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Tea at the Rabbit Hole [Closed]


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The soft pitter-pat heralded the start of fresh rainfall.  Most of the trees that bore wide forest leaves that sheltered the city of Gridania all summer long now found themselves bare: exposing the curved wooden roofs and canvas awnings below to the sudden chorus of rain drops.  It was just the sort of weather that punctuated Gridania's warmer winter afternoons - no frost dared threaten snow from this rain.


Aya turned her eyes upward, shielding them from the rain with her hand.  The trip to Gridania, one of several this season, had been something of a break in the routine of Ul'dah life.  But, it seemed, the weather just couldn't hold out for the entire stay.  She quickened her pace, hurrying along the well trod path that wound its way through the wooded area in the northern reaches of the humble city, known as Old Gridania.


She was on her way back to her room - Beneath Lea's Branches had proven more than a comfortable place to board, but something of a home-away-from-home.  Or perhaps, a home away from home-away-from-home.  Sometimes it became hard to tell.  She'd been wise enough to dress for the weather: and the tug of a leather belt closed her coat yet more tightly around her.  For a woman once accustomed to the hoarfrost of Ishgard, this would seem a trivial matter.  But there was something to a cold rain, especially with even a hint of wind, that sent a shiver right to the woman's bones.


As the rain thickened, the remaining distance came to feel insurmountable- she pursed her lips in uncharacteristic frustration, letting out an annoyed sigh as she rounded a corner.  But the sight before filled her a sudden sense of welcome relief: The Rabbit Hole.  


It was one of her favorite Gridanian spots: an adorable little open-air cafe ensconced comfortably within the confines of what had once been a forest clearing.  The decor was quaint.  It recalled the simple, natural setting of Gridania, while the atmosphere recalled the time before the Calamity.


She quickened her pace, nearing a jog as she sought refuge from the storm.   Most of the seating were benches, tables, and chairs either in the open or tucked beneath awnings, but the central bar of the cafe rest on a slightly elevated wooden platform.  Stools of polished wood promised relief, a crackling fire warmth, and the heavy canvas awnings above, protection.  Altogether it meant comfort, despite the open air: and better than that, a warm cup of tea.


Several of the stools were taken, but the welcome sight had already left the young woman feeling excited- and excitement meant she welcomed the opportunity to meet someone new.  With surprising speed she slid onto the stool of her choice, not bothering to take a seat, but instead mounting it in one graceful motion.  She removed her drenched hat with more care, trying her best to ensure that no errand drops splashed her neighbor as she set it onto the empty stool by her other side.


With a warm smile, cheeks rosy with the sting of cold air, she turned her attention to the woman seated next to her.  A rather energetic looking Keeper girl.  


"Bon après-midi!" she grinned in a cheerful Ishgardian voice, "Good afternoon, I do hope I'm not disturbing you!"


She diverted her attention momentarily to the young, lanky Elezen fellow behind the counter. "The honey tea, please.  A touch of milk would be wonderful!"  

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The sound of clouds rumbling, and a brief flash of light made Eleni look to her left, gently craning her neck and smiling; the rain had picked up again, the milder pitter patter on the leaves having now turned into a forceful downpour that the resident greenery was unable to spring back from. She was used to this weather by now, having seen it, and been drenched in it a number of times, but every single time, the gentle sound of the rain and the scent of the wet mud made her chest well up with a giddy feeling.


Gazing into the bright fire radiating warmth and life with half open eyes, she leisurely took a sip of milk tea from the fine cup clasped in her hands, eyes glazed over from the relaxing atmosphere. Another sip and she felt the world just disappear; a deep breath and a stretch later, the fatigue and the sore muscles from all the harvesting were gone as well. She closed her eyes, shutting out all sound, her ears drooping peacefully, tail swaying once then going semi limp.


A sing song voice made her eyes jolt open, and her ears went upright, processing what information they had received in her state of trance. Upon looking at the bubbly blue eyed blonde, who seemed to exude happiness, she beamed warmly and nodded in response. "A good afternoon to you too. And please, I'd very much appreciate the company. There's a limit to how much one can keep themselves busy staring into a fire."


Then, grinning, she held out her hand, now quite warm from having been in contact with the cup of tea, to the Hyuran woman.


"I'm C'eleni Meztli, but just Eleni will suffice. It's nice to meet you!"

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Aya held her warm smile upon the Miqo'te woman while returning her gesture of greeting.  Her own hand was covered by a cloth and lever glove that left her fingertips uncovered.  She seemed to hesitate for a moment due to the fresh wetness of her own hand, before offering a gentle squeeze of Eleni's.


"Its a pleasure to meet you!  I'm Aya." Her warm smile brightened to something more like a grin.


"Here I thought I were going to really get caught out in the rain this time!  I was so happy when I realized where I was!  A dry spot to sit and some hot tea.  Can't beat that can you?"  She asked with an amused, rhetorical note as she turned her attention back to the bar where the first preparations on her tea were being made - and then to adjusting her seat on the stool to got comfortable.

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Eleni nodded slowly, extending her arms into the air for a stretch, before speaking, "Well, I wouldn't mind a nice warm blanket to go with the rainy weather and the coziness of the fire, but I'd have to agree. Hard to beat this." She glanced outside at the rain, then smiled, "Dancing in the rain wouldn't be that bad either."


She took the last few sips of her tea, and then carefully placed the cup back onto the matching plate in front of her. "So, what brings you to Gridania, Miss Aya?" She leaned onto the table, elbows on the table and her hands cupped her cheeks as she beamed happily at the Highlander.

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Somewhere between a smile, and a smirk, the playful look on Aya's features was something of a signature expression.  Her carmined lips slightly pursed, but pulled back and upward in an undeniably happy manner - blue eyes partly narrowed, and blonde eye brows raised with just a hint of coy reserve.


"In the cold rain, hmmm?" She let out a light laugh, eyes darting back to the rain falling behind them.  "I wasn't so much thinking of dancing as darting for cover!" she giggled with a hint of that same expression.


With a subtle flick of her head, she demurred somewhat in answering Eleni's question, "I'm just here on a little business.  I'm glad it brings me to Gridania though, and out of Ul'dah for a few days."


The server set her mug of tea before her, whispy steam rising in the damp air.  Her fingers slip around both sides of it, clinging readily to the warmth.  "Even in winter it has something of the forest to offer."

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  • 2 weeks later...

With a sideways tilt of her head, Eleni half pouted, half frowned, one of her thin eyebrows rising on her forehead. "Well, there would be no point to the rain if it wasn't cold. Imagine boiling rain in the already suffocating weather in Thanalan. You wouldn't want to dance in that, would you?"


She beamed at Aya, her smile forming a perfect curve on her face, finishing on soft dimples at either end; it was as if she had mastered the art of smiling. The cheery look on her face was accentuated by wide open eyes, the mismatched orbs gleaming as the fire reflected off of them.


"It's quite lovely, I'd have to agree. Gridania never fails to amaze me. Whether it's the crisp, fresh green of all the vegetation, or the bright clear sky, it's always breath taking. No matter how many times you lay eyes upon it all, it always feels new. And my love for the place grows with new bursts."


The Seeker would gesture at one of the servers, asking for some warm, freshly baked bread to accompany the tea. The unmistakable scent of the bread and the yeast diffused forth, mixing with the air, and Eleni would take a deep breath, and exhale slowly, admiring the bread.


"And it just got better, some fresh bread to go with it all." She carefully tore some bread and tossed the bite sized piece into her mouth. "So, tell me, Miss Aya. More about yourself. And how you manage to walk so gracefully in those heels."

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  • 4 weeks later...

Aya's eyes followed the sight of the warm bread with a hint of surprise - as if she'd never really considered the idea!


She covered her mouth as she giggled softly at the girl's concluding question, "Do I? I suppose I don't give it much thought! I'm so used to them by now..."


Aya reached for a little butter to spread across a piece of bread, and followed with a little dollop of honey from the honey pot generally meant for tea. "Even when I was little I started to love high-heeled shoes. Mother forbid it," she commented taking a bite from the bread, "But you know that never really stopped me!"


She grinned behind the taste of the treat, "What about you? How did you come to love Gridania so dearly?"

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  • 3 weeks later...

Eleni would chuckle at the mention of 'Mother forbid it'. "Well, parents usually tend to mark some things as off limits. And then you just want to do it even more! It has quite the opposite effect. It did on me. Everytime Nan said 'no' to something, it became an instant 'must do at least once in life', and then maybe more depending on how the outcome turned out." She snickered as she remembered some memories from her childhood.


She tapped her chin with her forefinger and then smiled. "As for Gridania, and why it's so dear, I suppose it was my first step, my first home, all by myself. After Nan passed, I decided to do as she said, and well, live my life the way I wanted to, the best I could. It brought me to the Adventurer's Guild in Gridania, and then eventually, Gridania became home."


"What about you, Miss Aya? Where do you reside?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

The blonde broke off another piece of bread with her fingers, giving it a longing taste. "Mmmm, this is so good...!" she added with an energetic laugh before drizzling on a few drops of honey.

"I'm staying here at the moment!" she gestured sort of randomly around her, "At a boarding House, 'Beneath Leah's Branches'.  Have you heard of it?"


She added almost off-handily before taking another bite of bread, "Normally I'm in Ul'dah, though."

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  • 5 months later...

The Seeker girl took on a deep in thought expression. "Leah's Branches. Hm, I'm not sure I've heard of it." If it was even possible to see, there would have been a jumbled up mess visible in her head as she mentally argued with her memory to try and fetch anything that would lead to 'Beneath Leah's Branches'. She'd then grin sheepishly at Aya. "Jog my memory a little, Miss Aya? Traveling all over Eorzea kind of makes it difficult to remember some things."


She frowned at the mention of Ul'dah. "Ul'dah... the desert? The heat and the sand?" Her ears drooped, her lips puckering into a pout. "How do you survive there? How?" Her tail, now in sync with her sudden mopey mood, erratically twitched back and forth. As if she had been defeated in a grand battle, she dramatically placed her forehead against the table. "As you can probably tell, I'm not terribly fond of Ul'dah..." She'd mumble.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finishing the piece of bread in hand, Aya couldn't help but offer an amused little laugh.  "Its not so bad, really!"  She nodded, offering widened blue eyes as she tried to sound as encouraging as she could.


"In the summer you just stay in the shade most of the time! And wear light clothing!  Its certainly a nice change from being too cold, and surrounded by snow!"


"Though nothing," she demurs as her attention turns to a cup of tea, "is nicer than a beautiful day at Costa."  Without seeming to miss a beat she shifts back to the girl's question, "Its just the name of the Boarding House.  Its in the northern part of the city, in what used to just be a lovely home.  She has a terrace and a beautiful garden out back, with a little stream, amid all of these ancient trees.  I've found it a lovely spot to stay whenever I'm visiting!"

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