(1310-10-03) Family Friends
Summary: Jehan-Pascal frets over his own selfishness in occupying a table for four during the Golden Harbor’s busiest hour; luckily, his salvation is at hand.
RL Date: 02/10/2018 - 03/10/2018
Related: None.
emmanuelle jehan-pascal 

The Golden Harbor — Noble District

Situated close to the Opera and upon the famous wine cellars below, the Golden Harbour Restaurant offers the same refinement it expects in turn from its clientele. The name has influenced the choice of interior, where walls have been painted in sea green with golden ornaments, and one wall features the outline of this city's harbor in gilded painting that will catch the warm light of candles and oil lamps. Candelabras made of brass show the likenesses of mermaids and seasnakes. Tables and seating are of dark mahogany, cushions and upholstery done in dark green velvet, heavy drapes of similar color set into the ceiling that can be drawn to allow a certain privacy when such is wished for. Staff is attentive and discreet, and up to the standards of high nobility in their quality of service. They are clad in the unique livery of the place, sea green gowns, chemises and trousers, always tidy and well kept.

Meals served here are mostly local seafood dishes prepared from sophisticated recipes with inspired seasoning. Finest wines are available, both red and white, a supply never ceasing as they have the wine cellars below, to acquire even the most exquisite and costly vintages if requested. High windows offer a view over the city, especially where it slopes down to the harbor, with masts and sails of ships moored there visible in the distance.

Jehan-Pascal is holding court with himself at a table on the upper tier of the Golden Harbor restaurant. It's a table for four rendered a table for one with a spread of correspondence and literature taking the place of actual dining-companions. It's a stopgap measure, to be sure. For a good solid three weeks Jehan-Pascal could hardly be bothered to be seen in public at all, having shut himself into his flat. And now at least he's among human people, having lunched and dined at the same table for the last five days in a row, usually by himself, occasionally in the company of his known favorite among the flowers of the Court Nuit, Marielle of the White Roses. Tonight, by himself, leaning aside to peruse a chart in a book while sipping from a delicately wrought glass of wine.

The hour is a popular one for dinner; the staff have done their best to afford as many patrons as possible the privacy many prefer, but now the in-between tables are being filled, one by one, and in due course Jehan-Pascal finds himself hemmed into his favourite corner by the presence of a lady seated at the next table.

Or — for a moment one might have mistaken her for a gentleman, albeit a slightly-built gentleman affecting for this evening an effeminate style. The sharp spice of her cologne, the leathery notes that follow upon the second breath, the soft jingle of the golden spurs at her heels as she steps round the table to take her seat, the swaying tails of her dark purple velvet coat, are all deceptive till combined with a glance at her austere profile and the wealth of blue-black hair braided and pinned so neatly at the back of her head, or her long-fingered, finely-kept hand waving away any suggestion that she might order off the Golden Harbor's excellent menu. No. What she does is interrogate the waiter as to the specialties of the chef on duty, and what's freshest tonight. Her questions are firm, intelligent, very much to the point. She bespeaks oysters, half a glass of a crisp white wine, a fresh sole in mustard sauce to follow in company with another half-glass of a different vintage. In response to some atavistic instinct the waiter bows repeatedly, and waits to be dismissed: "Very well, you may go," she pronounces at last, with a quick nod.

Jehan-Pascal sniffs, once, take up his graphite nub and copies some of the numbers from the chart he's consulting into a ledger. A few keen-minded calculations later and he's pulling a sheet of paper from across the table to mark down a short note and then fold it up, lifting it between two fingers with a solicitous glance about to catch the eye of a server and welcome him with a smile and a quiet request for a page to come earn a coin in carrying a note to its destination for him. While letting his eyes grow accustomed to a more distant point of focus, he blinks a few times, noting how crowded the place has gotten. "I should pack up; I hate to take up a full table when it's so crowded," he worries, more or less to himself, though the black-haired gentlewoman at the top next to his may well hear his general desire not to be a burden to anybody. He must be a person of note. His very casually fitting green woolen tunic that bundles him up in its swaddling softness would hardly be cause for someone of lower birth to be admitted to the topmost tier of seating at the Harbor.

The black-haired gentlewoman does hear. "I shouldn't worry," she offers in a low-pitched drawl, Eisandine by way of Elua and a bottle of uisghe. She turns a few degrees in his direction, favouring him with the gaze of ice blue eyes framed by hooded lids and a touch of kohl. And then — she turns further, her epauletted shoulder pressing into the upholstery behind her and her gaze sharpening into twin spear-points. "… After all," she adds. "If the staff find you an inconvenience, they'll suggest the appropriate compensation via your bill."

Jehan-Pascal's page is not long in coming up, and the former hands off his missive to the latter with a few words of instruction as to delivery. That and a rather generous coin are welcomed with a smile and a, "Yes, Lord Baphinol," with an obedient little salute before the page makes his jaunty way down the stairs to the main floor of the restaurant and out the door. Jehan-Pascal tips his wine bottle at length toward the bottom of a glass, only rewarded with the last jet of life-blood from the bottom of the thing— he sets it aside with a sigh. "It's true. At the very least I ought to order another bottle, I suppose. Something from the back stores that will balance out the number of seats I'm wasting for them." He's a very conscientious man, it seems like, or else just tired of life. Also, if he's put away that whole bottle himself, he must be rather fluid by now, but he doesn't tend to show it except by the casual lethargy of his lean.

Emmanuelle's gaze has since wandered off into the middle distance, from whence she can see her modest half-glass of white approaching on a tray: her ears do not prick up at the name 'Baphinol', her nose does not by any means twitch, and yet there's a narrowing of those icy Shahrizai eyes before they catch the waiter's and indicate by a quick flick where she has just decided her wine should arrive. "Why don't I salve your conscience?" she drawls to her neighbour. She's already rising and pushing out her empty table; she turns lithely in the space between hers and his, and claims instead a chair opposite him, on the far side of that wasteland of books and papers and yet in truth rather near. As she sits an astute eye might note, at that angle and in such proximity, a bulge in her black buckskin breeches that Nature assuredly didn't put there. Looking directly, now, into his eyes as she moves one of his books to make a place for the waiter to put down her glass of wine, she explains: "It is, after all, one of my occupations."

She extends to him a very pale and well-kept hand, bereft of rings, with a surprisingly firm clasp. "Emmanuelle Shahrizai nó Mandrake."

"Oh, heavens, thank you," Jehan-Pascal offers up mildly, assaying a fairly scatter-plotted effort toward tidying up the space, but the way his mind flits from task to task, he ends up more re-arranging things than properly setting anything away. He's hardly going crotch-gazing, and it's only when the hand is extended to his that he sets aside his artless fretting and looks up somewhat bashfully to set his hand to hers, a tender counterpart to her steel grasp as he raises his eyebrows in silent query, not quite sure what she means by the latter statement— until she introduces herself. "Oh, gosh, wow." Yes, she's famous. "It's an honor," he adds in an earnest little murmur, not gushing, but properly awed. "Um. I'm Jehan-Pascal. Of Baphinol," he adds, though she'd heard that bit before. And to he who delivers the wine, "And another bottle, if it isn't any trouble, good fellow; my thanks." he adds, almost out of compulsion. You'd hardly think the heir to a Comte would be one worried about putting the waitstaff to any inconvenience, but there you have it.

They do often trip over their tongues, when confronted with Terre d'Ange's most notable and noted dominatrix; the name, the title, the rumours, they do two-thirds of Emmanuelle's work for her, pre-disposing new acquaintances to be knocked off balance by her cologne and her charm. Her fingertips press into Jehan-Pascal's palm just a mite longer than courtesy suggests, letting him feel the rather pointed oval shape of her black-lacquered nails. "And a pleasure," she counters in a curiously warm murmur of her own, warmer at any rate than her particular set of those notorious Shahrizai eyes. Then she lets him go and, in seconds, with very little effort but plenty of effrontery, re-arranges his belongings to clear perhaps a third of the table for her own use. Nothing damaged, no place lost in any volume, she just— condenses him, neatly. "The dinner table is a curious place for reading," she opines; "how can you appreciate the chef's offerings as they deserve when your mind is far away?"

Jehan-Pascal meets her gaze, and doesn't shy away, but neither is the look at all bold or daring— it doesn't confront her own, but welcomes it with a certain muddled kindness. "Oh," he lets out a little self-deprecating syllable when she declares herself pleased, and lowers his eyes again, retrieing his hand when it is released and running his thumb over the place where her nails pressed into his palm. Ow. "Oh, let me— you don't— ah, thank you," he tries to pitch in with her rather more efficient tidying, gathering his various equipment toward him and even closing up a tome or two to slide into the bag that's sitting beside his chair. "I've just been trying to get out more, really. I feel like I've been sitting at my desk for weeks and I thought— well. This will at least give me the opportunity to say hello to some people as I work. And look at how well it's worked out. Emmanuelle Shahrizai of Mandrake is sitting at table with me," which is still just the strangest thing, though it makes him smile. Presumably his long exile within his flat has caused him to be unaware of her installing herself in town.

Emmanuelle doesn't have to; she just does. On so many occasions. She smiles crookedly at him across the tidied table; then her dozen oysters arrive, borne by the Harbor's owner who has emerged from his habitual seclusion to wait upon the sister of the Lady of Marsilikos and inquire tenderly into whether there's anything else he might provide for her pleasure this evening. Emmanuelle, who has found a Baphinol youth already laid on as an aperitif, gives the owner to understand that there is nothing further she requires but her sole in due course, and then she dismisses him as efficiently as she did the waiter.

Her eyes are, indeed, very quick to return to Jehan-Pascal's sensitive face. "Of Mandrake no longer," she confides; "I retired some weeks ago from Naamah's service." A beat. "… Disappointed?" she inquires of him mildly.

If Jehan-Pascal was impressed before, when the owner of the Golden Harbor pays homage to the table the last ounce of voice in his chest is taken from him. He's hardly seen the man but twice in as many decades, and while he can imagine that the call is an important one he's a little put out to have the table still such a shambles and not exactly wearing his finest duds, either, at the very moment of the occasion. What an embarrassment. Ah, well, he'll have to smarten up for brunch in the morning. Bring Marielle around. He's making these plans, eyes subtly distant, mind working along within, when the owner goes on his way and he returns his attention to Emmanuelle with a kindly smile that moves to a look of surprise. "You have? Why, I should be offering you congratulations, then. Hm? Disappointed? Well— it's not really mine to have an opinion, is it? I can only assume that you are content with the circumstances surrounding your retirement, and, as long as that's so, I couldn't be happier for you."

The oysters gleaming in half-shells upon their bed of shaved ice have since claimed a large portion of Emmanuelle's attention. The first half-dozen she eats greedily, sucking them one after another into her wide red mouth, stacking each shell on the small plate provided only to claim the next. The second half-dozen she leaves waiting while she savours a slow mouthful of her wine, less washing away the salt taste than enhancing it with so crisp a bouquet.

"… I am content indeed to be in Marsilikos again, where such fine oysters are to be had from the very cove where I most often swam as a child; and you," she informs Jehan-Pascal upon lowering her glass, "are a delightful young man."

Jehan-Pascal takes the opportunity of his little monologue to put away another folder of papers, now less frantic in his efforts, more purposeful, and it gives him something else to do than watch Emmanuelle take down the oysters until his next bottle of wine arrives and he gives a graceful nod of his head for it to be opened and poured. He'd be fine doing it himself— but Emmanuelle's presence is compelling him to raise his manner to another register, and so he leaves at least the first glass to be poured by a server's hands while he expresses his gratitude with a tender smile. He lifts up his glass and takes in the bouquet of the new vintage, getting to know it while Emmanuelle gives her verdict on retirement, and flatters him in the meanwhile, making him flick his gaze downward and veil his eyes with his lashes, a move quite well at home among the White Roses. "Aww," he laughs a little bit under the attention. "So— you're retiring here, then? Or just spending some time with family on your way elsewhere?" he goes on to ask, keeping the conversational balloon aloft with some facility and ease of manner.

Between oysters seven and eight Emmanuelle elucidates her position: "I live here now, as I've long intended… My father owns one-half of a house in the Place des Mains; I own the other half. The Maison Sanglante," she explains, naming a residence distinguished in local legend for the occasion when the blood of some of its previous owners was seen one morning to be oozing down the front steps. It stands cheek by jowl with the Night Court, yet has often stood there empty, for some unaccountable reason. "And you? You must be a son of Hercule de Baphinol," she decides, studying him again. "You prefer Marsilikos to Avignon?"

"Oh!" That Maison Sanglante. Why is that somehow appropriate? Jehan-Pascal doesn't ask it out loud; that might be rude— but, well, it's half-audible in the 'oh!' at any rate. "I know that place, it's really a fine piece of real estate, I never knew whose it was," he continues on, aiming his conversational tack away from all mentions of rumor and legend surrounding the place. He punctuates his walk-back of that half-concocted thought with a first sip of wine, then a second, deeper. He has a tendency to swallow the stuff rather than savor. He would apologize if it were pointed out to him. "I am, yes," he confirms, without going so far as to mention 'eldest' or 'heir' or anything gauche like that. "And I don't know about preference, really. I keep a flat here on the Rue du Port, but I travel back and forth with some frequency. The commuting life, as it were," he summons up a spark of laughter to his eyes as he compares his lifestyle with that of a simple worker.

His "Oh!" amuses Emmanuelle, who favours him with a feral smile as oyster nine gives way to oyster ten. The deep red of her lips is patently unnatural but, much like her patrons, it has been trained to stay put: her empty oyster shells show no more than a trace of colour. "Now you know," she says easily. "It is ours." Another oyster; she sighs with quiet pleasure. "Perhaps," she suggests, "you'll call on me if you find yourself passing that way in your peregrinations. After all," a lift of her dark eyebrows, "I have known your family a long time."

She arrives at the end of her oyster supply with a single mouthful of wine remaining in her glass; she swallows the latter and sits back. Seconds later her empty glass, her dish of ice, and her plateful of discarded shells are removed by the hands of a waiter assigned to keep watch and impress her with the service here; at the same time a warmed plate with a few fresh vegetables placed artfully upon it, and a small silver jug of freshly-concocted mustard sauce, arrive at the waiters' station nearest to the table she shares with Jehan-Pascal, upon whom her gaze rests unflickering. The service is so good, it's as good as invisible.

Jehan-Pascal lifts up the remnants of his first glass of the new bottle in quiet concelebration with her declaration of ownership. Swallowing down the end of it, he lifts a palm to a server who tries to sneak in to refill it; he can manage, himself, and prefers to, if perhaps only to keep to himself the frequency of his refills. Leaning one forearm gingerly upon the edge of the table, he pours with the other hand and waits on that 'after all' with brows lofted in a mirror expression of hers— if perhaps with more anticipation than explication. "You have— have you?" he flips the question about before it quite catches up to him what she must mean. "Oh," marks the moment when the realization comes— she can measure, as though counting the heartbeats between lightning and thunder, just how dulled the first bottle of wine has rendered his wits. The answer: not much. "Gosh, well. I hadn't any notion, to be honest. That's very interesting to know." Though it would perhaps benefit him never to hear further details. What person really wants to imagine their parents or other familials in such a situation? Well, perhaps someone out there is into it. "Of course I would come pay my respects. May I bring a housewarming present? Is there anything of which you've need?"

Emmanuelle watches these various thoughts cascade across the lovely face opposite her own, and indulges in the ghost of a smirk. "The Eisandine nobility is such a closed social circle, don't you find? The same people, the same parties, all in the same handful of houses…" She leans her forearms on the table and inclines nearer. "… Why?" she purrs, arching a brow. "What did you think I meant?"

But Jehan-Pascal's rescue is at hand in the form of the restaurant's owner, who reappears laden with a whole cooked sole upon a silver platter, which after a discreet clearing of his throat to gain Emmanuelle's attention he displays to her as though he were the proud fisherman, or indeed the proud parent. She regards its colour with an approving eye but then, when he would bear it away again to the waiters' station, she arrests him with an upraised hand. "Allow me," she says, and despite the form of it it isn't a request. A moment later the knife is in her hand and she is swiftly, expertly filleting and skinning her dinner. Flick, flick; and it's done. She even takes upon herself the task of transferring the four pieces from her platter to her plate, each of them arriving intact, with not a single delicate white flake misplaced. She tosses the knife into the air, catches it at the point along its length just where she wants to catch it, and passes it handle-first back to the waiter whence it came.

"You're too kind," she decides, as her gaze returns to her chosen companion after this brief lacuna. "But I think we require nothing but amusing company."

Jehan-Pascal opens his mouth to take in enough ammunition of air to provide a reply— but, oh, her words provoke no doubt exactly the response she was desiring, the bright glow of pink rising at his cheek and the tips of his ears. But nor does it go without notice how she'd toyed the response out of him— his smile is more playful than truly shamed, a glimmer in his stormy blue eyes like a hint of heat lightning taking her to task for such a tactic. He's saved, anyhow, from the need for a reply— a refill of his glass is enough for him to lean back and watch a masterful hand at work on the fish. He crosses one leg high over the other, knee over knee, the well-fitted cut of his trouser demonstrating the line of a comely thigh, and his wrist rests over his heart as he keeps the wne close to his lips for the duration of the show. "Oh, well, I'll find something to bring anyhow. It's not polite to drop in empty-handed, is it? In any case, I might fail to amuse, and then I'll have some manner of fallback."

The former Mandrake Dowayne's fine and clever hands are engaged now in pouring her mustard sauce sparingly along the side of her fish away from her vegetables, segregation being the name of the game at this stage. She has half an eye on Jehan-Pascal, the better to enjoy the success of her gambit. "You'll amuse," she prophesies, her gaze lifting from his thigh to his face — yes, she lets him see her looking; "and if you don't… well. I have ways of finding my own entertainment." As he has lately become aware. She lifts her second half-glass of wine, as if to touch the rim of it to his own closely-guarded glass.

It's kind of nice, having someone feel that confident about his social abilities. Almost makes a fellow feel like he could live up to them. But, sadly, his socializing quota for the day is being run through at a sharp clip by the needfulness of keeping on his mind's toes about a personage as important and witty and incisive as Emmanuelle Shahrizai. He feels that social exhaustion pulling at him, though he tries his best to push through and not shut down on her. She might sense him about to retreat, she draws him out with the clinking gesture, which he leans forward to reciprocate. "I'd better try my best, then, I suppose," he tries after a banter—- it doesn't really feel to him to land, though, and he moves on, brightening faintly, "I'll likely be the one better entertained, if I'm being honest. I've often wondered about that house, and will be interested to see its interior. Are the stories about it founded at all in fact?"

"Oh, yes," Emmanuelle assures him airily and without hesitation, though she takes another bite of her sublimely flaky sole just barely touched with sauce moutarde before explaining: "There were seven people murdered in our front foyer, and before it congealed their blood soaked deep into the wood as well as dripping down the steps. I don't," she confides drily, "give much credence to the myth that, no matter how many times it was scrubbed over the years, the floor kept bleeding on moonless nights — but we didn't like the colour of it and so we laid down black marble instead. I should be glad to show you over the house one day," she says sincerely. None of this is putting her off her fish.

"Seven," Jehan-Pascal echoes, all that stored up color in his cheeks roused there by wine and rather half-suggestive conversation suddenly drained again. "No wonder that was a tale that stuck with the place. I'm not much a one to believe in ghosts and hauntings, but for my part I may have trouble sleeping with a thing like that at the back of my mind," he'll admit. "But, yes, I'd love to see how the renovations turned out and what the place looks like from the inside. I'm sure now that it's occupied the story will have less purchase with the popular imagination." Of course, considering who's living there… who knows?

“Perhaps,” and again Emmanuelle shrugs, and again she reads Jehan-Pascal’s thoughts in his face. Her eyes glitter. “The talk is unlikely to deter anyone we would wish to receive, or to do us any harm but that we’d find diverting.” She lifts her glass a second time, to the Maison Sanglante as well as its putative visitor; and guides the conversation back to those claustrophobic Eisandine social circles they have in common even as she re-applies herself to her tender and perfectly-filleted sole. For she knows his family very well indeed.

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