Surly Grunting

In which Haft goes shopping again

Outer Ward



You stand in the busy outer ward of Castle Anvard, full of people seeing to the needs of king and kingdom. There are market stalls along the outer wall, bustling with merchants and shoppers. Grooms work in the stables, tending to the horses there, and you hear the occasional bark of a dog from the kennels. The sounds of hammer hitting iron rings out from the blacksmith shop. There are stairs leading to the gate towers on the northern and southern corners of the outer curtain. To the east is the outer gatehouse, and the road leading into the realm of Archenland, and to the west another gate, leading to the inner gatehouse, the inner ward, and the main keep of Anvard. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=


You can go: Kennels <N>, Northern Market <NE>, Outer Gatehouse <E>, Southern Market <SE>, Stables <S>, Blacksmith <SW>, Inner Gatehouse <W>, South Stair <US>, North Stair <UN>

Vinri is at her stall, chatting with a group of similar-aged women. They don’t appear to be shopping, at the moment, just regaling her with tales of their days. The merchant-woman’s chin is resting on the back of her hand, though by her expression, she is certainly listening.

Haft enters the ward from the inner gatehouse.  He glances around the ward and then heads for Vinri’s booth.  His face is a little pink and he looks like he might be suffering from a cold.

Vinri, what with the number of people in the ward at this time of day, doesn’t notice the man heading her way. Letting out a laugh at one of the stories, she straightens on her barrel-perch. “You’ll have to tell me the rest of that one tonight, Jemma. Perhaps we could grab a cup of tea, maybe even dinner. How does that sound?”

Haft enters the stall, trying not to interrupt the women’s conversation.  He immediately begins inspecting the sketchbooks Vinri had shown him previously.

Despite the several women around her, Vinri immediately sees the guard inspecting her wares. She bids a cheerful goodbye to the women and pushes herself off her barrel. “Good afternoon, sir guard! The ribbons went over well, I hope?”

Haft turns.  “Very well.” He glances past her.  “I did not mean to intrude on you talk.”

Vinri has a smile at the ready. “Intrude, hardly! They needed to be on their way, I kept them too long already.” Focusing over his shoulder for a moment, she lifts her hand in a last farewell as they head back into the crowd. “What brings you today?”

Haft’s lips twitch knowingly.  “And woe betide the merchant who uses her time in conversation when there’s a sale to be made?”

Vinri returns, “Depends on the conversation. This is one, isn’t it? ‘twould hardly do to give you a surly grunt and nothing else.”

Haft says, “Depends on what you’re trying to achieve.  There are times a surly grunt can be beneficial.”

Vinri exclaims, “Quick to jump to its defense!” She grins. “Use them a fair bit, do you?”

“So I’m told,” Haft answers amiably.  “But returning to your original question, yes, my sister was well pleased with her ribbon, and my niece with her pair.”

Vinri ‘ooh’s. “A sister and niece, I see! How old is the little one?”

Haft beams. “Seven.  Pale hair like her ma.  Pretty as a picture.”

Vinri gives a light laugh. “How sweet!”

Haft says, “Yes.  Actually, I was wanting another look at these journals.  I’ve two nephews as well, and the younger one’s a budding carver.  I’d like to give him a book to put all his designs in, when his next birthday comes round.  But the ones you showed me before all had flowers on the covers.”

Vinri taps a finger on her counter. “A boy, hmm? Well, some don’t mind the flowers, I’ve found, but let’s take a peek…” She casts a cursory glance over what she has on display before kneeling to check what she might have stored behind the stall.

Haft says, “Truth be told, Ash might not either.  I’m certain a fair shares of the carvings he does are floral…but he’s got an older brother and I don’t want the gift to invite ribbing if I can help it.”

Vinri mumurs ‘Ash, ash…’ under her breath, locking on that for a moment, before straightening, mouth pushed to one side. She holds two journals in hand. “All I have here are these…” Displaying them, she leans on the counter. Both are of birds, one a dove, the other a peacock on slightly blue-tinged leather. “Not quite what you were looking for, mm?”

Haft says, “Hmm, not really.  But his birthday’s not for another few months.  If you were to come across something in this vein, you could always let me know.””

Vinri sets the books down beside the others. “Most of the journals here are designed for women. But.” She holds up a finger. “You said his name was Ash?”

Haft says, “Yes.”

Vinri says, “Since you don’t need it straight away, I could send a letter back home. You’ve seen her skill on these… She could tool one into an ash tree, easily. Could be as specific as you’d want. It would take a bit, and a small extra charge, but he’d have a journal personal as can be. Even add his name to it, if you want.”

Haft considers.  “He’ll be turning ten.  That’s an important year.  Yes, I think that would suit nicely.  Do request the paper be unlined, though, as it’s for drawing, not writing.  Shall I give you an advance now?”

With a smile, the merchant produces a sheet of paper and quill from behind the stall. After pulling off her gloves to reveal ink-stained fingers, she scribbles down a few notes and replies, “Yes, that would be best. I’ll send a letter to Chesterton with the next courier. Tree and name, no lines, anything else? A ribbon marker, thicker paper…”

Haft says, “Thick enough for drawing.  A ribbon would be fine.  That’s ironic though…it’s in Chesterton that they live.”

Vinri’s eyebrow quirks up. “Do they now? Do we share a hometown, you and I?”

Haft says, “Uh, no.  My brother-in-law chose to open his business there after being a journeyman.  I was raised here.”

Vinri flicks out the last few notes and quickly totals it. “Ahh, I see. You said Ash was starting as a carpenter, is that is father’s trade as well? And any preference for the ribbon color, or whatever looks best with the leather?”

Haft says, “Whatever the craftswoman thinks.  Yeah, Jorgen’s a carpenter.”

Vinri quotes to Haft the total price as well as that of the advance. “What sort of carpentry?”

Haft says, “Mostly furniture, tables, chairs, chests and smaller boxes.  Ash has taken over a lot of the carving work already.”

Vinri blinks. “Not yet ten and already carving that well? You’ll have to bring by a sample sometime!”

Haft looks pleased by this.  “I’m afraid I haven’t any of his work, just my niece’s, but I could inquire.”  He fishes in his pouch, withdrawing a small handkerchief with even edging but mediocre embroidery, bearing his initial.  He holds it up for display.  “Not up to your standard just yet, I think.”

Vinri lifts the corner for a little closer inspection and lifts a corner of her mouth in a smile. “I’ll give her a couple years before I ask her to work on mine,” she agrees. “When did she make this for you?”

Haft says, “Month or so ago, when I was visiting them.”

Vinri drops her hand. “Very sweet.” Looking down at her rather scribbly notes, she asks, “Since they’re right there in Chesterton, do you want the sketchbook to come back here, or be delivered straight there when his birthday comes?”

Haft says, “Have it delivered to his parents, and they can hide it away till it’s called for.  I can send along a note.”

Haft returns the kerchief to his pocket, then holds his finger to his nose, fighting back a sneeze.

Vinri nods. “Bring it here whenever you have it…” she pauses, leaning a bit back when he looks like he’s about to sneeze. “…ready. It will probably be a couple or three days before my usual courier heads that way again.” One hand subtly shifts the journals a little further from potential danger.

Haft says, “Oh, I meant…I just meant I can send a note along to my sister, explaining the gift to Ash and wishing him cheer.  It needn’t arrive with the journal.”

Vinri ahs. “Very well.” Still keeping an eye on the cold-ridden customer, she folds up the paper, puts away the quill, and pulls her gloves back on. “Anything else I can help you with today? Maybe an extra handkerchief, since it’d be a pity to soil that one?” She adds a cheekily cheerful grin.

Haft smiles back.  “I’ve got another, and it’s been getting its share of use.  I’ve been told I ought to use this one, but…well, I ain’t never had anything from her before, and it’s too dear for staining.”

Vinri tips her head and perches herself back on the barrel. “Nothing? Not much of a gift-giver, or do you not count all the stones and leaves little ones like to give?”

Haft says, “No…I’d count those.  But I’d been rather out of touch with my family for several years.  I didn’t know if I /had/ nieces or nephews.  It’s why I didn’t know how many ribbons to buy.”

Vinri’s brows raise. “Oh. Sorry, I’d just assumed.” She recovers from surprise or any awkwardness quickly. “Sounds like this first meeting went well as anything!”

Haft looks awkward is his turn.  “Yes, I’d say that all things considered, it went very well.

Vinri eyes him. Her tone is still light when she asks, “Would I get an answer or a surly grunt if I asked what all things were?”

Haft says, “A surly grunt, definitely.  I do, however, think I might have another purchase to make.”

Vinri gives a pretend sigh, then tips her head. “Do you now?”

Haft says, “Don’t know if this is in your line, but I have a friend who likes art.  She’s already done some drawing, but I thought maybe she’d enjoy adding a little color. Don’t know if you sell anything in the way of paints or chalks…”

Vinri hmms. “Paints… not with me, here. I’ve a letter to send along to my father, though, and I can request he send some my way, if you’d like. Not something I’ve stocked yet, but it /would/ be good to have on hand.”

Haft waves his hand.  “Nah, don’t order those on my account.  Just trying to cheer someone, and they’d arrive too late.  Anything else here–not too expensive–that might lift someone’s spirits?”

Vinri folds her hands together and taps her index fingers against her lips. “For cheering, hm? Depends on the sort of person. Fond of drawing, you said, but what else? Hobbies, favorite colors, favorite flowers…” She trails off and looks at him expectantly over her hands.

Haft says, “I…have no idea.”

Vinri hops back off her barrel and begins to search around the counter, shaking her head. “Well. One thing you might try is asking her that sort of thing. Make her think of things she likes, cheerful things. Does she have long hair?”

Haft says, “Yes.  Another ribbon, you think?  She’s betrothed…I don’t want to get her anything too personal.”

Vinri asks, “Is she? What’s her name?” She picks up a hair pin that looks like it is made of carved wood. “A ribbon or one of these, perhaps. Does she have thick hair, or not very?”

“I think hair ornaments are a bit too personal for my taste,” Haft replies, not answering the question.  “I imagine a fella wouldn’t be too pleased to learn his gal was getting ribbons from another man.”

Vinri considers this, then wrinkles her nose and sets down the pin. “I suppose that may be true.” She returns to her thinking position, tapping her mouth. “Of course, one /could/ say that about any gift. But if she draws, I have some fine charcoal that may be welcome, even if I don’t have color at the moment.”

Haft says, “Well, that might do.  It’s the kind of thing that gets used up, so if she has some, she can always use more.”

Vinri nods. “I have several different qualities and sizes, but you wanted one on the less expensive side, so…” Lowering her hands she strides to the other side of her stall and picks up a couple of said charcoal sticks. “These should suit the needs of a casual artist.”

Haft asks, “I’m sure they’ll be fine.  How much?  And for the journal?”

Vinri repeats the advance for the journal, then tells him how much total. The charcoal is, as promised, not too pricy.

Haft nods and hands over the requested amount.  “Thank you for your help.”

Vinri flashes a grin. “Of course. Glad to be of help, and good luck cheering your friend! I’ll keep you updated on the sketchbook.”

Haft exclaims, “Very–achoo!–good,” Haft replies, covering his sneeze.”

Vinri recoils slightly at his sneeze, but manages to keep the smile fixed in place. “Bit of a cold?”

Haft says, “Yeah.  Think I might pay a visit up to the healers.  Good day, Vinri.”

Vinri exclaims, “Good day!”

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