(1310-10-13) A Chance to Lose
Summary: Alcibiades Rousse takes another gamble, on something more precious even than his purseful of jewels.
RL Date: 12/10/2018 - 13/10/2018
Related: Green Velvet Battlefield and something else that isn't finished yet!
chimene alcibiades 

Chimène’s Boudoir

This small lozenge-shaped chamber boasts as many facets as a cut gemstone, each exquisitely paneled in ivory and gilt boiseries with repeating motifs of dolphins, peacocks, and swans. Four of its smaller facets appear to be taken up chiefly with glass panels, lined on the outside with ruched powder-blue silk: they are all secretly doors, two for the use of servants, the others leading respectively into the main salon and the bedchamber of the lady who owns this boudoir. Another facet is consecrated to a modest fireplace of gilded porphyry with a gilt-framed looking-glass above, and another to a porphyry-topped console table beneath a matching looking-glass. These are placed in mirrored positions to the left and the right of the chamber's outside wall and its alcove containing a double window overlooking the gardens. The latter may be shuttered and screened by a curtain of powder-blue silk embroidered with gold, to create a more perfect cosiness.

On the chamber's other longest side, directly opposite the window alcove and between two of the doors, is a luxurious sofa covered likewise in powder-blue silk and set into a mirrored recess. Its frame of gold-tasseled powder-blue draperies transforms it into a petite stage for the theatre of a lady's life.

A quartet of fauteuils upholstered either in ivory and gold, or the inevitable powder-blue, stand here and there upon the crosshatched parquet floor. Light from the small crystal and gilt chandelier overhead is supplemented by mirrored candle-stands. Occasional tables may be presumed within reach when needful.

After a bit of waiting round in the downstairs foyer of House Rousse's residence in Marsilikos — the first time he, a son of that house, has crossed its threshold — Alcibiades is shown upstairs and through an expansive pale grey salon furnished in what seems the very height of luxury, and into a much smaller and more intimate chamber where he is obliged straight away to reassess his opinion.

This is luxury. Chimène Rousse de la Courcel, curled up on a powder-blue silken sofa set into a mirrored recess and framed with matching drapes, hugging a tasseled cushion in her arms as she regards her visitor in the dim light of a half-curtained window, amplified by gilded mirrors. She receives him alone, though guards must be within call. She is dressed in a plain white gown.

"It was intelligent of you," she intones in a small and distant soprano voice, "and admirably discreet, to introduce yourself by the name of a distant cousin. But then I suppose men in your profession must be sure to keep their wits about them, Monsieur…?" She tilts her head, waiting to hear this cognac-dispensing piquet expert's proper name. For it certainly can't be Alcibiades Rousse.

Alcibiades Rousse looks equal parts amused and discomfited by Chimène's opening conversational gambit. His eyes sparkle with mischief and, for a moment, he appears to consider providing the name she expects — some commoner, some card-sharp of his acquaintance would surely provide the pseudonym. But there is the imp of the perverse to consider as well. Alcibiades Rousse, confronted with an interesting option and a safe option, will almost always choose to wager everything on the flip of a card.

"Alcibiades Rousse, I'm afraid, my lady." Alcibiades offers a grave bow as he introduces himself to the beautiful, dimly-lit visage before him. He straightens and — for the first time — really seems to take in the room that he's found himself within. All things considered, he carries himself well in the face of shocking wealth. But an observant woman might note how his eyes widen, and how he's straining every fiber to not crane his neck around.

He watches Chimène curiously now, to see the reaction to his confirmation. Because this surely is Alcibiades Rousse, and he is carefully unknotting a heavy pouch from his belt. "I've brought the jewelry as you requested," he says, careful now. He doesn't say that he'll return it. He doesn't say that he'll allow her to buy it. He doesn't say that he'll make a gift of it. He watches.

<FS3> Chimène rolls Perception: Amazing Success. (8 7 5 8 6 2 7 1 7 7 6 5)

<FS3> Chimène rolls Politics: Failure. (3 6 6 3 2 4 2 4 6 4 3)

Her hazel eyes gaze at Alcibiades, standing there upon her polished parquet, in a pool of light that aptly illuminates the planes and angles of his face. Her own much-reflected complexion blanches still further. "… I see," she murmurs. A second ticks by, and then another. She uncurls one long white hand, bereft of jewels and frail-seeming despite its size — her limp white wrist almost trembles as she gestures him to the nearest fauteuil. "Won't you sit?" she suggests.

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Perception: Good Success. (7 6 4 5 2 1 8)

"Thank you." Alcibiades eases down on the fauteuil, absently adjusting his coat as he settles. He lays the jewel-purse on his knee, watching Chimène with an expression of poorly-concealed unease. He shifts his weight briefly before clearing his throat. "I thought that… given both our circumstances… we might discuss matters. I've no wish to…" He trails off lamely, looking down at the purse, then tries again. "How would you like to proceed, my lady?"

An eloquent pause, whilst Chimène looks upon him with those large liquid eyes that can see him so much more clearly now, sober and in the sunlight, than the night before last in the shadowy gambling-den befogged by brandy. She can't even place him — she knows the name, but not which twig he might be of which far-flung branch — and that only adds to the turmoil beneath her alabaster brow. But it's a turmoil fast mellowing into the bleak resignation of a woman from whom the Companions seem determined to extract two ounces of vexation for each of pleasure.

"What, precisely, cousin—?" Chimène wonders at last in that same small voice, pitched to the size of her jewel-box boudoir. "What do you not wish to do, besides what you have already done? You seemed to wish it, then."

Cousin. Alcibiades stares at the woman for a moment, his jaw a bit slack, mouth barely remaining closed. Think more, speak less. He watches Chimène carefully, letting the surprise fade from his features. He's being far more careful now than in his last visit to a noblewoman. When he speaks, his tone is polite. "I've no wish to extort you, my lady."

He does not mention that he warned her against those later wagers; that would be more than rude, it would be downright cruel. "Just now, no one knows that you lost the jewelry, or to whom you lost it. I am not my father. I am not here to make your situation worse." He seems to be reaching a decision. Leaning forward, the seaman offers out the purse.

But Chimène's fingertips only dig a little harder into the softness of that cushion she's embracing, to keep herself from simply grabbing at salvation. She looks for a long moment at the offered pouch and then lifts her eyes to the face of the man she just hailed as 'cousin'. The cynic in her wonders aloud, delicately: "To what do I commit myself, my lord, in accepting your kindness?"

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Perception: Success. (5 4 1 5 2 7 1)

My lord. Another new moment in Alcibiades' life. And the question brings a rueful smile to the tanned features. His eyes soften slightly. He would be wondering the same thing in her place. Especially as… his eyes widen slightly. "Ah," he breathes. "May I ask, my lady, whether the name Julien Rousse means anything to you?" There's no real reason it should. Twenty years of shame and silence may well have blotted it out, for all he knows.

"It doesn't matter. The purse is yours. You owe me nothing, my lady, except another game." Alcibiades smiles at this last, quirking a brow. "After all, it is considered poor manners for a man to quit when he is winning. I should hate for you to think me rude, on top of all the rest."

<FS3> Chimène rolls Politics: Good Success. (8 3 1 5 7 2 4 5 1 4 6)

<FS3> Chimène rolls Perception: Success. (3 4 8 2 6 6 3 1 5 3 3 4)

At last Chimène decides to trust his word: holding his gaze, as though wondering whether he might not after all snatch it away again, she reaches out to take hold of that proffered purse… Their fingertips just barely brush in the transfer. "I may not owe you," she murmurs, "but nonetheless you have my thanks."

She tilts her pet cushion flat in her lap and tips out the purse upon it: a glitter of jewels last seen tossed negligently down upon green velvet, and before that adorning her own manicured and silken fingers. Of course the gold isn't there: but the gold couldn't be farther from her mind. She holds each ring up to the light, verifies the remembered quality of the stone, and restores it to its usual place. The act of donning this feminine armour seems to lift her up, and to bestow upon her an easier serenity as she offers him back his empty purse at the farthest extent of one of those graceful and swanlike arms.

"… Julien Rousse," she repeats then, having had a little time to think and to connect one point with another. "It is not a name often mentioned."

"It is my pleasure," murmurs the tall seaman, a touch too quietly. Alcibiades' fingertips are tough and callused, torn by years hauling hempen line. He smiles across at the woman as he ties the purse-string to his belt. "Julien Rousse was my father, my lady. I was surprised to be allowed to call here at all." He looks at Chimène for a few moments, keenly studying her features.

"I was afraid you would think I came here seeking vengeance, acting out of resentment." His voice is low still, and he looks down at the parquet for a few moments and then he makes to stand. "Thank you for the kindness, my lady, in allowing me to call on you. I hope that I may see you again, here or.. elsewhere."

<FS3> Chimène rolls Perception: Great Success. (7 1 8 3 4 4 4 8 1 6 7 1)

When he begins to take his leave so soon and so sweetly, Chimène is as nonplussed as he's yet seen her. That is to say, much less so than any other woman of his acquaintance. She looks up at him and blinks twice, and then lifts a jeweled hand from her cushion and offers it up to him to be kissed.

"… Another game, you said," she agrees, implicitly agreeing to another meeting and on friendlier terms. Then she hesitates. "I hope you don't suppose me quite such a fool as I seemed that night. I knew what I was doing and I did it anyway. It's a sickness in women like me," she points out airily enough. In unhappy women, her eyes confide. "Isn't that why you chose me as you did?"

Without thinking, Alcibiades takes that hand and presses his lips to the back of it. A warm, dry, kiss — he's not a slobberer, at least. As he straightens, listening to the rest of Chimène's words, he blinks. And then his features, so recently set into leave-taking formality, soften. "I never thought you were a fool, my lady."

He looks her up and down, takes in a breath, and smiles slightly. "I chose you because you were beautiful and because you looked as though you wanted to play cards. Most of the others in that place wanted to make money." He hesitates for another instant and adds, a touch hesitantly, "I am not a swindler. You were not made a fool of."

Chimène favours him at last with a smile, small but genuine. Reflected in mirror upon mirror it lights up her boudoir quite enough. "I do like to play cards," she confesses as she clasps her hands together again on her cushion, the kissed and the unkissed, arranged out of habit to show her favourite rings to the best advantage. "But I think you wanted to make money too," she reflects, "and perhaps— perhaps I'm glad that after all you did, and fairly enough."

"I did need money," agrees Alcibiades. His eyes sparkle for a moment. "But I love gambling for its own sake, my lady. Far less dangerous than battle or a sea-squall, but the feeling is much the same when it all hinges on the flip of one card." He looks appreciatively at Chimène, lips quirking in another grin. "And I trust you won't think me too impertinent, my lady, if I say that I am glad I won as well. And that I have a chance to lose, in the future."

"Well. We shall have to see," the future duchesse de Roussillion agress, with another sedate and mysterious smile, "which of us fortune shall favour."

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