(1310-10-07) A Difference In Opinion
Summary: Desarae de Mereliot confronts her father about her Cassiline's house arrest, and when his explanations and motives do not satisfy her, turns to her family's steward, Leonard de Mereliot, for his assistance.
RL Date: October 17, 2018
Related: Everything in this page.
desarae armand_npc leonard_npc 

Castle Chavaise - Beziers

Surrounded by a second ring of stone wall is the castle at the top of the hill, a pleasant but also impressive building with the banners of House Mereliot flapping lazily in the faint breeze, from spires as well as flagpoles planted upon the towers, overlooking the city of Beziers as well as the river Orb winding its way down towards the Mediterranean Sea and the harbor.

The main keep can be accessed from the courtyard, and it has a great hall, where walls are adorned with tapestries the castle is famous for. An audience chamber, a music room, kitchens and servant's quarters are to be found downstairs. Whereas the upper floor is where the private quarters of the Marquise's family can be found. There is a wing with rooms for guests and other nobility living at the castle. There is also a private library, the door of which is usually locked.

Outside, there is a garden with a small orchard, where apple trees in full bloom are adding a certain charm to the scenery.


In the end, whatever protests that Desarae had given her father's guards and Cassiline would have been all for naught - bound by the word of the Marquis, they had no choice but to follow orders.

Nicolas, himself, had submitted willingly to the custody of the Marquis' contingent of guards, for he, too, is sworn to House Mereliot, electing to choose the path of least resistance. Either he trusts Desarae to speak for him and clear up whatever misunderstandings there might be about his background and motivations, or he has a contingency plan that enables him to fulfill his vows without having to resort to fighting his fellow Cassiline and the rest of the Marquisate's uniformed bodies. He relinquished his daggers, vambraces and sword to Guillame and proceeded to move towards the cells, though in spite of his situation, he still managed to flash Desarae a reassuring smile before he was confined.

"It'll be alright, my lady," he told her quietly, before he was escorted to the castle's dungeons and locked in a cell.

The Marquis, himself, is in his study, watching the autumnal tableau out his window, his familiar, straight-backed silhouette turned to the door. His Cassiline has managed to return to his side at the interim, with Leonard situated on a chair, a black ledger opened on his lap and delivering his report on some piece of business, but the air is thick with tension whenever Desarae decides to enter - things have not been the same between the Marquis and his cousin-in-law, the family steward, since the terrible events in Beziers a few months ago.

As she enters, her father turns to regard her. Leonard rises from his chair and he and Brother Guillame bow deeply from the waist towards her.

There's a gathering storm in Desarae's brow when she strides into her father's study, and the irritable swish of her silks, conveys her mood. Her mouth is set in a mutinous line, one that it's found quite naturally in the course of her journey to speak with her father. Her shoulders hold that same stiff line as is to be found in her mouth, and her brewing temper appears to have added an inch or two to her height. "Good morning, father." Her words are clipped and perfunctory, an eerie composure concealing the anxiety and anger that simmers beneath the surface. Leonard and Guillame are awarded a perfunctory nod of her head in recognition for them being within the room, but her focus is all for her father.

"What in all of Elua is going on, Father?" The inner turmoil that stirs within her marrow shows itself in the imperious flash of sharp green eyes, concealing as it does the very real fear she feels at being separated from her protector. "What has Nicolas done that he would be treated so?" She uses the formal address for her father, and the familiar for her Cassiline, her chin lifting imperiously as her hands are brought together behind her back. Sixteen she might be, but it's as a woman that she stands before Armand.

Armand's dark, inscrutable stare meets Desarae's wondering green ones, but if there is any sympathy, he doesn't show it. His face, lined by even deeper furrows inflicted upon him by the traumatic loss of his family, remains hard and unyielding - Kusheline, still, to the very marrow, nevermind that he married a Mereliot woman.

It is Leonard, however, who speaks first. "That is precisely why I am here, my lady," the Steward informs the young woman quietly. "To impress upon the Marquis that now is the time to bolster your protections and not diminish them."

"Your concern is noted, Leonard," the Marquis says, curtly. "But I will decide what is best for my daughter. You may go."

The dismissive retort has the steward stiffening faintly. With a crisp bow towards the man, there's a sympathetic look flashed towards Desarae, before Leonard moves off to head for the doors. It closes with a loud thud; to his credit, despite his obvious displeasure, the Chavaise steward does not petulantly demonstrate it with the rude slamming of them.

Watching the doors with a baleful eye, Armand turns away from them to fix his attention upon his daughter once more. "Has your new protector been forthcoming regarding his past?" he wonders. "I thought his name sounded familiar. Guillame was able to enlighten me as to why."

Desare notes the look that Leonard gives her on his departure, and her eyes lidding and the tip of her nose flaring as she takes the deepest of breaths before turning her attention back on her father. She waits for the door to thud closed, fingers whitening a little where they clasp tight in a knot to the small of her back. "Nicolas is from a long line of Chevaliers, and his family one of loyalty and service to the Throne." She pauses, and her eyes flick to Guillame. "I don't know the exact circumstances that led Nicolas to the Brotherhood, but the training is long, ensuring any that don't meet the exacting standards, or those that in any way fall short for whatever reason, are rejected. Nicolas has been a cassiline many years, his ward before me being the Duc de Chalasse."

And back to her father.

"Are you questioning the integrity of the Prefect of the Brotherhood in sending me a Cassiline that has a question mark over his name? I trust Nicolas. I trust him. If there's something he's not told me, then that's because it's of little importance to the person he is, and the service he's sworn to."

Are you questioning the integrity of the Prefect of the Brotherhood…?

"I am."

Armand's own inscrutability hides the debilitating fear that makes him stiff and unyielding in spite of his daughter's salient points - the Brotherhood's Prefect is beyond reproach, but perhaps even this isn't satisfying to a man who has lost almost everything due to his youthful missteps and is desperate to keep what he has left.

"The boy is the son of an assassin, Desarae."

He lets the words hang in the air between them, before he continues. To the side of him and by the window, Guillame's discomfort is palpable.

"He does come from a long line of inestimable knights," he allows. "Including his father…once. Until he used all the privileges the Crown bestowed upon him to brutally hunt down and kill a visiting ambassador from Milazza just as he was on his way out of Terre d'Ange and back to his city state. You would not have heard of it, because the event took place four years before you were born. The death of the ambassador was a political disaster, and stood a real risk of destroying the alliances we made with the Caerdicci Unitas. Sir Francois Guillard was subsequently arrested, tried, and stripped of his honors, including his membership to the illustrious Order of the White Swan. He is spending what remains of his life in Fort Charlemont in Kusheth."

A remote fortress, on a cliff in a particularly unforgiving coastline of the province.

"The Knights of the Blue Sword assisted in bringing him to justice."

He regards his daughter levelly after that, letting the implications sink in before he continues: "Do you now understand my position? I receive word that the curse has yet to be broken, a few months after your mother and siblings were slaughtered by the machinations of a woman bent on revenge. The Prefect is a man of sound judgment, but men are fallible and you know as well as I that there are some people in this world who would entertain no quarter, stop at nothing, to exact vengeance on those who they think wronged them. Don't you think it's a convenient coincidence that around the same time I receive these warnings, your old Cassiline was recalled and replaced by someone with such a history? What would you do, my daughter, if our positions were reversed?"

"If I were in your position," Desarae says, "I too would be concerned. We have lost everything, and I could not bear to lose you too, or for you to bear the grief of my own loss. But Nicolas is not his father, and you cannot visit the sins of his father on him." Her hands unknot from behind her back, and long slender arms come about her middle as she turns from Armand and paces the length of his study, left to right and then back. There's glimpses to be found in her bearing of the woman she'll someday become, and she wears the armor of resilience about herself as the shadow of the girl she'd become in recent weeks is dispelled in the face of a renewed conviction.

"If I were in your position," she repeats his question, "I would do everything in my power to keep my family safe. Safe, for me, is me having my Cassiline restored." She breaks off, a shadow briefly haunting her expression as a memory of Nicolas recounting the story behind the scar to his face is recalled. A determined shake of her head is given as brows pull low, her chin lifting as two steps close the distance between herself and Armand. Her voice grows softer and less imperious. "Papa. Your view of him is based on events that happened when he was but a child, and though the facts are indisputable, none of them relate to Nicolas himself. I know him as a man of honor, and Florent spoke highly of him before he returned to the monastery." A hand pulls from her waist and her fingers close upon Armand's arm. "I love you, but in this you're wrong. You're blinded by your love and your worry. So I ask you, please, have faith in me, and in my judgment of someone whom I've come to know."

She does reflect the future, when she paces the way she does. When she squares her shoulders and looks him right in the eye. When she plants herself firm and makes her judgment and decision so soundly, with conviction that is unshakeable. Armand's face betrays little, his expression stony and stubborn, but as his daughter - his only child now - stands in front of him, his lips press in a thin line, the hinge of his jaw tightening with a clench.

In spite of everything, he can't help the surge of pride that wells up within him. Desarae has been through much in the last few months, her trials are only just beginning, but she has grown strong from the tragedy they have suffered together, while he…

You're blinded by your love and your worry.

Perhaps he is, he decides, looking down at his daughter's proud, fey mien…and it blurs, faintly, into the memory of holding his wife's lifeless body in his arms. His teeth grit together from behind the shuttered line of his mouth.

He draws his arm away from his daughter's grasp, turning away from her. He folds it behind his back.

"He remains where he is," he tells his daughter without looking at her. And after a pause: "I will speak to him later this evening and assess his character for myself. If he is as you say, I will release him. I think that should satisfy both of our concerns."

Temper flares in Desarae's eyes, the distinctive green of them fractured by flecks of gold that smolder and burn. "As you will, father." Her voice is dangerously quiet. "But you are wrong. You want to keep me safe, and for that I love you." Her complexion darkens with the twin spots of colour that blossom in her cheeks, and she adds to her father's already heavy burden of guilt as she speaks to his back. "However, in doing what you have done, you have put me in more danger than I have felt to be in for weeks."

Her eyes cut to Guillame, digging deeply into his with the intensity of someone that's disappointed in what they're seeing. "I'm returning to my rooms, there's letters needing to be sent before I do anything else with my day." A return of her gaze to the turned back of her father. "I trust, papa," she adds, her voice even and modulated, "that I will be sent for when you wish to speak on the matter of the curse and what remains to be done." Her arrogance, her stubborness of will and the pride that's gifted her by her Kusheline blood, show in the sharpened angles of the posture and carriage she's still growing into, and her hands brush over the ivory of her skirts. She gathers the excess of exquisitely tailored lengths in her fingers, and hitches them an inch or so from the floor as she prepares to leave. Armand will feel the burn of his daughter's eyes to the nape of his neck before the swish of her skirts heralds her exit, the thud of the door no less significant than that of their steward's.

Armand does not turn to look back at his stubborn and willful daughter, so determined in her convictions. He does not appear moved when she tells him that he has put her in more danger. His dark eyes remain staring outward through his windows as the swish of her skirts grow fainter with his hearing, and the doors close with a sharp thud behind him.

It is only when Desarae is gone that he closes his eyes, and lets the line of his shoulders sag.

…..

….

..

.

Desarae would find her cousin, Leonard, in the Castle's chamberlain's office.

His tall, slim figure is at the very end of the familiar room, one in which shelves dominate - not just for books but for carefully catalogued portfolios that house the family's records; ledgers, accounts, marriage contracts and various others, a treasure trove of information about the Chavaise branch of House Mereliot stretching back hundreds of years. It's likely that only Leonard knows precisely where to find a specific record, though only the most recent ones are kept here - there are more in the family's archives, in another side of the property.

The morning light filters in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, framed by drapery holding the colors of House Mereliot and modified by the minute differences that make them distinctly for Desarae's family's branch. A few instruments are on the desk, writing implements and pads of parchment. The steward is busy, at the moment, with more pressing business, being in charge of the castle's day-to-day operations. Her arrival has him looking up from his desk.

As if sensing the young lady's ire, he smiles in a rueful, sympathetic way towards her as he rises. "Your lord father is as stubborn as ever," he says, as if his earlier malaise about how he was addressed despite giving his counsel hadn't happened. "Forgive him, cousin. He has done nothing but think of and worry for you in the last few weeks."

Desarae sinks into one of the chairs, the tenseness that had gathered in her shoulders and her spine on the walk from her father's study to the chamberlain's office, dissipating only the smallest degree. She perches on the lip of the upholstered seat, her face a mask to her inner thoughts. "I know he does this through love, but he's being blind."

Her jaw is mulish in the way that it's set, and it affects the planes of her face and the jut of her chin. "You have to help me." It's not a request, it's a demand. Her shoulders push back, and she leans forward from the waist and hips. She's known this older cousin of hers a lifetime, and she's as at home within the domain of his office as she is within her own chambers. "Leonard…" she addresses him in the familiar. "Nicolas is a good man, and it's something that my father will see for himself once he speaks with him later, but whilst he's incarcerated at the will of my father, he's unable to do that to which he is sworn."

A deep breath is drawn, and Desarae presses her hands to her knees as she braces herself into the lean. "I am scared of what might happen should my father decide Nicolas is not to be trusted. If he keeps him locked up and away from me." She pauses, a long and painful pause.

"I have been having these dreams; of the curse and the witch, and I am scared, Leonard. I think I am to die. I must have Nicolas restored to me."

"I am in agreement," Leonard replies softly.

Is it so surprising, from this cousin of hers? He had been the one who discovered the bodies of her younger siblings in the courtyard, his grief just as painful and palpable as hers and her father's when the rest of the family was buried. He had loved Desarae's mother with his entire being and considered her, in many ways, an older sister, the closeness only a shared childhood could bring. With the young lady before him looking so much like the deceased marquise, in face if not by coloring, who is he, really, to refuse her? Especially when he thinks that Armand is wrong?

"I…cannot be seen visibly helping you, Desarae," he says. "Or him. Your father and I have not always seen things eye-to-eye, and I'm afraid that the losses he's suffered have only made things worse between us. I cannot lose his trust, as I believe that you need me now more than ever, and despite his dislike and disregard for me, I fully intend to be your family's humble servant until the end of my days. But if you trust the lad, if you believe that you are safer with him…"

He drops his hand to the drawer on the right side of his desk, pulling it open. Underneath a false bottom, he draws out a large key ring, copies that undoubtedly unlock every door in the castle. He selects one and detaches it from the rest, and hands it to Desarae.

"He is in the furthest cell," he murmurs.

Desarae rises to her feet, her relief palpable in the smile that blossoms on her face. "Oh Leonard…" Her movements are quick as she skirts the desk that separates her from him, and in a sudden burst of emotion she wraps her arms tightly about her cousin.

"I do trust him. With my life. Thank you. Thank you so much." There's the smallest wobble to her voice, and her face presses briefly into the curve of the older man's neck and shoulder. How many times in the past might she similarly have clung to him in just such a manner, times when he'd had to rescue her younger six-year old self from perils of childhood bumps and scrapes. "I won't forget this, Leonard. Thank you." She takes the key from his hand and slips it safely away into her pocket, concerned that there might be a changing of his mind on his part, or a retraction of that offering. Her fingers graze the packet of sleeping powders, and she pulls it out, a wrinkle of her nose as she holds them out to him. "I meant to give these to my maid, but I forgot. Can I leave them with you?"

Leonard turns his body as the young woman flits around the desk, his own arms coming around her and squeezing her warmly, genuine affection, and determination, over in his expression. "You will make a fine marquise one day, cousin," he murmurs, depositing an affectionate and paternal kiss on the top of her head. "I will see to that, I promise."

He releases her so as to give her the room to tuck the key away in her pockets, only to be handed other items. Brows furrow curiously as he takes the lavender envelope she has given him. "What are these?" he wonders, bringing the edge of it to his nose to take an experimental whiff. His wrist flicks to give it a bit of a shake.

"My Aunt Emmanuelle conceded them to me when I complained of being unable to sleep," Desarae confesses, her hand returning to her pocket to wrap tightly about the key. She's not letting it go. "She said that they would ensure a sound night's sleep, but I've decided against taking them. I suppose…" and her teeth catch to her lower lip, dragging one corner into her mouth before she looks earnestly back to her cousin. "… I don't wish to sleep that deeply." She doesn't elucidate on her reasons as to why, but a naked vulnerability can be glimpsed in her eyes before they dip away and focus on the papers on the desk. "I'm sorry I had to involve you in this deception of my father, Leonard. Your name will be kept from this, I promise. The last cell, you say."

"I understand." Leonard slips the packet into the inner pocket of his jacket.

Her promises earn her a smile. "I trust you," he tells her. "And yes, the last cell." There's a glance towards the open doorway, before he leans towards Desarae. "A word of advice, Desarae. With your Cassiline in the cells, until he's released or he releases himself, it's likely that your lord father will have his Cassiline shadow you. If you are to do what I think you are going to do, wait for the right moment before attempting it."

He pulls away at that and gives her a smile. "Now go before Guillame finds you speaking with me."

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