Smooth As Silk

The capital city of Anaxas and the seat of the government.
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Oisin Ocasta
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Tue Jul 02, 2019 10:06 am

Morning - 19th of Hamis, 2719
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Who knew that there was such a comprehensive science to something as seemingly simple as the fabric of curtains? On reflection, Oisin supposed that the answer to his internal question was a good many people. Were it not, there would not need to be so many options, such variety, and such a ubiquitous presence of people making, selling, and sharing expertise in such matters no matter where in the world you went.

Everything that Ava said, each intently hung-upon word, wove together into the growing tapestry of fledgeling understanding. Nothing she explained came as a surprise, same for the revelation of his own obliviously unrealised ignorance: it provided context for things that Oisin had seen and known, but never questioned. He thought of the way curtains had been used in Mugroba, heavy fabrics to hold the hot air at bay. He thought of the curtains and bedsheets he'd experienced as a young man in Old Rose Harbor, faded by sunlight and sea air. He was aware of all those things. The connections, though? How to apply that knowledge, how to preempt those effects, how to use them to one's own advantage? That was a wisdom that Oisin simply did not possess that Ava clearly did, and one for which he held an increasingly growing respect.

Her mention of colours gave him pause. To look at how Oisin chose to dress, and the things he chose to surround himself with, one might be forgiven for presuming that Oisin's favourite colour was brown, or grey. In truth, it was neither; non-existent, in fact. He understood the concept of favourite colours, and favourites in general, but in all honesty, he could not name a single one of his own. Things were selected based on practicality and function. His entire life, he possessed only that which he needed, and colours or flavours were trivialities that served no purpose to him. In Old Rose Harbor, he wore and ate whatever he could get his hands on, or whatever he could scrabble together the coin for. Among his mercenary band, he ate, or drank, or wore, or heard, or read whatever was on hand, whatever was available, whatever anyone else had. Oisin seldom had choice, and so he never made any, and thus the capacity for choice and the preferences that went along with it had never formed or taken root. The clothes he wore were the ones easiest to reach. His apartment above Baker's Treat was the first he had visited. Even here, at Woven Delights, the selection had been made by proximity and convenience - though if Ava kept smiling the way she did, there was a chance he might end the morning with a favourite after all.

At least Ava had narrowed the field to three options: white, green or blue. Perhaps that had not been her intention, but Oisin certainly wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He searched his mind, rummaging for anything, some correlation between himself and any of those possibilities. All his mind yielded - unhelpful as ever - as he thought of colours was the Painted Ladies, the rainbow of colours enveloping him on all sides like the walls of a canyon, or the jagged teeth of a maw about to envelop him whole. He fixated on the same thing that had helped soothe him minutes before, focusing on the yellow and the blue, arbitrary choices that he'd counted as he walked. There had been four yellow, and three blue. Four yellow -

"I suppose I am quite fond of blue," he found himself saying, and there it was, a decision made, uttered aloud, unable to be repealed. It didn't matter that the yellows had outweighed the blues, or that green was the product of the two of them combined. He pushed such thoughts aside, fixating on his answer, and then, on the invitation that Ava had provided.

Had Oisin's mind been anywhere else, feel free to touch them might have turned his face a colour that would have clashed horribly with the fabric offerings before him. With his mind in its current state however, he took the statement for what it was: permission to indulge the urge that gripped him every time he passed a store such as this. Fortunately, Ava herself had already demonstrated the proper practice: a gentle touch, fleeting contact, enough to experience the texture without treating the fabric like the fur of a small adorable animal. The voile held a particular fascination: it reminded him of Mugroba, of the kind of drapes and veils that the wealthy had used to welcome the breeze while holding the annoyances that flew upon it at bay. The fleeting thought dredged an itching array of memories to dance across Oisin's skin, and it took all his self control to fight down the shudder they provoked.

"Cotton certainly sounds like the right choice," he agreed, acting as if he understood anything at all, and was not simply taking Ms. Weaver at her word. A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as a thought tiptoed through his mind, and hurled itself into the conversation. "Of course, it doesn't help that if you'd asked me five minutes ago, I would have told you that voile was a musical instrument."
Last edited by Oisin Ocasta on Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:08 pm, edited 2 times in total. word count: 915

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Ava Weaver
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Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:33 pm

Morning, 19th Hamis, 2719
Woven Delights, Painted Ladies
Ava watched, unabashed and unhesitant, as Oisin reached a slow hand towards the fabrics, carefully running his fingers over them. It was, perhaps, not as important for curtains as for clothing to see whether one liked the feel of a fabric, but she felt it was an important part of the process. Fabrics had a look and a feel both; even curtains you would touch as you lifted them to hang, as you brought them back down.

Ava grinned wider at Oisin’s comment, inviting his smile to widen with her own, and the pleasant, amused look in her eyes. “Oh, well,” she smiled at him, amusement soft in her eyes and all the contours of her face. “Let’s try something, then.”

Carefully, Ava folded the two fabrics back up, wrapping the cotton and voile back around their respective rolls, smoothing them with soft, practiced hands until there was no sign they had ever been unwound; it took only moments, leaving the counter bare before them.

Then, carefully, Ava turned to the wall behind her. Next to the door that led back into the shop was a hanging oil lantern, and she took it down from its hook, setting it on the countertop. She drew out a small box of matches from one of the many draws on her side of the counter, placing it delicately next to the lantern.

“Would you do me another favor, and light it?” She asked Oisin with a smile.

While he busied himself with the lantern, Ava stepped out from behind the counter once more, crossing to where the rolls of light cotton sat on their shelves. She knelt this time, a careful operation in the dress which she, nonetheless, managed with easy grace.

Blue, Oisin had said; it was funny to Ava that he had sounded a little unsure about it, as if he didn’t quite know what he liked. He wouldn’t be the first. Women who came into the shop often knew exactly what sort of fabrics they wanted – not always, but they had a fondness or a fancy for something they had worn, once, or even seen at a distance. That didn’t always make it the right choice, but it was usually at least a place to start. In truth, Ava had always felt that it mattered as much how you felt about your clothing or curtains as how they actually looked. She sold something more than the bare minimum at Woven Delights; she sold, or tried to sell, a feeling of elegance, of beauty, of comfort – of something beyond the ordinary.

Men, though – plenty came in, like women, looking for something they had seen or had before, the comfortable, the familiar. Plenty of the tailors she worked with were men, and they certainly always knew their craft. But there were those, mostly human men or human-raised wicks, who came in wanting to make a new shirt or jacket for a special occasion, with a sort of strange, helpless look in their eyes, as if they had never been faced with such responsibility in all their lives as choosing between mysterious fabrics, as if the difference between them was an incomprehensible as syllables of monite. It was about helping them find what fabric made them feel something, then, or, sometimes, delicately, about providing that feeling. Even the simplest compliment – telling a man a shirt brought out his eyes – sometimes made something light up inside him, as if he had never before considered himself beautiful.

Not that Oisin struck Ava quite that way, not quite, except an odd feeling that he might burst if she pressed too hard.

Ava brought the fabrics back to the counter, carrying three different bolts. She avoided sky blue, as a rule, unless it was specifically necessary; there were too many connotations with that sort of a color. Instead, she had brought Oisin two simple plain blues, and one patterned. The first solid color was one a pale blue that was almost gray, like the edge of a thick cloud merging into the sky at the end of the night or a churning wave. The second was brighter, a blue like a robin’s egg, sharp and soft like welcoming spring. The last one was a blue paisley curtain, with white lines traced through a pale light blue to create a sense of texture and excitement.

Ava stepped next to Oisin this time, careful to keep space between them, careful not to crowd him, but still unavoidably close. She set all three bolts down, and unwound a length from the first.

“Would you take a step back?" Ava asked. "Just a step,” She smiled encouragingly. Once he had, carefully, Ava would double the fabric over, and hold it up in front of the lantern, to let him see what would the curtains might look like with light shining through. She would repeat it for all three of the blue options she had brought, and even do the two white ones as well, if he wanted to see the difference or see how the light shone through the voile.

“What do you like?” Ava asked, softly, smiling at him again, warm and welcoming, encouraging even. “There are more options than these, if you’d like to see them.”

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Last edited by Ava Weaver on Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:21 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 917
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Oisin Ocasta
Posts: 39
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Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:02 pm

Morning - 19th of Hamis, 2719
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For a moment, Oisin allowed himself to wonder just how often people didn't acquiesce to one of Ava Weaver's favours. Certainly, his own consent had tumbled from his lips without so much as a second thought - without so much as a first, even, if he was being completely honest. It wasn't that he felt manipulated, nor that she made any deliberate effort to compel or coax such agreements from people: it was more that she simply seemed like the kind of person that no one would particularly want to say no to. Not because of anything as base or basic as lust, either, though anyone with eyes and corresponding preferences would certainly be able to comprehend why that might be a factor. No, it was more than that. For lack of a more compelling word, she was nice. Kind. Polite, gentle, considerate, warm. There was precious little kindness in the world: once encountered, it was almost impossible not to cherish it.

The matches that Ava had provided, however, they gave him pause. He could feel it, prickling away beneath his skin, the hot flush of urge and intention as his hand reached for the matches and then hesitated. He didn't need them. He was a Wick, after all: and what kind of Wick would he be if he lacked the ability to conjure fire onto the apparatus that shared that name? It would take nothing, a few subtle whispers, a harmless favour from the mona. A favour for which he would be rewarded, too: he could almost feel it, the rush, the release, the end to the aching leaden pain that haunted his bones, a balm to soothe the chaos of his mind, a veil to drape across a world that was too loud and too complicated for Oisin to understand.

There was an element of danger, of course: just because the Galdori suffered his residence in the city didn't mean he was free to go singing his Spoke's magic freely in the streets without a care. Then again, that was part of the thrill, wasn't it? Boil it down to the barest essentials, and every addiction began from one of two places: pain, or rebellion. Oisin couldn't quite be sure which of the two had been the origin of his own: a painful loneliness numbed by the value his mercenary comrades found in his magic, or the rebellion of patching soldiers' wounds knowing how much the Galdori would resent it if they knew; perhaps it was both. Perhaps it would do him some good, calm his nerves and quiet his mind, to sneak out the subtlest taste of Spoke's magic here in the heart of Vienda. Just a few words, just a few whispers -

Oisin's trembling hand snatched hold of the matchbox. No. He was better than that. Or at least, he was trying to be. His relationship with the mona had cost him enough already. His new life demanded a new man.

The lantern had barely flickered into life by the time Ava returned. Oisin's mind had been so busy elsewhere that he hadn't even considered why she might have asked him to light a lantern with the sun already risen. A small smile of understanding curved the corners of his mouth as Ava bid him to step back, and began her demonstration, the proof of how effective his impending purchase might be. It was another thing he would never have considered, another application of wisdom that would never have occurred.

Of course, the demonstration carried with it a question, and by the time Ava had reached the third fabric, Oisin's dread at his own indifference had begun to settle in once more. For Oisin, his appartment had a singular purpose: it was where he was whenever he could not find a compelling reason to be elsewhere. Save for the act of sleeping, and concessions to personal hygene, there was nothing that could be done in his appartment over Baker's Treat that could not happen elsewhere to greater success or effect. Food was certainly best consumed when someone else had prepared it, whether that was at one of the eateries elsewhere in the city, or the occasional stale leftovers that one of the Blooms would occasionally leave outside his door. By writing at the Post's offices, he spared himself the need to acquire the expensive equipment it would take to compose his journalistic submissions from home. As for everything else in between, it was highly unlikely that any noteworthy news - or the unnoteworthy kind that the Kingsway Post never the less presented as if it was - would transpire within the confines of his modest abode. Oisin's time then, undeniably, was best spent anywhere else but at home. Why did it matter then what his curtain looked like? Why dwell on a choice that would mostly be displayed while he was unconscious?

But, as with so many things, there was more to the choice than what was obvious. Like the clothes that Oisin wore, his own comfort and preferences were not the whole story: there was perception to be considered, and the same was true here. While he found it hard to believe that the way he chose to dress his windows might have been of much interest to the average passer by, that might change if he selected something as bright and eye-catching as the robin's egg blue. The first fabric was more subtle, the kind of bordering-on-grey shade that might all but disappear amid reflections of the sky on his windows, but then what would Ava Weaver think of him, showing up in his shades of brown, making a conscious choice to decorate his home in shades of grey?

Two choices eliminated, that left only the third: not as boring as the grey-blue; less exciting than the bright blue; that comfortable place in the middle that Oisin found himself most comfortable. He tapped a crooked finger thoughtfully against his lips, before wagging it in the default choice's direction. "I like that one. The blue is the right kind of blue, and the stripe is very -."

His mind failed, neglecting to provide any viable continuation for that sentence or sentiment. What, exactly, did the stripe do? Add variety? Remind him of the lines on window panes? Break the swathe of blue from a nondescript field into something structured and orderly that he found oddly soothing? Such were not the responses of an ordinary person, and his tongue refused to utter them. A small, slightly embarrassed breath of laughter escaped from him.

"I am utterly out of my element," he admitted with a sigh, "As if that wasn't woefully obvious. That one just seems... right?"
Last edited by Oisin Ocasta on Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1160
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Ava Weaver
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Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:16 pm

Morning, 19th Hamis, 2719
Woven Delights, The Painted Ladies
Something like a shadow drew over Oisin’s face, an unexpected darkening. It was only a glimpse; Ava couldn’t know what seethed beneath the surface. There were all sorts of reasons why he might feel low, and many perhaps entirely unrelated to the fabric she was showing him. Ava wouldn’t make the mistake of assuming it was about her or her actions, but she also couldn’t ignore that very real possibility.

But whatever the cause, Ava had the sense he was fumbling, that something about this choice or this moment stymied him. He tapped the patterned fabric, and Ava smiled at him, patient and still as Oisin spent a few moments starting stuttering sentences in his mind, never letting the words out. When he finally spoke again he was apologetic again.

“It’s not always important to be able to explain why.” Ava settled the last of the fabrics back on the counter, looking up at Oisin with a softer, understanding smile. If you like it, you like it. Perhaps it strikes something in you - calls to a memory, even if you couldn’t say which.” She thought of the green-blue of the Tincta Basra in the rainy season, of the silk she had yet to cut.

“Or perhaps it’s just pleasant to look at,” Ava grinned at him. “I like this one best myself. I look at fabrics all day, and I’m still not sure I could say why.” She settled her hand on the patterned cotton, adjusting it slightly; one finger traced a soft path along a white line, for just a moment before Ava pulled her hand back.

Ava refrained from the obvious: no extortions about how lovely the curtains would be, what good quality the cloth was, how much it would cheer up his room, how reasonable her prices were. Shopkeeper’s prattle had its place, and there were customers who found it comforting and familiar, good reasons for its popularity. But it always had a feel of rushing someone into a sale, pushing them up to or even over a precipice into a decision. Ava wasn’t above nudging an indecisive customer one way or another, not hardly, but she didn’t want a reputation for impulse buys. The fabric she sold was worth more than that, and particularly when she sold within the neighborhood. Better not to make a sale than to make one the customer would regret, even if she wasn’t sure that Oisin himself would come in time and again.

All the same - if Oisin bought curtains, he would take the fabric back to the Baker’s Treat. Ms. Bloom would ask what he had bought; he might tell her, might show her. She might know if he was excited about the fabric, or if he regretted purchasing it. She would certainly know if he hung the fabric up proudly in his windows, if he left it up, or if before long it was shameful to him and he bundled it away in some secret place, taking out the old threadbare things that hung there now instead. If her customers asked, she might say, yes, Mr. Ocasta bought those curtains down at Ava Weaver’s shop, and her tone would matter very much. There were no single purchases, not in the Painted Ladies, not even in Vienda, not when you owned a shop. Every choice she made was a thread woven into a larger tapestry, and even if Ava couldn’t always see the color or placement, she never moved hastily.

So, instead, Ava blew out the small flame in the lantern, picking it up and carrying it back to its place on the wall, deliberately turning her back to give Oisin a moment of privacy, taking a little longer than she needed to put the lantern away. She left the fabrics as they were, her rearrangements subtle but enough to pull the patterned cloth out against the others.

Then, with a smile, Ava turned back towards Oisin. She went to the back of the counter, keeping that space between them once more. “What do you write?” Ava asked, curiously, giving him a cheekier grin this time. “Seeing as you’re not a baker or tailor.” She thought perhaps the more casual conversation would put him at ease again, would help him to make his purchase - if he made one - from a place of strength, not weakness. There was no reason to rush, after all; normally at this hour she was only just opening the shop, and it was a rare morning when she was busy this early.

Besides, if Ava were honest - well, simply put, she was curious.

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Last edited by Ava Weaver on Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:21 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 817
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Oisin Ocasta
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Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:56 pm

Morning - 19th of Hamis, 2719
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It was the question that Oisin dreaded: the inevitable question, the one that was almost moments away from being asked, and yet for which he had no adequate answer. There was the truth, of course: but there were truths, and there were truths. It was the difference between 'I killed a man', and 'I took lives while I was a soldier'. The context was important, vital even, utterly transforming the truth from one thing to the other. Without context, Oisin was and had been a great many things that, described in a few words, painted a far harsher picture of his life and history than was true. Orphan. Urchin. Mercenary. Killer. Writer. Wick. Simple words that weren't nearly so simple.

It was true of everyone, of course. Every person contained multitudes. Every person was a story, a complex, weaving narrative, chapter upon chapter of exposition and insight, change and context. Read a single page, and you could only understand the barest fraction. Read the entire book, and you still wouldn't know the full measure of the person until you reached the very end. Each and every person contained their own uniquely complicated word count, and yet, it was harder than it seemed to comprehend that others were just as diverse and complex. There was an old adage about books, and covers: everyone condensed down to the fleeting glimpse they might receive in that split second of first impression, and judged only on their title and their bindings.

Two words were stamped boldly onto Oisin's cover: Kingsway Post. Whatever title might have been there before, those twelve serif letters overwrote it all. Even if you didn't read the Kingsway Post, you knew what it was; you knew the reputation it had, knew the kind of stories that they gravitated towards. The dregs. The leftovers. The unsavoury. The hyperbolic. One harsh overheard criticism lodged itself firmly in Oisin's mind: the rag that wipes the barrel when everyone else is done scraping the bottom. It was harsh, but apt, in an evocative sort of way. Oisin might have recommended them for a job, if he'd had any confidence the man who'd spoken had been remotely capable of reading or writing.

He could have lied. It was always an option, and a crime that he might have managed to get away with. He wasn't sure if Ms. Weaver was the sort to read the Kingsway Post herself, but it seemed unlikely enough to take the chance that she wouldn't see his lie disproven in print. After all, how memorable would this encounter be? Would his name be anything but a discarded memory by the time his next story was published? And even if he did tell the truth, even if he did succumb to the squirming urge of morality or journalistic integrity that tried to shove him towards honestly, why did that matter? Ava was one person in a crowded city, and his shills were worth just the same as anyone else's. Her disapproval, the disapproval of anyone she told, the whole Painted Ladies, the whole damn city - why did any of it matter? He'd lived with worse.

Yet, while he couldn't fathom the why, the fact remained that on some level, it did matter. Perhaps it was because Ms. Weaver had been kind, and Oisin merely didn't want to tarnish what had otherwise been a pleasant encounter, something he experienced too few of these days. Perhaps it was the echoes of his old self, terrified at being seen, and desperate that if he was seen, it be as something moderately positive, or at the very least neutral. That was vanity, he supposed, to simplify it down to another contextless word. Hardly an admirable trait, but as motivations went, he supposed it could have been worse.

His shoulders sagged slightly, as he surrendered himself to honestly. "I'm a journalist," he admitted. "I write for one of the city newspapers."

His mind screamed at him to end it there, to cling to the desperate hope that he had given enough information; that no more context would be requested or required. But it was a foolish hope, he knew that, and a lie by ommission was a lie just the same. "The Kingsway Post." His eyes pinched at the corners, a wince crinkling his features. "Not exactly a prestigious publication, but a Wick in this city takes whatever work he can get."
Last edited by Oisin Ocasta on Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 771
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Ava Weaver
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Fri Jul 05, 2019 8:56 am

Morning, 19th Hamis, 2719
Woven Delights, The Painted Ladies
T
he silence ticked on for just a few moments too long, and Ava realized she had made a mistake. Nothing of it showed in her face, and it wasn’t such a long pause that she felt the need to acknowledge it in any way, but it was clear that, inadvertently, she had touched a nerve.

And yet, Ava thought curiously, he had chosen to tell her he was a writer. It hadn’t been unsolicited, naturally, but he could well have avoided it then. Her question was a natural, obvious response. So why...?

His shoulders sank and there was a sense of a guilty admission around his answer. Ava raised delicate eyebrows, and Oisin answered her unspoken question as he continued.

“Oh,” abruptly, with the name of the publication, Ava understood. The Kingsway Post, which warned its viewers about carnivorous moths which might already be in your home. The Kingsway Post, with scandalous gossip about the torrid affairs between famous galdori. The Kingsway Post, where no story was too salacious or too accusatory, at least when it came to the behavior of the galdori.

Inside, Ava was laughing. She loved the Kingsway Post; she felt the stories about the supernatural to be written with a heavy hand of irony, even if it seemed to escape most of the readership. And what they wrote on galdor-human relations - it was exaggerated, yes, but people read it and believed it and it was often the most sympathetic coverage the resistance could hope for, not that it was actually too sympathetic.

The romantic stories - Ava didn’t care for such things herself, but she knew plenty of women who did. For some, they might well be their only source of romance, trapped as they all were in this hard life together. There was little romantic about working as a charlady or even a shopkeeper. The stories of the Kingsway Post were an escape. They weren’t serious journalism, or if they were it was buried so deep as to skate past the censors (so Ava supposed). Was there anything wrong with an escape? The Rex & Destiny chronicles were just that, and a safer and healthier one than drugs or alcohol.

And yet, yes, the publication was probably best described as a stew on the back of the stove, thrown together from endless leftovers and bubbling a mysterious, disconcerting dishwater gray. All the same, Ava was fond of it.

But on the surface?

Ava weighed with what she could voice, not rushing, letting her own silence stretch a moment too. Oisin’s own embarrassment was reflected back in Ava’s face, as if the name of the Kingsway Post was a smelly fart he had suddenly loosed into the elegant shop and they were both trying hard to pretend it wasn’t there.

“Of course,” Ava agreed with Oisin’s contention that a wick should take what he could get after a moment, although she let a faint note of hesitation creep into her voice. “I don’t - haven’t read -“ she let herself fumble, as if unsure how to address such a topic, a faint blush creeping over her cheeks.

She had two options, really: an avid, unironic reader, which Ava wasn’t sure she could fake, or someone not very knowledgeable about the Kingsway Post but for its scandalous reputation.

“I’m sure you do the best you can,” Ava said, finally, looking back up at Oisin again. “And I - well - I suppose you don’t write the bits on - ah - there must be a range of stories, I would imagine? I know a lot of women who like those serial romances,” she smiled again, trying to soften the blow of her discomfort.

“I’ll - perhaps I’ll pick up the next issue.” Ava offered it like an olive branch, as if feeling poorly about her obvious discomfort, as if trying to salvage the friendly, polite relationship that had been slowly coming to life in the shop.

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Last edited by Ava Weaver on Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 699
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Oisin Ocasta
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Sat Jul 06, 2019 11:53 am

Morning - 19th of Hamis, 2719
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Of all the reactions Oisin might have predicted, this was not one of them. Somehow, he had managed to infect Ms. Weaver with his own awkward inability to form proper thoughts and sentences. He supposed absurdity could do that to a person, when it caught them unawares.

He wondered if perhaps he should be pleased that his employment had come as such a surprise to Ms. Weaver. He had not struck her as the type, it seemed, to engage in the kind of morally suspect reporting that the Kingsway Post was known for. Perhaps that was a good thing. Perhaps it was even useful, something he could exploit at other times in order to set a potential source of information at ease. Perhaps it was something more negative, though, some indication that the sense of personhood he outwardly conveyed was somehow duplicitous. After all, the notion of leveraging people's apparent perceptions for nefarious journalistic gain had sprung almost instantly to mind. Was he a bad person for thinking such things? Was he as morally bereft as many might infer from the Post's reputation? Or was it simply the lingering afterimage of the mercenary mindset, conceptualising everything in terms of strategic value and tactical importance?

Whichever of those other things it might have been, it was above all a relief. The knowledge that Oisin could - with a little polish on his social skills and evasive answers, at least - pass undetected as an ordinary, respectable individual rather than some sort of scandalous parasite on society was the silver lining in this dark cloud of a situation.

Of course, it was too late to pass unnoticed. Not that it seemed as if it would have been needed: not for his own sake, at least. Ms. Weaver's broken responses seemed more focused on excusing her own familiarity with the Kingsway Post: more concerned with how the Post made her appear, than him. That was interesting, and certainly unexpected. Oisin had encountered plenty of raised eyebrows and disapproving looks from those who understood the conditions of his employment, the entire foundation that his preemptive anxiety was built upon. Their scorn was aimed at the kind of man it proved that Oisin was, never considering the reflection that cast upon themselves. It was an important detail, a critical change in the way that Oisin thought about his situation, and about how that situation fit into society at large. After all, the Kingsway Post did not simply scream into the void, thrusting copies unsolicited into the hands and faces of everyone within reach. People chose to partake of its content. People paid to do so. That proved the Post had value, even if it was one that had never quite occurred to Oisin before.

The realisation might have made Oisin stand a little taller, if Ms. Weaver's words hadn't swept in like a tide, and cut his legs out from under him. Her assumptions and assurances were welcome - she was sure he didn't write any of the unsavoury stuff - but were also part of the same intricate tapestry of pleasant and amiable service she had woven since the moment he stepped through the door. To the surface of his mind, it was merely her being nice, and the worst that the darker corners could offer was the pragmatic observation that it would be unwise to be rude towards a customer before their money was in their hands. Her suggestion, though, the notion that she might pick up the next issue? That she might engage in the kind of interest that she had been so keen to separate herself from, purely because of the potential involvement of someone she'd only just met? Oisin couldn't fathom that, couldn't rationalise it within the framework of his understanding of how people worked. It was an unexpected swerve, a fresh twist in the plot of Ava's personality, one that he couldn't quite comprehend in the context of her narrative. It was a sentiment that Oisin could not understand, and did not know what to do with.

Colour and warmth tugged at Oisin's cheeks and ears again, and he found his attention focused intently elsewhere, settling on a vibrant emerald bolt of cloth rather than the ceiling this time. The skin on his fingers crawled and writhed, desperate for something to fidget with, but completely lacking in a viable option. "Well, I, I'm not -"

He searched for the words that his mouth had decided were there, without having bothered to check in advance. What did he want to say? How did he want to seem? Gracious of her offer? Appreciative, but gently dismissive, reassuring her that she needn't subject herself to such discomfort? Did he need to confirm her suggestions as to his own journalistic intent? His eyes managed to disengage from the green cloth, tentatively finding their way back to Ava instead.

"Perhaps the next time something worth reading of mine gets published," he said tentatively, echoing the hypothetical nature of Ava's own words, unsure whether he sounded or wanted to sound hopeful, nonchallant, or something else, "I'll pop by and let you know. No need for you to wade through the sewers just to find the odd shill here and there that slipped down the gutter."
Last edited by Oisin Ocasta on Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 912
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Ava Weaver
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Sun Jul 07, 2019 11:28 pm

Morning, 19th Hamis, 2719
Woven Delights, Painted Ladies
“T
hat would be very kind of you,”
Ava did her best to recover her equilibrium, smiling at Oisin and dropping her gaze to the counter, smoothing her fingers over the fabric spread there for a few moments. She lifted her gaze back to the wick, keeping the slight, soft smile on her lips - a smile with just a faint twist of humor to it.

Not, she thought wryly, her best effort. She had wanted to cover any future lapses; with Oisin living down the street, Ava knew there was a better than decent chance of seeing him again. She had set her cover as not reading the Kingsway Post, when, of course, she sometimes did. But lies were hard to keep straight, and Ava had never thought herself particularly skilled at them. She almost regretted not confessing to a keen interest in the Post, even if ironic enjoyment wasn’t quite the front she liked to present. The sentiment she had expressed - the interest in reading Oisin’s work - that was genuine, even if she had tried to couch it in politeness and the desire to be friendly rather than mere curiosity.

Suggesting that knowing a reporter might be enough to inspire her to try the publication, however, seemed to have been a mistake, to judge by how shocked he looked. Well, Ava told herself, one could only go forward.

But how best to proceed? Ava felt that in the wake of her repeated mistakes, pressing forward to a sale wasn’t the best way; she didn’t want Oisin to leave feeling uncomfortable. Neither did she think it wise to keep discussing the Kingsway Post, considering her track record.

Was it only the surprise of it? Ava would never have pegged him for a writer, let alone for the Kingsway Post. Or was it that lingering memory, that remembrance of who she had been bleeding into who she was now? Ava had told herself, over and again, that nothing had changed since she had acknowledged that name for herself again, the name Oisin would have known - if he even remembered her. Ava doubted he would; a chance encounter after a funeral over a dozen years ago couldn’t possibly be memorable. And if he did, he wouldn’t - couldn’t - possibly know. So it was entirely one-sided, this odd connection she felt; and so it would remain, Ava promised herself.

Nothing had changed. The name was no more hers than it had been a month ago. Ava was still herself, the self she had become - not the girl she had been. And the woman she was needed to find a way forward.

“My apologies,” Ava still smiled at Oisin, acknowledging the constraint still lingering in the air between them, taking responsibility for it. “You took me rather by surprise,” she waved a graceful hand, as if to say that it was nothing, that they should both forget about it.

“Other than our dreadful sun, do you find Vienda to your taste so far?” Ava asked, still with a smile. “You must see a good deal of the city, the good and the bad.” There, Ava thought; she couldn’t help being interested in his response, and it showed in the warmth of the tone, the slight way she leaned forward against the counter. By the same token, she hoped she had couched the question so that he could respond either way without feeling badly about it; for Vienda surely did have both good and bad, and Ava didn’t mean for him to pretend otherwise.

Conversations of this sort were like a dance. Sometimes a dancer missed a step; sometimes even more than one. There was a choice then, Ava thought; collapse on the stage and declare the piece ruined, or push through as best as possible, and turn it into something new. Ava had never seen confisalto, that galdori are reputed to be beautiful and complex - but she had no doubt that its best dancers kept going when they missed a step. It wasn’t nearly the same, and perhaps there was no one who would ever appreciate Ava’s performances, but that wouldn’t stop her either.

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Last edited by Ava Weaver on Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 733
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Oisin Ocasta
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Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:18 pm

Morning - 19th of Hamis, 2719
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When in doubt, change the subject. It was one of the few social interaction tactics that Oisin knew and understood. Whether Ava was doing so for his sake or for hers, he wasn't sure, but he appreciated it all the same. Better to move on than dwell in the socially precarious space that surrounded his employer and their publishings.

Her question was another that Oisin found himself foolishly unprepared for. While Oisin had no difficulty contemplating the wondrously complex narratives of the world around him, the dialogue always seemed to be a consistent stumbling block. Of course people would want to know how the new arrival was finding their city. How many times had Oisin been asked that question in Mugroba, or indeed asked that question himself of new arrivals? But it was a query he had no ready response for, an answer that he simply never spent the time trying to contemplate.

Yet, Ava hadn't quite asked the obvious question, had she? She hadn't asked for his opinion on Vienda, not directly. Was it to his taste? Thoughts of the self-inflicted conversational contest Oisin had been silently scoring disappeared from his mind, once again caught off guard. It was a strangely insightful way of phrasing the question, one that left the floor open for honest answers, rather than merely polite ones. If someone asked if you liked something, or were enjoying something - be it a city, a meal, a play, sex, a book, or otherwise - the polite answer was always yes. People didn't ask such things looking for a genuine answer: they asked because they were looking for reassurance - or at least, that was the reason Oisin asked such things, at any rate. By her approach, Ava made it clear she wasn't looking for that: but as for what she was looking for, Oisin couldn't quite be sure. Was she genuinely interested in his opinion? Was she trying to discern if his opinions matched her own? Was she in search of a kindred spirit, to share her own grievances with? Was it merely part of the gesture, a question that it was hard to answer simply, one that would force the conversation to progress more quickly in an awaywards direction from the awkwardness of before? Or was she attempting to lure him into an admission, trying to entrap him into saying something that a Wick in Vienda shouldn't openly say?

"My taste is a complicated thing," he began, a cautious and casually evasive start, but not one he intended to leave hanging for long. "I grew up in Old Rose Harbor - and not the nice parts - so Vienda's less savoury faces aren't quite as shocking or unfamiliar as they might be to some. On the other hand, I have spent much of my life in various parts of Mugroba, experiencing the opposite extreme of whatever scale of civilization Vienda finds itself upon. I have not seen the whole world, but I have seen enough to suspect that cities in general are not to my taste at all." He offered a small shrug. "But, there is hardly a demand for my particular skills in a remote desert village - and certainly not a demand for journalists - so needs must, and all that."

He shuffled, a little awkwardly, though less awkwardly than before. His mind wrestled with how easy those words had been to say, how lacking in reluctance he was to share information about himself. He looked inward, questioning the motive. What was he trying to do? Had he simply lost interest in privacy, and being unnoticed? Or, now that he found himself under the scrutiny of Ms. Weaver's notice, had it become more important for him to leave a positive impression, than to leave no impression at all?

"I suppose that is why I chose to live here, in the Painted Ladies. A village within a city. The best of both worlds, I hope. Or perhaps the worst of both. I suppose only time will tell."

His brow tugged its way back into its comfortable frown. His own willingness to share didn't mean he had to simply give away the information for free.

"And you? Is Vienda somewhere you wish to be, or is it simply the place you find yourself? If I may be so bold -" Oisin felt his vision blur. Dear gods, what had his tongue stumbled into saying? "- I would be surprised if a rose like yourself was content living down here among the weeds with the rest of us."
Last edited by Oisin Ocasta on Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 786
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Ava Weaver
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Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:40 am

Morning, 19th Hamis, 2719
Woven Delights, Painted Ladies
Ava’s smile didn’t falter at Oisin’s initial hedging response, but she felt a faint unease. Was it somehow possible that even this would make him uncomfortable? At that stage, Ava told herself, she would need to accept it wasn’t anything she was doing or could have done; even the lightest conversation meant a sharing of yourself, and if someone didn’t want or wasn’t able to engage in that, there was very little beyond idle conversation about the weather that was possible. Even that, of course, could be revealing, but Ava thought it best not to give that away to those who didn’t know.

And then Oisin surprised her, recovering some of his earlier hard-won ease and abruptly revealing a great deal. Ava felt a strange feeling - almost pride, although she couldn’t have said who for - at the flow of words. She let her genuine interest shine through every inch of her, kohl-rimmed eyes widening faintly, leaning forward slightly over the counter.

”Remote desert villages,” Ava repeated, curiosity and wonder lingering on her tongue. She didn’t have to fake it - there was nothing to fake. Everything she wanted and needed was here in Vienda, and yet - for a moment she wondered, allowed herself to wonder, what it would be like. “All that travel must have been terrifying,” Ava smiled at Oisin, “and wonderful.” To find oneself at home in such strange surroundings; what did that reveal?

Ava nodded a little at Oisin’s description of the Painted Ladies, smiling still; it was much how Ava thought of it as well. They were within broader Vienda, undeniably, and well she needed to be. But perhaps the Painted Ladies was the closest one could get to a little of Old Rose Harbor in Vienda. It was a new thought for Ava, and one she wasn’t sure she particularly liked either.

At Oisin’s comment about a rose amidst the weeds, Ava lowered her gaze, red color rising on her cheeks, giving herself a few moments, intending the pause to be taken as the faintest - faintest - of rebukes, as if with such a direct compliment he had overstepped, but only ever so slightly.

Inwardly, Ava felt angry, perhaps even furious. She had too much experience, too much practice, to let it show in her face, her eyes, even the soft smooth lines around her mouth; there wasn’t even a quiver before the mask held, not the faintest flicker of it in the depths of her eyes. If there was one thing Ava could hide, it was the aching, burning anger that had long ago made itself at home in her chest.

A rose like herself, amidst the weeds. What an awful compliment, to herself and the self she wore like a mask, the one that she didn’t think she could take off, not anymore, its edges dug deep into her bleeding heart. For a moment she longed to reach across the counter and slap Oisin.

The weeds? It was apt, wasn’t it; the humans of Vienda, clawing desperately day by day to survive, to eke our what they could beneath the pruning hands of the galdor, growing in the faint straggling sun, all too aware that at any moment they might be brutally ripped away.

A rose? Where else could she go, Ava wondered. What did he envision - that she would be happy Uptown amidst the galdori? A part of her hoped he had meant it that way; a part of her hoped she did sell herself that well. The rest of her longed for the lovely innocence of childhood, when she could tell unvarnished truth: my grandmother died and I am sad.

“You do have a lovely turn of phrase,” Ava told Oisin, still smiling. “Vienda has its challenges, certainly, but...” she leaned forward a little more, lowering her voice slightly to give the impression of a secret. “There isn’t anywhere I would rather be. Perhaps it’s terribly provincial of me, not to want to travel and see the world. Perhaps I simply don’t know any better,” she smiled at him, inviting him to confirm her ignorance, “but I feel Vienda has so much to offer.”

“I haven’t been much elsewhere,” Ava smoothed her hand over the fabric, “and I can imagine that it may not seem that way to you.” She knew the words were edging close to a rebuke, and she did her best to keep her tone soft and self-deprecating, silkily feminine. “But I am always surprised and delighted by what comes through my door,” There was a faintly crooked edge to her smile, Ava knew, and she couldn’t quite seem to fight it. “And sometimes terrified too,” she grinned at him, hoping he might think it was memories of her own that had prompted the words, and nothing he himself had said. “Perhaps we’ll surprise you, here, in the end.”

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Last edited by Ava Weaver on Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 865
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