(1310-09-07) The Handmaiden Lead
Summary: Thibault visits the palace in search for answers.
RL Date: 13/09-01/10/2018
Related: Kusheline Snakepit Plot
thibault armandine 

Entrance Hall — Dome of the Lady

Large double doors upon into the entrance hall of the Dome of the Lady. High is the ceiling, and it sports a playful fresco of ornamental golden fishes swimming upon a background of ultramarine. A number of high rectangular stained glass windows add to the lighting, painting the marble floor occasionally in many colors, especially on hot summer days. A red plush runner leads towards the entrance of the Great Hall, always flanked by a pair of guards in Mereliot livery, and to the right a stairway winds majestically towards the upper floor.

It's a cool summer day, grey clouds who threaten the coming of autumn casting the city in dimmed hues of blue, the occasional chill breeze further reminding the people that summer is coming to an end. Even in the dimmed light, the Dome of the Lady looks as magnificent as always, overlooking the city and the people within it. One of those people, a tall, young lord with dark hair clad in black and crimson, is approaching the Palace with long, calm strides, head turning one way and then the other, taking in the impressive scenery. His red leather belt is strapped around his waist as always, but anyone who knows him would immediately notice the lack of his rapier at his side. If Thibault is impressed, however, you wouldn't be able to tell from the slightly bored expression on his features and the tired look in his eyes as he looks around. A hand is even raised to shield a deep yawn. Walking up to one of the main entrances, he stops for a moment to greet the guards stationed there, exchanging a few words with one of them, possibly asking a question, before giving the man a nod and continuing into the interior of the Palace itself.

The palace is moderately busy at this hour. The guard Thibault addresses seems to be pleased to see the nobleman entering unarmed - or he would have been asked to discard his weapon at the entrance. Beyond the tall doors is the entrance hall, where on impressive set of stairs leads all the way up to the upstairs landing. There are of course the doors that lead right into the Great Hall. And to the side, a door connects to the kitchens and a hallway. It will be here that some of the servants can be seen vanishing or emerging from — hinting at what are most probably the private quarters of servants and handmaidens serving at the palace.

Thibault walks into the entrance hall after having exchanged words with the guard, taking a few steps to the side and coming to a halt, letting his eyes sweep lazily over the large staircase leading up and the large double doors leading into the Great Hall, before settling for a moment on the smaller door to the side where servants are emerging from and disappearing into. A hand comes up to rake long fingers through the thick, black hair on his head and run down his neck, resting just below the nape. He stands there for a moment, either waiting for something or making up his mind as what to do next, eyes still wandering but keeping that smaller door in the corner of his eyes. When a young woman in a pale blue gown appears from the smaller door, it breaks the seemingly bored expression on his face which is replaced by one of courtly politeness and even a slight smile. He takes a few steps, fast but not hurried, in her direction and then addresses her. "Excuse me mademoiselle, might I steal a short moment of your time?"

The woman in the pale blue gown pauses in her steps. Her hair is done all orderly, twirled into a bun, and the manner of the dress, devoid of any fancy adornments suggests she may be one of the maids. When Thibault addresses her, she comes to stand, looking a bit startled. "M'lord.", she greets then with the required curtsey, the slurred commoner sort. "How can I help you." Her manner shows the respect a servant should have for someone of noble birth, and the smile she gives him is shy and a bit hesitant.

Thibault offers the woman an appreciative nod and takes a step closer to her, leaning down slightly to talk in a lowered voice, amber eyes looking at her with their usual half-tired look. "I was hoping that you could tell me where I might find mademoiselle Noelle, one of the Duchess' handmaidens. I need to talk to her." A beat. "I wouldn't want to interrupt her in her duties, of course, maybe some place that I could wait for her until she is done with them for the day?" His words are soft and his expression holds a hint of apology, like he is almost a bit embarrassed asking her this. He leans in just a little more and his voice becomes lower still. "Also, I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone else about this, I wouldn't want people to….. assume anything…". A smile and a knowing look at these last words. Words that, despite their meaning, is spoken for that exact purpose, to make her assume things. Things far removed from his real purpose here today.

The maid is forced to raise her gaze, as Thibault is so much taller than her - a convenience that adds to the respect and subservience she already displays. "Oh! M'lord… why would you…" Her words trail off, and her eyes widen, perhaps a little shocked at the implications that linger there, unspoken, and in part hinted at. She swallows. She glances to the left and right. "But, m'lord! This is…" A faint protest, the thought not quite finished. Her eyes flicker a little, as if she were not quite sure. And then she nods. "Ah… Noelle, yes. She…" Again she glances about, and then gestures for Thibault to follow her into the hallway. "She should be in her room. Her Grace is out."

The maid in the blue dress leads the nobleman deeper into the corridors, a multitude of doors telling of the many chambers staff occupies. And it takes quite a number of staff for the many duties and tasks that occur daily at the palace. Finally, the maid reaches a door and gives it a knock, stepping aside then as it opens and reveals another young maid standing there, her dress a dark blue with yellow lining at the hems, a commoner's dress, but far more elaborate than what other servants wear. "Noelle. This gentleman wishes to speak with you…", the other maid says with a faint smirk, before she steps away and leaves Thibault and Noelle to their conversation.

Thibault follows as the maid leads him deeper into what appears to be where the servants are housed when not performing their duties. He glances around the place but doesn't greet or otherwise react to anyone else they might pass on their way. When they seem to have reached their destination and the maid stops to give a knock to one door, he takes a small step to the side. As the door opens, he let's his eyes sweep over the woman now standing in the entrance clad in a dark blue dress that stands out easily amongst the other servants. He notes this in the back of his mind.

A short, polite smile to the other woman is given as she turns to leave back in the direction she had just led him from, likely going back to whatever chores she was attending before he interrupted her. He waits until she has taken a few steps away from them before turning his eyes back to the woman in the doorway. He speaks in a slightly lowered voice as to not attract more attention than his tall, clearly noble clad figure might already in this place, amber eyes peering into hers. "Mademoiselle Noelle, a pleasure." He greets her, leaving out his own name for now. "I hope I am not interrupting anything?" The words apparently a simple politeness as he doesn't leave her time to reply before he continues. "I was hoping to ask you a few questions, a mutual friend told me that you might be able to help. May I come in? I'll only take a moment of your time, I promise." A beat. "Unless you insist otherwise, of course…"

"I do not know you.", she tells him.

And yet, when Thibault moves into her chamber, Noelle does not stop him. There might be the faintest of glances towards the handmaid that brought him there, but she is already moving away to return to her chores.

"My lord. I'll gladly be of service, but… may I ask? What questions? And who are you, and this … mutual friend?"

Noelle's dark hair is done in a braid, and the white bonnet sitting upon her head indicates her status as handmaiden.

Thibault moves past Noelle and into the small chamber. He doesn't answer her questions, at least not yet. He clasps his hands behind his back and looks around the room slowly, evaluating it though giving no indication whatsoever as to his judgement, keeping his back to the handmaiden for now. He waits until he can hear the sound of the door closing before speaking again, keeping his back turned to the woman as he does, eyes still slowly tracing over the few details in the simple room.

"Have a seat.", he offers her despite him being the guest here, his tone calm but with a subtle firmness to it.

"What is your name?", the handmaiden repeats her question from earlier. His commanding tone prompts her to sit down, immediately. "My lord. I must remind you, that you better have a good reason for this." Murmured objection, perhaps too low for him to catch. Her eyes regard him, slightly wide with both curiosity and… faint anxiety. It doesn't occur every day, that a lord wishes to speak with her.

<FS3> Thibault rolls Perception: Success. (1 4 8 1 2 1 4)

"I assure you, mademoiselle, I never do anything without good reason." He answers to her murmurs, making it clear that his attention is fully on her even with his back still being turned. After a few more seconds he turns around, eyes regarding her for a moment, a small smile playing over his lips as he does so but his expression otherwise unreadable. He moves to take a small stool and places it in front of the bed where she has sat down, and perhaps by chance, straight in the path between where she is sitting and the door. He slowly takes a seat, making himself as comfortable as he can. He then leans his tall body forward to rest his elbows on his legs, locking his eyes with hers, the calm but very much present intensity of them threatening to pierce right through her. Yet, his tone remains calm as he speaks again. "My name is Thibault Charlot…" There is a slight pressure applied to the last name there. He let's the name hang in the air for a moment before continuing. "…I was told that you might have heard something regarding one of my relatives." A short moment passes, the intensity in his gaze increasing slightly despite the rest of his features remaining calm. "I need you to tell me what you have heard about the name 'Esekiel Charlot'."

The handmaiden hears his words, and she endures that gaze for a moment. "M'lord. Who told you this? And if I did… It wouldn't be my place to tell you." Fingers fidget before her where they rest in her lap.

A small sigh is exhaled through the nose and his brows furrows a bit as he simply watches her for a short moment. "Noelle!" He then says in a firm tone, like a parent would use when addressing a child that has done something wrong and refuses to be upfront about it, the Kusheline dialect of his voice becoming more distinct. He reaches to take one of her hands in his own, gently yet firmly, his tone turning calm again but with an insisting edge to it. "I understand that you do not wish to betray anyone's trust, but this is very important to me. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't, believe me. I can't tell you anything more, but anything you can tell me will be much appreciated, and I would be more than willing to make it up to you in whatever way might soothe any guilt you may feel by doing so." The hand not holding hers goes to push aside one part of his doublet, revealing a well filled leather pouch used for coins. "No one will know that this came from you, I promise you that."

Thibault spends 1 luck points on Convincing Noelle.
<FS3> Thibault rolls Persuasion+20: Great Success. (1 7 5 1 8 3 6 5 3 7 2 4 3 4 7 2 6 3 1 2)
<FS3> Eisheth rolls 6: Great Success. (8 8 8 7 8 6)

The handmaiden's gaze drops to the hand that takes hers, eyes widening even further, as the Kusheline addresses her. "But… m'lord…" She exhales, lifting her eyes to meet those of Thibault. Of course, she can sense it, the dark air about him, and the no doubt convincing personality of the Charlot. And there, she pulls her hand away, if he would let go of it. "You are asking me to betray the trust of the one I attend to." At which she rises to her feet, and her arms cross before her. "However…" The purse he had shown to her, never really managed to draw her attention for long. But something else, has, perhaps. "My lord. I cannot help you. But maybe. Maybe you would like to address your questions to Her Grace?"

Thibault lets go of her hand when she retracts it from his own, a thoughtful expression taking his features for a moment. He nods a few times before rising from his seat himself. "Yes, I am, aren't I. As I mentioned, this is very important to me and I did not want to trouble Her Grace with something that might be nothing but a hunch. " A small smile then. "I apologize for putting you in such a situation, mademoiselle. I hope you don't think ill of me for it." A beat. "The Duchess is very lucky to have such loyal people as you attending her.", he offers her with a faint acknowledgement in his voice and features.

He was never really sure how this would go. After all, most 'questionings' he's been a part of has been at the more pleasant end of a whip, or worse. He's never been the best at asking nicely.

"Maybe you're right and my questions should be posed directly to Her Grace, although I was told that she was unavailable by the woman who showed me to your quarters. Do you know when she might be expected to return?"

"Please…", the handmaiden says, lowering her gaze. "Her Grace will be back soon. Allow me to lead you up to the solar." It seems to be the easiest way out for her, especially as it might even serve Thibault's purpose more. A curtsey. "Pray, come along." If he should agree, she will lead the way, to the entrance hallway, and from there to the stairs, that lead to the upper hallway.

Thibault offers the handmaid a nod, stepping aside to allow her passage to the door. After all, at least the rumours of his uncles name spoken inside the Palace has been confirmed by this unorthodox meeting, even if he didn't get the answers that he came for, yet. "Please, lead the way." He says before following her out of the small chamber and towards the Solar.

Solar — Dome of the Lady

Spacious enough to provide a meeting place of more familiar atmosphere to the residents of the Ducal Palace, the solar is of rectangular shape and generously lit during the day through a number of arched windows in the south wall. The opposite side is governed by a huge stone hearth, a fire crackling there during colder weather conditions. Above the hearth hangs a shield with the coat of arms of House Mereliot, flanked by a pair of exquisitely woven tapestries depicting naval scenes of ships on the sea, one in calm and tranquil weather conditions, the other one in a storm with heavy rain.

All furniture is made of oak, be it the long table in the middle of the room, or the number of high backed chairs arranged about it, flat cushions of blue brocade adding to the comfort of seating. The ceiling is a sophisticated rib vault, constructed of wood, the ribs painted in yellow. Depictions of a variety of sea animals have been added onto the light blue ceiling as well by an unknown artist. Several kinds of mediterranean fish adorn the spaces in between ribs, such as combers, groupers and flounders but also starfish and octopusses.

A door leads out onto a rooftop garden, and an archway opens into the upper hallway.

Thibault will be provided with whatever drink or refreshment he desires, to while away the time, until…

There is movement at the entrance, and Duchesse Armandine Mereliot enters the solar shortly after. She wears a dress of several shades of blue, long sleeves hugging slender arms, and long skirts with intricate embroideries glimmering faintly in the light of day that filters in through the windows. Her blonde hair is done in a courtly fashion, done up with a few gems glinting here and there on hair needles. "My lord," she greets, giving the young Kusheline a curious look, before she looks towards Noelle. The handmaiden has arrived in her tow, and now confirms towards the Lady of Marsilikos, "This is the lord that I mentioned to you, Your Grace."

As soon as he notices the movements at the entrance, Thibault rises from the high backed chair he had been seated in while waiting, putting down a half-full glass of wine on the table in fron of him. He takes a few steps towards the two before he gives a deep, courtly bow to the Duchess. "Your Grace." He greets her, straightening his posture before introducing himself. "Thibault Charlot." He then introduces himself, despite having done so before at a few of the events. After all, he can't expect her to remember all the guests making polite introductions at one of the numerious events held within these walls recently, even if he does strike a rather imposing figure. He gives Noelle a quick glance and a small appreciative smile before turning his full attention back to the Duchess. "I was hoping that I might steal a moment of your precious time. It's regarding one of my relatives…"

"Why, of course!" Armandine accepts his greeting, but the look she gives him betrays that she may indeed remember his name from a recent occasion — after all, Thibault was among those that took part in the tournament. "My lord of Charlot…", she smiles, and gestures for him to sit. "You can steal a moment, and also more, as you find me currently at leisure. Noelle here tells me that you asked about… a certain Lord Esekiel Charlot." Skirts give a faint rustle, as she sits down, and she gestures for Noelle to provide her with a glass of white wine. With a smile, Armandine turns her gaze towards Thibault, her smile warm and encouraging.

Thibault gives Armandine a smile and a small bow of the head at her words. "Your Grace is very kind." He then takes a seat in the same chair he had been waiting in as she gestures for him to do so, picking up the glass of wine but not drinking from it, merely swirling the contents of the half-full glass in his hand.

"Yes, indeed, the very same. He is my uncle, you see, and while we haven't seen each other in a while we have kept in contact via letters. It has, however, been a long time since I last heard from him, and it isn't like him to stay out of touch for this long. While it might just be a simple question of his letter getting lost en-route, it has never the less caused me a bit of unrest. When I by chance heard that his name might have found its way to your court, I felt compelled to seek out the truth of this myself. If you or anyone here at the Palace have indeed heard anything that you find yourself able to share, it would greatly help reassure a troubled mind and be much appreciated.

"How interesting, that such word would have reached you," comes in light remark from the Duchesse. "I should perhaps ask, who might have been the bird that twittered such news into your ear, my lord. But then again… There has been a change, a recent change. And perhaps… perhaps it would only be fair to assure you, that last I heard of Lord Esekiel de Charlot… he was alive and well." A sip of wine is taken, as the duchesse considers the young man, and one corner of her mouth lifts in a wry little smile. "May I ask, how caught up you are in current Kusheline politics, Lord Thibault? Apart from being the heir to a Vicomte?"

Thibault takes a sip of his wine as he listens to the Duchess speak. "Well, that is good news, at least. He always had a knack for getting himself into….situations….and while he is certainly capable of handling himself, well, you know how it is with family. You sometimes worry at the slightest irregularity." He says with a smile that holds a hint of apology and the faintest raise of one shoulder. "As far as Kusheline politics go, I thought myself rather well caught up, although perhaps I'm not as caught up as I should be by the sound of it…" He then counters with an inquisitive look and a smile before taking another sip of his wine. "I've been away from Kusheth for the better part of the last year, visiting the different courts of the other provinces of Terre d'Ange." He explains shortly as to why this might be. "I know that Lord Quintien de Morhban, the former Marquis of Lusande, has taken over his brothers position of Duc after the latter passed away, although how this might relate to the 'situation' with my dear uncle I'm afraid I remain in the dark as to. Your words lead me to believe that there might be something there, however…." He then offers, a slightly teasing tone to those last words. "Any news that you are aware of and feel partial to share would certainly not fall on unappreciative ears." Another sip of wine to empty the glass as he looks to the Duchess over the rim of the glass, his eyes sparkling with a genuine interest and a little humor at the fact that he, a Kusheline, is asking the Duchess of another province for news on Kusheline politics.

"I could ask, what caused you to worry for Lord Esekiel's safety," Armandine counters, raising a brow, while her smile remains in place. "I could ask, why you chose to investigate, when you heard someone had mentioned the name here, in this very palace? Would it be a shocking revelation, if I told you that Lord Esekiel has been in this city some months ago? That he even attended the spring ball? That he currently is not in town, now that this important guest of my court is present to attend the tournament and its many contests? Yes. We have a guest. A good friend of mine, she is, and I know she and Esekiel are well acquainted and close. Lady Charlene Morhban de Fhirze, Dowager Marquise de Fhirze and daughter to the late Duc Jacquet Tristan de Morhban."

There is a flash of recognition in his eyes when she mentions Lady Charlene's name as his glass is emptied and then put down on the table in front of him. Of course, how could he not have put this together before now. He doesn't remark on this immediately, however.

"You could, and my answer would be the same as before, your Grace. Simply a matter of him not being in touch for far longer than usual and the two of us being rather close. Or, at least I thought so.." He answer her first inquiries with a smile. "As far as my uncle having visited the city only months past? Is it news to me? Yes, it is. Am I shocked to hear it? Not so much. He did mention Marsilikos in the last letter I received but I wasn't sure if he ever made it here, or if his plans had simply changed in the meantime, and I hadn't heard anyone else speak his name while in your fair city, hence why my curiosity was peaked further when I did and I felt myself compelled to find out if this was indeed the truth or just rumors. That is all." He then answers the second part of her questions, before leaning back in his chair.

And yes, I had heard that you were entertaining the company of Lady Charlene Morhban de Fhirze here at the Dome, but I was not aware of how close she apparently is with my dear uncle I'll admit. Not that I am surprised that they know each other, he knows a lot of people." A beat. "It does strike me as odd, however, that my uncle would come to Marsilikos, even attend the Spring Ball, only to depart shortly before the Lady Charlene arrived, if they are indeed as close as you say." He quirks an eyebrow and gives the Duchess a wry little smile of his own. "Wouldn't you agree?"

"Her mother was Belianne Charlot de Morhban. She and Lord Esekiel are cousins," Armandine says. "As for the mystery you are referring to? Perhaps she would be better suited to explain, than I. I may have the blood of Eisheth flowing through my veins, but I don't share the bonds of blood that you obviously must feel… To her particular branch of the family." Another sip of wine is enjoyed, before the duchesse places the glass on the table. "I can share that much though… that your uncle obviously was slightly worried about Lady Charlene's safety. I believe, his fears should have dissipated by now, that she is enjoying my hospitality. And my protection."

'And my protection'. If there was any doubt left, this seals it. It's become more than obvious that whatever his uncle Esekiel has gotten himself involved with, it indeed has to do with the recent change of leadership in Kusheth, just like the letter his cousin Cyriel had recieved implied. And hearing these words only serves to confirm one thing; The wheels are still turning. It's not over with. Not yet.

Thibault gives a small series of nods before speaking. "I was aware of Lady Charlene's mother being a Charlot and her being a relative. I've never had the pleasure of meeting her myself, though, and wasn't aware of just how close her bond with my uncle is. And yes, I believe she probably would be, all things considered. I will have to see about making arrangements to meet her, as you are certainly aware my own mother is of the Morhban family, I'm sure we'll have much to talk about even if she shouldn't wish to divulge any further into this particular matter." He answers with a small satisfied and grateful smile before leaning forward in his seat, giving the empty glass in front of him a short glance, possibly considering if he should ask for one of the servants to refill it. If he did consider that, he seems to dismiss the idea, though.

"I can see why he would feel that way with what you have told me." Or, more accurately, what was heavily implied by what she's told him. "I'm happy to hear that the Lady Charlene is well taken care of and that any fears my uncle might have had has been put to rest with the help of Eisande and your Grace." He puts his hands on his thighs and pushes off to rise from his seat. "But I believe I have already taken enough of your leisure time. I'm sure you do not get enough of that as it is, and the fact that you agreed to spend some of it settling my own fears and concerns are a much appreciated kindness." Long legs carry him a few steps away from the chair and table before he turns to face the Duchess and offers her a deep bow at the waist in a perfect example of courtly etiquette. "Your Grace, I thank you once more. It has been an utmost pleasure to be your company, as always, and your words have served to calm any concerns I might have had." A small glance and smile is given to Noelle before he turns on his heel and makes his way towards the exit in his usual relaxed and confident gait.

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