(1310-10-12) Considered Opinions
Summary: Jean calls on Emmanuelle, seeking hers.
RL Date: 12/10/2018
Related: Indecent Proposals.
emmanuelle jean 

La Maison Sanglante — Place des Mains

Directly abutting the walled compounds of Marsilikos's Night Court, and running in fact for some distance behind the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, is a house which boasts a far more modest frontage upon the Place des Mains d'Eisheth. Its name derives from a violent incident in its past; previous owners tried to redub it in the public mind, but the present ones embrace the term. By their design its three-storey façade of grey stone is shielded at street level by a high and forbidding wall of darker stone, into which is set a pair of intricately-wrought iron gates taller than any man who may ring the bell at their side. Kept locked, their curlicues of black iron are enlivened by a pattern of gilded keys.

Between the outer wall and the house stands a small stone courtyard lined at either side with wormwood trees, which impart a bitter and aromatic fragrance to the air within it. From it half a dozen stone steps rise to heavy doors of dark and ancient oak, studded with black iron and hung upon baroque hinges of the same; these open into a large, square, windowless chamber, occupying the full width of the building and yet higher than it is wide. At each side of the doors is a console table of dark purple marble veined with black, bolted to the wall above a pair of elaborate gilded legs and beneath a matching and equally baroque gilded mirror. There are no other furnishings. Sparse lighting is provided by candles in iron sconces bolted to pillars of the same purple marble, which pass into shadow on their way to support the vaulted ceiling overhead.

The light is, however, sufficient to permit examination of the frescoes which cover walls and ceiling alike from a height of perhaps four feet off the gleaming black and purple marble floor. An artist of great skill and anatomical knowledge has limned a series of scenes of Kushiel chastising sinners. Those who come to him for succour are shown enduring remarkably detailed torments before being transfigured by the raptures of his love… or, possibly, hers. In some panels Kushiel is a man and in some a woman, in others an unmistakable hermaphrodite: in all these incarnations the Punisher is depicted with the lean figure, the austere profile, and the hooded blue eyes of a lady who resides beneath this roof.

On the back wall this unconventional masterpiece is interrupted by the outlines of two single doors, and the elaborate black iron handles attached to each. The door on the left leads to an intimate receiving-room wherein a pair of studded black leather sofas frame a low, well-polished mahogany table. In here the walls are covered in frescoes of the Kusheline countryside, from the same brush.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a fall day. The weather is warm and fair.

Rumour brings Jean l'Envers to the city pied-à-terre of Edouard Shahrizai, where the latter's daughter Emmanuelle is now said also to reside: the Maison Sanglante of local legend, a house where seven people bled to death in the entrance hall and down the front steps. It's a surprisingly modest structure in the Place des Mains d'Eisheth, adjoining the Night Court. He's often passed it before. Ringing the bell anchored deep within its protective front wall produces at first silence, and then a lackey in Mereliot colours whose dimensions and posture scream 'guard'. The latter recognises a Shahrizai when he sees one — and no doubt he's in possession of a list, of which relatives are allowed in and which are to be sent to perdition — he produces a large iron key, and admits this caller without further ado.

The courtyard is full of the bitter scent of wormwood; the entrance hall is full of silence. Rather than following Jean inside the guard shuts the massive oaken doors at his back and retreats, presumably, through the smaller side entrance down a few steps and below the main one, whence he came to begin with. Jean is left alone in the shadowy chamber, with nothing to do but appreciate the artwork.

A few minutes later the original of those interesting frescoes admits herself via a door tolerably well-concealed in their midst: Lady Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai, dressed in a smoke-blue silk shirt and her favourite fitted buckskin breeches, and her formidable, her inevitable, her indispensable thigh-high boots, this pair polished to a mirror-like sheen by the capable hand of Lord Baltasar Shahrizai, presumably lurking elsewhere on the premises. Her blue-black hair is done up in a heavy braided coil at the back of her head; she is, as ever, unhurried and unruffled. "Jean," she drawls, regarding him as though over a greater distance than the true one. "To what do I owe your advent?"

He's simply dressed today. No fanfare. Just proper enough to be 'courtly', which is likely misleading. What it is, though, and guaranteed, is dangerous. It means that Jean is soon to make a sojourn somewhere. "Emmanuelle, a pleasure, as always," he greets in turn, his violet gaze intense to her distance. His weapons were surrendered to her guards, Balthasar likely barely given acknowledgment before he continues.

"I wanted to know your feelings on our past conversation and whether or not you'd be amenable to that undertaking, with all the limits and considerations we'd already established in consensus." That his voice echoes a little in the solitude of the place does not go amiss, but his expression doesn't betray wonderment.

The lady of this house regards him with the cool and steady blue eyes of their house, that mark a true Shahrizai. "I'd hoped you would take my hint," she says drily. "But come in," she adds in a lighter tone, turning to lead the way into the small adjacent sitting-room. "Sit. We'll discuss it if you prefer."

Herein are two sofas of studded black leather at either side of a low mahogany table which unseen hands have just laid with a low copper bowl of unseasonal fruit, plates, knives, black linen napkins, and a decanter of cognac left open to breathe and two bell-shaped glasses to pour it into. Emmanuelle seats herself in her usual place and immediately pours a measure of cognac for her guest, and pushes it across the table to rest in front of him. For herself she claims the roundest and ripest peach from the bowl, a small plate, and a knife.

With a bow towards Emmanuelle, Jean follows over to the sofa across from hers, reaching for one of the glasses once he's poured with another bow of his head in thanks. He'll wait for the Shahrizai to invite him to the bowl, or not, before he even helps himself to the drink. He simply nurses it in hand, resting his back against the leather of the sofa while silent, for the most part.

"I like the place," he intones, gesturing with his free hand to their surroundings. "As ever, you, dear Lady Mistress, bring a touch of momentousness to anything you lay your eyes upon. It's the right mix, I do think." He falls silent after the praise, turning the glass around with his hand.

Emmanuelle looks about her at those frescoes of the Kusheline countryside and shrugs elegantly. "My father's doing," she states, disclaiming responsibility; "he had the leisure to supervise the artist whilst I was yet occupied reigning over a houseful of lust-maddened adolescents armed with whips and flails." A feral smile across the table at her guest. "Such duties do absorb all the hours in a day."

Then, addressing the subject that brought him here into her parlour: "As for the alliance you suggested to me when last we met…" She lifts a sardonic eyebrow at him and shakes her head. "Had I kept you longer, had I been firmer with you," though it may be difficult for him, looking back, to imagine an even greater and more inexorable firmness, "perhaps the pattern of your nature would have developed differently." She pauses. As she takes her chosen knife to her chosen fruit she explains, simply enough: "I don't find you a credible partner."

"I see." Jean's lips twitch at the corners and he nods again to Emmanuelle. He doesn't reach for a fruit, but he does take the freedom to sip from the cognac, letting it burn slowly while he considers her affirmation. It is nothing less than an affirmation, if it comes from Emmanuelle. But it is taken in one beat, absorbed in the next, silence in the third beat before he chooses to speak again. "I thought it best to hear it from you than let the silence speak for itself." With another bow of his head to her, the Vicomte allows for a longer pause. Does he want to ask? Does he not? Things spoken bluntly can hurt just as much as whips, sometimes. But there's also some helpfulness in truth.

<FS3> Opposed Roll — Emmanuelle=Mind+Empathy Vs Jean=Mind
< Emmanuelle: Amazing Success (3 3 8 4 7 8 8 8 4 7 6 6 7 7) Jean: Failure (2 6 6)
< Net Result: Emmanuelle wins - Crushing Victory

"You're angry with me," says Emmanuelle softly, "though more than that, you're resigned to your present frustration, for you understand that my opinions are considered and that I will speak truths you'll hear from no one else.

"Very well.

"First and most notably, to anyone in Terre d'Ange with ears to hear the tale: that caprice of yours with the Alyssum girl," she pronounces in a tone of arid disapproval. "Squandering the wealth of Namarre's harvest upon a courtesan you could have had as often as you wished in the usual way. That just wasn't enough, was it? Your lordly cock demanded sole possession," she drawls.

"No matter what services to your house you might have laid upon the other side of the scales — be assured, you earned your disinheritance," she informs him. "You might as well have begged for it at your lord father's feet. In assigning you such a respectable appanage he was more generous than I'd have been in his place. And then — that service to Eisande of which you're so swift to boast. You sought justice, yes, against a foreign witch who tried to bring low one of the great houses of Terre d'Ange — but was not the greater part of your motivation a desire to be of service to my delectable and scarcely-touched sixteen-year-old Valerian niece? … Your cock again," she suggests gently, and with reason.

"Pleasure is more to you than posterity. You prove it at every turn, every time you permit your greedy and passionate nature to override what common sense you have. You haunt the Night Court and trade in marques; and yet you are four-and-thirty years of age without a single acknowledged child sanctified by the bonds of consortship or marriage. I had a daughter when I was twenty. If you'd done the same she'd be a blossoming girl of fourteen now and you might, in your present reduced state, let it be known you were beginning to seek a husband for her. That's how alliances are made, Jean. Indeed, had you taken a wife at the usual age, she might have been angered by your Alyssum — but you may be sure that her family, having wed her to a ducal heir, would have been up in arms at the disinheritance of their son-in-law and their grandchildren. You would not be alone, you would not be partnerless and seeking — you would have allies already, committed like you to a future in which you rule Namarre, committed for the sake of the inheritance you would reclaim for the children of your mingled blood.

"Had you even now a serious will to restore yourself to your former place your first act would be to consolidate a marital alliance with another great house that would put its own weight behind your ambitions. Instead you and your cock toy insatiably with the idea of a second Shahrizai marriage within two generations. Do you honestly suppose that either the Namarrese people or your Courcel liegelords would welcome our kinswoman Ophelia as your bride? Even in the unlikely event such nuptials received royal sanction there would be murmurings about Namarre being ruled from Kusheth — at every turn you'd face the prejudices against our blood, and you'd be suspected of acting against Namarre's own interests, as indeed you did already in the matter of the Alyssum — you'd have gained nothing you don't already have, and earned enemies in the process. You can fuck Ophelia," she points out patiently, "or she can fuck you, or you can both fuck any number of Alyssums separately or together, in your bed or in the marketplace, without squandering such a precious resource as your one and only marriage contract."

As she speaks the blushing skin of the peach curls away in a single long piece from that blade which caresses all the way round it and then around again, its touch slow, expert, and tender. Not a whit more pressure than is needful. Not a scrap of the peach's soft, juicy flesh left clinging to that lengthening peel.

"… Unless you show me you are capable of thinking with some other part of your anatomy," the former Dowayne concludes, "I remain unmoved."

"There's a lot of presumption on my motivations about the matter that threatened Eisande. Your niece is my friend, the Duchess has received me well in Marsilikos and bid me welcome. I am not a bad guest, nor a terrible friend, that I would place political or sexual consideration into almost dying so I could get a job done. Oh," Jean smiles, incredulous, after that third bit, "do you really think there was anyone to impress taking a stab to the gut, so close to fainting from blood loss that I could feel my heartbeats in the throbbing of my fingertips? I wanted to see things done, and I did. And I have. And if there's another person needing to be stopped in this city that I am in a position to stop, I /will/.

"The fastest blades the Bhodistani brought to our land couldn't stop me. They couldn't even put me on the ground. Nothing will stop me, because I am not the bridge over the river of flame. I /am/ the river of flame. If I am denied in one corner, then I will be granted in another. You know the truth in your blood; I am certain you know your flaws and those of the people close to you, physically or emotionally. I am thirty-and-four, aye, but Terre d'Ange has not even begun to see the things I can achieve through will alone. The appanage may have been a mercy, but it was my father's better choice. Though you will find these words to be hollow, I do want you to keep them to heart, as pertains to my person, at least; you share something with me no other will ever have, and so I grant this to you: one of whom nothing is expected is one who can do everything. Not all the things I do are calculated, it's true, and I am often led by my pursuit of Naamah. But my body is strong and my will does not easily yield. I may not have learned much at all from you, in your eyes, but I did learn patience. The right moment is essential when time is of essence."

For the remainder, he doesn't object. Those are her words and he'll listen. But there's a sharpness in that gaze, the composure threatening to crack, but it doesn't, not yet. Behind the purple of L'Envers is the steel of Kushiel, not the velvet of Namarre. Not in this man, at least. It might be otherwise with his brother, the current ducal heir, but not Jean.

“Yes, you are correct, I do have to prove this to you. And to others. So I will. Right now, things are in course. We'll see how it all pans out. It was, however," he allows for a pause here, "good to clear the air on such things. Thank you." He bows his head to her. "The voice that speaks frankly is the voice that seeks to help."

Emmanuelle leaves her cousin a silence to fill, whilst by means of small, neat, sensually greedy bites she reduces that naked peach of hers to nothing but a clean dark stone. Then, she acknowledges his thanks with a slight inclination of her head. "Men rarely act from one motive alone," is her first quiet comment. She licks peach juice quickly from her fingertips and reaches for a napkin.

"I wish you well, Jean, as ever I have done," she goes on, wiping her hands. "No matter my present reservations I like to see my former patrons succeed. One grows to feel," she favours him with a wry smile, "almost parental. And though you may be at an age at which most men are consolidating their successes in life, still it is reasonable to suppose you have good years left ahead of you in which to act. In the memory of our time together in Elua I shall be watching you, and hoping one day to see myself proved wrong." She does not however sound hopeful.

Though it is enticing to the eye, Jean does not seem to be focused on the sensual way in which she does away with her food. Instead, there's a different kind of sentiment as he hears her words, serious. "I think you will find lasting success comes not in tried and true molds, but in those of unusual shapes. The truly brilliant are also always polarizing. No life is worth living on this land if it is not to their fullest. And I am rather fond of you regardless of your disappoinmtment for how I fare, my beloved Mistress. You will always have a dear place in my heart, whether or not you choose to assist me at any time. I am traveling north, however; must speak to someone in Troyes about a matter I'll undertake myself. And then a visit to Tonnerre for the usual audiences of the signeurie before I return."

Leaving his couch, he offers a bow on a bent knee before rising to his feet. "Thank you, as always, for the sincerity. I suppose it is a common trait to Mandrakes; the sharpness behind each barb is just an integral part of the Thorn wielding them."

A servant in dark livery is waiting just beyond the door to the foyer, to escort the visitor away and re-equip him with his surrendered weapons.

From her own couch Emmanuelle regards him dispassionately. "I wish you wisdom," is her parting remark, "in deciding what you truly value. Good day, Jean."

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