(1310-10-25) Glory, Glory, Glory
Summary: Jehan-Pascal brings Emmanuelle a housewarming gift — only, more than the house gets warmed. (Warning: some unclothedness; also, we bend genders, since that’s about all they’re good for.)
RL Date: 20/10/2018 - 26/10/2018
Related: Family Friends.
emmanuelle jehan-pascal 

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 leisure brings Jehan-Pascal again from Avignon to Marsilikos, curiosity brings him yet further to answer an invitation sincerely given: to visit 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 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 the name and, in fact, the description too — regular lists are issued, to ease the arrival of welcome guests and thoroughly impede all the rest — 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 Jehan-Pascal inside and overing over him 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. The visitor is thus left alone in the shadowy chamber, with nothing to do but appreciate the artwork. A couple of 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 fitted and lavender-embroidered black silk waistcoat over a dark purple silk shirt and her favourite buckskin breeches. On her feet, her formidable, her inevitable, her indispensable thigh-high boots, this pair polished to a mirror-like sheen. Her sleeves are rolled up, her smile perfectly red-painted. "Ah," she breathes, prowling close, looking him over as though to verify the reports issued by her servants: "You look well." Her hand helps itself to his, her grip firm.

Jehan-Pascal might find leisure here in Marsilikos, but it's not, sadly, what he's come for. There are all manner of business dealing which require the Comte's attention, and only so many hours in his day, so he finds it well enough to send his son along to a common trade center to read over contracts and perform some negotiations on his behalf. A Comte must walk before he can run, after all— and while Marielle of the Night Court has chiefly stolen away his otiose hours, he does spend the bulk of his time here in Marsilikos working just as hard, if not harder, than he does at home. But he does look well, that much is for sure. Some of the life has returned to his stormy grey eye, some of the color to his cheek. Perhaps the travel did him well. And now when he presents himself to the Blooded Manse, he does so in some of the most trendsome finery of the season, woolen knickers in a pale dove grey buckled in silver above a pair of pale pink stockings of remarkably fine silk which coat his lissom calves and ankles, his feet protected by a pair of polished slip-on shoes with a slight heel. Above, a beautiful grey long-coat with tails almost down to mid-calf behind, built to move even despite the thick wool of the fabric. It buttons up the fore in two rows of silver buttons and is embroidered with details of silver and black-edged pale powder pink. The top few ranks of buttons are left to hang casually open, showing a glimpse of a vest and shirtsleeves below, as well as accentuating the swan-like grace of his neck. And he's come bearing gifts, despite her declaring there no need. Nothing ostentatious, just enough not to have turned up empty-handed. A bottle of wine from Avignon— his favorite vintage, for what it's worth. He carries it about with him, its neck in one hand, the body cradled in the other arm, somewhat as if holding a baby, presenting it to the guard to be taken off to wheresoever such gifts are kept upon his gracious entry. The artwork. Yes, there's enough time to get an eyeful, which he does with an elegant smile perched unfalteringly among his facial features and his wrists tucked together at the small of his back, his gait making the tails beneath to swing against his stocking-clad calves as he turns from image to image to— "Ah! My Lady de Shahrizai," he executes a smart little bow.

Jehan-Pascal lifts himself from his bow and welcomely offers up his hand for her to take in her firm grasp. "Oh, thank you," he tips his head modestly, flitting his free hand across his exquisite garb. "It's, ah— you know the Lady Isabelle de Valais? She's been building my Marsilikos wardrobe, and is such a delight. And your waistcoat… those colors are marvelous," he banters back readily.

In the intermittent flickering light cast by those candles perched so high in their iron sconces Emmanuelle continues her inspection at closer and closer range, drawing her visitor almost into an embrace. Her hand is warmly wrapped round his, black-lacquered fingernails doing no more than graze his skin; her cologne is doubly warm, in this unexpected proximity. Only those blue-diamond Shahrizai eyes remain detached, gazing into his as though across tremendous distance. "You certainly have a look of Isabelle about you," she drawls at last, "as Isabelle has a look of me… I know her well; she was for some years a patron of mine at Mandrake House, though I must tell you," in offering this confidence she lowers her chin but holds Jehan-Pascal's gaze, "my waistcoat pre-dates our first assignation. I found it in a trunk of mine buried below my sister's palace, in the company of all manner of curious objects." She treats him to one of her wide, red, feral smiles and leaves the rest to his imagination: "Shall we?"

She leads him then by the hand through the open door at her back and along a corridor also frescoed and somewhat better lit than the foyer. Fantastical Kusheline landscapes, illustrating folk-tales all subtly perverted from their originals and given endings either unhappy or — well — happy only in the eye of a sadistic beholder. Nightmare visions, some of them, copied from the oldest and rarest manuscripts in the possession of this particular Shahrizai line. Her pace is slow, measured, to let him look about as they converse.

Jehan-Pascal steps closer when drawn in, not thinking to draw back nor do anything but yield to the power of her will to take him in. And yet— it hardly feels like a surrender. There's very little of the Valerian about the Avignon heir. She wishes him to be drawn into an embrace, and he's quite contentedly amenable to that. She stops him short of it— he's amenable to that just as easily. Good-natured, rather, perhaps, than submissive. He meets her distant Shahrizai gaze with his own, kind and cheerful enough now that the clouds have stopped fogging his brain, leaving only their hue behind in the stormy grey-blue of his irises. "Oh, truly?" he asks, rhetorically, about Isabelle's history in the house of Mandrake. "It must be nice to be re-acquainted. Have you commissioned anything from her just yet? You really ought. She has such an eye and a wit for making the very pinnacle of style before anyone even knows what it is." As to the curious objects found alongside the waistcoat, he has no notion of them, but in his mind's eye he pictures a dusty old trunk filled with figurines of unicorns and old lanterns or the like, and, having been left to the whims of his own imagination, seems to have been led only innocuous places by it. Emman can no doubt miss the subtle flush that would have stolen across his throat, otherwise, instead of the image only producing a half-curious quirk of the brows. "Oh, let's shall. The artwork is new with the renovations, I suppose? It's quite compelling," he offers up, taking his time to examine this tableau, then that, neither flinching from them nor seeming particularly aroused by them.

To Emmanuelle they're old hats by now, all of them, albeit attractive chapeaus in a style that pleases perennially. She pauses only to draw Jehan-Pascal's attention to a particularly dainty scene involving anthropomorphic rabbits, which she feels he might prefer to some of the other leading examples of the artist's delicate brushwork to be found elsewhere upon the walls. (Such as: what the rabbits do next.) "Yes — they illustrate my father's ideas, chiefly. He supervised the artist," she says drily, "whilst I was still in Elua, reigning over a houseful of lust-maddened adolescents armed with whips and flails. I am given to understand," she confides, leaning her dark head gravely nearer to his, "that, given the vagaries of the painter in question, I had the better part of the bargain." A quick quirk of her eyebrows, and they continue past a number of closed doors.

"To my disappointment there is a great deal I cannot show you today, for we are now four generations beneath this roof of ours." A veritable nest of Kusheline snakes in the heart of Eisande. "My daughter — my elder daughter," she clarifies, "Dorimène nó Cereus de Shahrizai, is still keeping to her chambers after presenting me with a second grandchild not long ago," she explains with naked genetic pride: if only her posture could grow straighter, it would. "And then, my father arrived from the country this afternoon and he is resting from his journey. I must hope to content you with my own chambers, mm?" And with an interrogatory lift of voice and eyebrows she releases Jehan-Pascal's hand in order to unlock the door at the end of the corridor, and usher him through it.

“Aww," Jehan-Pascal takes the opportunity to coo a little bit at the bunnies, which are softer and cuter and fluffier than most of the things depicted on the walls. He strolls along with his long, willowy stride, keeping pace with Emman and looking away from the walls and to her profile with a briefly baffled glance when she describes her time at Mandrake thus— it takes a moment for what she meant by it to sink in, and when he does, he is thoroughly primed for the punchline to her well set-up jest, which makes him bring his further hand around to her arm and laugh as he caresses it in a jovial need for support. "Oh, my heavens," he goes on to remark, "Congratulations! Has she brought a boy or a girl? I wish I had known, I'd have brought a little something for mother and baby. As it stands your man has brought my humble donation to your cellars as a sort of housewarming. Vintage of the Tomb, an 87," he reports, a name perhaps familiar to her, from a vineyard located just outside of Avignon proper, not far from the mausoleum of his great grandfather Cheval Gael.

Rather than disdaining the touch Emmanuelle leans into it slightly, her arm beneath his hand surprisingly muscular given her stature. Or… perhaps not surprisingly, given her profession. She has one or two inherent contradictions to balance, which she does well. "Her second daughter; this one is called Léonie Emmanuelle Shahrizai," she answers modestly, following Jehan-Pascal into the antechamber on the far side of that door and locking them into it.

It proves to be a lock in itself, separating two sections of the house from anyone who hasn't both keys, and raising the possibility of some servants who might carry only one… It must be a difficult matter to depart from the Maison Sanglante without the permission of one or the other of the house's owners. A single candle sheds light here, tucked inside an elaborate iron cage that casts curious shadows upon walls inlaid with an intricate trompe l'oeil representation of a dungeon such as one might find in the depths of Mandrake House, or indeed the Salon de la Rose Sauvage next door. A sight new to Jehan-Pascal, perhaps, if not to Emmanuelle's usual guests. The console table where the candle-cage sits, and some shelving above it, were built to fit in their present places and to appear at first glance part of the illusion. But in front of the intriguing instruments of pleasure and of pain, picked out in rare wood in a dozen hues, those shelves hold a few real objects deposited here to await Emmanuelle's convenience. Letters, mostly — a small parcel wrapped in brown paper — a coiled whip, which she collects absent-mindedly as she explains, "We brought a master craftsman from La Serenissima to make this chamber for me; he and his apprentices laboured four years upon it… My retirement to Marsilikos," she says drily, "was longer in the planning than most of my acquaintances knew at the time."

"Emmanuelle," Jehan-Pascal's smile broadens to a warm, fond sort of grin as he acknowledges the namesake thus created. He follows along whithersoever and only briefly spins in place to realize that Emmanuelle is locking them into the place so vigorously decorated with torments— it seems to briefly register as a concern before flitting off elsewhere to leave him once more comfortably situated at Emmanuelle's arm as he rather anticipates moving on out of the intricately unnerving vestibule. "I don't suppose you ever would have considered retiring on a whim," he realizes as she lets him go in favor of taking up the whip, and he takes to exploring the space, prodding in this direction and that with a cautious half-tread in the candlelight. "It's wondrous, all the work which has gone into the place!" he can certainly say.

Yes, it's an interesting experience for anybody, being locked into a small candlelit chamber with Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai and the force of her personality. Her shadow is longer and darker than she herself, her high-heeled steps crisp upon the black and white tiled floor. She drinks in too much of the air and returns for it drawled vowels, resinous cologne, a watchful gaze that might just pierce straight through Jehan-Pascal and carve twin knot-holes in the intricate intarsia behind him. "Let's leave your coat here," she suggests, reaching with both hands to help him out of it: one hand, naturally, still clasped half around the whip. "There are hooks, you see—?" A lift of her glance directs him to a faint gleam of bronze high on one wall. "… Not all of my guests desire to leave evidence of their presence where my family might come upon it."

Yes, Jehan-Pascal had been able to take the rest of the tour well in stride, but there might be a little bit of claustrophobia setting in, or the sheer presence of the Mandrake aura is making his heart palpitate all despite himself with a feeling not unlike being locked in a rather small cage with a tiger. He's so ready to be clear of it that for a moment her suggestion goes unanswered but with a soft, doe-eyed look of incomprehension. Then, "Ah— yes, of course," he'll unbutton the rest of his coat and shed it, leaving himself in a silvery waistcoat and the palest pink shirtsleeves beneath, looking quite white in the dim light of the vestibule while he searches for the hook, pressing himself up to set the garment over it.

The tiger is on her best behaviour: in fact, rather than watching Jehan-Pascal fumble in the shadows for a hook, she steps up behind him and guides his hand with her own, leaning into him, her body against his for half a breath, almost pinning him to the wall… And then she steps away, leaving only the vague impression of warmth and the suggestion that that was not, not exactly, something in her pocket. She watches him serenely as she produces another key, and takes her time about unlocking the other door. She at least is in no hurry.

Beyond the second door, a second corridor: the floor tiled similarly in black and white, continuing on from the first passageway, but the walls painted a plain and muted shade of burgundy above fine oak paneling. They might have stepped out of a nightmare and into a particularly refined gentlemen's club.

Jehan-Pascal glances back over his shoulder at the sudden offer of help, only to face the wall again, planting a hand against it when he feels himself thus trapped between a rock and a… what is that? It's hardly a fair match, this cordial bachelor in the lair of one of the most well-trained and capable servants of Naamah in all the land. She'd no doubt noticed how the scenes of torments and ravishments on her walls rolled off of his libido like pearls of water off of a duck's back— but she's honed in on a more subtle sort of power play which— well, suffice it to say his breath is momentarily suspended in that moment of being so gently pinned, a more subtle menace proving more his 'speed.' But when her half-breath passes and his returns to him, he looks over his shoulder again with a bashful little smile. "Thanks," for the help with the coat, presumably? Or the free taste of what other men have spent fortunes to experience? His eyes do flick down to the front of her trousers and then back to her eyes with a curious quirk of both brows, but he doesn't ask out loud. Maybe he's having trouble deciding how to ask a woman whether she's wearing a false phallus or not. But he falls in alongside her again, ready to be free of these confines, despite having now a certain positive experience attached to the place. "I suppose the double lock in the antechamber provides as much privacy as security?" he puts his hand to starting up the conversation again as they head down the next stretch of corridor, eyes lingering on the oak panelling, "What lovely woodwork." Speaking of woodwork? No, that won't do.

Emmanuelle returns her guinea-pig's gaze with admirable guilelessness, lifts one dark eyebrow as though to answer his unspoken question with another like it, and the turns away a moment to lock that second door. She tucks the key away and, whip in hand, leads on. "Yes," she agrees, resting one hand lightly at the small of Jehan-Pascal's back to guide him, "that part of the Shahrizai reputation is entirely deserved. If we give away a secret you may be certain it was deliberate. Such a system of locks and keys as I have devised here, is a safeguard against… accidents. I was going to show you the butterfly room first," she confides, "but I think I had better put this away," she lifts her whip for emphasis, its coil of dark leather showing a patina that suggests it has been well-used and well-loved, "if you'll indulge me. I shouldn't like to make you feel—" And she catches his eye and favours him with a crooked red smile. "Too nervous."

She pilots him meanwhile past closed double doors at the corridor's end, and through a dog-leg into another length of it which passes along the right-hand side of a rectangular stone courtyard visible through closed windows of fine glass and black-lacquered shutters left open. Partway along this part of the corridor she stills him, fingertips twining in the folds of his garment and turning him to admire the view: "Eisheth," she explains, nodding to the open-handed statue presiding over a half-circle pool filled with water-lilies, "though I have also a private shrine to Kushiel, if you would care to see it—?"

Jehan-Pascal listens with more than polite interest, cordially engaging with Emman's eyes, cold and piercing though they may be as she explains the heart of her lodgings and all its securities. "Oh," he smiles, "That's alright, you don't need to, it doesn't make me anxious," he assures her, and, from his easy-going attitude about it, it must be so. "After all, you wouldn't strike me with it— I should hope," he laughs. "Do you often carry it about with you?" he wonders. It seems an unusual daily accessory, but he's not a Mandrake, much less one of such high profile and experience. "You have a butterfly garden? Heavens, this place is the like of a museum. Are you an entomologist on the side, or do you just find them lovely?" he wonders. Her fingers in his garb make him turn right easily, as distracted by the sight as by the way in which he's pointed toward it, lifting a hand to peek with less distraction through the glass. "Look at the lilies," he smiles, then turns back to smile at Emman, "Of course, I'd love to," he answers. "I'm getting quite the tour— and after you warned me it would have to be cut short, it's delightful in its variety already."

Would she strike him? "Not unless you asked me very nicely," agrees Emmanuelle with a wry smile, and as they stand together looking out into her courtyard her hand shifts to his arm in its pale pink sleeve and bestows a reassuring pat. Her touch lingers as she explains: "The whip is like the boots. People do expect it. Though, as you see, when I came through my antechamber earlier today with my hands full it was the whip I chose to put down and collect later on." Lilies or no lilies her hand shifts to his back again to draw him on: another confident and practiced touch, gently assuming rather than rudely compelling obedience.

The corridor ends at last in a second, more elaborate pair of double doors, which must lead into the black-shuttered chamber at the far end of the courtyard. Emmanuelle opens just one door and leaves it to Jehan-Pascal to decide whether to follow her inside or simply steal a glimpse into the expansive bedchamber beyond. The décor might interest him: the walls padded with layers of sound-swallowing cork and then covered in quilted dark purple satin; the priceless Akkadian carpets underfoot; the copper-gilded ceiling that serves as a distorted mirror of whatever may happen below it; and the bed, that enormous and monstrous bed, its four posts not carved from dark wood but wrought of solid iron, of a piece with shackles and chains and a pulley above, against all of which the strongest man might struggle in vain. Better perhaps that he doesn't get too good a look at the various immaculately-dusted implements arranged upon the farther wall, or the contents of the glass-fronted cabinet: restoring that favoured whip to its place amongst them, Emmanuelle goes on speaking, lifting her voice slightly to reach him. "It is not a butterfly garden but a butterfly chamber — an ancestor of mine was the lepidopterist," she confides over her shoulder, "and now I have disappointed you." She straightens something that doesn't really need straightening; then her regulation Mandrake boots bring her back to her visitor's side, wherever he may have strayed to by now, swiftly and in silence. She reaches out to stroke his cheek and his chin with a warm, taloned fingertip. "You would prefer living butterflies, I think," she teases quietly. She's wearing just a small smile.

Jehan-Pascal laughs brightly at Emman's jest, secure enough to do so openly and freely, without a hint of nervousness to the laughter. "Well, it does present an image, as it were. If it suits you to present such an image, by all means, be who you are. But don't think you need to carry it about for my benefit, either," he only wants her to be comfortable and happy, to all evidence, and the whip per se is not any cause of alarm or arousal on his behalf, so he has, as it were, no horse in the race. "Ah, a butterfly chamber has its own useful beauty. Less frivolous, more scientific. To be fluttered at by countless frail little wings might be a tender experience, but if you wish to examine the insects and learn of them properly, an encased specimen is more likely to be of use. I've no opposition at all to the works of scholarship, my Lady Emmanuelle, nor do I find it grotesque or cruel." The opened bedchamber does cause him a mote of pause. Perhaps he is considering the condition of the undersides of his shoes before setting foot on that exquisite and no doubt expensive carpet. But the satin walls draw him in, "It's rather like being in the inside of a jewelry-box," he remarks with a wondrous smile, looking up at the ceiling, "Complete with a vanity mirror in the lid," he realizes.

Next to Jehan-Pascal Emmanuelle surveys the chamber from his perspective, looking over all that she has arranged and finding it still marvelously good. Some of his observations she finds it in herself to forgive, others do genuinely please: that discreet smile lingers upon her painted red lips as she confides, "I do from time to time lock up a jewel in it." Her hand strays to the small of his back and suggests by a light pressure that he turn and precede her out.

Emerging from that bedchamber created to devour sound the tiled floor of the corridor turns her boot-heels suddenly loud again, and the shutting of one door and the opening of another creates powerful echoes. This time Emmanuelle ushers her visitor ahead of her into the unknown, up a spiraling dark stone stairway lit by candles in iron sconces. Its steps have just begun to wear away in the middle: no doubt it's one of the house's original features. From another antechamber at the top of it two doors open. It's a little crowded in here, and Jehan-Pascal of course doesn't know which door to choose, and he finds Emmanuelle's arm briefly around his waist and her thigh against his thigh as she reaches past him to turn the correct handle and release him into light and warmth and air.

They are above the corridor now, in a rectangular chamber perhaps the same length as the last leg of it and twice its width. One wall consists chiefly of the same windows and black-lacquered shutters Jehan-Pascal saw downstairs, opening upon the same courtyard from a higher vantage; a long bench is built in underneath them, dark wood well-cushioned in that shade of purple Emmanuelle so admires. The opposite wall is occupied along its whole length with the work of another master of marquetry, or perhaps the same: an array of tall cupboards built all of a piece, the door of each inlaid with precious coloured hardwoods depicting a different courtly scene. Court or Night Court: some are distinctly risqué, though not all the pleasures thus depicted are of a Mandragian nature. An astute eye might discern the common theme: there’s not a single heterosexual couple in the normal clothes of their genders, though a place seems to have been found for every other possible variation. At the far end a fire crackles merrily in a hearth of dark porphyry, its mantel supported by scantily-clad caryatids. There’s a chair drawn up close to the end of the long cushioned bench, a small table, a decanter of wine and two waiting glasses.

Jehan-Pascal leans in slightly when she jokes after locking up her jewels in her jewelry box, joining in the jest with a winsome little grin and otherwise continuing to be completely amenable to being herded about like the little lamb he really is. "I would wager your jewels are rather contented to be so kept," he smiles easily, ducking his head a little bit even if he doesn't need to, taking the stairs slowly as their planes are irregularly slanted, being careful where he puts his feet in the shifting light of the sconces. He angles aside to let Emman by when she takes to opening the door for him, finding in it a gentlemanly gesture and applying a soft smile of correspondingly lady-like gratitude for the gesture. The cabinet-lined hall is a feast for the eyes, though his are drawn first to the windows and the lounging space there below. The details of the cabinets are left woefully overlooked in favor of the view down into the courtyard, not to mention the notice of the wine on that side of the hall, already laid out. "Ah, is it time for a libation?" he grins.

Emmanuelle draws the door shut at her back and follows Jehan-Pascal winewards, still with that slight smile which is her equivalent of jovial good humour. "I imagine it has had time enough by now to warm," she suggests, for it is that very Vintage of the Tomb her visitor brought hither cradled in his arms, decanted now by gentle hands and left idling here to await their pleasure. "Do sit," she suggests, claiming for herself that armless dark chair and flipping it neatly around to present the back of it to the comforts of the purple cushions. A wave of her hand encourages Jehan-Pascal to make himself at home; she pours out two glasses of wine, presents him with one, and sits down casually straddling the chair with one arm resting upon the back of it and the other hand lifting her own glass in a toast. "Your great-grandpapa," she pronounces sincerely.

"Oh— is it the same?" Jehan-Pascal wonders, having heard no word from her to have the bottle decanted. But perhaps she doesn't need to resort to anything as banal as actual commands. She takes the chair; that leaves him the luxury of that bench below the windows, where he drapes himself, radiant in luxury, and takes the offered glass to nose, not even needing her words to identify the well-loved vintage. "Ah," he sighs contentedly over the aroma. "To his memory," he echoes the toast, and takes a lingering sip to seal the pledge. "Although," he lifts an educated finger, thinking, perhaps, to give a little guide-book tour, himself, in gratitude for all the things she's showing him. "Did you know that the vineyard actually pre-dated the construction of the tomb by several decades? It used to be called the Vintage San Terre, and now, with a change of its title, is called practically the same," he jokes convivially with his hostess.

"I think," ventures Emmanuelle discreetly as she permits her gaze to roam over his half-recumbent figure in a manner rather less deserving of such an adjective, "I may have seen one or two of those old labels…" She breathes in the bouquet but doesn't yet drink of it, watching him still through eyes half-closed in appreciation. "I must thank you for a gift so particularly tasteful. Something at least," she drawls, "that we might share… Though it is a discipline of mine, you understand, that I don't imbibe on days when I may reasonably expect to wield the tools of either of my professions." On which note, signaling to him again that she has no such intentions — much as one might share bread and salt as a pact of trust, she brings her glass to her lips and essays a slow, savouring sip.

"Then I'm glad to have caught you upon a holiday," Jehan-Pascal's smile blossoms into something playful, almost charming, warmed into a casual ease by the kiss of wine on his lips. "I never like to turn up at a place empty-handed, and wine is seldom a bad option, especially as good a wine as this," he chuckles merrily. "I had thought, perhaps, of something more fitting for a housewarming gift, but with no idea beforehand of your decor, I could hardly have hoped to pick something appropriate." He angles his wine glass toward the cabinets on the other side of the room. "Is this storage?" he wonders. "Maybe books or curios inside?" he wonders, narrowing his eyes across the way, where he can see that there are figures on the cabinet doors, but the details of them are lost from this distance. He also spends a lot of time reading and writing by lamp-light, and his long-distance vision is not the best.

"Oh, yes," agrees Emmanuelle drily, apropos of the suitability of wine as a gift, "and it doesn't matter at all if one receives duplicates." She lifts her glass again, this time in tribute to her visitor's taste; and drinks more deeply. In swallowing she shakes her head, and the heel of her glass clinks softly against the table's black marble top as she corrects his guess. "Clothes — and of course a great many boots." Her eyes find his; she speaks more gently now. "Perhaps you'll forgive me for supposing a Baphinol lord would feel more at ease taking a glass of wine in a woman's dressing-room than in her dungeon—?"

"This is your wardrobe?" Jehan-Pascal is astounded, all of a sudden, by the relative immensity of the place. And, yet, there's no accusation of frivolity or excess in the somewhat incredulous query. Only the notion of being impressed— almost to the point of being overwhelmed by it. He's still marvelling when she snatches his attention back from estimating the span of the cabinet space, a mote of a question mark in his eye before that vanishes with the dawn of a new smile. "Oh, yes, of course, you must be familiar with the 'curse,'" he puts a finger upon her allusion. "Are you about to ask me whether I am similarly afflicted, or have you already come to a conclusion?" he goes on to ask, smiling heartily before setting his lips to the use of taking another lazy sip of the wine.

That grin of his is more pleasing to Emmanuelle than he can yet know; it's reflected in the broadening of her own bold red smile as she regards him from that casually masculine posture of hers astride her chair, arms folded across the laddered back of it, sleeves rolled up and waistcoat neatly buttoned. "My dear," she drawls, sardonically amused, "look at me." A beat. "What do you suppose I need ask you?" Her question is, as she suggests, rhetorical: straight away she adds, "Though I have never considered it a curse and I'm pleased to see you don't either, in your heart. That, you understand, is what I hoped to discover from you today: I know," and again that note in her voice of something approaching tenderness, "it affects people differently, and not always as a gift."

Jehan-Pascal's ever-pleasing smile fades slightly at the tender note in Emman's voice. "Grandpapa," he murmurs his supposition. "We always supposed. We never knew for sure. He never… talked about it, at all. Not that it's something we really talk about as a family," he squeezes one eye close to closed at the idea of having that family chat. "I don't know why, except that it seems to me a little strange. I don't even talk to Dior about it, and… well, he does it professionally, now," his cheeky little smile returns, and he savors another drink of the wine.

The light dawns, perhaps a little sooner than Emmanuelle meant it to — she lifts her glass again, drinks another mouthful of fine and fragrant Baphinol wine, and gets up from her chair to come and sit next to Jehan-Pascal on her long comfy purple bench. She stretches out her legs at an angle, her shining booted ankles crossed and her visitor now somewhat boxed in between her and the table.

She thinks for a moment and then explains in an undertone: "He was a friend of mine a long time ago, when I was studying chirurgeonry here in Marsilikos. Until today I have not spoken of his secrets — I will not, to anyone else," with which firmer pledge she rests her hand upon his arm, "but amidst all your family's silences I think you deserve some word from an intermediary, to tell you it would have pleased him to see his grandchildren at home in their own natures. What we cannot alter we must find a way to accept. He was looking, at the end of his life."

One could claim boxed in— another could look at the same scene and say 'lent comfort.' Not that he wasn't comfortable before, but there's a heady ache in having the family theories about his grandfather confirmed and, in the same swoop, to really understand how much he suffered for it. It brings a shimmer of moisture to Jehan-Pascal's eye even as a more funereal smile worms its way across his face, half-hidden behind the lip of his glass, and he shifts about on the window-seating, coming about to lean into Emman instead of away from her. "Thank you," he offers her up in a quiet murmur. "For letting me know. And for… being a friend to him. Someone he could be himself with, even if he couldn't be anywhere else." Oh, now his nose is running, too. Just touched to the heart by the old story. "Oh, heavens, I'm dribbling," he worries. And his handkerchief is in his long coat— it ruins the line of his waistcoat to stuff a pocket with one.

The advantage of befriending a woman who dresses in men's clothes, is that she has men's pockets in them too. Emmanuelle's arm curls easily around Jehan-Pascal's shoulders, encouraging him to snuggle up close; then with her other hand she delves into the pocket of her breeches that isn't presently full of keys, and draws out a large, sensible white linen handkerchief. She tucks it into his hand and with her own soft fingertips dabs tears away from the corners of his lovely stormy eyes, now raining in truth. Her black-lacquered nails graze gently against his skin, here and there, and there again. "It's all right," she says gently; "why, I make people cry all the time." From slightly above him she favours him with a whimsical smile. "He was fond of pink too," she confides, "though I think it altogether more becoming on you — your complexion, you know."

Jehan-Pascal dabs at his nose, setting down the wine glass on the table so that he doesn't drop it somewhere like a foolish boor named Gal might. He snuggles in softly to Emman's side and turns up his cloudy blue eyes to her rather more lucid ones, giving a gasp of a laugh at her double entendre, rather charmed by it. "I never used to like pink," he tells her, opening up as easily as that in the close comfort of her half-embrace. "Until I met Marielle," the White Rose who seems to be in general demand at the House of Wild Roses. "She let me borrow some of her dresses and gowns to play in, and she wears a great deal of pale pink. I fell in love with how it looked on me, and I've got quite a lot of it in my wardrobe now."

Emmanuelle's hand keeps up a slow caress of Jehan-Pascal's arm, which seems to do its part in drawing out girlish confessions — perhaps her cologne, mellowed by proximity into something softer and fresher, suggestive of bergamot, is soothing too. "An enchanting thought," she murmurs. "I'm not acquainted with the young lady; I understand she is as a rule very busy… But you must admire my restraint," she teases in a soft drawl, still smiling down at him with that kindly, whimsical air, for all she's a famed sadist. "As much as I should have liked to coax you into such a game of dress-up, I thought it more important that we speak, and that you understand you are entirely safe in my house."

"Your abstention is both noted and appreciated," Jehan-Pascal purrs out the words, quite nearly, and nestles his close-shorn head into a comfortable cuddle of Emman's side. "Though once I have a glass or two of wine in me I would certainly be willing to peruse your wardrobe, permission granted. I still can't believe you've filled this entire hall," he returns to such considerations, not yet salivating over-much at the prospect of rifling through things and trying stuff on. But give him a little while. "I appreciate you reaching out to me, I really do. And I do feel safe here— not that I feel unsafe elsewhere, really. But you are— decidedly— a powerful presence. I have the feeling that anyone who came to upset me from this beautiful moment would be swatted like a fly."

Meanwhile Emmanuelle's well-kept and dexterous fingers roam up over Jehan-Pascal's shoulder to enjoy the softness of that short dark hair and the graceful curve of his skull beneath, and to hold him in more closely against her handsome lavender-embroidered waistcoat — which he is now in a position to admire at very close range indeed. She disagrees with him, but only to say: "My dear, it simply wouldn't occur. There are even now four locked doors between this chamber and the square outside… I guard my privacy; I guard my visitors' privacy too." Having reminded him of that witnessed truth in a low, satisfied purr, her tone lightens: "You'll have to drink more than a glass or two, or be guilty of sacrilege against your ancestral grapes. I could never finish that bottle by myself."

"It was more of a … less vivid conditional," Jehan-Pascal defends his hypothetical, which, honestly, reveals a great deal more of his fantasy mindset than he had intended to. That notion of a strong, masculine defender caring for him, guarding him against harm, tending to his keep. It's all tied together in there somewhere and it's easy to let those fancies apply themselves to the woman he's found himself cuddling with after— what, mere hours of her company? This is the power of a courtesan, whose training can cut to the very core of a man and turn him into jelly. But being jelly has seldom felt so fine, and when he's challenged to take his fair share of the wine, he giggles girlishly. "Far be it for me to insult the bottle. Let's finish it together," he proposes.

Training can only go so far — this is nature, a part of Emmanuelle that sits deep below the cool and commanding Mandragian exterior she accentuates with whips and boots and cruel smiles. She plucks her damp handkerchief from Jehan-Pascal's unresisting fingers and drops it on the edge of the table, and picks up instead the nearest glass — his, hers, it doesn't matter. She presses that into his grasp instead and, sitting up straighter, encourages him in the language of body against body to sit up a bit more too, the better to drink. Now that she has the measure of the man she tailors for him as well as does Isabelle de Valais, but in her own special fashion, manhandling him with a confidence which relieves him of any need to make his own decisions or seek his own comforts. Somehow her other arm eases around him as well, cuddling the back of him against the front of herself in a continuation of that reassuring embrace. "Certain vintages do have marvelous restorative powers," she remarks over his shoulder, her breath tickling the back of his neck, "when one is having an unexpected day… You must tell me how it tastes to you now; sweeter, or earthier, or with some new note?" Oh, is that a waistcoat button—? She undoes it, and the next, slowly, while he sips: the first delicate overtures toward slipping into something prettier.

Jehan-Pascal does so, despite the easy comfort of lounging against a kind and comforting bosom, rousing his smile back toward the cheerful while angling the fulcrum of his pelvis a hint further vertical by crossing a leg over the other and angling his back against the windowpane, the better to take a delicare winestem in hand and hold it to himself, not minding a thing about sharing cups, if, indeed, it had originally been hers. She so effortlessly renders him perfectly comfortable, his back arcing over the glide of her arm and torso easing back against hers to rest back again but in a different orientation, a feeling like falling through space. "I may be mistaken by the changing seasons," he answers her dizzily, "But it seems to me to bear the heat of spice to-day. Just a mote of a mulled flavor hiding in the stem," he sighs, and not in dismay nor disappointment, nor protesting at all the handling of his waistcoat buttons.

"Perhaps your palate is deceived by the woodsmoke from the fire," suggests the tiger, still behaving so well in this larger and more luxurious cage that she doesn't even sink her teeth into that earlobe she can see so close to her lips; "or perhaps something inside you is longing for the autumn. Short days and long nights; tailored coats, fur gloves; coming in from the cold and finding a fire waiting and a friend already seated beside it…" Her clever fingers defeat one button after another till his waistcoat opens at her touch and she curls a hand comfortably around his waist beneath it. "Are you warm enough?" she inquires solicitously. "My blood runs cold; I don't always look to the fire when I ought."

Jehan-Pascal's buttons are defeated— but he's defeating his glass of wine, as though the secret to that mysterious flavor might be found at the bottom of it. He doesn't do anything so gauche as to gulp, but damn if it doesn't slide down easy. His experimentation, however, is all for naught, Emman's explanations for the mystery spice being all the more entertaining to lend an ear toward while merely enjoying the drink. And it likewise solves another problem— the warmth offered by his waistcoat is replaced by the heat of wine flushing his skin, and makes him proof against the chill to which the Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright is long inured. And so her concern is answered with a sweet, sumptuous smile, charmed to be fretted over so. "I'm very well, thank you. And, yes, the autumn months are beautiful, the fires warm and the coverlets comfortable. Long quiet evenings to read or to cuddle. Though I am prone to grow morose as the season wears on— I suppose there are many just the same, in that regard, aren't there?" He tightens his abdominals— they flex against the hand ducked cheekily against his shirtsleeves— draws slowly away from Emman's torso— not to escape, only to lay hold of the decanter and pour for himself another glass.

He flexes; the tiger's paw tightens, subtly, a reminder of the force she can easily bring to bear but, in his case, chooses to dispense with. "There are," she agrees, though without any suggestion in her voice that she might be one of them. Mandrakes don't mind the cold, or the gloom, or the dark. "… Of course," she muses, wrapping her other hand about his and guiding the glass first to her own lips, for a moderate taste, before she permits it to pass to his lips in turn; "most of my dresses would not be ideal on you — I am," and she leans in, gnawing gently at the back of his neck with neat white teeth, "short." Declare it in a bold purr, and it becomes not a shortcoming but a jest. "But, my dear, my wardrobe contains multitudes. You're slim enough in the hips," for instance, the hip her hand is suddenly caressing, without ever having appeared to be heading in that direction, "to try one or two of my more unusual costumes… And then, knowing you might come to visit me, I made certain to provide for such a contingency."

Jehan-Pascal is drawn back— and, after a moment's hesitancy, brings back the decanter with him, choosing to set it nearer to hand upon the window-sill than to have to continue to do sit-ups for it. He relaxes back upon Emmanuelle and sets the glass tenderly to her lips for her to taste, then takes a sip, himself, while his head is still turned to meet her eyes with his. The topic of conversation heats him more fully than the wine, but neither does he blush so much as glow under it, nor does he shrink from it— quite the opposite, really. That last confession on her part makes his smile broaden crookedly. "You brought clothes for me to dress up in… just in case?" he asks, quite literally sitting in the lap of luxury. A further draught of the wine. "I'd adore to see… what you fancied me wearing," he giggles a little bit at that last.

Emmanuelle smiles down at him, cat-like — or is Jehan-Pascal the cat right now, melting into her lap and feeling the touch of well-kept fingertips caressing his enchantingly pinkened cheek—? "'Just in case'?" she drawls, and makes a little tsk-tsk sound as a fingernail grazes along the line of his jaw. Then her touch moves further down and soon she has his shirt-buttons yielding to her will, as though he were a life-sized doll for her to undress and dress again. "Come now; you're unusually beautiful," she reminds him, “and if you don’t know by now that you’ve an allure for my kind, then I can only say you’ve led a sweetly sheltered life. Having sat across a table from you for half an evening, do you suppose I could resist such fancies? If it weren't already your habit — perhaps I might still have made it so? I can be,” she confides as though it were a great secret, “persuasive… And you must remember that it was for a long while my profession, my vocation, to draw secret desires out into the light and to indulge them past bearing."

Whereupon her fingertips ascend over his bared torso, those rather pointed fingernails seeking deliberately to provoke a shiver as she pulls him closer and breathes him in, and places a very gentle kiss upon the cheek which lately she was teasing. "Come," she suggests then, beginning to stand and to raise him with her. All he need do is acquiesce.

Jehan-Pascal's got nothing of the prototypically feline about him. A sweet little lap-dog, maybe. Or, more likely, a little lamb with the first floss of wool just blossoming, with velvet-fuzzed ears and soulful eyes. Having already utterly yielded — gosh, he just puts up no resistance, does he? — he only tips his head back, baring his throat to a tiger's fangs and nestling his d'Angeline-hairless cheek to her shoulder as his chest rises, a deep breath helping her fingers along with the parting of his shirtfront. "You were really… fantasizing about me… even at dinner?" Maybe he is naive, after all. He'd no notion, to speak of, aside from the fact that her nature must of course be somehow flirtatious. "I just supposed, I don't know, that you were being nice. I hardly even thought— well— it doesn't matter, does it?" he smiles sweetly at her. "Let me see what you fancied me in, then?" he whispers, his rather undefined, but still lean and trim musculature crunching a little bit against the tickling, a motion which draws a pale shoulder from the grip of layered pink and dove grey. He could only recline against her and allow her to lift him as she rises— he almost does only that much, but some sense of self-sufficiency lingers, and he puts a little effort into aiding her in lifting him, even while continually resting against her, dropping his shoulders back to let his garments slide to the bench and leave him bare and rather chilly from the waist up— he pulls his arms up around him, shivering a little more fully now that the cold has caught up with his bare skin.

His back at least must remain warm, with Emmanuelle pressed so close after her hands just coincidentally assist in the downward slide of his shirt and waistcoat, two garments far better left behind. She positions him with care, beyond the table and before her long row of inlaid cabinets: near enough to the fire to feel distinctly warmer upon one side of his body than the other.

"Perhaps I was being nice," she drawls behind him. Then her arms uncoil from about his waist and her dark figure appears to his left, unlatching and opening a certain cabinet. "Sometimes," she confides, and she smiles crookedly at him round the cabinet door, "I am not altogether pleasant." Which estimation certain gentlemen who have lately visited her under this roof might just possibly agree with. She turns to Jehan-Pascal holding what appears to be a black scarf, or… a blindfold? Yes, of course, she happens to have a blindfold handy. Why wouldn't she? Holding that length of silk between her hands she folds it neatly into thirds with a few practiced flicks of her fingertips. "You trust me," she reminds him gently, looking into his eyes with her own so cool, so steady, so reliable. "Now, bow your head for me," she directs, in the quiet certainty she'll be met with obedience.

Jehan-Pascal sighs contentedly when moved into the reach of the fire's heat, letting his arms uncross and reach out toward the flames, palms coaxing along those rolling billows of heated air along toward him before he's turned and follows the motion with his head, looking over one shoulder only to have her appear at the other shoulder, bringing his head swinging slowly about to grin at her. "But I think— maybe— when you're unpleasant, it's… a welcome sort of unpleasantry, to those upon whom it is visited?" he presumes with a kind-hearted smile. There's really just too much good in the man. When Emman turns back with the blindfold, he looks a little uncertain, but playfully so, like it might draw a little giggle from him, this sort of game. Her reminder of his trust in her is timely brought— when she asks him to bow his head, that long-gestated giggle is given birth, and he titters out a mildly voiced, "OK." He squints one eye close to shut, canting his other eye upward toward her to try to peek while tipping his chin down toward his chest.

And thus Emmanuelle binds his eyes, not uncomfortably: she has a knack with knots. She's accustomed too to defeating attempts to peep. The scarf has cloth enough in it that Jehan-Pascal's lucky if, looking down, he can glimpse his own cheekbone, let alone what might be going on farther south. "Sometimes — but there are Mandrakes and Mandrakes, my dear," the erstwhile Dowayne informs him tenderly. "I did not usually attract those patrons with such simple tastes." There's a pause whilst she puts on another log — those sounds, familiar to anybody in this theme — and then her scent grows stronger and her hands find him again and resume the task of stripping him to his skin. She's efficient but not too hasty, sparing him a caress here and there with soft hands and pointed dark nails, offering him a shoulder upon which to rest his hand as she guides him to step out of his shoes and then the breeches she sends competently down to meet his ankles. She gets his doffed garments out of the way, draping them over the chair she lately vacated and lining up his shoes neatly beneath — she's a tidy person, at heart — and regards his nudity with a critical but not an unkind eye, naturally enjoying his present sightless and bare-skinned vulnerability to whatever whim might strike her.

Jehan-Pascal closes his eyes before the blindfold lands, maybe an instinctive flinch not to let the fabric touch his eyeballs or tug his long, pretty lashes into them. Either way, his eyes remain shut behind the blindfold— no effort made to cheat the fabric of it efficacy. "Oh, this is weird," he voices the first thought that comes to mind while standing awkwardly still, arms sort of held half-away from him, as if bracing against something bumping into him before she returns to him and gives him a sense of orientation again, lets him rest his hands upon the firm strength of her shoulders when she dips down and undoes his breeches keeps him from doing much more than a fawn-like totter when she helps him out of his shoes— he gives a little yelp at a momentary sensation like he might fall— but it's all illusory, no matter how it leaves him clinging to the tiger stripping him of his garb, those wondrous stockings which will love to be hung tidily to avoid wrinkles. nd now here he stands alone, again, turning timidly to orient himself with the sensation of the fire rising like dawn over his right flank, lighting him up like an old gothic painting. He's all lean proportions, a willowiness that accentuates the awkwardness of his stance, toes and knees pointed subtly inward, one heel lifted from the floor as he turns. "Are you still there?" he asks, somewhat plaintive, a lost calf lowing for mother.

A low, dark chuckle at Jehan-Pascal's expense confirms that Emmanuelle is indeed among those present. A door opens, a door closes, there's a soft sighing sound. "I am here. Now, lift your arms," she directs him, patiently, "toward the sound of my voice…"

(fade to black)

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