Iosef grunted and bopped his head toward my general direction. His gaze is still fixed on the sprawling mess of forms and invoices he is constantly sorting through. I think I know what that bop means. Iosef is a man of few words and few needs. He probably wants me to go outside and collect today's batch of packages. I suppose it's because his needs are so few that grunting expresses his ideas so effectively. I'll go out now and do as the grunt suggests.
Dawn is breaking. The royal-blue carriage is parked in front of me with the dark-haired woman who is usually at the helm. She's wearing dark caribou furs today. "A moment wasted is a dream delayed." such as lively chirp. It's not doing anything to make me feel motivated. I'll just do as Iosef would and grunt, I've been doing a lot of that lately. The carriage door swung open. I'm probably going to throw my back out if I try to carry one of those myself. Right on cue, somebody's behind me.
"To shoulder one another's burdens is the foundation of humanity." That voice, it's Taisia. She took her place by my side. Time to hoist this sack off the ground. The weight is crippling; best we get it to its place quickly. Just a few more steps; we are through the door. The sack dropped and the clouds of dust are migrating to new resting places in Iosef's office. Dust cakes the floor, the windowsill, Iosef's counter and Iosef himself.
Finally, some of the other workers are heading out to help unload the carriage. I still don't know most of their names; there's no point learning them so it doesn't matter. "Thanks." I hope that bark came out as gruff as I wanted it to.
Taisia is smiling. "You're welcome." She said that slowly. It's insulting but I'll have to put up with it. Acting a little slow has proven quite beneficial so far. My moustache is itching. Stupid thing but it is useful. That's what I have to keep telling myself. It could have been made of something more comfortable than straw. Can't be too picky, the prop looks real and that is what matters most.
Iosef's brow is furrowing. He doesn't allow any sacks or packages to be left in his office. He still didn't raise his head. The man must have a sixth sense. Taisia braced herself. Time to haul our burden up again. Only a few more steps to get to the storeroom behind that paper-riddled counter. The others are heading in too. We must get there before somebody blocks the entrance or my arms will drop off.
Packages are covering almost every bit of the floor. There's the stack scheduled for delivery in two days. Finally, worst part of the day is over. A stale odour permeates this room, sickening. Iosef should consider hiring cleaning staff but I doubt that day is coming any time soon. The middle-aged woman opened the sack and began sorting the packages. She maintains impressive order to the mess on the floor. I should find the stack containing today's packages for the commercial district. The last of the sacks arrived. Today is going to be busy.
"Taisia! Patulzak!" He spoke. I should feel honored Iosef addressed me. "Start your route now!" I find it rather amusing that he only knows Taisia by name. I am still Patulzak and almost everyone else is still "you".
"Yes, ser!" Taisia is in a good, enthusiastic mood. I can't blame him for making her his favourite.
The sorting woman is handing a box to each of us. They look to be large enough to contain today's modest load of deliveries. I'll try to get the lighter packages as usual. Taisia hasn't caught on yet; I doubt she cares. I'm so happy our route is limited only to the city. Those two men are going to have a lot of walking to do today when they visit all the capital's neighbouring towns. Hours of walking in the snow, I'd need much more recompense for that.
The row of delivery carts lined against the front window are the only things in the room that aren't caked in dust, now that I think of it. Place the box on the cart and I'm ready to head out. Taisia is ready to leave too. Iosef bopped his graying head and stubbly chin in our direction and grunted. Permission to leave granted.
Soldiers are chatting among themselves at the city gate. Standing guard in a city where nothing particularly dramatic happens must make for a dull living. We're heading to the commercial district first. That would be the most sensible place to go since it's just a turn to the left. After that, it's off to the residential district and finally the Zamarov Palace.
Stall owners are unpacking their merchandise from carts similar to the ones Taisia and I are using. Business starts very early in Ishtragrad, as expected of a capital city and the heart of the continent's economy. Quite a few people are already browsing the merchandise that's on display in the market or popping into the many shops. I still find the variety of colours and designs of the furs the shoppers wear overwhelming. Protsvetania's elite, the Myostosel.
My first stop is the apothecary. First package of the day is wrapped in a flimsy cloth. It's transparent. The contents are a variety of dried herbs. Of course it's dried herbs, what else should I have been expecting? The weedy, balding proprietor is expecting me. I'll greet him. He returned my gesture and now inspects the package. Two bronze, that's my due.
Ishtragrad has many boutiques, smithies, jewelers and toyshops. All of them require merchandise from various parts of the continent. These Myostosel sure get the best of everything. In every shop, there's at least one portrait of a perfect visage keeping an eye on the customers. I'm sure every face depicted belongs to a Myostosel. They are revered.