(1310-08-15) The Family Curse
Summary: Jehan-Pascal de Baphinol keeps his appointment with Isabelle de Valais for a private wardrobe consultation. It inevitably spools out into other subjects, such as the Baphinol family "curse."
RL Date: August 15, 2018
Related: None
isabelle jehan-pascal 

Loft Salon - Courtly Couture

While the downstairs looks like a gleaming white gallery in which fabric functions as paint, the upstairs of Courtly Couture is dominated by Isabelle's personal office and salon, and it has been designed to look like a lavish sitting room and study. Hardwood floors of a rich, dark color have been installed throughout and decorated with fine rugs, and set with a stone fireplace that pumps heat through the entire building for the comfort of the owner and her staff in Eisande's colder months. The actual sitting area is tastefully furnished with plush furniture and mirrors and towards the windows overlooking Market Promenade and Marsilikos' cityscape is a large mahogany desk, arranged with parchment, writing tools and a few books.

There are shelves everywhere and books in various subjects could be found within them, mostly about art and color theory, but others such as treatises on other countries and cultures find a comfortable home with the rest. The large windows are framed with layered drapery, from translucent to full block-out curtains depending on the owner's mood. A large, comfortable chair is placed behind the desk as well as a small bar on the far side, set with various bottles of wine and liquor, and gleaming with crystal decanters. Framed maps and group portraits and sketches fill the walls of the space - things that do not just chart Isabelle's travels, but also the people who have become longtime patrons. Some of these faces are familiar, for those who have traveled themselves - most of her patrons overseas make up the nobility and aristocratic elite of other countries.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a summer evening. The weather is warm and drizzling.


The last few days have seen Courtly Couture, strangely enough, closed from the public for two very important reasons, the most crucial of these being the quiet commission its staff has been tasked to deliver for the Lady of Eisande's youngest daughter, Ortolette de Mereliot, and while that order has been finished, Isabelle de Valais has started them on the next steps of constructing some of her designs to show her in preparation for the Autumn and Winter seasons. The second most crucial reason is to give another important visitor, Jehan-Pascal de Baphinol, the future Comte d'Avignon, the privacy he requires to tour this gleaming white temple dedicated to high fashion, before a sit down consultation at her lavish salon, located upstairs.

One of her staff, donned in Courtly Couture's signature black-and-white livery, opens the door for the lord once he arrives, followed by a deep bow to the waist, and upon arriving, he would find that just because the building is closed from the public for a few weeks doesn't mean that its artistic heart has ceased beating; numerous bodies clad in the same monochromatic ensemble are bustling about, selecting fabric, pulling sample books from the shelves and consulting with one another quietly. The structural color scheme is a deliberate choice, so as not to detract from all the colors present in the space - and there are numerous, from fabrics, accessories and other fashion accoutrements. If the hue exists, Isabelle has managed to find it.

The lady herself is in deep conversation with Collette, the head of her team and the former owner of the building's more humble predecessor, who started her career as a talented seamstress and tailor. She has been a staple in the community for years - a fact that the canny designer has both recognized and exploited for their mutual gain. The older woman looks up, her eyes falling on the lord, before whispering to Isabelle, who follows her stare. Recognition lights up those delicately sun-kissed features; at the moment, she is dressed in the attire she favors for business - snug breeches that make the most out of her svlete, slender shape, boots pulled high past the knee and with heels thin enough to puncture through a body, dangerous weapons in and of themselves, and a magnificent creation of impossibly soft Menekhetan cotton fringed with lace, with a neckline that bares her shoulders and exhibiting painstakingly elaborate, colorful embroidery that must have taken months to complete. Ribbons threaded around her throat holds a small brooch to match these splashes of color, skewed off center that the jewel rests against the side of her throat and leave its sensitive hollow buttressed by satin instead of the middle. It might be strange that such a small, seemingly insignificant displacement could produce such a striking effect, but the woman's eye for detail is, they say, an aesthetic monster.

"Jehan-Pascal," she greets as she approaches, kissing both his cheeks once she reaches him. "Welcome to my humble enterprise. What shall I treat you with first? Gustav." She turns to the silent, tow-headed page boy waiting at the wings. "Whatever my lord de Baphinol requires, you fetch."

"Yes, my lady."

—-

Jehan-Pascal certainly would never have deemed it appropriate for the Lady de Valais' entire gallery to be shut for his benefit. He is, on the whole, content enough to get by on mere congeniality and a distinct lack of pomp and circumstance. He has had business, earlier in the day, elsewhere in the marketplace, as so often he does, a meeting at a tea-room, or a conversation with a merchant in the relatively neutral ground of an obliging shopface, and had heard, of all things, that Courtly Couture was closed, and, what's more, had been so for several days' time already. He hadn't heard anything, however, asking to cancel his appointment, or to re-schedule it for another day. Over dinner he sends a page back to his flat near the docks, just to see whether a last-minute notice has been sent begging off, but, with none at hand, he finishes up his supper and steps back out onto the promenade, making his way to stroll past the shopface in question, newly built up into a regular edifice, looming tall above the shopfaces to either side in a manner which draws it to almost be the focal point of the midway. He's steeled himself to find it closed and to go home to an improving book and possibly an apologetic note, but, at the moment at which he lifts a hand to shade his eyes against the ruddy gaze of the evening sun and goes to ask after the status of the shop to the liveried man out front, he finds the door opening for him, a surprise, if a pleasant one. One finds oneself pleasantly surprised frequently when one always tends to expect the worst. "Oh, why, thank you, my good man," he tells the valet, stepping inside, hands tucked at the small of his back, shoulders back, a small smile poised upon his lips and growing into something quite charmed when his eyes are drawn hither and thither by the striking decor and the bustle of labor. He himself is not in the sort of finery he trots out for big events, in the least. He's in what he would consider day to day garb, the sort of thing he would wear when he must be on the move, presenting a level-headed, down to earth visage. Not to say it's without style. His doeskin trousers are beautifully cut to accentuate his lissome thighs and taut, round ass. His tall boots are just three shades darker brown than his trousers are, gleaming with a series of bronze buckles and offering a nuanced contrast. And a tunic. His favorite. A deep forest green, of a soft, fluffy large-scale knit that hugs him in a slightly oversized embrace. A leather thong has been drawn through both sleeves and joined in the back to add a rustic-sophisticate detail and also hold the tunic's sleeves up in a casual, slouchy bunch, leaving his lither arms mostly bare to the tail end of the summer heat. Thus attired, he spots Isabelle and Collette, lifting a hand with a jovial twitter of fingers and a friendly smile. When she approaches him, he hold his arms out, drawing her into a congenial embrace while returning her cheek kisses in counterpoint to her own. "Isabelle," he's so glad she remembered his offering her the use of his name. "I hardly know what to ask after. I had heard you were closed," he explains his momentary aporia. "At any rate, I've just dined— at Yvannes', just up the promenade. I wouldn't say no to a little after-dinner cordial, however," he offers up, a little cheeky. He's already had a bit of wine in him, and it might be a delight to him to warm his ears just a little further.

—-

She rarely forgets anything, especially when a growing fan of her work has asked her to address him in a more familiar way. His embrace earns him a warm one in return, her imperious demeanor considerably softened not just by the way he speaks to her, or greets her, but by the look of him - casual, understated elegance and meant to flatter every bit of D'angeline comeliness that he has been blessed with. "An important commission," she tells him. "And one with a rather complicated and quick timing, hence I needed the entire strength of my staff at my disposal, though it has inadvertently sparked numerous inquiries and a flood of other appointments which I will inevitably have to handle in the immediate future. It is nothing I've not been prepared for, I've been in the luxury business long enough to know very well that exclusivity drives plenty of its lifeblood. Still, I was determined to keep my appointment with you and if nothing else, as cramped as the deadline was, this gives me room to show you its confines without too many outside distractions."

Isabelle turns back to the page waiting. "What about something light and chilled? The heat has been unbearable the last few days. Gustav, the rose, please, in the silver bucket."

With the boy running off, she offers her arm to her visitor, and once he's obliged her, long-legged strides take them both through the main floor - more like a gallery, these days, than a shopfront. "I've rearranged everything after the renovations have been completed. Men's fashions…" She directs a hand towards the east wing. "Women's fashions." To the west. "With private viewing and dressing rooms and a section dedicated to accessories and underthings each. I've recently expanded to leather goods, people do need footwear, after all, and I am only happy to provide."

There's an inquisitive glance towards the man. "Word has it that you've been rather busy the last few weeks since I saw you last. A few of my staff have expressed their loneliness in not seeing your face."

—-

Jehan-Pascal is put further at ease by Isabelle's being put at ease, leaving formality behind and merely standing close by her as a friend would stand by a friend, eyes flashing a little bit a she speaks of an important commission. "Oh? Tell, tell," he bids her, as a fellow keen for a bit of gossip, "Or do you not sew and tell?" he appends to the request, jestful, surely, in his phrasing, but also serious in his profession of respect for her discretion if she has any sort of compunctions about disclosing the details of her clientele. He takes up Isabelle's arm and falls in beside her, lips parted in wonder as he strides alongside her. "This floorplan is nothing like anything else in the promenade," he gawps slightly. The rest being largely uniform in stature and layout, having been built all at the same time. "You must have completely gutted the interior. It's beautiful. I could live here rather contentedly," he laughs, then turns his head, nodding decisively in each direction as the different wings are indicated to him. "What productivity! And shoes, as well! Are you learned in the art of cobbling, yourself, or have you hired someone on to realize your designs?" he wonders about her background, then, with a slightly rueful smile, "Oh, yes. Well, you, of all people, know what it is to have work that must need your full attention," he goes on, dallying alongside the couturiere. "I'm glad to have made Marsilikos once more. It's really become something of a home away from home for me. The restaurants, the wine, the company. And now this delightful gem of a fashion salon," he grins a big, boyish grin. "I'm really very glad of it. I'll be able to build a little bit more of a wardrobe here instead of having to bring so much with me from Avignon when I come. And they can be better suited to the styles of Marskilikos, and my own personal tastes, which life here has honestly made to evolve quite rapidly, even over the course of the last six months."

—-

"I'm hoping you like surprises, regarding that," Isabelle tells Jehan-Pascal with a laugh. "If not just to assure that you'll remain in the city for several days so you could hear the word drip into your ears." There's a mischievous wink flashed in his direction, but with them moving, she gestures now and then as they move past bustling staff members and the various sections. "Anything to have you linger, my dear. As for the floorplan, while I was pondering it, I'm reminded of my travels - there are some marriage customs in the world that stress that a bride and groom should never see one another in their clothes until the ceremony itself, otherwise it would bring bad luck to the union. And then it came to me that perhaps ladies would like to keep their purchases a surprise from their lovers and spouses and vice-versa, hence the separate wings, to astound and amaze them once they're finally worn. If they want to shop together, naturally, they can avail themselves to one of our private viewing rooms, that is one of the reasons why they have been installed. For lingerie, especially, the use of them has become rather popular." She can't help but let out a light laugh. "Ah, but if I could package anticipation and market it, I would, but this, I think, is the next best thing in my line of work."

There's a shake of her head, regarding the cobbling. "I design and while I make an effort to gain some practical experience in tailoring, sewing and the like, I leave the construction to more capable and experienced hands than mine. I remain involved in the process from start to finish, however - it maintains my control while at the same time, I learn by the feet of experts. A blade is only as sharp as how many times it kisses a whetstone, after all, and like most artistry, it is an ever-evolving beast. One must keep up with the trends." Eyes glitter in mischief. "Of course, it is easier to do so if you are the one who actually starts them."

She falls silent once Jehan-Pascal enthuses about Marsilikos. "I'm glad to hear that you're happy about our place here," she says. "I'm still trying to get to know Marsilikos, so you will have to forgive me when I become serious in my attempts to wheedle your secrets out of you. I'm always looking for the best ways in a city or town to celebrate its culture and unfortunately, given the way business is these days, I haven't had much of an opportunity to explore what the city has to offer in terms of food and entertainment. How is Yvannes', by the way? A growing favorite?"

With the main floor revealed to him, she starts moving up the winding stairs towards the private salon. "My office takes up the entire second floor," she tells him. "Hopefully Gustav has managed to find that rose."

—-

"Oh, you tease," Jehan-Pascal laughs aloud, delighted, rather than mad, at all, despite his chastizing words. "I'll come back to hear all the details once the cat is let out of the bag," he pledges. Or threatens. "I'll be here at least the week. I may have to leave on Monday again, but I would be back on Tuesday," he goes on, beginning to get that far-away look in his eye as though he sees his diary in the air overhead and is getting rather involved in all the manifold things he has to juggle. But, a blink, and a shake of his head, another soft peal of laughter, "I'm sorry, listen to me, going on as though you were meant to keep my calendar for me," he chides himself, then settles in to listen to her inspiration in having arranged her gallery as she has. "It's a delightful concept. I've always thought keeping a little mystery was a good way to entice the imagination," he nods, once, as if to affirm his own opinion. But, then, he is often as not seen with a White Rose on his arm at public events (of note, perhaps, the same White Rose who is rumored to be the object of Isabelle's cousin Antoine's intentions), so his affiliation with veiled beauty is well established. The distribution of tasks gains a thoughtful bob of his chin. "It's a tremendous undertaking, really, and admirable. To keep track of all the moving pieces, to manage such a staff and keep your vision intact throughout… it shows a real sense of fortitude, industry and discipline, really. I'm quite near to managing the county alongside my father, at this point, and even yet the prospect of managing such a business seems overwhelming to me. So many fine details which need your hand to guide them," he trails off, gazing over the space, then turning back to her, "Oh, you'll find your way, in time. Just going to the places it's needful for you to go, you'll see along the way the places which might tempt your fancy. Yvannes is a charming little man who runs this little hole in the wall bistro in a split storefront. It's not the most posh in terms of its decor, but the food is good and the wine… oh, he has a tremendous cellar. A little hidden treasure, if you're like me and are fond of a bottle." And, speaking of! He follows her up the stairs, just a half-step behind at any given point, so as not to crowd her up the landing. "Oh, yes. And you take consultation in your office, as well?"

—-

Oh, you tease.

The devil's own wicked light manifests in those dark-and-gold eyes. "Any and all excuses to see you brighten these halls with your gregarious manner," Isabelle tells him, and while she keeps her tone light and spiced with the right amount of good humor, there is a spark of seriousness there. "But say no more, I am very well aware that the future Comte d'Avignon has an entire slew of matters to attend to now and forever. So long as you take time in your extremely full calendar to pay me a visit, I would ask for nothing more. You are a delight to be around, Jehan-Pascal - a much needed breath of fresh air, truly."

They alight on the second floor landing, where Guillermo, devoted shadow and Isabelle's right-hand man, offers a deep bow towards both nobles before opening the double doors that lead to the suite beyond. While the below floor is an entire artist's gallery devoted to fashion, the space upstairs is entirely, exclusively committed to Isabelle's adventurous spirit - warm hardwood, bookshelves filled with subjects of not just art and fashion, but treatises on different cultures and history. The walls are decorated with maps and portraits - Isabelle is in a few of these paintings and sketches, but often with other faces in the backdrop of far-off lands. Her international clientele is well represented in these walls, from Caerdicci merchant princes, Menekhetan and Tiberium nobles, and Akkadian princesses. In some of them, she looks extremely young.

There is a new addition to the space - in front of comfortable couches and right by the yawning maw of her stone fireplace is the pelt of a massive wolf, transformed into a particularly decadent rug; the biggest, certainly, that Isabelle has ever seen, its eyes replaced by amber glass.

Gustav is waiting for them, carrying a silver platter with two flutes of sparkling rose, its delicate pink color complimenting the cold towels folded upon it. These are offered to Jehan-Pascal and Isabelle.

She plucks one of the flutes and takes a towel. After gesturing Jehan-Pascal to take a seat, she follows. "I delegate the actual operations, otherwise I'll simply be overwhelmed. Perhaps you can consider this as me, silently weeping over the fact that I would never inherit and thus, set off in the wild, wide world to create an empire of my very own!" She dramatically sweeps her hand to the side, followed by a laugh. "In all seriousness, I don't think I could ever do what you do. Business is the same everywhere, but all the responsibilities that come with your title are daunting enough to say the least."

Her smile turns indulgent. "But here we are. I'd like to think I can perform magic anywhere, but this is the space where I attempt to make dreams come true. Surrounded by the things I love."

—-

"In perpetuum," Jehan-Pascal affirms in a mote of Tiberian, a mark of erudition, if a small one. But her appreciation of his manner is entirely gratifying. Some people find him of insufficient gravitas in respect to his station, and give him grief over it, on top of merely owning their own opinions on the matter. "Awr," he kind of curls that word into a sly purr when Isabelle voices her approval. "Well, just try and stop me coming around, Isabelle," he tells her, quite friendly, almost bubbling over with it. "Or even better, let us consult our diaries after to-day and come across a time which we can schedule a weekly tea or luncheon. It's so much easier to make sure to make time if it is something to which I have allotted its own space in my schedule. And I will, of course, be sure to let you know which weeks I will be out of town— oh!" he's up the stairs, now, and drawn by the change in decor to go and skirt past the bookshelves, and the maps, and the portraits. "Gosh," he whispers, "You've been everywhere," he speaks as one who has only seldom even left Eisande. His business is here, after all. He comes around to the wolven rug, and, taking the other flute and towel, he even settles down upon the pelt, affecting a fashionable sprawl with one leg crossed over the other as he looks up to the couturiere de Valais, "You jest, but it's not far from true. Your establishment has all the refinement and elegance of the nobility, and all the practical value of a common master's enterprise. It really is the best of both worlds, and you could rule each in its turn with your acumen and style," he considers, bringing the flute to his upper lip and taking in its bouquet with a subtle flare of his nostrils, followed by a little sip which he allows to travel in his mouth, side to side, "Mmh," his brows furrow in delight in time with a swallow. "That's delicious."

—-

Invitation to a weekly luncheon brightens Isabelle's expression considerably. "Bien sur, you've officially become one of my most favorite persons in this entire city," she says with a laugh. Her eyes fall on Guillermo by the door. "Let's make this happen. Guillermo, ensure that the courier sends information on my weekly best days to my lord de Baphinol's residence, if you will." The man is already opening a small pad of parchment to scrawl down the woman's instructions.

She lets out a laugh when Jehan-Pascal flops on the decadent rug, and gestures for Gustav to move. The boy settles the platter down, and proceeds to rearrange the pillows and cushions, transforming the D'angeline arrangement of fine things effortlessly into something that could easily find in Akkadian manors, where people often lounge on plush rugs such as these. She takes up the man's side, taking a sip of her rose. Long, elegant fingers brush over the pelt.

"A gift from the Vicomte de Rouen," she tells Jehan-Pascal, eyes glinting - the smile she flashes him invites him to a story, whetting the man's attentiveness for gossip. "A more astute man than anyone has ever given credit for, as his reputation as a Chevalier du Cygne Blanc tends to overshadow everything else. But I suppose you don't live past thirty in a dangerous profession without being sharp."

His kind words do soften that wicked look, and the smile that follows is a more genuine one; it lights up her face and the entire room with whatever passions churn in her artist-and-adventurer's soul. "You're very kind, Jehan-Pascal," she murmurs, clinking the crystal lip of her flute with his own. "I'm not in the habit of looking down the nuts and bolts of what truly drives a country's economy. Our lot is often quick in seizing all the credit, but I've learned over the years that true success starts at the very bottom."

She looks up, and lifts a hand. Guillermo swiftly deposits a black sketchbook in her waiting palm. Her eyes turn back to her visitor. "Now," she begins. "Let's see how even more magnificent the two of us can make you."

—-

It's something for Jehan-Pascal to look forward to, as well. A moment in the week to take refined repast with a woman who will no doubt be one of the great movers and shakers of society here— as well as a pleasure to be around, lest his spirit try to find work to do even in this time set aside for diversion. You can take the Comte out of the county… but not the county out of the Comte, I suppose. "Oh, heavens," he remarks, as he's come to sit upon a present from another gentleman. He would move, if only he hadn't quite overly committed to the gesture, and so he just moves his free hand through the fur, "One freshly laid low, I suppose, then?" he confines himself to joking. "Oh! Wait, this isn't the self-same wolf that was gobbling up children some time back?" Rumors upon rumors— he does pay them some mind. He regains himself enough to tip his flute against hers, curling onto a hip to face her the more easily. "Precisely so," he issues emphatically. "Ours is a strange manner of service, with no true product but the beneficience of teichoscopic foresight and the sense of duty we have to those who bring true wealth from the lands," he claims, punctuating his sentiment with a further sip of the cordial wine. The notion is still whirling in his brain when she is given her sketchbook, and it takes him a moment to come back to the purpose of his visit. "Oh, yes! Now— I should tell you that my courtly attire in my Avignon wardrobe is largely in a darker palette. I've always admired a dark midnight blue, or a dark green," he fusses at the bottom of his tunic with two fingers. "This is my very favorite tunic, by the by. Feel it. Nobody has felt a wool so softly spun. It's warm in the winter, and in the summertime I can strap the arms back and it keeps cool enough." Having digressed thus, "But I have to admit to having become rather fond of pastels of late. I love a pale dove grey alongside a tinge of pink. Not to mention those gorgeous pale sage stockings," he sighs in a rather besotted fashion. "Mari's a horrible influence, but I adore her. What do you think? Do the White Rose colors suit me, or have I been led astray?"

—-

There is approval in her eyes; the country might not leave Jehan-Pascal de Baphinol, but he is as attentive of word as any courtier who cuts his teeth upon the politics in the capital - and one who doesn't just listen, but remembers. But at his remarks, she laughs. "Oh, don't trouble yourself, it is meant to be used, and Augustin will probably be gratified that it serves others in its new life very well. However yes, it is the very same, but we didn't manage to kill it that first time, it managed to escape. I was content with that, mind, it's the biggest of its kind I've ever seen, and I was not at all enthusiastic to discover whether the members of its pack are just as big. So you can imagine my surprise when, upon seeing the man again, he informs me that he dispatched his knights to hunt them all down, and then treated the pelts to be sent to me to create this, as well as other things. And it can't have come at a better time, with the colder months upon us. They are very luxurious, and very warm. I can't wait to transform them." She inclines her head towards Jehan-Pascal, smiling. "Should I start making plans in designing you some wolf fur-lined outerwear in anticipation?"

She reaches out at his invitation, impeccably manicured fingers brushing over the wool. "Aha, I see. It's like cashmere," she murmurs - unsurprising that she can identify the cloth by feel. "But not quite - it's a D'angeline equivalent, and beautifully made - the threadcount rivals what I'm presently wearing. I have an entire catalogue of fabrics that feel just like this, if you would like to see them. Gustav, if my lord de Baphinol wishes it, please pull out a few of the books from section six downstairs, from the regions of Terre D'Ange and Bhodistan."

Pastels? She leans back and gives the man a scrutinizing look. "Those colors are seasonal on my personal palette. Good for the summer, but the height of the trend is in the spring, when blossoms start struggling out of winter's grasp," she says. "Cooler colors do suit you - midnight blues, emerald and hunter greens. And that holds true for cooler shades of pastels. Pink is a little more complicated…in your case, it should not go any darker than the blush of a newborn's cheeks, but it will pair wonderfully with dove gray. Never yellow, my dear, and certainly never orange. And for the autumn, I would also suggest a luscious dark red. Do you have a particular red wine favorite?"

She opens the sketchbook and shows it to him. "I made some sketches and fabric suggestions pinned to the pages in anticipation of your visit." The first design is a jacket - the design is structural, with sleek, bold lines meant to emphasize the breadth of his shoulders and its contrast with the narrowness of his waist. The sketch of its back is more dramatic, with long tails split for easy movement, and scrollwork embroidery on the hems. "I refrained from using colors, but no hue is beyond me. Whatever you desire, I can deliver."

—-

Jehan-Pascal shimmies a little bit over the surface of the fur pelt, maybe a little bit unsettled to be settled on the back of a murderous animal, even laid out as it presently is, harmless except for perhaps an imagined gleam of hunger in the amber glass eyes. "Do you think that I could pull off a splash of fur about the collar? I'm rather more lamb than wolf, you'll find," he tugs demonstratively at the hem of his woolen tunic. "Cashmere, very like, to the touch. But really it's just long worn into comfort, I think. I've had it for years," he smiles, obviously fond of the garment. "Oh, yes," he draws his legs from their sideways curl and instead folds them one over the other with his hands on his kneed, ready to accept whatsoever tome of swatches he may be given. "Please," he adds, for Gustav, to whom he shows as genial courtesy as to anybody. "Yes, too dark a pink looks odd against my skin, I've found. Just the lightest hints of it," he agrees, then takes a breath, "I really ought to wear more red, I suppose, but I've had trouble finding things that don't make me feel as though I'm going to a masque as a cherry," he voices complaint. "Heh," he goes on, distracted from his worries about red by the question about wine, the query making him crack an abashed grin, as though the secret of his habitual taking to the drink were finally out. "There's a little vinard just north of Avignon, on a trellis at the foothills of a pine ridge. "Whenever I make home I celebrate with a bottle of their vintage. I don't know whether it's made it all the way this far south in popularity, we only call it the Vintage of the Tomb, since the road there passes by my great grandfather Cheval Gael de Baphinol's mausoleum." He considers the color of the wine, then inclines his head, half-persuaded. But only just half. "If you can darken the red enough, I'd like to see something in it I might wear for an Autumn Debut. Oh!" he leans over and looks at the jacket, "I like the tails. Makes it look to belong to a regular huntsman. As though I have any time for such ventures anymore," he chuckles.

—-

Is it strange, to find his discomfiture adorable? If not just because it only enhances the gentility of his overall character. Isabelle makes a note of what he says about the collar. "Well, we'll see what other lambswool products I can place upon you, then," she says thoughtfully. "But yes, you can. The collar and only that - normally I would include fur around the cuffs as well for outerwear, but I shall minimize it, in your case."

Gustav disappears like a ghost and the only indicators that he has done what was bid is his return; heeled shoes clop over the wooden floors, presenting both reference books to Isabelle, who takes them and opens them, setting them on the pelt in front of Jehan-Pascal. Fabric samples are neatly catalogued on the pages, along with information on the country and region. The array of colors splash like soft rainbows across the pages. "You can compare these and pick your favorites," she tells him. "In my opinion, Bhodistani cashmere is still the best, especially the way they weave and treat the threads in its northern provinces. But there are beautiful D'angeline equivalents, though they don't hold color as well. It's sturdier, however, so you'll have to decide between feel and color longevity, but quicker wear and tear, versus an equivalent sensation and the dilution of color, but one that will hold its shape for longer."

His remarks about red has her smiling. "I try for everything I design to highlight what is already there," she tells Jehan-Pascal. "I was thinking a wine red or a burgundy, for you. It's your eyes, the color is reminiscent of the parts of the ocean where sunlight starts to relinquish its hold to the very depths. Red will not make it obvious, but autumn sunsets in Eisande are particularly fiery - imagine your companion's surprise when the color camouflages the actual hue of your eyes, only for the right light to hit them and their vibrance stands out?" There's a shameless grin directed his way. "Like finding lost treasure. In one of our luncheons, I'll tell you the story of how I came about that particular inspiration."

Still, he is half-persuaded and she laughs. "I'll try to find a bottle," she says. "And recreate the color. We can also go darker, if you prefer, but that is why fittings and follow-up consultations exist, and an excuse to see you, besides!"

She shows him other sketches - breeches, more jackets and shirts, she presents him with an array of lines and silhouettes that flatter his shape, and even shows him the pages where she has experimented in the design of various embroidery patterns; geometric shapes chained by simple spheres, patterns inspired by trellises and ivy. "I'm particularly proud of this one," she says, showing him a beautifully intricate design inspired by Eastern mandalas, but with D'angeline motifs. "But they're so elaborate they function better as accents, I think. Perhaps on the cuffs and lapels of a simpler jacket or shirt. Either way, you should pick your favorites, and we will go from there."

—-

"Oh, maybe even a high-collared waistcoat," Jehan-Pascal considers the jacket, "It might not be as warm, but it's not as though there are countless frozen nights one must endure here in Marsilikos," he dips his cheek closer to his shoulder in an impish sort of shrug, with maybe a hint of fur at the shoulder to mirror that at the collar? Gosh, that sounds positively rugged," he smiles coyly to himself, as though thinking it apt to fool some people about his level of ruggedness, which hovers on a good day between one and three. On the topic of fabrics, he considers it for a moment before he shakes his head, "I think I had better do my bit to support our home-grown products," he notes the consideration which pushed him over the edge. "You know the road from here to Avignon parallels one of the paths the Duchesse's shepherds take to move their flocks between summer and winter pasture. They're good men, and loyal. And the sheep— suitably fluffy for me," he laughs. Back on red, he draws a breath of air in through his teeth, just softly, but his reticence is soothed by her poetry, "I'm not all that sure I followed that simile all the way through to the end, but I applaud its deployment, no less," he leans toward her, boffetting her shoulder gently with his in a playful fashion. The geometric details draw a bit of boredom from his eyes, and the mandalas… well, he's not bored anymore, that's for sure. "You're right, that would be a bit much. Maybe high up on the back, to the points of the shoulders and up the back of the collar?" he traces his finger along the section of the mandala that might fit that piece of the garment. "I like this little bit of scrollwork, something reminiscent of a floral without being totally obvious. I like a short breech," he adds, gesturing to the pattern of one he cares for, "Just as a matter of course, even in winter. I have very fine legs, even if I say it myself, and a bit of flounce just so above the knee is a delight. But you know better than I where the style in trouser fit will be in the upcoming seasons," he leaves the details up to her. Then, looking up from the sketchbook, trying to catch her eyes with his. "Do I get a hint? Do I need to do more squats?" he curls a catlike grin at her.

—-

Once Jehan-Pascal starts providing his own suggestions, Isabelle takes her stylus, and makes a few quick sketches, taking a basic outline of a jacket and adding a high collar. The addition of the wolf fur on the shoulder has her snapping her fingers. "Yes! Genius, Jehan-Pascal, let's do that," she says, ever enthusiastic in drawing a patron well into the creative process. "Let's clip it here, it'll be rather dashing." She makes notations on the margins, and the volume number of the book of swatches that the man has chosen, though there's a sideways look at him when he recounts his travels back and forth, and what he finds on the road to Avignon. As for the simile about oceans and his eyes…

She laughs, and nudges his shoulder in turn with her own. "Well, you are the better poet, I've heard - practically a royal laureate in the art. This would not be the first time I've wondered, by the way, why you aren't spreading your talent in the capital and opted for this lovely city instead. Not that I would ever question the bequeathment of such good fortune. Regardless, any analogies I may draw will inevitably pale to yours, so I hope that you'll forgive my clumsy attempts at it." She flashes him a wink.

Deft fingers work up a sketch at the back, with small arrows and a circle around the manadala design he prefers. "Both will work - sparingly, but not so sparingly that they're downright unnoticeable. And we'll have to discuss colors as well, for this one, I would suggest a midnight blue with gold. Black would also work, but I would hate for it to look dour and severe." She also makes marks over his preferences. "The short breech for the summer, absolutely, the hems just under the knees and laces here…" She points where. "So we can adjust the level of 'flounce' according to your mood. Autumn and winter, you'll be best served with a full length for breeches - we're by the water, and I would hate to have you freeze your magnificent legs off. But I will include a few with the appropriate colors - that way they will also look fitting for the season, without having to deprive us all of the shape of your calves. And matching stockings, of course. I'll provide you with an array of silks for them - probably a thicker weave, to keep you warm."

Do I need more squats?

Dark and gold eyes lift to find his, dancing with his own mischief. "I see the lamb has a bit of a house feline in him," she observes, bemused, reaching up to poke the tip of his nose lightly with the non-working end of her stylus. "You'll be gorgeous for years to come, and I suspect that you know that. Especially when I'm so willing to help."

With that, once sketches are chosen, she closes the sketchpad. "I'll consult with Collette on these by the morning, and then we'll settle on a production plan. I'll follow up with you about colors and fabrics soon, and by that point I'll be able to give you a definite date as to when you'll expect your new creations." Her mischief grows as she looks at him. "I won't ask you to express your adoration just yet, I'll likely demand it in your final fittings."

—-

Jehan-Pascal laughs aloud when the style genius calls him a genius. It's flattery, no doubt, but it's fun and fine flattery when he's really so engaged in the process. "Oh, heavens," he prefers some deference on the topic of poetry, "It's a diversion, that's all," he shakes his head, unable to quite hide a bit of wistfulness on that note. "I have the work of a lifetime for which I am meant to be preparing myself in exercise and diligence. I can't justify lounging about all day with a quill indulging in poetic ataraxia, be it here, or… anywhere else." The wink makes him smile, it's a shy flower of a smile, eyes downcast, no doubt another habit he's picked up largely from the maidens and youths of the White Roses. "You're as welcome to the art as anyone, Isabelle. I'd never shut someone down for trying his or her hand at the art." A pause, a twitch of a smile rocking his earnestness. "Although one day I suspect it will be the inane quatrains of a love-struck youth that will finally compel me to walk straight into the ocean, never to be seen again." He loves all poetry — except love poetry. "Oh, thank you— there are always warm days in the autumn, even sometimes in the winter. I'll love to have a little warmer of a stocking to wear out and about. And yes— I might have a few good years in me, yet," he chuckles, speaking like a grizzled old man instead of a still rather green youth. He's got an old soul. Quite nigh twice as old. "Alright," he agrees on the general layout of events moving forward, and then, looking her in the eye somewhat expectantly… "No? Well, I'll provide it in abundance, to be sure. But for the time being I'm only wondering at your forebearance, Isabelle. You haven't yet asked me about the curse." Is he teasing, or in earnest? The smile that plays at the corner of his mouth makes it hard to tell.

—-

"That may be so, but fame has its uses in said work of a lifetime," Isabelle tells him, legs curling underneath her and situated somewhat sideways, her knees turned towards him. "People tend to listen when they know of a name and given that we've managed to find ourselves in the middle of an intellectual and cultural renaissance, I anticipate that the words of a talented poet will be given the weight or the prestige it is due." A palm braces on the ground behind her, the hand holding her stylus spinning it deftly between her fingers - she doesn't even look at it as it spins in contemplative loops, but it isn't surprising that they would have such dexterity.

His time with the Valerians show, and she can't help but find her lips curl faintly upwards at the sight of it - while known to patron the Night Court for her severe insomnia, and is a regular face since her return at their fetes, she doesn't boast the same level of camaraderie with its constituents as Jehan-Pascal does. "Oh, no no. I know what I am good at, I know enough to paint pictures for my patrons, as they readily relate to that rather than more technical design terms, but I would very much rather hear of your turns of phrases than my own." Though his quip about walking into the ocean earns him another one of her rich, unfettered laughs. "Do you get many by way of other hopefuls to look over their work?" she wonders curiously. "Or lovelorn suitors wanting to impress their paramours?"

Her forebearance? "You lower yourself," she says simply. "This is just as much enjoyment for me, spending time with you, as it is work. But tell me, what curse? The last time I spoke about folklore was with Vespasien de Trevalion, and it was about dangerous water creatures who tended to lure sailors into the depths to ensure their immortality. Are you telling me you're akin to those?" His smile draws one of her own. "Are you about to lure me into the depths to ensure your immortality?"

—-

Jehan-Pascal uncrosses his own legs, stretching them out along the wolfskin rug and leaning a hand behind him, arm locked straight, shoulder hunched near to his jawline, eyes faintly distant to consider the possible benefits for a Comte to also be a known poet. It just seems so… impractical, in the light of what he's even now already managing, effectively working in concert with his father instead of still being groomed in lesser affairs. His dreaming eyes are captivated by the patterns the stylus draws in the air, then along her arm, up to her shoulder, back to her face. "Maybe. I have a few little things I might be able to polish to a high gleam for publication. But I doubt anyone would much care for it. I write in a bucolic mode, for the main, and it's not a genre much in fashion anymore," he makes a second line of complaint to hide that insecurity behind. Does he get amateurs tossing verses his way? "Oh, gosh, yes, in Avignon," where his skill is somewhat better known, "It's a disaster. I'm a better poet by far than a teacher of poetry, I'm afraid my comments are often more critical than constructive." As to the curse, he seems a little surprised she's not yet heard of it, though, again, it might be a rumor more locally confined to Avignon than he thinks, his whole world sort of wrapped up in the seed of that seat. But now she's on about river-fae, and it's rather too amusing to interrupt. "H-heh," he issues forth, after a moment has passed. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you almost… wished to be so lured," he offers back, teasing the edge of flirtation. "But, no— no water-piskie, I. There's only a rumor about a curse plaguing all the Lords de Baphinol. Concerning our chosen mode of dress. I thought that in the light of our meeting's agenda, you might have heard of it."

—-

She laughs, drawing her knees up and tossing her stylus aside now that work has finished and something else has captured her interest. She can be ruthlessly focused, until she is not and like the huntress she is, she chases after interesting prey. The word of a curse is just a one - and it is one that is related to clothing, besides! "It doesn't take much to lure me if it is something interesting or dangerous, especially. I'm fortunate to have lived a more adventurous life than most and if I were to be sacrificed at this moment for the sake of ensuring someone else's own immortality, at the very least I go into my death without much regret," Isabelle tells him, amusement lighting up her eyes. "It's an addiction that has plagued me since my youth, having this troublesome propensity to be ensnared by anything that has my heart beating faster than nature intends, and to revel in the white-hot rush that follows."

She drains the last of her rose, the flute dangling from her hand. "You are a poet, I hope that you appreciate my very defining irony in the fact that the world at large is more familiar to me than the land of my birth," she confesses. "It is a novel experience, I think, to be a stranger to one's own land. I hope you'll tolerate my ignorance this one time." She tilts her head at him. "So which curse is this?"

—-

"Ohh… no wonder it is that here were are both lounging on the back of such a dangerous animal," Jehan-Pascal recognizes the evidence, previously ignored, of Isabelle's draw toward the dark and the sharp, and watches her in a new light for a few quiet moments as he incorporates the new data into his paradigm of her being, the images on the walls now gleaming with a newly gained relevance. "I fear this curse you will find most banal, neither particularly dangerous, and, depending upon to whom you speak, perhaps not even all that interesting," he goes on, maybe fearing that he's built up expectations of a curse dark and foul to delight that which leans toward the morbid in her imagination. "It's nothing so dire, after all. It's only whispered that the Lords of Baphinol blood are, to a man, taken by the fancy of dressing in womens' clothing," he places the words in a manner rather matter-of-fact. Nor does he leave her long to wonder after the accuracy of these whispers, but he continues, in a sort of roundabout circumlocution which one would expect to hear in some manner of legal documentation: "The potency of which curse I cannot, while being honest, vouch for in the more far-reaching corners of the bloodline. But as pertains to my grandfather and father, my uncle, my brother and I— I can (and, just between the two of us) confirm as generally axiomatic." It brings no blush— he's not embarrassed of it, per se, even if he neglects to go shouting it at people. And he certainly doesn't confide the family history willy nilly, but he supposes that for all his teasing her of curses she has been owed at least some nugget of the family mystery.

—-

Dangerous or interesting.

His dry words about the wolf earns him another laugh; Isabelle gives these tokens of mirth freely, a far cry from the haughty, serious and sardonic faces that tend to clutter around D'angeline courts and in a way, this might be one of the reasons why she has taken so readily to Jehan-Pascal's ease of character. But at the unveiling of the curse, she shakes her head and taps her fingers lightly on his shoulder. "I don't know what you're implying," she tells him simply. "It is interesting because the proclivity, in the times when I have encountered it…" And chances are she has, because of her field of expertise. "…is an individual choice. I've never heard it before being a family trait, certainly nothing passed down through the generations, so perhaps there is something there. Magic, perhaps?" She gestures sideways. "And it is plenty dangerous, at the very least outside of Terre D'Ange. There are cultures out there that would stone you for it - one of the earliest lessons I've learned in my travels is that compared to the rest of the world, D'angelines are especially enlightened when it comes to what to do with our hearts and bodies, so for all of my estrangement, I'm proud of having been born here. Perhaps the old addage is true, in a way, that it takes a profound absence to appreciate one's roots all the more."

After a moment, she reaches out, brushing gentle knuckles on his cheek. Her smile turns a touch rueful. "If this means, however, that you might commission me to craft something more feminine, I'll be more than happy to do so."

Her hand lowers. "Come," she says, moving to stand up. "Let's finish the tour of the downstairs, and then I'll see you on your way."

—-

"Magic, doubtful," Jehan-Pascal: man of reason. "Coincidence— possibly, but a strange one. I would argue, perhaps, some unseen confluence of influences, of culture and climate. I wouldn't count out family being a factor, either. If not directly passed down, as hair color or eye color, perhaps inspired from one generation to the next by subtle messages at a young age, half-consciously understood and incorporated into a developing mind?" He's thought about it— of course he has. It's not the strangest sort of thing d'Angelines get up to, but it might rank, and to be part of such a marked cluster is… maybe not alarming, but certainly conducive to thought, if one is already of a philosophical bent. "At any rate, I don't care much for dressing that way in the open, as my brother does, though I may have once made an exception at a masque. It's more of a… bedroom attire," he settles on the term. "Something at once soothing and rather exciting. Maybe it is, you know, something a little dangerous after all. A little off from how things ought to be. And, of course, the foreigners who are not as privileged as we are to know Naamah's blessing in its manifold guises. I would perhaps be anxious of it were I given to much travelling abroad, as you are. But from here I may pity their short-sightedness in peace. I might ask for something, in future, depending on how much longer Mari will allow me to raid her closet without complaint," he chuckles, drawing his legs up witn a W-shape before rocking forward and up to a stance. "We should, yes. Your salon is so charming, Isabelle, I can hardly wait to come and see it again."

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