(1310-11-11) Triple Or Quits
Summary: At the recommendation of his friend, the future duchesse de Roussillion, Symon Perigeux finds himself at Isabelle de Valais' very busy doorstep. The newly-minted Captain Alcibiades Rousse comes to call and what happens is what is expected when three gamblers are in the same room together.
RL Date: 11/11/2018
Related: None
isabelle alcibiades symon 

Courtly Couture

Under Isabelle de Valais' ownership, what was once a humble tailor's storefront has been transformed into a temple of high fashion; wooden foundations and walls have been removed and replaced by whitewashed stone. While the tall windows of the original construct have been kept and added upon, the final effects are spectacular - the interior has been inlaid with white marble embellished now and then with veins of different shades of blue, with sturdy stone pillars and beams to support the second floor and all chiseled with geometric designs at the top and bottom. The massive space has been segregated in different sections by the careful layout of tasteful furniture and rugs - all in either black or neutral shades so as not to detract from the myriad of colors on display.

And there is plenty of color - all the basic hues and the hundreds of shades in between; if it exists, Isabelle has managed to find it. Catching the eye upon entering are five beautiful gowns and three ensembles - jackets, trousers and boots for men fitted upon tailor dummies and placed in different sides of the room, each demonstrating different cuts, styles and embroidered patterns, fresh twists incorporated in D'Angeline classics; from plunging necklines, to the square and classic, these are creations that have been made for the elite abroad and the further one goes inside the store, the more variations can be found to reflect the genius fashion designer's travels abroad - silk robes inspired by Eastern fashions, veils and scarves inspired by Akkadian dancers, loose, comfortable drapery and airy confections that call on images from distant Hellas, Courtly Couture isn't just a store, but an actual art gallery of the owner's work.

Further along the main hall are display racks for the actual merchandise for both men and women; tasteful white drawers and glass cases keep dust from the stock, and all filled with beautiful things. Books that showcase fabric swatches, ribbons, leather and lace, catalogued by shade, type and region are displayed on mounted shelves, framing racks full of shirts, skirts, breeches and dresses. Another section is dedicated to an expansive lingerie collection ranging from the demure to the absolutely risque - lace, satin, silk, Menekhetan cotton and leather are all present here. There are two private viewing rooms here, one as pristine white as the rest of the first floor, while the other is painted entirely black. Both are situated with large mirrors and plush seating.

There is plenty of help. Visible staff are all dressed in crisp, black-and-white uniforms and managed by the former owner and her apprentice. At the back is a winding flight of stairs leading to the second floor, where Isabelle's private office and consultation room is located.

In the midst of preparations for the Longest Night, Courtly Couture, tremendously busy in the off seasons, is even moreso now.

Isabelle's very professional staff, donned in crisp, black-and-white livery to match the decor, are all milling about assisting other customers by the time Symon Perigeux arrives, and at the very back, a hive of activity can be glimpsed here and there, shuffling through the corridors; bolts of silk, chiffon, organza and damask, leather, fine wool, cashmere and others are being carried by delivery men who never linger in the main floor, simply vanishing behind like harried spirits. The din of chatter is muted, but carries the flavor of hundreds of conversations at once. The business that once started life as a humble seamstress' shop has blossomed into a gleaming temple devoted to high fashion, rendered all the more bright at the acquisition of several important local patrons, the most important of these being House Mereliot.

In the heart of the hubbub, always, is the woman herself, the extremely fashionable but exceedingly particular general of this army of designers, tailors and couturieres, dressed in her typical manner whenever she is engaged in business - black breeches that fit snugly, tucked into boots that go over the knee and with tall heels so thin, they're like weapons, and a white silk blouse pulled off both shoulders to show off her elegant lines and flawless, lightly sun-kissed skin, puffy on the upper arms and bound just above the elbow by colorful ribbons, leaving the ends crimped and ruffled and showcase the impossibly detailed lace that line the edges. This, in turn, is tucked into a corset dyed a deep violet embroidered with silver, emphasizing a narrow waist and the flare of her hips. The lack of a collar is compensated for by a black cage set with geometric links and inlaid with perfectly spherical pearls that taper to a point just between the sensitive dip of her collarbones, holding a larger amethyst within its white gold setting.

She is as tall as the average man, though her frame makes her femininity obvious enough, and accentuated by what she wears, dark-haired and dark-eyed, each iris speckled with golden motes. By the look of her, it is apparent that her heritage is mixed; her profile is painfully d'Angeline, but her coloring makes such fragilities somewhat more robust when it favors the warmer hues of Aragonia's royal house. She is presently looking over a book that the head of her execution team, Collette, is showing her, stylus in hand, making her own notes in the margins before sending her away.

"Your coat, my lord?" asks an attendant, already by Symon's side once he crosses the threshold.

Symon wears a cream-colored cloak embroidered around the edges with crimson leaves. And this he surrenders with a smooth gesture to the man who offers to take it, eyes scanning the decor and wares all at once, an overwhelming amount of information to take in. Underneath the cloak, he is styled with care and attention, though perhaps not genius. He at last turns his head to look at the attendant. "Is that her?" he asks, looking now to the Isabelle he has heard of. "How long do I have to w…wait to see her?"

"That is indeed Lady Isabelle de Valais," the attendant replies dutifully, a young man no more than sixteen years of age. "May I ask for your name, my lord? In the meanwhile, is there anything I can have fetched for you? Libations and other refreshments are customary for current and prospective patrons."

Symon smiles at the attendant. "Of course you m…may. I am Symon de P-Perigeux. And I am so glad to hear you say you have refreshments. A glass of w…wine," he requests, gaze returning to watch the owner of the shop at work. He squints curiously.

"Of course, my lord, please have a seat." The attendant beckons another valet, who moves to fetch Simon's wine. "I shall return to you shortly." With that, the young man gives Simon a flourishing bow, before he makes a beeline straight to Isabelle, who tilts her head in his direction, but otherwise doesn't look at him while she looks through another book. Whatever he does say, however, seems to catch her attention, for those dark eagle eyes lift to lock straight into Symon's face.

The book handed off to Collette, the woman exchanges a few words with Symon's attendant, then pivots and takes brisk, long-legged strides towards the man's direction. Whatever airy d'Angeline grace her limited angelic blood would have given her is nonexistent, though neither does she prowl like most of the city's storied Mandrakes - it is the clip of a woman who always has an appointment, or some other productive task in mind, and sets about it immediately. But there is a smile, warm…and even impish when she greets Symon with a bow from the waist, as smooth and practiced as any male courtier's. It's not surprising, perhaps, that she tailors her mannerisms to what she wears.

"My lord, welcome to the frenetic heart of my burgeoning empire," she says. "I hope you'll forgive the hubbub, but it can't be helped. You've caught me in one of my busiest seasons. Shall we exit to quieter confines? I'll have your wine and whatever else you require sent up." With that, she gestures for him to follow, up the stairs towards the private salon there.

Symon relaxes comfortably in the seat he's led to, smiling once the lady he's come to see favors him with a look. "Hello," Symon returns in a tone just as warm as Isabelle's smile. He does get up, then, though he might not do so for an ordinary tailor, knowing that despite her profession (and breeches), Isabelle is indeed a lady. "It is terribly b…busy," he agrees. "I w…/would/ p-prefer a quieter space, thank you. As you m…might imagine, I find it difficult to have to repeat m…myself." He flashes teeth and follows readily in search of a less frantic atmosphere.

If Isabelle notices the stutter, or cares, one wouldn't know by the look of her. There's a commiserating incline of her head, before she leads the way up the stairs and into the warmer, cozier space of her loft salon, designed more for the comfort and ease of her more prestigious visitors than the gleaming marbled space underneath, it boasts an entire bible of the couturiere-adventuress' travels - maps on the walls, portraits with other esteemed personages from foreign courts, books on the shelves. The fireplace is lit, keeping the coming winter's chill away from her environs, leaving a warm glow within. The other thing of note is the massive wolf pelt that functions as a rug, a monstrously large creature with amberglass eyes, its jaws pointed straight for the door.

A young man is waiting for them already, blond and blue-eyed, who holds up a tray full of warm towels for Symon, scented with just a hint of rosewater.

"Please have a seat, my lord," Isabelle says, gesturing for the ring of sofas situated around a raised dais meant for fittings. "And you can tell me what brings you to my door today."

Symon seems charmed by the setting of the new chamber as the noise of the shop floor fades behind them. "Oh, how lovely," he says. "I w…was afraid I'd have to compete with the m…masses." He notes the attendant with the towels and accepts one, then helps himself to a seat, glancing down at the wolf rug. "Does that have a name?" he wonders, dabbing the towel at the line of his jaw and turning it over in his fingers. "I saw one of your w…works at a friend's house and I thought it was fetching," he says. "And that w…wasn't the first time I'd heard your name. So it has b-been my impression that you are the p-person I m…must go to if I want to b-be in any fashion at /all/ in M…Marsilikos. And I have the idea that no false m…modesty w-will greet that claim." He smiles, a frequent way of punctuating his remarks.

Does that have a name?

"Yes," Isabelle deadpans, regarding the wolf pelt with that easy, almost feline manner. "His name is Beef."

That, too, can't be helped, and he'd find the devil's own light dancing in those gold-chipped eyes when she regards him, crossing over so that she may take a seat next to him. Symon's earlier attendant soon makes his presence known again, bearing two glasses of a dark, full-bodied red. "Ah, lovely. You're in luck, my lord de Perigeux, for I believe this young man has deigned to open one of my new casks of Dragon's Blood from the Vicomtesse de Draguignan's heir." She lowers her voice, leaning in, as if imparting the man with a terrible secret. "Which I shamelessly won in a rousing game of cards. Do you gamble much, my lord? One of my many vices, I'm afraid. May I ask which friend has recommended me to you?"

The crystal goblets offered, she plucks them both off the platter, and offers one to Symon. "I can't help but thank my good fortune that the city has welcomed me back with open arms as it has. I lived most of my life abroad, hence, most of my design reputation was cultivated and nurtured abroad, in foreign courts. There are a few cultures…" And here, there's a bladed, but amused smile. "…who would ridicule our way of life, but I can assure you, my lord, that they can't get enough of our style."

"I like your attendants," Symon comments, bestowing an approving gaze upon this beautiful glass of red wine, which he lifts from the tray. Then his eyes find Isabelle again, leaning in eagerly to share this gossip. "I love to gamble," he says delightedly. "As does m-my dear friend Chimène Rousse de la Courcel, though I don't know w…whether you know her w…well enough to b-be aware." He sits back again, getting comfortable in the chair. "She w…was dressing and one of her m-maids p…passed through with a lovely robe of yours, and I thought I m…must come here to get my w…w…winter w-wardrobe, to be at the height of M…Marsilikan style. Marsilikan?" he repeats doubtfully, taking an immediate sip of wine to quell that doubt.

His dear friend.

There's a newfound glint of interest in Isabelle's eyes when Symon mentions his acquaintanceship with the future duchesse de Roussillion, leaning back against the couch. A long leg crosses over one knee, turning her body so that she may look upon the would-be marquis more directly. "Chimene's favorite sibling, Fleur, married my dear cousin Louis," she informs him. "She and I met at her wedding a few years ago, and we have been at each other's company ever since. One of the most beautiful creatures I've ever beheld, and as you must know, my lord, it is an incredible feat to even achieve such a designation from a land teeming with loveliness…well, everywhere. Gambling happens to be a vice I share with her, I would say the way to our friendship was liberally lubricated by incredible amounts of alcohol and affinity for risk. But if you do love gambling, I might have to introduce you to another who I deem to be an expert in the art." She flashes him a quick wink at that.

Taking a sip of her Dragon's Blood, she continues: "Of course, though I would have to inquire how big of a wardrobe this would be, and for what purposes. For casual occasions? All occasions? I must also ask…" And here, she lifts a finger. "Of your plans regarding the Longest Night - if you intend to be in the royal capital, we would certainly have to get started right away."

Meanwhile, a certain newcomer would find the two in her private salon, once Guillermo shows him up, the familiar figure of the lady de Valais and her guest - undoubtedly a prospective patron, but one with indirect ties to herself, as she just so happens to be presently discovering. Both are nursing glasses of a deep, full-bodied red wine in crystal glasses.

"W…which do you mean," Symon asks Isabelle, slouching even further back in the chair. "Chimene? Or Fleur?" He sips from the wine. "I assume you m…mean the former. And it's true," he agrees. "B-but b…by all m…means, introduce me to all the gamblers of your acquaintance, if they are good fun." His tongue sweeps back across the roof of his mouth. "That is good w…wine," he judges belatedly, but warmly. "I thought surely it w…would b-be too late to make anything for the Longest Night," he says, looking a big surprised that the possibility is even suggested. "Especially given the teeming custom downstairs. At the v…v…very least you must charge an extraordinary rush fee, hm?" he suspects, eyeing Isabelle appraisingly. "B-but I think there are a few things I'll b-be needing for the new season, either w…way. Casual, p-party, extravagant p-party, outerwear…"

"Chimene," Isabelle replies with a confident smile. "Though Fleur, as well, would be counted among those beautiful creatures I just mentioned, but there, I can profess just a hint of bias. I'm often fond of saying that Valais men…" And here, that smile lifts higher, but slowly, and paired with the lowering of her lashes, the look is almost dangerous. "…have impeccable tastes when it comes to their preferences amongst those of a female persuasion. My cousin Louis, Elua rest his soul, was no exception."

The timing is of course a concern, but sunkissed fingers lift, as if to physically wave it away. "I've been recruiting a bigger staff since the end of August for precisely this season, and most of my clients' designs for the Longest Night have already been finalized. There would be an extraordinary rush fee, but for Chimene, I could be persuaded to waive it, if that is something that you would like to consider. This would not be the first time I would be operating under a tight deadline, and if you would like, you can make it up to me by thinking of me by the time you start contemplating your summer wardrobe after I have delivered onto you your winter one."

Guillermo is always perfectly cordial to Alcibiades and, indeed, the tall Rousse officer spends a few moments with him before allowing himself to be escorted upstairs, attempting to inquire after the man's welfare. But soon enough, the elegant right-hand of Isabelle would have him up those stairs and entering the private salon.

Realizing that Isabelle is with a client, he hesitates in the doorway until Guillermo clears his throat softly, wordlessly suggesting that perhaps he might like to get back downstairs and attend to business, so if Alcibiades would just step into the room… He does so, and the door closes behind him.

Alcibiades pauses before making his leg, a somewhat more elegant bow now that he has been introduced to the high culture of Marsilikos and been given plenty of examples to imitate. "Forgive me for interrupting. Guillermo showed me up, my lady. My lord…" trailing off, Alcibiades assumes an expectant expression.

Symon smiles a little as he keeps his gaze on Isabelle over the rim of his glass. "If m…my w-winter w-wardrobe suits me," he says, "Then I would order summer clothes straightaway. I am known for being exceedingly loyal to m…my tailors. They are more important than advisors." To Symon, anyway. His gaze is drawn off toward Alcibiades. "Oh," he says. "Hello. Symon de P…Perigeux," he says smoothly, to save Isabelle the trouble, perhaps.

Dark eyes lift with a start, fixing on the tall, broad-shouldered man who has been shown up her salon. "Captain," Isabelle greets, that glimmer of mischief growing more visible as she regards him. "I believe congratulations are in order." She leans towards Symon. "My lord, may I present Alcibiades Rousse, captain and master of The Myrmidon, who I believe just received special dispensation from Her Grace, the Duchesse, to eradicate the pirate vermin off our waters. He is also the gambler I was just speaking of a few minutes ago, and he is also a cousin of our mutual friend, Chimene. Captain…" She gestures to the man sitting by her. "This is the future Marquis de Perigeux, of Siovale. Please, do join us." She pats the cushion other side of her. "Gustave." She addresses the blond page boy with the towels. "Would you fetch the captain a glass of the Dragon's Blood as well? He was present when I won the casks, after all. He should be allowed to partake, if not just to consider it a gauntlet thrown to do his level best to triumph over me the next time I face him across emerald felt."

Turning back to Symon, she smiles. "Then I'll get to work immediately, I would say one ensemble for every occasion you just enumerated." She leans back to regard the man, critical assessment present in those eyes. "Blue, I think…green, and any shade of gray would suit you as well. I'll be pairing the more vibrant shades with neutral colors, but unless you ask it of me, I don't believe I'll be incorporating any lace."

"My Lord de Perigeux. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Alcibiades bows deeply in Symon's direction before smiling at Gustave as the young man makes his way toward the wine. Alcibiades pads toward the cushion, settling down onto it. It takes a bit of doing — he's careful not to sit on the tails of his coat, which is almost certainly a product of Isabelle's craftsmanship. "Thank you, my lady, for your congratulations." Alcibiades's smile grows wider, more cat-like. "As for gambling…"

He looks over to Symon, including him in a broad wink. "Lady de Valais may have won the battle, my lord, but she did not win the war." Reaching into his pocket, he produces a small deck of cards. "In fact… that is why I decided to visit. Do you enjoy cards, my lord?"

Symon's eyes round a bit with interested surprise as he looks from Isabelle to Alcibiades. "Oh," he says. "I've heard of you. P-pirate hunting sounds extremely exciting." He leans forward. "And a gambler. W-well, I'm afraid we m…/must/ be friends," he insists. "Come, help lend your sense of excitement to m…my b-bourgeoning wardrobe." Then to Isabelle, he nods. "No, I've never favored lace. It's often itchy, isn't it. All those little holes and threads. B-but yes, I do like green. I've b…been on the w-warmer colors lately, b…but I w-wouldn't m…mind a change for w-winter." And to the pirate hunter: "W…what do you think?" He lifts his glass to salute Alcibiades. "I adore cards," he confesses with great enthusiasm.

"I assure you, Captain, that my courage only rises with every attempt to intimidate," Isabelle tells Alcibiades gamely, throwing him an arch, but humored look over the rim of her crystal glass, lips pressing faintly on the edge before she takes a sip from it. There is a subtle hint of satisfaction at seeing both men interact, however, clearly a woman who enjoys making introductions as well as observing what comes from it. To the former: "What ever could you mean? That you decided to visit because of cards or because you're determined to be the victor?"

No lace. There is palpable relief there. "If I had it my way, I'd be phasing it out of men's fashions entirely, and adopting clever embroidery instead. Geometric patterns, mandalas. Especially with metallic threads against dark fabric, the effect is rather sharp, elegant…and unique. Perhaps I shall try it in a few of the coats I intend to design for you, my lord. As for warmer colors, yes, as well as you should. We are technically in the Fall season still, and now is the time for the dark reds…burgundy, in particular. But for the winter? Blues and grays, blacks and silvers. White, as well, but that would depend entirely on the occasion and the coloring. I would not…" Her amusement returns. "Dress you like a groomsman, until your wedding day, that is."

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Gambling: Success. (4 5 5 3 7 4 6 6 2 6)

Alcibiades begins to shuffle the deck of cards, glossy laminated kings and queens flashing in and out of view. "We certainly must be friends, My Lord," the sea captain says equably. "If for no other reason than you have the courage to ask me for fashion advice. I rely entirely upon this one…" A nudge of one elbow against Isabelle's, smiling at her, his eyes flicking up from the deck of cards to meet hers, "…To tell me how best to dress myself. Were it up to me, my clothing would be tar-stained and worn at the elbows. But I've been informed that it is not an acceptable wardrobe."

He considers for a moment, looking from the glass of wine brought to him — and laying his deck of cards in the center of the trio — to Symon. "I believe crimson might suit you, My Lord, if you truly trust my tastes. And as for excitement at sea… well, yes, those moments when one actually finds a pirate can be frightfully exciting." He winks. "But there is a lot of water, and not a lot of pirates."

Looking fully into Isabelle's face, he says "My lady, I came because I cannot stand to not be the victor." He smiles crookedly, gaze flitting up and down her for a moment in good-humored jest. "Or at least, I cannot stand to lose without being soundly beaten."

"I m…much admire the sailors of M-Marsilikos," Symon replies to Alcibiades. "Sailors m-must see any number of m…miraculous things on the seas, m-mustn't they?" He looks to Isabelle. "I absolutely love embroidery," he agrees. "And I shall trust to your taste to choose colors. You have given m-me no reason to doubt you so far."

"He needed the help," Isabelle murmurs; a clear aside and easily bringing Symon into their shared camaraderie. "I can't even begin to describe to you how he was when he first came to my door. Like a lost lamb in need of guidance. Who am I to refuse such eyes?" She flutters her lashes at Alcibiades, her mischief plain and visible on her well-formed mien - she is clearly slinging crap in his direction, and with a new acquaintance witnessing besides, and she is not at all apologetic for it.

Gustave returns, with a crystal glass full of dark red Dragon's Blood for Alcibiades. This, he offers to the shuffling man.

"I will leave the tales of daring nautical derring-do to the captain here," she says with a laugh. "And I will get to work on your wardrobe right away. In the next few days, I will be offering you a portfolio of designs, and with color recommendations, as well as swatches of fabric samples. We can discuss it wherever and whenever you'd like, once it is completed. A luncheon, perhaps, or dinner? Or perhaps a private room in La Glycine's gambling hall where we can discuss business over a few games of risk? You might even persuade me to gamble away whatever profits I might get out of you. Whatever you prefer, my lord…we can make an evening of it. There is no rule that states that transactions can't be enjoyable."

Her eyes shift to meet Alcibiades' stare, her head tipping back, a stray tress curling on one cheek. "Well, if it's a whalloping you've come for," she tells him, all bluster and bravado. "You've come to the right lady. I accept."

Alcibiades widens his eyes and prods out his lower lip in answer to Isabelle's teasing, transforming his angular features into a pouty, lost, expression. "Ah yes," he tells Symon easily, "On land, I am afraid that I am completely helpless. I must accept guidance in all things, really. The captain of my Marines, Jaime, believes that I must be led about by the hand. Sometimes literally."

"I would love, My Lord, to regale you with tales of some of the things I have seen. But do not let our dear Isabelle fool you… She herself was present at my last engagement." He raises a brow in Isabelle's direction, accepting the wine from Gustave and taking a sip. Its absolute excellence doesn't appear to occur to him, this man who is far more used to middling brandy. But its strength does impress the man, and he eyes the wine with considerable respect.

Setting the wine down, he picks up the deck of cards. "My lady de Valais asks for a whalloping, my lord. You witnessed it." He begins to deal, flicking a card to Symon, then to Isabelle, then to himself. "One hand, one discard to improve your hand. We seek pairs, three of a kind, or better." His voice is almost singsong. "What shall we wager?"

<FS3> Symon rolls Gambling: Good Success. (7 1 7 3 8 1)

"Oh, how excellent that all sounds," Symon replies to Isabelle, enchanted by the idea of being able to do the hard work of wardrobe negotiations over a diverting game of dice. "You /are/ just the tailor for m-me, I can feel it." He certainly doesn't seem to be able to maintain the cagey spirit of tense negotiations for very long. He reaches to pick up the cards he is dealt, eyes flicking from one fascinating new acquaintance to the next. "Yes, I stand as w…witness," he says mirthfully.

"Perfect. Give me a week, my lord, and we can flog both our chamberlains to find us an appropriate hour in which to gather," Isabelle tells Symon with a smile. "Though I would be remiss if I didn't laud the talents of my execution team - I design, yes, but I am no master seamstress, though I am familiar enough with the discipline to ape it. Such an accolade belongs to Collette. I am the mind and the imagination, she is the pair of hands which brings them to life and tangible color. I'm afraid that if I had to do the manual labor as well that I would get absolutely nothing done."

She takes her hand, and purses her lips at the suits collected within her grasp, leaning back against her seat to hide them from her companions. The question from the captain has her giving him a sidelong glance. "I was. A harrowing experience, my lord de Perigeux. And while I would love to say that the man has saved my life, and the lives of others, I'm afraid that singing his praises to anyone would listen might give him too much of an advantage over me, when I'm so inclined to ensure that he doesn't triumph in our preferred battlefield." She is clearly jesting, by the brilliant smile she showers upon them both.

"But since I set the wager before, captain, I believe it is your turn to propose one, with my lord Symon here witnessing." And another aside to the latter, whispering as if in grave confession. "You'll discover, my future marquis, very shortly, that I can't resist living dangerously."

"I don't know my chamberlain well enough to flog him yet," Symon jokes. "B-besides, only he knows w…where all the keys are." He looks between tailor and sailor. "On his b-boat, were you?" he asks. But then: "I cannot /imagine/ coming face to face with a p…pirate. /Really/."

"I had help," Alcibiades mutters. And he seems a touch embarrassed at the not-praise Isabelle offers in the case of his sea-battle with the two pirate ships. Clearing his throat to change the subject, he continues "A wager — of my choosing. Well, well. It's a dangerous game that we play now." The quasi-Rousse looks from Symon to Isabelle, sea-blue eyes glittering as he considers.

"Alright. Let's make things interesting. Symon — my lord, that is — as our witness…" He smiles lopsidedly. "If I lose, I shall offer myself as Lady de Valais' personal servant for the day. If she loses… she shall do the same."

At Symon's mention of pirates, there's a subtle shift on the man's face. Some of his good humor fades to be replaced with a steely sort of certainty. "They're usually rather smelly, My Lord. Just thieves of the sea."

It is here that Isabelle laughs appreciatively when Symon quips about his chamberlain and his ring of many keys. "Then you'll have to find one by proxy," she jests in turn, leaning her shoulder to nudge against the Perigeux lord's. "His former boat, as it were, dismasted in the middle of the water, crippled and unable to bring us to safety. Captain Rousse had no choice but to take the pirate ship that was already attacking us, and turn it around to defend us from yet another that smelled blood in the water, and came to doom us. All in the middle of a squall."

Though the wager does become dangerous indeed, and her hand flies up to the middle of her chest, lips parted in an exaggerated gasp. "How dare you, Captain Rousse!" she breathes. "To think me, the niece of the formidable Comte de Digne, subjecting myself to that, even for a day?" Pause. Beat. "Challenge accepted." And with that, she drops the cards she means to discard in flourish, and takes two from the top.

At the man's assessment of pirates, there's a cant of her head there, and then her attention roams back to Symon. "A good friend of mine did tell me just a few days ago that the difference between brigands is all about geography," she remarks, taking a sip of her Dragon's Blood. "Assassins are urban, bandits are rural, and pirates are nautical."

"Goodness," Symon says at this wager. "Is it w…worse to b-be a servant in a shot as b-busy as this or on a ship? Either w…would surely be more than I could b…bear." He pauses to listen, engrossed, to Isabelle's exciting tale. It is evident that he pictures every scrap of it in great detail. "I cannot imagine!" he cries. "I'd b-be b…beside myself! However did you survive?" He hardly has any attention left for his cards, which he occasionally brings up in a fan close to his face, alternating that with his wine glass, getting close to empty now. Then he looks to Alcibiades. "I don't think I've ever encountered a single one."

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Gambling: Great Success. (4 2 5 7 1 7 8 7 2 8)

"Isabelle's friend speaks truly," Alcibiades says as he lays down a single card for himself and then deals out the fresh cards to Symon, Isabelle, and finally himself. "Thieves are thieves. I think, however, pirates are the worst. Brigands usually leave you alive, and thieves are interested only in taking your purse or your furniture or the like. Pirates often slaughter those who resist, as an object lesson in fear." He seems to realize, suddenly, that the topic has gotten dark. Looking at Symon, he says — with a lighthearted smile that appears only somewhat forced — "We survived because my crew, my lord, are the finest salts to ever plough the ocean's waves. They did all I could ask of them and more. When we took The Ariadne, they ran straight to their guns and to the rigging and sailed her hull-on to meet our new foe, and sunk her before she could ever fire a shot."

And then, picking up his cards, he says pleasantly. "Ah. And here we find the answer to your question, my lord. What could possibly be worse?" With deliberate patience, Alcibiades lays down his cards. A queen. A second queen. A third queen. An ace. An ace. "Isabelle, I think I shall require more wine."

"Blast it!" Isabelle throws down her hand, not even bothering to turn it over for anyone else to see, groaning in a good-natured way as she tilts back against the couch. "The agony of defeat! And look, my lord, how uncharitable when he doesn't even give me a day to prepare. Not a single thought…" And she shoots a look towards the captain. "To the concept of delayed gratification."

But she's all smiles, taking another sip of her glass before rising to pluck the man's crystal goblet off the table. "But as my lord captain commands," she says, with a flourished bow from the waist, free hand extended outward, before moving with her long-legged stride to the bar situated close to the massive desk on the other side of the room, before floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Market Promenade, and a clear view of the port beyond. In the interim, she lets both men trade stories and exclamations as she plucks a bottle from the array.

Symon is glad to come in somewhere in the middle, so there's at least no question of his being /anyone/'s servant. "B-but does that m…mean you only need to serve the rest of today?" he wonders, draining his own glass. "So," he says. "The two of you m-must…know one another well."

"I know her well enough to know, my lord, that very soon she shall offer me double or quits." Alcibiades beams over at Isabelle as she pours, then winks to Symon. Leaning forward, he adds "And that I could never ask her to actually serve aboard Myrmidon. Imagine the state of her poor hands after a day hauling lines. She would never work in her preferred trade again." Ah, so. This immediate gratification is a strange species of kindness, then? Doubtful.

"Would you care to tour my ship sometime, my lord?" The offer is perfectly friendly, but there's a hint of pride as well. "I can never quite make my brother understand just what a ship is to a seaman. To a captain, inviting a friend aboard is much the same as introducing someone to a beloved consort for the first time. Any woman in my life must, I fear, come to terms with Myrmidon as a rival."

"I shall never forgive you if you interfere in the delivery of m-my w…winter w-wardrobe," Symon tells Alcibiades, which is surely of great consequence to the sailor who only just met him. He looks surprised to be invited aboard the ship. "You w…wouldn't mind m-my p-poking around?" he wonders. "I'd b-be fascinated to see it."

She returns with another bottle - not the Dragon's Blood, but another vintage; sweeter and lighter, hailing from the storied vineyards of Namarre. This, she pours into Alcibiades' glass, and also for Symon once his own first cup has been drained. Setting it carefully on the table before them, she takes a seat in between the two men, having reappeared in their presence quickly enough that she catches the captain's remarks, and the future marquis' questions. She stares at the displaced lord dead in the eye, fulfilling his ominous prophecy: "Double or quits," she offers.

"His former captain is an oftentimes contractor of my father and the Comte de Digne, my illustrious uncle," Isabelle remarks to Symon, though the words are edged with something more acerbic when she describes the latter. "I've known this seagull for quite some time. There are aspects of him that are ridiculous, as with any man, but he is downright formidable in the water and to whom I will place my utmost trust in such endeavors. Though he ought to be relieved, in fact, that I do not intend to compete with his beloved Myrmidon at all. But if you are so inclined to see it, my lord, you should. She is a beautiful monster to behold…and all the more made interesting by her history."

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Gambling: Success. (3 5 1 1 8 2 3 5 3 3)

"She," corrects Alcibiades to Symon gently. "You would be curious to meet her, My Lord."

His smile is sardonic as he turns to Isabelle, canting his head faintly. "I am an osprey," he remarks drily. "Not a seagull. Seagulls are squawking scavengers that shit on my beauty's decks. Ospreys are the hunting cats of the sea." He begins to deal, this time just between he and Isabelle, fingers flicking deftly. Continuing, he says "And, my lady, one should be very careful when one calls Myrmidon a monster." He quirks his brows in good-humored reproof.

To Symon, he says more seriously, "The Lady de Valais was kind enough to patronize my former ship, it is true. I always considered it a great privilege when she came aboard, all teasing aside." His voice grows almost wistful. "And I should be delighted to show you my new beauty. Dancer, my previous ship, was a lovely girl. Brave, willing…" He really does speak as though the ships are alive. "Myrmidon is a huntress. She was built to seek out a foe."

He takes up his fresh wine-glass, tipping it in a toast to Isabelle, and takes a sip. "Come, my lady. Let us see what fate holds. Shall I be folding clothes? Or shall you be teaching my new manservant how to actually serve wine?"

Symon fixes Alcibiades with an uncertain look for a moment, but then nods slowly. "Oh, yes of course." He might have had almost the same response had Alcibiades introduced him to a doll he called his daughter. "Do ospreys not shit on ships?" he wonders as his contribution to the conversation.

<FS3> Isabelle rolls Gambling: Good Success. (6 6 7 5 8 8 3)

"When I first heard it, my lord, he distinctly said seagull," Isabelle tells Symon in a mock whisper. "I believe he thinks he can evolve so easily, now that he's achieved a greater rank." Though at the man's retort about ospreys, she can't help but laugh. The sound is low and rich, unfettered, unashamed even in this, to put every coal of her burning soul into the pyres lit for the joy of the moment. "I believe my future Marquis de Perigeux has got you there, captain, and thus, I regret absolutely nothing."

Dropping her discarded cards, taking three more, and flipping them over on the table, her smile turns feline. "I believe it's my victory, captain," she says. "Now what? Triple or quits? The war is endless and unforgiving."

"Triple or quits it is! I shall never yield to laundry." Alcibiades proclaims it grandly before turning to face Symon and explain his perhaps-alarming eccentricity. "It is, My Lord, a long-standing tradition to refer to ships as women. Among sailors, that is. You see, they are beautiful, powerful, and entirely outside our control. We are at their mercy." He smiles crookedly. "And I am afraid traditions are very important to sailors. We believe they keep us safe."

He begins to deal yet again, fingers flicking the cards between he and Isabelle. "And yes, I was a seagull. But then I became a hunter." Considering for a few moments, he admits "But, yes. Ospreys do shit. It's just that there are less of them, and thus, they are far less annoying."

"Now, just a m-moment," Symon says. "After the first round, Lady Isabelle had to do a service for you." He fixes Alicbiades with a look that demands fair play. "I suppose everybody b…believes traditions keep them safe," he allows. "At least a little b-bit."

"He's got you again," Isabelle tells Alcibiades with a laugh. "You can fetch me a glass of brandy, this time. And I will deal."

Symon glances out the window and spies the position of the sun. "Oh, heavens," he says. "I'd completely forgotten, I'm p-promised elsewhere." He hoists himself out of the chair. "Lady Isabelle, w-we will m…meet in a w-week's time. Thanks for the w…wine!" And lifting a hand in a wave to both tailor and sailor, he makes his way out.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License