This following story has its origins from an old Reddit post (which you can find here), and after hearing about it the first time, I thought it fit perfectly for a situation that could play out in the 1879 game world. I did do my research and found that the first espresso machine from the real world came out in 1884, which is well within our limits for pushing tech advancements ahead for the game world. Given how prevalent coffee drinks were among the working classes during the Victorian era, it makes complete sense that it would have found a ready group of consumers for any innovations to help them get up and go in the morning. Given that we are also playing through the Awakening, and that it has happened several years earlier than was predicted, certain long-lived beings are also going to need a bit of a boost to cope with their alarms going off early.
This is all just a fun ‘what-if’, not intended to be part of any printed material (though if you like it and it works for your game world, feel free to think of it as canon):
Though early mornings in port cities always seemed to carry a certain extra chill, with the vapor rolling in off whatever body of water they were on, Antonio Marino found this cool air much more refreshing in his new home than what he had grown accustomed to in London. The city got its nickname as The Big Smoke for a reason, with the heavy industrialization causing all sorts of smog and grit to accumulate in the air. While his new home in Genoa certainly had its industry picking up heavily in recent years, nothing could compare to how heavily the fumes seemed to hang around his former home.
He still wasn’t quite sure how many generations had passed since part of his family had fled during the French occupation of the city and made their way to England to start a new life. The advocate’s office had only told him that the last of his cousins from the portion of the family that stayed behind had passed without an heir, and that the estate would now be left to him as the closest blood relative. Antonio had known no life other than that of being a British citizen, and so when he returned to Genoa to claim the estate, which included a dock-side tavern, he decided to play to his strengths and make it one of British design and offerings, providing a taste of home for those traveling in a foreign land. Of course, being dock-side meant also being able to do a brisk business by opening for a few hours in the early morning and offering a portable breakfast and something warm to drink that would give a dock worker kick to wake themselves up.
Little did he know, it wouldn’t just be dock workers that he’d be serving today.
“Buongiorno, good morning!” He called cheerily as a woman entered and stepped to the counter. Just seeing a woman in this area at this time in the day was unusual, but this one especially so. She appeared to be a bit younger than middle age and fairly well off by her dress, which was of an old and frilled design that would be a better fit set aside for one’s Sunday best than for walking around on the docks in the morning.
“What is the largest cup you have?” She asked, her voice polite, but of such a direct and commanding nature that Antonio didn’t even take notice to the lack of return greeting.
“Ah, well, the largest of everything are the steins, though of course the bar will not be open for several hou-”
“Alcohol is not my interest.” She cut him off. “How much will it be to fill one of those with espresso?”
“B-beg your pardon, ma’am?”
“How much to fill a stein with espresso?” She repeated sternly, and gave a look in her eyes that said she was not to be questioned or denied.
“Oh… ah… well,” Antonio’s expression was one of confusion and concern as his mind tried to sort through not only the logistics of answering the question, but also come to terms with exactly what had been asked of him. “The espresso only comes in small shots, you see. It will take me a moment to figure that out…”
The woman simply nodded and gestured slightly with her hand, indicating for him to proceed.
Antonio scrambled to find an empty order ticket pad and a pen to write with, and began scribbling numbers frantically. Half way through, he stopped and went to actually obtain both a stein and one of the small cups that espresso was served in. He stared at them for a moment, caught again by the gravity of what was being asked, and only started again when he looked up and the woman and met her cold gaze, that pierced him to his soul as if to say he had dare not stop.
As he finished the calculations, he leaned back for a moment, picked up the paper to study it more closely in disbelief, and then dropped it back to the counter as if horrified at what he had done. “Thir… thirty-three.” He finally managed to stammer out. “It will take thirty-three shots to fill the stein.” He finished as he slowly raised his head to the woman.
She simply stared back at him calmly, her gaze having relaxed since he had done what she asked. “And the cost?”
Thinking he had a glimmer of hope to avoid having to follow through on this mad scheme, Antonio quickly rattled off the high price. “I must also warn you,” He continued, “That the taste would become extremely bitter as we wait for the machine to produce enough shots.”
“Taste is not among my concerns.” The woman replied, as she reached into a pocket and laid down a small pile of gold coins. Antonio slowly picked one up to inspect it. It certainly wasn’t a Lira, and in fact he wasn’t certain what currency it was; the markings looked ancient and in some script that was well beyond him to decipher. He balanced the coin on the end of his finger, picked up a second and struck it, listening closely, and heard the pure, long bell-like tone that told him it was in fact pure gold. By weight alone, the value of what she had so casually placed on the counter was at least double what he had quoted her.
Out of excuses to deny this insane order, Antonio could only sigh in defeat. “Coming right up, ma’am.” He replied quiet and meekly, as he took up both the stein he had grabbed earlier and the ticket with his calculations. He walked slowly, as a man sentenced to the executioner, knowing that he is resigned to his fate but not in any hurry to get there, and silently handed both the stein and the paper to the young woman preparing the orders. She looked at him confused, as normally and order would simply be called out loud, but this was something not to be spoken of by mortals.
The young woman’s eyes widened as she read through the numbers. She looked up at him, as if she had just been handed a letter laced with profanity aimed at her mother, then looked back at the ticket once more to be certain she herself had not gone mad. “Che cavolo!” She exclaimed loudly, her hands flying to gesture wildly. “What is wrong with you? No!”
Before she could continue her tirade further, she was cut off by a sudden shift in the air. The room had suddenly gotten colder, as if all the heat from the area had been drawn away somewhere else. Both Antonio and his employee slowly turned their heads back to the woman, who by outward appearances still seemed to be waiting patiently at the counter. Her eyes, though, told a different story. Behind those eyes loomed a raging inferno, one that threatened to break loose and rip asunder every building in sight, and the expression on her face told them that the only thing holding it back was her sheer willpower. Though neither of them saw her lips move, both of them heard the woman’s voice, reverberating inside their heads as if they were inside the bells of Saint Peter’s Basilica themselves, saying only one word, “Yes.”
The color drained from both their faces, and without another word the young woman took the stein and set dutifully about her task, injecting one shot after another until it was full. With hands trembling, kept in check only by fear of what would happen if this woman, this other worldly being, saw a drop of the monstrous concoction that she had requested be spilled, slowly handed it over.
The woman gracefully took hold of her prize, pausing only to step over to the table where the flavoring supplies were, and proceeded to add enough sweetener to rot a child’s teeth to the core. A quick stir, and she then lifted the stein to her lips and began to drink. Both Antonio and his young employee stared in horrified awe as she did so. The seconds seemed to roll on like days, as the woman kept draining her brew without pause, just slowly raising the vessel and tilting her head back until the entire thing was drained. Once finished, she turned and placed the stein back on the counter. Not a drop had been spilled, and amazingly not even any residue left on her lips; she had quaffed the entire thing without so much as a dribble.
The last thing Antonio saw of her was her smile. It was a such a simple thing, only a slight grin that did not show any teeth. Most remarkable about it though was her eyes, which just moments ago had held the threat of all the fires of hell, now warm and inviting, as if to tell him he had abated that damnation and congratulated him for doing so. Without another word, the woman turned and walked out of the tavern, and down the street in a direction that Antonio intentionally forgot about immediately after, having no desire to know anything else about where such a person would be heading.