“-and this is where we would store the fish in transit but-”
“Oh my!” Lissa retched, immediately doubling over and retreating until she was firmly around the corridor from the supply cabinet.
“Ah, yes-” Tamara Todd grinned, her face lost in equal parts to a blush and a private amusement. “-I probably should have warned you about that,” she said. “Our cryomancer wrote his spells off on the spot, the second he’d finished reading the termination letter. That’s a mistake I won’t be making twice”.
Forgetting to write in a change-of-service clause to the employee’s contract - much less the non-compete which had landed her in the bowl of hot water, or rather, hot fish guts - hadn’t been the first mistake she'd made setting out on this latest enterprise, but so far it had been the worst. Without the cryomancer’s freezer-spell in effect, the fish stock had turned overnight, and she’d been none the wiser for it. Had the morning not taken its current turn, Tamara imagined she would have instead looked to purchase a much less reputable service - something to take the edge off.
“Why-” Lissa retched again, dry heaving as the smell - whatever of it lingered in her nostrils still - struck her a second time. “w-why- by the gods why haven’t you cleared that room yet?”
Lissa Green. Last week she was almost ready to pack it all in, to move back in with her folks; on a whim, she’d put out a last-minute advertisement for a last-minute cryomancer anyway. Figuring it would take as long to shut the business down officially as it would to interview a new spellcaster, she decided to do both. On the Friarsday afternoon where one had answered, before the weekend that had let the fish in the stockroom ripen, she’d hardly expected lady fate to answer her advert with her childhood bully.
“Oh, I suppose I’ve gotten used to it a little,” Tamara said, smiling as sweetly as she possibly could. There were plenty of fishmongers ready to dump the rot for her, and fill the place back up - as soon as she hired a new cryomancer of course - but the idea of leaving it to bake all-weekend in the sweltering heat… That had been a last minute stroke of brilliance, one she’d contrived of once she’d heard who her Mornsday morning interviewee was. Watching Lissa’s nose wrinkle and her gag reflex swallow the ill-air leaking from the stockroom, Tamara thought it well worth the time.
As they moved into a different room, a great deal fresher, Lissa gave her a long and detailed pitch about her past as a spellcaster; about going back to college to retrain as a young adult and the challenges of shifting from kinetic magics to the study of cryomancy.
“One is making things go faster and the other, slower, but they’re basically the same on a metaphysical level,” she’d remarked, pride swelling on her face. Tamara had nodded, but all she could hear were the small injustices that had made her young life an everyday-hell.
Convincing everyone to shun her, ostracising her from all the schoolyard games. Tripping and pushing her over in front of her crush. Pulling on her braid in the middle of class until she called out in pain and got punished by the teacher for creating a disruption. Slipping bugs into her lunch when she wasn’t looking. Making up hurtful names for her, calling her ‘Tamara Toad’ so loudly in one literature study class that the name stuck - stuck until she left for college herself.
Eventually, as the interview reached a natural conclusion, Tamara knew that she was ready to play her hand. It was time to shut the little wretch down, to tell her that she wouldn’t, and would never, be the new cryomancer for the Codd company - with the city’s economy in the toilet, as it was, it would be a devastating blow.
At least, that was what she’d planned up until a less practiced voice urged restraint. It wasn’t too late for her business, and she could still launch, albeit a little late - all she had to do was swallow her anger a little. Finding another cryomancer might take too much time, but the idea of working alongside Lissa was a painful festering thought.
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