|So Many Questions|
|Summary:||Lucienne is buying tea, and needs Avinashi's help.|
|Marketplace, Terrick's Roost|
|Residents of the town and surrounding area bring their wares to sell here among small tables built upon the slate grey stone flooring of the outdoor expanse. The area is surrounded by thatched roof buildings and shops on all sides with roads and paths winding their way in and out of this thriving part of town. Most of the commercial capacity of Terrick's Roost can be found here with the storefronts attracting the attention of those among all classes|
|Sun Sep 18, 288|
The morning stretches on in the Roost, and the marketplace is busy. Often when Lucienne is to be found here, she is to be found at the tables of many of the tea merchants, for she is a great fan of the beverage in many an incarnation. Today is no different, the lady and her entourage hovering by one of her more favored merchants' stalls, inspecting the little packets and bowls of different herbs for steeping.
Amid the crowd is a figure rather more brightly colored than most. The poison taster Avinashi moves through the marketplace with a small basket hanging from one arm, swathed in dark violent silks embroidered with delicate gold designs. The clip at her brow matches the colors of her scarf and down, little, purple beads dangling against her skin. There are a few stares, of course, some gawkers, but they are paid little mind as Avinashi approaches the tea stalls and, indeed, the Lady Lucienne and her retinue. "My gracious Lady," the Dornish girl offers as Lucienne comes into view, "how pleasant to see you here on this fine day."
Lucienne nods at the explanation provided by the merchant regarding the little bowl she's picked up, but that bright swish of colour in her periphery catches her attention before she inhales the scent. Her smile dawns, a pleasant and genuine thing, and she greets, "Mistress Avinashi, and you. What good fortune! Have you a moment to spare for me?"
"Of course, my lady, all of my moments may be yours this morning," Avinashi replies with a small smile, dipping into a gracefully curtsy before straightening again. "Please, how may I assist you?"
"Thankyou," says Lucienne gently, dipping her head to ackowledge the curtsy. She spends a moment enjoying the aroma from the little wooden bowl, no bigger than her palm, before extending it out toward the Dornish girl for her opinion. "These are dragon pearls, jasmine tea. Can you tell me, do you think they're just a touch too toasty, or…? My poor nose, I'm afraid, has been overworked this morning with the sampling of many a scent."
Gently, Avinashi accepts the tiny bowl, studying the little green beads that rest within. She examines their color, shaking the bowl gently so that they might roll and reveal their undersides as well. Then she closes her eyes and inhales slowly before straightening again. "They were dried over damp wood," she says, "which thickens the smoke an hastens drying time. They will carry a distinct and smokey flavor that will hide, a little, the more delicate accents of the leaves themselves. Some prefer them tasting so, but were it me, I might request to examine some dried before the last heavy rains."
Lucienne watches closely, carefully as Avinashi inspects the little 'pearls', hanging upon every small gesture the other woman makes. The lady smiles again as her suspicions are confirmed, her brows rising in awe at the precision of the description provided. "Ah, thankyou! I had thought there might be something pungent about them, but I am no expert. It is the tender, almost sweetness of the tea that I seek in my cup." And so she turns back to the merchant, leaving Avinashi to set the bowl back upon his table, and asks, "Do you have any of those that she says, dried before the last rains?" The man scrubs at his short beard as he thinks.
"Of course, my lady," Avinashi murmurs, setting the little bowl down. "If he has none, I have seen teas here blended with bits of dried fruits and nuts that offer a sweetness, though it is a different flavor than such young leaves as these may deliver."
The merchant concludes that he does not, in fact, have the specific tea that Lucienne requests, but he is able to obtain some if given a few days. The lady nods, bidding him acquire it, and turns back to the exotic woman at her side. "Do you drink much tea yourself, Miss Avinashi? There is a lovely raspberry leaf tea here with some of the dried berries mixed in, that I did send to a friend of mine for her ailment. She does add sweeteners to her tea, but I prefer not to."
"I enjoy tea very much, my lady, and the one you describe sounds very lovely," the food taster says. "It is, if I recall, also helpful in the relieving of certain delicate feminine discomforts, and so is a fine thing for any Lady to have easily at hand." She smiles faintly. "Like you, I too enjoy the taste of the tea without sugar's bold intrusion."
"Yes," agrees Lucienne, "That is what I had hoped it would achieve for my dear lady friend. And if not, there is at least comfort to be found in the ceremony of tea." She extends a hand for another of the little bowls, into which has been measured just a few precious silver needles for white tea. "This is another the merchant does recommend, though it's hideously expensive. Is there anything you can tell me about it?"
Avinashi holds her hand out to accept the little bowl of silvery leaves. She blows on them, just lightly, and studies the way they move with her breath. Then she breathes in the scent again, nodding with a small smile. "It is worth its price. The first young leaves picked after a dry spell. The dryness of the ground causes the flavor of the leaves to strengthen. It will have a complex and layered taste, if one's palate is familiar with the delicate variations of white tea."
Lucienne listens intently, again watching every action as Avinashi determines what she can about the little tea leaves. "I am," she declares quite reverently, "In awe of your abilities, my dear Miss. And I should like to try some of this white tea." Of course, the merchant jumps on that as a chance for a sale, rummaging around in his baskets behind the table for a pre-weighed packet of the stuff, which he opens and extends to the food taster for assurance of quality. "How in all the Kingdoms have you managed to acquire such a wealth of knowledge?"
"A great deal of practice tasting and studying many, many things," Avinashi replies. She accepts the pouch of tea, peering inside and breathing in its scent before nodding her approval and offering it to Lucienne. "A good food taster will give her life for her lord, but a great one will live long enough to tell him how somebody tried to take it and," her lips quirk, "if she is quite fortunate, long enough to survive and offer the service again. The study of such things did expand to the study of taste in general, herbs, teas and wines in particular, as their flavors are so varied."
Lucienne takes the little pouch, pausing for a quick sniff herself before closing it back up. "Had you always thought to be a food taster, then? I, for one, am ever so grateful that my dearest lord brother has such a wise woman in his service." One of her handmaidens steps forward with a purse to complete the transaction with the merchant, wearing a rather horrified expression at the amount of coin she's required to part with but saying nothing.
"My lady," Avinashi murmurs, her smile for such a compliment soft and pleased. "I did not always plan to become such, but I have spent much of my life learning of herbs and plants, even before I thought to use the knowledge thusly."
"I see," replies Lucienne, bobbing her head gently in a nod. "Though rather a dangerous profession, it's certainly a good fit for once with such interests and skills as yours. Forgive me for being so bold, but I must ask - is Dorne a freer place for a woman to pursue studies such as yours?"
"The answer is both yes and no, my lady, as much depends on a woman's station and the order of her birth," Avinashi says. "For myself, I was born to the river people, and my learning of plants was less a choice than a calling. I was chosen to apprentice our healer when I was still but a child."
"Similar as in the Riverlands, then," says Lucienne gesturing with a hand before she steps from the tea stall and back out into the throng of people traversing the markets. "Might I ask - was it the healer who did choose you, or did your family choose for you?"
"The healer, my lady," Avinashi says as she falls into step beside Lucienne. "Among my people our healer and our spiritual guide are one in the same and most often a woman. There are certain signs a healer seeks in choosing her apprentice. It is not something a family can decide nor even the girl herself. They say it is the gods, through the signs they offer, who choose."
There is much curiosity in the look Lucienne turns, sidelong, to Avinashi. "What a great honour for you, were you pleased to have been bestowed such? Chosen by the gods, no less. But if I understand it correctly, yours is a different faith to that of our Seven?"
"It was a great honor," Avinashi says, "but yes, my lady. My people worship the gods or the river, we do not serve the Seven, though much of the rest of Dorne does. We follow the old ways of the Rhoyne, from before the crossing of the Narrow Sea."
"And is it much different from our faith?" Lucienne pauses in her step to let a particularly hurried shopper by. "Obviously the customs, your practice must be different, but are the core values very similar?"
"I feel, at heart, most religions say much the same thing. Honor those who came before, do no evil to your family or your neighbors. But our gods are somewhat different from your seven and they are more a part of nature," Avinashi answers. "And my people do not stay in one place for long, so we have no halls of worship like your septs. Rather, the tokens of our beliefs are things that can be easily carried."
Lucienne nods thoughtfully for that insight. "My very limited experience does seem to agree with that - underneath various layers of ritual for worship and such, seems to lie a fairly common set of beliefs for most religions. Your faith sounds intriguing, and very personal, and I thank you for sharing it with me, Miss Avinashi. You are good to let me press on with all my questions!"
"It is no bother to answer them, my lady," the food taster assures with a warm chuckle. "Indeed, your septon has trained me well to answer most any and all questions, as he ever has a hunger to learn yet more."
That makes Lucienne smile, her next nod more enthusiastic. "Ah, yes, Septon Josse? He has a way with questions, doesn't he - conversation with him is ever thought-provoking. Perhaps a very fitting quality for a septon to have."
"Indeed, perhaps so. A thirst for learning is a fine trait, indeed, for a spiritual guide. To be content with only what you know causes stagnation," Avinashi agrees with a small nod. "He seems a fine Septon."
"Very wise words." Lucienne's steps slow, coming to a halt as they near the edge of the markets. "I am to be back to the castle for a dress fitting with the Lady Anais' seamstress, but I feel I should repay you for assistance today, Miss Avinashi. If you have the time, perhaps you would take some of the tea you so generously helped me pick, on the morrow?"
Avinashi's smile blossoms, soft and fond, and she dips her head into a low nod. "I would be honored, my lady. Thank you most kindly for this invitation."
"Wonderful," says the lady, her own smile a delighted little thing and her hands brought together in front of her. "I usually take tea in the afternoon, in the resting rooms, or perhaps the reading room?"
"Whichever place you find most comforting, my lady," Avinashi replies. "Either would suit me very well."
"The reading room, then - the light in the window of an afternoon there sets rather a contemplative mood that I like." Lucienne nods decisively. "I shall see you tomorrow afternoon then, Miss Avinashi, I look forward to the pleasure of your company again."