Solange - The Faded Lantern Tavern & Inn
A person is only ever as important as others believe them to be.
Solange seemed a paragon of patience as she lounged at the bar, her scientific note taking shifting into a rough, idle tracing of Percival the barkeep. The faintly sketched image was marked with the occasional heavy, dark line, brought upon by the brief moments when her actual frustration at being kept waiting seeped through to the surface. She was quick to cool her head with a sip of wine and a nibble of cheese. The cheese, like the wine, was an expected disappointment, but she felt obliged to attempt to eat it anyway.The food had been a collective gift from the girls, paid for by the coin of the sailors.
Solange hadn’t intended for her visit to the Faded Lantern to turn into a chance to expand her market, but it seemed that word had spread amongst the girls of the tavern. A few more of them had drifted over to her individually after the first one, all with different approaches to similar problems. The exchanges were more brief than the first, and by the time the fourth or fifth girl had sauntered over to drape an arm across her shoulder Solange already had a fold sheet of paper ready, the prescription sliding up from between her long fingers to quickly be plucked away by the other girl as she whispered into Solange’s ear.
Her wrist felt like it was cramping from all of the writing by the time Vargas finally entered the bar proper. She straightened her back and turned in her chair to smile at him, a look that wavered as he turned towards the door. Silently seething, she snatched her goblet and sauntered through the crowd to see what future dead man was keeping her payday away. She lingered behind Vargas, far enough to not be seen as eavesdropping but close enough to attempt to get a bead on the conversation. However, a swell of music and a rowdy cheer from the card table made the task a difficult one. By the time Solange made a move to close in, the other man was already gone.
“Miss Belgard! It has been too long,” said Vargas, stepping in to embrace her.
“My Lord Vargas! I was beginning to worry it would be longer still, darling,” said Solange, welcoming the hug and giving Vargas a quick peck on either cheek. She pulled away rather abruptly, keeping up the act that she was afraid Fontaine would do something if she saw them being friendly. In reality, she didn’t enjoy the company of Lord Vargas very much. Sure, he was a bit handsomer than a majority of the men she dealt with and certainly wealthier than a number of them, but there was just something about him that just annoyed her. She leaned back and looked towards the door. “What was all of that ruckus about?”
“Nothing to worry your pretty head about, my dear. I took care of it, as I always do. Let us talk in private,” he said.
Solange allowed Vargas to take her arm in his and lead her through the tavern. He started to hold a conversation with himself, interrupted by her occasional probe to continue his mindless prattling, as she began to iron out exactly what it was about Vargas that she did not like. Part of it was his condescending nature that he thought to be chivalrous in the way he’d protected her pretty little head from the dark details of something interesting. Part of it was how he had the pretense to call himself Lord, a title he’d bestowed upon himself instead of others giving it to him. A lot of it was how easy he had been to snare, proving to Solange that he didn’t deserve to be a pawn in the game, let alone a major player. Vargas was in love with her lie, and she loathed him for it. Solange motioned to Percival to bring them drinks, the thought of listening to Vargas fawn over her while sober beginning to prove to be a daunting task, as she was pulled upstairs to his personal table.
“...and, I must say, it was truly a marvelous letter, but why didn’t you just come and find me?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” asked Solange, pausing at the top of the balcony to look down at the crowd below. It always felt right. One of the working girls waved at her. She smirked, and turned to Vargas. “That reminds me. You know the woman who delivered the letter?”
“She confided to me in secret, and while it pains me to betray her trust I couldn’t possibly allow for such a thing to go on behind your back and ruin the reputation of your fine business. You see, she’s got—oh, I’m too embarrassed to say,” said Solange with a choke, dramatically turning her face so that her hair hid her smile as she swallowed a laugh. “She’s got a gift that no man would want, and if they learn that present came from here then it’d be a disaster. I worry not only for your business, but her life as well. I’ve heard stories of men who kill women over less. If one of your girls was taken out for something like that it’d just be absolute ruin. I don’t want you to fire her, but it’s the best thing for her safety and the safety of your business”
“Oh you precious thing, I can see on your face how difficult it was for you to tell this to me. I will take care of it, as I always do,” said Vargas, biting into the bullshit sandwich Solange had fed him. The only thing difficult was to not guffaw at her own ingenuity—serves that woman right for bothering Solange when she was trying to have a nice evening.
“Could you make up some other excuse? I would die if she found out her trust was misplaced. She’s a bit advanced in age, perhaps you found a younger girl that would draw more of a crowd...”
“If I had that I would’ve fired her years ago,” said Vargas.
“I have a few I know. Can you from any lost profits.”
“Then consider it done.” As they continued towards the table Vargas said, “As always, I appreciate everything you do for me.”
“The appreciation can wait until after everything I do to you, love,” she said with a wink and a sing-song voice as she spun free of Vargas’ arm, grabbed the sliding partition to the private table and open it with her back to it, and then gestured towards the table where her business proposition would be agreed upon .“But first —” Solange’s voice fell flat as she looked into the room to notice a man and a woman in their spot “—ugh! Why are you here?”
It was precisely at this moment that Percival arrived with the drinks Solange had ordered, allowing for the situation to be explained briefly before Vargas grabbed him by the arm and escorted him out to the hall. She heard Vargas yell at Percival from the hall, asking him if he knew what the word “private” in “private table” meant. The corner of her lip twitched up. She liked Percival, but not as much as she liked hearing someone get belittled. From the lambasting that was happening outside, it seemed like it would be a moment before Vargas joined them.
Solange saw an opportunity and took it. She walked to the head of the table and took the seat that was normally reserved for Lord Vargas. She sat straight, shoulders back, her fingers bridged as she looked down the table at the two. She tilted her head up towards the sailor and gestured for him to take a seat, and then she turned her head to the woman. Solange lifted her nose ever so slightly and smiled at the woman as she acted as if she were a person of any sort of importance instead of just a frustrated prostitute looking for a new gig.
“I apologize for the uncomfortable moment there; Lord Vargas and I had this room reserved for our own private meeting. Seeing as how busy we always are it’s rare for the two of us to have a moment alone to consult one another on operations. My name is Solange Belgard, Lord Vargas’s business partner. Anything you want to say to him can be said to me,” lied Solange, her eyes twinkling with the slightest bit of amusement while sitting with an otherwise affirmed stance that portrayed the fabrication. “Don’t worry, dear, as a favor from one woman to another I will convince Lord Vargas to not give either of you the same treatment he is giving to poor Percival right now.”
“So!” Solange clapped her hands and rubbed them as she leaned back with a hungry grin. “What were the two of you discussing before we so rudely interrupted?”