--[ Noodle House ]---------------------------------------
The guest is first greeted by a waterfall sculpture that drains into
a small pond flanked by bamboo. Past the sculpture the room opens up
to an assortment of tables. The walls are decorated with paintings and
ink calligraphy in the Penglai fashion. Waiters move from table to
table serving Wok fried noodles, noodle soups, and various Penglai
dishes. Tea is customary for each dining experience. Spirits vary from
rice wine, plum wine, and the more exotic liquors from the Jadean
There is a musician playing tradition Jadean music on a string
instrument in the corner.
Occasionally a waiter will come out of the swinging door and loud
Penglai speak will leak from the busy kitchen.
Jhavid, Marlene, Mercier, and Shao are here.
The Noodle House is oddly empty but for a few single men of Jadean origins. One explanation could be the exceptional summer-like weather that has blessed this day in Amber. Who would eat inside? This one-eyed guy would, the one with the scar going down his face. He is the most noticeable, for he faces the entrance, sipping tea and reading from an old weathered leather bound journal.
Marlene comes in, with that look about her like she's just freshened up a bit after travelling, but peers around the noodle-house as she makes her way in. Shao gets a second look, after their brief introduction amid more-raucous circumstances, recently.
A minute or two after Marlene's entrance, a man in a blue suit and a bowler hat steps inside, pausing a moment and curiously look back out the door, as if he saw someone he recognized, innocently, before taking a few steps forward, taking the noodle house in as he looks for a seat. He passes by Marlene, "Pardon me, you haven't happen to have heard about the weather in Arden, have you?"
There's a bit of a ruckus near the front door as shouting can be heard as it opens, "Because I like Penglai food ye bilge rats, that's why. Go on and eat where ye want, but anyone not back to the ship before dawn'll dance with Jack Ketch." Soon after the noise Jhavid's frame enters the dining room as he takes a table next to the Penglai man, possibly because men with scars are more trustworthy.
Marlene ohs, "Seasonable, I should presume," she says, and gives Shao a little wave, then thinking to try one of those little bows. though the arrival of the raucous fellow seems to put her off a bit, and nods to the gentleman. "Care to join me? Thought it's about time I sampled the fare here."
Shao had noticed Marlene and politely bowed his head at her, to return to his studies. The air is warm and filled with noodle-scented moisture. The arrival of the weatherman-in-blue pries Shao from his readings. He gives the newcommer a bit of a curious stare and he smiles. And now the louder Begman-accented one, who left his crew at the door? When eye contact is made with either, Shao bows his head at them too. "Navy?" Shao asks his new table neighbor, as he closes his book.
A waiter comes to Jhavid's table with menu, and Jhavid holds up three fingers before he can even put the menu down. The waiter nods and starts walking away and Jhavid calls to his back, "And bring me some of that rice wine." Having accomplished putting his order in he turns his attention to Shao. "Hmm? Navy? Not exactly. Captain Flay at your service sir."
"Quite good, relatively inexpensive. I like the place." He glances back himself at the pile of rowdy sailors, taking a step away, and giving a tip of his hat to Shao as he addresses Marlene, just be virtue of proximity. He frowns at the 'sailors' before raising an eyebrow at the name, "I think in navy sailors have benefit to telling a rating from the mate."
Marlene settles in, "Well, then, we'll just see. The rice wine sounds rather appealing, actually. I've just come from having my patience rather tried." Coming from generally-cheerful Marlene, that might mean anything.
Shao stops the waiter before he leaves, to say a few words in discrete Pengali. The waiter nods and resumes his run, only to briefly stop at the few other Jadean patrons and ask something. "Honored to meet you, Captain Flay. I am Satoshi Shao, Wave Dancer's cook." Shao serves the captain another, deeper headbow.
His one-eye darts onto Civilian Blue, the Arden Weatherman. He asks Marlene, "Marlene-san, am I right? This here is Captain Flay, Captain Flay, Miss Marlene. Could you please introduce me to this gentleman?" He fixes his eye again at Blue's forehead, smiling.
Jhavid nods at Shao. "That be Captain Flame's vessel aye?" You don't get to the rank of captain in Minos without knowing who captains what. He turns to look at Marlene as he's introduced and he half sort of gets up before sitting back down again, "Pleased to meet ye lass."
Marlene ahs, smiles. "Lady, actually, if we must be so formal. But this is Mr. Templeton, a sometime associate. Mr... Satoshi? is a friend of Captain Merrisol, who I believe you've met." When a server comes along, she does indeed order rice wine, and, says to Mercier, "And... Well, whatever you recommend."
Mercier hrms at the pirate, before looking to the more moral of the two strangers, removing his hat politely, "A pleasure to make your aquaintence Mister Satoshi. I believe if I haven't met the man, I've certainly heard the name." Mercier notes, nodding to Marlene, "Oh, don't do that, I'm constrained by finances. But the rice wine is certainly worth the trip here." He orders something similar, before looking to Captain Flay, "I've heard your name. Theres young woman looking to join your... adventurous band, about the docks."
"The honor is mine, Mr. Templeton," Shao reassures. He stops his staring to finish his teacup, keeping a straight face at the 'lady at the docks' possible quip. The waiter is back with two jars of warm sake and cups for everyone. "This has been a fine day. My treat," Shao informs as the waiter places cups before Captain Flay, Lady Marlene and Mr. Templeton. And Shao himself, of course. The waiter comes closer to whisper some more information and Shao nods. He finds a long brass pipe inside his coat, which he packs with a single pinch of dark-brown tobacco.
Jhavid grins as Marlene corrects him. Just then she's saved from a retort as his order arrives. Jhavid takes the bottle of rice win and promptly pours a large amount into a teacup, which is a much larger cup than the wine is normally drank from. His order is a collection of seafood on a plate with a bowl of noodles on the side. He pours a generous amount of some nearby brown liquid over the noodles while talking. "If ye don't want to stand on ceremony feel free to call me Jhavid." Since Mercier decided to join the conversation he now pays attention to him, smiling slightly as if he can read the distaste in the man's expression and takes joy in it. "Her name be Lexi, aye? I've already signed 'er on." Since Shao offered to pay for the wine, Jhavid salutes him with the cup he poured and at the sight of the pipe he pulls out a small oilskin bag which he tosses lightly to nearby Shao.
Marlene smiles, does similarly, though with a more-properly-sized glass. "Jhavid." Nods. "Really, I think it's just Merrisol not wanting to saddle me with a quaint old title, but no matter. " The way she speaks, it seems a certain amount of formality's normal for her, even in good cheer. Looks to Shao. "So, it sounds like you've had a more pleasant afternoon than I."
Moxon has arrived.
Moxon shows his mug for his customary takeaway order, which involves an armful of plain rice, and an armful of pig sorted neatly into cartons and bite-sized pieces. Plus an empty carton for the oink, which he also intends to eat.
"Oh... Good." Mercier says to Jhavid keeps his tone neutral, but there's not a whole lot of joy to the statement, "That was her, yes. Do wish her luck for me." Mercier notes, before glancing down to the newly arrived drinks, "I certainly won't turn down such a kind offer, thank's mister." Mercier says, picking up the cup in front of him, and peering inside it for a moment, before turning to Marlene and giving he a curious look, "Are you at liberty to wax about it? You look traveled."
It seems a little party is going on, for Mercier, Jhavid, Marlene and Shao are all drinking sake, even though they sit at neighboring tables. Shao raises his cup in answer to Jhavid and drinks. He can now open the oilskin bag and have a look at its content. "Thank you very much, Captain." Seeing Moxon about, he waves to him. "Lord Moxon, pleased to see you."
Marlene ahs, to Mercier, smiles, having a breath, and says, "Best not to, or I should be tempted to refer to someone as an arrogant barbarian, in an impolitic manner. Let's just be good company for now." She winks. Glances up as Moxon's mentioned. "Moxon! It's been too long. How fare you?"
Jhavid is busy munching happily, interspersed with drinks of sake. He uses chopsticks with a practiced ease and when he speaks often punctuates with them. He also uses them to salute Moxon with. "No one who spends any time at sea would ever turn a wish for luck, so I'll be sure to tell 'er. But if there's one thing I've learned it's that the bold make their own luck, and she's signed on the Leviathan." He says that as if everyone should know about the name of the ship.
Moxon's oink-carton topples, arms full as they are. He hops to catch Marlene's eyes now that the pile is surmountable. "Oh, good. Good. Just sick of coconut milk. The Sukhoti ... it's ... in everything."
While listening the talks around him, Shao assess the herbs in the bag. He smells it, rolls it between his forefinger and thumb, nibbles at it. He smiles. He adds some to his pipe's bowl and searches inside his sleeve, where he finds a brass tube. "Well said, Captain," he says before lighting his pipe from the flame at the end of the tube. Puff, puff.
Moxon mutters to himself, "Holy... a... the..."
Mercier squints at Jhavid as he mention's the ship's name. Ah, that's right. He cocks his head at the man, "Ah, yes, well, I'm sure you'll be a fine teacher of taking one's fortune from life." Mercier says with a wide smile that, inwardly, is completely fake. He motions to a chair, giving Shao a curious look, before Moxon is mentioned. He tilts his head up and gives the man a wave, "Leftenant. Do you need a hand?"
Marlene ahs, to Jhavid, "Your own ship, then, the Leviathan?" Glances over to Moxon, unsure what he's doing with quite that quantity of food, but offers the use of the table, at least for now.
Jhavid nods at Marlene, "Aye, that it is. And she's a beaut'. If ye ever want a looksee, you've got an open invitation." Moxon is just smiled at as he mutters to himself. He turns to face Mercier a bit more fully. "Whether by stealin' from the common man under the cover of law or plunderin' the rich under the protection of his own courage, each man makes his livin' somehow off the work of another. The difference be that I don't be kissin' after the arses of dooded up fops in fancy dress te make me way in the world, and neither will my crew."
Moxon says, "Actually what I said was, if you made Captain in Minos piloting a marihuana boat, I'm suprised you're as angry as you are."
Maybe under duress of the more pungent than tobacco herb, Shao coughs a single cough. He gives Moxon a smile. "Lord Moxon, do you wish a hand?" he offers. He glances then to Mercier, who's had the same idea. "It is a big order for just one pair of arms," he adds, unsure if he has to save face or not in this case.
"Ah." Mercier nods, "I was unaware you so selective with your prizes. Only rob King's then, do you?" Mercier asks, his tone dripping with curiosity. "I might have to change my opinion of the sea trade around here. Maybe pull myself out of the doss house." He takes a step about, "Like I said, do wish the poor hoyden some luck." Giving an incline of his head to Moxon, wordlessly repeating his inquiry.
Marlene just smirks. "That rather would be a rarity, I expect. Only so many kings to go around, after all."
Moxon nods. "At least come help pack it into paper-sacks? T'aint the weight. Just the bulk."
"Oi, that's just recreational that it is. Purely for medicinal purposes." Jhavid replies to Moxon's comment about selling drugs. Mercier is given a more critical eye. "You know Templeton, me father used to say that sarcasm is a poor substitute for intelligence. If yer tryin' to bait me I suggest ye shove off. I am disinclined to be tolerant to the deliberately obtuse this day. Ye know as well as I do that any valuable cargo be owned by someone with money, and I never said kings. I said the rich."
Shao flashes Marlene a terse smile. He adds some more tobacco, his own, to his pipe, keeping the Jhavid Special for later. He lights up and blows smoke. "I believe I will let Private Templeton answer his duties, Leftenant," Shao muses. He rises, his pipe held in his left and the mouthpiece resting at the shoulder. He walks to Jhavid's table and with his right fills Jhavid's cup with sake. "A man should not have to fill his own cup. This is tradition, Captain... and since Marlene-san is a Lady, this bastard Shao will have to do, right?"
Jhavid raises his glass on toast. "To bastards."
Marlene smiles, "Well, we'll all just have to muddle through, shan't we? My thanks, Shao. "
Moxon says, "Aren't we all."
Moxon sacks up his order.
"Wouldn't you say that it would then be intelligent for me, a trader, to understand your threshold then?" Mercier asks, making a point to add an edge of fear to his voice and takign a heisitant step away form the man, moving to help Moxon with the load. He looks to Shao, "Uh... thats the first time I've had to dissaude people from a title /that/ low, but I'm not a military man, Mister Satoshi. Too much of a coward when it comes to sharp things."
While holding onto the sake jar, Shao raises his left foot so he can taptaptap his pipe at his heel, emptying the bowl. He then reaches behind himself using his pipe to get his sake cup on the end of it. In a round motion overhead, he brings his cup in front of himself and then poor himself a cup. Leaving the jar on the table, he rises his cup to Jhavid's. "May they prove their father right and their father's wife wrong!" He drinks. He turns to Mercier. "No offense taken, Mr. Templeton. I am a bastard and that is the meaning of my name, Shao. No can do."
Moxon asides, to Shao: "I time conversations. I figure if they go ten minutes, I have a new sibling somewhere."
Marlene does raise her glass, a bit confused that Shao's pouring for himself after all that, but, well, it's already been her day for cognitive dissonance, somehow.
Jhavid quips, "With Captain Shadow being married now ye can maybe replace siblings with cousins on that point, I think." He nods sagely at Moxon and raises his cupt to Marlene before taking another drink. To Mercier he responds, "My threshold is profit, friend. In my line of work there's always risk involved, and we always say the risk best be worth the reward. So it goes in hand that the bigger the risk the better the reward. I don't know what ye trade in, but I can tell ye this. If her haulin' silks or saffron there's a better chance ye'll be a target than if yer haulin' grain or rice."
Moxon lifts his pig and his rice. "I'm Captain Shadow's bastard son, I know of a half-dozen others out of wedlock, and you -- walking case of the clap that you are -- get to tell me his marital habits?"
Marlene ohs, looking between the two testier fellows.
Jhavid grins at Moxon. "Now who's angry?" He makes a big show of shivering in fright. "If'n I'm setting off yer abuse alarm, ye can always go find that bilge rat in the fez again and cop secondhand drinks to drown yer sorrows. An' seein' as Captain Shadow's me uncle and I've known 'im since I was in me small clothes, I'm thinkin' I might know 'im fairly well. Take it or not. I care not. Same as I care not if ye sulk over it."
Moxon's lip curls. "God, I hope you're Fiona's." He harumphs to the door.
Mercier gives a nod to Jhavid, and just looks at the man for a moment, "Luxury goods subsidize more needed things like potatos or mutton, they pay for professional crews, tarriff's, taxes, payoffs to tradebosses and they're own personal fiefdoms." Mercier shrugs, "I'm just a trader trying to feed myself, just like a mess of ordinary seaman running something as simple as textiles across the waves." Mercier notes to Jhavid's comment. He looks to Moxon, raising an eyebrow, before making his way towards a seat to set himself down.
Shao glances at Mercier. Glances at Marlene. He refills Jhavid's cup and his own. He glances warrily to Moxon departing, making room for the angry Lord and Mercier. "Moxon-san, Mr. Templeton," he says. "Mr. Templeton, keep things cozy," he adds, as a professional advice in the current state of Moxonian affairs. He toasts in silence to Marlene and to Jhavid.
Moxon mutters to himself, "... use... lightning-bolt. Or..."
Marlene sighs, quietly, as glasses are refilled. Drinks another one. Sighs.
Jhavid rolls his eyes. "Do I look like a redhead?" He shakes his head and turns back to Mercier. "See, the problem be that ye be perpetuatin' the system and then be expectin' men like me to be beholden to your masters when we recognize none but our own captains. Minos law states that each captain is his own king. There be no need to /pay/ professional crews if'n ye gave them equal share in the haul. Instead these taxmen and tradebosses try to hoard more than their share for themselves. As I said, robbing the poor under the protection of the law. Ye could be free men makin' yer own way in the world. Instead ye be sniffin' after the arses of them what holds ye back."
Moxon walks towards the way out.
Moxon has left.
Shao notes the sighs coming from poor Lady Marlene. He produces a silver coin, which he flips in the shamisen player's direction in a slow motion lob. The coin hits the wall behind the old mand and falls into his money cup. "Dozo. Sakura Sakura," Shao asks. The musician stops his efforts to burry the insults with his music and after a short silence begins filling the room with something simple, nostalgic and soothing.
"Society doesn't work when its full of sea brigand's, Captain. Ever tried running for Prime Minister?" Mercier asks, crossing his arms over his chest, "Share? An intereasting concept. A cooperative ship that pays for its own repairs from the ship's crew and officers, pays for goods from the ship's crew and officers. Does it work? These men do volunteer for militia duty when at home, of course? No tarriff's mean no professional armies, I imagine."
Marlene nods, appreciatively to Shao and the musicians. Breathes quietly a while.
Jhavid laughs out loud. "Ye think tarriffs are to maintain professional armies? Tarriffs are taxes meant to do one thing, make local goods less expensive than imports. Every nation wants to export more than she imports. Tarriffs are a tool of that. Sure some o' that money may go to civic matters, but it can be easily raised in other ways. And does it work? Aye. Each member of me crew gets one equal share minus costs directly related to the ship, repairs and such. As captain I get two shares, but I work up the lays, keep the rutters, am the one who can read the compass and charter, am the one who fences the goods and I pay any necessary bribes outta me own pocket. Me bosun's mate, first mate and quartermaster split another equal share, but they also share similar duties."
Shao drinks to that. "Hai. I serve under Captain Flame and shares are equal, too. I do not know about bribes and tarriffs, sorry. I am just the cook." He smiles to Mr. Templeton. Where is that waiter again? Hiding in the kitchen. "Forgive me, I will be right back?" He smiles secretly to Marlene on his way to the backroom.
Loud Pengali words are exchanged for more reasonable ones, the waiter's and Shao. Another, older voice chimes in and Shao again. A silence. China trembling under a muffle 'boom'. Shao reappears with the biggest service bowl full of steaming hot noodles. "I believe this is yours, Lady Marlene," Shao says, leaving the tub before her. He goes to sit and nurse his pipe once more.
"Fine comfort to all those widows you make, that the gunner's mate who drowned her swabbie was paid well." Mercier shakes his head, "A technical concern that misses the point. Society requires specialists, paid professionals. Not everyone can work for a share. Some people need to work for pay. So why rob the tradesman instead of the taxman, if you have a problem with him? Make trade cheaper, drive prices down for little people like me?" He winces at the sound, turning his head sharply, but relaxing a bit. Oh. Right. This crazy place and noodles.
Marlene adds to Mercier, "In a word, no, you see..." She seems surprised by where Shao's gone and returned, And then there's... Noodles. A slight questioning look to Shao, but at least a bit of a smile of bemusement.
Jhavid looks at Mercier a little perplexed. "For someone in the trade business, you seem to have a scant idea 'ow this works once it gets to the shippin' part of things. Here how it works, see? The tradesmen 'ave already got their coin. Ye think the crafters and farmers own ships? Nay, lad. They sell their goods to shippers, who then hire captains to haul their goods. The exception being nobles and royals, who generally 'ave their own fleets or can hire the captains direct." He shrugs. "As far as casualties, I don't kill when it ain't necessary. But when it is, then it is what it is. Them swabbies what don't take up arms against me and me lads 'ave got nothin to fear, but against them what does I can't afford not to be ruthless. Trust me when I say that cultivatin' a reputation for brutality and then stickin' to it's parameters is as effective a means of takin' a ship as a hunnerd guns. But don't mistake this lad, none 'o us are gettin' outta here alive."
"I used to work here. They know me," Shao reveals to Marlene on a discreet tone, as not to interrupt Captain Flail. All this he's heard and even been there for most of it. Leaving generous coinage at his table, he rises again. "Mr. Templeton, I will put on a word about you to Captain Flame? We go places. I can make no promises. Milady, Captain, Mister, I wish you good tides." He bows and takes his leave.
Marlene ahs, and smiles, "It's been lovely to see you again, Mister Satoshi, "
Shao walks towards the way out.
Shao has left.
"I don't understand trade?" Mercier provides a wide smile to Jhavid, "You rob carrying ships, who trappers and farmers and dyers pay to carry their goods. That increases risk, which in turn increases price of carrying trade. More risk means more insurance, more escorts, more marines. Which is money out of the pockets of all those tradesmen. The prices of their goods go up. Markets become more exclusive, trade constricts and the lifeblood of civilization /fizzles a bit/. Sure the tradesmen have already made their money on the cargo you pulled off the SS Robberbaron's Largesse, but the long term and continuing consequence of piracy and brigandry is not be ignored. You're not a privateer or some avenging q-ship. If your aim is revolution, you've got an awful roundabout way of doing it." Mercier says, though taking a step back from the dangerous man. He makes sure to temper his tone with a waver of fear, a trader just over the halfway line on between ideals and terror.
Jhavid finishes eating and stands up. "Revolution? Nay, me aim's freedom for me and me lads, and we 'ave it. What about all them marines and war vessels Lord Largesse likes to keep? Can't put them outta work can I? That'd be irresponsible of me." He winks and tosses a few coins on the table as well. "Nice conversation mister. I'm sure we'll pick it up again sometime." He bows to Marlene. "Lady, hope to see ye again when yer 'aving a better day. Offer's still open to see me ship any time ye like." And with that he turns and heads to the door.
Marlene glances up, indicating the bowl of noodles, and taking Shao's example, refills the sake cups. "Of course, accordingly, the Navy's got to have a harsh way with any such brutality in pirates. I'm sure I needn't tell the Captain about that end of things, yes? But thank you for the invitation, perhaps I'll see you about."
You walk towards the way out.