(1310-08-06) The Devil in Her Eyes
Summary: An encounter in the glades has Isabelle de Valais recruiting Augustin de Trevalion, Chevalier du Cygne Blanc, for a design project, as she requires a master swordsman's expertise and opinion to further the development of a leather quick-draw sheath. It ends in a battle in which both of them win.
RL Date: August 6, 2018
Related: None
isabelle augustin 

Le Cascade

Taking a smaller path that splits from the main one, following it through the trees and down a small slope, and a person would find themselves in a large glade at the foot of a waterfall. Entering the glade is like stepping into another world; for no views of the city, or the sea that can be heard in the distance, are possible from here due to the trees that surround it. It's here that the river which has wound its way through the Eisandine fields, tumbles over a fifty foot cliff and into a pool at its base before continuing on its way. Over the centuries the rocks surrounding the pool have worn smooth, and the natural hollows and formations of which they comprise allow for sitting or bathing in the sparkling clear waters, or for stretching alongside the pool in the warmth of the Eisandine summers. Trees around the edge of the glade offer respite for those that prefer to seek shade when the sun is high, and one large flat rock that overhangs the pool is a popular spot from which to dive.

At some point in history, someone carved a small grotto into one of the rocks behind where the water cascades, and lovers will often place a devotion to Naamah here, asking her for blessings.


Summer's last breath is upon Marsilikos and as if anticipating its demise and pave the way for the Autumn, the weather has grown almost unbearably hot. The city's congestion makes it all the more intolerable, and perhaps this is the reason why Isabelle de Valais has taken her usual entourage out of the commercial heart in which her present endeavors have found their home and opts for a day out in the country instead. Perhaps, today, she is actually going to allow herself some moment's respite from the endless cascade of financial transactions, negotiations and meetings that have occupied most of her time since her arrival back to Terre D'Ange.

Judging by the sketchpad in her hand, however, it appears that isn't the case.

The glade is peaceful and evergreen, tall trees providing her small group a cool canopy in which to rest, though it appears that the imperious, dark-haired woman has given her companions free reign to do whatever they wish while they are out in this excursion. The young page, Gustav, his blond hair gleaming in the light, is off at the nearby clearing with a borrowed bow and arrow, with the watchful eye of Guillermo strictly assessing his form and the way he pulls the string. Collette and her apprentice - the day-to-day managers of Courtly Couture - are bathing in the water close to the wake of the waterfall as it cascades from the cliffs above, their light chatter and laughter nearly drowned out by the sound.

Isabelle herself is situated on a blanket, set up at a distance that leaves her a part of and apart from the gathering at the same time. Odd, that the lady has no guards, but she has always carried herself as if she had no need of them - the idea that she can't afford them is preposterous, as popular word indicates that she is independently wealthy, and is in fact one of the main reasons why House Valais is so successful financially, and even if she wasn't, her uncle, the Comte de Digne would have spared some for her. Unlike the other times in which the locals of Marsilikos have found her running about, she has eschewed her adventurer's threads in favor of a light summer's dress, though it retains the modesty that she prefers - it has a high neck, clasped around her throat by a brooch, and leaves her shoulders and the sleek line of her back bare, and dyed a deep red - a striking contrast of color amidst all the green. Other than the dress, she wears no finery but a pair of earrings and an intricate gold band around her left forearm.

She lowers her sketchpad after drawing a few lines, and picks up a sheathed sword. Grasping the pommel securely with her fingers, she bares the blade within until beams of sunlight catch the dangerous edge, though her dark, gold-flecked eyes aren't fixed on the weapon itself, but rather its sheath, made out of black leather that is both structured and supple. Lips purse in a contemplative fashion.

—-

In the final dog days of summer it seems like the staff of Courtly Couture and Isabelle's household are not the only ones seeking some joy from the waters of La Cascade. Once more on a horse, although this time without wolves, Augustin de Trevalion rides in and slides off of his horse smoothly. He quirks a eyebrow when he sees the individuals here, and offers a polite bow to the red clad woman. "Hello, my lady," he greets politely. "I should have a present for you in the next few days; I did take my knights back to the woods and hunted down those wolves. I've had the pelts treated so they could be made in to something," he offers. He doesn't seem perturbed by the sword.

—-

Augustin's arrival is registered, first, by sound - the dull clop of hooves against soft dirt has Isabelle's head lifting to regard the approach of the knight. "My lord chevalier Augustin, I was just thinking of you," she states, the line of her mouth hooking into an easy smile and one laden with a hint of mischief. Though before she could explain the remark, he is already telling her about a present.

Surprise flickers over that imperious mien, softening considerably when she treats him with a smile, lips parting to bare pearly teeth and liable to put distant stars to shame. She rises, her toes bare on the blanket, slippers situated close to the edge at the effort not to track dirt on the surface when she approaches. "A fitting gift for an entrepreneur and huntress such as myself. How is it, my lord, that you know me so well already with just one meeting?" It is a tease, but one genuinely meant, and warmth suffuses her expression when she eases it into a gentler: "Thank you. It is very much appreciated. Our encounter here today is rather fortuitous, actually, but in a different way other than the first and last we've seen each other. I was wondering if you would be willing to test something for me."

—-

Augustin quirks an eyebrow, although he notes the hint of mischief on her face. "Normally I would think it quite a good thing a beautiful woman is thinking of me in an idyllic setting, but I feel myself wondering why," he offers wryly, as he makes his way toward the blanket and offers a polite bow. "I wish I could claim that it was purely because of my almost magical sense of you as a woman, but it just seemed most appropriate to share some of the spoils." He keeps his eyebrow raised at the last bit. "Oh, what is it that you would like me to test? And may I join you on the blanket?"

—-

"Nothing so dangerous as the jaws of a wolf," Isabelle replies with a laugh, deftly parrying his skepticism with good cheer. "Or a handsome man who calls me beautiful - call me that enough times and I might have to part with one of my rare kisses. But please, do join me." She has only risen to give him the greeting he is due, easing sideways to make room for him before taking a seat herself, tucking her legs sideways. She pats the open space next to her, the other is taken up by a low table of Eastern make, which he would probably identify readily as reminiscent of minimalist pieces from the Empire of the Sun. Various bottles chilling in cold water, glasses and a few plates of fruit, bread, cheese and cured meats are upon it. "A drink?"

She picks up the sheathed sword again. "As you know, I design - not just for women, but for men, and not just clothing…in the strictest sense, anyway." She draws an elegant finger along the covered line of the blade. "In my travels East, their warriors prefer wooden sheaths because there are blade forms there that use both blade and cover to fight. And as you know, given your much more considerable experience in the art, there is a specific way to draw an Eastern sword from these wooden confines that results in a very blindingly fast move - to draw and attack at the same time."

Her head inclines towards him, searching his masculine profile. "Our way prefers leather sheaths like this - supple and structured, but the problems of the initial draw are inherent. The natural way to pull one's sword is upwards, where the edge of the weapon finds the top of the scabbard once drawn - not only is there friction, but the edge dulls faster because of it. Swords are regularly sharpened, of course, but my aim in this design is to enhance the speed of the initial draw and to minimize the effects of the resulting friction. There is a new way to treat leather that I've discovered in my travels that may be the answer to these two points."

—-

Augustin moves to join her on the blanket; he doesn't step out of his boots, somewhat harder to remove than slippers, but lays himself so that he isn't tracking over her blanket either. He reaches out to take a small piece of fruit and pop it in to his mouth, nodding at the drink so as not to be impolite while chewing. When she begins to discuss the sheaths, he nods. "Some here still prefer wood covered in leather as well, for those same reasons. Less fashionable, more old-fashioned, but with benefits that a more flexible and thinner sheath don't replicate. Both my longsword and my shamshir," he says, reaching down to pat the sword at his side, "Use leather covered wood for that reason." He nods at her goal. "It is admirable, but it sounds like a difficult task. Are you looking for someone to test it, then?"

—-

She turns by the waist to pour the man a cup of chilled fruit wine, offering it to him with both hands after settling the covered blade down against her feet. "I surmised that the interest to maintain the integrity of a blade is often balanced out with the portability of its protection. The heavier the wood, the better the sword is maintained, but could be cumbersome especially while traveling, and in campaigns where long marches are necessary." Once relieved of the drink that she offers him, Isabelle picks up her sketchpad again, leaning towards him so he could glimpse the schematics that she has started on parchment. Her stylus moves with a deft hand, marking here and there.

"Not just someone to test it, but a master," she confesses. "I want to be able to observe the highest threshold of the speed encouraged by the product, and how long it takes before the blade must be sharpened again compared to other scabbards, be it wood or leather-covered wood like your favored armaments." Her smile lifts in the corners again. "Your opinion would be of incredible assistance as well. I have some practical experience with swordsmanship but I am no specialist, or duelist, or chevalier." She taps the page. "So the aim would be to create such a thing that doesn't just encourage speed while maintaining the sword's edge, but a lighter construct as well. I was wondering if you would be amenable to assisting me in its development."

—-

Augustin takes the wine and brings it up to take a sip of it. "To be fair most soldiers won't take a sheath that is too heavy for them to carry. That tends to be more of an issue when they are young men or otherwise inexperienced," he points out. "After a little while you figure out what you're comfortable with, as long as you don't have to rely on issued experience." He leans over to examine the schematics, his body brushing warmly against hers despite the light and practical clothing he wears. "You would need to either construct one for one of my blades or provide me one with a sword it goes to?"

—-

There's a curious blink, regarding the man next to her and falling quiet when he makes the very astute point about soldiers and the scabbards they carry. Isabelle listens attentively, dark eyes and their golden motes resting not just on him but on some point beyond the physical, some aspect in himself - the intangible ghosts of the myriad of experiences that has shaped him to become what he is. Her smile fades for the time being, the look of her expressive in its seriousness, hints of appreciation there. In Marsilikos, she is constantly surrounded by beautiful men and women, but it is rare for her to be in the company of one who is so intimately knowledgeable about his art that he can speak in an educated fashion about matters tangential to his core expertise - and on a detail that is so seemingly small and innocuous as this. After that moment of silence - long enough and contemplative enough to the point that anyone observing her wouldn't be faulted for thinking her as just another of his female admirers - her smile returns. The warmth of his body gets a playful nudge from her own, shoulder to shoulder.

"My brazen attempts to consult you are paying dividends already," she quips, her face tilting towards his own as she addresses him. "I wouldn't dare deprive you of your preferred blade, but something of yours, to be sure - it would have to be customized. Unless you believe that we would achieve the best results if we used one that is made specifically for your preferred sword. We will just have to make sure that I take very exact measurements and schedule a fitting once it's made to make minor adjustments as necessary. I'll leave it to you - what do you think?"

—-

Augustin doesn't seem to mind the few moments of silence that fall upon them, companionable as they are. He continues to look at the plans, considering them carefully with a look of concentration. He laughs a little bit as he is nudged, and playfully reaches out to tickle her ribs. "I can have one of my longswords sent to you to use," Augustin offers. "One of the by-products of being a swordsman is that people always want to give you swords or knives for gifts. And honestly at a certain point of skill a sword is just a sword; they're not quite fungible, my shamshir moves very differently than a longsword, but a true swordsman is flexible," he answers. "One thing to consider is how repairable it would be in the field; when I'm away from squires or servants or quartermasters I tend to have to mend my own things. Which is why I know how to very basically sew."

—-

The reach of rough fingers find the tender point of her ribs, and Isabelle manages to smother a sudden sound of surprise; not quick enough to let it fall into silence completely, but the pitch is high enough to make the sound particularly girlish - a far cry from her usual demeanor, and wide, incredulous eyes fall on the knight, as if she can't believe he dared. A hint of rose pushes up from under her lightly sun-kissed exterior, blooming over her cheekbones like flowers, though it is less because of the touch, and more because of the sound she made because of it. But there's a sudden peal of laughter soon afterwards, an index finger lifting to give him a light poke against his cheek.

"See? Dangerous!" she cries, mirth lighting up her eyes and leaving them burning like embers. "Between the two of us, I should be the one who's skeptical!"

She reaches for her stylus again, adjusting her position - the pad is held in such a way that the edge rests on the upper side of his leg closest to her, and she moves her arm between them so she could make the necessary notes. "I didn't even consider that, and I didn't know you could sew," she murmurs, making her quick notation on the margin. "It's one of the reasons why I opted for leather, it should be easily repairable - even if you can't stitch it on the field and you're deprived of a leatherworking needle, we can plan for it to have enough structure so you can bind rope around the sheath to hold it together until you can find a proper artisan to repair it. The important part would be the inside of the sheath, after all, the design of the outside would be a more malleable endeavor."

She pauses, teeth clipping faintly on her lush bottom lip. "Since the aim would be to reduce friction, we might have to add an additional mechanism at the top," she decides, noting it on the schematic and looking over at him. "To prevent the sword from accidentally sliding out in times of quick and reckless movement. I think that's the last thing any swordsman needs."

—-

Augustin gives a genuine laugh as well at the sound that escapes from her when he tickles her ribs. He grins at the incredulousness of her eyes, and it only deepens when she reacts by reaching out to poke him rather than with anger. "That was such a delightful sound, my lady, that if you didn't have the pad to work on I would probably have to see if I couldn't draw more of it out," he teases. But he doesn't pursue that…for now…before he turns back to th plans. "My sewing is literally of the most basic, but there were enough times where I wanted to not have a hole in my clothing but didn't have access to a seamstress," he explains. "I certainly couldn't create a whole garment. But that sounds reasonable enough to repair." He ponders. "It either needs to have a mechanism, or settle in close enough to the sheath to be held by tension."

—-

I would probably have to see if I couldn't draw more of it out.

"I will fight you," Isabelle says, though the words contain more mirth than heat, peals of her laughter set free in the glade. "And trust me when I say that I am impervious to scandal, and that my courage only rises the more insurmountable the opponent. So if you find yourself rolling down this hill with me while battling my flailing limbs, grass spraying everywhere and my legs trying to constrict your every movement, just remember that you were only asking for it."

The preliminary sketch almost complete, that earlier laughter fades in deference to the problem at hand, expression shifting back to those contemplative notes. It's when he proposes that alternative idea that has that earlier joy returning, and she adds an additional sketch - the quick mock-up of a weapons belt. "So at this point, or a little higher?" she wonders, looking back at him. "If I can get away with not adding any more mechanisms to the thing, the better. That would mean additional customizations and measurements on the swordsman's part, but I anticipated that already and that is the name of the game, after all. I don't exactly specialize in the ready-made." She angles him a look, amusement on a low simmer on her elegant features. "Which means I'm going to have to measure your hip, and perhaps discover for myself if you're ticklish."

—-

Augustin grins wickedly at her words. "Is that so?" He asks. "I believe it, both that you would and that you are impervious to scandal," he admits with a shake of his head before he looks back to the drawing. "The exact place a sword hits is partially a matter of personal preference, honestly. You have it right for where we tell people to start, but everyone adjusts it up or down a few inches or changes the angle it hangs at slightly. We then basically draw it until any parts that need to be worn down are worn down, or cut them away to give us the right angle." He pulls his sheath out of the frog holding it to show where the top of it is notched to make the draw faster. He then sets aside the weapon, smiling.

The smile turns back in to a grin as he tries to grab her by her hips and pin her legs down; if he can he reaches out to begin tickling those bare feet he saw earlier. "Of course you can be impervious to scandal by not caring, also."

—-

"I am an expert in the avante garde, sir knight," Isabelle tells him with all mock seriousness, complete with a dramatic toss of her head and fixing him with that confident, imperious look that is as signature to her as her stride and manner of dress. "You don't get there by coloring safely within the lines." Her lips twitch in the corners, however, subtly suggestive of the fact that she is attempting not to laugh again at the wickedness of his grin.

Again, put aside in favor of work, and as he shows her the sword he himself uses, she leans further in to take a look at it, and then marking up her notes and schematics. "That's helpful," she murmurs, lips pursing faintly. "It might also be helpful if I designed a belt to go with it - market it as a set that would enable the swordsman to make those adjustments without having to worry about…yes. Yes, I think that's it."

Until he reaches for her hips.

She doesn't cry out, but he'd be rewarded by the wide look in those dark eyes when they both roll over and he bears her down, and her laughter comes out in earnest. "Are you serious— !" But before she can even complete her exclamation, he gets her toes, and that's when he hears her actually shriek. It's sharp enough for Collette and her apprentice to look up from where they're frolicking in the water, staring incredulously at the scene they can glimpse a bit away from them.

Collette turns red immediately, and slowly lowers herself further in the water. Her young apprentice, meanwhile, grins unabashedly. "Get her, my lord!"

"Traitor!" Isabelle cries from under Augustin's grip as hips twist and long legs bend at the knees in an attempt to curl around his hips, laughing still as she attempts to roll them back over. Arms reach for his shoulders in the doing in an attempt to seize and topple - to her, it is easy, she is taller than the average woman. But the idea of overpowering one of the preeminent warriors of the realm is simply so laughable that even she recognizes it herself, losing herself in the throes of it the longer she 'fights' him.

"Kiss her!"

"Collette, control your daughter and drown her, please, I'm presently occupied in a battle for my nonexistent dignity!"

—-

"I told you I was tempted, my lady," Augustin points out, letting out a laugh as she shrieks. "And you promised you would be a challenge and were immune to scandal." He does grunt at her writhing as he grabs her ankles and tickles across her soles and arches, trying to pull her legs up so he has easy access to her feet while not letting off the pin on her hips. "Being immune to scandal implies so many things," he teases. He looks back and grins to the young apprentice.

"I suppose I could manage that," Augustin says, although he apparently has further mischief on his mind. As she tries to wrench and throw, he lowers himself to playfully kiss at her feet and nibble at her toes, trying to add another dimension to her writhing and laughing. "Should I demand a forfeit to let you go, or see if I can't use my sword belt to tie your ankles?" He challenges, raising an eyebrow at her.

—-

"Is this the part where I tell you that I'm an inveterate gambler?" Isabelle wonders from her place, flat on her back and situated against the blankets, pinned under his broader larger shadow and mirth leaving those eyes smoldering like coals. "To be truly good at it, you have to— no! Mistakes were made!" Her bent knees prove to be her undoing when he manages to hook a hand at the back of one so he could get access to her toes, his mouth pressing on the sole, teeth worrying gently on those delicate appendage. It leaves that long, endless limb bare when the hem of her dress tumbles at the demands of gravity, but her present position barely registers - high up her thigh, just under the curvature of her right hip, he'd be able to glimpse a garter wrought from lace, and a short, slim blade pressed against impossibly smooth skin. Say what one will about Isabelle de Valais, but perhaps that relentless confidence borne from the impression that she can take on any challenge the world may throw at her is not just a facade.

Should I demand a forfeit?

"Never!" she cries gamely, breathlessly, laughter stitched in every syllable. A heel bracing on the ground, she uses that as leverage and switches tracks - she attempts to pull her foot away from his grip, but it does have her rolling forward when she sits up - it brings her to straddle him and push him back, knocking their bodies closer to the steep end of their hill. Eyes widen when they rock, on the verge of tilting and falling over to spend an afternoon rolling down the grassy knoll - but they manage to teteer on the very edge of the precipice.

Heart thundering, face framed by tousled streams of midnight hair knocked loose from their bind, she tilts her head to meet his eyes. "Though this is definitely the part where I tease you for suggesting you tie me up so you could have your very insidious way with me. Tickling is one, you know. A very insidious act. Punishable in at least seven countries."

—-

"My lady I guarantee I do not need to be told that you're an inveterate gambler," Augustin points out. 'We would not be here otherwise." And while he has the opportunity he seizes it, nibbling and sucking at her toes to try to draw laughter— and perhaps something more— from her. But he doesn't fail to notice the delightful expanse of skin that she is baring, the garter and the knife. And he reaches the hand not holding her ankles, free since he is using his tongue and teeth, to tickle scandalously high on that thigh.

But then he laughs as he wrenches their bodies around and grins as he looks up at her. "It isn't teasing if the thought had crossed my mind, my lady. I do enjoy having a beautiful woman tied up and ready, so long as she is as excited to be there as I am. The only question is whether you would be, if at the end of this I have you pinned and at my mercy." At the end of this? That implies he has plans…which he executes by pivoting his own hips, to send them rolling down the hill with the hope of ending up on top.

—-

She looms over him in that breathless window of time, poised at the brink of falling, knees bracketing his narrow hips and one pressed tight against where his blade used to be, lying as it is forgotten amidst the blanket they've left behind. Hair that has escaped the loose bind behind her head frames her face and dangles on the side of his, lips quirked at the beginnings of a grin that is brought there by as much as the thrill of the fight as it is the excitement of being tangled up with a man who looks like Augustin. Behind her, the setting sun sets fire to her red dress, deepening its color and causing those golden motes in her eyes to glow. She leans in, the shadow of her face eclipsing his, close enough for their noses to touch - close enough for him to taste her breath. In the backdrop of green grass and rich earth, she smells like the far away lands they've reminisced about before with one another - Aragonian cinnamon, honey and saffron from Khebbel-im-Akkad.

Isabelle seems primed for a kiss, but she moves her face at the last moment, to let her mouth hover over the high arch of his ear instead. "I'm going to tell you a dark and serious secret, Augustin de Trevalion," she murmurs, gentle heat scoring his skin. "About ropes and what tends to happen when I'm ensnared by them."

But before she can tell him, he shifts his hips, and they start rolling down the hill. Her head tilts back, and their wake downwards is punctuated by a cry, and more laughter, arms forced to curl around his shoulders and hanging on for dear life when they tumble, and tumble, and tumble, grass blades and Summer's detritus flying around them as they go.

They end up steamrolling through a flower bed and landing in a pile of leaves, precursors of the encroaching autumn; red and gold pieces stick in her hair and Augustin's when his body pins her down. Despite their disheveled states, however, she's still laughing.

—-

Augustin does take a moment to enjoy the sight above him— the dress set ablaze by the light, the glow of her eyes, the scent of her body. But then he is competitive, and committed to coming out on top. He almost looks like he is going to stop when she offers to tell him something dark and serious, but he is committed by that point and there is nothing to do but ride all the way down.

He is, despite the playfulness, not a monster; when they start to go down the hill he wraps his arms around her body to shield her, trying to take any unpleasant impacts on his own body. It is a gentle hill, but he still tries to keep her from being injured in the tumble. He is laughing on the way down as well, and grins when he manages to roll up and pin her, taking her wrists and pinning them above her head.

He leans down to teasingly kiss her neck, while the hand not holding her wrists moves to gently tickle under her arms. "What," he says, breathlessly, "Was that about a dark secret?"

—-

They're left, in the end, laughing and breathless and intertwined with one another, left far away from her entourage and half-buried by a pile of leaves. It must be the care he has undertaken in ensuring that she isn't hurt, for there is no pain in her eyes when they finally finish rolling. But by the look of her, exhilarated and looking up at him with mischief and open wonder - and something more passionate and inscrutable - he would get the impression that even if he did not, she would be able to handle it and not look at him at all differently. Isabelle de Valais' features are painfully D'angeline in fragility, but she is a woman shaped by whatever adventurous life that has led her to become what she is - an artist and designer, and whatever dangerous else she is under the surface. It will take more, so much more, than a tumble down the hill to shatter her.

Not that she isn't amenable to being shattered, when it suits her. She makes a play at fighting him still, but he manages to cage her wrists with one hand, and keeps tickling with the other. She chokes back another gale of laughter. "It'll take more than that to get me to surrender," she tells him - though laughter drains away when his face lowers. The high collar of her dress prevents her from luxuriating in the brief pass of his mouth against her throat, but he would be rewarded by how he manages to arrest her breath with just that single gesture.

What was that about a dark secret?

"Closer," she murmurs, turning her head to look at him. The devil in her dances in her eyes. "It's a secret, after all."

It sounds like a trap.

And it is.

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