(1310-09-21) Indecent Proposals
Summary: Two Shahrizai cousins meet in Marsilikos.
RL Date: 21/10/2018
Related: None
emmanuelle jean 

L’Envers Residence

This room's stately decor is only part of the elegance in it. The walls are painted a beige, and where it isn't painted, wood tiles of polished ash add a somber tone to everything. Long divans and multi-seat couches are spaciously placed on the room, all of a sable black upholstery. A small table plays host to the various bottles of beverages and platters of food as demands by the owner of the Townhouse.

In obvious and intentional contrast, the dining hall is made of light and brightness; candlelit chandeliers above reflect a myriad of colors best seen in glassworks on the walls, a spectrum of different images best left to the viewer's imagination at any given time. Scones keep torches that are lit at all times, even during daylight. A large table, big enough to accommodate twenty-four people in a dinner and still have some leftover seats spare, is made of sturdy, dark polished oak.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a fall day. The weather is cool and raining.

A very casual evening. But it's also autumn, so there's some kindling turning to ash, only to be replenished by ever dutiful servants in the fireplace. Furs are laid on the floor for the season, while tapestries depict a lot of L'Envers noblemen and noblewomen of ages past crossing a river of fire over a bridge. The son of Duc L'Envers himself is turned to that tapestry, instead thumbing a certain missive and studying a painting of Kushiel the Punisher, his whip gracing over the backs of the unworthy. The angel himself has a stern, almost saddened expression, as if it breaks his heart to be doing so to much beloved individuals. Their backs have red bloody streaks; so fair in contrast to the vivid red used to depict said blood.

And, as said before, there the lord of the house stands, his robe a black Ch'in silken affair with gold edging, wrapped tight around a muscled body, and a little tight at the shoulders. Presumably, were once to look down his body, they'd find him devoid of footwear, his calves exposed. He's nude, beneath that one piece of decency.

But in the lion's den, who is to tell him what to wear?

An exchange of notes — hers three words on the back of a square of card engraved with her name and the address, if one can call it an address, of the ducal palace — his, perhaps something more — blossoms at this late hour, with no more warning than the mere fact that several days have elapsed, into the announcement by a L'Envers-liveried servant of: "Emmanuelle Shahrizai nó Mandrake."

The lady doesn't wait for the footman to finish speaking before she passes by him and into the great hall proper. She is perhaps half a dozen years Edouard's senior in years and bears herself with that much confidence and more. She is dressed for the autumnal evening in a double-breasted frock coat of dark violet velvet, trimmed at collar and cuffs with black fur; the two rows of buttons down the front of it are set wide apart and linked not with braiding but with gilded chains. This, over a man's black buckskin breeches — though can they really be called a man's, when they're fitted so neatly as to be hers alone? Her soft leather boots slightly overtop her knees, their heels sharp and high, their golden spurs jingling in the stillness with each lazy, prowling step she takes.

Her blue-black hair is shot here and there with white, since last they met one another, and pulled back into a perfectly sleek chignon. Her blue eyes and her elegant profile are pure Shahrizai, to one who knows the look of that house; likewise the pin nestling in the folds of her black silk cravat. Three golden keys, twined together in a delicate triumph of some Elua jeweler's art.

A Shahrizai calling on a Shahrizai, then, and not one to pledge herself to the niceties by apologising for her chosen hour: she surveys the cavernous chamber and its sole occupant with a single curve of her head from the left to the right, at the conclusion of which her pale gaze snaps into alignment with his and she purrs: "Jean, my child, how do you live amidst so much beige?"

"Each room of this house has a theme, so it's not like I get bored standing here, and moving to the dining room, or going upstairs to the Night Room, or into Aurelie's Room, or my own. Which I haven't quite decided on a theme yet." Jean considers Emmanuelle for a longer moment, a snap of fingers prompting a servant to pour her a bottle of his oldest, and finest, harvest of Kusheline Red, while he enjoys his own Namarrese Dry. Both are equally strong and heady, but the Red is a little sweeter. The L'Envers, on the other hand, favors the sharpness of bitterness, how it makes the palate keen to other tastes. His lips curve into a welcome as he sets his goblet down onto a small table, before approaching her — instead of expecting her to approach, to slip his arms around her in a gesture of greeting, two very intimate kisses placed upon either of her cheeks, lingering just enough to be scandalous outside of a parlor.

"It's a pleasure to see you again, Emmanuelle," he whispers into her ear, drawing away to let the servant hand her the goblet, the Vicomte's eyebrows lifted for a moment before he murmurs, "Marsilikos has been treating you well, I hope? A trail of broken, young hearts in your wake?"

The unyielding Emmanuelle answers that kiss of greeting with only a slight smile: a curve of her wide red mouth suggesting infinite patience, infinite tolerance. "Now, now," she murmurs, tracing the line of Edouard's cheekbone with a fingertip still gloved in soft black kidskin. "I don't recall inviting you to speak my name… And I possess, as you know, excellent powers of recollection."

Having delivered herself of this mild rebuke she leaves the servant gazing after her with the goblet of Kusheline red unclaimed in his hand, and the vicomte presumably doing likewise with his own wine, and wanders through the open doors into the dining hall, which fortuitously remains well-lit.

The torchlight playing upon glass, the rich colours and the subdued glitter of the unlit chandeliers above, takes her fancy: she unbalances the chair at the head of the table onto its back legs and pulls it out from the table, polished oak sounding unnaturally loud upon the parquet beneath in a chamber otherwise empty, bereft of talk and merriment. She flares out her coat-tails and sits herself down to admire the view from what is usually Jean's seat. She unfastens the golden keys which serve her gloves in lieu of buttons and begins stripping them off, finger by finger. "This is agreeable, isn't it?" she suggests. "If I were you I should sit in here more often than simply at meals."

"I speak anybody's name here, my Lady. One day, I will sit on a rather large dais, and I shall say their first names and they will bow to me. Not right now, and my dais is not quite that impressive just yet, so, I will indulge." Jean is amused by this, even if she has mastered control, he has mastered irreverence, and in this he has his own power, subversive and quiet as it is.

"I have other rooms to keep myself busy with, and an ever-indulging former blossom of Alyssum to slake my peculiarities upon. I find I do not have much use for my dining room, alas." The noble still watches her, sipping from his own goblet and dragging back the chair opposite, settling down in a smooth, practiced motion and watching her across the table. It is wide enough to be a nice distance; but his eyes do not leave hers.

"Did the whimpering, boot-licking fools of the City of Elua become a touch too boring for you? Perhaps that young Prince du Sang that you were tutoring last?"

Emmanuelle drops her gloves upon the empty oaken expanse before her and sits back in her chair, one hand resting in her lap and the other draped idly across the arm of it. Her nails are impeccable as ever, pointed ovals black-lacquered. "I like a good polish on my boots," she reminds him idly; "but for all things there is a season, don't you find? In this season Marsilikos suits me well. I have family here, as you know; I have friends; I have even," a judicious inclination of her head toward him, "the society of certain former patrons. You heard, I imagine, as you hear so much, that I have retired from Mandrake House—?"

"I have heard so. It was heart breaking. I had hoped to introduce you to a talent I had found a few years ago, in the City of Elua. She was once a Jasmine, would you believe me, and now, now she's one of your vaunted Rose Sauvage Thorns. But Evangeline and I are still rather good friends. I am, however, inordinately fond of Lady Ophelia Iphigenie Shahrizai no Rose Sauvage. There's a possibility I will have her sit on my dais in my stead, once the proper arrangements are made. She's…" He considers something quietly, drinks from his wine, "…something else. She has my penchant, my willfulness, but those are Shahrizai traits. And then she has something /extra/, that just draws me. No wonder I paid so much to have her debut. Were our tables turned, though, I wonder how much the dispute would be to be the first woman to introduce me to manhood. Do you think I would be a disappointment in turnout and bidding? Or one or the other?"

And now there's something of the Kusheline horse-trader in Emmanuelle's gaze, for all she grew to maturity in Eisande and in Elua, as she looks down the table at her cousin. "You have a face and a form many would appreciate," she informs him, as though he didn't know it all too well. "The strong line of your jaw would have been in your favour, particularly with women of an age to have coin to spend on their fancies; likewise your shoulders. At sixteen years of age I recall…"

She sits forward a touch, to gather up the goblet the servant so timidly placed within her reach; she tastes the wine and the memory both, perhaps. "You had attained already your full height and you were unmarked by childhood accidents. A touch of softness still about the cheeks — not unappealing," she says soothingly, "at a debut. Calves perhaps not sufficiently developed to balance your thighs, though in the right breeches that might have passed unnoticed by patrons distracted by the shape and the firmness of your backside. You had not quite the beauty required by the canons of most of the Thirteen Houses, but you might have found favour at Mandrake House, where temperament means so much. I can't say whether I'd have accepted you as a novice, for I didn't know you at ten; at sixteen, I should not have been ashamed to offer you to our patrons," she concludes, no doubt underwhelming her poor cousin with this measured praise.

"The bidding, one cannot always predict."

"That is fair, fair enough, my Lady." Jean has spent the entire time listening to her assessment with a patience that seems so much like hers, if only in a different way. It's a listener's patience, taking note of the details of the words spoken, figuring out contexts, meanings, piecing together some sort of mental tapestry that prompts only the following remark, "I would have been a mediocre debutante, but still good enough to command, in other words. It is a good thing, then, that some men are put through the crucible of a woman's fire, like I was, with you, only to sharpen themselves in the grindstone of life, until they become their own masterwork. And, to be quite honest? Some Night Court men peak on the night of their debut."

"I am nowhere near my apex," he notes, with a note that implies certainty of purpose, and a drive that meets her gaze in a way that could well imply he would, if he had the whim, drag her up and out of her chair and lay her on the table without a second thought; a bit of that Naamah's blood showing, ever edged with Kushiel's strength of will, "but my name has already been spoken a great many times. Both in infamy and in praise. That is how the truest character accounts of great nobles are built, don't you think? With excess and magnitude, with calculated failures and grand triumphs. Heated debates."

In her many years in Elua Emmanuelle has heard this kind of grandiose male boasting all too often, from lords who blaze and burn and die away whilst the Night Court remains, exerting its influence far more quietly. She wets her throat with another sip of that fine red wine from their mutual homeland — no more than a taste; she's abstemious to a fault — and regards Jean over the rim of the goblet with cool eyes, looking if anything faintly bored by his talk.

"You would have been a mediocre courtesan," she corrects mildly, broadening the scope of his inadequacies, "for you think so much, always, of your own self. I think it too innate a trait of yours to have been eradicated by early training, even as severe as ours… You might well not have reached your debut. Better for you, perhaps better for Namarre, that you are as you are."

"Yes, with my brother as Duc, Namarre will certainly have fertile harvests, and bounty… and little else. It would submit, again and again. There's no vision in my dear sibling. Only dutifulness. I might be indulgent, Lady Emmanuelle," Jean's tone is far less than jolly now, "but in my house, as anywhere, it's all a masquerade. Father sends me a task, it is executed. The human cost is minimized, the methods, unimportant. But it gets done." He sets the glass on the table with a finality. "My brother does not have the constitution to do what needs must. He risks nothing, and thus gains nothing. I risk everything, and I gain more than one could possibly fathom. When you have me in chains, and whip my back, and have me whisper my submission to you? When I give you my signale? You haven't defeated me. I've learned something new about myself. I do think of myself, perhaps too much to be serving to others in the Night Court. But that is the nature of nobility. You're endowed with leading, and how you might look to others, and how ponderous the consequences of your actions must be. Then."

His hand flattens, as he drags it across the edge of the table, then lifts it. It's clean, of course, why wouldn't it be? "Elua tells us, 'love as thou wilt', and I pursue exactly that. Naamah teaches us how ecstatic it is to be in pleasure, how it elevates our souls. Our souls, and how we exalt ourselves. But sometimes, we need Kushiel's lash, too. To remind us we're only mortal, that we have a finite lifespan, and we must do what we can with what we have. So when I hear criticism, especially sharp criticism, I know I am dealing with someone of absolute honesty. I might not be the first in line of succession, but I am still a son of Namarre. And my status is temporary. So I will ask this of you, Lady Emmanuelle: are you interested in business? Because I don't need sycophants, I do need partners, though."

The former Dowayne listens with the base of her goblet resting against her thigh, gazing along the table at her cousin with the sort of poker face the most reckless Bryony wouldn't care to bet against. She leaves Jean another breath or two of silence, and then the legs of that heavy oak chair squeak once more over the floor. He might suppose she's going to stand up — instead she lifts one booted and spurred foot onto the table and then the other, crossing them at the ankles, no doubt leaving behind telltale scars on the oaken surface beneath.

Then, without sitting up, she inclines her head slightly forward as if to speak in confidence along the length of the dining room. "The fuck do I care about Namarre?" she inquires mildly of that province's most ambitious son.

(fade to black)

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