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Two paths converge again (semi-open)


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Door slamming shut behind her, Rhea smothered a growl of frustration as she stood awkwardly in the entryway. Outside, the heavens let loose a torrent of water and lightning, drenching all unfortunate souls caught away from safe havens. Her hands went for her leather satchel, bated breath released as she found herself glad that the sturdy, oiled leather kept the contents safe.


Glancing around, she noted the quiet decor and the overly patient barkeep waiting in the corner.

Some sort of Bar or cafe. Her nose twitched as she noted the smell of slightly acrid tea. Pulling off her rain-soaked cloak with a grumble and hanging it on (what she assumed) to be a coat rack, and wriggled around the mostly full tables. Quickly moving, she settles down at one of the few remaining empty tables, and motioning for the waitstaff's attention. Placing an order, she settles down and pulls out a faded old tome, the old crest of the Hungry wolf on it's cover barely visible. With a sigh, she slowly works her way through the pages, struggling to decipher the chicken scratch that is her mate's handwriting.

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Rhea had just enough time to settle in.  The discomfort of the setting, the necessary but unexpected respite from the chill winter rain, began to ease as she found her mind able to focus upon the pages of the worn tome.  Records, there were always more records to peruse...


Aya's was not much more heralded.  She slipped through the door, slowly pushing it shut behind her to leave just a quiet jingle of entry bells.  The canvas of her overcoat was soaked.  Something about cold rain was bone-chilling even to this daughter of snow, and she felt a shuddering shiver pass through her.


A maneuver of her hand brought her hood back, long blonde locks falling free.  She gave her head a shake, letting her hair fall about in an effortless mussed look.  She quietly smacked her lips together, no carmine in the rain, but a gentle layer of clingy gloss to protect her lips.  Silk and leather gloves slipped off hands as she hung her dripping coat upon a hook.  At last she was ready to step into the cafe; she savored the fragrance of teas exotic and familiar.


She took a pair of confident steps into the room, idly glancing about to spy what table she would take.  The fullness of the place struck her as a shock: it was never this busy!  It must have been the rain, she thought.


Casting her glance about with wide-eyed blinks of disorientation she tried to spy a welcoming empty seat.  She smiled softly as she took in a breath: relief, there was just the spot!  A table for two, a quiet-book-reading Miqo'te girl sitting alone.  Aya was not about to go back into the cold wet chill without having her tea first.


The sound of approaching high boot heels clicking against the floor was the first threat of breaking Rhea's concentration.  But the pleasant-sounding greeting was the death knell of it.  "Hiiiii..." came the quiet greeting in a light, Ishgadrian accented voice.  "Do you mind if I have a seat?" The smiling blonde it belonged to gestured to the empty chair opposite of Rhea.

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At the sound of the footsteps, Rhea instinctively froze, ears zeroing toward the sound. Glancing at the woman from the corner of her eyes, her mind whirled. Her first thought was to analyze the situation; It wasn't impossible, but highly unlikely she was here to do anything hazardous, nor did her body language scream distrustful.


Turning her head slightly, she took in the woman's appearance, realizing she had seen her before.

The Waitress at the Quicksand. Rhea noted. Tilting her head, she finally pondered her actual question. Shrugging, she nodded to Aya.

"I don't see why not; It would be rude of me to force you to stand in such a busy restaurant." Rhea said with a polite smile.

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Aya quirked an eyebrow, casting a warm smile of bemusement at Rhea's reply.  How peculiar.. yes it would be rude! She thought to herself with something of a laugh.


She swung her hips into the empty chair, crossing her legs, and sliding her right hand between them.  She rest her left hand on the table, and tilted her head smiling still toward Rhea.  She spied the open book, and wasn't sure if the Miqo'te would want to chat, but its always worth a chance, right?


"Thaaank you!  I'm Aya, by the way!" she said happily, letting out a relieved breath to have found a spot to sit.

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Rhea could barely stop her ears from laying flat against her skull with slight annoyance as the woman began polite introductions. With a slight tilt of her head, she continued with her polite facade, though there was something about that name which lingered in the back of her head. She recognized that name from something, even though it was such a simple name.


"A pleasure to meet you Miss Aya. My name is Rhea, a simple merchant of the city." Rhea replied almost automatically, her head tilting slightly. "You are the barmaid working in the Quicksand, are you not? Some of my Free Company subordinates had mentioned you I believe."


((OOC: AHHH! My flight has been delayed twice already!))

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She smiled warmly nodding along in answer, "Mmmhmm.. that's right!  What sort of merchandise do you trade in?" she asked in a friendly rather than inquisitive manner.  The city was full of merchants and traders: but female Miqo'te were not common amongst them!




((Flight Delays are the worst!))

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Rhea froze for a moment; While being a merchant wasn't an uncommon thing, being asked what kind of wares she dealt in was a rare question. This time, her voice's pitch was less practiced, a little more natural sounding.

"Ah, I deal with materials and metals for craftsmen and artisans, mostly importing from the Gridanian lands." Rhea began, shrugging to herself, "When I'm not doing the paperwork from that, I have the paperwork from my mate to deal with for his free company Hungry Wolf, among other things." As she said this, she lifted up the book she still held, showing the faded crest to Aya.


...And yet again, the mental bells in her head were ringing. Something about this woman was familiar beyond faint recognition from the tavern.

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"Oh Gridania!" Aya was thinking at the mention of the Shroudland.  Her expression reflected the thought, a pleased cheerful smile.  It was the statement that followed that induced the slightest quiver of blonde eyebrows.  A disturbance on her expression that lasted the briefest of moments.


The smile return and she tilted her head to glance at the book more closely.  "The Shroud?  So, like, honey, and mead, wicker, and woodwork? That sort of thing?"  The question was just as friendly before, but somewhat distracted.

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For a moment, Rhea watched Aya, ear twitching as she listened to Aya's question.

"Close but... ah thank you." Turning her head to the waitress, she paused to let the woman place her order of Thanalan Tea and faerie apple tart down, "But I specialize more in items used in weapon and armor making; fibers, leather, and ore." She made a motion to the waitress to stay and take care of her unexpected table companion, nodding slightly as the waitress gave her a pointed, questioning look.

"I don't dare try and get involved in the more perishable food trade in fears of working myself to death. I only have so many fingers." The Seeker chuckled to herself, picking up the tea cup, savoring the rich smell of the tea. Her nose visibly twitched and eyes sprung open. "They add La Noscean Orange rind instead of to their house blend? Interesting." Rhea murmured to herself, taking a slow sip of the hot brew. "If you don't mind me asking, what brings you to this part of the city? Other then the sudden monsoon currently outside of course."

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Aya looked up to the waitress with a cute, bemused smile.  "Gridanian Honey Tea please!"


She listened intently, expressing a little surprise at the mention of weapons and armor. Although the city must have its fair share of those engaged in the armaments trade, she'd yet to personally hear much discussion of it.


"That's interesting!" she nodded along as if to confirm the very sincerity of her interest.  Eyes again piqued at Rhea's reaction to the drink, it was a look she'd seen in customers before, never exactly the thing you want to see as a server!


"A little citrus can be delicious in tea, right? As long as you don't mind the little edginess... ummm.. I like to visit the markets every day, and I was just on my way out when this rain hit!  Ugh, I mean, what terrible weather!  Just perfect, though, to enjoy a cup of hot tea!"

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Rhea fairly purred in pleasure as she took in another sip of tea, the bliss of the sharp tang of the orange and the faint spice of the cinnamon in the tea. Her ears wriggled on top of her head a she took a longer sip this time, savoring the flavors.

"Hardly, the orange bring out the hidden cinnamon notes of the tea leaves and other spices in the blend. These people, or at least the owner knows his craft well." With a smile, she swirled the tea in her cup, but at the mention of the rain (and a faint crack of thunder), her smile turned into a frown. "Agreed, the rain was an unexpected complication. I had hoped to finish some of my own work outdoors, but..." She motioned offhandedly towards the door. "What can we mortal do about such things?"

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Rhea paused, mentally rolling the question her head, before shrugging. "It could always be worse, besides, it's hard enough to read Takeba's handwriting without it being rain warp." With a wrinkle of her nose, Rhea glanced at her book. "We could be experiencing a drought instead of the rain."

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Aya lifted her tea cup, taking a pleasant sip; the flavor of shroud honey mingled with the tea and herbs in that perfect balance she had long ago fallen in love with.  The look of pleasure on her features masked the feeling of certainty at work in her mind. 


It was the Hungry Wolf.  The Hungry Wolf.  She glanced down at the book again.  She wondered at the records it contained.  She wondered how often her name appeared.  If it recorded her initiation, and her activities in that time that seemed a lifetime ago.  These days Ishgard was feeling closer at hand, and the Shroud so very, very far away.  She wondered if it recorded missed payroll, missed payments for board.  No doubt it hadn't recorded how she had been evicted first from Fallgourd Float when the company failed to pay, and then how she had next escaped just ahead of eviction at the hands of her former employer Miounne in Gridania just a moon or so later.


"We sure could be..." she pursed her lips a bit, "It is a desert..."


She furrowed her brow, "What did you say your name was, madame?"

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Rhea's cup stopped mid sip as she raised and eyebrow, tilting her head. Her chair shook a little as the tip of her tail began to tap the leg of a chair. It was such an innocent question, but she hadn't lived in Ul'dah for so long as a business woman without taking everything on the side of caution.

"My name? Rhea Zaheela. Why?" She kept her smile even and calm as she mentally mapped out an escape route. Her eyes darted to the side, though something in her mind made her stay in the chair. The warning bells weren't going off, but there was something ABOUT this woman that wanted her full attention, and yet the why evaded her.

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Aya raised her eyebrows.  "Rhea", she thought to herself—the name was not at all familiar.  She thought she had at least heard mention of every name that had belonged to the Company since its relatively recent founding.  She tilted her head a bit, a look of curiosity and thought crossing her features in an unguarded moment.


She turned her eyes back to Rhea, her hands folding one atop the other on the table.  "Did you say Takeba?"  She smiled brightly.

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Blinking, she nodded, "Yes. Hikaru Takeba is the current leader of the Free Company." Her fingers played with the rim of her cup, uneasy with the whole situation. Her shoulders tensed, ready to spring up and put distance between the two of them.

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A coy smirk crossed the blonde's lips as she gave the slightest shake of her head.  Lifting her cup she took another drink of the warm, fragrant tea.  "That's a name I haven't heard in a while."


She pushed her chair back just slightly, not having much room between her and the patrons behind her.  She slipped out the side of her chair, that coy smirk growing a little broader.  "Thank you so much for letting me sit down."


She turned to go, casting one more playful grin back to Rhea, "You should ask him about 'Foxheart' sometime."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Startled at the woman's sudden decision to disappear, Rhea could only dumbly nod, ears twitching as her mind works to figure out just what she said wrong. "I will, I suppose."


Watching the woman walk away, Rhea tapped the cover of her tome, nail idly picking at the worn crest. She had no doubts that she wouldn't take the woman's advice immediately, but perhaps there was something within the various records and service lists back at the office to consider. Leaning back, Rhea continued to sip at her tea, though this time, if someone asked to sit down, she would simply say no this time. She had enough odd meetings for one day.

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