(1310-11-15) The Baphinol Boys at Tea
Summary: Étienne chooses a uniquely unfortunate teatime at which to present a letter of introduction to his cousin, Jehan-Pascal. The Baphinol heir’s other visitor meanwhile makes herself at home.
RL Date: 15/11/2018 - 18/11/2018
Related: A Herring on the Line.
emmanuelle jehan-pascal etienne 

Jehan-Pascal’s Suite — Les Tanières

A sunny little suite of rooms on the western wing of the building, with a glamorous balcony overlooking the beach, accessible by a series of three double doors paned in glass in the main sitting room, outfitted by its current occupant with a long, sturdy oaken table of a golden wood hue, able to sit sixteen or eighteen at a pinch, but only with ten matching seats in the golden oak, big arm-chairs with deep blue cushions of velveteen inset into the seat and back but not on the armrests. It is bathed in natural light and as often as not covered in a collection of books and papers, serving as an organizational space than as a true meeting place. The books seem to have been taken from the winter parlor, outfitted with a collection of cozy sea-green couches surrounding a hearth for the cooler months, which has been set up as a sort of study, with a desk and bookshelves crowding the smaller space— but Jehan-Pascal's work has forgotten to contain itself there. On the other side of the sitting room is the bedroom with a tall wardrobe flanking the bed on either side, creating a dim and cozy nook in which the bed is saved from the light from the copious amount of the wall taken up by windows.

Jehan-Pascal has let the maids of Les Tanières loose upon his suite. THAT is how urgent a situation is pending. In general he keeps the candle for the lantern by his suite door which indicates the desire for the maids to come in and clean tidily tucked away in a drawer, and, for a bachelor, he does a decent enough task of cleaning up after himself, and the place would be generally presentable, if it weren't for the signs of a comte in the process of being governed that are scattered hither and yon about the place, in a manner which might inspire the notion of chaos to the average observer, but which makes complete and total sense for the gentleman who manages the grand piles of treaties, treatises and correspondence. But this afternoon he has a visitor coming for tea, and this visitor he would not offend with the outward manifestation of the whirrings in his brain, and so he has gone so far as to summon the maids.

Not that the maids have done most of the work, mind. They have only come in and threatened to move this or that, prompting Lord Jehan-Pascal Aumande, heir of Baphinol, to rush about intercepting their efforts and finding places to put everything away his own dang self. The generous would call him self-sufficient; the critical, some manner of neurotic.

At any rate, once everything has been cleared away, the maids have done everything to a polished shine, been generously tipped and ushered out again, leaving Jehan-Pascal to prepare tea. He's perfectly competent with a tea-pot, and has a nice tin of biscuits, some of which he's even warming up at the fire. A regularly domesticated sort of fellow, down to earth and capable of polishing his own boots, as it were. The privacy likewise suits him to figure out what on earth to wear. To dress up would be perhaps presumptuous. To dress down, rude. It's a regular problem, the answer to which, of course, is to thread the needle of elegance and comfort, a set of high-waisted velveteen knickers in a dark midnight blue buttoned over pale dove-grey stockings of silk, feet in slippers embroidered with silver floss in the shapes of stars. A white silk blouse left loosely laced at the chest. A long velveteen robe to mid-calf left open in the front, swathing his shoulders and threatening now and again to drape suggestively off of one. It'll do to pour tea and entertain.

Weeks have passed between Jehan-Pascal's housewarming call upon Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai and this return of it. Weeks during which the lady was somewhat occupied with a houseguest visiting from the City of Elua: an arrangement long in the planning, as she explained via a courteous missive wherein a few lines of her bold handwriting took up an entire sheet of parchment, and leaving her scant leisure in which to, say, invite him to see the rest of her house. When, instead, he invites her, she writes another line with her acceptance — such an outpouring of correspondence would shock her nearest and dearest, did they but know of it. It's easily as rare a demonstration as letting the maids in.

She is exquisitely punctual, of course. She leaves Baltasar Shahrizai in the lobby, also of course, in a discreet observation post of his own devising, and mounts the stairs alone; she is dressed much as usual, beneath a black cloak which when she shrugs it off inside Jehan-Pascal's newly tidied flat reveals a lining of midnight-blue velvet, a fittingly rich backdrop for a wealth of tiny seed pearls embroidered in the likeness of the night sky's constellations. She hasn't said a word yet, only shown him her painted red smile deepening at the sight of him.

Étienne presents himself freshly scrubbed in a formal, northern-cut tunic of black with forest green embroidery, wearing his best boots, dyed green to match. His shoulder length curly hair has been pomaded into a tail, that is likely to stay put, at least, instead of follow its usual wayward tendency towards escape. The pomade has added a pleasant soft citrus tinge to the sea scent that clings to him and the natural musk of his skin. His green and black parti-coloured hose are new and well fitted. He has replaced the practical leather thong he usually uses to tie back his hair with a green ribbon. He has freshly trimmed his goatee and shaved around it. He has carefully scraped his boat bottoms before entering and straightened his tunic. In short, he wants to make a good impression for his mother's relative, and a recently heard rumor has him particularly curious to meet his mother's Baphinol relatives.

He has with him a tactfully phrased letter of introduction from his mother that in tone suggests both fondness and a hint of concern for her son's prospects and her hopes that he might be steered towards study, rather than frivolity, by Lord Jehan-Pascal.

Once he has double checked that nothing is askew, he innocently heads up and just as innocently knocks, unaware of the shock that awaits him.

Jehan-Pascal keeps more correspondence than Elua and all the Companions put together, himself. It is now, at the very least, arranged by correspondent and topic in different drawers of his writing-desk, by now, as he floats to the door, bubbling over with good-spirits when he opens the door to see Emmanuelle there. Well she might smile to see him there, rather than a servant let to the menial task of door-opening and door-closing. Wait until she gets a load of him making tea. But he doesn't have time or inclination to be ashamed by his lack of courtly attendants, he only opens the door wide and welcomes Emman in with literally open arms, drawing her into a kind and courteous embrace, if she will allow him, a kiss just brushed to each cheek to punctuate the sentiment, "Emman!" mwah, "How fine to see you again!" mwah. "Come in, let me take your cloak," he invites her, closing the door and letting her disrobe from her outerwear before turning to take it and hang it up, only getting a brief glimpse of the inside of the cloak, about to comment on its beauty before there's a knock on the door and he stands there with the cloak, looking to Emman, then to the door, and back again. Is she expecting someone else? He's sure not.

<FS3> Emmanuelle rolls Composure: Great Success. (4 1 4 7 7 2 3 8 8 8 2 2 1 3)

The second kiss fails to land, Emmanuelle having drawn away with a arched eyebrow at the unexpected and impertinent sound of her first name not only spoken but shortened. Is that what he's been calling her in his daydreams—? She surrenders her cloak and opens that immaculately painted mouth which never quite touched his cheek, to utter some reproof. But then another knock sounds, so close. Hardly has her eyebrow come down than it lifts again, in concert with its companion. "Are you… No," she deduces. He's as surprised as she by this threatened intrusion upon their teatime intimacies. "Shall I," she suggests with a glint of devilish intent in her chilly blue eyes, "see who it is?" Already she's turning back to the door through which she came, lifting her chin and squaring off her stance, putting on an effortlessly intimidating Mandragian mien.

In a single abrupt movement she pulls the door wide open.

Thus instead of a deferential domestic or even his highborn cousin in person, Étienne d'Arguil is confronted by that finely-boned but all too puissant dispenser of brandy he last saw when he was clinging drunkenly to her in order not to measure his length on the balcony behind a harbourside cook-shop. She's wearing those boots again, thigh-high and gleaming, spurred at the heels, and gentlemanly attire better-tailored and more sober in hue than his own. She evinces no surprise at the sight of him. After a moment the firm line of her red mouth does, however, curve into a sardonic smile. "Étienne d'Arguil," she pronounces, this for Jehan-Pascal's benefit. Her gaze shifts coolly from the young man before her, to the other at her side. "Your aunt Isabeau's eldest, visiting from Azzalle. I imagine he has a letter from her, which he would like to present to you." Yes, she's just deprived the lad of his carefully-rehearsed opening speech. No, she doesn't feel the slightest remorse for his present condition.

Étienne's eyes go wide in alarm at suddenly finding her there. He goes beet red to his ears despite the tan. He is not normally a stammerer, but in this he has been taken utterly by surprise, "Y-yes. I was… looking for a kinsman." He takes a deep breath and bows to the lady, "I fear I may have disgraced myself at our last meeting, my lady. I owe you my deepest apologies. Is… is the Lord Jehan-Pascal at home?"

"Go ahead," Jehan-Pascal is going to be tucking away the cloak, at any rate, which is a lot less exciting than hanging up his coat in her lock-room, but there's also the business at the front door to keep him readily intrigued, so it's a fair trade. The name is pronounced. "Oh?" he answers back, from the nook where he's taking care to admire a bit of the inside of the cloak. By the time his visitor's business is so expertly laid out, he's trailing his way back toward the door with his lips parted in an expression of wonder. He hadn't seen the part where they had gone over this all ahead of time, so it seems like a marvelous piece of mind-reading on Emman's part. And then his cousin is offering up apologies, and for the moment, despite the flat being let out to his name, he hardly feels in a capable position to invite him in or send him away— or even say whether or not he's at home. Despite. Quite obviously. Being at home. And now more and more in full sight of Étienne. He can only lift a hand to waggle some fingers hello to his cousin and await Emman's pronunciation of sentence. Is he at home to visitors or not? How can one person make him so completely incapable and fascinated?

The erstwhile chief mind-reader of Mandrake House somehow manages, from her lesser height, to look forbiddingly down upon that little herring as he begs her pardon with sincerity if not élan. She does not accept his apology, or yield an inch of her well-held ground as he stumbles through his rephrased inquiries.

… But she does like that colour, on Baphinol boys. When their blood rises so does some part of her own. Two of them in the one chamber, tea-cups trembling in their hands, could well present a charming aperitif. Conscious of though unreacting to those friendly wiggling fingers just visible in the corner of her eye, she concedes, "You will indeed find Lord Jehan-Pascal at home, though I believe he may shortly be going out." A beat. "Come in," she suggests, lifting a black-gloved hand to beckon Étienne inside and into his cousin's company.

Étienne's eyes flick to his kinsman and back. Certes he is curious to catch a glimpse of his elusive coz, but at the same time loath to take his eyes off anyone as alarming as Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai. Those eyes are his best feature, being as bright and as intensely blue as the sea hereabouts. In response to the little wave, he takes two neat steps back and executes an elegant bow, as beautiful in its clean lines as the stroke of a sword, his eyes a little wary, even if the bow itself is otherwise perfectly courteous and correct, "Étienne d'Arguil at your service, here with a letter from my mother as the lady said." He is not trembling just yet, but he is definitely embarrassed and contrite. "Um… Thank you, my lady." He straightens, curiosity winning out against wariness judging from his expression. He waits patiently for there to be room to enter.

"Is he?" Jehan-Pascal further complicates matters by referring, in his bafflement, to himself in the third person. He'd had no plans to go out, but certainly Emman would know better than he, and it is to her that he looks for guidance in these matters. Oh, yes, it's easy even now to fall back into the mindless trust. "Oh, yes, do come in," he'll more warmly and cordially re-phrase the permission once Emman has granted it, coming to meet his cousin and his courtly bow with a rather more casual sort of embrace, coming away with the letter and moving past to tend to closing the door; at once master and servant of the place. "You must have had quite a journey," is filler talk, yes, but so kindly and welcomingly uttered that one could find heart enough to forgive it. "I'll put up the letter and read it in the morning," he decides, since reading a letter of introduction in front of the person in question is at best horribly awkward and at worst rather gauche. "Please," he adds, going to add the letter to its appropriate drawer, "Do make yourselves comfortable."

With the letter safely put away Emmanuelle shepherds these two uncertain young men before her into the flat's winter parlour, a cosy and bookish retreat wherein she has already espied tea things laid out in the vicinity of the hearth.

Make herself comfortable? Why, yes: that is as much a skill of this Mandrake's as wielding rod, or flail, or scalpel. She claims for herself the best-positioned of her host's green-covered sofas; she flicks up the tails of her black silk coat before she sits down, and then she puts her booted feet up on the table next to the biscuit-tin as though she were an old habituée of the establishment. Ankles crossed. Dark buckskin breeches stretched taut over her thighs, and suggesting moreover the presence in between of something that forms no part of a lady's natural equipage. Watching Jehan-Pascal flit about in his dual role she slowly unfastens her gloves, loosing a trio of golden Shahrizai keys from their keyhole at each of her wrists, and begins to strip them off finger by finger. "… No honey," she drawls, nodding to the tea in preparation, "for me."

Étienne looks baffled as well for a moment, having taken the wee wave as an indicator that this is the Baphinol he is looking for. Luckily the warmer greeting reassures him and he follows his cousin while keep an eye on Emmanuelle with a mixture of fascination and real vigilance in case of… he's no idea what exactly, but though he's no idea of the Lady Emmanuelle's history, he's gotten the impression she might do… he's not sure exactly what, but something unexpected and alarming. His accent is very Azallese, but reasonably cultured, his walk has that same spare grace as his bow. His tone is warm and excited in an entirely unaffected way suggesting a country lad having an adventure. "We came by sea most of the way. It was fascinating. I've always wanted to travel and I do love ships. You should sea the stars at night when out of sight of land." He does not mention that comfort is impossible under the circumstances.

His eyes go wide at boots on the table. His Grandmère would not have stood for it and whatever the faults in his manners, that is not one of them. He flashes her a rather cheeky grin in response. After all, this is quite the naughtiest thing he has seen her or anyone do in months. He does not notice the hint of extra equipage at first and when he does his expression is inquisitive rather than embarrassed. The lad is terribly easy to read. He chooses his seat to be opposite her. "Nor for me; I'm not much accustomed to sweet things."

Jehan-Pascal puts the letter in its place. For someone so given to clutter, there's a sort of ringing joy in his heart to see everything all stacked away where it belongs. We'll see if he remembers where ANYTHING is in the morning, though. But that's morning!Jehan-Pascal's problem, isn't it? Presently, his only problems are pertaining to making sure his guests are comfortable. He doesn't scavenge for a third setting for tea— he'll content himself with serving the both of them, first, and will have some himself a bit later. Or won't. He sets a strainer over Emman's cup, first, pouring her cup and letting the remnants in the strainer drip themselves to dearth before moving it across to the top of Étienne's cup and repeating the process. "Oh, yes? That stands to reason, I suppose. But the sea wasn't terribly rough, at this time of year?" he asks solicitously after the cousin's journey. He takes up the biscuit-trays and arranges them deftly in a hand before he makes the fireplace where some of the biscuits from the tin are nicely warmed and a little crisped by now. He uses a set of silver tongs from the mantlepiece to remove two biscuits each from the grate where they've been warmed and place them on each plate. "I hope you don't find the biscuits too sweet, cous," he smiles back over a shoulder, nudging the rest of the biscuits away from the heat to keep them warm but not in danger of burning before putting up the tongs and returning to the table to add a plate of biscuits, each to each teacup. Then, standing, he will move to behind where Emman has chosen to sit, offering out both hands if she would like him to put away her gloves.

Emmanuelle sees that cheeky grin directed at her from Étienne's seat opposite and returns for it only a deadpan expression. She sees no cause for mirth; and the only private conspiracy in force at present is that between herself and Jehan-Pascal, to whom she hands up those two thin sheaths of black leather which yet hold the shape and the warmth of her well-manicured white hands. With them, she bestows a faint lazy smile over her shoulder, locking eyes with her host in silent acknowledgment of the pleasure given by his services to her.

Then she leans forward to claim her cup and saucer from their resting-place next to her boots, and inhales the rising steam and its fragrance. "Do I detect a hint of violets?" she drawls, to both her companions and yet neither.

"… You may have deduced, my lord de Baphinol," she goes on, pitching her voice just loud enough to be heard by the gentleman in question as he bustles about, "that I have come upon your cousin from Azzalle before. At a small cook-shop by the harbour where they serve the city's finest seafood in the company of the city's most repellent wine," which judgment she pronounces with a fastidiousness as sharp as her stiletto heels, "and where I do intend to take you one evening when we have both the leisure." She essays a cautious sip of her tea. The slight burn of it is not displeasing. "Albeit with our own libations."

She restores her cup and saucer to the table and settles back, stretching an arm along the back of the sofa. An invitation, if Jehan-Pascal should wish to accept it. "I trust," she ventures then as her diamond-hard blue eyes find Étienne again, "you recovered swiftly from your indisposition, my lord d'Arguil?"

<FS3> Étienne rolls Composure: Failure. (5 5 3)

Étienne flashes his cousin a wild, utterly delighted grin, displayed good white teeth including sharp looking incisors, "Oh yes! That's part of the fun!" So he really is Azallese after all. Or a madman. Really, how could one tell?

He watches his cousin's movements. Always hungry, the biscuit is an item of interest after all and then there’s his offering to take her gloves like a servant. Is this an Eisandine custom? His sharp eyes make note of all his cousin’s manoeuvres in case he is called on to do the same for a certain rather famous and intimidating kinswoman. He is here to learn the smoother manners of the south, after all. Among other things.

Emmanuelle’s deadpan expression is soon forgotten by the easily distracted northerner. What little he can see of the looks exchanged fly over his head rather. He collects his own cup and inhales, being a man who truly enjoys savouring quality food and drink. He wrinkles his nose at the mention of the wine, and is just sipping his tea when she mentions his indisposition. The tea goes down the wrong pipe and he is coughing and blushing all at once.

The pleasure in Emman's eyes is mirrored by a certain serenity of purpose in Jehan-Pascal's. She knows well enough what it is. How he tends to her gloves and finds them a place to rest folded once, twice, on top of a short stack of books on top of a desk at the back of the winter study. "Oh, I think I know the one you mean," he speaks up with a note of joy in his voice. "There are certain shoppes, too, on the promenade, which will promise to make you enjoy the worst of wines, if you're not careful," is playfully spoken, even if a sedate sort of playfulness, subdued in his presently quite amenable state. "Is it?" he asks Étienne, coming 'round the side of the couch once again, his arms hidden in the long pleats of his robe's sleeves, half-tucked behind him. He makes no move, further, to be seated, either because still engaged in conversation or because he has outsourced the part of his mind which decides upon things like where to sit to Emman, who will certainly let him know once a decision has been made.

"It sounds intimidating, to me. But we have softer seas here in the south, and even those are rough going if you get too far from shore in the winter." At the very least that part of his mind which makes cordial conversation over tea is still lingering with him. "Oh, gosh! Are you alright?" he frets when this indisposition seems to come back to Étienne all at once. He forgets, in his startlement, to be still at the side of the couch, but is crossing over to the cous to be certain he isn't dying.

Emmanuelle chuckles at Étienne's discomfiture, a low and husky sound. From anyone else it would suggest that the indisposition can't have been so severe — from her, who knows? But plainly, she's amused by the spectacle of her gathered Baphinol boys. "The wines were too various," she drawls to Jehan-Pascal, in that voice of hers Eisandine by way of Elua and a bottle of uisghe; "the quantity was not at fault, only the mixture. He managed not to puke on Baltasar, for which blessing," and the weight of her attention switches from the southern sophisticate to the northern rube, and she explains unto Étienne as though conveying a grave confidence: "I must tell you that Baltasar was most grateful.”

Étienne is luckily not dying, though just now he would like to sink through the floor. He casts a beseeching look as his coz and tries to compose himself. He cannot bring himself to look at the lady. His voice is small, his cockiness abandoned, "Did… did I disgrace myself utterly and forever?" He looks terribly relieved at her information regarding regurgitation and Baltasar. "I… fear that the wine was not of the best and that I was not accustomed to so much brandy nor of such a high quality and I've… no clear idea how the evening ended exactly." He is looking down and away and blushing to his ears. "I… hope I did not say or do anything offensive to so fine a lady as you." Regardless of anomalous bulges.

Jehan-Pascal is, needless to say, relieved that there's nothing else amiss of the cous than perhaps a bit of misplaced tea. What would his mother say, after all, to have gone to all the trouble of sending the young man here to his cousin with a letter of introduction only to have the former keel over dead in the latter's sitting-room? At any rate, having now been so long in the smaller study with the fireplace, he takes a moment to shed his calf-length velvet robe, folding it onto his arm and then letting it have a place quite casually upon the back of the sofa before he takes a seat next to Étienne, kindly receiving that look of beseechment and offering back a supportive gaze, free of judgement. "I doubt there are many of us who have not by hap overstepped their limits and come to regret it," he presents a tone to match, with caring phrases, turning his stormy blues from Étienne to Emman, with a soft brow quirked to invite her comment— and tacitly ask it will be similarly generous in spirit.

Naturally Emmanuelle judged Étienne's drunken clinging to her person distasteful, impertinent, and tedious in the extreme. Just as naturally, the incident hasn't loomed nearly so large in her mind in the intervening days, as it has done in his. And so his offering of shame and regret and agonised blushing brings a scale into balance behind the sardonic blue eyes of this scion of Kushiel, inclining her to mercy… but not till she's bled a little more fun out of them both.

She reclaims her cup and saucer and slowly drinks a mouthful of her tea — and then another. It has, she finds, lately attained the ideal temperature. To Étienne she offers an extension of that silence in which he dare not raise his eyes to her; to Jehan-Pascal, beautifully beseeching, she lifts a bold dark eyebrow in reflection of his own, implying that she's still… thinking it over.

When the quiet has gone on just long enough — when these Baphinol Boys have been taught anew what it is to hang upon her pronouncements — she speaks. "Every young man makes an arse of himself every so often. I accept your apology, Lord Étienne." She pauses; she adds, in a tone patient but subtly warning, "This time."

Étienne's open nature has him… not quite squirming. He is too well trained for squirming, but he does hang his head and fidget with his tea cup during the long, awkward silence. At her acceptance of his apology, he peers up and sideways at her from under those long dark lashes, "Thank you, my lady. I shall endeavor to do better."

Jehan-Pascal, on the other hand, is simply too relaxed in the moment to fidget. He maintains his eye contact with Emman for as long as she allows it, then continues offering his eyes for her contact even when she's busy tendering regard elsewhither. She means to have him wait; he waits, with as good grace and peaceful mien as ever. Étienne might find the space she leaves in the conversation awkward— Jehan-Pascal has found a silent moment in a world otherwise quite loud and demanding of him, where he can only let his mind quiet and know that an answer will come when it comes. And then it comes. A cheery little smile, a pat of Étienne's knee in a friendly fashion from his cousin. "There, see? It's all well. And what can any of us ever do but endeavor to do better?" he philosophizes lazily in the cozy warmth of his autumnal hearth. "I know I have your mother's missive to look forward to in the morning, cous, but maybe I can hear from you your hopes for your stay in Marsilikos?"

The lady acknowledges Étienne's pledge with an inclination of her head, crisp, just short of being curt; and then she settles into stillness and quietude, the better to watch the scene playing itself out upon the sofa across from her own. Just two handsome close cousins of an age with one another, becoming acquainted — and Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai sipping tea opposite with her spike-heeled boots on the table and her eyes roaming coolly between them as though the winter parlour were a jeu de paume court. Good luck forgetting she's there.

Étienne is studying his cousin now with a guileless expression tinged with curiosity, "I have heard this is a city where many travellers meet. Hearing of far places is the closest I'm likely to get to visiting them and… I have never really been to a proper city before, not counting the various ports between here and home." He warms, "I want to see everything there is to see here and try the food and wine and just… explore. Savour. Have what adventures this city has to offer."

Jehan-Pascal will certainly have no trouble recalling Emman's presence in the room, she's put him in such a state of simple calm and composition that Étienne might well think his cousin is some sort of monk, living in meditation and communion with silence. "It is a fine place to become more worldly without going so far as to actually go abroad," he approves of Étienne's logic there, angling an elbow into the back of the couch and cradling his well-formed and close-shorn head in one hand, crossing his legs into an easeful lounge. "The Opera brings in performers from the world 'round, and the harbor— well, is an opera of its own, a thousand voices and a thousand tongues all singing in the key of trade. And as for food and wine…" his smile blossoms a little bit, "Rest assured you'll here be in danger of neither hunger nor thirst."

Emmanuelle's effect on Étienne is rather the opposite, but he is also really curious about his Baphinol relatives just now and that helps distract him somewhat from the alarming presence in the room. He sips his tea, "I've never been to the opera! Is it good? Oh! I do love the harbor! So many interesting people and the scent of sea and spice!" And other things best not mentioned and less delightful, but not to be mentioned here in front of a grand, if eccentrically dressed, lady and a cousin he would like to make a good impression upon. "I am very much interested in the food and wine as well, I admit. I want to make the most of all my opportunities here."

"The opera building houses all sorts of performances, some of which may be more to your taste than others— as is true for the most of people, I should think," Jehan-Pascal continues his luxurious lounge, not moving much except for to speak and perhaps the faintest bobbing up and down of the slipper-clad toe extended into a point down past where his leg is crossed over its twin. "And what sorts of opportunities are you looking for? Educational? Financial?" A tip of his head, "Romantic?" he adds to the list with a broad, lazy smile, not really teasing, since it's a fair enough objective for a child of angels to look for Naamah's blessing.

Étienne blushes slightly into his tea, "All of them really, in a way. I fear I'm on a very tight allowance, so I must make the most of opportunities, crass as that is, and I would like to… learn more of the world in every sense, and isn't that both educational and romantic?" After a pause he asks, "I can see you are a scholar. What is the focus of your interest?"

"I dabble in scholastic pursuits, yes — I hope that they will make me better fit to manage the comté, in turn — and read from the philosophers, moral, political, and natural," Jehan-Pascal begins, fingers shifting slightly along through the close-shorn fuzz of his hair. "And the poets, as well. Of most genres, but my favorite being bucolic, and then satiric. It's a fine way for men of moral conviction to set those convictions to a metric that speaks to the heartbeat of humanity. When I find time, I scratch a few meagre verses of my own," he admits peacefully, then, quick to add, "Not that I would presume to count myself among them. But I can, as you do, always strive to better myself in the light of their exempla."

Étienne sips his tea and watches his cousin, so different in temperament with some fascination, "I've mostly studied geography and the stars, though I do like a good chanson de geste or chanson de romance… I fear I've not a studious nature."

The cousinly chatter continues for some minutes with much courtesy on both sides, and Emmanuelle dark and silent across from them, tranquil in her listening and her brooding. Between new acquaintances only just feeling their way into an accord the most interesting clause in any given sentence is inevitably elided, leaving negative spaces for her to fill with her own incisive conjectures — always a diverting pastime! — but at length she has had enough of tea and boyish prattle both, and the conversation is arrested by the sound of a delicate china cup finding its place, with a somehow very definite air, upon its saucer.

If the Baphinol Boys should look then to Emmanuelle they'll see her uncross her ankles and return one booted foot to the floor and then the other. Her movements are measured and deliberate, economical and not without grace; her gaze, as she restores her cup and saucer to the table, encompasses them both and retains them in a grip of steel as she rises to her full straight-backed height.

Jehan-Pascal is about to assure his cousin, no doubt, on his choice of studies, when the teacup being set down marks the end of free time for chatting and makes his head to turn and regard Emman with a kind-hearted smile. She rises, and before she has even risen her motions betray her intent and Jehan-Pascal is similarly laying aside his luxurious lounging and rising to his feet— a gentleman sands when a lady stands, after all. He reaches a hand for his cousin's, be he sitting or (hopefully) standing by now, giving it a dutiful press. "You're curious about other lands and other skies. There's not much to make up for a dearth of curiosity in a fellow, and I think you'll find Marsilikos both diverting and enlightening. Welcome to the city, cous!" he expresses, equal parts merry and mellow in saying so.

Étienne starts at the sound of cup finding saucer, and darts a glance at her, rather like a deer expecting an arrow. He rises a second behind his cousin, "Uh… thank you." He is still eying the dangerous lady in case of sudden moves.

What greets his eye is nothing sudden, nothing untoward: only a black-taloned hand gesturing punctiliously for him to precede its owner out of the warm winter parlour and in the general direction of the flat's front door. Emmanuelle at the same time prowls nearer, seconding that motion of her hand with a firm and unequivocal order delivered via her Shahrizai-blue eyes, and exerting the pressure of her presence to herd Étienne like a sheepdog with a flock of one.

"… Of course like any other great city Marsilikos is made up of remarkably small neighbourhoods," she observes, staying close behind him all the way to the door, "and that inhabited by persons of a certain birth is the smallest of all. I don't doubt we shall meet again, Lord Étienne," she concedes graciously, "at a time when you've adventures to relate." We two… or we three? She's making rather free of the honours of Lord Jehan-Pascal de Baphinol's city pied-à-terre, after all.

Oh, Étienne is leaving. Emman is making him leave. It's almost enough to break Jehan-Pascal from his trance, but it's so effortlessly done and he is in such a comfortable state of mind that it's so much easier just to let it happen than to try to object. He trails behind the sheep dog as a quiet, observant shepherd, overseeing the herding but neither intervening, as the dog herself knows well where the sheep had ought to be. He pauses in the doorway from the little winter study to the large conference room which opens out from the vestibule, lifting a hand to place upon the doorpost, head tipping to one side. "Ah, yes—" he thinks to add audible support to her presumption. "We will meet again, and soon. Send me a piece of correspondence here when you are established in your own rooms, that I might write to you there and we may make further plans together," he bids rather sedulously.

Étienne's eyes widen as he gets the gist of what is about to happen. He bows gracefully and deeply, "My lady. Cousin." He makes haste to the indicated exit, lest he annoy her further than he already has, leaving still in ignorance of who she really is beyond her title. In his mind she is more wolf than dog, but he is of an easygoing nature and seems not to mind the herding. "Oh! I'm staying at the Leaping Fish for now, and am easy enough to find there." Another bow, and he is gone, leaving them to whatever amusement his presence has delayed.

Emmanuelle's competent, elegant hands lock the door behind Étienne.

And then she turns on one of those potentially lethal spiked boot-heels; and the force of her charisma turns with her, following the line of her gaze to point due Jehan-Pascal.

She regards him in silence for a long moment. The corners of her painted mouth turn up, just perceptibly, as she takes her first step toward him. Nearer and nearer she prowls, backing him without a hand raised or a word spoken out of the doorway and into the warmth of his study. Her booted foot nudges that door shut too, closing them off from the city and every cousin infesting it. Who's the shepherd now, and who the sheep to be (further) shorn—?

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