the notions, the haze

POSTED: Wed Dec 05, 2018 1:35 am

It didn't matter how thick her winter coat came in, how many layers she wore, or how many winters she spent standing idle over expiring produce. It didn't matter how many of her older siblings came along to the port to help out or huddle together to keep warm. It didn't matter how much the family actually sold, either. It never got easier.

It never got easier, in the sense of that while animal produce sold well enough in the colder months, the process never lightened up. Sew the seeds in spring, tend the fields in summer, harvest the goods in fall, and then sell, sell, sell. Her siblings never complained, it was all they knew -- but when Cassia did, her half-dozen older sisters and half-dozen older brothers looked at her aghast by the notion of growing weary of farmlife. It was busy work, they told her, but it was hard work and good work. We're doing good things, they told her. We're feeding people and we get to spend time with animals and with each other.

Well, maybe I don't want to spend time with you, maybe I get sick of being around you all the time, she'd said at one point, and her fourth-oldest sister had started sobbing despite all the best efforts of her second-oldest and fifth-oldest brothers (while of course her first-oldest brother characteristically took it upon himself to scold her, being that he was the first-oldest). Their family had some reputation for being tight-knit and harmonious despite their hard work, if only because there were actually enough hands between the... eleven? twelve? of them. In actuality, Cassia wasn't sure whether her father was joking when he called her Cassandra or Cassidy (who was, coincidentally, a cousin).

None of it got easier. Least of all tending the stalls in Portland during days colder than winter had any right to be this early.

There were only a few bottles of wine left in the stall; what few eggs she'd brought from the farm had been snatched up early by a snooty woman who thought herself someone of refined taste. Stiff and shivering and frowning deep enough to ward away customers, Cassia huddled in her third-oldest sister's nice furs (a gift from her last mate, until they decided her family was too weird in how close it was and left) and waited, counting the seconds to sundown when she could pack up and make the trip home to the fire.

To the fire and the entire family crowded around the fire, of course. Making a face, Cassia reached into the stall in front of her, popped the lid to one of the recycled wine bottles, turned her back to the street to drink from it, and set it back on display.


POSTED: Wed Dec 05, 2018 4:00 am

None of it got any easier, yet through rain and the bitter cold he carried on, and always with a smile (it was an indisputable truth that frowns were more becoming on Malik's brooding face, anyway).

It helped to count his blessings. Lady Luck had seen the sorry state they were in and showed them mercy by bringing together their skilled but directionless troupe. Now they all had direction, and under his watchful eye, their routines had grown and flourished every night, as did their wealth. Calrian never felt more lucky in his life.

But even a streak of fortune could not make him rest. Resting on his laurels was no rest at all, not when one of his foolhardy schemes was finally working, not when the fun had truly only just begun. None of it got any easier and he was grateful for it, because an easy game was a rigged one, and they were all too smart and too driven to lose.

After finishing up a day on the docks, he went home to tend the animals and wash up - nightfall was nearly upon them, and soon his second shift would begin. He dressed in his fine leather jerkin and wool trousers, and when he saw his reflection in passing (the mirror was one of Mal's purchases and was slowly beginning to grow on him), just for a moment he thought that he looked a little bit like his father. The idea warmed him all the way back to town.

There were still many stalls open in the Alley; everyone was in denial about the shorter days it seemed, that and the commotion that always stirred up when a new trade ship arrived. It wasn't just any old trade ship either - they had come all the way from Lisbon ferrying every kind of riches from the old world. In truth they hadn't meant to come this far north, but a terrible storm had fallen upon the southern ports (late in the season, it was said). Calrian was thrilled by this turn of fate, and his eagerness for what was most certainly to be a good night had set a spring in his step as he wove through the throngs of sailors and travelers.

That is, until he saw her. For a moment he watched her image flicker in between the passing bodies, his breathing tight as the time she'd nearly drowned him with a bucket of water. Her hair was gleaming in the torchlight, the hue of it caught somewhere between a dusky late autumn sky and a winter's bloody sun. Cassia didn't look very happy there by herself, and watching her take a hit off her own supply just confirmed that he must help her. The troupe could wait.

He appeared at the stall, already shifted into his nightly demeanor. "Any good?" He grinned at her, turning the bottle around on the table before he brought it to his nose for a sniff. He didn't really know what he was looking for per se, but he'd seen wealthy people do this and quite naturally picked up the motion. Then he took a swig, perhaps a little presumptuously all things considered, but he didn't think she would mind since she was already in the habit of throwing liquids on his face. After a pause, he quirked an eyebrow at her and set it back down. "Y'know, I never thought quality was quite so important as a good testimony."

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POSTED: Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:04 pm

No sooner had she set back the wine bottle and looked up had he appeared — no, manifested, as if the alcohol had called out to the laziness inside him and summoned him forth. She could not have forgotten him, not with a smile like that, but especially not when they had met on the farm. When one sees the same faces in the same place day in and day out, after all, one remembers every detail of a new face on the occasion it appears.

It came back to her quickly. The boy in the straw with the beautiful horse and dopey face. Hadn’t they planned to go riding or something? It had to have been months ago, now. Before the harvest, at least. She sighed. Time flies.

”Good enough. Not the best I’ve had, but that’s why we have a small vineyard.” Cassia leaned on the stall between them, grinning back at him an exaggerated mimicry of his dazzling smile. She upturned her palm and wagged fingers at him. ”It was... Calrio, right? You, uh, trading for just the sip or the whole bottle?”