a guest Jul 19th, 2019 67 Never
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- The Tailor
- The clerk in the office of mercantile for the southern region of capital province was a short man, balding and thin. He sat on a small cushion to allow him to better see over his desk. Emile stood on the other side, the thick file full of papers clutched to her chest as she peered up at him. He adjusted his spectacles and cleared his throat.
- “It’s most irregular, most irregular indeed, Miss… ah…” for a moment he squinted down at the papers in front of him. “Miss Emile. I’m afraid that even if I were to grant you the licenses, there’s no guarantee that the local guilds will accept your application for acceptance. Indeed, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of someone at your… tender age being granted admittance into the children’s guild.”
- Emile hastily opened her folder, a few stray papers slipping from her grasp and falling to the floor. “Yes! But… if you look here at… at this letter…” her voice trailed off as she searched frantically before clutching the sheet in triumph. “Here! It’s from Mr. Avery Bennington. He says that while my application hasn’t yet been formally accepted he can assure me that I will be admitted as soon as they are able. In the meantime, he suggests that I use this letter as proof of their impending acceptance.” She stood on her toes and slid the letter across the desk to the clerk, who frowned. Emile found herself beginning to believe that he was in fact incapable of doing anything else.
- “Yes, well, it is certainly an official document, and I see here it is affixed with the appropriate seals, but the fact remains that it is not a legal substitute for proof of admission. If you just wait a few more weeks until the official forms arrive, we will happily reconsider your submission.”
- “But that will be too late!” Emile fought to keep her voice steady. “With the… the fire… since my parents were killed in the fire and the shop was destroyed, I need… I need to become formally recognized as the legal owner of our business! Otherwise the city will repossess the land and… and the shops licenses will automatically expire!”
- The clerk gave a horrible approximation of a sympathetic smile. “Well, that would hardly be the worst outcome, would it my dear? After all, with the building gone and all of the inventory destroyed, it would be a monumental undertaking to get the business back up and running. The fire certainly did terrible damage to your businesses bottom line. All that inventory destroyed, rather than sold. If I were you I would take the pension your parents put away to provide for you and buy a nice small cottage in the country.”
- Emile felt tears welling up in her eyes. She stood for a moment blinking up at the clerk, feeling suddenly overwhelmed by the absurdity of it all. How could she have thought to run her parents business? She was only a child of nine, no one her age had ever been allowed to formally inherit their parent’s legacies.
- The door behind her swung open and the secretary stumbled in looking entirely out of sorts. He stood for a moment, mouth open but unable to form any words, only to be followed into the room by a young man in a carefully pressed suit. He was tall, clean and well kept in the manner of the young gentlemen of the capital. He stood for a moment, looking ahead at the clerk and smiling, clearly waiting for the secretary to introduce him.
- The silence lengthened, as the clerk looked between the secretary and the gentleman. The secretary shook his head for a moment as though to clear it, then gave a hasty and stiff bow. “My lord clerk, may I present Mr. Avery Bennington, first secretary of the Children’s guild. He claims to be here as the representative of Ms. Emile Sorch.
- The young man bowed far more graciously than the secretary had, then stepped forward and smiled down at Emile.
- “I am terribly sorry for making this intrusion, but our guild only just ratified Ms. Emile’s application for admittance and I was quite anxious to inform her of the good news. I am terribly glad to arrive at such an opportune moment. Shall we discuss the renewal of the licenses?”
- The clerk was clearly completely taken aback by the young mans manner. He shuffled his papers and lifted his pen several times as though about to write, only to put it back down. He tilted his head to the side. “Yes, of course. Her representative. That seems to be in order. Provided, of course, you have brought the proper paperwork for me to review?”
- Avery’s smile grew broader and he reached into his longcoat and withdrew a long tube with several wax seals hanging from red cords. “I believe you will find everything in order here.” He cracked the seal open and withdrew several formal sheets of parchment which he laid out in front of the clerk, who looked down at them with an ever more sickly frown. He hastily pushed them aside and cleared his throat.
- “Yes, quite in order. So, shall we discuss the fees necessary for the licenses?”
- Emile gaped. At no point during her application had anyone mentioned fees. Of course it made sense, almost any government function or service required a fee of some kind. Avery nodded curtly.
- “Of course. As Emile is a recently admitted member of our organization, I have been authorized to make payment on any fees on her behalf.” He withdrew from his pocket a small sack that clinked softly as he set it on the desk, then pushed it slightly closer to the clerk. “I believe that you will find everything in order. I hope that we can resolve everything as quickly as possible?”
- The clerk’s eyes drifted down to the coin purse, which he quickly swept from the desk into a drawer. He waved his hand to dismiss the secretary, then smiled at Emile. If anything, the smile was much worse than his frown had been.
- “Yes, quite satisfactory indeed. The licenses should be granted within the next day or so. Of course in the meantime I will file a notice with the office of housing to inform them that the plot where the shop stood is the subject of a legal matter and therefore not subject to repossession. You will receive the new licenses by mail in the next few days. Please ensure that the address has a functioning post box. Good day.”
- Avery gave a gracious bow, then glanced over at Emile, who still stood in a stunned silence. He coughed. Emile blinked for a moment, then gathered herself and gave a small curtsey. Avery took her by the hand and led her swiftly out passed the Secretary who frowned at him. They made their way through the waiting room filled with clusters of old men in tall hats chattering and shaking hands, then passed the secretaries pool, desk after desk manned by young ambitious men and women scribbling on official looking papers, then through the paned door and out onto the street. The early morning traffic moved at a blistering pace, carriages and carts clattering by on the flagstones. From countless doorways and windows came the unfamiliar and hectic sounds of commerce; rumbling arguments and shrill voices calling out prices. Emile could feel her head swimming as Avery led her along down the street. He walked swiftly and with purpose. Emile peered up at him.
- “E… excuse me, Mr. Bennington?”
- Avery looked down at her and gave her a far sweeter and kinder smile than the Clerk had. “Yes Ms. Sorch?”
- “Where are we going?”
- Avery peered up along the street, then pointed with his free hand. “There is a small tea shop not that far from here. It ought to be nice and quiet. We can discuss our business there. Unless you have any objections?”
- Emile shook her head quickly. “No, tea sounds wonderful! Only, I don’t think I have that much money with me…” she attempted to reach into her pocket to check, but promptly dropped the file and her papers onto the pavement. She hastily stooped down to pick them up, only to find Avery already at her side sweeping the papers quickly into the file, which he took in his free hand.
- “I’ll carry these for you if you don’t mind, Ms. Sorch. And don’t worry about tea. It will be my treat.”
- The teashop was every bit as quiet as Avery had said. Most of the tables and booths sat empty in the dim light provided by old and cracked lamps. The counter was clean and a well polished pane of glass showed off a collection of extraordinary cakes and pastries that made Emile’s mouth water. Avery led her to a booth near the back and set the file down on the table. “If you will wait a moment I’ll go get us some tea and something to eat.”
- He strode away to the counter where a young woman in an apron smiled at him and wrote down his order. Avery paid and thanked her before returning to Emile.
- “Well, now that we have taken care of the refreshments, there’s quite a lot that I think we should talk about. As the secretary told you back in the office, I am Avery Bennington. I have the great pleasure to serve as the First Secretary for the Children’s Guild. We have an Imperial Mandate and are empowered by the courts to serve on behalf of our members as negotiators and to render any and all assistance that our members require. Of course, you’ll remember all this from the promotional pamphlets you received when you made your application.”
- Emile nodded. She did remember reading something of the sort in the papers she had been given.
- “Yes, well as I said earlier I was able to expedite your application process. When we saw the extenuating circumstances in your application letter, we all agreed that it was necessary to move with all the speed we could. It is my honor to welcome you formally to our family.” He extended his hand across the table with a smile, and Emile reached over and grasped it briefly. His grip was firm and steady, and she immediately felt at ease.
- “So, I’m a member of the guild?”
- “Exactly right. And not just any member, you are now the youngest member in the history of our organization. There has always been something of an unwritten rule stating that children under the age of ten are simply not capable of the mental fortitude and wisdom necessary to run a profitable business. I, however have often found myself wonder whether such attitudes are not completely outdated and incorrect. I believe I may have convinced our membership to consider such applications on a case by case basis in the future.” He seemed to drift for a moment, his eyes gazing far off into the distance before he shook his head slightly. “Here it is, you are now a member of our organization, thus we shall do our best to help you with anything you need. And of course it is expected that should any of our members need your assistance in some way, you will do all you can for them. Is that agreeable to you?”
- Emile nodded again. “Of course! I don’t know how much help I can be at the moment though. My parents… I mean, my business is rather the worse for wear.”
- “Yes, the fire.” Avery reached into his coat and withdrew a notebook and a packet of papers carefully folded and bound with string. “Of course, we have given careful consideration to your circumstances. At the moment all you have to your name is the plot of land where the business stood, and now the renewed licenses. Speaking of which, am I wrong in assuming that your post box was also lost in the fire?”
- “No, it was attached to the house, so…” Emile’s voice trailed off as she attempted to blink away the tears that once again threatened to form below her eyelashes. Avery smiled and squeezed her hand.
- “Of course. So I believe our first order of business should be to purchase something we can use temporarily to receive the licenses when the Clerk’s office posts them.” He paused for a moment to thank the young woman who had brought over a small silver pot of tea which she poured into two cups she set in front of them. Moments later Emile was using her fork to carefully lift a piece of delicate pink sugar cake to her mouth. Avery sighed happily as he too began to eat. “I do love this shop. Whenever I am able to make it here from the capital, I make it a point to stop for breakfast at least once.”
- “Shnfs fvery gfood!” Emile said, her mouth stuffed with almost half her piece. Avery chuckled and wiped the corners of his mouth delicately with his napkin, then after pushing the plate away sipped his tea.
- “Once we have received the licenses in the mail we won’t have to worry any longer about the land being repossessed by the crown. Then we can concentrate on rebuilding. Have you arranged yet for the rubble to be cleared away?” Avery’s voice was soft and gentle but the words bit hard into Emile. Clearing away the rubble of her family home was not a subject she wanted to think about. She shook her head.
- “Of course, I can understand how difficult it would be for you to make a decision like that. If you’d like I can make all the arrangements. I do think it would be prudent to be cautious during the process, and to keep our eyes open for anything that might have… well, escaped intact, I suppose. Did your parents keep a safe?”
- Emile looked down at the table and shrugged. “I think so.”
- “Well, then there’s certainly a very good chance that whatever was valuable enough to be held inside may have escaped the fire. I’ll see to it that it is recovered. Now, rebuilding. Of course, it is a rather large plot of land. Your parents must have left you with a sizeable amount of money. Do you know how profitable the business was?”
- Emile shook her head again. “I think there was a… a ledger, but I wasn’t able to find it. I think it may have been in the safe.”
- “Ah, excellent. If it is, as you say in the safe, then I think we will not have much difficulty at all determining exactly what the cost of the fire was. Rebuilding inventory will also be a challenge. Likely expensive as well.” He paused for a moment when he noticed how utterly overwhelmed Emile was becoming. “Don’t worry, we can work on all this over the next few weeks. First, let’s take care of your accommodations until we can rebuild the shop. Where are you staying presently?”
- Emile flushed ever so slightly. “There’s an inn that provides accommodation for the… the homeless or destitute. I am sleeping there.”
- “Well, you are hardly destitute, and as a representative of the children’s guild I can hardly allow you to remain in such lodgings. Inns such as that have a dark reputation for children who travel alone. We will happily put you up in a nice hotel near the center of town. If you can gather your things, I will meet you there.” He took out a pen and carefully wrote down an address in his neat, flowing script. “Meet me here in about an hour and we will see to it you get settled in. Do you think you can handle that? In the meantime I will see about making some other arrangements.”
- Emile nodded as she finished her tea. “Mr Bennington? I just… I want to say thank you. I don’t know what I would have done today if you hadn’t arrived to help me.”
- Avery beamed. “Not to worry. You’re part of the family now, and we have to look after each other. Now see to it that you arrive at the inn no later than an hour from now. I shall meet you there. For now I will bid you good afternoon.” He stood and bowed, then stopped on his way out of the shop to pay the bill. With one last glance and smile at Emile he vanished out the door with a flourish, leaving her alone in the shop.
- The inn was deserted when Emile arrived to gather her belongings. She stuffed what little she had into her small bag, then left the communal sleeping room and proceeded to the receptionist’s desk. She used what her remaining bills to pay for her last night, then stepped out onto the curb. The center of the city was not terribly far away, but she had already walked a long distance that morning and was already very tired. Nonetheless, she shouldered her bag and made her way off up the hill toward the town square, the slip of paper with the address that Avery had written clutched tightly in her hand.
- The Plaza Hotel which Avery had selected was a stately affair, made of soft blue stone and paned windows glowing with a soft orange light from the lamps inside. A wrought iron railing along the street closed off a narrow strip of gardens between the façade and the sidewalk. As Emile approached she could hear the soft murmur of water trickling down from fountains and sculpted waterfalls in the gardens. The Hotel was next to the temple of Lath, a high vaulted building with a wondrously carved tower at the front, looking out toward the noon sun. The low voiced chanted prayers of the priestesses carried just out through the huge brass doors, cutting through the sounds of the passersby.
- Avery was waiting for her in the lobby, seated on a couch underneath a beautiful palm tree and examining a newspaper. He stood as Emile approached. “Well, I have secured for you a lovely room overlooking the gardens at the back of the hotel. It should be nice and quiet there. I am told you will have your own bath as well, and we have extended to you a line of credit which will permit you to use room service at your discretion. I don’t expect that you will find you need anything, but if you do simply ask the concierge and they will help you. You will also be allowed to draw cash against your credit line. For the first week we will reimburse you for all your purchases or withdrawals. After that we will expect that you should repay us at some time in the future. Is that satisfactory?” Emile nodded.
- “It’s absolutely wonderful. I can’t possibly thank you enough.” Avery smiled and offered her his arm. Emile slipped her hand through it and allowed him to lead her to the stairs.
- They found her room on the third floor, down a short hallway from the stairs. Avery removed a polished silver key from his pocket and fitted it into the lock. Picking up Emile’s bag and stepped through and set the bag down on a nearby chair, then strode across the room to the window and drew open the curtains. Emile was convinced that she had never seen a room quite as lovely as this one was. The single bed stood in the middle of the room, covered in richly embroidered quilts depicting famous scenes from the history of the local region. A large dresser stood opposite it, and through a door just as she entered the room she could see a deep porcelain bathtub. Avery looked around approvingly.
- “Well, it’s every bit as nice as I had hoped. I have heard that the room service is particularly wonderful as well.” He slipped passed Emile and looked into the bathroom. “Your own toilet as well, excellent. And I see they have kept the bath well supplied with soaps and shampoo. I very much doubt you will find anything missing. Now, do you feel you need a rest, or would you like to go out again and finish a few errands which we still need to accomplish before the shops close?” But Emile had already sank down onto one of the chairs and, having pulled off her shoes was massaging one of her feet.
- “Very well. I have a few more things to accomplish this afternoon. I will take my leave so that you can rest. I will be here first thing tomorrow morning, and we can go to your land to survey the current situation. If you feel up to doing that, I mean.”
- Emile hesitated for a moment, then nodded resolutely. “Yes, I think that would be best.”
- “Good.” Avery buttoned his coat up and pulled on a pair of leather gloves, then bowed. “Until tomorrow, then.” He gave her a wink and shut the door behind him as he left, leaving Emile alone in her room.
- Emile spent as pleasant a night as she could remember in the hotel. After a nap she took her supper at the restaurant, watching as the late summer rain pattered against the windows. By the time she finished with her bath and slipped into her bed, she was so tired that she fell asleep nearly immediately.
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