(1310-09-23) The Psychological Moment
Summary: Quintavius has secretly fired Oriane’s cook. This will never do.
RL Date: 23/09/2018 - 25/09/2019
Related: {$related}
oriane quintavius 

Salon — Maison de la Porte Bleue

Two square chambers are united by broad sliding doors of black-painted wood, creating a double cube lined with simple white boiseries and floored by squares of dark and light parquet in an echo of the marble downstairs.

The resulting combined salon is sparsely furnished with a few small chairs and tables light enough to be rearranged at will, their styles mismatched but harmonious, all of them painted white. In the rear chamber a single large sofa covered in deep sapphire-blue velvet is placed against the wall to the left as one enters it, across from the fireplace to the right.

The small balcony overlooking the Rue du Port, is echoed by a much larger one on the opposite side of the double cube, between the sofa and the hearth. Sliding doors, similar to those in the middle of the salon but set with diamond-shaped panes of leaded glass to let the light in, give onto a fragrant bower suspended amidst a magnificent view of the harbour. Small orange trees grow in pots, scenting the air with their sweetness; the blue wrought-iron railings are festooned with windowboxes planted with such useful household staples as rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, and lavender. And, for pleasure's sake, every white flower that might hope to thrive in the climate of Marsilikos has a place here, whether in a hanging basket or a pot moved inside at night. Overhead stretches a black and white striped canvas awning, the angle of which can be adjusted by lever to provide shade to plants and persons resting beneath it as the southern sun moves in its course.

The arrangements for Oriane’s breakfast being now perfected, in the exacting eyes of Quintavius Anne Toluard as well as her own more lenient gaze, she sits down this morning fresh, fragrant of white flowers rather than white horses, and dressed in a simple black silken gown which suggests she might intend to pay calls later in the day. Its low neckline is filled in with a gauzy white fichu, edged with a smidgeon of the most delicate lace, and fastened in place at her bosom with a diamond brooch in the shape of a crescent moon: an ornament which, all by itself, outshines in beauty and in cost whole parures flaunted by some lesser ladies of the nobility who haven’t enjoyed her advantages, or been loved half so much.

Of course Quintavius is there in another of his neatly pressed tunics, hovering like a dark and muscular vulture on the lookout for tasty morsels of praise: the half a grapefruit the lady asked for having been, naturally, accompanied to the table by his own latest dainty creation.

Oriane’s silver fork detaches a small taste from one corner of… well… whatever it is; and she samples it with an air of poised and attentive curiosity. “Why, isn’t that… Didn’t we have something rather like it once before, when the Courcels were with us for a hunting party? It would have been this time of year, too,” she recollects, “when the leaves were turning… “

“Chestnuts, my lady,” Quintavius offers smugly, hands tucked behind his back helping to counterbalance the little rise up onto his toes as he speaks. “There are chestnuts in the cream. Rather like that roulade for the hunting party, yes.”

There is a tiny pause and a glance to the window before the casual query, “The Courcels, my lady? Are they..?” No, not out of the window. The Courcels are unlikely to be outside the window, hovering like hummingbirds. “I mean to say, my lady, do they support your claim? Do you still have their ear? Surely all it would take would be a writ with their seal on it, and the matter would be final?”

Not content with merely fattening her up, he moves smoothly to the teapot, topping up her cup of finest tea, unbidden. She might like more tea, yes, but there’s also a fair chance that he’s only doing it to warm his hands up.

The tines of Oriane's fork continue to disassemble the chestnut confection, a few crumbs at a time: it's quite rich for a palate such as hers. She's rather looking forward to the half a grapefruit that has been concealed amongst the elegancies of her table in such a manner as to suggest that Quintavius, while faithful to the letter of her request, is hoping she'll forget to look for it.

"Yes, of course," she answers him mildly, "a lettre de cachet would settle the matter in a trice — if House Courcel wished to extend still further the precedent of their direct interference in ducal affairs, and if they cared to expend the political capital necessary to enforce such a summary judgment. Quinquin, my dear, one doesn't use an Akkadian scimitar to deadhead one's roses. One especially doesn't hold it out at arm's length, and unbalance oneself."

She sounds apologetic, as though she hardly likes to disagree with him.

Quintavius folds his hands behind his back once more, absently rubbing them together to try to keep warm. "On the other hand, my lady, it would brook no argument. One doesn't use secateurs to fight a battle."

Oriane bends her head gracefully over her plate, hiding that look of the indulgent grandmother she can feel creeping over her features. She essays another morsel of the chestnut confection and has recourse, then, to her fine and unadulterated Ch'in tea to cleanse her palate.

"But this isn't a battle, Quinquin," she points out, patiently; "it's an action before the law, which I am pursuing through the proper channels, using the appropriate implements," she tilts her head, giving him an amused little sidelong look, "at each stage. I have no wish to win by royal fiat, my dear," she admits, putting down her cup and saucer and cunningly bringing her grapefruit to the fore. "I had much rather see my case proved by its merits, in the sight of all — I feel that will tend toward a more comfortable position for the new comtesse."

Quintavius eyes the grapefruit, usurper to his table of baked wonders, with barely disguised irritation, then shakes his head and turns his attention back to the lady. "I seem to recall, my lady, that the late Duc once stated that everything in life is a battle of some sort. Why else would you need your loyal footsoldiers?"

For a time Oriane is silent, disemboweling the grapefruit. Her own offense in suffering such a thing to be brought to her table is as nothing compared with his in conjuring that shade, from which she so constantly seeks to escape.

The quiet spins out moment by moment through the empty white salon. It's interrupted only by the discreet meetings of china and silver, Oriane's soft and steady breathing, and any sigh Quintavius might unthinkingly emit as he becomes a self-taught expert upon the weave and the drape of the curtains and the pattern of the glass panels set into the balcony's sliding doors.

If he were anyone else she'd dissemble finely.

At last she sets her silver knife and her silver fork together across the sticky remnants of her grapefruit and pronounces, "I don't think I feel very hungry this morning, Quinquin." She does however pour herself another cup of tea, an act she performs for visitors more often than for herself, at least while Quintavius is on the watch: but this time she's forestalled him. "You might consider, my dear boy," she goes on with a determined gentleness, "that to a trained knight many of life's difficulties have the semblance of battles. That is why someone else often superintends such a man's legal and administrative concerns."

Quintavius demurs, "For which, my lady, he could ask for no finer." Apparently this is his nod to an apology. Sucking up. Well, human emotions are awfully difficult for the poor man, after all. Quick. A change of subject. Um. "Did you ride far this morning, my lady? I've yet to escape the city proper to admire the local countryside."

"Not far," Oriane answers quietly. She appreciates the gesture; it arrives a little too late to divert her mood to any great degree. She sips her tea and then restores cup to saucer and saucer to table as though that fine golden brew, too, has developed an unpleasant and dissatisfying savour. "I think I shall see to my correspondence now," she decides. Her letters are waiting on a silver salver at her elbow; she'll require more room, and her lap desk, to do them justice. "Will you have Madelon clear the table? You might ask Germaine, too, to make sure my luncheon is a light one — I should enjoy her very fine fillet of sole."

Fish again. First grapefruit, then fish. It's clear to Quintavius that he's managed to fall from the lady's good graces quite significantly. He sets his jaw, gives the most punctilious of short bows, and murmurs, "Very good, my lady," even as he's turning for the door. First to fetch Madelon, and then to do his best to hurriedly repair relations with the now former cook after their last raging row about the use of the ovens in the small kitchen. One hand instinctively goes to check his belt for coin. Coin convinces most people, eventually, and he'd better do something to get Germaine back in the household now Oriane is asking for her specific dishes. Gah!

Seated in the salon Oriane spreads out before her, upon that cleared and brushed white damask cloth innocent of a single crumb, her tray of quills, her inks, her six different coloured waxes, her personal seal so well known in Siovale and beyond and another the secret into which very few have been initiated. Here, at least, distraction may reliably be found, and the rest of the morning's too numerous hours conquered and subdued… She tilts her head, smiling faintly as she hears the front door shut behind Quintavius. Fish for luncheon. What a treat. It's so important to recognise one's moment when it arrives.

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