Mirrored from Sythyry.
(This happened some weeks before the first episode, but, for your convenience and safety, we gave you the first episode first and the second episode second. Any other order would be preposterous. In particular, chronological order would be preposterous. — Sythyry)
Harponz, the master-printer, bobbed his head like a tree in a storm, and wagged his ringed tail just as if he were a Cani. “Calling cards, for yourself and the baron and baroness of Simmersham. Of course, of course. Did you know, I’ve hired a new journeyman from Culchrame to do the cards, just the other day. I’m still doing a lot of the printing myself, of course, but mostly books and engravings. If you want any novel ornamental flourishes on your cards I’ll be doing them.”
“Just the traditional leaves should be fine,” said Fennel. Cressel had simply snapped that he had used up all of the trio’s calling cards, and thus he was required to be the one to go out and get some new ones. Since Fennel was sure that Nasturtium had used the last card — Fennel had carefully left one (1) card so that he would not be the one to use the last one — he saw no particular reason to be exceptionally helpful or gracious about the chore.
“Then I’ll get my boy here and get you started. Pirly? Pirly! Where are you hiding, Pirly?”, called the master-printer.
Pirly appeared from behind the largest of the printing presses. He was a ruddy-furred Rassimel man, compact and muscular, surely two years if not three past his majority despite his master’s calling him ‘boy’. His leather apron and glass goggles were spattered with ink, and his face not much better. He had been in print shops long enough to know the futility of trying to wipe them, so he took them off altogether to greet Fennel. The clean rings around his eyes made him almost a reverse Rassimel.
“Glad to meet you, baron Fennel,” said Pirly with a quick curtsey.
“And you as well.”
“Please to wait a third of an hour while I clean up? I’m ever so glad to show you all our paper samples and type faces, but if I touch them or anything now I’ll get them smeary and ruined,” said Pirly.
“Not at all, not at all. My wife and mari say I’m a lazy lie-about anyhow, so surely I’ll be happy to wait.”
Pirly nodded. “There’s a chair by the washroom door. You can tell me what you want through the door, so I’ll know what you’re wishing for and can get right to it when I’m out.”
Fennel smiled. “A conversation with a chipper young Rassimel in a washroom? Of course I have never done that sort of thing before.” This was just a bit of a risk. Once in a while, he flirted with the wrong person and got scowled at, or, in one very unlucky incident, had a glass of port flung in his face.
Pirly paused a second, then turned and looked Fennel up and down with considerable care, noting a pair of yellow and crimson antenna-clips that could have simply been fashion accessories, but, in that year, held a certain significance to Those Who Knew. “Of course not,” he said. “But I do need to get cleaned up after I get messy.” He added a quick hand gesture that completely decent people wouldn’t have noted for anything.
“Oh, anyone would need to clean up after they get messy,” said Fennel, and made the appropriate counter-gesture with a lower hand. He wasn’t quite sure that Pirly had seen it, so he did it again, with both.
Pirly thought to himself, he’s rich, he’s eager, he’s pretty, and I could use a bit of good business; the master’s a bit annoyed with me. And a bit of good fun too. I don’t know enough people in Ulmarn yet.” Out loud, he said, “Well, if you happen to have touched the press, or brushed against it, or otherhow gotten besmirched, be encouraged to borrow our washroom. I’ll show you which one is the soap that works best on ink.”
Fennel looked around the lower room of the printery, which was empty but for the two of them and several presses. He quite deliberately poked the side of the nearest. “Oh, dear. I do seem to have accidentally come up inked.”
Pirly knew his lines. “Well, my deep apologies about that, m’lord. Let me hold your hand away from your garments, then; it wouldn’t do to smear up your beautiful lilac tunic. Come with me to the washroom, and I’ll have you all cleaned up in a third of no time.”
They meshed their fingers together, and entered, and locked the washroom door behind them, and kept as quiet as possible. Pirly’s “a third of no time” was a third of an hour, or more. And he got quite a substantial order for calling cards afterwards.