Marielle and her attendants finished up their purchase in the furniture shop with their most expensive order, the mattresses. Unlike the rest of their purchases, the mattresses would be delivered directly to their residence and would be made to order. Because of that, it would take a day to construct and deliver. Cressa and Sara started putting their carrying baskets back on, however they were full of their previous purchases making them difficult to lift and maneuver. The clerk of the store came out from behind the counter to help them.
"Thank you for your kind help," said Marielle genuinely. After she witnessed all those trades today she had developed the impression that everyone in this city was ruthlessly selfish and wouldn't do anything without some sort of payment. To the point that she felt surprised at the seemingly selfless act, however small it may be, of the clerk helping her two attendants. At a couple of points in Castor's negotiations, he and whichever shopkeep he dealt with would raise their voice and flashes of anger would show on their faces, it was real enough to make Marielle think things could escalate to violence. But it wouldn't. Instead, as soon as a deal was struck their tempers settled immediately and both would act jovially.
"It's nothing," the kind clerk said. "We value all our customers.". He smiled, but she remembered the annoyed face he bore earlier.
Once the baskets were placed and hoisted, the group left the shop and headed once more through the crowd towards their carriage. Walking and talking as they had before.
“At least the utensils, dishes, candles and mattresses ended up cheaper than I thought,” said Marielle.
“Yes, because they are made right here in the city,” responded Castor. “There are workshops here making everything you can think of. Most likely, the utensils that your parents bought back in Jorland were made in Venocia. In which case, the price they paid would include the transportation costs and the port taxes. Also, your parents probably didn’t have my fine negotiating skills.”
Marielle paused as her eyes met someone else’s, a man with jet black hair, freckles covering his face, and a scar above one of his eyebrows. The man looked away immediately, and she watched him disappear into the crowd. She thought he had an untrustworthy aura about him. She remembered the tales Cressa had told her about Venocia, and she remembered hearing of the thieves and pickpockets that would work the markets. Marielle moved closer to Castor as a precaution in case the man tried to bump into Castor to snatch his bag of coins.
After a bit of time spent worrying they left the heaviest part of the crowd. They continued and made it to their carriage. The valet sat in front and gave them a smile. Castor handed him a couple more conti as a tip and they loaded up the carriage. “Castor, could you make sure you still have the coins on you,” Marielle said once they were safely in the carriage where no one would be able to listen in.
“Don’t worry,” said Castor. “I like to keep my hand under my robe and around my coin bag whenever I walk through these markets.” He smiled wide. “But I am glad you are so cautious, as you should be.”
The carriage moved and they went down the same path they arrived on, through the same gate onto the Castellian estate and back to their new home. Marielle and Castor walked in the entrance while the other two worked to unload their purchases. Once in the reception room, Castor noticed the message left for him. “It looks like Master Augustus has given me a task to complete,” Castor said, folding up the piece of paper on the table. “But first I should show you something, come with me.”
They walked into the master bedroom and Castor moved a bit of furniture to reveal a metal door built into the wall. The door was already slightly open and Castor pulled it fully open to reveal the metal-lined container.
“This is a vault,” Castor explained. “Each main building on the Castellian estate has numerous vaults built around the buildings. They are easy enough to find if you go looking for them, and a determined thief could just break the wall and take the whole thing, but it just adds an extra layer of protection.” He took out the bag from his robe and showed the bag to Marielle so she could examine the contents. “I’ll put the coins in here.” He took the coin bag back and placed it in the vault, closing the door. “This is how you open it.” He flipped a set of dials, each could be turned to any single digit until the numbers lined up to read five-nine-zero-seven. He demonstrated the opening and closing, then scrambled the numbers. “Open and close it, then scramble the numbers.” She did as instructed, burning the numbers into her mind. “Good, this is since you can’t even trust your attendants, don’t even show where this is to any of them. When Augustus returns show him, but no one else.”
“Thank you for the advice.”
“Alright, I have to go handle this.” Castor left as Sara and Cressa were still bringing in the supplies.
Once the two attendants were done with that task, she ordered them to start preparing a late lunch while Marielle would be working in the garden. Marielle put on a white apron and tied up her sleeves and headed out the back.
The tools were kept in a shed that was adjacent to compost heaps that were no longer in use. She took her spade and started de-weeding the area around the stone path. A series of flat stones were arranged to form a path, but around them, plants rose up from the mulch. Then she set about cutting the tall grass that dominated the flowerbeds. Once they were cut, she would dig into the soil to disturb the roots and then place the unwanted plant life in the compost heap. The labour, although physically taxing, was mentally relaxing. She knew exactly what to do and the order to do them in. She hummed a tune as she worked, grabbing plants by the stalk and giving a big heave to pull out all the roots in one motion. She sweated from the summer sun and was covered in dirt when Augustus came out into the garden.
“I’m back from the ports,” said Augustus casually, watching Marielle work the garden.
“Welcome home.” Marielle got up and gave a slight bow after putting her stray hairs back behind her ears. “We had a productive day at the market. If you want you can look over the purchases, the only thing you won’t see are the mattresses that will hopefully be delivered tomorrow.”
“That won’t be necessary. I see you’ve already started tending to the garden,” said Augustus rolling up his own sleeves. “How can I help?”
“First you should go inside and grab an apron. If you get those clothes dirty Sara will have to clean it, and she has enough work to do already.”
“You’re right. She does have too much work right now, maybe you can take a trip to the slave market to get another slave tomorrow. I need to look over how much we spent today, but I think we should be able to afford that.” Augustus left and returned wearing an apron.
He got to work just copying whatever Marielle would do, repeatedly looking to her for approval to make sure he didn’t make a mistake. Clearly, gardening wasn’t part of Augustus’ stellar Venocian education. Once they started trimming the branches on the bushes Marielle had to stop to explain how she envisioned the bushes looking in the finished garden. But still, even after that explanation, she had to stop him several times to not cut too much. It left her thinking the work would go faster if he just didn’t try to help. Although that would have been the case, she still appreciated the effort and even enjoyed seeing Augustus blunder about in confusion.
Cressa came outside and announced the food was ready. They both gathered up the cut branches and deposited them in the compost heap then went inside to see the meal. Then removing their aprons and washing their hands. Everyone was there except Castor, even Gillivan had woken up and was desperately eager to eat a real meal. It was seared pork with boiled vegetables covered in melted goat cheese. The two chefs tasted first, then everyone dug in heartily. Augustus pulled out a bag filled with brown powder and spread that over some of the food portions. He took a bite of spiced food, then shook his head.
“Is that the new spice I heard about?” asked Marielle.
“Yes. I need to find a dish that is enhanced by the kisum.” Augustus looked over at Cressa and Sara, his current two chefs, as untrained as they were. “Take this bag and taste some of the spice, if you can think of anything that would be enhanced by the spice, please prepare it in the coming days.”
They continued eating until Castor strolled in to see them all eating. He quickly grabbed a piece of meat with his hand and took a bite and with his mouth still full he spoke. “Master… Augustus. I met with an attendant… of your uncle Pascal.” He swallowed his bite to continue talking. “I could not obtain an audience with him today. He agreed to meet with you tomorrow for lunch.” With his message now complete, he continued eating while making a place for himself at the table.
“Castor, have you met with your wife and offspring since returning to Venocia?” ask Augustus as he finished the last of the food from his plate and pushed the plate forward to indicate he was done eating.
“Not yet, I’ll go meet with my wife tonight.” Castor smiled. “My children are all grown up, so they have no desperate need to see me with any regularity.”
“You’ve been gone from Venocia for three months, please take tomorrow off to go see your family,” said Marielle, shocked to hear of Castor neglecting his family.
Augustus nodded in agreement. “And while you are with them, talk to them about having them move into this residence. We have space, and it would make your work easier.”
“You both have my deepest thanks,” said Castor in between his chewing. “Once I’m done eating I’ll be off then.”
Marielle continued to eat as she was a much slower eater than the others. Augustus looked at her as she ate and smiled. “When you are done with the meal, get bathed, and change into your most colourful clothing. I want to show you a part of the city,” said Augustus. He then stood up and left the room.
She did as he requested, and once dressed in a gown of colourful embroidered floral patterns. The stitching and art of the flowers were nowhere near the precision of the dresses Augustus gifted her, but it met the description of colourful far better to the point it looked too loud or gaudy. Even though it wasn’t requested, Sara made sure Marielle's hair was done up nicely in a complex braid.
“Perfect,” said Augustus upon seeing the dress. He too was dressed in a robe that had a myriad of bright colours, however, his was of the same quality as the robe he wore to the temple of Aurelia. The pattern of his clothes had no discernible meaning, instead, the emphasis seemed to be just to have as many colours as possible. “The carriage awaits.”
The two of them entered the carriage. Gillivan and Heratio sat on the perch, with Heratio holding the reins. “Where are we going? Or is it supposed to be a surprise?” asked Marielle. She sat beside her husband despite the fact they were alone in the carriage.
“Well, it’s not much of a surprise,” said Augustus with a chuckle. “You must have figured it out alright right?”
“The temple of Ophelia.” Marielle smiled. From her readings, it was one of the places she had anticipated visiting. All references to the temple of Ophelia, the god of colours, had painted it as breathtaking.