Sythyry (sythyry) wrote,
Sythyry
sythyry

Mirrored from Sythyry.

The Opening of the Door: Boys of Ulmarn, part 3

Over the next few weeks, Fennel’s needs for printing grew to arboreal proportions. He helpfully offered to get announcements printed for his cousin’s wedding! He needed stationery! No, not that size of stationery, but larger … no, smaller … no, not rectangular, but in the shapes of postal leaves … or perhaps circular? He experimented with the occasional new style of printed sashes — does poetry look well on him? or a floral pattern? Or even a discourse on ethical philosophy? (One might think that the discourse should not fit him very well, but with tailoring …)

Pirly, being a devoted Rassimel journeyman, was glad to tend to Fennel’s needs.

Fennel did have a peculiar run of bad luck, though. Quite often — on every visit, if one were counting! — he chanced to touch or brush against a printing press, besmirching his chitin (never his clothes), and requiring washing. After the first two or three, he improved his technique to get ink on some part of his body that he could not reach easily, making washroom assistance all but mandatory.

Pirly, being a devoted Rassimel journeyman, was glad to tend to Fennel’s needs.

Fennel did learn the rhythm of the shop. Mid-afternoon was a busy time, and Pirly often had two or three customers to service. Fennel regarded these as rivals, especially Narlamint, secretary to the Secretary of State Secrets, who often wore yellow and crimson antenna-clips and with whom he had once — years ago, before their respective marriages — shared several bottles of potent brandy and an appealing and supple Orren.

Early morning, an hour after opening, was predictably a quiet time. Customers either came in with supreme urgency, but that happened right at opening, or dawdled on their way in and came in early afternoon. Harponz predictably strolled up the street to enjoy kathia and gossip at any of the seven cafes nearby, and left the shop to his assistants. The perfect time for Pirly, being a devoted Rassimel journeyman, to tend to Fennel’s needs.

Except that, on the eighth of Thory, the well of gossip either ran dry, or the gossip itself was of an insipid and repetitive character, or Harponz felt that the shop needed more supervision. Or perhaps a Rassimel master-printer needs no excuse to return to his printery in early morning, an hour after opening. He found the printing-room empty of people, which caused him to frown. And he heard a Herethroy voice, rather rough and intense, moan, “Oh, Pirly! I love you!” from within the washroom.

Harponz was a man of action. More than that! He was a guildmaster, a printer brave and bold, a ringy-tailed stanchion of the community! He strode to the washroom door quicker than teleportation and flung it open.

The scene thus revealed, in some lights, reflected quite well on both Pirly and Fennel. The two were clearly shown to be nicely formed and well endowed. Their bodily arrangement in the small space of the washroom demonstrated their suppleness without any sort of doubt. And their ingenuity as well, for the washroom was not vast, and it was crowded with the traditional implements of washing and several implements of printing that had been thrust there for want of space elsewhere, and it was not obvious to the casual observer that even a single person could find comfort and joy in such a crowded place, much less a pair. And, while a single glance could not directly reveal the quality of Pirly’s technique, a glance at Fennel’s expression would indicate that Fennel, at least, found it wholly acceptable, if not more so.

For some reason, at which we must wonder or even marvel, Harponz did not choose to regard the scene thus revealed in any of those lights. “Pirly! Pirly! What are you doing?” he demanded. This suggests a certain sluggishness of the intellect, an unwillingness to perform even the slight amount of cogitation which would have told him with full certainty and in great detail precisely what Pirly was doing. Furthermore, it suggests a certain unreasonability of demands, for Pirly’s muzzle was occupied, even crowded, and even if he were eager to respond to his master’s question (which would come at the expense of his services to Fennel, making them imperfect in a way that any Rassimel would surely find repugnant), it would take Pirly some seconds to be able to respond.

During those seconds, Harponz overcame his (presumed) sluggishness of intellect, and augmented his (presumed) unreasonability of demands. “Pirly! Stop that at once! We suddenly have much to discuss! We shall commence with general topics, such as the fine distinction between ‘printer’s shop’ and ‘traff brothel’, which your previous master may have neglected but is crucial to our guild! We shall then refine our discussion to specifics, such as which of the two professions you actually are performing, and, based on that, in what circumstances you shall find continued employment!” He turned to Fennel. “And you, honored customer, may wish to disentangle yourself from my journeyman and depart swiftly and anonymously.”

Fennel found that, indeed, the master-printer’s summation of the situation was quite accurate. Also it was quite difficult, for the washroom was very crowded with amenities, washroomities, machineries, and Pirly. In a moment or five, though, Fennel was extricated, and his clothing returned to an approximation of the dignity and decorum required for the husband of a baron.

As Fennel fled the printer’s shop, Pirly whispered to him, “I shall see you shortly!” Pirly had, in a singular instant of foolishness, taken Fennel’s rough and intense moan to heart.

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