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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 13th, 2018, 10:21 pm 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Vilmaith found herself returing to the barracks to find the commander of the Rhovanion Royal Guard waiting for her. She hesitated for a moment, then walked in. When the commander looked around at her, she hesitantly asked,

”Sir?”


”There seemed to be some troubles at the palace overnight, and some of the shieldmaidens tried to sack the Mariners Guildhouse? I spoke with Vidnavi and Vilna about it, then discharged them to carry duty at the Palace with Helda, who I gave charge of overseeing the well-being of Lady Amarwen for us.”

The commander said after a sigh. He walked aroundon a circle thinking before again looking at Vilmaith. His eyes held hers as he said,

”Why this move on the guildhouse happened I can’t say, and the others did not let on. I doubt you know as you were not with them. As you know, many, especially the mariners, already despise us Rhovanions for our heritage, and it being part of Prince Eldacar’s. They seem to think we will diminish their high blood and standing, yet the darkening of their hearts will lead them to their doom. But right now, we need to be careful, and ever vigilant. We know they don’t want us here. Making trouble such as this, especially with the mariners, will not be easily forgotten.”

There was a long silence, as if both the commander and Vilmaith knew that the days ahead would be filled with grief. Vilmaith waited for his decision of her lapse of duty. When the commander finally broke the silence, he said something unlooked for…

”You, Vilmaith, has always been looked to as the leader of the six shieldmaidens of Eldacar. But after this strange and difficult evening and morning, there will be some changes. What has passed will not be a concern of yours any longer.”

“Am I losing my position over this sir?”


The commander offered his hand and Vilmaith looked at it for a moment before reaching for his wrist. He then held her wrist and he shook her arm once. He then said,

”Yes, for now, but you will not lose rank…”

A sigh escaped from Vilmaith, and she looked away to the door. The commander got her to look back, saying,

”I understand you have taken a venture into east city not long ago?”

“Yes sir. I was…”


The commander’s hand went up to cut her off. He didn’t want to know the details. He said,

”You will need to go there again today. Take Rhinnin with you. We are going to need eyes and ears over there. Also, you will need to watch the coming and going of ships and of high ranking guildsmen. Being Rhovanion, you may run in to trouble, but I know you two can take care of yourselves.”


“If you are sending me into the heart of the den of wolves sir, do not send Rhinnin too.”


The commander looked at her in a way that she knew that he would not change his mind. He continued,

“Rhinnin goes. One always needs to watch their back. I trust you in this, but I can give her lead if you wish.”

“No, I will find her, and we will go. How will our absence be explained?”

“I will take care of that.”


Vilmaith turned to go. Why would they be sent to the east of the city as civilians? Nothing good could come of it. It doesn’t seem to her they would be doing much while there, but the commander was rarely wrong in his instincts. He wanted to learn what he could now in case it would be needed later. She sighed and went to find Rhinnin…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Halvarin had settled with the innkeeper, and he had little more to do than to go down and await passage south. He could do nothing but make things worse for Amarwen. As much as he considered taking up Lord Therald on his offer, he could not counter his father Lord Calamir. His standing in the Guild, his training as a Navigator, his future depended on his father. Why he took a swing at him, he now did not know. What he did know was it felt good. The years of frustration that had slowly built up in his life found its way into his fist at that moment. Now that it had discharged, nothing has changed. He was still an Ensign, studying and hoping to become a junior navigator. He still had feeling for his childhood friend Amarwen, but knew she was out of reach as she was betrothed to royalty. He hoped she would persevere, and that she could find a way to be happy. For him, he would always remember their time at the library.

With a nod, he turned to leave the inn, his duffle bag slung over his shoulder. But he didn’t get far. Vinyarion came running up, saying,

”Halvarin! I thought you would be here! I don't know what all happened, but please do not give up hope!”

“Hope? My friend, I do hope. I hope beyond all hope. But I can see the reality here. Amarwen’s path and mine go separate ways this day.”


Halvarin went to pass by Vinyarion, but the prince’s arm stopped him. He said,

”Look, things are in quite a state of flux in the palace. Maybe stay over here a few days and give things some thought.”

Halvarin shrugged as he re-adjusted his bag. He said,

”I’m afraid I’m broke, and I don't know if a few days will not change anything.”

“Well, you are in luck my friend. I had a rare winning night and managed to relieve some Rhovanions in the North Quarter of some coin in a game of Tonk. Consider this a down payment on what I owe you.”


Vinyarion handed a couple gold coins over to Halvarin. He looked at them and said,

”These are tens! You know I haven’t really been keeping track…. Were you card slipping again?”

Vinyarion laughed. He said,

”No, it was actually a fair win. I would have been in deep if I had lost. But it worked in my favour for a change. Come, have a beer with me. The next passage out to Minas Anor is the night run.”

Halvarin shrugged and dropped his bag. He could use a beer whether he stayed or left that night.

~ ~ ~


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 14th, 2018, 2:30 am 
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"Mother!"

Farien slowed as her youngest son's voice rang off the marble floor in pursuit of her. Brow furrowed at the strident note in Aldamir's voice, the crown princess turned about. Sure enough, there he was, striding towards her at a rapid clip with something folded in hand. He clutched it tightly, she noted with a brief flick of her eyes. Farien composed herself as her son hastened towards her.

"Has there not been enough excitement in these halls for a time?" she inquired, her mild tone belying the rebuke that lay in her words.

Of her sons, Aldamir was not disposed to such vocal displays. Something, clearly, had gotten under his very thick skin. He glanced up and down the hall and then nodded to the palace library.

"A word, Mother, if you please."

If she pleased! Farien hoisted a displeased brow at her youngest child. Nevertheless, she glided towards the open doors with her son at her heels.

"Whatever can be the meaning of-" Farien turned to find Aldamir had thrust a sheaf of thick parchment at her. "This." she finished softly, accepted it from his hands and glanced to the doors.

This was scarcely any more private than the hall he had just chased her from. Anyone could barrel through the palace library doors and there were any number of staff likely to be tending the collection the palace maintained separate to that of the city as a whole. Her son nodded to the paper she now held and so she trained her study upon it. Immediately, Farien saw the King's crest. Her attention flicked to the bottom where a heavy seal of scarlet wax had been affixed. Signed and sealed by the king himself, she noted, and read what the king had set his hand to.

Her stomach curdled. How? How had the naif accomplished this?

"What is the meaning of this nonsense?" Farien coolly inquired,

Aldamir nodded to the parchment, "I have said, from the outset, that the realm gains nothing by taking a bride by force. It is beneath us. I will not be party to it," Aldamir offered her one of his own quietly solemn smiles, "And the King agrees."

The King, Farien fumed, was a doddering fool nine hours out of ten each day. How had that wide-eyed lamb turned a prince of the realm to her bidding? The question infuriated Farien but she also felt the rise of grudging admiration. In the space of one morning, little Amarwen of Edhellond had twice proved more than capable of navigating court to her advantage. Through her own son, Amarwen had been able to reach past her to the king himself. Again Farien smoothed over her composure.

"Have you conveyed the glad tidings to the girl?"

"Not as of yet. The Lady is indisposed."

"Indisposed?"
Farien inquired mildly, "Not mysteriously absent, yet again."

"No."

"For the child has a curious habit of vanishing into thin air."


Aldamir's jaw clenched at Farien's statement, "The assault upon Lady Amarwen was hardly her-"

Her son's response trailed off as Farien offered him a knowing smile, "Was not that incident that I referred to, son."

Despite the sweetly mild tone of her words, mother and son exchanged a terse gaze before Aldamir averted his eyes.

"I am sure you know what you are doing," Farien continued calmly, "Yet I offer you counsel all the same: do not be taken in by her, son. She is delightful, I know, but she is not nearly so helpless as might otherwise seem."

"I very much hope so, Mother,"
Aldamir replied stiffly, inclined his head formally, and took his leave. At the door, however, her son turned back to address her, "The Lady has a most interesting companion. A young woman with an unusual name."

Farien pushed out a breath, disinterested now that she knew Aldamir did not reference the young Ensign.

"I offered this one a place at court. She seems most...loyal," he continued and this piqued Farien's interest anew.

"I will organise Amarwen's companions," she stated and Aldamir smiled at her.

"Do you not wish to know this young woman's name?" her son inquired.

"It hardly seems of relevance," Farien replied but then waved a hand at Aldamir, "Very well."

"Almara."


Farien was pleased to keep her reaction to herself. Disappointed, Aldamir took his leave proper. She could hear him whistling as he departed. Any notion of putting Amarwen firmly back in her place was overtaken with far more pressing concerns. Almara. Surely not. At least, not by mere happenstance. She needed to speak with Calimir at once. Neatly folding the king's missive, Farien set off once more.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 14th, 2018, 6:10 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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When Calamir left the palace, he walked over to the Mariners Guildhouse where he found Girdean out on the steps. There were a few men cleaning up. Calamir looked about and asked,

"I see the clean-up is going well."

"Yes sir. We have doubled the armed men inside the door. We dont want to appear like things are unsettled, but we will be ready should Rhovanions decide to try anything again."


Girdean said. Calamir looked around and nodded. He leaned to Girdean and said,

"Know that there is much afoot in this city. Send a horsed messenger to the Guildhouse in Minas Anor alerting them of our situation. Have them send a message to Castamir in Pelargir... follow me."

Calamir went inside, and he found a quill and ink at the front desk that hadn't been knocked over in the raid. Clean parchment was harder to find though. He picked up a torn sheet that had a boot print on it, and he wrote out quickly...

'Trouble with Rhovanions in Osgiliath. Guildhouse sacked. King Valacar indifferent. Situation uncertain. Calamir'

He waved it to get the ink to dry, and when it was safe to do so, he rolled it and sealed it with candle wax and his guild ring. He handed it to Girdean who flagged his adjutant. Girdean handed the scroll to him and said,

"Take this personally to Minas Anor with instruction that it get to Castamir with utmost haste. Tell the members at the Guildhouse there of our troubles. Go.!"

"Yes sir!"


With a salute, the young adjutant headed out as his cloak was thrown to him. He was soon riding out toward Minas Anor with speed.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 17th, 2018, 9:17 am 
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By the time evening cast its long shadows across the palace grounds, Almara had made up her mind.

"It's unwise," Rie-Zunic persuaded.

"I don't understand you!" Almara sighed. "When first we were together you thought me getting a position at the palace was the perfect idea. A newly wed couple serving king and country side by side. Isn't that what you said? And now-"

"This is completely-"

"Different," Almara finished for him. "Of course! Now you are telling me to be cautious of a crown that you have not only sworn your life to... But that you chose... over me!"

Now Almara was beyond flustered. She had still never let that go.

"I didn't-"

"You did!" Almara cut him off, tears now sliding down her cheeks.

"It's different now..." Rie-Zunic sighed, his demeanor unsettled and woefull.

"Different?" Almara swallowed hard, blinking back more tears. "Because I will be working as a lady in waiting instead of being along side you as a tracker in the military? You don't even work in the military any more! You're a... supervisor. A glorified baby sitter!"

Rie-Zunic fell silent at Almara's reproach. For the first time she could ever recall, a single tear escaped his steel wall of emotional fortitude. He hung his head and walked to the door. "It's different,"he repeated softly, Almara's diatribe quelled by his unusual show of emotion. "It's different because I no longer know... I no longer know if my dedication has been well placed, or I'll spent. I no longer trust the crown that I once served so ardently.... I no longer trust my own judgement."

With the speech knocked out of Almara, the door shut behind Rie-Zunic and the conversation ended. Still... she felt she was left with no choice. She would not stay caged up in Rie-Zunic's little hole in the wall. It was already driving her insane. She needed something... And it had to be something that would keep her away from Calamir's scrutinizing gaze.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 18th, 2018, 7:36 am 
Ent
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Farien strode through the Osgiliath Guildhouse with her head held high. She stopped for no man as she prowled the halls, no matter how men gawped at her presence. The Crown Princess needed no guidance either, for she had been walking these halls for many years now. Albeit, not quite as openly as this.

She found Calimir bent over a wide table on which were plans. Likely a ship being commissioned. She cared not that there were others with him, all high ranking officers in their own right. Their discussion faltered at her presence and Calimir straightened from his study. He turned about and then went very still.

The men with Calimir sketched hasty courtesies. Farien scarcely flicked an eye to them. She had come here to speak with one man and one man alone. He bore the weight of her scrutiny without so much as twitching. As much as this man was ambitious. As much as he relished power, she could still undo him. The Crown Princess allowed an icy smile to spread over her features. She would have him squirming by the time she was done with the treacherous wretch.

As tension mounted, Calimir’s companions made their excuses. They left, haste clattering their boots over the polished boards they trod upon. The door behind her closed forcefully and she knew that the Chapterhouse would be alive with speculation within the hour. She’d be long gone by then. This would be the last time she ever set foot in this viper’s nest.

”To what do I owe this,” Calimir paused for effect, ”Pleasure?”

“You disappoint me. I thought you a clever man,”
Farien returned.

Calimir smiled and turned back to the plans with a shrug. ”I have little time for wordgames.”

“Time enough for tawdry games, though,”
Farien countered, ”Almara.”

Again Calimir went very still for a moment. Then he wiped a hand over the plans to trace the sweep of the prow. ”You have met my most recent recruit.”

“Aldamir has,”
Farien replied. Her eyes narrowed when she heard Calimir’s chuckle.

”That is fortune unlooked for,” he remarked, well pleased.

”I will deal with her as I will deal with your son.”

Calimir’s chuckling came to an abrupt halt. He turned back to face her, open anger in his expression.

Farien continued. ”The sea is such a dangerous mistress to learn to master, is it not? Mishaps and misadventures are all too common at his age.”

“What will Edhellond make, do you think, of the unseemly truth that Aldamir fathered a child out of wedlock and left that child unclaimed?”

“Breathe so much as a word, Captain, and I will have your son’s neck snapped before the hour is out.”


They were, by now, almost toe to toe. Both breathed hard through their noses. Bitter anger coursed through their veins.

”The day will come when the realm perceives the truth,” Calimir said, eyes glittering, ”They will see the rot that corrupts the heart of this realm.”

Farien drew herself up. ”The day has come when I see you for what you are, Captain. Little wonder that your wife chose an early death over a lifetime with you.”

Calimir’s face went white with sudden rage and when his vision cleared, Farien had gone. The door swung wide in her wake.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was dusk and Amarwen stood, shoulders slumped, before a mirror. Maids pulled at the laces of her gown, stitching her firmly in place. She had not glanced at her reflection nor taken enough interest to attend to the selection. These young women had descended upon her as she woke just before dusk. She bore their attentions silently. Tugging, prodding, whispering and nudging. Hair to be tended. All of it mattered not. This was all a masquerade. The motions. It meant nothing beyond compliance with a capricious whim too cruel for Amarwen to dare flouting. And through compliance might safety be won for Halvarin.

Her eyes lifted to the polished glass that served as a mirror when tending paused. It would do, Amarwen thought to herself. Her hair was no longer roughened by sleep and her clothing was well tended and neat. It would do. She lowered her eyes once more and then closed them. What different did it make, in the end?

Then, the soft clearing of a throat. Amarwen's eyes lifted as the maidservants pulled back. In the mirror, behind her, she saw the Prince. The man that was to be her husband. He cleared his throat again and lowered his eyes once he caught her gaze.

"That will be all," Amarwen said softly, turning to face the prince. He stood in the doorway.

"I do not intend to intrude," he began.

"I have little to intrude upon in this place," Amarwen replied. Her eyes dropped to the side as she caught the note of bitter regret in her response. Aldamir bowed his head and he was silent for several heartbeats. Long enough to impel Amarwen to wonder whether she should seek his forgiveness for her forward answer.

"I know," Aldamir said quietly and looked up, past his dark brows, to meet her gaze. "I bear tidings I believe will be welcome. If you will permit?"

Amarwen inclined her head and the prince came forward. He began to speak of his meeting with the King and the new accord struck. When the telling was done, Amarwen's head spun.

Out of nowhere it came. When all was ash and she was certain that she had been discovered to Halvarin’s certain ruin, hope arose anew. Aldamir had gone to the king. The King! And he had won her freedom. She would be able to go home again. And Halvarin! The tears on her face were stiff as she felt herself smile.

'Thank you! Thank you, my lord!" she said, over and over again as she bent over the prince's hands and kissed them in abundant gratitude.

Oh, just wait until Halvarin heard! She could not wait to tell him. Her toes wriggled within her silk slippers in anticipation. How happy he would be and, now after all that had come to pass, they could plan their lives together. Halvarin would have to finish his studies, of course, but after that…

Amarwen smiled into Aldamir's face, truly grateful for what he had done. A weight was lifted from her shoulders. It was just a matter of time and she would walk out here and into the rest of her life.

"Now, if I may, might I escort you to dinner?"

The question surprised her but Amarwen nodded. The Prince's tiding had brought her great ease indeed. He held his arm out towards her and she set her own hand upon it.

"Has your friend, Almara, called in on you again?" Aldamir inquired.

Amarwen shook her head, "No, m'Lord. I expect she has rather better things to do than wait on me to wake."

"I...I hope I have not overstepped my bounds, m'Lady, but I offered her a position earlier today,"
Aldamir sounded hesitant and Amarwen looked aside to where he walked.

"I promise you, m'Lord, if I should hear from Almara I will have you informed."

He nodded at that, thoughts elsewhere and then brought his gaze to her own, "I would be so grateful."

Amarwen inclined her head and the thought that occured to her made her faintly smile. "It would seem, then, that we are on somewhat equal footing."

"Yes,"
he returned, smiling a little himself. They went the rest of the way in companionable silence.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 19th, 2018, 8:46 pm 
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Therald sat in the study as night drew in. It was warm there. A comforting space within which to allow his thoughts to turn. The rooms that he had taken in Osgiliath were very still and quiet now that Amarwen was not within them. Over the years, the sound of his daughter as she went about her day had become second nature to him. She hummed to herself. Her laughter. The sound of her running as she was chased out of the kitchens. Her questions, so many questions, on all manner of things. Such a curious, swift mind.

He drew back on his pipe and stared at his boots. His feet were propped onto a chair, ankles crossed. Therald pushed the blue smoke out and raked his fingers through his hair. A rap at the door intruded over his ruminations and Therald climbed to his feet to answer it. He was surprised to find Calimir standing on the doorstep.

”How’s the nose?” Therald asked as he stood to one side.

”Wouldn’t you like to know,” Calimir muttered as he stepped past him.

Therald closed the door after the man. ”I would.”

Calimir grunted at this and followed the Lord of Edhellond along. He settled into an armchair and set to work on his own pipe.

”How fares your daughter?” Calimir inquired as Therald lowered himself back into his own chair.

”Badly shaken,” he admitted and Calimir nodded.

”Quite the ordeal she’s had. What are you going to do about it?”

Therald shook his head from side to side for he did not know. He leaned back in his chair with a troubled sigh and fidgeted with his pipe. There was no assurance Amarwen would be any the safer in Edhellond than Osgiliath.

”I cannot yet say,” he murmured, troubled.

”It seems an awful lot of trouble, Therald, and for what?”

Therald looked to where Calimir sat and was reminded of younger days. They’d studied together, had been fast friends. That friendship had grown strained of late but Calimir seemed genuinely concerned. Therald was not sure what to trust to now: the years of friendship with this man or his recent political manouverings that came at the expense of Therald’s own family.

”How can you ask me that? Cobas Haven was only three months ago!”

Calimir pushed out a heavy sigh, ”As I said at the time, it was a simple misunderstanding that got out of hand! You can't truly think the Master of Ships would bother to take Edhellond by force.”

Therald's reply came flat and staunch. ”No sooner had we declined his offer for our daughter do we find his ships blockading our harbour. Bodies washed ashore!”

“Sea faring is a dangerous business, Therald. Men drown from time to time. Unfortunate as that is, it is no indication of malicious intent.”
Calimir pushed out a lungful of smoke. ”You declined his negotiations and the matter was concluded civilly.”

“His agents attempted to steal my daughter only last night!”
Therald exclaimed, baffled by his old friend’s sustained and wilful blindness. ”Nothing you might say will sway me.”

Therald watched his friend from beneath lowered brows. Calimir fell to silence for a time and then he sighed as he broke the quiet tension. ”I did not come here to change your mind.”

His tone was heavy and filled with reluctance. ”And what I am about to say changes not a thing. I think your daughter’s proud lineage and potential is squandered here in Osgiliath and in doing so, a great disservice is done to the realm.”

Therald felt his teeth grind against the stem of his pipe as Calimir pressed out another heavy sigh. ”Be that as it may, there is a matter that warrants discussion between us. As…friends and fathers both.”

“Go on,”
Therald pushed as Calimir fell back into his ruminations. He plucked his pipe from his mouth and studied it for a moment.

”It is possible,” Calimir reluctantly said, ”That the rumours concerning our children are more than mere idle speculation.”

Therald pushed himself upright in his chair, ”Impossible.”

Calimir threw him a strange look, shook his head, and pressed on.

”This has come to the attention of the Crown Princess. Halvarin stands to lose more than his reputation and prospects. The consequences could be most dire.” Calimir leaned forward and Therald could see genuine fear in his old friend’s eyes. ”I have warned him but the boy will not listen to me.”

That too held a note of truth for Therald. He recalled well how unreasonable he had been at Halvarin’s age when his eye fell and lingered on a certain noblewoman. Their marriage had caused no end of woe and yet he had been doggedly persistent in his younger years. Nothing could have dissuaded him then or now and it seemed very much as if history repeated itself.

”What would you have me do,” Therald asked quietly.

”I think it likely that both our children will suffer of this if it is not stopped. Guide her away from this madness and I will attempt to do the same for my son. I think it best that any communication between them cease.”

Therald closed his eyes for he knew how much Amarwen treasured her correspondence. She would fly down the stairs at home, eyes twinkling with delight every time a letter from Halvarin arrived. Then she would disappear for hours to craft and hone a reply. This would be a heavy blow for her after so many years. He nodded reluctantly.

”Of course,” he said and took in the relief he saw on his friend’s face. It put paid to any notion that Calimir felt nothing for his son. Therald thought that the love he bore for his only child was likely hidden deep. Tucked away where none might take it, or even see it.

In this they were two very different men.

”This could just be yet more speculation, Calimir, but I will do what is necessary to bring it to an end.”

“Thank you,”
Calimir sighed and pushed to his feet.

”It’s late. Why not stay for dinner?” Therald offered as he rose from his chair.

Calimir shook his head. “I thank you, but I have still more to see to. Another time, perhaps.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: Yesterday, 8:03 pm 
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Almanac spent the remainder of her time in angst. She had no idea where Rie-Zunic had gone. Perhaps back to another set of reports in the palace? He hadn’t said.

Unfortunately Rie-Zunic had not gone back to his station. He would not see the efforts of Aldamir, nor the good will of the king. He had made his way downtown to a tavern. A tavern he spent a good deal of his younger years around. His first job was a kitchen boy at that tavern.

He walked in, no military garb upon him. He looked so strange in plain clothes that the owner hardly recognized him.

“Zuni? Is that you?” The man chuckled. “Well by you dress and your face I would think you had been fired!”

“Worse,” Rie-Zunic said. “I was promoted.” The man gave him an odd look, but filled a cup of his usual. “Make it a double,” Rie-Zunic requested.

The man looked back with a subtle nods. “A double it is.”


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