(1310-09-17) A Knight in Outgrown Tunic
Summary: Gal returns a conquering hero to the house with the blue doors.
RL Date: 17/10/2018 to 18/10/2018
Related: None.
oriane gal 

Salon — Maison de la Porte Bleue

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 maid who admits Gal to the house with the blue doors in the Rue du Port seems nonplussed that he hasn't come bearing the expected parcel of tunics. She shows him in, though, past an elaborate black and white litter adorned with silver moons to match a certain missing purse, up a curving stairway of pale stone bordered by delicate black wrought iron, and into an almost empty white salon floored by freshly-waxed chequerboard parquet. Nothing at all blocks his view of the balcony at the far end, where a pale figure is moving amongst greeery.

"Gal of the City Guard, milady," the maid announces.

The little old lady in black has become a little old lady in white, who looks up from fussing over a potted orange tree at the sound of footsteps and a half-familiar name. Her gown is rather Hellenic in style: that is, to a sixteen year old boy who doesn't notice when his arms are too long for his sleeves, it's narrow and sort of drapey and bound about the torso and the waist with a narrow black velvet ribbon. Absent her mask it's apparent that her ancestors gifted her with a full measure of d'Angeline blood, and that she was once a woman of unusual beauty. Her arms are as bare as her face, unusually strong-looking considering her years, and that diamond on her left hand deserves its own squad of guards.

She's smiling easily as she beckons him nearer. "Why, Gal. Did you leave your tunics with Madelon? She has a fine hand for mending," she promises.

Gal is out of uniform, which is to say he's out of his armor. The tunic is the same one from the other day, with all its shortcomings, and, to be honest, from the rather pungent eau de Teenage Boy wafting from him without the sea breeze outside to carry it away, one would suppose it's the same one he's been wearing the last week… or month? the trousers are the same, even, with that slab of armor inlaid into each outer thigh, because… well, why not? He's belted with a thick, rustic baldrick and even if he's not carrying his pike, he still goes with his broadsword at his side, a privilege allowed to the nobility, of course, but even to those commoners who make up the ranks of the City Guard. He makes mumbly apologia to he nonplussed maid, and when he follows her upstairs to catch the Lady in mid-prude, draped in her Hellene gown, he stops at the door, being warded backward until he's announced and subsequently summoned to approach. A blink. "Who— oh. No, uh." Was he supposed to bring clothing? He'd forgotten that part, in favor of the other task he'd set about. "Sorry." Is he supposed to apologize? She's got him all off-kilter.

"Oh," says Oriane, a mite taken aback but, at her age, unsinkable. "Well, it's lovely and warm on the balcony today," and breezy too, thank the Companions. "Why don't you sit down," she suggests, "and tell me all about why you did come?"

Two of her plain white wooden chairs are already arranged amidst the plant pots and the hanging baskets, angled slightly toward one another but sharing a magnificent view over the harbour and out to sea. She perches upon one and smoothes her skirts, and gestures her odiferous young visitor to the other.

Gal maintains a non-threatening sort of eye contact for the whole length of the awkward moment in the conversation— not piercing or searching, just sort of stuck there. Hm. Fortunately for the both of them, Oriane takes the lead in setting him into motion once more. He crosses the salon in mud-caked boots, trying, somewhat, to step with that gingerness of trod that will not leave little baked crumbles of mud go everywhere as he steps, suddenly all too keyed into how nice it is inside. When he gains the balcony he feels a little more at lease, "Thanks— oh, I just wanted to see," he digs out a wadded up handkerchief from inside the waistline of his pants, and the way he picks it open as though looking for a clean spot, he might be about to relieve his innermost sinuses into the thing. Instead he picks out a silver locket, keeping it resting in the handkerchief as not to accidentally drop it, but sort of finagling it around into view, stepping toward Oriane's seat and lowering himself to a knee there so that she can look at it at closer quarters. "Whether this was the thing you had go missing."

All at once Oriane's heart is in her throat, hoarsening her words as she forgets about her written pledge not to ask questions and breathes out: "Where did you…?" But her hungry fingers have already snatched it from the handkerchief and found the familiar catch. The locket pops open: far from experiencing any qualms about hair pockets or what not she lifts it to her nose and inhales. There isn't a tiny potted apple tree on the balcony amongst the oranges, so where can that scent be coming from as, all at once, the lady's shoulders fall and she slumps back in her dainty white chair, eyes closed, breathing.

Gal lets out the breath clutched at the bottom of his lungs when she so obviously recognizes the item. Not that he wasn't pretty sure, but with Ams— you never really know, and he slackens with relief, folding up the handkerchief again and holding it in his hand while his arm rests over his uppermost knee, maintaining an easy kneel and letting his head bow for a moment while she carries out her reunion with the item. "I know… some people," he's a bad liar, he's never been very good at it, but he tries to obscure the tale, at least, in vagueries. "I just asked around a little, it wasn't—" he shakes his head, unable to come up with a way to say it wasn't that big of a deal without it sounding like he's fishing for her to tell him what a big deal it was. So he just shakes his head. "I'm just really sorry you even lost it in the first place."

Quickly enough Oriane regains control of herself and sits up in her usual elegant posture, her eyes open, the closed locket held tight inside her fist.

"You must think me out of my senses," she laughs. "You see, this — this was the first trinket ever given me by someone I held…" She draws in a breath and hesitates, and settles for just saying, "Very dear. Many years past, when I daresay he was younger than you are now, and not yet come into his inheritance. We used to leave notes in it for each other, folded up very small. The lock of his hair, I cut last year before we buried him. So you see I had no hope of replacing it with another…" But even those bittersweet memories can't quell her present elation for long: lightly as a girl she leaps up from her chair and strays across the salon, following by pure coincidence along Gal's trail of flaked-off mud. "Madelon!" she calls. "I have my locket — the purse, girl, bring the purse!" she urges. "And open that bottle of the '86. Two glasses!"

Gal is already shaking his head, about to say something to allay her fears he might think her mad. But then it's storytime, and it's such a touching tale as to bring a welling of salt tears to the very brim of his eyelash, without quite letting it fall free. He sits back on the heel of his knelt leg, leaning back when she exalts from her chair and leaves him sitting almost on the floor entirely. He stands, motions slow but easy, long-deliberated before completion, and he half-considers to follow her back into the salon, but finally just comes to stand in the doorway, watching her call for the maid. He understands well enough having the need to remember someone lost, though all his mementos are— who knows where? Lost in a spell of inebriate carelessness, or thrown away in pain. He does a brisk mental catalogue of his few extant worldlies, but… it's all very practical, at this point.

The purse comes first, passed heavy and clinking from a maid's hand to Oriane's and then pressed into Gal's when she returns to the balcony. Its advent may prove briefly befuddling, as it's… well, it's a black purse embroidered with silver crescent moons. She did remark, the other day, how easily purses are replaced.

“This is for you, of course," declares Oriane, whose luminous smile has set her face alight and knocked a good half-dozen years off her age. "Though really, Gal, I don't know how I can begin to thank you. You've restored to me the only thing of value I own," she says frankly. She has the locket still in her left hand, clutched tight. It may be a while before she's ready to pocket it again.

Gal is, it's true, befuddled, but then he realizes the purse is meant by way of a reward, and he blanches a little, "N— no, I can't. It's… basically my fault, y'know. If I'd been paying better attention," he shakes his head. Evidently what she'd said to him on their last meeting really took hold with him. He tries, without using the full brunt of his adolescent force against her, to ease the purse back into the hand whence it came. "I'm really sorry. You didn't deserve to feel hurt like that all over again."

"No, no," insists Oriane, lifting her hand away as she steps back, leaving the lad with a choice between holding the purse and spilling it all over her verdant balcony. "My circumstances may be reduced but my word, I hope, is still what it was. Please," she says, more gently, more insinuatingly, "you must take it. The fault lies with me, you know, for keeping something so precious with me even in the market… I have so many bad habits to un-learn," she gives a slight shrug, "and let me assure you, this has all been a great lesson to me."

A different maid appears bearing a highly polished tray of what looks to be solid silver: on it, a broad-based crystal decanter, and two simple glasses. She transfers these objects to a small table just a little inside the salon. Oriane glimpses her and turns. "Ah, the wine," she remarks to Gal. "You must take a glass with me. It won't want more than a moment or two to breathe."

Gal might be adverse to taking the Lady's money, but the wine— that's another matter. Hardly anyone more fond of a drop than the young guardsman. He doesn't want to drop the purse, either, so he just tucks it down in the waist of his trou where the handkerchief had been folded before. "It's got to be something you'd hate not to have with you," he murmurs. "Did you think of getting a chain for it so you can have it on your neck? Even under your, uh— under your garment?" he tries suggesting without sounding… suggestive.

The maid withdraws. Oriane sets her locket carefully on the table next to the wine glasses and then, favouring Gal with a rueful smile, takes up the decanter in both hands and begins slowly to pour out its rich and fragrant contents.

"Once upon a time I took it off the chain so that I might carry it when I was wearing other jewels that don't match — I know, I know, women are absurd about their jewels," she agrees, before he can do more than think it. "You may be sure I shall find another chain for it now. It will either match or it won't."

And then she offers him a glass half-full of black cherries and blueberries and plums, vanilla and liquorice and smoke, flowers and spices and warm earth: all the odours of a fine and elderly Bordeaux red, the gem of the limited stock still in the possession of this former comtesse de Bordeaux. Her own glass she raises to him with a sincere murmur of: "Your very good health, Gal."

Gal was definitely thinking it, too. She could no doubt see the urge to roll an eye, suppressed only by lingering regrets where his own behavior is converned and by the general sollemnity of the moment. The look shift seamlessly from mild misogyny to bashful apology when he's so easily called out for his dismissive thoughts. He does take the wine glass, and in both hands, too, bringing it to his upper lip to take in the scent of a true fine wine. He's used to swilling the two-a-ducat wineskin refills out the back of the Kraken's Den, and to be in the company of something that refined and elevated— it's going to ruin him. He lifts his glass in turn. "And to your health— and happiness," he adds on there, a sincere hope that she's found some in the aftermath of her sorrows.

Oriane inclines her white head toward him in gratitude and appreciation. "You have brought me back a precious piece of it," she says again, and brings her own glass to her lips. She, much more accustomed to such treats, nonetheless lingers similarly over her first breath and her first taste of that '86 Bordeaux.

"… We had such a summer, that year," she mentions, lifting her glass again to draw the connection for him, and to admire its colour as she looks through it and into the sunlight. "We laid out an allee of white mulberry trees, a hundred and fifty of them, and nine thousand strawberry plants… My second grandchild was born," she recalls with a different sort of smile, proudly dynastic, "and with all our friends together we put on a performance of 'The Theatre of Illusions'. I can taste it all in this wine. I hope, Gal, that when you reach an age as advanced as mine, you'll be so blessed in your recollections. And perhaps a little more sensible than I've been, when it comes to their talismans."

Gal takes a tongueful of wine into his mouth, tasting it, watching Oriane's face, trying to taste what she's tasting, the summer and the mulberries and the rehearsal of lines around the tea-table, broken by necessity when the air pealed with a baby's wakeful cry. Everyone passing around the infant so lovingly, each trying his and her best to boundle the babe back to sleep. At least, that idyllic scene unfolds to Gal's half-idealistic palate. Babies are a weakness of his, and the thought makes him smile as much as the taste of the wine. Swallowing, anon, "Maybe I will be. But I amn't so far. My brother passed away almost two years ago now. I just… sort of got rid of everything that reminded me of him. It hurt too much to have it around. Now, looking back, I kind of wish I had kept… I don't even know what. Something."

Whilst these pleasant summer thoughts infiltrate the already fragrant air of Oriane's balcony, she sits down again and makes a little up and down gesture with her free hand to urge Gal towards the chair he hasn't yet taken.

Then, with the shade suddenly sprung up between them of a boy who must have passed over all too young, she offers gentle eyes and listening ears. "It does hurt such a lot to begin with, doesn't it?" she agrees softly. "I'm so very sorry for your loss, Gal, and for your regrets. You do carry some part of him with you, though, one always does. It's harder to lose than a locket, too." Another sip of her beloved '86. "Tell me about him," she suggests.

Gal doesn't seem disposed toward sitting, the way he paces around, quite missing the chair, coming to lean out at the rail, then lean back, fidgeting in stance as if with excess energy that would lead to a squirm right up to the edge of a writhe should he put his hand to remaining seated. But when he's bid be seated once more, he obeys, sitting on the edge of the chair with his legs spread wide before him, an elbow on each knee and the glass held in his joined hand before him. "His name was Louis." And even that feels weird to say. It's not like he talks about him to… anyone, not even, by name, or aloud, to those who knew him, as though afraid to invoke a ghost. It might be the first time in eight months he's even said his brother's name, and it feels strange in his mouth, resentful of being ignored and then voiced before a stranger. "He was my big brother. The… perfect one, you know. I spent half my childhood wanting so badly to be him and the other half hating him for it." He seems to mark the end of his childhood right at the moment of his brother's heath, which is as true a point at which to draw it as anything else might be. "He had, like… this kind of sweet-smelling confidence, like he always knew what he was doing, and what I should be doing, to boot. He was such a good hunter. Sometimes he'd let me come with him and his friends, but I'd just get in the way. He could talk to dad like the grown-ups did, and be… part of things. He married this woman, gosh," he shakes his head. "I was so jealous. It's dumb, isn't it?"

Having pinned the poor lad down like a specimen on the edge of that neat white chair, Oriane gives him all the patience and the unstinting attention and the low-pitched sounds of encouragement that have from time to time made her the prized confidante of grandchildren. A courtier for half a century, she knows just how to appear terribly interested in what somebody else is saying — the real trick is that, so often, as today, in this moment, she is interested. It's such an old story, but made anew in every family and every generation — it makes her want to reach out and pat Gal's hand. So she does, very gently.

"I don't think it's foolish at all, Gal," she says. "I think we all feel lonely when someone we love moves ahead of us into another stage of life where we're not ready to join them — sometimes, too, when we're the ones who do the moving." A little quirk of her eyebrows. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were times when your brother too missed the simpler days of your childhood together."

Gal was going on bit, he realizes, almost despite himself, and when he finally thinks to hand over the conversational baton, his brows furrow and he busies his lips with the edge of the wine cup, the rich scent trapped there under his nose slaking his urge to take a real swallow, coaxing him instead into sips that would almost past muster at a formal dinner if he weren't holding the glass in both hands, slouched over like a prisoner in the cell he'd spent the last two years inhabiting, radiating a certain ineffable sense of woe. No, this would never do. Nevermind the smell. He looks up, a little sniff betraying the fact that his eyes are all watery, when Oriane touches his hand. He looks into her eyes when she makes her reply, nor does he look away, his lips, bearing already a slight wine-stain, falling slightly parted, as though to stop nother accidental sniffle by giving the air a shortcut. "You think so? I dunno. I feel like we grew so far apart after he got married. But I always figured he would just… be there." He shakes his head. "Anyway. Now I'm joined up in the guard and… just trying to make this work, I guess. I have to decide in December whether I'm going to go another year."

I do think so," Oriane assures him gravely, and gives his hand another grandmotherly pat. "If he'd lived longer, you'd probably have got to be better friends once you had a wife of your own — that's often the way of it, with married people. I'm sorry the two of you hadn't the pleasure of coming to know and appreciate each other all over again as grown men. I think he'd have been proud to see you working hard in such a responsible job," she suggests, "and rescuing little old ladies from their own folly, mm?" And she tastes her wine, leaving him a moment to consider that thought before she wonders: "Do you think you will? Sign up for another year? Or is there something you'd rather do?"

Lest Gal grow still more maudlin, tiny white paws commence to climb his leg.

Gal shifts the burden of his wine glass to one hand, giving his other to Oriane when she reaches for it, extending it across the space between them to just hold hers for a moment, or several, before he opens his mouth and sucks in a sudden shock of air, an audible gasp— "Kitty," he coos at the little creature with its claw hooked on his bootlace. Well, that's a good distraction. He bends over and sets the wine glass down on the patio floor, letting go Oriane's hand, so fondly pressed a moment before, to help detach the kitten and hold it aloft. "Ohhh, so tiny," he marvels. "I don't know," he answers. "I probably will. I don't really have anything else going on, and I'm getting really good with a sword from all the training we have to do. Not that I couldn't train on my own, it's just… y'know. They MAKE me."

Oriane, beaming, cedes Gal's hand gladly to this higher power. The kitten squirms agreeably in his grasp and emits an assortment of the most delicious little noises the human ear was e'er privileged to receive. (It may dawn upon Gal that he's seen four more just like it, the same age, amongst Ammy's cat squad.)

"She's already bigger than when we met," Oriane puts in, her contribution to the vital field of comparative kitten size studies. "In fact I've two, and they're both growing like weeds!" She tsk-tsks, not without a certain pride. "I suppose her sister is still asleep…" She leans back, rocking her chair onto its hind legs, to peer round into a blanket-lined box tucked discreetly into the corner of the salon next to the sofa. She rights her chair: "Yes, she's sleeping," she announces, more quietly for having confirmed it. "Have you family in Marsilikos Gal? Do you suppose they've any plans for you, or is it all your own choice?"

Gal isn't too much man to melt at all the adorable little noises from the kitty. Though his features draw a little less gooey when Oriane mentions having got them recently, rather than their having been born to a house-cat or anything. "Did you get them around when your purse went awol?" is surely meant more as a clue and a caution than a simple question. An admission but not an admission. He settles the kitten in his lappers and bends sideways around her to retrieve his wine from the floor before he can accidentally kick it over. He takes a wholesome swallow while corralling the kitty with his other hand. "My parents and I aren't really getting on right now. Dad said I could join the guard or the navy, and… I don't really like boats, so here I am. My, uh— my brother's wife lives here, now. With their two kids. So. I try to visit her and help out when I can."

From the first Gal has struck Oriane as a nice young man, uncommonly so, with only as many rough edges as can't be helped in a lad going through adolescence in a barracks. His credit with her, already high, rises still further when he shows himself a tender and experienced kitten-handler. There's no harm in him, not a bit, and a great deal of fine feeling. He interests her. She has almost finished her glass of wine; she relieves him of his own and leaves him to his scritching duties while she addresses herself again to the wine. It's decanted now. Somebody's going to have to drink it, and she saw his face when he smelled its bouquet. It's not wasted on him the way it would be on most boys his age.

"I'm sure she must appreciate your visits," she observes, pouring generously; "and of course any young mother welcomes a few minutes to herself…" She flicks him an understanding smile, and then steps smoothly back onto the balcony with a glass in each hand. "That one's named Daisy," she adds, returning his glass to him at an altitude beyond paw's reach; "she's the one who looks for trouble. Dahlia is her better-behaved sister. You're right, I did buy them the day I lost my purse and my locket — they came from a young Tsingano boy who was selling kittens and candles in the market. They'd lost their mother a few days before and he was rearing them with such care, I was quite touched…" She trails off, regarding Gal contemplatively across the rim of her glass.

"H-heh," Gal lets out a casual little laugh at the notion of Fleur wanting some alone time. "Yeah, they can be a little bit of a handful. But now I'm Unca Gal, which is kind of cool," he smiles quietly to himself, or to Daisy, giving her his hand to jungle gym over, not minding the odd little scratch while the fingers of his other hand massage up behind Daisy's ears. It's a little weird to hear Oriane speak of a little Tsingano boy, when Gal was pretty sure it was Ammy, after all, and 'young Tsingano boy' conjures up the image of, like, a five year old, or something. Certainly not someone older than him. "Well, just… I mean… be careful. I don't wanna sound racist or anything, but, just… yeah," he casts down his eyes, not wanting to give the guy away completely, but his first effort toward insinuation has been baffled by this little kid who's been figured into the equation. "I mean, I really don't. I don't wanna be that guard who's like… oh… he's Tsingano, so let's arrest him for whatever. But some of them are really just assholes about other peoples' things." He grumps, then pauses, "Ehm. Pardon my language. Oh! Thank you," he's been blessed with another gladd of the good stuff. It's all well and good to pronounce how much you prefer bad wine to good, now. But if there's one thing he kind of misses about the Lordly life… it's probably wine like this.

"You're welcome," replies Oriane, with a grave air belied by a delicate sparkle in her blue eyes as Gal pulls himself up short for his language. "I'm sure in your line of work you must know a great deal more about the people of this city than I do — I shall remember your warning," and she dips her chin whilst holding his eyes with her own, "the next time I go shopping for scented candles."

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