All of us are nearly at our collective wit’s end with Iskielo today. I can sympathize with eating too much at the party his parents brought him to. I am less sympathetic about how very he smug he is about said food, all the while groaning and whining about how full he is and how hard it is to work today.
Finally, I see him talking to Taseino, and Taseino going very, very still—like if our most even-tempered tea boy moves even a jot he will punch Iskielo straight in the face.
“Iskielo, why don’t you take a turn in the back moving some inventory for Lorwyn,” I say.
“Ugh, Miyara, I can’t even think about heavy lifting right now,” Iskielo says.
I watch him for a beat, not responding.
Finally Iskielo looks up at me.
“Why don’t you take a turn in the back,” I repeat evenly.
Iskielo blows out a put-upon breath. “Fine, but this is the worst.”
As he stalks off, Taseino’s hands un-clench and he asks, “Do you think he recognized how close he was to danger, there?”
“He’s not clear yet,” I say.
It’s not long before Lorwyn storms up to the front.
“I am going to kill that boy,” Lorwyn says. “If you don’t do something, I will.”
“I did do something, which was to keep him away from our paying customers,” I say. “Iskielo’s parents made him come today knowing what state he’s in, probably because they didn’t want to deal with him either. Frankly, I also don’t want to send him away and set the precedent that this sort of behavior will be rewarded with a break from work. He wouldn’t be scheduled today if we didn’t need him on shift.”
“You could make him shut up,” Lorwyn says pointedly.
“I could,” I admit, “but that seems… drastic.”
Lorwyn narrows her eyes, considering. “All right. I’m going to dose him with kelwort green. Do you want to watch to double-check me?”
“No. You don’t get to take advantage of my supposed approval to overdose him.”
Lorwyn’s grin is shark-like, unbothered by my implication, because what I didn’t tell her was “don’t you dare.”
As Lorwyn saunters back to her lab, Taseino asks, “What’s kelwort, and why haven’t I seen it?”
“Kelwort has a curious effect on digestive systems that Lorwyn hasn’t figured out how to mitigate yet,” I explain. “In moderation, it relieves gastrointestinal distress, though the cost is frequent trips to the bathroom that produce miniature versions of the body’s most recently ingested food as if it were still whole—not a side effect we expect well-meaning customers to be amused by.
“An overdose also relieves gastrointestinal distress but will cause a person to expel shapes that are somewhat further on the scale of disturbing to see in such a context. So a serving of kelwort will have the benefit of mitigating Iskielo’s physical discomfort without actually encouraging him to want to repeat the experience.”
Then: “You expected Lorwyn wouldn’t be able to stand Iskielo and would come up with something appropriate, didn’t you?”
I pass him a tray full of tea and admit to nothing.
Minutes later, Iskielo tears out of the back and heads right for me.
“Do you know what Lorwyn just made me drink?” he demands. “How could you abandon me to her?!”
“You are thinking,” I say mildly, “that Lorwyn is the worst punishment I could devise for you, were I so inclined. Had you remained under my direct supervision for a moment longer, you’d understand differently.”
It takes Iskielo a moment to process that, and when he does he goes white as tea.
Taseino murmurs, “Do not piss off Miyara.”
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