(1310-09-02) Tea and Xenophobia
Summary: Two elderly ladies of Siovale meet and gossip, not quite by chance. (Warning: there is a rude word.)
RL Date: September 2nd, 2018
Related: None
oriane lucienne 

Maison de la Porte Blue

This narrow house, one of the humbler to be found in the Rue du Port, fronts directly upon the street and is distinguished from its peers by the possession of a pair of large bright blue front doors. Its pale stone walls, gently weathered by the sea air, rise to include three lofty floors and attics tucked away beneath a sloping roof of darker blue tiles. A small first floor balcony overhanging the street vaunts the artifice of local ironworkers, being daintily wrought in the likeness of climbing flowers, and painted every bit as blue as the doors beneath it. To the left of the doors is a lamp of iron and glass, to the right a brass bell fashioned with a small fish affecting to be hooked on the bell's dangling chain.

Behind the blue portal is a perfectly square entrance hall of the same pale stone as the house's exterior, floored with a chequerboard pattern of black and white marble squares. Two small doors in the back wall lead into the offices of the house; between them a generous arched niche serves to display cut flowers or greenery in season, arranged in some precious, well-chosen bowl or vase of beaten copper or silver or coloured glass.

Placed diagonally across the front right-hand corner of the room sits a noblewoman's litter, a luxurious creation in black and white and cloth of silver, with a crescent moon inlaid in silver upon its door.

To the left a pale stone stairway curves up toward the first floor, between intricate black iron railings which resume the floral motif.

Lucienne d'Albert, the redoubtable Vicomtesse de Seyches, has heard it said in Marsilikos that Oriane Somerville de Toluard — for so many years the consort the duc de Toluard loved and revered above his Caerdicci wife! — has taken a house in the Rue du Port and is living in it.

Perhaps she calls just out of curiosity, to see whether it's true.

She hasn't however the opportunity to take hold of the curious fish-shaped bell-pull outside the small house with the glaring blue doors, which gossip has assured her is the right one. For one of the blue doors opens to frame the slender pale-haired figure of the former comtesse de Bordeaux, bright in white silk against the cool darkness of her entrance hall beyond.

Oriane is arrested on her threshold; her eyebrows lift. In that moment recognition dawns and it's too late to pretend she's not at home. "… Why, my lady de Seyches," she murmurs, correct as always, in her elegant d'Angeline which carries no regional accent but the flavour of Elua itself. "What an unexpected pleasure to see a familiar face," she lies expertly.

"… Why, my lady Oriane Somerville de Toluard," Lucienne almost echoes the words said by another women. She brings her hand, which holds a marvellously done black cane decorated with silver ornaments, to her lips when she lets out a cough. Her eyes wander toward the path and her guardsman who stays few steps away from an old woman. Lucienne is wearing her finest violet silks and her grey hair is adorned by an extravagnat purple hat which has a line of silk roses attached to it.

"I was simply just passing through. Though, I must admit that I have heard rumors of your presence in Marsilikos. Did you come to enjoy the tournament? Quite a timing, I must say. The opening feast will be held tonight." She explains and now that there is no escape, the old woman moves forward. "I must say you look lovely."

"You were passing through the Rue du Port," echoes Oriane, continuing their duet; she nods her head in understanding, as though this street of merchants and retired courtesans were the natural turf of elderly vicomtesses. This is happening. Best to accept it and get it over with, or it'll be all to do again another day. "And you, you are a vision in violet. Are those cabbage roses—?" she inquires, flicking a glance upward to that botanical chapeau. "But the sun is so hot for walking in!" she exclaims softly. "This is my house; would you not like to step inside and rest for a few minutes?"

"Well, I may be old but I am not getting tired in the sun. Not yet," Lucienne replays but moves even more closer to where Oriane is standing. She leans against the cane heavily at each step. Maybe not the heat of the sun is tiring but the pain in her back definitely is. "However, I must say that I miss good old apple brandy of Somerville." She stops when Vicomtesse is close enough and looks the other woman over. "You definitely look great considering your age and experience. Lets come in, tell me all of what suddenly brings you to this stinky port filled with Tsingani and other foreign skunks." She rolls her eyes and tries to step inside the house if allowed. But she grumbles further on her way. "There was this incident not long ago when the market was filled with spiders. I am pretty sure that was a distraction made by Tsingani. I even heard that a couple of merchants were missing some pouches of silver after the turmoil. I am telling you, take a few guards upon going to the market. The city is full of them…" A shake of her head. A beat of her heart. And she continues. "Even more, I have seen those Bhodistans around in their ridiculous attires! Was a wife of Duc de Toluard not from Bhodistan? The man's whose consort you have been for so many years?"

"I am afraid I have no apple brandy to offer you," apologises Oriane, standing aside to make way for her visitor, "but perhaps you would join me in a glass of cool lemonade, or a lavender tisane?" These words are more for the black-liveried serving maid behind her in the entrance hall, who is already now moving toward the door at the rear which leads to the offices of the house. "Your man will be comfortable in the kitchen, I'm sure," she adds, assigning him with a nod to follow the maid, whilst she with her own slender gloved hands draws across the bolt on her blue front door.

Salon — Maison de la Porte Blue

Two square chambers are united by broad sliding doors of black-painted wood, creating a double cube lined with simple white boiseries and floored by squares of dark and light parquet in an echo of the marble downstairs.

The resulting combined salon is sparsely furnished with a few small chairs and tables light enough to be rearranged at will, their styles mismatched but harmonious, all of them painted white. In the rear chamber a single large sofa covered in deep sapphire-blue velvet is placed against the wall to the left as one enters it, across from the fireplace to the right.

The small balcony overlooking the Rue du Port, is echoed by a much larger one on the opposite side of the double cube, between the sofa and the hearth. Sliding doors, similar to those in the middle of the salon but set with diamond-shaped panes of leaded glass to let the light in, give onto a fragrant bower suspended amidst a magnificent view of the harbour. Small orange trees grow in pots, scenting the air with their sweetness; the blue wrought-iron railings are festooned with windowboxes planted with such useful household staples as rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, and lavender. And, for pleasure's sake, every white flower that might hope to thrive in the climate of Marsilikos has a place here, whether in a hanging basket or a pot moved inside at night. Overhead stretches a black and white striped canvas awning, the angle of which can be adjusted by lever to provide shade to plants and persons resting beneath it as the southern sun moves in its course.

The ladies progress up the curving stone staircase to the first floor, Oriane elegant in escorting her visitor and making the occasional encouraging noise as the younger (!) woman speaks. If her blue eyes freeze over at that last, they do so behind the back of the vicomtesse de Seyches, as Oriane ushers her into her plain and almost empty white salon. "The dowager duchesse de Toluard is a lady of the city of Milazza, in Caerdicca Unitas," she corrects mildly. "Will you sit?" She gestures to invite the other woman to take her choice of white chairs or blue sofa. The sliding doors to the balcony at the back of the house are open upon a striking view of the harbour under a celestial blue late summer sky. Orange trees scent the air.

"Oh, forgive me, m'lady. My old mind sometimes simply tricks me. I keep forgetting of the misfortune which fell on your shoulders. Such a fragile life it is when one does not officially set a signature on some papers which can assure of prosperity…" Lucienne moves to take a seat on the blue sofa. Once again, she heas to heavily lean on her cane in order to bend her cracking joints and settle down. The old vicomtesse squirms a bit finding the best possition possible. "You know that you can ask my help if you need it? I imagine it must be hard to live in something so empty…" Her gaze wanders aorund the current room and she just nods a bit judgementally of the decor. "Do you know that Matthieu Christophe de Rocaille is also here? What a good news it was once he came back to us. Everybody already thought him to be dead. You remember little Matthieu? I fostered him by the request of Fernand Adémar de Rocaille, Duc de Siovale." Pride. So much pride.

The sofa is big enough for three; but somehow Oriane prefers a small chair, painted white, which she shifts to a conversational angle a few feet away from her visitor. "Ah, but is not all life fragile, my lady de Seyches—?" she wonders aloud, slowly stripping off her gloves. "A man's breath might be snuffed out in a moment, or a paper torn in two in scarcely more time." She drops the gloves upon a convenient small table and turns her rings the right way round, a silver signet on her right hand and an indecently large diamond on her left, in place of the wedding band a consort doesn't wear.

When the vicomtesse mentions decorating help, Oriane's eyes follow the other woman's gaze and she affects a mild incomprehension of what might have prompted such an offer. "Why, you are kindness itself," she replies pleasantly to the vicomtesse's offer. "I shall be certain to remember your words if ever I do find myself in need of your aid, my lady…" She is easily diverted to talk of the Rocaille heir. "I had heard something said of his miraculous return to us, but I haven't had the pleasure of seeing him — you must be overjoyed. Perhaps I might trouble you for the real story?" she suggests. An invitation to gossip is rarely unwelcome, provided it isn't called gossip. "One hears so much loose and irresponsible talk — it is hard to know what to credit…" And that should keep Lucienne busy for a few minutes, reflects Oriane, as her maid's footsteps are heard on the stairs.

Lucienne leans back in her seat but keeps her both hands resting on the cane. "Foreigners." She simply answers. "Foreigners and a very poor job of that boy Gabriel. I believe that is his name. He was suppose to protect lord Matthieu and yet, that Gabriel comes back alive with a very badly injured Matthieu. Outrageous! I would have understood and prayed for the boy if he would have died in a fight. Now I only have to wonder why he is kept around in service. Very poor service." The woman sighs. "Anyway, I do not want to offend Fernand Adémar de Rocaille, Duc de Siovale. I respect the man but he could have taken care of the matters faster. Life is not fragile if one is wise enough, lady Somerville." Vicomtesse explains her own view. "But enough about this city and people I care about. Tell me your own story. You have avoided the subject three times in a row. We have only been speaking a few minutes. Why are you avoiding the subject?"

The maid's steps pause on the landing. She enters the salon unfolding with both hands a crisp white cloth, which she drapes neatly across one of the salon's empty white occasional tables before placing it between her mistress and the visitor. On her second trip from the landing (made whilst Lucienne is still animadverting against the Foreign Menace) she brings a polished silver tray, which she props between her body and the table as she transfers its contents to the latter. A small brazier over which a pot of water is kept nicely hot (this she holds carefully in a folded cloth), a silver teapot, two silver-edged white cups and saucers almost paper-thin in their transparency, an infuser, a silver-lidded jar containing the tisane itself, another jar of honey, silver spoons; in short, all the accoutrements for brewing it here in the salon, which Oriane does herself, with graceful familiarity.

The maid meanwhile retreats to the wall, hands clasped at her back.

"What subject is that, my lady?" asks Oriane, looking up from her task, still determinedly pleasant. She lifts the pot of water and pours it, steaming, through the leaves and into her teapot so highly polished it has nary the mark of a fingertip upon it. "You know very well that the duc de Toluard was killed in a jousting accident last summer," she points out, steadily pouring, "and that my former title of comtesse de Bordeaux is under dispute by his son. What have I to add to what all the world has already told you?" She sets down the pot and sits back in her chair, letting the tisane steep. "Do you take honey?" she inquires by the bye. "Or would you prefer the lemonade?"

"I will take honey, dear," Lucienne simply answers before getting back on the topic. "Well, I am aware of what the world has been talking. I was wondering if you came here to the city of Marsilikos for a more specific reasons? I mean, as I said before, I am in a good spirit. Isn't his son a mixture of his foreign wife and our blood? It would be my honor to assist you in this small battle you are force to fight in such an age. One should get peace not a bother for the late evenings!" She shakes her head displeased about where the world is going.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Lucienne d'Albert was invited inside. "… Yes," Oriane grants slowly, "naturally the late duc's children are also the children of his wife." She herself, as consort, bore him no others. "Vicomtesse," she breathes out, smiling slightly and giving her head a little shake as though to join in deploring the times, "I ought to have known you would understand my position. It is difficult, you know," she confides to the foster-mother of the heir to the sovereign duchy of Siovale, "as a mother and a grandmother, to wake up one day and discover that one's children's inheritance is not as secure as one had always supposed." She shrugs her shoulders, setting her pristine white silk a-ripple.

"The lawsuit continues — they tell me it will take some time — my daughter the baronne d'Yquem is acting in my name, of course. I will tell you the truth: my only thought in coming to Marsilikos has been to avoid the unpleasantness, the memories…" She inhales; she sighs; she inspects the progress of the lavender tisane. "I don't know if there's any aid I might ask of you, generous as you are to offer it. But I hope that if the subject comes up in other gatherings, you'll simply speak the truth. That the warrant by which the comte was granted to me was perfectly in order, supported by untold precedents, and accepted by all at the time. Attacking it at this late date is—" She shrugs again, as if to say: who can fathom the ways of these foreigners? "Well, I don't pretend to understand an act so spiteful, at such a time. I don't believe," she concludes, withdrawing the infuser and depositing it neatly in its dish without splashing a drop on her spotless tablecloth, "anyone will profit by it in the end except the lawyers."

On which note she pours the fragrant tisane into the silver-rimmed cups; and then she adds honey to one and places it in easy reach of her guest.

Lucienne reaches for the cup. Her hands are trembling a bit, making the cup and the small plate it's placed on to clatter a bit. Then she uses a spoon to mix the honey in. Once the spoon is set aside, the old Vicomtesse takes a sip. She sighs. It seems that the drink keeps her calm. So, instead of speaking in a raised voice, she states in a lowered one. "No. I will tell everybody the truth I know. Terre d'Ange will fade into unknown future if we will allow foreigners to take it over. If we give preference to the half-breeds instead of the pure Terre d'Ange blood, we may also just simply grant them our lands. Why not? Do you think they marry for any other reasons but to intrude into our lands, our culture, our traditions? They send their whores here to sleep with our men. Our men being so weak willed thrust their cocks into those exotic whores and then children appear like mushrooms in the forest after the first autumn rain. Then their children dare to threated to strip off our blood of the titles, money and lands?!" At the end she can not hold her anger. The woman has to set the cup down not to spill the drink. Her breathing increases and so she closes her eyes to calm down. "I will help you."

Oriane sips the tisane unsweetened from her own cup, playing for time whilst she concocts a diplomatic approach to such useful albeit volcanic prejudices. "You and I have lived to see such changes in our land…" she begins, in a pensive and regretful murmur, which is interrupted by the rattle of the other cup and saucer returning to the table. She sets down her own and rises smoothly, taking a step closer. "Vicomtesse, are you quite well?" she wonders with polite urgency. "Shall I summon your servant?"

"No need for my servant. Thank you. Though, I believe that it would be right about time to go back. I need to… take care of a few matters. I appreciate your kindness, though. It was a pleasure to meet you again and remember old days as well as to finally talk about the nonesense of the current. Majority of the people here are so young and clueless!" She rolls her eyes and kneels against the cane to raise to her feet. "Lady Oriane, visit me at my mansion one day. It's in the noble district. But maybe we will meet at the opening of the tournament tonight. I shall prepare for it. Already asked for my maid to bring out and air off my gown. A good one. Made by our tailors." Vicomtesse starts moving toward the stair.

"Of course, of course… I should not dream of keeping you any longer from your affairs… A pleasure indeed… I am not yet certain whether I shall attend… Though if I don't I shall hope to see your favourite gown on another occasion… Mind that last step, it's shallower than the rest." With such gracious murmurs as these the erstwhile comtesse de Bordeaux escorts her visitor out of the salon and down the stairs, her maid hurrying ahead soft-footed to fetch that d'Albert guardsman out of the kitchen.

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