... now they must watch their abundance of luxuries fall away, making room for the tools of survival, and witness this time of relative peace wither into the same fears that harper's ballads had warned them about for generations.
 
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 Smoke from the dragon's mouth

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Eloaene

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PostSubject: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:12 pm



On a morning filled with fog and light drizzle, the Dragon's Venture was approaching the harbour of Fort Sea Hold. The smells of breakfast rose from the middle deck, while smoke from the stoves that cooked it lifted from the dragon's mouth at the bow of the ship. From his quarters, Changhui looked out one of the portholes to see if he could spot the ever nearing shoreline; but the dreary fog hid it from view.

From the other room, Changhui could overhear the Captain's orders being shouted to prepare for the sails being furled so that the oarsmen and tiller could guide the ship into the harbour. The Sailing Master's easy voice followed, "Wearing Northward, Captain. We're on the approach, and will be coming into the wharf in less than half a candlemark."

Good. They'd arrived right on schedule. Hands clasped at the small of his back, Keroon's sovereign turned from the window just as Lady Sienne appeared in her long, pink brocade dress covered in yellow-gold design. Eyes finding her own, he was pleased to see a drudge follow her in with food for breakfast. Nodding to the Lady with a motion toward her chair, Changhui sat at their table first. Steamed sweet buns and meatrolls with juice and fruit all looked delectable set before them, and they would have just enough time to enjoy the meal before disembarking from their ship.

Changhui began eating just before Sienne sat across from him, filling her plate as well. "Did you say that our Fort headquarters is appropriately staffed for us to live there?"

"It is minimally staffed for now, but sufficiently for our arrival. I will be appointing others for the rest of our needs over the next sevenday."

Changhui gave a nod, continuing to eat.

"I have a meeting to negotiate a trade deal with Fort Sea's Steward later today. We will have time to settle in at the headquarters for a little while before he arrives, but preparations are already being made for that time."

The young man said nothing, needing offer her no more than such typical, silent approval of her work and the decisions she made for them.



After finishing their meal, Lady Sienne left him alone, closing the door behind her so that he could prepare to disembark. It had been at least two turns since he'd spent any time in Fort. He was familiar with it, but only familiar with the Fort of two turns past; he'd spent the last two turns living at their headquarters in Igen. Silently, he wondered if he would have a little time to walk around in the next few days to see how it had changed.

Changhui could feel the ship being moored and anchored. For a moment he wondered what a sight it must be to see the Dragon's Venture appear through a fog with sculpted dragon's mouth spewing black smoke. The ship must have appeared fearsome and mystical -like something from children's tales. The young sovereign could smirk at that.

Quickly, Changhui equipped his sword, sliding the scabbard across his back under the back of the wide belt that wrapped his midsection, not taking the time to harness himself with the back-strap in which to sheath his weapon. Taking nothing else with him but the mark pouch tucked 'neath the breast of his clothing and the kerchief carrying his mother's hair ornament, he strode from the room, making his way to leave the ship.


Two nights of rough seas in near-squall like conditions had Changhui ready to be back on solid ground. He didn't mind sea-faring journeys, but the storms had caused enough upset stomach to last him for a while. Stepping onto the dock, he was glad to feel it solid under his feet, making him already feel more at ease.

While workmen began unloading the ship, Changhui and his personal guard went by themselves into the already busy streets, where seacrafters readied to go out fishing for a day or were returning from overnight ventures to deeper seas, bringing their catch home. Leaving the docks behind them, Changhui wanted to take a more round about way of getting to their headquarters. Until he felt familiar with the area again, he was interested in doing at least a little sight seeing. Detours would be frequent for a while.
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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:22 pm



Her days were busy, at least she tried to keep busy. When she wasn’t working at the Tavern she was doing odd jobs for the sailors who came into port. She could not only patch and create clothing but she could mend sails and nets. Something she did with a smooth efficiency. There was an attention to detail in her work which could not be overlooked.

News was traveling much faster than she would have liked that there was a seamstress of no small amount of talent here at Fort Sea Hold. As modest as she was, it became harder to hear compliments of her work than easier. Add to that her fear of being discovered by her husband and she was a very tired and anxious young woman.

Although her time at Fort Sea Hold had been short it seemed some of the people were beginning to recognize her. She had a quiet way about her which the sea-folk liked. Her honest prices for good work were also well-liked. She didn’t know what to do when a few people began to greet her in the street except to smile and wave back. She wanted to belong somewhere. Maybe that somewhere could be here after all.

Zerjna was so distracted by her thoughts that she stumbled on a loose cobblestone and fell forward, catching her thin frame with her long arms. Her hands were scraped pretty good and her knees but she was otherwise unharmed. Still she had to fight the crowds from stepping all over her work and herself. “Please go around…” She said so softly there was no way any of the people around her could hear the complaint as she tried to get the entire net into her arms without stumbling over again.


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:13 pm


Changhui and his single guardian companion were attentive and curious when it came to the people of Fort Sea Hold. Not only for Changhui's safety, but because it had been so long since they'd been there. One could clearly typically tell the difference between the Fort citizens and travelers who came from territories abroad. The people of Fort had their own upstanding and happily prideful way about them, and Changhui thought that they were a little louder than the people he was used to. Of course, even in Igen, that had sometimes been the case, granted the particular company he was allowed to spend his time in.

Typically, Changhui was not allowed to spend time in the company of those outside of the Dragon's Venture. It was all for the sake of ensuring the protection of his identity, and thus himself. So, in the past it had been that anyone who thought to get close to him who did not join in some form of business dealings or alliance with the Dragon's Venture, would find themselves dead on the side of the road. For that reason, Changhui had long ago decided that whatever happened, in order to protect others, he would avoid unnecessary contact with outsiders -even if it might make him appear snobbish or rude. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, he did possess some whit of chivalrous blood in his veins, so, as fate would have it, when the discourteous crowds nearly caused him to stumble over the form of a woman in the road, he gave pause to see what was the matter.

"Haran. Block the way."

"Yes, Master." Changhui's command was put into action even as the guardsman voiced that he had heard it. Moving to the other side of Zerjna, the man raised his sheathed sword parallel to the ground, setting himself in an immovable stance so that he created a sort of barricade for oncoming traffic. From that point, the crowd seemed to stop there, and then like a stream, part to either side of them.

Behind him then, Changhui glanced down, seeming only mildly curious about the woman's condition. He didn't bend down to assist her right away, rather, he trusted that since she didn't appear to be injured, she was perfectly capable of getting back up on her own. "Are you alright?"
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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Fri Jul 19, 2013 7:09 pm

As the big man blocked the way from people, she gathered the net up, folding it perfectly so that it would be transported with greater ease. Once that was taken care of, she stood up. Although her hands mildly bled, she didn't seem to take note of them, nor her skinned knees although the heels of her hands were burning from scraping on the stones.

Her voice was quiet but not unfriendly. "I am. Thanks to you and your friend. My name is Zerjna.If there is anything I can do to repay you, name it." She hoped they were not the type to take advantage of such an offer. They would not have helped her if they were, she figured, trying to give herself some needed reassurance. Meanwhile, she dusted the dirt from the road off of her plain yet well made dress.



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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:41 pm


"I am. Thanks to you and your friend. My name is Zerjna. If there is anything I can do to repay you, name it."


"There is no need." The young master of the Dragon's Venture assured her. There was nothing she could offer which he couldn't attain at any time if he wanted it.

Glancing from the woman's face to her hands where small cuts were noticeable before she went to gather up her net, he was about to call for his guard, Haran, so that they could be on their way, when a pang of compassion interrupted him. Turning eyes of dark, subtly grayish hue upon her face once more, Changhui asked in rather uncharacteristic concern, "You should have those cuts treated soon. Do you need an escort, or for my companion to carry the net for you?" He was sure that handling the rope of a heavy net was uncomfortable with the scrapes she'd suffered.

Hearing Changhui's suggestion, Haran had looked a bit curiously back at the young master before coming to stand with the two of them again, now that the path was more clear. Indeed, Changhui's concern was uncharacteristic, but then, the young man had a good heart, and the woman was hurt. Haran didn't see how it could hurt to help her if she really needed it. They were in no hurry to be anywhere, anyway; Changhui didn't have to attend the trade meeting, and if he decided to, he would be posing as a guard somewhere in the room within earshot, not as a figure-head for the Dragon's Venture.

Either way, Haran had no real right to speak in opposition to Changhui. So, the guard waited for the young woman's reply, and to be given direction.

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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Mon Aug 12, 2013 7:20 pm

She took note that he found himself without need of anything. It was strange here, among people with so many things to mend. Where the salt in the water ate away at things that were nearly perfect to begin with, that someone should have nothing to be fixed, nothing that needed something done to it. She found it suspicious but then he did seem to have a servant so perhaps they were wealthy merchants of a sort or Minor Holders.

"I appreciate the offer sirs but I can manage my way from here. I've done it before. My hands have seen worse than these scratches I assure you." The net was now neatly being wrapped into her arms as it was not before. The pattern of wrapping the net was specific. It was not done in a way that sailors might have wrapped it. The style was obviously not one learned here and yet it was not uncommon in other areas of Pern, especially not where a Weaver might be. "In my haste I forgot to be on my way I forgot to fold the net properly. It will not be difficult to carry now."

"Anyway you've been kind enough to me and you won't allow me to repay you, though I'm in your debt. I'll be on my way now sirs." she paused wondering for a moment if they might need a distraction before they set out on whatever vessel they would be leaving on.

"If you are looking for some fun before you set off, the Wild Green Tavern is an amiable place. You might find some entertainment there or at least a good meal." Sending them to Emberlynn would be a way of repaying the Tavern for allowing her to work there.


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:50 am

Watching the woman fold the net with practiced precision, Changhui was quiet as she went on, taking a moment to consider her. Though Changhui was not deeply familiar with the specific way of Fort's Seacrafters, his familiarity was at least enough that he recognized Zerjna's handling of her net was not the method typically used by locals. Briefly, he let himself wonder if she might be from somewhere else. Yet she was rushing a net to the next ship it would serve, so she must live here currently. Perhaps she had recently moved to Fort Sea Hold? Observing her dress then, he assumed she was not usually employed by the fishercraft, which only made him more curious.

As she went on about her forgetfulness, the young man mentally shook his head in disbelief. The silly girl was only going to cause herself more trouble.

Beyond the growing, if not mild curiosity, Changhui had no reason to involve himself with others outside of the Dragon's Venture, but he could sense that the young woman was indeed very grateful for his assistance and only wanted to be able to express that to him. Was it up to him to deny her that?

Hesitant at first, it seemed he was finally decided. "The Wild Green? I am not familiar with it. It is a reputable place? Would you offer direction there?" It wasn't that Changhui needed a place to find a good meal, but he could continue his curious quest in observation of the local scenes to better familiarize himself with Fort Sea Hold after turns of being away. At the same time, she might be glad that she could offer him some help in return for his own favour. Surely there could be nothing wrong with that?
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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:20 pm

Zerjna wanted to chuckle but only smiled in a knowing way, "I wouldn't call it reputable...necessarily. However it is an interesting place. If you wanted to hear tails from sailors or listen to women singing and dancing, drinking and eating, its a good place to let the time pass by."

Shrugging she thought perhaps the way was pretty simple but as she described the path they would have to take from here, she realized just how complicated it could be. "From here, you are going to start off by turning a sharp right at the next passage. From there you will follow its path until you come to a large opening. The area has several pathways. You will want to walk diagonally across. There will be a path directly to the right and you till take it. When you cross two small passages and come to a third , make a left. When you come from behind the large building, the Tavern will be directly in front of you."

When Zerjna thought about it, she decided it was much too complicated. Even if they could follow the directions they may not find it worth their time, which would be a pity really. There had to be something they needed or wanted before setting sail. As she had assumed they worked for wealthy Traders who hired them to ship their goods. It seemed to fit them anyway.

"Actually, maybe it would be better if you have me lead the way. I'll need to stop by my place first though and its a bit off the path."


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Tue Aug 13, 2013 8:56 pm


Now it was Changhui's turn to laugh under his breath. The girl's directions only got better with each turn. Visualizing the path in his mind, he'd already gotten lost, and was sure that Haran had, too.

Unable to disagree, Changhui didn't hesitate as long to take her up on the offer this time, though Haran shot him a glance that spoke enough of his skepticism over the whole situation; not due to a lack of trust in the young woman, but because Haran knew as well as Changhui did that there was no necessity in them being involved with her. They could have already said their goodbyes. Nevertheless, the young man from Keroon seemed determined to go out of his way to be more exploratory than usual. And it would only benefit them to have a guide to help them get to know the city, wouldn't it?

In the end, there was no real harm in the exploit, so the guardsman did not try advising Changhui otherwise. At least not yet. Haran was aware however, that Changhui knew his limitations when he reached them, so he didn't feel as though he really had to worry overmuch as far as that was concerned.

"We should follow you then." Offering a faint smile to Zerjna, it was then with a nod of his head that Changhui motioned for Haran to follow, taking up the rear of the group.

While they followed after Zerjna at a moderate pace, Changhui's eyes were bright with constant curiosity about the people and places they would come across next. His eyes would briefly follow after the mother with her child, the girl with a ribbon in her hair running past them, sturdy men hoisting crates into warehouses or patrons hurrying in and out of establishments providing afternoon meals. He must have been curious about everything.

Both men, however distracted they might seem, were always passively alert to the possibility of any threat, or the possibility that they were being followed. Remaining alert to such things had long ago become second nature. Not a day went by where his life was not in danger; being on the constant lookout for threats was the only way Changhui knew how to live.
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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:35 am

Zerjna led them through a series of small side streets before appearing before the building she lived in. The owner of the place she had yet to meet but she had assumed he preferred to keep a low profile like herself. She might have seen him and never even known having caught a quick glimpse of him as he left the Tavern. She did not want him to be alarmed by having two unknown men enter the building with her.

"If you can wait here, I'll be right back." She said as she took her key out of the small pouch at her waist. Her room was on the second floor of the building. So it did take her more than a moment to put the net up on the small table in the room. Her room had nets and fabrics, sewing tools all over the place. It seemed a bit chaotic but it all made sense in her mind.

After setting the net up, she locked her own door and walked down to the main door and locked it as she exited. She was a responsible tenant and didn't want other people walking into her home. This was especially true of the husband she left behind. If he figured out where she was, she would need the doors to be locked, if only to give her a headstart.

"Well that is done. We have to back track a little but we should be at the Tavern in no time." Zerjna reassured them, then began to lead again. They walked a different way than she had described previously but it was no less complicated. After the fifth turn they were facing the open square she had previously described. Walking across the square she took the alleyway which would lead them out in front of the Tavern.

She walked into the Tavern, eyes scanning for someone she was friendly with. The building was full, as usual, of all different types of people. There were guards, mingled with sailors, smugglers, traders, crafters.. a mix of different sorts. Zerjna found it easier to blend in here than at the docks.


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:16 pm

Haran and Changhui both waited patiently outside of the apartment building for Zerjna's return, seeming to take little note that it was rather run down on the whole. 

When she'd reappeared they let her take the lead in guiding them to this Wild Green Tavern she had spoken of. Zerjna had really only mentioned that food was served there, but Changhui wondered if they were also some sort of entertainment venue considering its apparent widespread popularity. Changhui was always interested in exploring new places and getting to know new people, so this would give him the first opportunity he'd had to do such a thing in Fort Sea Hold in a couple of turns. It would be a welcome experience before attending the meeting scheduled for later in the afternoon. And if he wasn't able to make his way back to the Dragon's Venture headquarters in time, then the Lady Sienne would just have to fill him in on details afterward.


The two men followed Zerjna into the establishment, Changhui motioning for Haran to go ahead and follow them inside where he could sit and drink with them. Almost immediately, curiosity about the people there, overthrew any desire to feel hurried to return to a trade meeting. Though curious, it also put him just a little on edge, hoping that nothing would happen to endanger their position here. In any case, they were just here for a drink. 

As they took seats at a table together, situated along a far wall, one of the only open tables left available, Changhui and Haran continued to look about with curious expression but guarded intention. "You're right. This place certainly is filled with a diverse crowd."

By that time then, the young man had looked back to the woman who brought them there, "What drink do you recommend here?"


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:57 pm

Zerjna nodded, sitting at the table with the men. "Drinks are diverse here as well. I usually don't drink this early in the day, if at all. Too much work to do in the mornings. " Drinking knocked her out too well. "One of the bar maids will have a better idea of what people think is better."

She was looking around the room. there were some interesting people in there but not anyone she wanted to see. She found herself wondering when Captain Thatch's crew would be back in Fort Sea Hold. they had been a good group of people to chat to. They certainly made her feel better when she was ill. She was sure that Changui would find many of them to be compelling story tellers.

"I like to come here to listen to the stories some of the sea-men have. You can hear Harpers tell tales but they don't really compare. They are so different." Working in the front like the bar maids made for more interesting tales to be heard and they shared them with Zerjna.

"Have you been to sea?" She asked conversationally.


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:51 pm

Changhui motioned to a serving girl as Zerjna talked. Inquiring of their most popular drink, he ordered a small carafe of it and two cups with it; a non alcoholic beverage was ordered for their new lady friend.

The young master of Dragon's Venture was grinning, fully intent on her relating the likeness of the seafarers in the region. It seemed to please him to hear that at some point they might find themselves in store for some exciting tales.


"Have you been to sea?" She asked conversationally.

"I have been. In fact, just this morning, we arrived to port with a trade vessel. But it seems as though I may be staying here for a while, though; so it may be some time again before I have a need to do so again." Somehow, no matter what the young man said, he seemed to remain oddly distant. That is, if a person were intuitive enough to pick up on the slightest tell tale signs in his manner of speech. Nevertheless, in his time with her, the young man must have appeared a kind and considerate sort; if not slightly troubled. It shown in his eyes. He was very curious also, happy to look around, as if to get to know the people there, wondering after each individual.


Once their drinks arrived, Changhui poured himself and Haran their first cupful of the alcohol, bringing it to his nose first, to smell of it before he drank from it. Nodding to the maid to let her know its taste was satisfactory, the young man glanced back to Zerjna, commenting on his own observations of her. "You also traveled by ship to come here? Are you a seacrafter as well?" Only... she'd mentioned the local seacrafters here in a manner which differentiated herself from them, and so then he thought that she was not of that craft at all. Then, let it be that he asked her simply for the sake of making further conversation, since however she answered, he would still be finding out.


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Sun Oct 20, 2013 7:47 am

At her request the maid brought Zerjna a water, which was free of charge of course. She watched and waited to see what drink he would choose and if he found the drink good enough. Zerjna knew men could be quite particular about their drinks, even her husband was a bit picky. Course it would be different here, if she chose the wrong drink here it wouldn't then lead to being emotionally or physically abused.

She smiled, "Is that so? Well I'm sure you'll have plenty of time to explore Fort Sea Hold then. Let me know if you need anything while you are here." She wondered what sort of trade he might be in if he was able to wait around here for a while. Perhaps they were waiting on better sea-weather.

"Yes, unfortunately. The sea doesn't agree with my stomach. I was on a trade vessel myself..." Technically it was an illegal trading vessel, or smuggling vessel but the ships probably were not much different. "I'm just making a new start here." She said then took a sip of water. "I didn't realize how badly in need the sea-hold was for a weaver."

She covered her mouth. Oh dear, she wasn't supposed to say that.
Fear grew behind her eyes as she came to the realization that this man could have been hired by her husband to come and find her. What did she really know about him after all? She was entirely too easy and trusting! Please let him not be someone who was after her.


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Sun Oct 20, 2013 11:48 am


"Is that so? Well I'm sure you'll have plenty of time to explore Fort Sea Hold then. Let me know if you need anything while you are here."

It was kind of the woman to make the offer. She seemed like a truly good person, if he was any judge.

When she got around to mentioning that she herself was new here, Changhui seemed to sit back a bit, taking particular interest in that fact. That light in his eyes altered slightly in concern as she seemed to grow more uncomfortable. But he himself continued to smile, sharing the gentle, perhaps even innocent demeanor which resided beneath the outwardly stern demeanor he tended to usually portray. For, he did not know her situation, but perhaps in his presence she could at ease.

It was a shame that Zerjna was not a local, or had not been here for more than a short time, seeing as he would have liked to ask her about the current political climates and gossip of the locals to get a better feel of his new, if not temporary home. She still interested him however. She was a weaver, and the Lady Sienne had mentioned they were not yet fully staffed at the Venture Headquarters here.

With another drink of the alcohol before him, he was asking, "A weaver?" Changhui paused considering her in that task. "How long have you been practicing the Weavercraft? I seem to remember that the trade group who employs me being in need of a weaver to keep up with the needs of the headquarters. As far as I know, we have no other weavers employed here so, after we are running at full capacity, it would likely monopolize most of your time; But if you're willing, it would at least provide steady work."

Pouring himself another drink, Changhui looked up to meet her eyes, hoping that she might take interest in the opportunity.


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Sun Oct 20, 2013 3:27 pm

If he noticed she was suddenly afraid of her own shadow, he didn’t remark on it. The young man had been very kind throughout the whole ordeal and then coming here. She should really stop worrying about what she said and to whom. If her husband was looking for her, he wouldn’t be looking here yet. By the time he made it here, she would have hopefully made more friends than enemies, people willing to help her. At the thought of a steady job though, she managed to banish her fear, momentarily.

Zerjna deciding that she was being just a little paranoid, answered him honestly, “I’ve been in the craft about seven turns maybe a little more. I was going to specialize in dyes and rare fabrics. I have been looking for work though, so any little bit will help.”

Independence was more daunting than she had originally anticipated. She had to pay for whatever materials she used, her rent, food, anything and everything she needed she had to buy for herself. As difficult as that could seem at times, she was enjoying being on her own as much as she was afraid of what that might lead her to in the future.

“Who do I need to speak with to get the job?” She asked. Steady income doing what she should be was better than working at the Tavern. Even if she did not do some of the things the other girls did. She really could use the work and income. It wasn’t as if she slept much anyway now. She might as well make some marks off of her insomnia.


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PostSubject: Re: Smoke from the dragon's mouth   Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:16 pm

It was to his delight when she answered positively. Changhui was nodding, grinning. "You've some good experience then, I take it. Seven turns should be sufficient. Given your specialization, it might please you to know that you're likely to get your hands on a wide range of fabrics."

Wasn't this all working out perfectly, then? Changhui would send Zerjna straight to Lady Sienne. "Tomorrow you can come to the Dragon's Venture and meet with my Lady Sienne. She usually handles such arrangements. Since I work with her Guard, I will let them know of your coming so that you'll be admitted." Today they had a gathering of stewards and other Trade Masters whom they'd be working out important negotiations with. There would be no time to talk of employment until the next sunrise.

Changhui had finished his drink, as had the other Guard, Haran. Relinquishing his hold on the now empty cup, Changhui set his hands on his thighs, "If you would like, I could even send Haran to meet you and guide you there." His glance turned to the Guard beside him, who nodded in acknowledgement.

Either way, it was up to her; whether or not she thought she could find her way or not. But Changhui would oblige her either way if it meant having a skilled weaver on staff. And she knew well how to mend fishing nets and ropes and the like. That would also prove useful for them.

"Well, we've probably overstayed our welcome here with just one drink, and should be going."


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