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A Cup Tea?


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Aya turned this way and that before the mirror, in her little inn room tucked away on the lower floor of the south side of the Quick Sand.  It was already growing warm with the heat of the sun, but she was persistent in attending to the final touches.  It wasn't a date, no, just a little fun with a friend she so rarely got to sit down and just chat with, but she figured a girl should always look her best.


She turned around again, checking her mirrored reflection from every angle.  She wasn't going to work, so she didn't -quite- want the barmaid look.  The flowing Ul'dahn style, open-chested blouse seemed to suit her just fine, especially when paired with a black mini-skirt, and the dangerous heels she so adored.  She leaned her head back and forth for a moment, double checking the half-dozen stud earrings in each ear, ensuring that their colors matched from side-to-side; larger silver earrings dangled from her lobes--a gift from a friend, and ones she adored showing off.


She grinned to herself, adding a little bounce of anticipation for the afternoon fun she was looking forward to. After slipping out her door, she moved into the cooler hallway, making her way along the tunnel-like route to the Quick Sand itself, and the large atrium-like center of the tavern.  She smiled, eyes scanning around looking for the tall, red-headed highlander woman, "Ser Crofte!" she exclaimed with a brightness of energy. "Its so good to see you!"  She was ten minutes late~

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Coatleque was sitting at a side table just below the railing in the Quicksand. It was one of the few days she was able to actually shirk duty for some personal time. Well, not shirk... though that's what she felt like it was when she awoke.


She did not know what bell it was last night when she finally dragged herself in from the balcony to bed. The door were still wide open, though the sun's angle would never shine through from this side of the building. She had roused herself without an alarm as she was used to these hours now, and made ready for the day.


She had worn her dress, of course. It was only proper to look presentable when company was expected. For makeup she used barely a hint of blush and eye shadow. Long obsidian earrings matched the black bow around her neck. Her hair she braided loosely, and decided to leave her beret behind.


The bar was mostly empty at this hour of the morning still. She was reading the book she recently purchased when Aya had called out to her. Looking up she smiled at the woman, then waved back. "Miss Aya! I am here, as promised!"

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Aya grinned with that bright, cheerful grin of hers, exuding both warmth and delight.


"I'm so glad!" she canted her head, "I was worried some important duty might have summoned you up, and sped you away from a pleasant day!  Its about time you got to enjoy one, hmmm?"


She nodded as if to affirm her own question, while sliding around the table, and swinging her hips into the chair opposite of Coatleque.  "Enjoying the book?  I hope you weren't waiting too long!"

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"W-waiting? Me? Of course not!" In reality she had been there just over half a bell early. "Today has started out quiet enough, let us hope I am not summoned away."


She closed the book and slid it into the purse on her lap. "Oh, this? T'is a strange book I purchased from a man named Tarot in Pearl Lane. A compilation of stories it seems, all told by a group of travelers on their way from Ul'dah to Ala'Mhigo. Whoever told the best was supposed to earn a reward, I believe, but I don't think the book was quite finished..."


(( OOC Bonus, 10,000 gil to the first person who PM's me the name of the real book I'm referencing. ))

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Aya listens, nodding with a broad smile in definitive agreement with the hope of an uninterrupted day!


"All the way to Ala Mhigo?" She asks, cupping her chin in her hand, elbow resting on the table.  "That sounds like quite the journey...! I can only imagine the marvels they must tell about!"  She lets out a wistful little sigh, the merest hint of nostalgia for the women's shared ancestral homeland.


"Tarrot, hmm? You must mean Mr. Crooked?" she grins, with a soft giggle.  "~ I suppose if you had bought it from Verad it should be filled with the wrong pages!  So Mr. Crooked was probably the better choice.  He certainly seems to have made a lot of friends quickly! "[/]

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(( Franz wins, with The Canterbury Tales! yay! ))


"Master Bellveil? I've not seen him around in quite some time? I do hope nothing has happened to him..." She tilted her head as if considering her own line of thought on the matter.


"Anyroad, you had wanted me to join you under the assumption we would be going somewhere other than the Quicksand today. I am ready to follow as soon as you wish to go."

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Aya gave a little wave of her hand, bending it down at the wrist as she rests her elbow on the table.  "Oh I'm sure Verad is just fine!"


She grins and stands, "Of course! I mean.. we could have tea here, but its just a perfect day to get out isn't it?  I was thinking we could take a nice walk through Ul'dah, and settle down for some tea at a little cafe I know."


She motioned toward the Pearl Lane exit, before taking a moment to adjust her skirt and blouse.

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Coatleque rose from her seat and looked towards the door for a moment. She never was entirely comfortable walking down Pearl Lane. The chances of meeting someone from her past were too high for her liking. In her mind, she still hadn't admitted that she even needed this sort of free time for her own well-being. So she reminded herself that she was doing this for Aya, her friend.


She smiled and nodded, straightening her dress. "I would love some tea." Together they headed for the door.

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Aya smiled brightly as she watched the paladin rise, and prepare to join her.  Any sense of apprehension on Coatleque's part seemed to wash right over her as she opened the door to Pearl Lane and walked through, setting a leisureful pace as her heels met the paving stones of the ally that wound its way along the city's main market.


Ul'dah was host to countless people, of every type, complexion, and race.  Still, the sight of two such tall, lovely, and unusual women walking together would serve enough to turn heads in every quarter.  Both tall and beautiful, one blonde, bright-eyed, vivacious, and full of a sensual energy, the other red haired, stunning, and possessed of an almost ethereal calm and authority.  Just where could they be off to? 


Aya smiled to Ser Crofte walking beside her, "It must be nice to have a little time off, hmmm?  I thought we'd steer a little away from the markets, its so loud there!"

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And they know my face...


Coatleque shrugged off the thought and nodded in agreement. "Yes, I could do with some quiet this early in the day." She noticed the heads turning and suddenly felt like all eyes were on them. Not sure where they were going also left her uneasy, but she trusted Aya knew this area well enough. So she brushed some stray hairs behind her ear and continued walking by her side.


"I admit it feels strange not knowing my whole day is planned out. And I still woke at my usual hour." She realized how incredibly trite she must sound to her. "So... you come out here often then? You seem to know where we are going."

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What concern or unease Coatleque displayed, was mirrored by Aya's cheerful jauntiness.  "Oh of cooooourse!" she answered in her light, lively voice.  "I come through here almost every day ~~ unless I'd rather wander through the markets!", she said, leaving her Ishgardian accent lingering upon the air.  It always seemed to provide a little mystique, or pause to wonder if her words carried a sagacity belied by the gaiety of her manner and speech.  A wonder even more quickly dispelled by the bright little smile she turned between Coatleque and the passersby along the alley.


The handful of fruit and food vendors working the Lane offered their wares to the pair, while eyes both labor-weary and idle fell upon them as Aya lead them meandering along, down the length of the Lane, a scenic bypass of sorts. 


She smiled throughout, greeting and waving, "A wonderful morning isn't it Marion - surprise!- its going to be another hot one!" she laughed with a Lalafel, brandishing a small cart of apples. 


"Good mooooorning, Cotter~" she nodded to the passing Flames officer with a friendly grin--just enough delight in her voice to draw a smile from the stoic looking Highlander.


As they wandered further along, Aya finally gestured toward a junction coming ahead of them, before turning her grin back to Coatleque, "We can head that way.  I'd like to walk by some of the rug merchants on our way, wouldn't you?"

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Coatleque watched Aya with some sense of wonder as she seemed to know everyone she passed. It should have come with no surprise though. She was well known from her evening job keeping the Quicksand running.


The Knight smiled politely in return to everyone Aya greeted. On more than one occasion she found herself declining a sales pitch for fresh fruit, baked breads, or dried meats. Her usual excuse was a "No thank you, I've just eaten.", which was a lie of course. But she didn't want to ruin any appetite for when they reached their destination.


When they stopped briefly and Aya had mentioned looking at rugs she did not know quite how to respond. "My, but they sell almost everything out here, don't they? I could not imagine what I would need a rug for, but of course I will go and look with you."

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"Its Ul'dah!" she smiled that brilliant little smile of hers, as if it could stand as an answer to any question.  She lead the pair away from the alley, and toward a wider avenue, filled with the hectic hum of market day.


"Its not really about the rugs, you know..." she canted her head a bit, eyes slightly narrowed, with a knowing smirk on her features, daring to suggest a shared secret, "Its about imagining the rooms you would buy them for!" As if on cue, Aya sidled up to a large intricately woven rug, dominated by red hues, and intricate patterns.  "For the foyer!" she beamed, drawing her hands up excitedly.  "Such a wide open, space, with a set of stairs leading up to private chambers!"  She gestured one way and the other, "With arched openings leading to the rest of the main floor - this one toward the open courtyard, and the sound of running water - this one to the gallery - and here a painting for guests to talk about as they enter!"


She let out an amused laugh, while the merchant himself remained seated several feet away, turning his head, to watch.

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She laughed along with Aya. "You have such grandiose plans, Aya. I daresay her Grace would even be jealous of your house." Coatleque walked down the line of rugs with her. "I think some day I would also like to have a place away from all of this. To not wake each day and having to prepare as if will be my last."


At the end of the shop there was a separate stand with smaller rugs and mats piled up. She regarded the one on the top with a quirked eyebrow. "And look Aya... for your door, this should keep those pesky adventurers away."




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Aya's bright blues grew wide, a look of astonishment and a brief flash of concern, "... I daresay her Grace would even be jealous of your house."


She blinked for a moment, "You don't really think..." she paused, a little doubt in her expression, "nooooo..." the doubt soon replaced with a grin, as she leaned a bit closer.  "Ser Crofte.. you didn't just... make a joke, did you?"  She let out a giggle, at the hint of bashfulness in the Paladin's reaction, while following her through the store.


As Coatleque pulled out the "not-welcome" mat, showing it to Aya, she clapped her hands together excitedly, "Do you think it would work?"


She began to laugh again, before the sound of bartering just down the street broke through the relative quiet, a customer engaging energetically with another rug merchant.  Aya shook her head, resting her hands on her hips, before miming the angry customer, as if she had heard it all before, motioning dramatically with her hands while mouthing the words "My mother, Gods bless her soul, had the very same rug, and could not have paid more than a dozen tin pieces for the privilege."


Aya raised up her shoulders, before dropping them in a playful huff, as the merchant praised the quality, and material of his product.  "But just this past week I saw a rug of the same pattern and weave go for well less than half of what you're asking..."


She broke into a sudden giggle, grinning at Coatleque, before motioning with her hands, "Now find me one of those that says, 'Handsome Men Only'!"

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"Would it work? Well, it has certainly worked on all those doors around the city where people have been hanging signs. I swear, half of Ul'dah has closed shop since the recent influx of adventurers."


She looked over a few more of the rugs and mats till she noticed Aya's mocking gestures. She looked up and ears flushed when she heard the irate customer complaining over prices. Her eyes grew wide and she rolled them slowly in their direction as if to say to Aya 'Some people...'.


"Well, I am afraid they do not have the phrase you asked for.", she replied, suddenly unable to take a joke. It was more likely due to her own embarrassment of having to overhear that unpleasant exchange.

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"Drats!" she snapped her fingers, grinning still.  "I could really have used one of those...!"


She turns around, running her fingers over the woven fabric of a tan and brown rug, marked with a geometric pattern that seemed to change, yet repeat, over-and-over again across the surface of the rug.  Without moving her attention from it, she asked quietly, though still smiling pleasantly, "Don't enjoy the market haggling, hmm?"


"I like to hear the things they say.  Sometimes they tell stories, especially the merchants!"

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Coatleque folded her arms and moved back to Aya's side to examine the rug she was so interested in. "Oh, a story I would enjoy, yes.", she remarked. "However, it seems to me that most people would rather argue over the smallest things. Has anyone ever contested the price of miss Momodi's ale?"


The question was half rhetorical. She knew there were most likely plenty out there, like that contemptible Roe who made it his personal goal to insult almost any drink he bought.

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Aya grinned, a laugh light about her lips, "Of course they do!  Not that Madam listens!  But besides... if you didn't haggle, the Merchants would just overcharge!  They would even overcharge the two of us!"


The rug merchant himself, his head turned to watch his lovely potential customers, smiled broadly to the two of them, "Not I, miss-es.  You can be assured of that!"


Aya laughed along with him, "Not yoooou!" she giggled in reply, "Only the fairest prices, and the finest pieces!" she grinned, as she lead Coatleque back out toward the avenue.

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She was still looking at one of the rugs as Aya pulled her away back towards the avenue. The merchant's words still in her ears. "See, Aya, not all merchants aim to take advantage of you!" Either she really was that oblivious, or she just did not want to face facts.


They had not gone even five paces, and Coatleque was about to ask where they were heading next, when a rather forward man stepped up to them both with a large glass bottle in hand.


"Ah, now here are two of Ul'dah's most discerning women, I can tell! Two lovely ladies who care about how others view them. I have here some of the finest perfume in all of Thanalan! Why, I am told even the Sultana herself wears this when 'ere she leaves the palace! Just one little whiff and suitors will be lined up at your door for miles!"


She backed up a step in surprise at being so suddenly accosted like this. "O-oh, no no no, I-I am fine as I am thank you, Ser.", she began to reply as she looked to Aya. The merchant's attention seemed to shift between them both.

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Aya's attention had been on Coatleque as they were approached on the street, and the sudden arrival of the perfumesman was as unexpected as it was surprising, and the girl bumped into him with a enough force to stagger him, and to cause her to gasp as she quickly recovered her blanace.


"I'm so sorry! I didn't see you there!"  She repeated, breathily and apologetically, as he recovered, and continued on his pitch.


Still holding a hand to her chest, where her collar bones met, Aya smiled between the two of them, she grinned to the man almost beaming,


She was an associate of Miss M'Jumalis', and was presently wearing one of her fragrances, Desert Bloom!  Still, who didn't like an opportunity!  "Are you providing samples?" she asked with an expectant smile.

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The merchant stammered for a moment as if he was caught off guard by the request. "Oh, but you must understand miss, this fragrance is so rare and sought after that I simply couldn't give it away for free. Even to someone so lovely as you. Perhaps I could be persuaded for a mere twenty-five gil?"


To this Coatleque scoffed quietly. Not too quietly however as the man snapped his attention back to her. "You may think me bold asking so much for so little. But this bottle itself is worth over two thousand alone! And all I'm asking is the price of a mere cup of ale for the pleasure of wearing this scent o'er the next day n' a half!"

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Aya pouted playfully, "Awwwwwwwwww..." she glances over to Coatleque, in her elegant dress, wondering just who the Perfumesman thinks she is, "Even to someone as lovely as us, a full 25 gil just to try?"  She turns her eyes, wide and blue, back to the fellow, "Are you sure? You know if its as wonderful as you say, we might not be able to resist buying a bottle."  Her smile returned, soft and hopeful.

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"Sorry, lady, but I have to eat don't-cha know. I can't just be handing out me goods to everyone for free!" It was clear neither of them were about to budge, so Coatleque sighed and decided to step in. "Alright, here, twenty-five gil but no more!"


The man turned back to her with a glint in his eye. He eagerly snatched up the money while thrusting the bottle forward into her hands. "Oi, and here you go, enjoy it!" he blurted as he pushed passed her and disappeared quickly into the crowd. It happened so fast she did not bother to notice which way he headed.


Holding up the perfume now for closer inspection it appeared to be nothing more than an old whiskey bottle half-full of some dirty looking fluid. Black specks circled around as she swirled it.


"Erm... Aya? I don't think this is perfume..."

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Aya watched the little exchange with alarm, tensing for a moment as Coatleque offered the handful of gil to the nefarious perfumesman.  She let out a gasp as he unloaded the bottle and burst away, she whipped her head about for a moment to watch him running, vanishing into the crowd.


As she turned back, she leaned a little bit closer, peering at the bottle with narrowed, blue eyes.  "Hmmmmm... I think you're right!  No wonder he wanted the 25 gil first!"


She stood back up with a shrug and a smile, "Oh well... shall we head to the cafe?"

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