(1310-09-16) A Huntress At Bay
Summary: Cornered in her chamber, Irene seeks romantic advice from someone whose usual dates are tied to large articles of furniture. A brilliant scheme.
RL Date: 16/09/2018 to 17/09/2018
Related: Two days after An Angel of Mercy.
emmanuelle irene 

Irene’s Bedchamber — The Dome of the Lady

For two nights and two days the lady Irene d'Eresse's chief occupations have been drinking bitter tisanes, breathing scented steam, and coughing up more phlegm than she could ever have supposed her slender torso to contain.

The maid assigned her by her new chirurgeon's whim explained, of course, why she believed so implicitly in that threat to her person, and who that was uttering it with such perfect sincerity: Emmanuelle Shahrizai no Mandrake, the duchesse de Mereliot's own half-sister and the Dowayne of Mandrake House on Mont Nuit. (Servants' gossip took a day to catch up with the part about her retirement.) A guard soon arrived for the door of the lady Irene's chamber, and a pallet for the floor of it: the maid, Louison, sleeps there by night and sits there by day, when she isn't boiling water or brewing tisanes or coaxing her new young charge to make better progress through another bowl of admittedly excellent soup.

Overnight Irene's breath grows easier and her cough milder, and the pain in her head ebbs away just enough to let her find some real sleep. She wakes once with a dark figure standing over her bed, not looking at her but only lecturing with weary eloquence a nervous and stuttering Louison. A moment later, Emmanuelle is gone and the room grows dark again without the passageway's light.

The next day's confinement is a strain upon the young lady's natural spirits.

The day after marks the closing feast of the tourney which brought all this trouble upon her and her lungs, and Irene remains a prisoner in her chamber, hemmed round by solicitous care and Shahrizai promises.

Lady Irene d'Eresse has been following the instructions precisely as they were given. That is why her health started to go better. Of course, she is still tortured by a very mild pain when she laughs, and, of course, when she coughs. However, the coughing is becoming more light and she no longer spits out blood drops. The fever has also been majority of the time gone and raises just very lightly later in the evening. Seeing that her health is getting better and still having little trust that the threats made few days ago were honest, Irene pushes herself up from the bed on the evening of the Tournament Closing Feast. A young lady goes toward her wardrobe and takes out a magnificent rosy gown. Her gaze wanders toward the maid who was taking care of her. "Would you be able to prepare me a bath? I need to make myself presentable for the tonight's festivities." She states it quite simply, pretty assured of the success of her plans.

The maid Louison is shocked by her young lady's daring and spills a few precious leaves of the tisane she was about to make up, in her haste to relieve Irene of the rose-coloured gown and usher her back to bed where she belongs. She has reservations, which she expresses at length in the lilting accent of an Eisandine peasant. What if the lady chirurgeon were to come looking for the lady Irene? Or what if she were even — horrors! — at the feast herself? A rapport of sorts has grown up between the two of them, trapped in this chamber together by Emmanuelle Shahrizai's will, and Louison has been as pleased to see Irene feeling better as Irene has been to feel better. But the fear has come back into the servant's eyes, all of a sudden, and she looks much older than her thirty years.

Irene does not let go of her gown but she slumps on the bed once the maid tries really hard to put the young woman back under the blanket. Of course, Irene does not lay down. Instead, she sits on the edge of the bed and a deep frown arches her eyebrows. "I HAVE TO GO." She states in a harsh and demanding voice. "That woman is not going to actually murder you. That would be a crime. She is also not a mother to me to keep me locked down. I have all the rights to make my own decisions. YOU HAVE TO PREPARE ME THE BATH!"

The stand-off continues for several minutes, Louison's tearful pleading punctuated by Irene's insistence upon her rights, before the door opens beneath a confident gloved hand. "Not so hoarse today," observes Emmanuelle in a casual drawl as she strolls in, bag in hand, and gives the door her customary neat booted kick. "As everyone with chambers up and down this corridor might attest. What bizarre variety of deportment is my sister teaching you girls?" she wonders aloud, looking over the scene with cynical blue eyes.

Irene raises to her feet when another woman enters the room. The young lady is clenching a rosy ball gown in her arms. "Lady Emmanuelle Shahrizai no Mandrake, even if you are the duchesse de Mereliot's own half-sister and the Dowayne of Mandrake House on Mont Nuit, you have no rights to keep me locked in this room! You are here to heal me, and you can suggest me things but you can not… you can not… YOU SIMPLY CAN NOT keep me locked!" Irene is furious. However, because she is even more slim than usually because of how tired her body is from the whole illness, and because her hair are tangled and a mad, demanding emotion completely does not fit to her features, she simply looks like an angry fluffy cub. "I AM GOING TO A BALL." She tramps her feet into the ground.

Emmanuelle is dressed much as she was two days ago, in breeches and boots and a dark shirt. It's a different shirt, though, touched with golden embroidery at the cuffs; and different boots, adorned with gleaming golden spurs. She sets her bag down on the table and rests her hand on her hip, eyeing Irene, placidly awaiting the end of the tirade. Another maid enters behind her, with terrified discretion, bringing hot water and fresh towels and a new cake of soap. Once these things are arranged and the obligatory curtseys offered, she walks straight past Irene to the washstand and commences the ritual washing of her hands.

"I'm glad to see you in such fine spirits, child," she remarks over the washbasin, with just one eye on her patient in case of another storm. "You must both have been obedient and diligent these past days — for that I commend you. But, Louison, I must apologise to you for the careless disregard your lady shows for your health. I feel certain that her attending this evening's feast would not be at all to your benefit. Why don't you hang up her gown for her," she suggests with deceptive mildness, "before it creases?" She turns back to the younger women, drying her hands with one hip leaning against the washstand.

Louison reaches with trembling hands for the rose-coloured gown.

"THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!" Irene squeezes her gown even closer to her chest. "You don't understand how important this feast is! I know you are not going to hurt the maid. That would be worse than a slavery work, and… and impolite. And this is not how things are done. You just don't get it! You… you like… like Mandrakes. Like without a heart! Do you enjoy this? Torturing me? And just making me rot in this room while all the other girls are out there!" Irene bursts in tears. She once more flops on the edge of the bed and covers her face with the gown. The rest of her tantrum is muffled by the fabric and sobbing, " Lord Cyriel Charlot won. He is a victorious man. He will go and take the prize, and all ladies will have their eyes on him! ALL! And then they will want to speak to him, and dance, and do things and… and it will be them not me. What if he will find a wolfish lady out there and then all will be over?!"

Emmanuelle wipes the last droplets of water from her wrists while Hurricane Irene bursts into full flood. She reaches behind herself and drops the towel on the washstand, and regards the girl with her arms folded across her chest and an air of infinite and patient severity. "Irene," she says softly. "The dress."

Irene raises her crying eyes at the woman and then looks at the maid. Trembling hands extend the dress toward the other woman. Once the dress is out of her grasp, d'Eresse lady falls on the bed and buries her head into the pillow. She turns her back toward Emmanuelle and the rest. "This is simply not fair. He is out there with thousands of absolutely amazing beauties and I am here, all by myself…" Her shoulders twitch as she sniffles.

With her arms full of silk like crumpled rose petals, Louison steps respectfully backward out of the line of fire. And Emmanuelle circles the bed again to the table where she left her bag, so that if Irene wants to keep her back turned to her chirurgeon she'll have to flop over again in the other direction.

"I have a daughter your age," she observes, uncurling Irene's arm from her pillow and taking that familiar firm but gentle hold upon her wrist. She retains it longer than usual, for while she's speaking she loses count once. "I can tell you she wouldn't dream of crying into her pillow over a man. If she had an eye on someone seriously she'd make a plan instead, a plan to show herself at her best. Whereas all this howling and sniffling will only leave you with a blotchy red face and untidy greasy hair — and what good would that do you if, when he's already visiting the palace for the feast, he should come to inquire into your health?" Having delivered herself of this calm good sense, she lets go.

Irene does not turn away. She becomes only a crying puppet in the healer's arms. She will allow to do whatever procedures are necessary. However, when the woman speaks of her own daughter, the young lady focuses her gaze on an older woman. "I just don't know what to do, m'lady. I try to make a plan. I thought I had a great plan but lord Cyriel is so stubborn. He keeps saying that I am but a little lamb and our paths can not cross. But I just know that we were meant to be together! We match so well! And he can teach me so many things, and I can help him as well. But I can not prove to him that I am also a wolf and not a lamb if I simply stay here and allow others to catch his interest and focus! Can you help me? To make a proper plan? You know how Kushelines are, m'lady. Lord Cyriel is a Kusheline. How I could tame a man like him? What advice would you give to your own daughter?"

Taking advantage of the patient's new mood of compliance Emmanuelle proceeds through the usual series of tests. Pulse, lungs, eyes, skin, throat, breath… She interrupts Irene's heartfelt confessions with the occasional quiet demand that she blow her nose, or cough and spit, and holds clean handkerchiefs as required. The plea for romantic advice finds her nonplussed — but she has, after all, heard so much worse as the Dowayne ultimately responsible for a houseful of lust-crazed adolescents armed with whips and flails. She sits down on the edge of the bed and dabs at Irene's eyes with the corner of another handkerchief.

"You are a lamb," she opines with an easy shrug, "or perhaps a silly, headstrong baby goat who knows no better than to keep butting her head against the same stone wall. If you want this man, you won't capture him by putting on an ill-fitting wolfskin, but by being an exemplary and well-behaved goat. We Kushelines like the occasional succulent young creature to sink our teeth into… Louison, is your lady's tisane still not ready?" she inquires disapprovingly.

Then, to Irene: "If I were fool enough to allow you to get out of bed and run downstairs merely to go bleating after him, what would happen tomorrow? You'd have another relapse, your life would be in danger, Louison would be bleeding all over the courtyard outside, and your Charlot lord would think of you forevermore as the idiot child who was so eager to inconvenience him with the blame for her ill health. How comfortable he'd feel in your company, after that! If you want his respect you'll behave sensibly, regain your full health, and only appear again when your presence is no reproach to him. Thank you, Louison."

The pretty pink pottery mug which contains Irene's tisane looks incongruous in Emmanuelle's hands, held against all that severe black silk. But then she passes it to Irene and watches sternly while the girl drinks it down.

Irene leans her head down and stares at the fingers which gently nip on the fabric of her blanket. “I understand you. This mess you see right now is not a usual me. I have never ever even thought for falling for a man like this. I didn’t care about these type of things. I simply enjoyed sketching and focusing on my studies. But…” she sighs. “Since I saw lord Cyriel, I was not able to focus and he was a part of my sketches. My only part. When I sit down, I find myself drawing only him. He is so different!” she explains and a smile flashes in her features.

“I apologize for my irrational behaviour and the outburst,” she looks at Emmanuelle after a short pause. “I really appreciate what you do and I am impressed with your skills. The pain is almost gone and the fever is no longer a problem. Thank you, really.”

This volte face and its timing surprises Emmanuelle, somewhere behind her pale and inscrutable Shahrizai mask. She'd expected it to take longer — but perhaps the girl is even more exhausted than she looks. "I accept your apology," she informs Irene, "provisionally. I shall accept it in full only when you have shown me that you are capable of submitting yourself with a good grace to the guidance of those who wish only to see you well again and happy."

She sits up straighter, if that's even possible beginning with such a ramrod posture as hers, and peers into the pink pottery mug. It is not yet empty. "Keep drinking," she chides in a low, warning tone. "You feel so much better because today presents so great a contrast with how you felt two days past. But you are by no means recovered yet. The fever has lifted but your lungs still struggle, and you remain very weak. I intend to keep you in this chamber, one way or another, until I — I, and no one else — am satisfied with your condition. This need not be an onerous business unless you yourself make it so, child."

Irene nods and continues sipping her medicine. She frowns now and then. It doesn't taste good but the young lady manages to swallow everything up. She also nods at the rules put by Emmanuelle again. "I will not cause any tantrums, I promise. I will stay in this room for as long as you seem fit." She finishes off the medicine and gives the cup to the healer. "May I take a nap now? If I can not be at the festivities, I better sleep them off."

Emmanuelle passes the mug to Louison, who has been hovering just out of reach, as though in fear of the long arm of Mandrake disapproval.

"Sleep is a more gifted healer than any chirurgeon will ever be," she drawls, getting up again from her seat on the edge of the bed and straightening the covers with the brisk and practiced hands of a healer and a mother combined. Then she retraces her steps to the washstand and gives her hands another quick scrub, a habit too old to be breakable. "I shall leave you to its embrace, and trust in the efficaciousness thereof… And no more tantrums, child, you can feel how this one has worn you out, how your heart is beating. Remember," she offers sardonically over her shoulder, "you must grow strong for your wolf hunt."

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