Mirrored from Sythyry.
Niia visited Arfaen again a week later. “You’d offered me things to get me started in a restaurant. Time to work out the details!”
“Wonderful! I’m so glad to hear that!” said Arfaen, and, if I know her as well as a zpouse ought to know zir wife, she meant it. “Where’s it going to be?”
“That doesn’t matter much! I’m going to deliver food to the Quick Quarter, just like you do,” said Niia proudly.
Arfaen curled her tail. “Well, that’s not the easiest market to serve, Niia.”
Niia frowned. “Don’t be discouraging. You said you don’t mind the competition!”
“I don’t mind the competition, really, and I don’t want to discourage you exactly, but it’s a lot harder to work in the Quick Quarter than outside it,” said Arfaen.
“You do it just fine,” said Niia.
“Yes, but it takes some exotic things, and has its own problems that you’re probably not used to. I wasn’t when I started. Like, there’s the people who do delivery for you. It’s not a good idea to spend a lot of time in the Quick Quarter unless you want to or unless you’re immortal, because you age too fast compared to the outside. So what will you do for waiters?”
“I’ll hire taptet, just like you do,” said Niia. “I have done my homework.”
“Fair enough! While you’re getting started, you can use my taptet to make your deliveries. How about this — as long as you’re taking less than, oh, ten percent of the taptet’s orders, I’ll make it a gift to you. Between ten and twenty percent, you pay that fraction of their salary. When you start getting above twenty percent regularly, you’ll go hire your own staff.”
Niia frowned. “I suppose we can do that.”
Arfaen was taken aback by Niia’s disapproval; she thought it was a quite generous offer. “Twenty-five percent? I can do that, if you think you’ll need that much extra time.”
“I won’t need extra time! My business will grow very very fast!” said Niia, with less confidence than she felt.
“Well, I suppose it could do,” said Arfaen. “There’s the food-abayer, which puts meals in time-stasis until the customer unwraps them. That’s not a small thing to get, even if your zpouse happens to be a Zi Ri time-mage.”
“Well, you’ve got one, right? Or two…?”
Arfaen wagged her tail. “I’ve only got one. As far as I know, there’s not another one like it in all Ketheria. Have you seen it?”
“I haven’t — I’d love to!” said Niia. So they went to the Finishing Kitchen at the restaurant, or the Hall of Lots and Lots of Doors because it has fifteen of them. In structure, the Finishing Kitchen is a very long and very thin banquet hall, with a single eighty-foot table running down its middle. And what a table! It is made of porcelain, glazed a very light green, with the Patterns of Partial Perpetuity in silver inlay dancing up and down its length, adorned with ivory fruits and amber birds (without which, the discord between Lenhirrik and Kvarse would cause a dish with both meat and vegetable components to separate over the span of centuries). A crew of cooks scrambled around it, assembling trout tarts, sausage salads, mushroom towers, cups of scallop bisque, cheese and pickle tesselations, and other delicacies delightful to the tongue, the eye, the nose, the tongue again, and occasionally the ear.
“Open your magic sense to it,” said Arfaen.
Niia did. The table glows like a long slice of sun, to the magic sense. “Looks pretty strong, I guess.”
“There aren’t three other wizards in Ketheria who could have made it!” said Arfaen proudly. Which is only true if “making it” counts making the physical table all at once as well as doing the enchantment on it, and probably not even then — I don’t particularly brag about my smithcraft, and there’s no reason why any other wizard would either.
Niia looked it up and down. “Well. I guess I can’t ask to borrow it.”
“I’m afraid it’s not going anywhere,” said Arfaen. “It won’t fit out of the door even.”
“So I’ll use, maybe, that end,” said Niia, pointing at the less crowded end.
Arfaen lowered her tail and managed not to frown. “I’m afraid we’re just here at a light time right now. We often use the whole of the table and wish it were twice as big.”
“I thought you didn’t mind competition,” said Niia.
“I don’t, but I don’t much want to scramble my schedule like a bowl of eggs, either,” said Arfaen.
“How about at night? Do you use it at night?” asked Niia. Arfaen shook her head. Niia continued, “Well then, we’ll use it at night.”
Arfaen said, “Well, you’d have to cart food over from your kitchen, wherever that will be. It’s not impossible, but it’ll be awkward.”
Niia thought a third of a second. “We’ll use yours at night. You don’t need to frown like that, Arfaen! We’ll clean up everything before your people start working!”
Arfaen shook her head. “I can’t see that working very well for long. If you’re going to be using our kitchen, our magic items, and our waiters, I think you might as well just work for me. How about this idea — you be one of my chefs-de-partie, you can design and prototype a line of traditional Craitheian meals for me, and manage their cooking and assembly. No risk on your part. If it works well, we’ll expand the line. If it works badly, well, I always need more chefs and I’m sure we can find something you like to do.”
Niia snapped, “I really want to run my own restaurant! I’ve done it before, I can do it again — and, having done it, I don’t want another boss. Arfaen, I don’t know what to say. You keep saying you’re not afraid of competition, but you put all these blocks in my way when I try to compete with you.”
“They’re mostly set by the physics and magics of the situation, really,” said Arfaen. “Plus me already setting things up already.”
Niia frowned, flicking her tailtip. “Well, I’ll just have to do it another way. I’ll set up a real restaurant, with chefs and waiters and all the usual things.”
Arfaen wagged her tail. “I’m sorry to have offended you,” she said, which was true although she wasn’t quite sure how she had offended Niia. “Like I said before, I’ll be glad to out and get you started. I do think that’s a better idea. There’s plenty of need for a good new restaurant on the Promenade, say.”
“Not on the Promenade. In the Quick Quarter,” said Niia triumphantly.
Arfaen’s tail drooped. “I … I hope you can get that to work well. It sounds very hard to do, to me, and I have thought about it a great deal.”
“You, my sweet and conservative friend, don’t have the personal force or the entrepreneurial spirit to do it. Don’t worry — there’ll be plenty of business left for you!” said Niia, smiling dangerously.