(1310-09-20) Confession Is Good For the Soul
Summary: Lady Desarae de Mereliot meets her new Cassiline.
RL Date: September 20, 2018
Related: A New Assignment and Je Suis Tres Desole
nicolas desarae 

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.


He arrives in Marsilikos at nightfall, before the day Florent is set to leave - undoubtedly, the hours would be spent exchanging information with the older Cassiline, but there will be time for that yet. The uniform, armaments and vambraces give him away and it isn't long until he's shown into the room in the Dome that would function as his bunk until other arrangements are made for him. It is no larger than his own spartan space back in the monastery, but it suited his purposes just fine. He never had much all his life, if anything, the lack of other extraneous fripperies save for a trunk, a bed, a shelf and a desk was familiar to him.

He has time for a quick bath and a change of clothes, always the distinguished, but drab and gray uniform of the Cassiline Brotherhood, but no time to rid himself of the light scruff he had developed after two days on the road, or a quick repast - he was ravenous, but it will have to wait. The state of his face would have to be seen to tomorrow, but his appearance will do for now. Dark brown curls remain damp from his dip, pushed sideways by the careless rake of callused fingers, and purposeful strides carry him out of his room and down the hall where he is supposed to meet his new charge.

Each sweep of his violet eyes upon his surroundings catches small details that anyone else would miss, immediately stored within the depths of his endless memories. His ability to memorize and recall had been a thing of curiosity to the prefect and his aides-de-camp, how he could manage to do so accurately with just a glance. It made him a formidable student, back in his days as an initiate, but it had its drawbacks; it left him mentally exhausted, and without care, his fingers would start to twitch. For a while, he had not known how to fix the problem until a particularly enterprising colleague had suggested that he carry a pair of glass marbles with him to occupy his fingers - it didn't just keep his brain from frying, but it also kept up his dexterity and assisted with meditation.

These walls, stairs, halls and columns were unfamiliar, the layout of the Dome is nothing like the ducal estate back in L'Agnace, or the sprawling fields that surrounded the monastery in Siovale. But it is just as gilded, and objectively more beautiful than any marvel of architecture his former lives had to offer. Eisande, after all, was a haven for groundbreaking artists.

He finds himself stopped at the entrance to the Solar by a pair of household guards dressed in Mereliot livery, instructed to wait until the Lady Desarae was ready to receive him.

That, at least, is familiar, and Nicolas Guillard leans against a nearby wall, fingers reaching for his marbles and spinning them around and around and around his palm. The clacking noises were soothing, at least to him, and it gave him something else to occupy his mind even as he painted silent portraits of the room he was in; the high, vaulted ceilings, the colorful depictions of marine life. He can't help but stride towards one of the mosaics upon the wall and take in its vibrant gradients of blue, slowly shifting towards green, like the seas themselves.

How much information has Nicolas been given about his ward-to-be. Would he have groaned that he's to play chaperone, nursemaid and guard to a slip of a girl that's only recently turned sixteen? Or indeed, that until recently she was due to follow a life of service to Naamah. How had that sat with him, the fact that he'd flitted from protecting a duc, to this…

Desarae's arrival to the solar is quiet; no harsh clicking of heels upon the marbled floor, no swishing of skirts or the excited chatter that one might expect of a girl of her age. She's in the company of her current Cassiline; a man whom approaches his mid-life years with a salt-and-pepper appearance to hair that's already starting a slow crawl backwards across his scalp. She herself perhaps appears younger than her years, and wears her hair down in girl'ish fashion, two polished combs of silver keeping it pinned back from the edges of her face. "I'm Desarae," her introduction is clipped and simple, her hands coming together in a knot behind her back. "And you must be Nicolas." Her voice, he'll note, is one of quiet solemnity, and she's given to stating facts, rather than making her words pretty with extraneous flourishes. "This is Florent. You will probably wish to speak with him at length before he leaves tomorrow."

If there were any complaints regarding his new charge, there's no word of it. He's already turning before Desarae and her companion even steps in the room - it's the change in the air and the distant sound of two pairs of feet, one slippered and lighter, the other heavier and booted. Cassiline senses are what they are, able to detect an approach from a certain distance.

Florent's replacement is tall, expression set with youthful features that were he cleanshaven, he would look younger than his twenty-seven years would suggest. Men of blades tend to be built the same way, broad of shoulder, but otherwise set with lean, compact musculature that lends well to ease and efficiency of movement rather than the brute strength developed by other chevaliers. His posture is easy, one arm folded behind his back and the other still toying with the large marbles he has been spinning around on his left hand, though upon Desarae's arrival, he's already slipping them in the pocket of his uniform jacket. He affords her a bow from the waist.

"Well met, my lady, I'm Nicolas Guillard," he says once he's straightened. "I'll be looking after you from now on." There's a glance towards Florent. "Florent, good to see you. We can talk after the lady dismisses me, is that amenable to you?"

"Of course, and it's good to see you again too, Nicolas. Doesn't seem five minutes since I left the monastery to come here, but the Prefect requires me back," Florent grins, a wink given the younger Cassiline whom only a few months before he'd shared training duties and room space with. "Can't do without me, it seems." A touch of his hand to Desarae's shoulder. "I'll leave you with young Nicolas here, let you get to know each other and take the time to pack up my things." And back to Nicolas. "My quarters are in Lady Desarae's suite, so you can find me there when you see her safely back." A smile to Desarae. "You're in safe hands with Nicolas, my lady." He turns and leaves them together with that, and Desarae gives a dipped nod to Florent before she turns intense green eyes back in Nicolas' direction. "I am told that the late Duc de Chalasse was your previous ward, an exciting placement I would think."

There's a nod to the older and more experienced Cassiline as he leaves the two of them alone in the Solar, but when Desarae launches on her interrogation, a faint, easy smile tugs on the corners of Nicolas' mouth. "Nothing that I deserved, I'm sure," he tells his ward, remaining on his feet as the woman has not seated yet - and even if she did, it was likely that he would remain standing. Hours on a saddle would do that to a man, and while he does not say it, he finds some measure of relief standing on his own two feet. "The late duc was an old friend of my grandfather and father, they served together on a few battlefronts as younger men. By the time that I entered His Grace's service, he was already failing."

It had been difficult to see him that way. Vincent de Chalasse dominated his memories as a larger-than-life figure as a boy, to see him so frail and diminished had been almost too much to bear. But none of those thoughts permeate through the Cassiline's affable mien as he continues: "But he wanted to see some more of the world in his later years. I had the honor of accompanying him to Hellas and Ephesus the year before he died."

"I've never been beyond the borders of Terre d'Ange," Desarae informs Nicolas, dark brows knitting briefly above her eyes. "Until recently I was fostered at La Rose Sauvage, and there was no opportunity for such." There's a uniqueness to be found within the young woman's features as she speaks, for though she's warm undertones of those blessed to be born a Mereliot, she has all the Kusheline looks of her father. Her Morhban inheritance runs deeps within the fine-boned structure of her face, and reveals itself in the intelligent slant of her eyes and the raven-wing darkness of her hair. Her teeth catch at her lower lip, and she gives it the briefest of chews whilst assessment of her new Cassiline continue.

"I'm sorry to say that you have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other; from elderly and frail, to the vigor of youth." A skew of her mouth. "Not that there has been much vigor of late, for I've kept myself mostly closeted and away from public opinion whilst in mourning." Eyes lid, and shadows briefly haunt her face as memories surface of the quiet months she'd spent away from Marsilikos. "Chavaise is lovely, and should I decide to visit there, you'll find it a wonderful contrast to the city. The grounds of the castle are expansive, and the riding is excellent. You do like to ride, I hope…" Her chin lifts, a gesture given with a hand to the pair of couches that flank the stone hearth of the fireplace. "Shall we sit? I'll have refreshments brought."

She obviously knows little of how hard the man's ridden, or how recently he'd arrived.

He has L'Envers eyes.

The sanguine demands of Nicolas' angelic ancestry are all over his features, and while deceptively unassuming at first, nearby firelight conspires to bring most of it to the fore, and the way he smiles lends his face a boyish quality that makes him look almost mischievous, if Cassilines were ever prone to mischief (they're not). But the deep violet shades of those irises, like polished amethysts, are easily the most startling quality about him, if not just because of the name he carries. The Azzallese House Guillard isn't a family of grand titles or political prestige, but it is well known for its devoted and loyal service to the Crown. It is most likely that her new Cassiline is a young man raised and influenced by the principles and deeds of chevaliers.

House L'Envers, however, is a different story entirely.

"It's understandable that you would want to take some time to yourself, especially after a period of mourning," the Cassiline replies after a pause. "Returning to a life surrounded by so many after spending weeks without can be a jarring experience. Do you intend to return to Chavaise often?" He is already doing his job, hitting the ground running.

You do like to ride, I hope?

"Sure." His mouth takes on a more lopsided slant, the confirmation as casual as it can be. "I must, if I'm so willing to spend two days on a saddle to get here."

He waits for the young lady to take a seat, before he eases on a chair directly across from her. "I wasn't informed too much about you, but I was fully briefed on your circumstances," he continues; the way he arrays himself on his chosen seat is more akin to a boneless sprawl. "I wasn't aware of your tenure in the Night Court, for instance. But I ought to take the opportunity now to inform you of a few things - Florent is being sent back because we have a new class of initiates that could benefit from a more experienced hand, while I was sent to take his place because of what you have endured. Not to say that Florent can't handle it, were I still in the monastery, I would be learning from him, but I am faster, and I remember everything I see and hear and experience accurately. The danger around you may have abated, and I hope it has, but if it hasn't, the Prefect didn't want to take any chances."

"As you can imagine, I don't want to take any chances either," Desarae responds, her tone so even and level that it screams of self-mockery. "I am the only surviving child of my mother, and therefore the only one of her blood that is left to continue her line. Even were my father to wed again, any future children of his could never hold the Marquisate." A frown etches her brow, and her fingers tease a crease from the silk of her skirts. For someone of such tender years, there's a surprising amount of maturity in the way that she holds and conducts herself, and when Nicolas relaxes into his chair, some of the tension that she'd held in her shoulders, eases.

"My sister, Anaïs, would have been the next Marquise, and had many years of training for it. Whereas I…" A drift of her hand through the air, "was trained in other things. My education has large gaps which are now being filled." A grimace catches her mouth. "I hope that /you// enjoy lessons in such things as history, politics and economics, because you'll be present for a great many. Florent, I have no doubt, will be pleased to be spared the endless march of lessons that I'm subjected to, for I see the way that his eyes glaze at times. I'm sorry to be losing him though, since I've become used to his ways, and he to mine. Life is so transient, don't you think?"

For a priest - and Cassilines are that, at the end of the day - Nicolas has managed not to impart upon her the usual replies expected of him; that Elua had willed this to be her destiny, or some other nonsense. Still, he listens quietly, shifting on his seat so he can lean forward and link his fingers together, forearms braced against his thighs. Her maturity despite her tender years is not lost on him, and neither is it surprising - he is not a stranger to the concept of the young being forced to grow up fast. After all, he had been one of them.

There's no judgment on his features, either, when she speaks of being trained for other things. Cassilines are notorious for their disapproval of Naamah's service, but there's nary a trace of that from him - either he thinks differently, or he hides it well. "From what I understand, the skills taught in the Night Court lends itself easily to politics," he observes. "I'm sure those will be useful in the years to come as well, my lady. And I'm not opposed to furthering my education, however indirectly, by being present during your lessons. I'm not prone to taking anything for granted."

Many would claim the same, but from him, it is the simple truth, as expected from someone who had been left with nothing.

Life is so transient, don't you think?

The dark-haired Cassiline smiles faintly. "Nothing lasts forever," he tells her. "All the more reason, I think, to do what you can with what you have, while you still have it."

"When my family were first slaughtered, I wished to die too," Desarae says, her lowered voice holding a tracery of guilt within its bounds. "I lay in what I believed to be my deathbed, with an array of healers that seemed unable to help me. Then something changed."

She swallows, her eyes flicking away. The truth of the matter is perhaps more easily to be found not in something changing, but in the fact that she herself had changed. The curse had taken her to brink of death and forced her to look it full in the face. She'd found in the months of mourning that had followed that she was composed of iron and steel at her core, and she'd survived, though the same could not, perhaps, be said of her father. As arrogant and intractable as she'd been as a Novice of Rose Sauvage, those qualities had been harnessed, tempered and forged by the emotions that had accompanied her time away into a woman that she might otherwise never have become. A hand lifts, and she beckons a servant, requesting a selection of refreshments to be brought, and once he's away, she turns the questioning back upon Nicolas. "Did you always know you were bound for the Brotherhood? Did you mind? Isn't it odd, you were given to a life of chastity, and I to the opposite."

I wished to die too.

"People die when their hearts are torn out of them," says a man who has been trained in countless ways to take a life when necessary, though his words are quietly delivered, in deference of his ward's lingering sorrow. "It doesn't have to be literal for it to be true."

It must be because of what a Cassiline actually is, but Nicolas at the very least seems as comfortable with his current role as a confessor as he is a protector, watching eyes so green that they are almost iridescent flick away from him in this small admission of vulnerability. He takes in these small details, from the way stray tresses of her hair shift at ever movement of her head, to the way she gestures to a servant, because he can't help but observe, catalogue and remember. But that isn't without its many benefits - he would be extremely hard to fool.

Did you always know you were bound for the Brotherhood?

"No." His answer is straightforward and honest. "I wanted to become a chevalier like my forebears were before me." His smile returns, but more inscrutable in its bent. "But yes, it is odd. The world has a strange sense of humor, but something tells me that won't be the strangest thing we'll be encountering together. The world…can be ridiculously unpredictable."

After a moment's pause, he speaks again: "So what changed? That something?"

"I decided not to be the victim." Desarae's answer is clipped and perfunctory, her knuckles whitening where her hands now clasp in her lap. She sits motionless, her carriage erect and eyes appearing greener than they otherwise might. There's a passion that's held barely in check, though try as she might, there's a vulnerability that's also to be found within the planes and angles of her face. "I looked into the face of the witch who had brought about the terrible things that were done to my family, and knew what it tasted like to want revenge. I never knew it 'til then, not truly. It wasn't enough to know that I wished her dead, I wanted to be the vehicle of her execution."

Her chin tilts, and a deep and measured breath is drawn. "It was messy and horrible, and I hope that she suffered." She halts herself, her face becoming an implacable mask. "Have you killed?" Genuine curiousity shows in her question, as if she half-hopes that she, a sixteen year old nicely brought up niece of the Duchesse might have achieved something which a seasoned Cassiline has not.

I decided not to be the victim.

His attention focused on the young lady and for all the hatred confessed, Nicolas remains leaning forward, firelight reflected on the amethystine depths of his irises and rendering them as dark as night. He says nothing for a while; he had nursed his typical expectations on the ride to Marsilikos but whatever they were, they certainly didn't contemplate this outcome, that Desarae would talk about her experiences regarding what happened to her family so openly. But he was her Cassiline now, sworn to protect her and to remain loyal, and all these things inferred, above all, keeping her counsel and confidence.

Even if what she confesses is sadness and hatred, justified as both of them are.

Have you killed?

"Yes." He doesn't hesitate in responding, though there's no smile or even so much as a look of commiseration. "I tried to take lives as early as eight years old, and during my service to the duc and his travels abroad, I had taken more. But always for protection and defense of another, my lady, even in my earliest attempts."

After watching her for a few heartbeats, he continues: "How are you sleeping, after her execution?"

"She chases my dreams," Desarae confesses. "The curse she laid upon me was lifted by my cousin Alexandre, but I wonder if some part of it doesn't remain? I feel her eyes upon me, and the burden of her hatred in my bones." Her lips press in a tightened line, and there's a burning brightness to her eyes when in the next moment she mirrors Nicolas' posture and leans forward in her chair. "I know that she is dead, Nicolas. I held her head in my hand once severed, and saw the last of her life die in her eyes."

A broken breath is drawn at her momentary lapse, and the passion in her own eyes dims as she harnesses her emotions and reins them back in. "But perhaps that is her final gift to my family, for in a twisted fashion she has won. My father is a broken shell, whilst I," a lift of her chin…

"But I cannot contemplate why any child would be killing at eight. You are speaking of animals, perhaps?"

She chases my dreams.

The dark-haired Cassiline before her lapses in silence - not because he is appalled or shocked by what she says about her dreams, but rather to try and gather his thoughts on the matter and turn them over before responding. Nicolas shifts in his seat, his wide-legged sprawl ceasing momentarily so he glances over to the fire, fingers lifting to absently scratch at the swath of light stubble decorating his jaw.

"I can't profess to know much about curses, my lady," he finally says, violet irises meeting green from across the way. "But I'm a priest, at the end of the day, and I suppose that to deny that the infernal exists is to also deny the existence of the divine, for one can't exist without the other. But it could very well be that your very disposition doesn't lend itself easily to brutal methods such as that. I think it's disturbing to hear you haunted so, but I'm also in some way relieved that you found no genuine pleasure in the act. Satisfaction, maybe, but not pleasure. There's a difference."

Broad shoulders lift upwards. "Not to say it isn't admirable - I'm a firm believer that the person who intends to dispense justice should be the one to swing the sword if no other way exists to redress the wrong. But taking a life shouldn't be easy." His smile returns, albeit faintly. "If you're amenable taking the word of a man who's taken his fair share, it fades, eventually. There's always going to be a wound associated with it, but we all carry our own scars from our efforts to do what is necessary. It may feel that way, at the moment, that she has won, but in my opinion, it's too early to settle upon that. I think she'll only be victorious on that front if you let her. She is dead, and you are yet living."

He falls silent at the last, it gives the servant time to return from the errand Desarae sent him in, putting down a platter with decanters of wine, chilled water, and a few finger foods. He's reminded that he's starving, but there's no indication of it.

"Tried, my lady," he corrects. "And in defense of someone I cared about. At the time, I thought I would never see him again, if I didn't act." He reaches out, so he could pour the lady a glass of wine, and one for himself, though he dilutes his with the water provided. "Old history now, however." His eyes lift to regard her, his smile taking on a more lopsided cast. "And I'm more interested in hearing about yourself so I can better serve you."

Desarae nods slowly to Nicolas' explanation of his history, or what little she's given of it. "You must have been terrified to have been put in such a position at such a young age," she decides, the last embers of passion that had flared in her eyes, now ebbing away. It's with a clearer focus that she now looks at Nicolas. "But I agree with you in the dispensation of justice, and so I believe does my aunt. She would never have agreed to it otherwise." Her spine straightens as she brings her shoulders back and adopts a more upright posture, a nod given the servant whom approaches with the tray of refreshments she'd asked for. "On the table, thank you Pascale." Along with the wine that Nicolas hands to her, are a selection of bite-sized pastries glazed with almonds and cherries, and dates that glisten where stoned and disected. It's one of the last that she selects for herself, pulling the flesh apart in her fingers with a wrinkle of her nose. "Mm…" she pops a portion of it into her mouth. "… I hope it does fade." A frown. "I'm tired of waking exhausted, of drinking teas and tinctures to help with my sleep, and have begun to whether if whether an assignation with a Coquelicot courtesan might help. It's just…" she pauses, her thoughts gathering within the knit of her brow. "… I don't know. I don't feel ready to share my dreams, nor to let anyone in."

A little more of her character is revealed with that statement, exposing her as someone that's very much not comfortable with being exposed, and her nature of late has been someone that's learned to be cautious and guarded. A means of self-preservation, perhaps. "I'm not too certain what you wish to learn of me," she adds, a glance down to the date in her hands. She presses it lightly, painting the tips of her fingers with the stickiness of its juices. "I grew up trained to be one thing, and must now be another. I've no plans to travel to Caerdicci, Menekhet or anywhere else that's exciting. No pirates on the seas for me, no travelling to fight the Skaldi on the borders of Camlach. It'll be lessons, and shopping, and very nice tea parties with even nicer young ladies. You'll simply die from the exciting life you'll now lead." A pause. "I'm so terribly sorry that you've been assigned me as your ward."

"I think I was more terrified about the ramifications should I have failed," Nicolas confesses, his smile shifting to a more rueful curve. "And failed I did. I was only eight, after all, but thankfully the situation at the time de-escalated before it could get any worse." He cradles his goblet in his hands, looking down at his ruddy reflection upon the diluted wine within it, before taking a hearty gulp. With the young lady partaking on their shared meal, he reaches out, unable to help himself any longer, and pops one of the pastries in his mouth.

"I'm not familiar with whatever skillsets the Coquelicots may have in alleviating the stress imposed by difficult dreams," he continues, though there's a faint hint of apology on his boyish features when he states the obvious. "Though I've heard things. We train boys from different backgrounds in the monastery and many of them have troubled histories. Some of my brothers spend a lot of time conditioning them here." He taps his finger against his temple. "And while I've not had much experience dealing with our most difficult cases on that front, I've had my share counseling a few due to my own past and background and it helps them from the start to know that they've a sympathetic ear who comes from a set of like experiences. I've found that sometimes, with them at least, it helps to just…talk. Confession, admission, it's all good for the soul. Perhaps your dreams are so persistent because you've not taken the time to truly reflect on the experience of having to execute a person yourself."

He selects another pastry, consuming it before continuing. Her description of the utterly exciting life ahead of him has him blinking once, lapsing into silence.

It lasts for so long that she can't be blamed if she ended up believing that she had singlehandedly ruined his hopes for adventure and whatever glory that brings, but the Cassiline simply leans back and suddenly laughs. It is a sound as easy as the rest of him, his hand finding the side of his face, fingers pushing up to his hair. Eyes practically glitter as he grins at her; an open slash of a smile that bares his teeth and lights up his entire face.

"I think you're too young to be so certain that you'll be stuck in one continent in perpetuity," he tells her. "At the least, I'm very amenable to being surprised. Give us a decade or two, my lady, before you decide to be sorry."

"A decade or two…" Desarae echoes. "There have been times when I even wondered whether I would make it to the next morning, let alone the next year. Decades…" Her voice trails away, as if Nicolas has actually given her something genuine to ponder on, and she watches him quietly, her date forgotten in her fingers as he sits there, filled with mirth for her the bleakness of her thoughts. "You're laughing at me." Her lower lip juts in a facsimile of a pout, and her eyes fracture when they meet with his. "I can't even…" But there's something infectious in the manner of the man whom sits across from her, and her resolve begins to crumble with the slow melt of a smile upon her lips.

By Elua's balls, it's so beautiful when the girl smiles. Her smile is magic.

"I like riding and hunting," she starts slowly. "though I'm bad at both. I want a hawk that I might fly it, and to ride a full day in one direction, before sleeping beneath the stars. I like looking up at the heavens and imagining all the things the stars have seen. Elua would have looked at them too, don't you think?" She recalls that she still holds the remnants of a date in her hands, and falls quiet as she wipes her fingers upon a square of cotton, and her smile fades as quickly as it was birthed. "I'm sorry. Companions only know but you must be travel-worn from your trip. I shall have someone draw you a bath and have a proper meal prepared which you can take with Florent in his chambers. You will have much to talk about, I would think."

You're laughing at me.

He is, and he doesn't bother to hide it.

"You'll have to forgive me," Nicolas tells her brashly, his grin lingering on his face and utterly unapologetic with what he says next. "I tend to laugh when I find something ridiculous. You needn't be sorry for anything, my lady. At the very least, not yet. We've only just met, and it wouldn't be equitable at all if I accepted it, as I've absolutely no idea why you should apologize for giving me the option of a peaceful life. If anything, that's all I would want for you, if it would make you happy and content, and it would be an honor see you continue on that way if that is your heart's desire. I'll even try and facilitate it as best as I'm able." He gives her a quick wink. "That's what I'm here for, after all."

The sight of that pout only tugs his grin in a higher angle, and the flash of that beautiful smile only encourages him to maintain that good humor. It even brings some semblance of relief to the young man, upon the welcome discovery that despite what she has endured and confessed to him that she has not forgotten how to smile that way.

"All that black is deceptive, I think," he tells her in his easy, affable manner, unashamed of his opinion. "When you're so capable of lighting up a room when you look like that."

He finishes his wine and it seems one diluted cup is all that he will avail himself with, for he reaches for the cold pitcher of water to refill it, taking a few more hearty swigs. Hungry and thirsty, though he's managed to hold out this long. "You're a stargazer," he says. "It seems as grand of a hobby as any and I'll accompany you whenever you'd like." Scrutinizing her features carefully, he nods and rises from his seat, setting the goblet down. "But you're very kind, my lady. It'd be a relief." He means the bath. "And I should catch Florent before he sleeps."

Moving over to where she sits, his tall shadow crossing over her own, he offers a hand, palm up. "But I ought to escort you properly back to your chambers before I do."

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