(1310-10-02) Open Mouth, Insert Foot
Summary: Unlikely hands return something lost.
RL Date: 02/10/2018 - 11/10/2018
Related: Possibly Of Husbands and Wives.
claude quintavius 

Marquist Shop — Grand Plaza

The patinated bronze plaque over the front door of the marquist's shop in the Grand Plaza, has since the 1230s simply stated: LANTHENAY.

The narrow building which houses the shop dates back even further than the plaque, and was designed in keeping with the elegance of its surroundings. The first floor boasts a faceted bay window, set like a jewel into the white marble façade and curtained in ever-changing hues, in between tall pairs of windows protected by fanciful wrought-iron balustrades. The second floor is more modest, while the attic set back behind a low parapet gives from below the impression of a wall of glass gleaming ferociously in the southern sunshine.

Most visitors are concerned only with the shop proper. Shutters painted a deep teal-green are often folded back from its windows at odd hours; behind square panes of fine clear glass, paler teal-green silk curtains are embroidered with so many delicate flowers they might serve passersby as a guide to the flora of Eisande. A stout brass-studded front door to the right of the windows gives onto a square salon furnished in a style which wouldn't disgrace a prosperous merchant or a lady of the middling nobility, though such persons might not festoon their parlours so liberally with swagged velvet in jewel-box hues, or scatter patterned cushions across patterned upholstery with such an unerring confidence. At the back of the salon a small bright purple door opens into a passageway hung with a varying collection of the present marquist's own drawings and paintings (seascapes, flower studies, scenes of life in Marsilikos) and leading past several doors kept shut. Its terminus is a second, humbler foyer, home to a squat iron stove left cold most of the year; a cabinet containing an exhaustive collection of sea-shells and bits of coloured beach glass; a couple of stray chairs; and the entrances to a pair of small chambers which divide between them the width of the building. Most of the time these stand with their doors chocked open and heavy velvet drapes waiting to be let down to guard the privacy of clients disrobing therein: one emerald green curtain, one cerulean blue.

Quintavius is not perhaps the regular client one would expect to see in here, and, as much as he ever has an expression on his face not masked by cool indifference, one might even detect a hint of curiosity as he looks around on entry. Meticulously dressed, nonetheless there are a few stray burrs at his ankles and dirt under his fingernails at present which seem wholly out of place, before one even considers the fact that he's carrying a small, battered and mud spattered case in his hand. With an apologetic clearing of his throat, he tries his best to get the attention of the woman within, without actually disturbing her.

Since the salon is presently unoccupied, even Quintavius's best throat-clearing (and he's a master of the art) wouldn't cut much mustard if it weren't for the bell on the shop door. It tinkles; and the tail end of that cautiously modulated cough is drowned out by a woman's voice calling along the corridor from the back of the shop and through the open purple door: "Be with you in a moment!" Her voice is brisk but not discourteous; she has the city-bred Eisandine accent common to the better class of merchants and professionals of Marsilikos.

'A moment' is more like seven or eight minutes, during which the sound of feminine voices and laughter to match drifts intermittently along that corridor. At last a dusky-skinned young woman perhaps seventeen years of age appears framed in the purple doorway, her statuesque figure nowhere near appropriately dressed for the autumn. She looks Quintavius over from his eyes to his burrs and back to his eyes again, sizing him up perhaps as a potential patron — but whatever signals she reads from him in return inspire her to do no more than gather up a light silken cloak from the chair where she laid it earlier, and wink at him as she passes by in a cloud of some rich and musky perfume.

Whilst this distraction is still going on another woman appears, this one of more modest stature and approximately Quintavius's own vintage. She's dressed in about fourteen distinct shades of green held together by the aid of startlingly orange ribbons, and her hair is bound up in a darker orange kerchief. Her prettiest features are her eyes, wide and brown and doe-like and inquiring — but other people's gazes are almost inevitably drawn instead to her forearms, left bare by rolled-up sleeves, adorned by a wealth of jeweled bracelets which, on second glance, prove to be no more than astonishingly skillful tattoos.

"I'm Claudia Lanthenay," she says amiably, looking up (and further up) at her unexpected caller, not down at his hands; "what can I do for you today?"

Quintavius does his best to affect something that humans call emotions, in this case a cautious smile. Perhaps in unconscious mirroring of the woman, he meets her eyes without even glancing to her wrists and arms. "Ah. I'm sorry to disturb you in your work, madame. I have a rather strange request, if you'll indulge me a moment?" Absently straightening his collar, he gives a little nod towards the door. "I don't suppose, and you'll think me odd for asking, you happen to have lost anything recently? I was passing and spied the colour of your shutters, a very striking colour, and it prompted a thought or two. Just off the east road?"

In her line of work Claude has heard a number of strange requests over the years; at the familiar softening phrase her fine dark eyes narrow, and she folds those magnificent arms across her bosom in the form of a shield.

But then the request takes a form that genuinely is strange. She draws in a thoughtful breath and her lips part upon a protest: "But it couldn't have b— oh," she sighs. "Yes, I did lose a purse, and it may have been along the east road, though I didn't notice it was gone till the next day. And it was the colour of my shutters, more or less, but with—" Her arms unfold and with one dextrous hand she affects to sketch in the air what is, to her, the shape of the colour of an old inkstain covering a substantial portion of the purse in question.

She still hasn't noticed it. The fault for that lies in the pure blue hue of Quintavius's eyes, from which she can't quite drag her own away.

Quintavius lets out a long held breath, smile turning to something actually genuine for a moment. "Then it would appear my detective work has been successful in this case. May I..?" he queries, carefully setting his grubby and battered case down on top of one of the cabinets so he can unfasten the clasps with a soft 'snick-snick' and lift the top. Among the various dirt covered 'rocks' within is an equally grubby small purse which is, as she'd indicated, stained considerably from the top corner with dark ink. As he carefully claims it out to offer across, he apologises. "I'm so sorry but it does appear to have been found once already, and was empty when I laid hands on it, I assure you." There's a pause before he hurriedly explains, "I checked inside to see if I could identify the owner. I'm not usually in the habit of looking into other people's purses, madame."

The appearance of her prodigal purse is, at last, enough to divert Claude's gaze (and anyway, Quintavius looked away first, which broke the spell).

She receives it in both hands, turns it over and examines it as though she can hardly believe it's really here, and then looks up again at its rescuer with an air of mild wonder. "Why, yes," she exclaims, "it's mine… I suppose whoever found it first must have thrown it away," she suggests with a speculative tilt of her head, "there wasn't any coin in it, you know, only a handkerchief and a latchkey. I've already had my locks changed so it hardly matters now." Except that she's smiling, enchanted by this chivalrous gesture. "It was very kind of you, my lord," she says softly, "to go out of your way to bring it to me."

Which of course gives Quintavius free rein to let his gaze follow the variety of tattoos on her forearms as she turns the purse over. Which must be why he isn't listening for a moment and only looks up again, somewhat guiltily, when she addresses him once more. "Oh… I, well, if I'm perfectly honest, madame, it was a stroke of luck that your shutters put me in mind of it, and the ink stain sealed it. I was hardly out of my way." He reaches to pull the lid closed on his case once more, carefully and neatly fastening the catches again. Only once he's satisfied does he go to his own belt for a moment to draw out a coin, brows furrowing. "It's bad luck, though, to accept an empty purse. May I?"

Claude blinks at him. "Oh! I've heard that before, now that you say it… I'm not superstitious," she chuckles, "but if it makes you feel better. You've already done your good deed for the day, though, however coincidentally it may have come about." She snaps open the brass clasp of her little purse and holds it out to receive the coin Quintavius is so keen to deposit therein. "May I at least offer you a cup of tea in recompense? I haven't another client this afternoon."

Quintavius drops the coin into the purse with a satisfied nod, then considers the back of his hand for a moment or two before meeting her eyes again, decision made. "A cup of tea would be most welcome, madame, thank you. With lemon, if you have it? You have many clients?"

This is Marsilikos, Terre d'Ange's portal to the world: "I might have half a lemon," concedes Claude, once again trying and failing not to stare into those too, too paintable eyes, "why don't you sit down and I'll see?"

Far too well trained to even consider doing otherwise, Quintavius pulls up a seat and stiffly sits, gathering his case to rest beneath the chair, out of the way. He straightens his cuffs, tugs his jacket straight and, when she's turned her back, leans down to detach a burr from one ankle and does his best to clean the worst of the dirt from his nails with the other hand. "Have you been doing this long?" he queries politely as he waits. "I should admit that I'm not familiar with the techniques, only what one sees on the finished product. It gives one a moment of reflection to remember that there is a whole craft in getting it there I hadn't really considered."

Again Quintavius breaks the spell, without even knowing it! Or… does he know it? Perhaps ladies gaze interestedly into his baby blues all the time. Claude, busy in the kitchen next door prospecting for lemons, speculates upon this possibility, chides herself, and resolves not to do it again. She also calls out a cheerful: "I can't hear you," and then, "I won't be a moment."

This time her estimate of the time she'll take is nearer the truth, and she appears again through the purple door wiping her hands absent-mindedly upon her ink-stained apron. "Now, what were you asking?" she says in a friendly way and, when he's repeated himself, she laughs again. "Oh, only since I was a little girl, I suppose. My family have been the marquists here for three generations now, since we came from Elua at the time when the Lis d'Or opened."

Quintavius gives a somewhat self-deprecating smile at that, noting, "Which, had I done my homework before barging in here, I really ought to have known. I'm sorry, you just think me very rude." Said baby blues lift once more to meet her. It's possible that ladies might gaze. He's not the sort to keep a diary of these things. Notches on a headboard, perhaps, but a diary, no.

Claude considers his words and, yes, his eyes. "But there's no reason for you to have known, is there? Not unless you're connected with the Night Court — and I don't think you are…?" She knows he isn't simply because she can't place him.

"Oh no, madame," the words come quickly in response. "Although I have great admiration for those who do. My talents are more humble I fear." Unlike Quintavius himself, one might note. "I rely on the one other insatiable appetite of mankind, the more literal one. I do, however, pride myself in general on learning as much as I can about the place I live and the people therein, and to have missed you is a heinous oversight. Especially as, if I might mention it, your work is exquisite." A brief nod towards the braceletted arm. "Unless I'm putting my foot in it and assuming that's your own work when it's somebody else's?"

The marquist glances down and, used to this sort of thing, holds out her arms and turns them one way and then the other, that Quintavius might more closely examine her intricacies.

“My grandfather’s at first and then my own,” she confirms, “so your foot isn’t in it at all. He was a remarkable artist,” and there’s a different sort of light in her eyes now, and a proud lift to her chin, “and I’d rather have a compliment to him than one to myself. Oh, the kettle’s boiling. What did you say your name was?” she calls, already retreating through her purple door.

“I hadn't said, I'm sorry, how remiss of me,” comes the apologetic response. “Quintavius de Toluard, Madame, recently come from Bordeaux.” The man rises automatically, even given the door between them, then looks a little lost at the lack of hand to take and instead just gives a stiff bow in the direction of the door. It'll do. “Might I ask the significance of the designs? They're not marques I recognise.”

“I should hope not,” Claude calls from the kitchen, amused, her voice rising over the homely sounds of china touching against china and water being poured into a pot. “My own marques are unique. How do you do, then, Quintavius de Toluard. Would you mind if I drew a sketch of you?” she wonders aloud, coming back into the salon with a laden tea tray.

“And once again I put my foot in it,” Quintavius notes lightly, shaking his head. “I really know nothing of the art. If each piece is unique then, well, colour me yet more impressed at the craft and the skill required.” Already on his feet, he offers mutely to assist with the tea tray, a quick opening of both hands on front of him and towards it, with a glance to his unusual hostess. “I'm sorry, a sketch?” There's a wariness there. This is not a man who goes about his daily business by being noticed, let alone recorded for posterity unless in pastry form. “To what end, Madame? Should I wake tomorrow to see my own likeness adorning somebody's shoulder?”

At last the blundering Siovalese samaritan has succeeded in offending the amour propre of the great Claudia Lanthenay. She keeps a firm hold on the tea tray, not deigning to confide it into his grasp; and as she disposes of cups, saucers, teapot, and a little dish of sliced lemon, arranging them on a low table with a lack of precision sure to alarm him, she reprimands him with all the savagery of a disapproving doe. “Certainly not, Lord Quintavius,” she states stiffly, her shoulders back and her wide brown eyes averted now from his face. “Not unless you fell asleep with a lover on whose shoulder you were depicted with your own consent.”

The man holds up both hands, dipping his head at the reproof. “I do apologise, I had no intention to cause offence. I have, as you surmised, little knowledge of how your craft works and I leapt to what I see now must be a wholly incorrect conclusion. Might I beg your forgiveness, Madame?” There he waits, startlingly cool blue eyes fixed on her until she might deign to acknowledge him once more. “I had not considered that art might be both hobby and profession for you, which of course I really ought to have done.” It's a genuinely felt apology, perhaps the first real hint of emotion he's allowed to lift his voice from the punctilious politeness otherwise employed. “I am fortunate enough to have been able to make my passion for my hobby into my own profession. It means my work is never a chore, I'm sure you understand me as few others might.”

Claude, staring again despite her resolution, almost pours too much into Quintavius’s cup: she rights the pot hastily just before tea can splash over the edge. “… But which did you think it was?” she asks with an appalled sort of frankness. “Profession, or hobby?”

Quintavius very carefully accepts the tea, managing through an innate sense of balance not to spill any, although it’s an ever present threat. He meets her eyes, offering the ghost of a smile. “I had assumed, quite wrongly, that you intended to use my likeness in your work, so your profession, madame.” He rests the cup and saucer on his knee, letting it cool there for a moment yet. “Although I’m quite certain that I know nobody who’d want to ink my countenance on their body for eternity.” Not that he knows many who’d ink anything on their body for all eternity, mind. Those are not the circles in which he tends to mingle.

“Indeed?” says Claude, as though she can hardly believe a fellow of such prepossessing address, such luminous charm, isn’t besieged with offers. She presents him with the slice of lemon he so desired, to do with as he wills, then sits back with her own cup and saucer. “Well,” she says at last, keen for once in her life to abandon the subject of her own art, before he can trample upon it any further in those neat leather boots made to cover extensive ground. “Why don’t you tell me something of your profession, my lord Toluard?”

… But fortunately for both these dedicated professionals, her next client isn’t long in coming.

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