(1310-09-17) In Concert with Nature
Summary: A wandering novice solicits vocational advice from a lady in a garden.
RL Date: 17/09/2018
Related: None
emmanuelle piers 

Jardins d'Eisheth — Marsilikos

Tranquility and beauty of nature is what those coming to the gardens of Eisheth usually seek. There is a playfulness in the arrangement of paths through the greenery, and the way four of them wind to the center, where there is a pond surrounded by a few elm trees, beside an area with wooden benches and tables beneath an arbor, where ivy winds about wooden posts, and a roof of colorfully glazed tiles offers shelter from the sun but also moderate rain.

Bushes are trimmed, and the green is kept short, so that people coming here can enjoy the dramatic view over the coast all the way to the sea, with the harbor and the citadel slightly to the north. Slightly towards the south and close by is the infirmary with the herb garden beside, where a variety of plants used for healing and treating certain illness are grown under the immaculate care of the healers. Towards the east, a path leads towards the temple district, where the dominant structure of the Temple of Eisheth looms, the white marble shimmering almost otherwordly on late afternoons, when it catches the warm, orange light of the setting sun.

It is a summer day. The weather is hot and fair.


The august portals of the Infirmary are propped open on this seasonable late summer day. Two figures emerge, a tall man and a small woman in step together and speaking in low voices, both of them black-clad despite the sun's present height in the sky. Their colouring, their attitude, something in the similarity between them must inevitably catch the eye of any savage rose wandering likewise in Eisheth's gardens. They're Kusheline, indubitably; Shahrizai, probably.

The man soon bows his head most courteously and retreats into the Infirmary. The woman continues alone along her chosen path, pausing now and again to sniff a plant or to touch a leaf with curious white fingertips. She's wearing a simple black linen dress cut straight across beneath her collarbones and flaring slightly below her waist, sleeveless to leave bare lean, pale arms distinguished by a musculature developed for elegance as well as strength. She is about forty. If her cool blue eyes don't prove the suspicion alone, there's her necklace: a chain which holds three tiny golden keys nestled in the hollow of her throat.

Herbs draw her eye more often than flowers. The more pungent the better.

Piers is out and about on one of his rare trips out of the Salon proper before his debut. Likely he is here to speak with some of the healers in order to receive some final instruction and to make sure that he is knowledgeable enough to actually have that debut. His sixteenth birthday has come and gone, and the time is rapidly approaching according to most rumors. Having just finished his instruction and exam, Piers is walking slowly through the gardens. He is flanked by a guard and a chaperone of course, but they are some ways back. Piers' every step is something of a ritual almost. Languid but inevitable, his hands clasped together lightly behind a straight back. The young Kusheline taking note of the surroundings until he catches sight of the two whom are leaving the infirmary proper. The man is noted, the woman also noted but with more detailed and appraising a gaze. A young lion surveying game, is perhaps the image he presents.

The Kusheline woman's thick blue-black hair is pulled into a chignon at the back of her neck, so sleek and so neat that hardly a wisp is stirred by the soft breezes flowing between the trees. The shape of it continues perfectly the austere line of her chin as she looks up after a passing bird — a jewel-bright creature flitting over the herb garden and away — and then, a moment later, down toward a daphne bush that has caught her nose more than her eye. Casually assuming her right to plunder any garden she happens to walk in, she breaks off a little cluster of flowers and holds it up to enjoy that sweet and dainty scent… At which juncture the dark shape of a young Thorn crosses into her line of vision and she raises dark eyebrows at him over her sprig of daphne. What of it?

A faint ghost of a smile curves Piers' lips but doesn't warm those bright eyes overly much at the taking of the flower cluster. Turning the young man's steps bring him over towards the woman. His chin dips ever so faintly towards his chest in a brief nod of greeting, eyes dropping to the flower cluster in her hand and then to the plant she took it from: "What is the point of having them if they are not taken and enjoyed." Piers' voice is casual really, letting go of his own hands behind his back he reaches out to run a fingertip along the broken stem where the custer was taken. The pad of his thumb runs along the two fingertips that touched it afterwards: "Not so deep a wound it will not recover."

Emmanuelle takes another step and turns, instinctively, to put the sun at her back where this straying Thorn she's found amongst the flowers must look into it to see her, or else lower his eyes for a change. She herself, in the flat slippers she put on this morning to spare her arches for one day at least, must in looking him over look up, up, up… At length her reserved blue gaze meets his, her chin tilted up at a considering angle. "The daphne's growing season is over — before long its flowers will wither and fall," she offers in a low voice, her accent a mixture of Elua and Eisande. They're close enough, now, for her cologne to insinuate itself amongst the scents of grass and of greenery: sharply spicy at the first inhalation, growing gradually resinous and warm. "This one simply left ahead of the others," she flicks a sardonic smile down at the sprig she's twirling between well-kept fingers, and up at Piers, "to avoid the rush."

Lower his gaze he must regardless, to meet Emmanuelle's eyes with his own and so it happens: "Some would say that a flower who's time has passed becomes nothing but a mess to clean up. Another would say that it becomes mulch for the next season." Piers' gaze moves to the flowering bush again for a few long moments: "I would know your thoughts on such a thing." Pale blue eyes lift to hers again: "Do you feel the flower should be enjoyed while it can be, or should the natural cycle commence now that the bees no longer have interest?"

The lady raises a sceptical eyebrow at the young man. "If you want a botany lesson, I'd suggest you ask one of the gardeners here — I imagine they're at home to such inquiring young minds as yours," she murmurs distantly. "For myself I should prefer to work in concert with Nature, rather than against her."

"No, a botany lesson is not required." Piers says with a dip of his chin at her answer: "It is an interesting answer. To work with nature rather than against her." He looks thoughtful for a few moments: "I have been somewhat remiss in my manners: I am Novice Piers no Rose Sauvage." A deeper dip of his chin in a bow of his head towards the much shorter kusheline: "As the guard and my chaperone probably make very clear." There is a flick of his gaze over towards the pair of men who watch over Piers' interaction with Emmanuelle. It's possible /they/ might recognize her, but Piers certainly does not.

At the centre of her own deep pool of silence Emmanuelle waits, her left hand resting on one slender hip and the fingers of her right hand gently clasping the sprig of daphne, whilst the boy thinks it through and decides what to do about it. She receives his introduction with only a quick nod of her head, and doesn't reciprocate. Not yet. "Yes, I supposed you were. Your boots give you away before your minders can even begin… At one time I knew the Rose Sauvage well," she concedes softly, "though some years have passed since I was last in Marsilikos. Tell me, how do you find it? Does the training… agree with you?"

Piers answers easily at that question: "It is educational, I am hopeful that when my training is done I can blend my… instincts… with my service to Naamah appropriately. I am eager to serve in what capacity I can even if it was difficult to reconsile things at first. I have found my path and walk it to it's conclusion without hesitation." There is a pause for a few moments: "I am glad to have had it. Without the training I have received it would be easy to make mistakes with lasting consequences. The control the training has offered has made me whole in a fashion." Settling his gaze upon hers Piers dips his chin again: "May I ask what took you so far from this beautiful city for so long?"

As Piers speaks Emmanuelle consents to the continuation of their talk, by gathering him up with her gaze and resuming her slow stroll along the fringes of the infirmary's herb garden. She makes no allowances for his longer stride. If he wants her ear — and it seems he does — he must accommodate himself to her pace. She's still playing with her daphne sprig, twirling it in her fingers.

"Indeed," she agrees in a low, amused purr somewhere south of Piers's shoulder, "I have heard it said that one of your canon must govern himself first of all, before he can hope to govern another. It is good to know such lessons are still being taught and still learnt… No," she decides, "you may not ask."

Piers dips his chin very faintly at the last but and doesn't comment upon it: "Is that what you have heard?" Piers asks with a faint note of amusement in his tone: "For some it is easier than others. I am attempting to clamp down on my eagerness to… serve. It is a constant pressure in some fashions but I am certain that very eagerness is holding me back from my debut."

Emmanuelle drops her voice to an even lower pitch: "Is that what we're calling it now—?" she drawls. She glances at Piers out of the corner of one eye, betraying subtle amusement. "Tell me, do you often confide your lusts to strangers?"

"No." Piers answers with no chagrin at all: "Only those to whom I believe might find it intriguing." A faint lift of his shoulders follows as his hands clasp loosely behind his back again matching her pace: "Or those whom might understand, especially those whom have some experience to the inner workings of the Salon." He gestures towards his chaperone: "He recognizes you, even if I do not. Which says something ." The older man in his fifties looks a touch apologetic at Emmanuelle but otherwise does not intrude. Neither does the Guard: "That and he isn't hovering as he so often does when I am in the presence of women." The guard does clear his throat at that: "Which says even more."

The game is, to some extent, up. Emmanuelle turns when Piers indicates the companions following discreetly in their wake. "Good afternoon, Gustave," she calls to the chaperone, not raising her voice but pitching it to carry those few yards. She lifts her hand in greeting: she receives in return a deep bow.

"It's true," she murmurs offhandedly to Piers as they continue their walk, "they know I know the rules governing your conduct as a novice, and they know that whatever practice you might hope to get out of such meetings with women wouldn't alarm me. You understand that, too. You understand," she states precisely, underlining her words with a twirl of her flowers, "your opportunity. I wonder what use you intend to make of it, in these remaining moments."

Piers is silent for a few long moments after she finishes. Finally he says a single word: "How?" That word is heavy with meaning. Silence follows a moment and then he adds: "How did you temper your own callings? I do not know how, or why I ended up where I am, but by Kushiel, it is hard to remember that I am supposed to be serving Naamah, and not Him sometimes. Even now, after all these years. I would know how to make that transition more… natural."

The Kusheline lord who minutes ago was Emmanuelle's companion, appears then two or three yards ahead of them, from a turning in the path which leads to a clever short-cut pointed out to him by an apprentice healer often sent on errands in this direction. He proves to be perhaps half a dozen years younger than Emmanuelle, in his middle or his late thirties, and in stature a fine match for Piers: tall and sleekly powerful, broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, every fine feature of his figure accentuated by the cut of his gorgeous hand-embroidered black-on-black silks. Around his neck he appears to be wearing a finely-tooled black leather collar with a ring through it; upon his forehead is a delicate film of perspiration suggesting haste; in his hands is a tray, which he kneels in the grass to offer up to Emmanuelle with a murmur of: "Mistress."

Acknowledging him no more than the scenery — somewhat less than if he were a fragrant plant! — Emmanuelle plucks the single glass from the tray and sips her chilled violet tisane before strolling on. Shards of ice clink against crystal.

"The answer, of course," she offers quietly to Piers, "is love."

The answer is apparently potent enough that Piers does not follow after Emmanuelle when she starts to walk off again. A far off look on his face as he digests her answer to his question. There is a faint frown that lightly turns down the corners of his lips. A slight wrinkle to his youthful forehead. After a few long moments he says loud enough to carry to the older kusheline: "Thank you." Turning on his booted heel Piers starts for the exit, which may or may not be the same direction Emmanuelle is travelling.

As it happens, it is.

Emmanuelle at her leisurely pace is easily pursued by younger and longer legs; and when Piers is just a step behind her, perhaps his rightful place in an augmented train which now includes the Kusheline lord and his empty tray as well as Piers's own Rose Sauvage minders, she continues speaking, still softly knowing he follows, conscious of his unseen proximity and his keen attention.

"You must not set foot in a patron room until you are prepared to love the one who waits for you there. Your duty is not only to understand that person's inexpressible needs, but to place those needs above your own with a true and loving heart… Did you know, Piers, that the Yeshuites consider Kushiel himself sinned by loving his sinners too well? There is no conflict between serving him and serving Naamah. You serve them both best when you act with love."

"Empathy, I have cultivated. Love is…" Piers voice trails off: "In a way, I must allow Naamah to come first. Everyone sins. Everyone deserves to be punished. This is a given. There is not one of us free from it. It was easy to simply think of that, tempering their punishment with their ability to stave it off with Signale. That, I took to be the gift of Naamah to them. Their ability to halt their cleansing should it become to harsh."

Piers also follows along, once he catches up, he measures his pace to hers again so that they can travel at her comfortable pace. His long legged stride even while languid would likely be much faster otherwise.

"So adversarial," Emmanuelle chides the boy, with a new note of distaste in her low-pitched voice. "An assignation isn't a battle, and a signale isn't a tactical retreat, or a sign of cowardice. Remember it is always, in some sense, your failure: in that room you are the responsible party. If you're given a signale it is you who have read your patron incorrectly, and you who have let your own feelings carry you too far. It is better to remain just this side of a signale. Work in concert with Nature," she reminds him, "rather than against her."

"Obviously." Piers responds: "There are some patrons who enjoy being pushed harder than their limits allow. Most would rather not be torn out of the experience by that much stimulation." He is not completely lacking understanding: "I was speaking more of instincts. Controlling them. The first I learned was that if I evoked one, then I had gone to far. It was a reminder of my own… needs… overwhelming that of my assignation. Which is hardly a good thing. It was… a form of restraint even still."

"You'll find that balance easier to maintain," offers Emmanuelle, "when you're of an age to grant those instincts the particular release they seek…" She stops, then, to drink a little more of her violet tisane, and looks about — ah, yes. Her collared Kusheline lord is holding out the tray to receive her glass. "Your own nature, too, you must work with rather than against," she advises Piers seriously. "Just fighting it down all the time will only make you Marsilikos's youngest ever victim of a heart attack. Which I for one should find medically interesting — but it would be a loss, no doubt, to your salon."

Her gaze strays again to her cup-bearer and she indicates the tray and muses aloud: "Perhaps our young friend might return this to the kitchens for us?"

Thus, in an indulgence of her own Mandrake instincts, she sees that the stray novice rather than her own attendant is lumbered with tray and glass.

"These are questions for your tutors, I think," she adds to the laden Piers, "who know you well and who have I'm certain been watching you more closely even than you realise." She smiles faintly. "When you see him you may tell my old friend Jacques Verreuil, that Emmanuelle Shahrizai sends her fondest regards."

With that she turns her back upon him and strolls away.

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