(1310-08-28) A Night At The Opera
Summary: Matthieu de Rocaille unexpectedly receives an anonymous gift; box seats to the latest production of l'Opera Marsilikos, which he later uses to extend his thanks to those who visited and supported him through his convalescence, as well as the producer of the opera herself, the Lady Ortolette de Mereliot.
RL Date: August 25, 2018
Related: None
matthieu olivia helene ortolette lucienne iolanthe armandine 

L'Opera Marsilikos

Three sets of double doors allow entrance to the grand foyer of l'Opera Marsilikos, where gold-veined black marble floors greet patrons with an air of opulence. A fountain ringed by benches is the focal point of the foyer, its water trickling from a shell held aloft by a dancer with a flute to her lips. The walls are a series of gilded pillars and mock arches which frame trompe l'oeil paintings of Marsilikos and its port, whilst the ceiling above depicts cherubs and clouds against the background of summer's sky. An area of seating situated to the left is waited upon by several of the house's staff, with a variety of the finest wines and liquors sourced from Eisande accompanying a more conservative offering of freshly made sweetmeats and fruits. A sweeping staircase with gilded rails rises beneath a glittering chandelier to a galleried first floor, where access to the auditorium is to be found.

The auditorium, the heart of l'Opera Marsilikos, is as opulent as the foyer. Seating in the stalls and circle is upholstered in tones of crushed grape and gold, this matching the safety curtains of the stage and the draperies wound about gilded stucco columns. Several private boxes are available for those that are willing to pay for the privacy and better views of the stage that sitting within one provides, though the grandest of these is reserved for the Ducal family and favoured guests, easily recognised by the de Mereliot Crest it displays. Chandeliers glitter against a backdrop of a night-painted ceiling, and further illumination is provided by crystal sconces affixed to the walls.


A week ago, invitations were sent to the ladies of House Albert, Lady Helene de Verreuil and the Duchesse's youngest daughter, the Lady Ortolette de Mereliot, requesting their presence at the latest production of l'Opera Marsilikos entitled Les Travailleurs, by Caramande d'Automne. According to the programme, it is the tale of a common sailor who discovers the ill-gotten gains of a brigand troupe, and whom then tries to steal a treasure chest from them when their ship is wrecked in the shallows of the rocks off Kusheth. His wish is to gain riches enough to show a man that he is able to wed his daughter and take care of her as his wife. Prominent on the bill is the name of one of their party members - the Duchesse d'Eisande's youngest daughter, Ortolette de Mereliot, a noted and enthusiastic patron of the Opera. Word has it that an invitation had been extended to her in no small part due to her involvement in the production, as well as her most recent social milestone, which hints at an unparalleled stretch of good health and thus has offered to accompany her in the event that her fragility has kept her from attending a performance which may not have been possible were it not for her assistance.

Matthieu de Rocaille, the future duke of Siovale, is not without his courtesies and ever the gentleman - tendencies drilled into him by the formidable Vicomtesse de Seyches during her fosterhood of him - he has sent liveried guards and carriages, should they need them, to escort the ladies from various points of the city to the resplendent building, if not just to bolster their own retinues as surely they have their own guards. But as the invitations had come from him, in the end, it means that they will ultimately be under his care for a few hours, and this is a duty that he elects to take seriously.

Not that he is the only gentleman in attendance. Gabriel de Montreve, his Cassiline protector and close friend, is ever his hovering shadow, as well as Elliot de Rocaille, the man's half-brother.

The party is ushered to Box One; the best seats in the house second only to the Ducal Box, large enough to hold six or seven people and assigned with two attendants dressed in sharp black-and-white attire, to see to the party's needs with respect to food and refreshments. A small table to the side is set with various finger foods - small sandwiches, cured meats, cheeses, crackers and fresh summer fruit, as well as various chilled wines on ice.

Upon their arrival, the man is already there to greet them, standing despite the injured state of his one leg, though with his posture - shoulders squared and proud - the wound might as well be nonexistent, the only sign of the fact made evident by the ebony walking stick clutched on his left hand and gripped around a heavy silver head, and how he occasionally leans against it. He bows from the waist upon sight of them, dressed as proper for the occasion; a high-collared shirt dyed cerulean - a shade that does nothing but heighten the color intensity of his silver-chased blue eyes, tucked under a charcoal gray coat with structured lines and black epaulets that frame his broad shoulders, and impeccably tailored over black breeches and boots that reach to the knee. A short black scarf is tied around his neck, though while he wears it due to convention, he clearly does not prefer it with how the knot hangs loosely - signs that he has tugged on it now and then in his discomfiture. Overall, however, there is nothing beautiful or effeminate about him, despite being a trueborn scion of Shemhazai; his features are handsome, but hard, as if chiseled out of marble, and his hair is of such pale gold that it is almost white - like pure platinum when contrasted with his sun-bronzed complexion, kept cropped at the back and sides but longer on the top, and left to the wind.

"Ladies," he says, pausing for a moment to find his words: "As indelicate as I could be in expressing softer sentiments, I hope this attempt at showing my appreciation for your concerns and support will be well received. Lady Ortolette…" He turns to the young woman. "My congratulations on your first assignation, I'm glad that you are able to join us. I understand that this production would not have been possible without your dedicated patronage to the Opera. This is just as much of a celebration for your good health as it is mine."

He gestures to the side, towards the younger man next to him. "May I also present Elliot de Rocaille, my younger half-brother, who is a talented musician himself and aspires to perform in these halls, one day."

There is half an hour yet until the performance has yet to commence - enough time for introductions and some socializing and conversation before the necessity for silence will have to be observed.

—-

Olivia has happily availed herself of the offer of a carriage that's been extended by Matthieu, since Rose Sauvage only keeps the one for their own personal use. That first night frisson of excitement is to be felt as she arrives; not only amongst the patrons of the Opera that pour through its doors, but also amongst the staff as she's expediently escorted up the stairs and into the box where the party is gathering. It's an occasion to be sure, and one that is certainly grand enough for Olivia to have hunted out the finest that her wardrobe has to offer. Her attire for the occasion is white, of course, though her choice tonight is very much more fitted than the flowing style that she usually favours. Her gown spills from her shoulders to her feet in a single sheath of soft silk, and embraces her willowy figure to make the most of what curves the Companions have blessed her with. Her face is concealed beneath veils of the sheerest organza which gleam where woven with threads of silver, and the only jewellery that's visible upon her is the delicate clip of translucent white flowers which pins that veiling to the top of her head.

"Matthieu." Olivia is quick to seek out the host of the evening amongst the more familiar of faces to be found. Her curtsey is graceful, and deeply executed. "How kind you are to invite me this evening. Thank you." Another curtsey is made to Ortolette and Elliot, though only the one since she manages to encompasses both of the pair with her greeting. "Lady Ortolette. Lord Elliot." Her eyes linger a little longer upon Ortolette than upon the younger Rocaille, and her look is bright and inquisitive, filled with questions given the recent interactions between the two of them. Nothing is vocalised however beyond that greeting, and the smile that is surely on her lips is echoed in her eyes, before they're veiled by a sweep of her lashes as her natural shyness seals her lips.

—-

Helene Verreuil is the next to arrive, having left House Albert rather early to stop by a Temple beforehand. She is dressed in deep silken blues rather than the fine, but simple fare she prefers for day use, showing that she can indeed dress to impress. Her dark hair is arranged in loose curls, piled atop her head, delicately spotted with jeweled clips. She comes alone, her guard left behind outside the opera building itself to find his own amusement.

She peers her head in first, looking about to ensure she has found the correct box before stepping inside and curtseying deeply, her green eyes meeting the future Duke's blue with their customary warmth. "Matthieu, thank you very much for arranging this. I am glad to see you are up and about now," she says as she rises. Her head inclines then to each of the others, Olivia, Ortolette, Elliot, and even a wink for Matthieu's Cassiline companion.

—-

Ortolette is here, yes, and she hasn't quite yet lost the glow of her assignation night. Hazel eyes fiery, lit with the promise of an amber electricity, shoulders back, head aloft, cheek of a somewhat less ghostly pallor than usual, she bears herself with the stride of a newly discovered womanhood which she it not too shy to hide. Her gown is in a rich sea-blue, against which her skin reads rather more peach than marble, and bears a subtle bracket-point of a bodice pointed down from the flat, pearl-embroidered chestpiece, from which the layers of mixed tulle and organza whisper against one another with a glimmer of miniscule diamonds sewn onto the semi-translucent layers. Without sleeve or strap, the bodice is laced tightly, pinching in her waist to give the stick-like young woman a bit more figure. She does wear a matching pair of long opera gloves which mount almost three quarters of the way to her armpits. She mingles in the lobby, then processes up the stairs on the arm of her Cassiline, Girard, but leaves him halfway up, nodding to him her ability to manage the rest of the stairs herself— and so she does do, gown lifted just enough to show the toes of per petite, glittering, diamond-limned slippers. She carries herself into the box, features suffused with excitement tempered only by her nobility of spirit, tempering herself, for the nonce, with a sense of ducal dignitas. Girard himself, in order not to overcrowd the box, as soon as he has ascertained the identities of all within, simply posts himself on the stairway behind the low gate into the box, guarding the entrance and standing at the ready should he be of need.

When facing Matthieu, she pauses in her ingress, a step forward reversed into a sway backward and a dip into a curtsey while keeping her gown's skirts moving in an elegant sweep. Upon rising, she extends to him her hand, knuckles safe below the silk from anything which might be considered a liberty, elbow straight in a rather graceful pose as she greets him, "My Lord de Rocaille," she issues, voice still — so young, words— like a child— pronouncing her lessons before her tutor, precise and practiced. "Thank you," she answers for his congratulations, obviously more proud of her achievement than shy for anyone to be discussing it. "And, yes, my Lord, I have even this evening given prayers of thanksgiving to Eisheth for your well-being and for mine. She is smiling upon us, tonight, and I would not rather celebrate her blessings elsewhere," she continues, still sort of in the manner of a school declamation, but with wit of tongue and brightness of spirit, no less. "My Lord," she appends, to the younger brother now being made introduction, "How fine to meet you. I do adore the opera so. Which one is your favorite?" she asks him, since he is of an affinity to the art, while moving along sideways to let the host of the evening greet the rest of his guests. She takes in a shallow breath, eyes widening and cracking a bit of her dignified demeanor when she sees who else does greet her, "And Lady Olivia," she curtsies to the courtesan, as well, gaze locking on her inquisitive gaze and telling all while telling nothing with a dazzle of a smile flashing in her amber eyes and the way a deep breath stirs in her slight bosom and presses out against her tailored bodice. A young woman more than satisfied by the efforts undertaken by Olivia on her behalf. "Good evening," is all she says, but there are layers of subtext woven beneath, things better not spoken of in the polite refinement of the opera box. "Good evening," and another, for Helene, perhaps less intense in the measure of its meaning, but no less very cordial and polite.

For once actually accepting the carriage rather than choosing to ride saddle, Iolanthe d'Albert is perhaps the next to arrive. For the evening she has chosen a rather subtle off-left shoulder black gown that clings appreciatively to her bodice before falling loosely to drape down to her ankles. Her dark hair is pinned up loosely as a few strands escape to brush the nape of her neck with a measure of defiance.

Her guard, Thierry, has been granted the evening of rest as she ascends the stairs and makes her way up to the select box. Matthieu is granted a cordial dip of her head and slight lowering of her body in curtsey as she remarks smoothly, "Lord Matthieu, you have quite outdone yourself yet again with your generosity. On behalf of House d'Albert, we thank you for the invitation. Grandmère should be upon her way if she has not already arrived."

It is then Iolanthe's dark gaze slides to regard the others, curiosity flickering a little within their depths as her lips curl into a slow yet genuine smile, "My Lords… and Ladies, it is an honor to spend the evening in your combined company."

—-

Gabriel takes in everyone that's arriving, before turning towards Matthieu to drop a few low words in his ear. After a brief nod from the ducal heir, the Cassiline bows towards the rest, for once not delivering any of his acerbic wit to bear; a silent parting before he turns to head for the outside of the box, to guard it with his fellow Cassiline, Girard.

Though it isn't without some familiarity - he briefly rests a hand on Olivia's forearm as he passes, and returns Helene's wink before he vanishes through the curtain, and with no small measure of relief. Matthieu may be fond of the Opera, but Gabriel is another story.

The party starts trickling in; first Olivia, whose smile is one that he returns - the barest hint of it, as his way, eyes wandering to the clip on her hair, the only piece of jewelry visible on her person. "Olivia," Matthieu says, before turning towards the other figures who arrive. Helene gets an acknowledging nod, gesturing between the two women. "Lady Helene de Verreuil, may I present Lady Olivia d'Albert no Rose Sauvage, another friend from childhood whom I have known since I was eleven. She is the Second of her Salon." There is a glance at the fragile, delicate courtesan dressed in white. "The Lady Helene is her father's agent here, representing the Baronnie de Poumarous. I'm not certain if you've heard of the project to overhaul Siovale's ports that was granted by my father to hers, but she is presently furthering those efforts here in Marsilikos."

The youngest daughter of the ducal house of Mereliot is next to hold his attention, storm-laden irises falling on her when she sweeps a curtsey and extends a hand. His own fingers lift at her invitation, the very tips of them finding her own before curling in loosely, but securely, as if handling glass liable to shatter, and dips his head over her knuckles, though he doesn't brush a kiss upon them. He never does, no matter how accepted it is, never a man prone to false or even casual displays of affection. "It's likely that your prayers will hold more weight than mine, Lady Ortolette, I'm grateful for the petitions that you have offered in my behalf. Your kindness and consideration do you credit, to do so for a man who is little more than a stranger." He releases her hand from his easy hold afterwards, watching her move to greet Elliot and Olivia - the silent exchange between her and the latter occurs without comment, but it is noted. He is not in the habit of missing much, though he can surmise the reasons for it easily enough. After all, Olivia had been responsible for Ortolette's first assignation.

Iolanthe's arrival has him turning towards her, to look her in the eye and listen attentively to the words regarding her grandmother. "I'm certain that she'll grace us with her presence when she's good and ready," he remarks. "Though in this case, I can't take the credit wholly. The director of the Opera and I have a mutual friend, who arranged this for me - presumably to aid in my convalescence. I was simply inclined to spread the generosity she has showed me." It wouldn't be him, in the end, not to give the effort the recognition it deserves, nevermind that said mutual friend was not named in the note that he received, but he has his suspicions.

The waiting valets start pouring chilled glasses of wine, to be served to the guests that have already arrived.

—-

"I've told you that you shall never embarrass me like that in public. It's outrageous!" A firm voice of a very well known Vicomtesse de Seyches may be heard behind the door to the Opera box. "How old do you think am I? Eighty!? I can climb up the stairs without your dirty hands touching my silks! You are excused for today. You have disappointed me, Arthur!" There is a knock at the Opera box door made by a dangling stick before it's opened an a lady steps in carrying herself with pride and self-confidence. Her gloomy eyes scan the box making sure that she is on the right spot.

Woman's demeanour brightens up when her gaze catches the sight of Matthieu and her granddaughter Iolanthe. "Lords and Ladies," the woman's voice greats all gathered but she pushes herself through to make her way toward two people whose company she enjoys the most. "Dearest Matthieu," she says to the man and tries to reach out for his cheek to pat it like a grandmother would do. "I am so glad to see that you are out and ready to enjoy this noisy and smelly large city." Then she turns toward her granddaughter, "Glad to see you have arrived. What about your father, though?" A broad smile is also offered to Olivia and the rest.

Vicomtesse is wearing a deep violet mermaid skirt with back godet and lace bodice with long sleeves. Contrasting waistband with decorative flower is stressing out no longer slim waist. On top of her attire the woman has a brighter violet jacket. Her gray hair seems to be gathered into a bun and hidden under a fancy hat which is adored with a line of large imitation of flower blooms. Lucienne points with her cane toward a couple of empty seats, "Shall we settle down?" Her eyes then notice the presence of the young daughter of the duchess.

"Matthieu," Vicomtesse points toward the seat beside Ortolette, "I believe you should sit beside the young grace here. Then from your right our dear Olivia could settle down. You, Iolanthe, shall sit with me just behind Matthieu, lady Ortolette and Olivia. The rest can scatter around." And she moves to settle down behind the daughter of the duchess.

Gabriel's touch to her arm in passing, has Olivia exchanging a look of gratitude with the Cassiline. "Gabriel." It's a simple acknowledgement between friends, and her own hand comes swiftly up to cover his fingers. Their eyes meet briefly, but his hand is already slipping from her arm as he makes his way from the box to stand guard without. She tracks his egress with the smallest of sighs, as if her disposition would prefer to have her standing quietly outside and in conversation with him, rather than lost in the company of strangers. Except, they're not all strangers, not now that introductions are being made, and there's a natural ease to the way in which Matthieu draws her back into the conversation.

Her focus is quickly brought to heel.

"Lady Helene." She turns back to the small grouping and curtsies lightly to the woman at the introduction. "I am sorry to say that I know very little of the project to revitalise the Siovalese ports, but I hope that work progresses well." Clear eyes touch briefly with Helene's, before she adds. "At the very least, it has afforded you the chance to visit Marsilikos when it's at its loveliest." It's easy for her softly spoken words to find their own little niche into which to settle as Matthieu goes on to address Ortolette, and when he does she allows her attention to next settle there. "You look radiant, my lady." Those layers of subtext. There's a genuine regard for Ortolette in the compliment that's given, and the glow that suffuses the younger girl's features is mirrored in her own. She clears a suddenly thickened throat, and turns to accept a glass from one of the servers that l'Opèra Marsilikos has provided them with, and it's as she does, that she catches the strident arrival of her aunt.

The woman is an unstoppable force of nature as she sweeps into the box and stamps her presence on the gathering. Everything that Lucienne is, Olivia is not, and a deep breath is taken as she inwardly girds herself. "Good evening, Aunt Lucienne." Her curtsey is both graceful and dutiful, and it's perhaps fortunate for her that Lucienne appears to be focused more upon Iolanthe and Matthieu, than on herself, for it allows her the chance to step back from the group. One arm winds about her middle, whilst the glass that she's claimed dangles delicately from the fingers of the other.

—-

Even with the recent achievement of her younger daughter Ortolette and the radiant health that has seemed to be immediate consequence, Armandine Mereliot, Duchesse of Eisande, seems to be unable to let go of old habits, and one of them, the protective energies of a mother, she seems to have given in to. Because, while others are already gathering in that slowly but inevitably overcrowding box, a certain Duchesse arrives. Belated on purpose, to grant others the moment of greeting each other and settling in. The majority of guards will be waiting in the foyer, and only a small number accompanies Armandine on her way towards the Ducal Box. A radiant smile she gives Ortolette, and yet it will be Matthieu, she will approach first.

"It gladdens my heart to see you are already feeling better," Armandine announces with the warm timbre in her voice, an impression that extends to the smile on her face. "My Lord Matthieu. Be welcome in Marsilikos, and forgive me that I failed so far to pay you a visit as courtesy would have demanded. I heard you were ill though, and so to postpone a time to greet you in person was well advised." Her smile deepens. "I have always felt a close connection to our Siovalese neighbours, and as far as I can tell our relations have been always amiable in the past. Once you feel fully recovered, I would like to receive you at the Palace, for a little talk. I am curious about your visions and ideas." After which, the duchesse grants Matthieu a moment of pause from her attention, and in spotting other Siovalese among the few that are already gathering she will greet Lucienne next. "My lady d'Albert. What pleasure to see you here." They may have come across each other now and then, after all, the Duchesse Mereliot through her marriage to a member of House Perigeux has a number of Siovalese acquaintances.

—-

The man watches attentively as the other ladies gather and talk among themselves, especially the exchange between Olivia and Helene, and then the attention she pays Ortolette. There is nothing lascivious or overly interested about it, however; he doesn't take any liberties, nor does he go out of his way to flatter and charm and make untoward suggestions. While not humorless, he hardly smiles, and gestures of affection, while guaranteed to be nothing but genuine, are exceedingly rare.

And this rarity shows, however briefly, when Lucienne arrives with her usual bluster. The changes in him are subtle, but felt, when she swoops in like an old silver dragon to greet him. A hand and callused fingers lift to brush over the gnarled knuckles that pat his cheek, gently taking them in hand should she allow and bows his head over an appendage turned fragile by Time, followed with the faintest squeeze that hints at a profound fondness. Those familiar with his history would not find this unexpected - Matthieu never knew his mother, struck dead by childbed fever a week after he was born, and the closest equivalent to her ghost is this formidable lady who fostered him and cared for him in his most vulnerable days. Thus, he gives her the honor any dutiful son would bestow upon the first great lady he has ever known.

"Grande dame," he greets, releasing her hand once his own courtesies are delivered. "It's good of you to join us. You have met everyone, yes?" Amusement simmers in the undercurrents of his expression when she starts arranging everyone else to her liking, and before he could turn to Olivia and Ortolette to request their company, the sounds of multiple footfalls catch his attention, and he looks towards the entrance to the box.

Belated, yes, but not entirely surprising from what he has heard of the duchesse's devoted patronage to the arts. It is Gabriel who sees her approach first, dark eyes widening for a moment when her resplendent figure heads up a retinue of her own Cassilines and guards, but manages to move quickly despite this, drawing the curtain for her with a sturdy heft of battle-worn fingers and wrist. He and Girard bow deeply from the waist as Armandine passes, to let herself through the opening they have made and towards the party milling about in the box.

Matthieu recognizes her immediately; he has never forgotten a face in his life, and three years of abuse and captivity have not stripped away Armandine's features from his blade-sharp mind. Whatever ailments he endures under his clothes do not prevent him from bowing from the waist when she moves towards him, and offers his hand to her - will take it if she accepts the invitation, and his head over the elegant limb, but doesn't kiss it. "Your Grace," he begins. "There is nothing to forgive, and the fault is entirely my own. My pride refuses to let me call upon you and pay my due respects while I'm so grievously diminished, as to visit in such a state would place undue burden on your house." And that is something he would never abide. "But my recovery is coming along swiftly, in no small part due to my present company and the prayers that have been offered on my behalf, and it would be my honor to sit with you and have a conversation at the Dome. I can only ask for your forbearance that I have not been able to present myself immediately as duty demands."

The break from ducal attention has his own falling back to Lucienne. "The Vicomtesse de Seyches fostered me for most of my childhood," he offers to Armandine. "May I also present her granddaughter, Lady Iolanthe d'Albert, and Lady Helene de Verreuil, her father's agent and trusted representative of Barronie de Poumarous." A glance at the courtesan, his smile more sensed than seen. "And due to the Lady Ortolette's most recent good fortune, I believe the Lady Olivia of Marsilikos' Alyssums needs no introduction."

—-

Vicomtesse de Seyches has been already squirming in her seat and trying to find a more comfortable position that the pain in her back would be less disturbing when the Duchess herself decided to show up. A very quiet sigh of displease leaves Lucienne's throat when she pushes herself up with an assistance of a posh cane. She turns toward the woman of a highest status and waits till she makes introductions and greetings. When their eyes meet, Lucienne offers a bow of her head. She is too old for polite curtsies. "My pleasure," polite words are said to Armandine.

The dragon with many names, as the youth describes, remains standing till the duchess will decide to settle down. She will be leaning against her cane with both of her hands but she will manage to keep her shoulders straight and chin raised as if a proper young lady she used to me. Her keen gaze will observe everyone, especially her granddaughter and niece, making sure that they act properly and causes no shame. Her attention leaves Matthieu more freedom, focusing less upon his shoulders since the man earned her full trust through all those long years.

—-

Olivia remains quietly on the edge of the various conversations, her glass in her hand, as people continue to gather. She's perfected that wonderful art that so many of her canon excel at; the art of sidestepping being the focus of attention and thus blending seamlessly into the background. She'd probably be happy to continue to do so too, and her thoughts are already skipping ahead to the performance that they're about to enjoy, when Armandine arrives amongst their number.

Though not part of the initial conversation that's being conducted between Matthieu, the Duchesse and Lucienne, she's attentive nevertheless to what's being said, and when she's formally introduced, her curtsey is deeply conducted and graciously executed. "Good evening, Your Grace." Whilst their paths would have crossed before tonight's adventures, Matthieu's reminder that she's the catalyst of Ortolette's long delayed ambitions, brings the softness of a blush to her cheeks. There's no doubt that she's delighted by her own hand in bringing the matter to fruition, though she keeps any hint of pride for her achievement veiled from her eyes when they meet with Armandine's beneath the weight of her lashes. Lucienne need have no fear in how she conducts herself, and she turns to Matthieu to quietly add, "You will love the Dome, my lord, its architecture is spectacular, and created upon the roof of the western wing is the most glorious of gardens with views across the bay."

—-

"A pleasure Lady Olivia," Helene answers before shaking her head slowly, "It is no matter that you have not heard. I am quite sure it is rather a dull matter to those uninvolved, but I am grateful for the chance to return to Marsilikos after so long. It has been over a decade since I was here at sixteen." There is a brief interruption when Lucienne arrives, but Helene curtseys respectfully, the Viscomtess is afterall, also her host for the moment. "Viscomtesse," she intones, before quietly obeying the directive and looking for an unspoken for seat.

She takes a seat just behind Matthieu and his party, sitting quietly until she sees Lucienne's discomfort. Leaning forward, she quietly asks, "Is there anything I can get for you Viscomtesse?"

—-

Amid innuendo and annuenda Ortolette finds a quiet moment to enthuse about the upcoming spectacle with the other devotee of the opera in the crowd, speaking quietly but with great zeal about her favorites and the pedigrees of the libretti in her own personal little library, the famous names even of old who have been signed in ink by their very hands upon their forward pages. And, of course, the Toilers, a nautical tragedy with its origins in the western peninsula of Azzalle. How different the character of the omnipresent ocean, how differently it couches the setting and even the tonality of the music in its dark and rainy roar. So different from nautical themes as born in the southern sands of the Terre d'Ange, in which adventure and riches go hand in hand with more human dangers than natural, and the looming of a storm is usually reserved for a high dramatic moment in the piece. These are the sorts of things that Ortolette will go on about with Elliot, as though Eisheth had restored breath to her lungs only to have her use the very dregs of it to fangirl about operas. Ortolette will forego the wine on offer, preferring some cool water just touched with a drop or three of wine and a bit of lemon to lend a light flavor.

Outside the box doors, Girard is there to welcome Gabriel to the door-watching party with an easy smile. He's a big guy, but with a gentle-looking face and easy demeanor, unthreatening, even if he does pose a threat. "I'll move to the bottom of the stairs," he offers, so that anyone walking up the short flight into the box won't have to pass by both of them at once and be left feeling awkward. And it's probably a good thing the both of them aren't there to get in the way of the Vicomtesse when she arrives, either. It's enough of a distraction to pull Ortolette away from her mile a minute exegesis of the art form in question, only leaving off that she is very excited to see how they stage the octopus fight in act four. But that goes without saying, almost. No doubt a lot of people are here crowding the seats with an interest in said fight scene. But now there's an octopus of a different color in the box, arms moving this person here and that one there. She was rather hoping to sit by Olivia, but she defers with a dip of a curtsy to the Vicomtesse's dictates, along with a genteel and soft-spoken greeting. Quarrelling over seats at l'Opera is positively gauche, after all, especially when offered a place of honor in the box.

And then it is her own mother who arrives and makes her eyes brighten with joy. Ortolette wasn't sure whether she (the Duchesse) would attend to-night or be held off for another. She looks to be near to quivering all over with a barely contained energy that threatens to overwhelm her in the running up to the opening of the curtain, but she refrains from going to join her mother in an embrace, merely effecting a curtsey in courteous greeting, as meet in a refined and public venue. She does gravitate slightly toward Olivia again, tipping her chin upward just slightly, gracefully emoting the tender pride which Olivia so aptly hides behind her veils. "Oh, yes. The gardens are one of my very favorite places. Not too long ago it was a little patio, which was quite serviceable, but paled in comparison to the exquisite charm that it would grow to have once its bowers and planters were introduced," she agrees with the courtesan by her side.

Armandine Mereliot looks towards Matthieu, and her features warm in a smile. "Your fault, as you say, would have been the need for recovery, so allow me to disagree, my lord. The delay of the encounter does not mean it will be less appreciated, when it occurs." Skirts give a soft rustle, of a dress that is up to the current fashion, deep blue with yellow embroideries, as she shifts her weight a little from one leg to the other. "I am glad you are recovering. You have come to the best place, in that regard. The Grand Temple of Eisheth is always worth a visit." Her gaze shifts, to Lucienne d'Albert, and her hand comes up in a gesture. "Oh. Please. Do not stand on my behalf. My lady." Armandine did notice the cane after all, and the sigh too. "Pleasant it is to see you amidst relatives and acquaintances."

A nod and gentle smile is offered to Olivia, and Armandine receives the greeting of the White Rose with a benign nod. "Mademoiselle Olivia, you are a valuable asset to your salon. Please know that your efforts in regards to House Mereliot will not be forgotten." And here gratitude shimmers through, in the glint of her grey-blue eyes, the deepening of her smile that extends to Ortolette as well, her daughter who resorts to a curtsey of greeting. Nevermind! There will be time for a motherly hug later, when no one will be looking.

"Lady Hélène.", the Duchesse greets the Verreuil lady, then, as Matthieu offers introduction. "How wonderful, another Siovelese."

—-

"I haven't visited the Dome since I was a boy," Matthieu confesses, to both Olivia and Ortolette when they extol upon the beauty of the ducal palace's gardens. "Hence I've not seen for myself the changes made to it over the years. It seems that my visit is well overdue, and a failing I'll have the opportunity to rectify given Her Grace's invitation." His pale stare falls upon Armandine once more, when she gracefully disagrees with his assertions. "And one that I am looking forward to. It has been a very long time, Your Grace, since I've experienced Marsilikos and I'm grateful that I can do so again - if not just to be the recipient of your healers' blessings and expertise and I credit much of my present state to their considerable efforts. While I've yet to pay my respects to Eisheth at her house, I do intend to now that…." He can move without gritting his teeth. "…I've recovered some mobility."

And when the duchesse turns to greet Helene, there is again another smile, however faint - downright imperceptible, unless one is playing close and careful attention to his face. It can stem for many reasons, but by and large, doubtless it is due to Armandine's genuine regard for the Siovalese delegation.

—-

"It's not a dull subject at all, Lady Helene," Olivia quickly seeks to reassure. "It's a failing on my own part, that I know so little of it." With Helene's leaving to find a place to sit for the performance, a sip is taken from glass of chilled white that she holds, and embarrassment touches to her cheeks at the compliment that Armandine pays. "Truly, Your Grace, it was a combination of luck and good fortune that aligned so perfectly the arrival of a new face amongst us with the improved health of your daughter." Her attention is then turned upon the daughter in question, and a smile can be heard in tone of her voice. "It's not a place that I have much occasion to visit myself, but I remember how delighted I was when I was entertained there shortly after the renovations were completed. The iron gazebo that overlooks the bay is the most perfect of places wherein to break a fast of a morning."

The wine in her glass swirls with the slow rotation of her wrist, and she listens intently to the further back and forth of the conversation in the group that she's with, adding weight to Matthieu's earlier statement of his intention to visit the temples with her, now that his health is improving. "Just send word when you feel up to it, my lord. I can set a morning aside so that we can do them at our leisure."

—-

"I shall," Matthieu replies to Olivia, though before he can say anything else, the lights in the opera start to dim, heralding the curtains' inevitable rise.

Conversations are halted as those in attendance take their seats. Scarlet drapery is drawn back from the stage as the opening strains of the overture begin from the orchestra's pit. Les Travailleurs has begun in earnest, and it promises to be quite the show as advertised.

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