Daughters and Sons

Location: Taerik, Garizal. Merchant district.

Ferizan held his son’s hand tightly as they wove through the crowds of the merchant district. The food vendors were the worst. He knew young Woiren was hungry, eying the breads and stews offered with fervor. Unfortunately, his wife hadn’t given him enough coin to buy anything besides what she’d sent them out for.

“We need more parchment,” she had said before they left, hunched over her work desk. She was good with numbers, he knew. They were well-off because of it, making profits off of shipment she bought and sold from the travelers she contracted. “Take Woiren with you,” his wife had added. “I’m getting a headache.”

Ferizan knew exactly how much parchment she wanted, and how much money she’d given him for it. He could cook a quick meal once they returned home, but perhaps if he haggled well enough, there still might be enough to buy Woiren a snack to hold him over until then. Ferizan knew better than to promise his son anything for the trip home, though, no matter his whimpering. It wasn’t worth the potential tantrum heard halfway down the street.

“Are we almost there, Father?” Woiren asked as he pattered alongside Ferizan, his little legs working twice as hard to keep up.

Ferizan nodded, unable to help himself from smiling at his young boy. Cyuna had wanted a daughter, he knew. Desperately, irrevocably wanted one. She had been angry for quite some time that Ferizan had failed to give her one. Still, he loved Woiren with all his heart. There would be time enough to have bucketloads of girls. Even Cyuna was willing to cede to this, and loved their eldest child like the sun loved the stars.

“Here we are,” Ferizan said as they came to the shop that Cyuna favored.

It was not a particularly quaint shop. Plenty on this street were, but not this one. It was bland and squarish, and called Madame Mazeril’s Parchments & Quills. Ferizan was familiar enough with the shop, as he often accompanied Cyuna to the market district. She didn’t often send him alone, though. She didn’t trust him, or the women shopkeepers who might see a man and think him easy to swindle.

When Ferizan opened the door, a little bell jingled to alert the artisan of his arrival.

Madame Mazeril stepped out, wiping ink off of her fingers with a sturdy blue towel. She was a rather average looking woman, though she had a bit of a beaky nose. She looked him up and down and grunted at what she saw. “Cyuna’s husband, right?”

“Correct, Madame,” he said, letting go of Woiren’s hand just long enough to give Madame Mazeril an appropriate bow. Woiren gave his best imitation of his father. “She requests we put in an order.”

“I hope she’s prepared to pay extra,” the madame said, turning up her nose so it looked even more like a bird’s beak than before. He wondered if she knew and did so intentionally, or perhaps just didn’t care. “At this time of year, parchment is a little hard to come by. People don’t want to kill their livestock before the winter hits, or else they’re wasting every other thing of use with the animal, you see.”

“She’s prepared to pay what she always pays,” Ferizan said evenly, though it was hard to know for sure exactly how much she paid each time, because it wasn’t always the same amount of parchment and it wasn’t always the same amount of money. He simply had to hope his fake bravado would make Madame Mazeril back down.

She did not seem impressed. “I’ll do you a favor, because you’re handsome and because Cyuna is such a loyal regular of mine. I’ll give you the very generous price of one silver valadin per sheet. Normally, it would cost you one silver and three coppers, so I hope you understand the difference in the end will be appreciative.”

Ferizan took a moment to calculate how many sheets he was supposed to buy, and if that amounted to roughly how many gold pieces Cyuna had given him. If Woiren was to get a snack before returning home, it wouldn’t quite make the cut.

“It’s spare change for the likes of you,” he argued in the end. “And I don’t appreciate being taken for a fool. You never made Cyuna pay a full silver for one sheet.”

Madame Mazeril became enraged, looming over him so suddenly that Woiren slipped behind Ferizan in terror. “What do you know of money or business, you silly little man?” Her gaze darted to Woiren. “I’d say stick to what you know, except it seems you can’t even do your one job right.”

Ferizan put a hand protectively on Woiren’s shoulder, angry that she would belittle his beautiful son. “Just put the order in,” he said, fighting to keep his emotions in check.

Madame Mazeril shuffled off to fill in the paperwork, leaving the room with an arrogant harrumph. When she returned, he counted out the appropriate number of coins and passed it out to her. It took some effort not to slam them right onto the counter. Only a few coppers were left at the bottom of the bag, and they wouldn’t be enough to buy anything for Woiren without Cyuna guessing that he’d wasted the money on vendor’s food.

“Come along, Woiren,” he said, leading the two of them out of the madame’s shop.

His son pattered alongside him silently, and perhaps he sensed Ferizan’s disappointment, because Woiren didn’t even look at the food vendors scattered about the street. Ferizan loved his son deeply, like the moon loved the sea. He wouldn’t trade him for the world.

Tonight, though. Tonight, if Cyuna was amenable, perhaps it was time again to try for a daughter. He could make his wife proud.


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