(1310-09-22) Incarnadine Admirer
Summary: Having received a lovely gift Oriane thanks the giver by feeding him, for it is a truth universally acknowledged that a growing lad can use a pastry or twelve.
RL Date: 22/09/2018 - 26/09/2018
Related: A Knight in Outgrown Tunic.
oriane gal 

Rue du Port

North of the bustling Marsilikos Port lies the Rue du Port, a wide avenue of a road that boasts the homes of some of the wealthier residents of the City, and those that find that the family townhouses in the Noble District are not to their liking. The road runs northwards following the coastline, running parallel to the bay and offering panoramic views to those houses which have been built on the seaward side of the road. High walls and iron gates offer privacy and security to those that choose to live here, and the occasional business might be found tucked between the family homes.

The high, arched, tremendously blue portals of a certain house in the Rue du Port do open, it’s true — but at hours and minutes frustratingly unpredictable, serving only the whims of the occupants, catching a certain young guardsman whose patrols often incline this way either at the wrong end of the street, or absent entirely. There’s a tall, musclebound man in his forties, gifted with a chiseled jawline and striking ice blue eyes, who seems to come in and out now at all hours. The lady Oriane’s black and white litter, meanwhile, has a way of slipping out unobtrusively and being glimpsed only in the distance with its silver moons glinting in the sunshine. Maids go out marketing and return weighted down by their baskets. Visitors call and generally they linger, enjoying who can only imagine what genial hospitality.

But one day as the sun creeps toward mid-morning that very young guardsman, engaged in securing that very house against intruders (himself included), shall espy coming along the Rue du Port at a sedate pace a trio of riders, two black-clad men on dark horses flanking a slighter, masked figure on a splendid white stallion. The masked figure, splendid in leather breeches and a long, full-cut black frock coat, with a white cravat at her throat and a three-cornered black felt hat on her head, calls out in tones delighted and so very civilised: “Why, Gal! Good morning!”

The three horses, somewhat lathered from their recent exertions, come to a halt before those mighty blue doors, and the masked figure’s next act is to pass her reins to one of her outriders and slip easily enough down out of her saddle and onto her fresh-scrubbed doorstep.

That is, she doesn’t need any help dismounting from her horse. Damn it.

Gal has, indeed, aside from— a few stark incidents requiring his attendance at the dockside markets, taken to the quieter patrol routes up along the Rue du Port, where his efforts are made almost redundant by the personal attendants and hired blades the nobles who live here tend to keep on hand to keep their own personal bit of peace. Despite the relative ease, it's not a popular post, many a guardsman preferring a spot where he could at least chat with the passers-by and merchants. Here there's little to relieve the tedium of strolling up and down the place with a pike at your shoulder. Fortunately, Gal has a rich inner life, a teen's imagination teeming with angels only know what sorts of thoughts and fancies; boredom is a fodder to the fire of youthful whimsy. When the shadows begin to grow shorter and the morning warmer (though, thankfully, not as hot as it has been), Gal pulls back his cape over one shoulder and tips up his chin to catch a gusting zephyr. Now that feels like autumn. Opening his eyes again, he wonders, for a moment, whether he's only imagining the procession of horses up the avenue. But, no— they're real, and Gal smiles a ready smile as his stroll draws to a stop near the house with the unique doorbell. "Lady Oriane," he executes a smart little bow. "Good morning. Did you have a nice ride?"

"I did indeed," the lady agrees with a smile in her voice and perhaps also beneath her mask. She turns then from Gal to her mounted outriders and instructs in a voice more authoritative but still fundamentally gentle: a voice so accustomed to obedience it hardly troubles to compel it. "Take him home easy, and write me a line or two when you've had that fetlock looked at."

"Very good, milady," answers the Siovalese groom entrusted with her reins; and as the three horses depart again in the direction of the city's noble district, minus one rider, Madelon in her neat black livery holds open a blue door.

"Won't you come in for a moment," says Oriane to Gal, "and let me thank you for your beautiful gift? Would your duties allow you, do you suppose?"

Gal takes a half-step back when Oriane turns to address her men, clutching his pike in one hand and lifting the other to the small of his back as though to stand at an easy attention. "Which stables do you keep them with?" he wonders, an idle conversational tag just to keep the conversation fluid. When she goes on to invite him in, he glances back over his shoulder, up the avenue, then down toward the port. "Looks like the avenue can probably do without me for a second," he remarks with an impish little smile. "I'll be glad to come in and visit. I'm glad you got the parcel, and hope the chain matches alright. I should have had my sister help out picking it, but— I did my best," he lifts a shoulder, looking pleased enough with his effort, though. "And it can hardly be much of a gift, as you paid for it, yourself," he points out, further. "I had some of your coin left over— I ended up giving it to Ammy, and I hope you don't mind. He's going through some stuff right now. Maybe you heard?"

Maison de la Porte Bleue — Rue du Port

This narrow house, one of the humbler to be found in the Rue du Port, fronts directly upon the street and is distinguished from its peers by the possession of a pair of large bright blue front doors. Its pale stone walls, gently weathered by the sea air, rise to include three lofty floors and attics tucked away beneath a sloping roof of darker blue tiles. A small first floor balcony overhanging the street vaunts the artifice of local ironworkers, being daintily wrought in the likeness of climbing flowers, and painted every bit as blue as the doors beneath it. To the left of the doors is a lamp of iron and glass, to the right a brass bell fashioned with a small fish affecting to be hooked on the bell's dangling chain.

Behind the blue portal is a perfectly square entrance hall of the same pale stone as the house's exterior, floored with a chequerboard pattern of black and white marble squares. Two small doors in the back wall lead into the offices of the house; between them a generous arched niche serves to display cut flowers or greenery in season, arranged in some precious, well-chosen bowl or vase of beaten copper or silver or coloured glass.

Placed diagonally across the front right-hand corner of the room sits a noblewoman's litter, a luxurious creation in black and white and cloth of silver, with a crescent moon inlaid in silver upon its door.

To the left a pale stone stairway curves up toward the first floor, between intricate black iron railings which resume the floral motif.

Oriane precedes her visitor into the entrance hall, wafting a faint fragrance of horseflesh and clean perspiration as well as her usual white flowers; and she turns at once to see that Gal gets his pike and whatnot through the doorway all right, under Madelon's supervision, before the door shuts behind them.

A footman relieves him of the pike. It's not really designed for salon use.

"I think it looks very well with my locket — no sister could have chosen better," Oriane maintains firmly as she leads the way upstairs, "or at least my sisters couldn't have done." Her gloved fingertips graze over her bosom in an unconscious betrayal of where that prized trinket is, even now, hidden away beneath her smartly-buttoned riding coat. "And I was so touched by your thoughtfulness when, you know, I did intend that coin for you yourself. But I'm sure I haven't any right to criticise how a young man spends his own money," she points out, her mask now in her hand and her modest smile turned briefly upon the said young man at her side, "so I shall just say 'thank you' for your gift and for the very kind note that came with it. I hope you'll forgive me for not answering it — you see, I wasn't certain what name you'd have liked put on an answer," she says delicately as they reach the landing outside her salon.

Here she pauses to lay down her mask upon a small table, next to the three-cornered black felt hat she swiftly unpins from her head. Her hair has been slightly disarranged at the sides by the wind off the harbour, and a few soft white wisps have come far enough loose to frame her face.

Gal follows behind at three or four paces’ distance, his own lanky gait kept slow and even as he trails behind her, not to close the distance at all— or maybe to appreciate the line of her back and thighs in her riding habit. Madelon might have caught him looking on his way in, her somewhat arch look drawing his own with a pair of innocuously raised brows by the time Oriane turns to make sure he hasn't chopped her door frame to firewood on the way in. Which— he hasn't! He hands off the pike to the poor footman who is probably not well used to the keeping of polearms in the foyer, and, with that, is at Oriane's side for the ascent to the salon. Or maybe just one step behind. Hand ready to apply a tender pressure beneath her elbow in a gesture more genteel than condescending. He knows well she doesn't need help getting up the stairs, of all things. But it's a polite gesture to show a lady. His eyes follow her further hand where it treasures over her bosom, and then lower to the incline of the grades in time with a smile. "It's alright. I didn't presume for an answer. But if at all you want to contact me, I'm in Barracks House B on the Citadel. Bunk 6, that's me. Just Gal is fine… they know who I am," except that most of them don't. He lifts his eyes again to meet hers when her hair tumbles all wind-fussed to frame her face and he's wordless for a moment more. Which is fine, because according to the rules of conversation, it's her turn, anyhow.

"… Oh, yes, they must do," Oriane chuckles softly, peeling off her gloves.

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.

Seen from behind Oriane’s riding costume does suggest something of the neatness that its habitual employment imparts to her figure; but the tails of her coat are so long and so full, resembling so nearly a skirt, that adolescent imagination is once again stuck doing the heavy lifting. At least until, having added her gloves to the little collection of finely-made black accessories on that plain white occasional table, she opens the door to the salon and finds that the fire in the hearth was not merely kindled in advance of her return but has been going full blast since, probably, a minute and a half after she rode out.

"Ouh!" she exclaims then, pulling a slight face as the wave of warmth strikes her, so fresh from her exertions on horseback. "I think my servants must be trying to boil me alive. Do leave that door open, Gal," she hastens to add as he follows her in from the landing. Already she's unbuttoning her coat.

Two more of her occasional tables have been pushed together in the rear half of the salon near the fire, covered with a pristine white damask cloth, and laid with crystal and silver and delicate white china in preparation for a solitary breakfast. White flowers bloom in a shallow copper bowl. A considerable stack of correspondence lies neatly arranged upon a polished salver. Only one chair, but there are others pushed back against the walls: Oriane herself seizes upon one of them and carries it to the table in advance of Gal's arrival there. She places it not across from her own but to the side, away from her letters, for reasons both conversational and confidential. "There you are," she declares. Then she commences to slip out of that voluminous coat… with or without help?

Gal has survived the summer being steamed inside his armor while out on patrol— so the wall of heat he steps into at the very least doesn't cause him to exclaim in distress. That would be rude, too. "Alright," he answers, merely, when instructed upon the door— then, while she's arranging the seating, he decides to make himself useful and cross to that balcony where they had spoken on their second meeting, opening up those doors as well to let in those pleasant autumn breezes to whisk away some of the stifling heat. That done, unless she should object and compel him to close them up again, he continues in a tightening circuit toward her table, ending up fortuitously just beside her when she begins to shrug out of her coat— she finds his hands there, ready to catch up the structured fabric in his fingers and guide the sleeves down her arms, his knuckles just barely skimming along her triceps. The heat of the fire, on the verge of being snatched away outdoors, is replaced for a feathery instant by his breath at the back of her neck while he looks down, making sure her arms are freed before he folds her coat over his arm. "Where should I set this?" he wonders.

"Oh, bless you," says Oriane over her shoulder as the balcony doors slide open just far enough to welcome in the fresh green scents of her plants. She accepts Gal's help with her coat, extracting one arm and then the other — for a moment they're so near to one another that his nose may even discern a whiff of apples, which certainly isn't coming from the balcony — and then claiming the garment back from him and draping it over the back of her chair. Problem solved.

Sans coat, her leather breeches do indeed hint at the cast-iron thigh muscles of the lifelong equestrian. Tucked into them is a pure white linen shirt, showing the creases of a few hours of wear; its black-ribbon laces are open a little to accommodate her similarly snowy, lace-edged cravat. The cuffs are laced and tied at her wrists with the same narrow black ribbons. One has come loose and as she sits down she absent-mindedly tucks the trailing end inside the lacing to get it out of the way. Her locket isn't in evidence. Must be nearer to her skin.

Madelon approaches with a silver tray from which she unloads, without comment, a silver teapot and its accoutrements, and an extra cup and saucer. The water must have been kept hot against Oriane's return, as well as the salon itself.

"Do sit," says Oriane to Gal with another kindly smile, as she settles down to the business of pouring out tea for two. "Will you take honey? Perhaps you'd rather try it first without," she suggests, "and then decide."

Gal accepts the blessing with a humble mien, pleased to have taken the initiative and found approval, but not apt to strut over it. The proximity— he leans in just a little bit, easing further onto the balls of his feet from his heels, wondering whether it's the locket he smells, or her herself. But he won't ask— his weight has just enough time to shift backward into place before she turns and he hands over the folded riding-jacket. "OK," he answers, sitting when bidden to sit— and the suggestion on how to take his tea he accepts just as easily. "Regular is fine. I haven't had tea in a while, come to think of it. I should get a kettle for the barracks," he considers how that would go over.

Oriane nods. "Usually I ride every morning," she explains, "and I do look forward to finding my tea waiting when I come in, even in the summertime. It's so refreshing. You might find it so too at the end of a long patrol." She places the first cup and saucer in front of her guest and then pours for herself. She doesn't take honey: he may notice, and let that be his overall guide.

The tea in that fragile white cup is reddish gold in colour. The taste of it suggests wild roses and the skin of white grapes, and fields full of violets.

"Oh, I think you asked about stables," Oriane is saying, holding up her own cup and saucer and breathing in that violet fragrance while she waits for it to cool to just the temperature she likes. "I'm afraid I don't know any of the livery stables well enough to make a recommendation," she apologises, "if that was what you wished. My Somerville cousins have been good enough to stable my hunters for me, at least for the time being. I stayed in their house when I first came to Marsilikos, when I was looking about for something more permanent… Madelon, the doors?" she suggests lightly. "I think we're just cool enough now."

Her servant obliges, drawing the balcony doors shut again.

Gal will let Oriane be his guide in manners. He mirrors the way she takes her tea, mirrors almost how she lifts it to drink. He might be slouching a little bit, is all, and his hands might be less perfectly poised upon the porcelain, two fingers sort of jammed through the handle they both won't quite fit through together, his other hand toying with supporting the cup from the other wise, but then finding it, in turn, too warm to manage— it forces him to his fingertips. "Oh, I was just wondering where you were stabling them," he waves off the need for a recommendation, "For livery stables, most people I know like Michel's place under the northern end of the market promenade," he offers up a suggestion of his own, "Though stabling them with your cousins is… I mean, obviously easier," he realizes he's not really being any help.

Oriane's habit is to lift cup and saucer together from the table in her left hand, and hold the saucer steady whilst her right hand undertakes the business of bringing the cup to and from her lips… Their soft pink is quite natural, by the bye; she doesn't paint. "I shall make a note of Michel's," she says readily, "in case I'm ever asked by someone who hasn't got such convenient cousins." A sip. "You must know the city well, walking through it every day — I know there's a great deal I haven't seen yet. I wonder if you'd recommend any sights in particular?"

"I mean— if you want sights, you have to go up to the Citadel. Have you been, yet?" Gal asks— an assumption presumably underlying that anyone who's in Marsilikos for any length of time will eventually get up to the Citadel to take in the view. Nevermind the hundred and fifty fairly steep stairs it takes to get there, nor the guardpost entry which is a hassle to get through (though presumably rather less of a hassle for a member of the guard). "You should come," he leans in, slightly, crossing his ankles under the table. "I'll show you around," he offers, after a sip.

"No, I haven't visited the Citadel," says Oriane easily, sipping her tea; and then, "I'd like that very much, if you think you could spare the time. I know the ducal palace enjoys rather a fine vantage upon the city and the harbour, but I should think the Citadel's view would exceed it in certain directions, shouldn't it? It would be entertaining to make the comparison," she decides. "… I've only been exploring the city little by little, you know," she confesses; "I'm not near as adventurous now as I might have been once. I call on old acquaintances or I go down to the harbour to do a little marketing, but that's all."

"And your riding," Gal appends to the list, evidently considering that an exploration, even if of the area around the city, rather than the city proper. "I've never been to the palace, yet. I mean, as far as the courtyard, but not actually inside, or anywhere with much of a view." A pause, and he rightens himself again, "But, yeah, just lemme know when you're thinking of coming by and I'll let you know my shift schedule. I've been doing dawn shift the last two weeks but I might get back on midnight shift soon." He draws on the ankle atop his other ankle until it's resting on his knee, instead. "And anyhow there's nothing the matter with little by little… if you're planning on staying for a while…" is totally not a dig for information.

"And my riding," agrees Oriane, nodding. She has kept an eye on Gal's cup; she reclaims it from him and fills it again from her silver teapot, chuckling that: "I'm often awake at midnight and at dawn, so I shall take you up on that, Gal, if I may." She restores his tea to him and even, graciously, hooks herself on the end of his line. "Oh, I own this house; and I intend to live in it."

"Well, that's when— that's when I work," Gal points out, quite gingerly, as there's been a bit of a miscommunication, handing over his teacup. "But like in the afternoon, if you want to see it in the daytime… or in the evening, if you want to see it at night. It's… really beautiful at night, actually. The stars just go on forever out to sea," he waxes faintly poetic, in that way that some boys of a wistful attitude are wont to do. "Oh, well, then— there's tons of time, isn't there? Was there something about Marsilikos that made you want to settle down here?" he wonders.

Oriane doesn't think there's quite so much time, perhaps, as a sixteen-year-old might suppose — but for now she agrees, voicing some soft and courteous view that stars and the sea do, indeed, add up to form a certain beauty.

Then she just looks at him, while her tea cools in her cup.

"… Well, I'm not certain how to answer a question like that," she says slowly; "because I'm not at all certain what you may already know. I don't like the idea of fobbing you off with some glib empty nothing; you might think the less of me if you'd found out I'd said such a thing to you. If we're to be friends — and I should like that, Gal, if you don't object to such elderly company as mine! — perhaps we ought to do a little truth-telling, first of all. We might admit what we've already heard said about one another and straighten out the worst of the gossip. Why don't I go first?" She sets down her cup and saucer and folds her hands neatly on the edge of the table, her diamond ring uppermost.

"Your name is Gal de Valais, of House Valais of Châteauredon; you're the son of Gregorien and the grandson of Jacques-Auguste, who was also," her smile rests upon him with infinite gentleness, "a very thoughtful and generous man, with a fine seat on a horse. You're not unlike him in profile now that I've drawn the connexion… The talk is that you were going astray, as so many young men do, and your father took measures to see you straightened out." Her emphasis upon those phrases veers just slightly into mockery, a sign to her young guest that however numerous her years she doesn't necessarily place herself upon the side of parental authority. "You know," she goes on in a different vein, "there are plenty of people in Siovale and here in my own household who would say that I too made foolish decisions in the first days of my grief. It would be stranger, I think," she shrugs, "if one did not… I know you must have been very unhappy when you lost your brother; but I do hope, Gal," she suggests with a delicate, earnest note in her well-bred voice, "that having opened your horizons to include all of Marsilikos, perhaps you're not quite so unhappy anymore? I should like to think that an ancient city protected by so formidable a goddess, has that power."

Gal's eyebrows go all lopsided when she professes not to know how to answer, and begins speaking to him as though he may have been hiding his true intent from her. But his mouth is left empty of words, his face similarly drawing empty of color when she recites to him his whole lineage and … everything. His mouth closes into a tight little line and he sets his teacup down, withdrawing somewhat, emotionally, from the conversation, when confronted with… the sort of shit he tries his best to keep from reaching his daily life. And, voila, in the course of a monologue Oriane has transformed her eager young buck into a surly-assed teenager. "What do you want me to say?" he finally speaks, after a good lot of silence. "I can't read you out your ancestry, and of your troubles I know… only about what lies in your locket. So. I guess advantage goes to you." Oh, listen to the levels of sulk.

Whilst Gal is drifting away from her and into thought Oriane betrays no sign of impatience; she just sits, looking partly at him and partly at her prettily arranged breakfast-table, preoccupied perhaps with what remains unsaid.

"… Advantage?" she questions. And she looks away, doubtfully, and pours a drop more tea into cups which scarcely require it. "I don't think so, really, do you?" she says. "After all I've just made you quite cross with me — perhaps, too, I've been a little bit perverse," she acknowledges, apologetically. "The great reason I came to Marsilikos was to pass my time in places His Grace the late duc de Toluard never saw, among people he never knew, where I should not be reminded at every turn of a happiness I shall never find again." This she states with bleak resignation, speaking more to the cups and the saucers than to her visitor. "But, too, I wanted to get away from these conversations — from everyone who makes me talk and talk and talk endlessly, at all hours, about politics, lawsuits, tourneys, betrayals, death…" Her alto voice seems to rise with the lengthening of her list; to defeat that mounting tension in each syllable she closes her eyes, just for a moment, the fingers of one hand wrapped still tight round the handle of the silver teapot. A breath later she lets it go. The scent of apples fills the salon meanwhile, a sudden breath of high summer in autumn.

Again she folds her hands upon the table and addresses Gal directly, with that same lack of pretense and implicit trust in his good nature and his listening ears. "You've been kind to me, you've shown me a sympathy I didn't expect — and I did enjoy our talk the last time you visited. I made up my mind about you considerably before, in thinking on the prettiness of your sister-in-law's name, I realised who you must be. And so, today, I didn't like to invite you to sit at my table and then hold such knowledge over you, unseen and unsuspected. Imagine," she suggests, "how much worse the taste in your mouth had you sat many more times just where you are now, only to find out I'd known all along and kept it from you…? I don't think that's any way to show kindness to a friend. Nor did I like to duck away from answering your perfectly reasonable questions, or to assume that someone of your youth couldn't understand me and so I shouldn't bother to try to explain. I chose frankness, then, on all counts; I may have erred, for to live in this world is constantly to err; if that is so, Gal, then I ask your pardon for it.”

The last Oriane speaks more softly and more swiftly, for she can hear footsteps on the stairs — she ceases to treat of personal matters when Madelon comes in carrying a silver tray laden with her breakfast. Much business ensues with divvying up a preposterous quantity of pastries and assigning half of them to Gal. He receives half a halved grapefruit, too. A quarter grapefruit.

Gal listens with the sort of boyish petulance that a good soul won't allow to remain piled up against the tide of Oriane's kind and frank words. It ebbs with the waters, wanes with the moon, becomes diminished moment by moment until his eyes are merely cast aside out of the last remaining piece of will not to look back at her and melt with compliance. "I never asked for you to speak about politics or any such stuff with me," he murmurs a muted objection. He looks over the great partitioning of the pastries with a reigned in appetite, not giving in to the base instincts of his cavernous gullet in favor on continuing to sulk a moment longer. "I'm sorry," he finally sighs out the words. "You can't help knowing what you know. I've just been kind of anonymous down here, and— I like it, to be honest. It's a simple kind of life, just working my shifts and earning coin and going to the taverns with my friends. I don't have to deal with… any of that stuff, either. I guess this is a good place for it, after all," he finally lifts his eyes to hers again, if he can find them, looking to forge the sliver of a bridge he's sketched between them in iron.

If he can find her eyes…? By now they're waiting for him, their azure blue unclouded by her recent burst of temperament, full of all the patience of an experienced mother and grandmother intent upon soothing the amour propre of a tender-hearted lad. She hasn't touched her pastries or her grapefruit. Her breakfast too is waiting upon his return to good cheer and civilised discourse.

"I didn't write your name on a letter without knowing who might see it," she says gently, "nor did I speak it where my servants might overhear. I'm not going to tell anyone, Gal — not if you don't wish it. I've rather liked being anonymous here too, keeping my mask on every moment that I've an excuse," she reminds him, smiling crookedly, "and pretending I don't hear the songs."

The eye contact granted kindles something of his spirits once more, and his grudging abstinence from the breakfast spread becomes less grudging with the distraction offered of getting lost in her gaze and lulled by her sensical reasoning and copious recaution with his identity. Her crooked smile crooks the corner of his own mouth into a hapless shrug as they bond over their shared desire for obscurity. "I'd appreciate it. Some people already know, just— not lots. Fleur knows, of course. Did you want to—" he looks to the breakfast spread, not about to tuck in until she does. "Songs?"

Yes, Oriane does want to, now that they're both of the same mind.

She unfolds her napkin and drapes it across her lap, and cuts open a perfectly flaky fresh-baked croissant and proceeds to spread orange marmalade sparingly over its interior. "Songs," she repeats, nodding to him; "like, oh…" Gesturing for him to tuck in, she purses her lips and begins to whistle an air she has heard often enough in the streets of Marsilikos to suppose that Gal has heard it too, probably in one of those taverns he so anonymously frequents.

In full, it tells of a captive knight rescued from durance vile by a clever lady much older than he, who was then restored by his love to the first flush of her youth and beauty — new moon symbolism — several bawdy verses in the middle — the knight engages upon many a mighty series of jousts — more insinuations about the magnificence of his 'lance' and his prowess 'in the saddle' — the knight dies an entertainingly gruesome death on the field, at which point the lady's years accumulated suddenly fall upon her all at once, leaving her withered and old… Oriane, with no desire to spend so much of her morning upon it, whistles the part that relates the death and the withering, then breaks off. "They made prettier songs about us whilst he lived," she explains, wry of smile but wistful of eye. "Try one of those little rolls dusted with cinnamon," she advises Gal then; "my pastry chef does them so very well. Not too sweet."

Gal leans over his own plate, picking up a croissant in both hands and not bothering to doctor it so much as to just pull it apart into flaky tuffs he can stuff down into his mouth with a thumb which he can lick clean on its egress from his lips. The whistled tune sounds… like something he might know… but, tone-deaf as he is, it takes him a moment for it to sink in entirely. He knows that song. He's sung that song. And had no idea it was anything more than an erotic farce. A crimson glow steals over his cheeks and ears as the full importance of the piece falls into place, and his hand moves as if of its own accord to pick up a cinnamon roll and put it in his mouth, as though obeying her would ease the awkwardness lurking in his earlobes. He swallows almost without chewing, a testament, no doubt, to the flakiness of the pastry. "That's… I didn't know, sorry. Was he really, you know…" maybe she doesn't know, but Gal shies away from putting too fine a point on it.

It's a good bet that a woman of the world like Oriane does know. But, having swallowed a bite of her richly anointed croissant and washed it down with a sip of tea, she misunderstands a-purpose. "Held captive in his youth?" she inquires innocently of her incarnadine admirer. "In his childhood, it was. He was ten and a half years old when we brought him home. When a bard makes a song about real people — an anonymous bard, let us say, who seeks no patronage and knows he need never look his subjects in the eye — he will usually begin with the truth and then—" Holding her hand flat, palm-down, she lifts it higher and then higher again, pantomiming increasing levels. "Exaggerate just as far," she concludes, reapplying herself to her breakfast, "as he supposes will entertain. But the truth must be there, or his listeners would be denied their recognition and thus their laughter." She spears one of the little cinnamon businesses on the tines of her silver fork and claims it for herself, to be eaten in two bites rather than Gal's single gulp. She has, in fact, answered his real question too.

Gal will just go on and pretend that's what he meant. He's not entirely fluent in the political history of other provinces, so it's a new story, at least insofar as its real personages and events contrast to the story he knew in bawdy song. He absently puts away more of the pastries, hardly seeming to mind them or taste them while hanging on Oriane's explanation. "That's got to be kind of hurtful, though, having people saying that kind of thing. I know I won't sing that song anymore, at least," he bunches up his shoulders in a hint of afront on Oriane's behalf.

The lady's eyes twinkle at him, just a wee bit. "Ah, then you did sing it—!" she teases, and gives in to the ever-present urge to pat his hand where he's left it just lying next to a plateful of pastry crumbs. "It's all right, Gal," she adds soothingly. "If I keep on being so frank with you as I've been so far, I shall have to admit that I'm accustomed to it by now. There was some years ago a drama in verse, at the Théâtre des Variétés in Elua… My friends all told me solemnly that they wouldn't deign to patronise it," she relates, in equal solemnity but with that light of amusement still animating her gaze, "but I noticed that, for people so eager to boycott the playwright and his piece, they certainly all seemed to know a great deal about the most unflattering passages in it. I used to keep at least the troubadours of the south close to me, and feed them out of my own hand, so to speak, to encourage them not to bite — but now that they no longer enjoy my hospitality, they find their amusement in other ways. There's nothing to be done about it and so…" She shrugs. "I try to pay no heed."

Gal gave that away, didn't he? But that's OK— he's laid the trap of his hand next to the platter, just tempting enough to draw hers with his somewhat crumbladen fingers, and he slyly flips his palm to face the ceiling in the moment before her hand comes to pat his, giving hers a gentle press, instead. "That sounds terrible. I'm sorry you have to go through all of this, on top of dealing with everything else." He lifts his other hand to brush a crumb that had been clinging to his lip down to flit into a crack in his banded chestplate. "You don't deserve that kind of treatment."

Oriane never lets the light touch of their hands go on too long; whether it's a sensible discipline for the boy, to teach him not to expect much, or a calculated tease, to make him long for more of the same, she probably couldn't answer in her present state of transitional uncertainty. Oh, yes, he'll grow out of it soon enough… In the meantime the ancient and withered lady of story and song, can't help receiving a boost from those admiring young eyes. Still. This time is no exception. She lets go; she picks up her tea-pot instead, and offers him a refill for his cup and a little more philosophy to chew with the last of the pastries.

"Oh, you are kind to me, Gal. Though I must say I try not to consider the events of my life in terms of what might be deserved or undeserved — what is simply is, regardless of whether one might feel that it ought to be, and one must just do the best one can with what comes, don't you think?" she suggests. "Do eat that last cinnamon roll — in fact, why don't I put some things in a handkerchief for you to take away? — ever since my pastry chef came to me from Bordeaux he hasn't had enough to do with himself," she explains, in case Gal might think she eats a breakfast this size all by herself, every day. She has a clean handkerchief to hand; in fact, her servants being uniformly zealous, she has several. “Here,” she says. “Let me.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License