointedness he doesn’t truly feel.

“Painter, poet, now a - what do they call you when you’re only allowed to polish the silver? What a catch you are! I bet you leave the ladies lousy.”

“The men too, when they bother to look.”

From the kitchen comes an outburst only half-intelligible, the perceivable portion a mangling of Caspian’s name.

“Well. Duty calls.” Reveling in her seething, he rolls his neck and cracks his fingers to a leisurely beat. She hasn’t kicked him out of her house is the thing, and he’s just going with the flow.

And she still doesn’t, even as he heeds the call with only an airy, limp-wristed half wave in farewell.

The fact of the matter is that this is just coincidence, his being in her home unannounced. There are two high-end catering companies bidding for one very lavish party that’s meant to take place at the end of the season, and he’s been hired by one to track the other, and glean what he can about their intended menu, from the little flits and frits that come out on silver platters, to the wine pairings and however they’re brothing and broiling, all the way on through dessert.

WC: 955


Boxcode credit: Rohka!
Last edited by Caspian on July 15th, 2020, 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Broth and Broil

Postby Caspian on November 21st, 2019, 1:52 am

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As comes with the territory, there’s a good deal of boxing about the ears. Only some of it’s physical, which is manageable - for the sake of comparison when it comes to measuring his accumulation of experiences with violence and absurdity, he’s had his body flung down flights of stairs and out of windows, both volitionally and as matters of consequence. So in the face of memories of all that, he hardly flinches when the higher-ranking chefs - that being all of them - decide that the best way to teach is through fists and hurling. Most of the assailing, then, is left to the verbal, and to that he also barely bats an eye, because by now he’d like to believe he’s heard most of the conceptions [insults?] and their iterations people can sling his way, of all varying degrees of relevancy.

What’s-her-name had ribbed him about being restricted to nothing more than rubbing the silver. In the last few hours he’s been given a bucket of muddy tubers to scrub as well as a knife to dice them with, so that’ll show her.

There’s a good quarter-bell stretch of peace that leads him to believe he may actually have gotten better at this, having found himself for some reason in Ravok to perform most of his spy work from a kitchen drone’s lens - until he learns that the potatoes he’s slicing are destined to be mashed anyway, so it really doesn’t matter how artful his cuts may be.

That’s to be taken note of, then. Potatoes on the menu, mashed. If he writes it down someone will notice and ask why, so he’ll just have to hold on to it. Which by all rights shouldn’t be a tall order, because he knows what potatoes are, and that they’re commonly mashed, but - mashed with what mixed in? Kessel Strover from KS Catering & Co. had asked him to be specific, very specific, the overtly displayed anxieties of which Caspian had tried to wave off with an actual wave, which hadn’t gone over well with one increasingly irate Mr. Strover, who demonstrated the tantamount importance of Caspian taking this seriously with a wave of his own, except with the aid of a knife beneath Caspian’s nose.

A fragrant bushel of something - stemmy and leafy are his expert lexical designations - is suddenly dropped unceremoniously onto his station.

At a loss as to what he’s meant to do with it, he looks askance after his fellow drone who had committed the act, who outranks him but only by a relative smidge.

“Not too finely, alright? We don’t want them completely disintegrating when we toss them in,” is all he receives by way of explanation.

Though, to the credit of their culinary career only being in the fledgling stages and thus their soul yet somewhat intact, it’s twice the amount of an explanation anyone else here might bother to give him.

That aside, he’s got two things now to worry about as according to his expert arithmetic. Potatoes and the green bushel, the leaves of which are about the span of his thumbnail and many-pronged.

But how many prongs? is what Taalviel would say, what Kessel would want, so with a sigh he squints down at the green and mashed mess staining his cutting board.

“What did you say your name was?”

Swiveling pointedly but slowly, Caspian squints up at his addresser.

It’s that lowly gopher again, the one who gets a smack to the head only somewhat less frequently than Caspian does.

“Do I receive more or less menial labor if I remind you?”

There is nothing to gain from playing with fire, but they’re already in a kitchen so he may as well play as he will, and for some reason he’s getting quite into it, this role that is a temporary skin, and it’s beginning to feel like it does matter when it comes to his ranking and how he’s seen and perceived.

Especially by this cross-eyed mongrel.

Cross as in becoming visibly quite cross and fed up with Caspian, that is, which is baffling because they’re just jealous, probably (well, who wouldn’t be?) though they’ve got no right to be.

Though Caspian had made it pretty clear he’s not here to make friends.

Presently, he gets his answer, because his fellow grunt walks away in a huff, only to return a few minutes later when his mind’s wandered elsewhere, to more pressing and relevant things like there appearing to have been not just one or two but three different types of aromatics in the pile of greens he’s been hacking away it in utter indiscrimination, and to tell them apart now will take some doing, because he hasn’t left many survivors.

But the gnat in the form of a scowling, huffing human returns, just to dump a heaving sack of alliums at Caspian’s feet.

The silver lining to the gesture is that he’s just been handed another item to be added to his list of observations as to the catering company’s bid.

The downside is -

Ruddy and wondering if it might not have been better to falsify possibly any other overlooked occupation, Caspian begrudgingly takes a knife to the lot of it, blinking and sniffling back the tears involuntarily stinging at his eyes, garnering the attention and sympathy of no one.

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Broth and Broil

Postby Caspian on November 23rd, 2019, 6:04 pm

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The steam accumulating without release in the kitchen isn’t helping Caspian’s realizing he might have gone about this mission with a myopic lens.

It’s not to say that he isn’t aware of the obvious, that realistically speaking not everyone in the kitchen is executing the same task at approximately the same time, but the fact doesn’t fully articulate itself in his head until long after he’s scooped and heaved over the results of his knifework upon the starchy tubers that have already begun to brown.

The latest command that’s been issued to him is that they must boil, and boil well, the better for smashing. And bashing. And ultimately, regular old mashing. It’s a time and a half just trying to light the stove - he doesn’t have one of these back in his standard NHC-issued cubicles, and can safely assume he’s nothing to envy of his neighbors in his same cubicle-complex, who don’t possess one either, unless they’d gone out of their way to lug one up and in.

Watched pot never boils so he’ll watch something else, like what everyone else around him is doing - and the problem here is that because it’s everyone else who isn’t Caspian they’ve got tasks that far exceed what he’s been given in their range and complexity.

Which then means that he’s got a hell of a time understanding what it is he’s even seeing.

Someone’s got a bucket of fish in the far corner, and is descaling them with swift strokes. Fish served up as entrees in Ravok - sure, standard, would be odder if the menu went without. But he’s no angler, and even if they were dumped on his own station, he wouldn’t know enough to tell the species.

And would the size of them matter too?

The scales fly at haphazard speed and angle of launch, one flicking straight across the top and sticking directly to his bottom lip. Pulling a face with the same intensity one might exhibit towards, perhaps, having one’s toes dipped into a bucket of slop, he fishes into his pockets for one of his lace-trimmed, gold- and kohl-streaked handkerchiefs, the likes of which are starkly incongruous with the heavily blotched and splattered uniform he’s condemned to wearing for the foreseeable week. (A week, a whole one and then some to get to the bottom of this, but two if he wants it done properly, or so Taalviel had diagnosed.) With the conspicuous article he removes the offender, and offers a simpering smile with no explanation attached to the line cook beside him who had seen the sequence of events unfold.

Which brings to mind the question - what in the living petch has she got going on there?

Half the problem is that she has already started cooking whatever it is, and in this interim stage the ingredient has progressed beyond recognizability. (The other half of the problem is that he has no idea what he’s doing, but that can’t very well be helped at this stage, can it?)

Start with the obvious is what Taalviel would say were she here, and though his sister’s increasingly frequent presence in both the back and front of his mind is a troubling personal development, it’s sound advice, especially when he hasn’t got any other options. It’s precisely what she’d to him when Taaldros had first put her in charge of making him a little less useless towards the gains of their half-clonked mercenary band. Repetition was key - she’s said it crossly, softly, even croftly when she was in a growly mood, if birds are capable of such a thing.

So, then -

What leaps out at him here as nearly meriting going unmentioned?

The sound.

The pan before his neighbor is sizzling brightly.

And the color -

What had started gold is rapidly browning.

Then - the smell?

Warm, comforting, a welcome compliment to the sizzle.

And there’s something in the pan dredged in the darkening, rapidly bubbling...

Oil?

“I’m going to need about twenty more,” his neighbor says.

He stares back blankly.

“Twenty,” she repeats. Turns her gaze away from the pan to look at him with a frown. “Onions?

He gets right to it.

Yes, right, onions diced and browning - he’s definitely heard of that before.

All around him the kitchen is steaming over, along with some tempers. Handkerchief retrieved again with a flick and a flounce, he mops the sweat from his brow.

This isn’t working, this standing here and staring from the corner of his eye.

There has to be a better way.

Starting with the obvious, and What’s-Her-Name comes immediately to mind.

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Broth and Broil

Postby Caspian on November 24th, 2019, 11:56 pm

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Finding the miffed lady of the house is only a matter of time.

One by one, as Taalviel had also intoned in multiples since his youth. So checking one room and then another he goes.

The hard part’s gone and past; it was abandoning his assigned station while no one of any real authority had their gaze trained, and in this instance it wasn’t so much hard as just tamping down his own impatience until the right moment presented itself.

And it had, about three minutes after the idea to find What’s-Her-Name had occurred to him. Three excruciating minutes and seventeen exacerbating seconds, to be precise, because he had involuntarily begun counting in his eagerness to leave.

Beyond the kitchen, the first floor holds a parlor, then a second, a washroom, coat room and cupboards. It shouldn’t surprise him that she wouldn’t want to hang about given all the cluttering and clanging going on, so on quick steps he takes the closest flight of stairs - though he could have sworn there’s two, and where does that one lead? - and comes upon decor much more curtained and carpeted and plush. Feels like much more of a home, now that he’s on the second, and he supposes the first is so echoing and sterile in comparison due to that being where one confines and attempts to impress the guests.

On the sapphire carpets his feet move soundlessly. The piles are so lush and raised that he’s tempted to bounce, take his shoes off and test it with his bare toes. Through the windows lining the long hallways he can peer into an inner courtyard flanked with pillars and trellises covered in ivy, at the center of which is a silvery blue stone fountain. Two of the chefs are leaned up against one of pillars, on break and chatting, smoke pluming from their pipes.

The first thing he discovers on this floor is a bathroom with a claw foot tub and potted ferns; following that is a walk-in linen closet that’s upsettingly closer in surface area to the size of his entire apartment than an actual closet. A spare bedroom next - spare as determined by the stillness of the air, pristine arrangement of the duvet, and absence of any personal effects; another spare; and then, finally -

“Right on the first count, then, was I?”

Caspian wheels around sharply and backs further into the room he’s just entered.

What’s-Her-Name is standing in the doorway, arms crossed and with an eyebrow raised.

“Petty thief?” she continues.

Oddly, somehow, she still looks a lot more intrigued and far less angry than she ought to be.

“Search me all you like,” he says with a grin that grows wider when she takes in the sight of his uniform’s collection of smears and stains, wrinkling her nose. “I think you’ll find I’ve knicked the very number of alien skins and trimmings quite worthy of condemnation.”

“There’s nothing worth bothering with in this wing,” she says, and it’s interesting how she manages to humor him while wearing a scowl. “You’ll want my parents’ room in the East.”

“You still live with your parents? What are you, 40?”

29, thank you.”

“And sticking around them in close quarters hasn’t driven you mad?”

“Not exactly close, are they?”

And she’s not wrong, as it appears this room isn’t regularly occupied either.

“So what are you here for, if it isn’t the furs and jewels?” she prompts again.

“If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll make off with something, anything, and in front of you too so you can be sure I’ve done it.”

There’s one window in this room, behind a curtain and likely bolted, both things that would slow him down if he tried them, and she’s blocking the only ready exit.

Does she know that, though?

Sometimes they don’t actually, and it only makes one look foolish when in the course of anxiety one doesn’t consider the possibility.

When he shifts from one foot to the other, though, her eyes follow and she defensively mirrors the movement.

So yes, it appears that she does know precisely how much power she holds.

Shall he come clean, then?

“You said this is your parents’ house?” he says.

“If you’re just going to mock me -“

“So then all the noise and runaround downstairs is for some kind of party they’re throwing?”

“My little brother’s coming of age, yes.”

“In which you have how much interest and how many stakes?”

“What are you driving at?”

All things considered, it’s likely the answers are not much and practically nil.

“...your parents haven’t got a list of, I don’t know, requests they’ve made and sent downstairs? Like, little brother’s got a hankering for this or that sort of game, done up this or that sort of way? And his feelings on the preparation of mashed spuds and carp are...?”

Being honest isn’t usually what he goes in for, but it seems she really hasn’t got anything better to do than indulge him further. Her parents’ study will likely have the list of culinary interests he needs, colored with enough detail that he’ll come out of this with a job done well enough.

“Let’s to it, then,” he says, jerking his head towards the door still barred to him.

For a moment, she looks as if she’s half a mind to humor herself over him, and hold him hostage in a truer and more consequential sense - but the tension bubbles and breaks, and with an exasperated sigh she pivots on her well-shoed heel, leaving him to follow.

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Broth and Broil

Postby Caspian on November 25th, 2019, 1:09 am

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The yet unnamed heiress makes an awful lot more noise than Caspian does as they trot together down the winding halls of her parents’ home.

It’s not that she’s not told him her name; it’s likely she did, back when they first met in that landscape painter’s studio, and at this stage it’s far too late to inquire. He hadn’t much cared to index it at the time, having had several other important things happening in simultaneity that required his attention. And it’s not totally vital that he learn it now, having no intention of pursuing a social relationship with her in the slightest. It’s against many odds that they’ve crossed paths this second time and a third is even more unlikely, and besides that he’s not entirely sure he likes her enough to expend the energy. Something about her oscillating so wildly between aggression and fulfilling a role of crime enabler is off-putting to him, perhaps in its appearing to be a consequence of her having been raised in the midst of unfettered luxury. It’s a touch or two of jealousy coloring his increasing aversion to her; that, and she’s just so much taller than him and knows it, and something about the way she glowers down simply because she can is rubbing him the wrong way.

Can she tell that he’s souring, though?

As with her boxing him into a corner, sometimes they aren’t always aware of the flights and fancies of the silently interpersonal. It would be a disservice to himself to assume she’s got as many hackles raised as -

“So has your whole life been this way? People letting you off the hook every time you act like a rotter?” she says over her shoulder with a vehemence that indicates that yes, she’s just as aware of his dislike as she was of the advantage she held in that spare room.

“Name one time,” he says blithely, skipping and reveling in the carpet’s luxurious lift.

“Who’s the painter you stole that canvas roll from?” she asks, referring to Akvin’s oiled depiction of the land, sea, and sky.

“Why are you so convinced I must be a thief?”

“I find you in places where you don’t belong and you treat me to a constant stream of lies. What else could you possibly be?”

“For an artist, you haven’t very much of an imagination. What were you doing in that studio, by the way? It’s not like you needed the money.”

“Every now and then I like to feel useful.”

A funny world apart, she is, if occupation can be relegated to part-time recreation.

“Here it is,” she says, nodding towards a room with the door half-cracked. She forges ahead, suddenly balks, shoos him further back down the hallway and frowns. “Sorry, my father’s still in there. I hadn’t realized. I thought he’d have left already - he’s supposed to meet someone for lunch.”

It’s been many long minutes, now, since he’d left his station in the kitchen. Surely someone will have noticed, as a result of having, likely, flung refuse and a curse, and found that instead of his body it had struck a wall.

“I’ll just ask him for the list,” she says.

“No. He’ll ask why.”

“I don’t think he’ll care.”

“Except that it’ll be an odd thing, coming from you, and so he might. Where would it be?”

“How am I supposed to know?”

“Does he keep a notebook? Is it in his desk drawer? Think.”

“Are you always this much of a rotter? Or is it only when people do you enormous favors and ask nothing in return?”

“Oh, but there’s always something, and I for one can’t wait to find out what it is.”

She scowls down at him, and after a beat says, “I - I guess he’s got a bulletin board on the wall to the right, directly after you enter the room. It might be pinned up there.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“How sure?”

She throws her arms up in frustration. “I don’t know, mostly sure? It was definitely there last week.”

That’s as good as it’s going to get.

He sends her in, and the distraction she runs comes in the form of her asking him to retrieve a book she knows is up on a high shelf, requiring use of a ladder and a turned back. It helps that the sapphire carpet’s extended all the way through this room too, and as if on air he silently pads in, turning sharply to his right. The bulletin board is indeed there, and there’s a whole smattering of things pinned to it, too many things and scribbles and jots. Time ticks, mere seconds but each one vital, and What’s-Her-Name is blathering about something trite and banal and specific to contexts he doesn’t need to know, with her father hemming and hawing and just as tritely banal in response.

But he finds it, suddenly, eyes lighting upon the scrap of parchment least folded and withered, with the ink still deep and fresher than the rest.

Two motions - a removing of the pin, and a snatching up of the parchment - and with his breath held he wheels around the doorway and out into the relative safety of the hallway.

Makes him even more of a rotter in her eyes, probably, but he doesn’t wait for her. He’s got a job to do, after all, unlike some people who are born with whole mansions for themselves that they don’t have to leave, except when they get bored enough to play at earning wages like the masses.

There’s a gut-wrenching moment in the kitchen when there’s a great slap of slosh and spill that strikes him directly on his right hip. The pocket on that side is where he’s keeping the spoils of his petty pilfers, and if the ink bleeds to inscrutability he’s have to come up with a third plan or return to the first, neither of which he relishes. Another stolen reprieve alone proves that the stew only wreaked havoc on a corner of the parchment, leaving about nine-tenths of its contents intact. What he’s got is nine to ten times better than what would have resulted had he stuck to the original directive of observation and memorization, and of course there’s always tomorrow.

At the end of his shift he flings off his apron and heads home. An exhaustion he had not expected suddenly washes over him, sleep coming easily and naturally, the ready remedy avoiding his sister’s scrutinization.

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