(1310-11-08) Pirates, Assassins and Bandits
Summary: Augustin de Trevalion looks in on his friend and occasional bedmate, Isabelle de Valais, a few days after her return from a harrowing ordeal in the seas. She in turn presents him with the finalized product of the design project they've worked on together in the last summer.
RL Date: 11/08/2018
Related: Kusheline Snakepit Logs and The Devil In Her Eyes
isabelle augustin 

Loft Salon - Courtly Couture

While the downstairs looks like a gleaming white gallery in which fabric functions as paint, the upstairs of Courtly Couture is dominated by Isabelle's personal office and salon, and it has been designed to look like a lavish sitting room and study. Hardwood floors of a rich, dark color have been installed throughout and decorated with fine rugs, and set with a stone fireplace that pumps heat through the entire building for the comfort of the owner and her staff in Eisande's colder months. The actual sitting area is tastefully furnished with plush furniture and mirrors and towards the windows overlooking Market Promenade and Marsilikos' cityscape is a large mahogany desk, arranged with parchment, writing tools and a few books.

There are shelves everywhere and books in various subjects could be found within them, mostly about art and color theory, but others such as treatises on other countries and cultures find a comfortable home with the rest. The large windows are framed with layered drapery, from translucent to full block-out curtains depending on the owner's mood. A large, comfortable chair is placed behind the desk as well as a small bar on the far side, set with various bottles of wine and liquor, and gleaming with crystal decanters. Framed maps and group portraits and sketches fill the walls of the space - things that do not just chart Isabelle's travels, but also the people who have become longtime patrons. Some of these faces are familiar, for those who have traveled themselves - most of her patrons overseas make up the nobility and aristocratic elite of other countries.

It says something that despite the hour - well past the average time for supper - Courtly Couture is still entertaining patrons, and even with additional staff mobilized. While not as busy as the rest of the entire day, the fact that the salon is still open despite the adjacent businesses having shut down speaks to the fact that Isabelle de Valais' venture is experiencing its busiest times of the year. The Longest Night is upon them, and despite festivities scheduled well in the middle of December, preparations in November, well over a month before, is usually considered to be last minute.

Marshaling her troops, in the middle of this hurricane, is a surprisingly intact Isabelle, who shows no sign of being all too affected by the pirate attack that was said to have nearly claimed her life, and certainly the lives sharing the boat with her. The tall, slender woman is clad in her preferred business attire: snug riding breeches tucked into over-the-knee boots with heels thin enough to puncture an artery, a corset cinched over a tailored silk blouse that drops off the shoulders, and with three-quarters sleeves bound by ribbons. She wears a separated collar, much like a choker fashioned from fabric, with lace hemming and an attached accessory don in black, pulling down to her exposed collarbones in a 'V', and set with a single white gold setting laden on with a large, polished garnet.

She is shown another book, the woman squinting at the recommendations and fabric swatches attached to the page. "She wants what? No, no no, I don't think so," she tells her attendant. "Really, if she was going to push for velvet everything, she should have commissioned a different couturiere! You may tell the lady I am exercising my superior judgment - I'm certainly not going to put my name on the monstrosity she wants concocted."

A pause: "…but a little more diplomatic than that, if you will, Collette."

With Collette moving away, Isabelle exhales a breath, closing her eyes and rubbing her thumb and index over her lids. She looks exhausted, but that isn't all surprising, either.

The hour doesn't seem to effect Augustin de Trevalion too much; but then again he pretty much looks like the same unflappable man every time she has seen him. Perhaps he is dressed up a little bit tonight — his doublet and coat are a finer fabric and cut, his boots more polished, although the same functional sword — or perhaps he came from a function. He walks in with an amused smile on his face as he takes in the controlled chaos. "You know," he offers wryly, "Perhaps things would not be so hectic if you did not disappear in the dead of night for weeks at a time. I'm given to understand the baker is pretty much…at the bakery all the time." His words are teasing, to match his tone; he is not mad or even annoyed, but he is not going to miss an opportunity to poke her. "Fewer pirates as well, I assume, although I do not claim to be an expert."

His familiar voice has her pivoting around on one of those dangerous thin heels, dark-and-gold eyes brimming with surprise at finding the famous swordsman at the threshold of her headquarters. Staring at him for a moment, somewhat uncomprehendingly, Isabelle's lips lift into a grin, waving away the next attendant attempting to catch her attention. She imparts a few words to her staff, before she turns completely to walk towards where the man stands. "I don't know what you're talking about," she banters with that light and languid tone. "First of all, I left Marsilikos at daylight, for all the port district to see. Though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to hear Miss Audrialla also keeps late hours, as I'm convinced she keeps the entire Market Promenade fed at all hours, day and night. But yes. Fewer pirates, thank Elua. If I never have to look at another greasy, pock-faced sea-criminal ever again, I would consider it a blessing."

She considers his attire with a critical eye, though it doesn't last. Her expression is an approving one. "Either I'm infecting you with my influence or someone has dressed you," she remarks. "And if the latter, clearly I have a style competition somewhere. Where does she live? Or he live?" Her expression is so innocent, every court in the world, in any country, would convict her on the spot. "You know, in the event that I would like to introduce myself?"

After a moment, her smile gentles. "It's good to see you, Augustin. Though you can't have come at a better time, I was just reminded that I have something for you." And with that, she beckons him to follow her up the stairs.

Augustin leans against the doorframe as he waits for her to walk over, although he does so in a way that lets the door close because he isn't a complete barbarian, and his smirk is unchanged. "I didn't know the pirates had wounded you in your ability to identify metaphors, Isabelle; that seems awfully precise of them," he offers in return to her comment about daylight. "I'll confess to not actually knowing what schedule she keeps, however, but I'm also not surprised you would be on a first name basis with the baker and be able to call me on my horse shit there." He shakes his head. "No, pirates and sailors aren't known for their cleanliness, and you do much better in port. Just…across the board."

He glances down at his clothing, and then back up. "You know I have attended the courts of…five different sovereign duchies, four foreign Kingdoms, three Caerdicci city states, and personally waited on the Crown of Terre d'Ange," he points out wryly. "I have been known to dress myself nicely on occasion, even if I am somewhat less concerned about being a peacock than most of the nobility at court."

And at her final words, his smile broadens to match hers. "It's good to see you as well. I hope the time is not just good because you have presumably a sheath to show me," he comments in amusement.

His returned salvo, from piratical metaphors to his own remarks about clothing, has Isabelle grinning at him cheekily, broad enough to chase an errant dimple into visibility. "Ah, I did miss you, Augustin," she says with a laugh, leading the way up the steps and into the private salon situated on the second floor, and one that overlooks the main floor - fitting for the empress of this domain to high fashion. "You and your tendency to skewer me when I'm feeling particularly ridiculous. Was it surprising, for me to take the credit for your very hard work?" She flashes him a wink at that. "You look marvelous. And as for my new pirate friends, even if they weren't precise in that context, they were certainly precise with their shots when we encountered them off Kriti. They dismasted the vessel I was in, the main falling crosswise across the quarterdeck and the sails slopping right into the water. While I don't know much about the intricacies of seafaring, I'm relatively sure that we were crippled. Were it not for The Dancer's talented crew, this story would be turning out rather differently…Captain Lesse is a certainly formidable woman, she was determined to go down with her vessel."

After a pause: "A very formidable, very irritated woman after what happened to her ship, and understandably so."

Entering the room, she makes a beeline for the bar situated on one side of the massive desk positioned before large windows turned towards floor-to-ceiling views of the Market Promenade and the port. "As for the sheath, well, yes." Mischievous eyes lift to meet his from across the room. "I meant to actually see you before I left, to present you the first one off the line, but we tried to beat the weather and as you can probably anticipate, once we were in open water, it was downright abysmal. But Kriti is beautiful this time of year, I had to attend an annual meeting with my suppliers in the other side of the Mediterranean. Brandy?"

Augustin moves to follow her as she guides him upstairs, and grins a little bit. "Mmm, no one else tends to call the surprisingly over-armed woman on her jaunts into teasing and bravado?" He snorts. "People have been taking credit for my hard work my whole life, it's nice to be able to push back. And yes…pirates tend to be determined. I've been there." He nods at the description. "Yes, that is…quite a disabled vessel. I assume that Captain Lesse has has been compensated?" He grins at the mischief in her eyes. "Oh, I understand. Missions happen when they happen; I've been dragged away in the dead of night plenty of times. And I would love one."

"Not many," Isabelle tells him with a laugh, pouring two snifters of brandy and gesturing for him to sit on one of the couches dominating the center of the room. "The art of good-natured crap-slinging, as you know, is relatively lost among gentle company. I would like to believe this is one of the may reasons why we get along so well." Amusement tilts the line of her mouth upwards. "You never let me get away with anything, and vice-versa."

The couches and cushions ring around a raised dais, as if a stage - perhaps for fittings where she could oversee final adjustments. And once she hands Augustin his snifter, she moves so she could pick up a long box waiting for her at the top of her fireplace's mantlepiece, lit to warm her private salon…and the rest of Courtly Couture. When she joins him, she sits next to him, the box turned crosswise on her lap.

"Captain Lesse has been compensated - their efforts managed to seize another ship, as well as sink another one. The captured pirates were bountied, and since I'm never one to let a good deed go unrewarded, especially when it involves saving my skin, I made my own contributions. The woman has been known to my family for years. She has ferried my uncle and father across the waters, as well as myself a few times, when I was mostly living abroad. As a result, I've known her and her former first mate, Alcibiades Rousse, off and on for quite some time." She presents the box to Augustin. "Voila."

Mention of missions has her turning her eyes towards him with interest. "Really? Midnight duels and the like?" she wonders, taking a sip of her brandy. "I believe I remember you mentioning to me once before how terrible La Serenissima was for you. If only mine were so exciting and not just endless battles with stingy accountants."

Augustin reaches out to take one of the snifters, and moves to sit down on the couch as gestured to. He watches as she returns with the box, and continues the story. "As much as I may not have wanted to be a sailor myself, I am glad when the good ones are rewarded," he explains. "Ah, interesting. He shares the name of a famous Hellenic Admiral, after whom I imagine he is named, from the city state of Athens," he offers amiably as he reaches out to take the box and open it. "Oh yours seem to have plenty of excitement. And yes, sometimes people manage to annoy one another even at midnight."

<FS3> Isabelle rolls History: Failure. (6 1 5 3 3)

"I think one of the very first questions I asked you was whether you decided not to become a navy man out of youthful rebellion towards your father, the Royal Lord Admiral," Isabelle remarks in reminiscence, leaning against the couch's backrest and crossing a long leg by the knee, tilting it towards his direction, her eyes finding his handsome profile. "But then again I suspect that if you had divided your discipline between the sea and the sword, you wouldn't be a master at either." Her smile lifts higher, subtle affection imbued on the pliant line. "Perhaps it's bias from a friend and lady who thinks naught but the best of you, but I think the world needs your hands upon a blade, Augustin."

He opens the box and there it is - his longsword, loaned for the purposes of testing her design prototypes and now encased in the final product. As discussed, it comes with a weapons belt specifically designed for it, adjustable with polished links made of reinforced steel. There is more structure to it than a regular leather scabbard, but should he try it, the blade has very little friction when he draws it out; in fact, there is barely any, meant to erase the pressure of withdrawal and attacking in a single stroke. It is treated with a black so dark it soaks up the light in the room, and lets its sparse metallic embellishments gleam all the more. Simple, yes, but elegant in an understated and masculine way.

With the root of Alcibiades' name revealed, Isabelle's dark eyes lift upwards, surprised. "I didn't know that actually," she says. "But I suppose you'd have a better head for military history than I. It suits him…he tends to flounder on land, but he's downright formidable at sea." There is an undeniable note of admiration there, unbridled affection…and no small measure, perhaps, of frustration in equal parts.

Recalling her recent adventure, she can't help but grin. "Well, I thought to myself once I was leaving for Kriti how grand it would be to find another bit of adventure under my belt. It seems that this time I received much more than I bargained for. Perhaps the next time I go off on a seemingly boring escapade, I ought to take you as well. Maybe instead of pirates, it'll be assassins, out to slay me for being a ruthless negotiator."

"You did. And it was," Augustin offers wryly, shrugging. "And then it was young adultly rebellion, and remains adultly rebellion. And yes, I have mastered a few skills, all of them related to fighting; I think some of what holds others back is they have other skills. Of course that also means that they have other marketable skills besides killing people, so they may have been right in some ways as well." He snorts. "The world needs diplomats, and people who can help us make smart decisions. Rarely can the world be improved by killing people. Not never," he admits, "But more rarely than we think."

He reaches in to the box and draws out the belt and the scabbard, running his hands over it. "Interesting," he offers as he investigates it. He reaches to transfer his sword from his traditional scabbard to the new one, giving a satisfied nod at the fit. "Well, and it is within my wheelhouse. My father had a whole library of naval texts, and some of it rubbed off." He chuckles. "The difference between a pirate and an assassin is setting; assassins are urban, bandits are rural, and pirates are nautical. Yes, if you need help next time, let me know."

His cynicism regarding the bloodshed often required in his own work is evident in his first set of remarks, and Isabelle lets her eyes drift to her brandy, examining its deep amber color. "And here I am, an artist with the occasional fondness for travel and target practice for sport. How will I ever keep up with the rest of you fighting men?" Her humor there is self-deprecating, before she takes another healthy swallow of her drink. "If only we can get away with not ever finding bloodshed a necessity," she remarks absently as she watches alcohol swirl in her glass, though it's a moment until her attention tilts back towards him. "You've certainly attempted to negotiate those competing interests, if I recall, by putting yourself in a position to protect said ambassadors and diplomats." These conversations have occurred months past, but the couturiere-adventuress still remembers them.

The clever observation about the differences between criminals has her appreciative grin returning. "I'm stealing that," she warns. "With all due credit to you, of course. You are as always ever obliging. But…" And here, she lifts an index finger, poking his shoulder. "If it does turn out to be a boring business trip, I hope you won't be disappointed. Really, in all seriousness, what are the odds of repeat occurrence? Then again, I heard piracy has been on the rise for a while. Banditry also."

Augustin chuckles. "Here is the good news; most bandits or pirates will generally not have spent their lives studying the blade. They're opportunists, for the most part, generally better at knifing in the back," he points out. "I have done my best, and there are things I'm proud of, but there is a whole world I hope exists beyond the need for violence; although I don't expect to see it on this side of the true Terre d'Ange beyond." He laughs as he is poked in the shoulder. "I wouldn't mind going on a boring trip honestly. It just never seems to happen."

"Save for Cyriel de Charlot, sometimes I wonder if you ever did come across other blademasters in your past assignments," Isabelle muses. "Other than the ones referenced in that famous nine duels song in which you're so prominently featured." There's a teasing smile eased his way, knowing very well that he can't help but groan every time it's mentioned. "Or if you've ever had to fight off an assassin as equally skilled as you. Not that I wouldn't bet on you every time, and twice on a Sunday."

She takes another pull of her brandy, and laughs. "Well I would mind," she tells him. "You know very well of my tendency to get into trouble when I'm bored or idle. I try to shoot at giant wolves, or bet irresponsibly on a competition's underdog. And could you imagine? We've often talked about how we spend time with one another because we find each other interesting, imagine if we were ever in a boring excursion together. Our grand connection, abruptly annulled!" She presses her hand to her heart dramatically.

"Then again, after your last summer in La Serenissima, I can't blame you." She reaches out to take the empty box, and sets it on the low coffee table. "Though if you were looking into me to make sure that I'm not terribly injured, I hope I've put whatever concerns there are to rest. I'm no master duelist, but it'll take more than nautical opportunists to kill me."

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