(1310-09-04) A Cassiline Decants
Summary: Oriane obtains some of the answers Matthieu was reluctant to give her.
RL Date: 07/09/2018
Related: Follows on directly from The Ultimate Truth.

Rocaille Townhouse

Lavish and refined in its design this townhouse seems to spare no expense while still maintaining a cozy atmosphere. The floors are polished ebony marble, gleaming under the light of many high windows and wrought iron candle filled fixtures. The walls are painted a deep forest green and adorned with various works of art depicting the companion Shemhazai and the lands of Siovale. The main rooms of the townhouse are for entertaining guests, the sitting room and dining room respectively. Other rooms branch off these and a staircase and well lit hallway leads upwards and deeper into the house where the private rooms are. The building seems to have been constructed around a large garden in which various herbs and flowers are planted. The garden also boasts a small well kept pond with exotic fish at its center. Both the dining room and the sitting room have large windows and doors that look out onto this garden.

It is entirely befitting to the dignity of Oriane Somerville de Toluard, in the opinion both of her nephew Matthieu de Rocaille and his Cassiline shadow Gabriel de Montreve, that the latter escorts her himself to the carriage kept idling all this time in the street outside for her convenience.

Oriane is quiet after they take their leave of the ducal heir and his favourite White Rose; she wafts along at Gabriel's side with her gloved hand so light upon his arm that the pressure of it scarcely registers. But somewhere between the patio and the foyer, along some fortuitously quiet corridor, her grip tightens. She puts her head round a door left ajar and discovers that the salon beyond is presently untenanted. Her escort finds himself carried away thence, in gentle but inexorable tow; and Oriane nudges the door neatly shut behind them with a black-slippered foot.

She doesn't release his arm till they're standing together in the middle of the spacious chamber, away from all its various apertures.

"Now," she declares in a quiet, brisk voice, looking the Cassiline up and down after the manner of a general inspecting her troops. Her blue eyes are alight with a canny curiosity. "You can tell me all about the girl."

The tall, sharp-featured, dark-haired Cassiline walks his distinguished companion towards the doors leading out to the Rocaille mansion in silence, though considering Gabriel de Montreve's own predilections, this blessed quiet doesn't last for long. It has always been a nervous habit, or some kind of defense mechanism - it has always stayed with him as a boy, and pervasive enough that even the harsh, rigorous austerity of the Brotherhood hasn't managed to beat it out of him.

"I can't believe all of that has happened in the time we're gone, Comte— er. My lady," he remarks, her hand light upon one of those signature vambraces as they move. "The last thing I would have expected was for Bordeaux to go back to— "

The lady switches directions suddenly, and he blinks as he's suddenly forced to go there by the stately, white-haired woman.

Now. You can tell me all about the girl.

Dark eyes blink. There's a glance to the entryway, before he speaks. "Livvy?" he remarks, a grin curling up on the corners of his mouth. "We grew up together, the four of us. Me, Matt, Raoul and her. We spent summers at the Vicomtesse de Seyches' residence and to be quite honest, my lady, I had no idea whether she would remember us. She was only six when she was shipped off to Mont Nuit, around the time I, myself, was packed off to the Brotherhood." A rare glimpse into the private life of the four friends - and implicit that in a single year, Matthieu had lost both their companionship.

"But we were surprised that she did. I expected that she would have forgotten our faces, but the night we stumbled back into Terre d'Ange, within hours, she was there with her old dragon of an aunt and she's been looking after us ever since. She is kindness personified, my lady. Even as a child. That hasn't changed over the y— "

But Oriane is holding up her hand in a rare display of open impatience. "That is very interesting, my dear," she says to Gabriel, stroking the puppy's ears before she kicks it; "but we haven't the time for these niceties." Thus her speech is swifter than usual, though her elocution remains every bit as precise. "The longer you're gone from his side the more likely he'll ask what we spoke of and you'll have to tell him. The girl, Gabriel," she insists, "the girl with the red hair, whereabouts unknown. It is appparent now that I've been sold a bill of goods, there, and I would know why, and by whom."

She wants to know; and it became plain to her on the patio that, Cassiline oaths or no, Gabriel wants to tell her. Under such circumstances she sees no need to prevaricate or dissemble. Sincere concern is its own passport.


Once Oriane reveals who she actually wants to know about, Gabriel's pleasant expression fades away into a more serious one. His taller form enables him to look into the woman's eyes and for all of his trickster's facade and general irreverence, she'd find a glimpse as to just how deceptive all of it actually is. Something stirs in the depths of those fathomless irises, that touches upon all that he is and more.

He is unmoved, it seems, of the need to hurry. His loyalty and devotion run one way, and one way only. They say that while the two men were never lovers, they were closer than brothers.

"Why would you like to know, madame?" he asks.

It's a simple question, upon hearing - but it stands to be just as deceptive as the rest of him. But the tone in which he delivers that query is emphatic in the implication that there is only one correct way to answer it.

"Your charge and I seem destined to have a deal to do with one another in the near future, in our province's interests," Oriane answers steadily, looking up into the Cassiline's eyes with a frankness in her own, "and when one does not know the boundaries of a wound, one cannot be sure one is not about to tear it further open by mistake. Siovale needs him hale and whole, as he needs Siovale to be hale and whole. The one depends upon the other."

Hale and whole.

Like Matthieu, Gabriel is fully aware of the woman's reputation, and no Siovalese who claims to be well-informed of its history would be ignorant of what this woman has done and sacrificed for the former duc de Toluard. He says nothing for several whole heartbeats, however, his gaze steady upon the woman's clear blues, reminiscent of summer skies, searching for something.

"Would you do the same for him as you have done your consort?" he asks, his voice quiet, but weighed down by a gravity that seems so uncharacteristic of his overall nature. It might be apparent, to some, but that is not enough for the Cassiline. He needs her word, and to gauge her willingness to give it…and mean it.

That all-encompassing phrase raise Oriane's eyebrows. Still, she doesn't look away. She understands what it is he's asking of her. "… I hardly think the same," she emphasizes lightly, "would be his desire or mine. But perhaps you have heard the tale of the man who went for a stroll in the moonlight and fell into a dark hole in the ground. He couldn't get out again; he cried and cried for help; after a long while his friend heard his voice and answered, and jumped down into the hole with him. The man was aghast. 'Why did you do such a thing?' he demanded of his friend. 'Now we're both trapped in a dark hole in the ground.' 'Ah,' said his friend, 'but I have fallen into this hole before, and I know the way out.'" The doyenne of House Toluard gives an elegant little shrug, settling black silk a-ripple over her shoulders. "What are we old people for," she inquires, "but to show you young people how to get out of all the holes we've stumbled into before you?"

She affects to take it more lightly than Gabriel, beneath whose Cassiline breastplate a sympathetic ache must still burn hotly; but at the last her own memories flatten her lips into a sombre line. Holes, and holes, and holes, and Siovalese men toppling in one after the other, in a procession through the decades and in all likelihood the centuries. Still, she's in deadly earnest now. How else, knowing what she knows of those dark places— ?

The story about the dark hole changes something in the man's demeanor and for a moment, Gabriel's eyes aren't upon her, but through her and elsewhere, deep down the canals of his own, rarely-divulged history. In the back of his mind, he could still taste earth and water filling his mouth and the pain of fractured bones, and a boy with whom he didn't get along so famously as he did now, refusing to leave him even while fear punched holes in his stomach at the prospect of not just drowning, but doing so and taking another with him.

But all that leaves him is a sigh, one hand falling on his hip and the other raking his fingers through the unruly mop of hair on top of his head.

"The duchesse took her from him."

His words are flat and when he continues, they become flatter, still.

"Matt did everything they asked. Everything. His father, the Vicomtesse, his tutors. It was clear to everyone that the duc will continue to love Little E…" His nickname for Elliot de Rocaille. "…more than he ever will his own heir, and I suppose that only pushed Matt harder. Even now I don't know how he endured it, working as hard as he did just so he'd be worthy, at the very least, to replace him. But all that time, he never complained. It was his duty, his responsibility. He would gladly bear it all for Siovale."

His gauntleted fist tightens against his hip.

"Rory was the only thing he wanted for himself," he says quietly. "And when he lost her, he went to war. Not to die, Matt's built out of stronger stuff than that, but to try and direct his fury towards a more purposeful direction. You know what happened after that."

Oriane devotes precious moments to rumination before, slowly, speaking. "The tale that reached my ears was that he loved the girl for a time," she explains, "but her interest was in attaching herself to the ducal heir, and she and her family were resettled in one of the Caerdicci states, accounts differ as to which, in order to discourage her importunities and leave him free to make his own choice of a bride. Just enough truth in it," she smiles crookedly, "to carry conviction… I will not ask if you are certain. I trust that you must be, to level this charge as well as the rest, this crime against the very precepts upon which our Terre d'Ange was founded…

"Gabriel, I must think on this," she decides, taking his arm to lead him out again, the escortee escorting the escort, "and consider too whence the story came. I think we'd all like to know, would we not, who in Siovale is taking coin in secret from the duchesse de Rocaille…? You will not regret having spoken to me," she adds, patting his arm before she reaches out to open the door to the corridor; "there are moments, rare moments like this, when to speak a confidence aloud is the truest means of honouring it. I think you chose well today, though I— " A half-smile "— Shall choose otherwise."

"Madame," Gabriel begins. "I can assure you, Rory wasn't even aware that he was the ducal heir for a while. As his friend, I would have suspected the same if I hadn't known the fact."

With that, he holds out his arm again, for the former comtesse to take, so he can escort her out of the room and back to the halls. The elder stateswoman's pause bids him silent and truth be told, he wonders whether Matt hasn't already made inquiries in that regard. Certainly, he would know by now, wouldn't he? He has his own agents.

But then again, the duchesse is fully aware of Matthieu's enmity and it is that awareness that, he suspects, drives them into their constant stalemates. If another looks into it, however, then perhaps it would yield more fruit. And for all of Oriane's present troubles, she still bears the name. All of it is beyond him, never raised to be a political animal as his friend has been, but he isn't without his own degree of perception.

"I'll leave it to you then, my lady," he says, before assisting her into her carriage.

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