(1310-06-27) A Talk Between Seconds
Summary: Séverine seeks out Olivia for a catchup chat. Debuts and the handling of trouble within the salon is discussed.
RL Date: Jun 27+28, 2018
Related: It Was a Long Time Coming, An Expected Rebuke and Roses with Thorns
severine olivia 

Alyssum Second's Office


It's early afternoon, and as such, is the quietest part of the day for the salons of the city's night court. Olivia has made good use of the lull in activity, and when visitors later trickle through the grandeur of Rose Sauvage's doors, they will be greeted by replenished floral displays. Within the salon occupied by the red and thorny roses, dark blossoms set amidst copper and bronze foliage spill from black vases, whilst within the tranquility of the upstairs salon which hosts the white roses, the air is perfumed by the pale and delicate blooms of peonies, lily of the valley and gardenia. And armfuls of those same white flowers have been carried into the Second's office where Olivia might be found by anyone seeking her out. Paperwork that will later need to be completed before the evening commences, lies forgotten on her desk whilst she snips and cuts and arranges the flowers into another display. This one for her own quarters.

There is a knock to the door, before it opens and Séverine appears, her demeanor lighting up when she spots the Alyssum Second. "Ah, there you are… I was wondering…", she begins, a smile warming her features. Hair is done in a knot, leaving her neck exposed, and she wears a long sleeved gown of dark green silk - light fabric that fits the season. As she turns to close the door behind her, there is that glimpse of a marque on her back, on display through the cut of the dress but then covered by a thin gauzy shawl she wears above the dress. "It is good to see you," she remarks then, turning to face Olivia. "It has been a while since we spoke last. How are things going upstairs? You'll have Miette's debut sometime soon?" The question is posed lightly, grey eyes looking at ease as she takes a seat across from Olivia at the table, hands coming to rest in her lap.

Olivia's smile for Severine is instant, a fondness for the other woman evidenced by the warmth that shows in her expression. "Miette's debut. Yes…" Here in the privacy of her office, the veils that she wears to conceal her features are swept to one side, and the sheer silks are held back from her face by an intricate silver headpiece that's settled in her hair. "With so many other dubuts being showcased in the coming months, I'm of a mind to suggest to Jacques that perhaps we might need to hold off in its scheduling. It will be Ophelia's very shortly, and then I understand that Margot is planning on holding one for Avril's daughter at Coeur de Lavande, with another the following month at Coquelicot." The last of the stems that she's trimming is sliced, and she adds the finishing touch of a spray of baby's breath into her arrangement. "I'm sure Miette won't mind waiting if Jacques is of the same mind as I. What do you think? It is quite funny that we can go months and months with nothing, and then a flush of debuts all at once. Though it is good for the salons." A beat. "Would you like some tea? I've some jasmine just brewed."

"Yes… there are a lot of debuts to happen," Séverine agrees with a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "But no Red Rose is among those debutantes of the next month. It is good for the Night Court, as debuts are what gains us new focus and an increase in visitors. As for Miette… I am not sure Jacques would mean to postpone hers in favor of debuts happening at other salons. White Roses are best enjoyed as fresh as possible. Or so I have always thought. At the peak of their innocence." A faint grin there, as her lashes move in a slow blink, and she shoots Olivia a glance. "That is not to say, more experienced White Roses would be less of a delight. I have always wondered how you manage. To keep that youthful, timid bearing, that shy manner - as if you'd never had an assignation… It is the allure of Alyssum. Jasmine tea would be fine, thank you." She shifts a little in her seat, crossing one leg over the other, skirts shifting in place as they adapt to this change in posture. "I've spoken with Margot about Roseline. It shall be a grand event, I have no doubt about that."

A faint blush lifts the colour in Olivia's cheeks. "Ah, but it is all just part of our art, Séverine. You know that." A quirk of her lips on the heels of that blush, and a soft bite is given her lower lip that lingers for just a second before her eyes fall from away from Séverines. A display of that art. "I do suppose that you're right though, and Miette has, after all, now turned sixteen. She's as eager for her debut as the next person, and interest in it has already been expressed by more than one. It will be a nice contrast to what will no doubt be the dazzling spectacle of Ophelia's. Have you heard anything as to what's planned for her's? Besides, that is, the nature of the bidding and the request she's made of her bidders." She pushes quietly to her feet, the lightweight silks she wears flowing easily about her. They cling to her figure sublimely, hinting subtely at the figure beneath, and where sheer panels of organza are inset to the skirts - a hint of her legs. No more. Two cups of fragrant tea are poured out from a pot, and she returns to her desk. One is set before Séverine and the other for herself. "I heard that the salon was visited by a Skald last night."

<FS3> <FS3> Severine rolls Politics: Great Success. (5 7 2 8 2 8 4 8 7)

"She must be eager," Séverine opines softly, widening her eyes just so in faint mimicking of youthful excitement. "You would remember, Olivia, the thrill of your own debut. As I remember mine." A slight shake of her head then. "We shouldn't torment her by delaying the date far beyond what she would wish. I'm certain you will speak with her, to see what her own thoughts are on this." She lifts the cup and inhales the scent of the jasmine tea, eyelids fluttering. "As far as I know, it will be a masque. And she will no doubt delight in taunting the flock of her admirers…" A faint wink there. "Ophelia is a sharp diamond. Similar to what Desarae used to be. Just in Ophelia's case… she will cut, instead of seeking to be broken." There is a pause then, as grey eyes lift their gaze from the cup of tea. A slightly annoyed lift of her brows there, before Séverine replies, "Ah yes, a Skaldic woman was in the salon… She seemed eager to please Baptiste, while challenging Ophelia… to a duel of sorts. She wasnt the only visitor though. There was a lord… a man who breathed defiance and loss. He was treated quite harshly by our Thorns… They continued to taunt him until he finally left the salon. But he did leave with some dignity." Her forehead wrinkles a touch as she considers. "Thinking of it… and as I didn't catch his name, it now occurs to me that he might have been that Morhban husband of the late Vicomtesse de Lunel, of House Eresse. There was a tragedy there, of her dying and her daughter as well, some time ago. Some illness."

<FS3> Olivia rolls Politics: Good Success. (1 2 5 7 4 6 5 1 7 7)

"I'll allow myself to be guided by Jacques then, and of course by Miette's own preferences too," Olivia notes. "Although she won't be the first novice that I'll have had a hand in helping with the planning of their debut, she will be my first as a Second." Uncertainty shows briefly in her face, and there's a faint breath that's exhaled as she lifts her cup to blow across the surface of her tea. "I am quite certain that this will be a testing ground for me of sorts, and I can ill-afford to unfound Jacques' faith in me." A dropping of her eyes to her tea as she takes a first sip, and a pause as Séverine speaks. "But how lovely. A masque. Perhaps I might hide myself behind a mask of my own. As you well know, I stay away from the spectacle of the other roses' debuts as I feel it destroys in some parts the mystery of my own. But — when one can be entirely anonymous…" She leaves that thought there, a faint smile pulling at the edges of her lips, even as the daring of such an adventure causes another blush to darken her cheeks. Her smile fades with Séverine's next words. "Philippe Morhban d'Eresse? A tragedy indeed. I imagine he won't have taken to being taunted terribly well." Her voice turns thoughtful. "Perhaps a gentler hand was needed than that which was offered by the Thorny Roses. Much as I would hate for la Rose Sauvage to lose a patron, I do hope he found what he needed elsewhere."

"You will do fine. I am certain of that," Séverine assures Olivia with a smile. "You may be new to the responsibilities of a Second, but that doesn't mean you are new to how debuts as that one are run. Virginie made mention of you towards me, now and then. She has always seen a great potential in you. You have a certain calm and certain sense about you." Her lips curl faintly at the corners. "It is not only Jacques who has faith in you, but I have as well. And Edouard… he picked you for a reason for our salon. Of course. He saw the potential of a debut there. But even with your marque completed and through whatever you have done since then to assist with training the novices… It shows that you have mastered your canon well. Ahh… that blush…" The Red Rose sighs softly, as she perceives that blush creeping up Olivia's cheeks. "About that masque… I shall yet have to see whether I can attend the debut. Perhaps there are other obligations. But if I'll be there, then of course wearing a mask as the others…" She chuckles and her gaze goes distant for a moment. "As for Lord Philippe… It seems he was acting inappropriately. Baptiste called him out on that, so I trust to ask him leave the salon was a reasonable thing to do. It was evident that he was not in the right mood for the entertainment."

"Thank you, Séverine. I hope that beneath my hand the White Roses will continue to flourish as well as they did beneath Virginie." A frown. "The salon will miss her presence here, but I am so very happy that she finally decided to accept the baron's offer of marriage. It's lovely when one of our canon meets someone with whom a long term affection is found. It can be difficult for most of our patrons to learn the character of the person beyond how we present ourselves." There's a twinkle of mischief that shows in her eyes with that confession that a deal of subterfuge is catered for within the soul of an Alyssum. "But still," she continues on, her voice a quiet and modulated thing within the confines of her office, "I do feel so very much for Lord Philippe. When I was little I would listen with wide-eyed wonder to the tales of his exploits in routing the Menekhet fleet from our waters. I will confess, he was quite the heroic figure and larger than life to me then. Word is that he is not the man he once was, though I haven't laid eyes on him myself to know the truth of it. Nor am I likely to either, should his pride keep him from visiting again."

"Broken men like Lord Philippe would need mending more than anything else," Séverine muses. "Perhaps he tried his luck at Le Coquelicot. Or.. he should seek out the Temple of Eisheth. Or Kushiel." A faint ghost of a smile tugging there at her lips. "If you are that much concerned about him, perhaps you could send him a note. Or even consider to call on him, at the residence, the Eresse family maintain here in Marsilikos." It is half advice, half jest, given with a thoughtful glance. "How curious, that taking measures against a patron who misbehaves in our salon will be sanctioned so differently…" There is amusement glittering in her grey eyes. "But then again…" A light shrug there of her shoulders. "The other reprimand brought Jacques and me back in line. It had been a while, and I bet he was happy to take this incident as an excuse to… take measures." Sharing that much, even if a bit vaguely, the Red Rose takes a sip from her cup of tea.

Séverine's suggestion, serious or not, has a curious effect upon Olivia, and the colour that rises in her cheeks is more naturally borne. "Oh. I don't know. Perhaps…" There's a fluster to her tone as she speaks, and her voice peters out as her cup is lifted and cradled within the circumference of her fingers. "… But then again…" She seems caught between the possibility of the idea and the absolute horror of it. "Maybe it is best to remember him as the hero of the stories I was told of him." Or maybe it's not. She blinks in the steam that rises from her tea, and listens attentively as Séverine goes on to talk further about the previous day's events. "One of the adepts did tell me a little of what happened that night, so far as she understood it, and that you attempted to deflect the duel which followed. I'm sorry if it brought retribution on your head, though you don't seem too displeased if it did."

There is a fascination to watch features that are usually veiled and thus trained to give a much stronger reflection of emotions felt. And Séverine delights in the display of flustered indecision that for a moment holds the Second of White Roses in its grasp. "It could be a quite disillusioning experience," she comments quietly. "I saw him last night, and whatever little I observed showed me the broken man he is." Another sip of jasmine tea is savoured, before Séverine sets the cup down again. Taking her time to digest Olivia's inquiry. "It is so often much of a game… But I admit, when I spoke up against Jean l'Envers I was furious at his lack of tact. It was clear what he was after. He was eager for a confrontation. I should have… been a more considerate in my reaction. Nothing of what I did prevented the duel from happening." Holding Olivia's gaze till she lowers it only to add, "It was an intense experience, for Jacques and I. But I take it, he has some sort of arrangement with the l'Envers. So he was indeed a bit mad at me, for acting as I did."

Olivia puzzles for a second over what Séverine's said. "An arrangement? Goodness. I don't think Jacques makes arrangements lightly, so it must have been something important enough that his displeasure fell on you and not on Jean l'Envers. Your salon sees all the drama, whilst we upstairs can rarely claim such." A sudden smile. "Not that we are altogether drama free," she adds, her voice colouring with a natural warmth. "I came across Marielle in the foyer the other evening, her head and face unveiled whilst being pressed in a clinch with a patron. I should have spoken to her about it there and then, but chose to usher them up the stairs instead." A shake of her head. "But you have your own problems to bear, not least the loss of your own novice whom was about to debut. That must have stung. Jacques did not appear best pleased, but mentioned to me that the Salon is to receive another of the family in her stead. Not that there can be any reassurances that she will be a Red Rose at so young an age. Or even a Rose at all once her character makes itself known."

Séverine's shoulders lift in a light shrug. "I cannot say what sort of arrangement it is. I also don't know whether Jacques demanded an apology from Jean l'Envers. That they left the salon for the duel, would at least keep his annoyment at them to a minimum. No. It was I who… spoke out of turn." Her lips curl faintly. "Oh, I know of the subtleties, I should have known better than to openly challenge him. It is one thing to be submissive in bearing, and another, to nudge gently and make them act the way you wish them to with tiny nuances of your own bearing. Don't underestimate the Red Roses, Olivia. You may be masters at subterfuge, but we are versed in the ways of indirect manipulation…"

A nod then. "Yes, it seems lately White Roses have been seen more often than not downstairs. For the Masque, Marielle would be expected to, as she and I had planned the event together. It was during a time when Virginie was already often absent… Marielle and I also arranged the Showing, which in its unusual complexity of involving one of each of our canons, posed quite the challenge. Hmm…" Her gaze veils, as the Red Rose seems to be in thoughts. "There is something about Alyssums spying on us from upstairs… But perhaps we should speak with Jacques. Unlike other salons, our allure relies on a separation of canon rather than providing a mixture…"

"The Mereliot in question was brought to us yesterday," Séverine confides then. "A young maiden of ten. She passed the candy test, and it seems she is of Valerian disposition, just like Desarae was."

The news of the Mereliot fosterling draws a smile and a nod of her head from Olivia, but it's the matter of Séverine's mistep on which she chooses to comment. "It can happen that we forget ourselves at times," Olivia notes quietly. "We are not entirey emotionless creatures that can always hold ourselves to the high ideals placed on our shoulders." Her shoulders rise and fall with a breath that is taken, and momentarily her eyes fall from Séverine's. "There are times, I confess, when I wonder where I, Olvia d'Albert ends and Olvia nó Alyssum starts. It can be difficult to be so very skilled in the artifice of my canon that you start to lose sight of yourself." Her smile falters, and setting her cup back on the table, she leans back into the comfort of her chair, fingers curling over the ends of its arms. "As to the White Roses venturing down the stairs and into the Salon, I've noticed this too." Her voice grows grave. "Innocence is the foundation of what we have to offer, and to be so surrounded by the very opposite of that can only be to our detriment. I will speak with our adepts and courtesans, and reiterate to them that this isn't acceptable behaviour. But I didn't congratulate on how well the Showing went, and I'm remiss for that. I heard it was well attended, and that quite a few assignations were agreed upon after. I had my doubts when I heard that it was to include all three flavours of our roses, but it was cleverly done."

"In regards to that I am less in doubt, as to who I am.", Séverine opines, her demeanor lightening up a little. "Of course, there is my service to Naamah, and to pay homage to Her according to my canon. It is not so much pretense really, rather the following of a ritual, which it must feel like for you as well. There is a difference, of course. And I have learned, that to experience pleasure now and then outside of assignations following different rules that don't necessarily have to be Valerian… It makes me appreciate those intense moments of truest service to the Bright Lady even more. You and I know what it is about. To picture oneself for a moment to be in Her place when King Persis delighted in her." She drains the cup in a deliberately slow sip, indulging in the moment of silence that follows her statement. "As it is with all us servants of Naamah… it is that She has become a facet of our personality and the way we experience pleasure. We are chosen for that quality, that trait that is required for the canon we are trained in."

With the tea cup emptied, Séverine places it back onto the table, and reclines in her seat until her shoulders lean against the backrest of her chair. "Ah… the Showing. I am glad it went well. It will certainly remain a topic for the months to come, for those that have attended it. As for your White Roses… We will have to see. But Ophelia's debut is to happen soon, and I find myself actually wondering whether we should consider closing the upper floor to visitors during the event. Which also infers… keeping curious innocence from venturing down the stairs…"

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