(1310-09-13) The Reason From His Heart
Summary: An alarmed Oriane calls on her headstrong nephew.
RL Date: 15/09/2018
Related: Follows immediately from The Ladies’ Anti-Jousting League.
oriane matthieu 

Matthieu’s Study — Rocaille Residence

It's right on the tin.

If Matthieu de Rocaille intends to participate in the joust - and what the country largely considers an event that he is particularly skilled in - it wouldn't be apparent when Lady Oriane is shown into his study.

Like any Siovalese worth his salt, it is teeming with books; shelves dominate the back wall and the other corners of his private suite that isn't otherwise occupied by other minimalist, but tasteful and well-made furniture. There is a large fireplace directly across from his desk, a massive thing made of heavy, sturdy oak with hand-carved details that make it the most elaborate piece of furniture in the room. That, too, is full of parchment, his familiar, white-blond hair stooped and engrossed in his work, right hand scrawling letters in his sharp, bold penmanship. Gabriel, for once, is not with him - at least not in the suite's proper. Rather, he is at the balcony, arms folded on the railing and looking out at Marsilikos' cityscape in this late afternoon, enjoying the last threads of the passing summer's warmth.

The valet's announcement has Matthieu looking up, pale blue eyes and their silver shards falling upon his great-aunt. He isn't dressed for visitors, apparent because he has no coat, carelessly tossed in the nearby couch as it is. His high-collared shirt is unbuttoned from the top, enough for the sturdy frame of his collarbones to be visible, and his sleeves are rolled up to under his elbows. His walking stick hints at a persistent injury on his leg, propped up against the side of his desk, but what are on his wrists are very visible pieces evidence of his three year incarceration shuffled between two hostile powers: ugly bands of bruising and scarring wrap around both, darker than his sun-bronzed complexion and in the shape of the cuffs and shackles that held him for three years. The fact that he has managed at all to keep some of his dexterity there - enough to wield the spear, to write, to ride, to play the piano - is downright miraculous.

He rises at the sight of her. "Aunt," he greets, tossing his stylus on his half-inscribed letter. "To what do I owe the visit?"

Oriane is no more dressed for paying visits than Matthieu is for receiving them. In lieu of one of the modest and formal black silk gowns she usually dons, now, before setting foot outside her little house, she's wearing a simple sleeveless white dress bound about her torso and her still-slender waist with a narrow black velvet ribbon, in a style vaguely Hellenic. The Rocaille heir may even recognise it from lazy summer days in the gardens at Bordeaux, when its owner displayed such cavaliar disregard of grass stains, pollen, and red wine. She knew she had another dress just the same pressed and waiting for her to change into at her pleasure, that she might appear always fresh and immaculate before her guests.

Now, despite the best efforts of the bearers who carried her here from the Rue du Port in her black and white litter with the silver moon gleaming upon its door, there's a smudge of dust just above her hem. She didn't trouble to put on any jewels besides her usual two rings; she only pulled on the white gloves presented to her by her maid, threw a crystal-beaded white silk wrap about her almost bare shoulders, and came. She looks more youthful all in white with her hair plainly dressed, more the Oriane Somerville of Siovalese legend. But beneath the mask of serenity and dignity she put on for the servants' benefit is a very real anxiety, which speeds her steps toward her host once they are safely alone.

"My dear Matthieu," she sighs, "I've come simply to implore you."

I've come simply to implore you.

There's a furrow of his brows, Matthieu's expression taking on that usual hard mask, as if to brace himself for more bad news. The fact that his aunt seems to have eschewed the very heights of her usual impeccable, immaculate and elegant fashion speaks well enough of her haste to get here. Easing away from his desk, he strides over to the woman, to gesture for her to sit if she requires it.

"More troubles from Bordeaux?" he asks, already mentally calling up what he knows of the situation there and gearing himself up for both thought and action at once. He offers his hand, palm up, for his aunt to take before he bows his head over it - typical of the respectful youth she knows.

Oriane's hand is tighter than usual upon his as she accepts the courtesy, the turned-round signet on her ring finger pressing into his palm. She lets herself be shown to the sofa, her other hand clasping her shawl to her bosom when it's briefly inclined to slip. "Oh! No, no…" She sits — or rather she perches, looking up into his eyes with an unusual urgency in her own azure blue gaze — and the gentle pull of her hand in his suggests that he ought to sit next to her, just there, the better to treat of delicate matters. "My dear boy," she says again. "Is it true that you have entered your name in the lists?"

And it comes to light.

It doesn't take much for the future duc of Siovale to put two and two together; he can make accurate leaps of logic with the barest pieces of information, made possible only because of Shemhazai's blood flowing through his veins. Matthieu's expression clears up as he takes a seat next to his aunt, cushions depressing upon his much more significant weight. "I have," he confirms. "And while I can already anticipate your apprehensions, let me reassure you that what you fear will not come to pass. I do not anticipate winning, not in the state I'm in, but my participation will be enough for my purposes and I can endure punishment better than most."

If that wasn't apparent already.

"Oh, truly? Do you suppose any man who dies in a joust believes, the night before, that such a tragedy will come to pass?" is Oriane's first rejoinder, rendered tart by last year's grieving. But then she sighs and, still holding Matthieu's hand, pats it gently with her other hand. Her gloves are almost as soft as her skin. She surveys him. "… I wonder, do you know everything I fear," she murmurs with a slow shake of her head. "May I at least know what gain it is you consider worth risking your person in this way, at this time?"

His hand patted, Matthieu's eyes draw down to the woman's fingers upon his, before those ice-and-silver eyes lift to regard the woman's expression. It is a heartbeat or two, however, before he responds. "I don't know everything you fear but I can touch upon the cause of your concern," he returns. "Regardless, I've a few reasons - House Mereliot has been generous and kind in their regard with respect to my convalescence, if I can visibly support it in turn by participating in a tournament its members are sponsoring, then I will. Secondly, I can't have the country believing I've been so crippled, that'll damage me more than any physical blow ever could." He has already explained that to Olivia, though she, too, is stubborn in that regard and wouldn't have it. "Thirdly…"

He pauses, his expression growing all the more inscrutable. It may very well be the most important one, but by the look of him, she already knows that he will not divulge it.

"That reason is my own," he says at last.

Oriane digests this. "Your own," she echoes softly. "I see. A reason from your heart, perhaps, which you prefer not to expose to the scrutiny of others who might see it differently." Her tone implies that maybe, just maybe, this isn't an entirely fair line to take with older and wiser friends who wish him well. "I understand why you might wish to show your returning strength, but would it not be better to wait until more of your strength has returned? I imagine the possibility has occurred to you, particularly after what I understand to be a visible defeat in the melee, that you might find yourself putting on the opposite sort of display, and in the most public of arenas—?"

She tilts her head, still studying Fortress Matthieu, wondering how to get through. No, the drawbridge is no good. She changes tack and sends a lightly-armoured party in via the postern gate. "You know I lived thirty years with a man who risked his neck three times before his breakfast simply for sport," she reminds him with a faint, reminiscent sigh, "and I took those fences beside him more often than not. We were lucky every time, until we weren't. Perhaps whenever it happened his loss would have had the same unfortunate results for our duchy and for Siovale — but we were not to know, then. You, however, Matthieu — you have the benefit of an unusually clear picture of what will follow if you fall tomorrow. You know how frustrated and how furious the dowager duchesse must feel at seeing her plans for Siovale set back by so many years, or perhaps permanently, by your survival," she says gravely. "You know how pleased she would be to hear that you had died, so deniably, on the field, at a time when you were understood to be at something less than your full strength. And you know how many warm bodies there would remain between her son and the coronet." She regards the Rocaille heir levelly; she is something more, in this moment, than merely an unnecessarily agitated aunt whose nerves require soothing.

A reason from your heart, perhaps, which you prefer not to expose to the scrutiny of others who might see it differently.

"Correct." The single word is delivered with his typical brusque, straightforward tone, his eyes not leaving hers. He, too, can be unforgiving and the man is perpetually reluctant to expose the contents of his heart, especially the ones that mirror how deep-seated his persistent wounds truly are. In that, Matthieu will simply not repent. Could he be blamed, really? He has been a target all his life.

The reminder about the melee culls no visible reaction and perhaps, were he a different man, he would be removing his hand from his aunt's grip and stalking away, giving into youthful tempers, but the fact that it remains grasped within those elegant fingers suggests that he is very much aware as to why the woman is here and why she is trying to dissuade him, and while the years have made him hard, he at the very least tries not to be an unfeeling monster towards the women in his life, especially the ones that have nurtured and shaped him. The regard, perhaps, that he would have paid his mother should she have survived giving birth to him.

"The melee gave me an opportunity to support a friend who was one of the first who supported me upon my return, and offered me his assistance as to what is to follow," he remarks. "I try not to be too indebted to anyone, Aunt. I don't consider that to be much of a failing."

After a moment: "I am fully aware," he begins. "And believe me when I say that I haven't made my decision to enter recklessly. Not in the way it seems. I am thinking of Siovale, in the way I have always done and there are underlying matters I am presently struggling with that simply cannot wait for my full physical recovery. I am asking you to trust me, that whatever happens tomorrow, I will be able to handle it and that I know what I am doing."

At that Oriane releases his hand and rises, the crystal-beaded fringe of her white shawl swaying up about her as she takes a few short strides to the window and rests her hands upon its sill. The garden beyond that would normally pique her interest from this new angle, simply can't compete with the troubling thoughts rushing one after another through the forefront of her mind. Her head bows several inches. She draws in a deep breath just as that fragrance of apples, betraying her very real distress, reaches Matthieu in its waft across the study.

"I suppose," she says slowly, and turns back to look at him with her fingers twisted in the folds of her shawl, "I'm wasting my time as well as yours. I'll spare you the spectacle of an old woman begging on her knees — it's humiliating if one fails and distasteful if one succeeds. Have you at least had your horses and your tack kept under proper guard by men you trust? I can think of a dozen means of nobbling a horse, just like—" A soft snap of gloved fingers.

It is an immutable fact of the universe that a person cannot help but hurt the ones he cares about, and who care about him.

"To be victorious in every engagement in any arena is impossible, Aunt," Matthieu tells her - if he experiences any guilt at the woman's well-placed words, and she is indeed still formidable when it comes to spearing one through the heart without so much as a dagger in hand, he doesn't show it. "But my equipment has been inspected and my horse looked after. I trust Rene, and Bouchard…" The first of his agents, and a favorite cousin of Gabriel's. "…is keeping an eye." She would know what that means.

He rises from the couch then and moves over to her, offering his arm. "I'll escort you back to your litter," he says. "And I hope you know that I'm not at all determined to leave you just yet. I promised my assistance regarding Bordeaux, and I intend to fulfill it."

With that, he will do as he says, and see his relative off properly.

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