(1310-12-03) The Juice of the Pomegranate
Summary: Jehan-Pascal receives a peremptory note; and hurries to Emmanuelle’s side to learn the extent to which she has been high-handedly planning his future. (Warning: Some mature content, especially if you happen to consider that cross-dressing falls under this category.)
RL Date: 21/12/2018 - 23/12/2018
Related: None.
emmanuelle jehan-pascal 

La Maison Sanglante — Place des Mains

Directly abutting the walled compounds of Marsilikos's Night Court, and running in fact for some distance behind the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, is a house which boasts a far more modest frontage upon the Place des Mains d'Eisheth. Its name derives from a violent incident in its past; previous owners tried to redub it in the public mind, but the present ones embrace the term. By their design its three-storey façade of grey stone is shielded at street level by a high and forbidding wall of darker stone, into which is set a pair of intricately-wrought iron gates taller than any man who may ring the bell at their side. Kept locked, their curlicues of black iron are enlivened by a pattern of gilded keys.

Between the outer wall and the house stands a small stone courtyard lined at either side with wormwood trees, which impart a bitter and aromatic fragrance to the air within it. From it half a dozen stone steps rise to heavy doors of dark and ancient oak, studded with black iron and hung upon baroque hinges of the same; these open into a large, square, windowless chamber, occupying the full width of the building and yet higher than it is wide. At each side of the doors is a console table of dark purple marble veined with black, bolted to the wall above a pair of elaborate gilded legs and beneath a matching and equally baroque gilded mirror. There are no other furnishings. Sparse lighting is provided by candles in iron sconces bolted to pillars of the same purple marble, which pass into shadow on their way to support the vaulted ceiling overhead.

The light is, however, sufficient to permit examination of the frescoes which cover walls and ceiling alike from a height of perhaps four feet off the gleaming black and purple marble floor. An artist of great skill and anatomical knowledge has limned a series of scenes of Kushiel chastising sinners. Those who come to him for succour are shown enduring remarkably detailed torments before being transfigured by the raptures of his love… or, possibly, hers. In some panels Kushiel is a man and in some a woman, in others an unmistakable hermaphrodite: in all these incarnations the Punisher is depicted with the lean figure, the austere profile, and the hooded blue eyes of a lady who resides beneath this roof.

On the back wall this unconventional masterpiece is interrupted by the outlines of two single doors, and the elaborate black iron handles attached to each. The door on the left leads to an intimate receiving-room wherein a pair of studded black leather sofas frame a low, well-polished mahogany table. In here the walls are covered in frescoes of the Kusheline countryside, from the same brush.

It is in the nature of social life that plans shift and mutate and fall apart; denied the opportunity to dine with Emmanuelle in the company of their mutual friends on a famous pirate-hunting vessel, and wouldn't that have been festive, Jehan-Pascal sends a sweet little note wondering whether she might not like to dine just with him. Her response, the next day, is typically brief and yet, also typically, takes up an entire sheet of parchment. Her handwriting occupies as much space in the world as does the rest of her, and with the same insouciance. If he has the leisure, will he call upon her that afternoon to discuss a matter of some small urgency? … He will, and he does. Though by chance he doesn't receive her message till the day is growing advanced, the sun is low over Marsilikos, and the Maison Sanglante is a house of shadows without as well as within.

To be Jehan-Pascal de Baphinol is to be wafted through its chambers and corridors and trompe-l'oeil locks and up its ancient stone stairs so swiftly and so smoothly one hardly has time to notice the frescoes, not even the familiar little rabbits sporting therein. None of the usual personality tests or power plays habitually inflicted upon the lesser pilgrims who pass through these portals. The Mereliot guardsman on gate duty confides him to a silent maid, who confides him to Baltasar Shahrizai, who escorts him directly to the dressing-room sacred to the lady of the house's most confidential rituals and conversations. The shutters are shut all along the courtyard wall; light from impossibly ornate mirrored candle-stands glows upon the fine marquetry of her wardrobes, and vanishes into the depths of her purple velvet upholstery of astonishing memory. Her small table by the fire has been set for a light supper for one: as Jehan-Pascal approaches her along the length of the chamber she lifts her napkin from her lap and touches it once to her lips, and places it folded on the table next to a plate containing the immaculately removed skeleton of what was lately a whole fish of some sort. She steps out from behind the table but waits, then, for him to cross the distance to her.

She's a slighter figure today, silhouetted against the crackling orange blaze in her hearth, dressed in a style in which only patrons usually see her: loose, flowing black silk robes in lieu of breeches, and soft black velvet slippers with curled-up toes which must make her more comfortable as well as rather shorter than she is in her customary boots. Her face is painted differently too: the red of her lips darker, the kohl about her eyes more liberally applied, lines and shadows manipulated to heighten her hawkish likeness to the Kushiel of the frescoes in her foyer. Her blue-black hair is pulled back into a high and severe tail, composed of half a dozen long braids each woven through with black leather and tipped with a polished steel barb. The Punisher and the scourge, in one.

Jehan-Pascal did rather think that he would have more time to prepare himself for his dinner date out with his unlikely (in his mind) but somehow simply perfect partner in Naamah, but the immensity of her words weighs him past care for being too elegantly put together— what he was wearing already for a meeting earlier in the day will do, a soft grey woolen sweater with strands that stand in the static of the winter air and make the entire thing that much more baby soft to the touch, a pair of dun hide trousers which cover the whole of his legs, rather than allow him to show off a fine pair of stockings, a pair of boots with a tread that is capable against the snowfall which has been off and on over the course of the morning. His amethyst pendant, a recent addition to his wardrobe and yet — YET — somehow a piece of daily wear for him, going with any and every outfit he puts together. A soft dove grey pileus with a row of three diamonds sewn set into the side of the hat not flopped over into the characteristically casual slouch of the headpiece does the job of keeping his head warm that the scant half-inch of dark brown scruff he sports will not. It dresses up the outfit, to some degree, at least, such that he need not change but betake himself to Emman's request. Some urgency, it read, and on his way some urgency becomes great urgency. She is ill— she is injured— she is dying— she is leaving— what else could it mean? He's terribly overwrought by the time he makes her front door, and the way his course is sped through the manse and past all those points he dallied over of previous— it must be terrible news, indeed. The windows are closed as in the home of an invalid. His heart sinks, then rises, seeing her there in her chamber— he crosses the space at a brisk and harried pace, saying nothing while she rise but scouring her form and face and eyes for a sign of what is wrong up to the very point of his standing right before her, holding out his hands for her to take, if she will. "I came as soon as I could. Are you alright?" he asks, half-breathless, his heart, as usual, and feeling, too, outpacing any sort of standard submissive manner.

As she watches her improbably distressed (also improbably dressed) maiden speed across the carpeted parquet toward her Emmanuelle's head tilts just a fraction, the light glinting upon a barbed braid that has come forward over her shoulder. She finds his eyes and holds them, though as ever that composed blue Shahrizai gaze seems devoid of true feeling: if she were bleeding to death on her hearthrug, would even that register in her eyes?

It's deceptive: the panic she can read so easily in his face and his physiognomy suffuses her with a pleasant warmth owing nothing to the fire at her back. She permits herself a second or two, no more, to savour his real and poignant affliction, before she lifts both hands from her sides to clasp his and squeeze. "… Perfectly so, my love," she informs him in her firmest, most soothing voice, the very tone he was surely hoping he might hear; "though now I wonder about you." And she leads him by the hands the few steps to her purple-cushioned bench, and sits him down just where she sat him once before. She releases a hand of his, to touch the back of her own to his forehead.

Oh, she leaves him writhing inside— without even having yet noticed the barb in her hair, much less felt its sting, how he suffers, before she brings his hands into her hands and his mind into the warm embrace of her comfort, and the tension visibly leeches from his form, suffering him to lose just some of his height advantage over her. "You worried me," he tells her, "Your note— I thought there was something wrong," he explains the further, sliding a half-step closer and lowering his head, lifting his hands all dressed up in her hands to bow his face over them in a fond gesture without going so far as to actually kiss her, grateful that all is well and that his stomach can top churning with bile. When her hand rises to his forehead, he stands back up with it, looking down into her eyes. "I'm alright," he tells her, his affable little smile returning to its place with his anxieties banished. And his forehead agrees with him, even if it's slightly dampened with the melted remains of the snowflakes that stuck up under the brim of his pileus on his way over. "What's going on?" he wonders, more easily, now that his fears are alleviated, he's just curious.

"I thought there was something wrong." "No, no," Emmanuelle murmurs, to reassure. Though the sight of another of her maiden's blossoming transformations, brought about by her will and her words, is sufficient that she hardly requires a like pledge… This, too, is ravishing in her eyes: this further illustration of her own effect and the swiftness with which it works upon him. She turns her predatory painted mask up toward him as he rises again, and though he hardly seems to have registered her present costume she takes care to blunt its calculated menace with a slight smile. "Sit," she advises him, and with another quick pressure of fingertips against his and black-lacquered nails just barely pressing into his skin she disentangles her hand and turns to her supper table.

An empty cut-crystal glass stands beside her own half-full vessel, silent testament that she knew he'd come. She pours something red from an unmarked glass bottle that has been standing in a bowl of melting ice upon a folded towel — an arrangement baffling until she offers him his glass already beading with condensation and explains, with another slow curve of her lips, "Pomegranate juice, only… I've decided to take you to Elua with me, for the Longest Night. I called you to me thinking you would prefer time to prepare for the journey." The next few weeks of his life, thus, she disposes of as neatly and assuredly as the glass, the bottle, the chair she turns toward his place upon the purple cushions. Jehan-Pascal too is in a sense a possession of hers, and one to be kept near.

Jehan-Pascal mirrors back to her her smile to him— it warms his heart considerably to have such a gift from her, and in its aftermath she need not guide him— her word is enough to send him lowering his person into place upon the soft purple cushion, resting sideways onto a hand eased against its luxury, watching her pour with neither desire nor anxiety, only seeing that she intends it for him and then lifting both of his hands before him to receive it from her, to bring it to his lips, and, once she has introduced it to him by name, to take a slow sip. The news that he is to travel to Elua is a little bit of an oddity, such that for a moment he hardly seems to know what she means, he only drinks his chilled pomegranate in peace; he had not intended to go; he had some small business here to manage, but nothing that can't be arranged away; really he only wanted a quiet holiday with himself and perhaps a few others; but that peace of mind is already stealing over him— the taste of the juice fresh on his lips has stolen away his will, and then, perhaps, the thought of being packed along as just another article in Madame's wardrobe— it's as peaceful and quiet as a night alone in Les Tanières. "Of course, Madame," he issues quietly, demurely, without further hesitation than needed to have swallowed, once. "I will clear my diary in the morning, and make the proper notifications."

Not the seeds but the juice of that fruit seals Jehan-Pascal's fate for the darkest weeks of winter: Emmanuelle, arranging her robes with a casual hand as she resumes her own seat, now at an angle to her table, nods to him as though she expected no less acquiescence than she has received. "I intend to leave not tomorrow but on the morning of the day after," she goes on, unfolding her napkin again: black, not white, of a fine linen that would be inclined to slide away over her silks if she hadn't one leg crossed over the other to provide a summit across which to drape it. This she does. Tiny Shahrizai keys are embroidered at one corner in thread-of-gold. "If you send a messenger to Avignon meanwhile he could easily find us on the road with whatever commissions it may please your lord father to entrust you. It will be to House Baphinol's benefit, certainly, to be well-represented at court in this season," she says seriously, "though this year it will be my pleasure to avoid too arduous a social round… Dowaynes," and her dark red mouth grows sardonic as she eyes him, "are unfortunately at a premium as party guests."

She takes up her silver cutlery and addresses herself to the remnants of her supper. "A little time together away from all our various distractions will suit, I think," she pronounces. For after all this is only the fourth time they've managed to meet, what with his trips to Avignon, her houseguests, the dinner that never came… "Tell me, how have you been occupying yourself since our afternoon tea with your young cousin?" she wonders, as she lifts her fork toward her somehow still immaculate painted mouth: a nudge, a suggestion that he keep her amused while she finishes eating. It isn't her nature to apologise, for the latter.

Jehan-Pascal's illusions of a few weeks living in Naamah with Emman in some unknown corner of Elua while the world passes them by are upset like an apple cart in the middle of the road when Emman bids him send his father for tasks to be set while he's there— which, true, as a dutiful son, he ought— and yet… navigating the space between having a brain of his own and using it to best purposes for the comté and then turning over the contents of his soul for Emman to manipulate as she will— that's a strange space for him to navigate, and he would much rather do one or the other than try to manage both at once, or even in swift alternation.

Even now, with the taste of his lost freedom still on his lips, he's being urged back to himself, and he goes, bringing back to mind some trivial detail over which he's been going to and fro with a stone supplier from a northwestern coastal state of Caerdicca Unitas, which, Emman can tell, by the vividness with which he portrays their give and take at this morning's meeting, is still much on his mind. It seems that the heir is trying to make arrangements for a quantity of gravel to ship in the spring, but will have a better time transporting it by cart to Avignon from a smaller port further to the east from Marsilikos, and has been trying in vain to convince the Caerdicci to make harbor there in March with the wares. It would all be very dry except for the fact that Jehan-Pascal feels so very passionately about his task, and the pathos is evident in his retelling of the morning's meeting, which is punctuated by a somewhat exasperated roll of his eyes and a further drink of the pomegranate, as though bidding it, please, take his cares away from him again.

"Oh—" then it occurs to him to add, "I've also given some thought to finding a comtesse for Avignon. I sent epistolary overtures to the Lady Fleur de Valais… widow of the last heir to the Comte of Digne, and mother to that seat's present heir. She invited me to the opera, and we went; she seems possibly amenable, and I think it would be a profitable match for me, if all parties would agree. At any rate, even if that match doesn't come to fruit, I've really put off finding a wife long enough. Father has been patient with me since I've been picking up the slack in terms of other work."

Emmanuelle encourages the relation of his attempts to bring gravel to Avignon with the occasional nod, or a quiet 'mm' behind closed lips — once, even a sympathetic roll of her own eyes at Caerdicci recalcitrance. She cleans her plate meanwhile, the portions having of course been calculated exactly to her appetite, and then she disposes of the last of a piece of fresh crusty bread that has been waiting for her, tearing it apart slowly over her plate to contain its crumbs and eating it morsel by morsel as her lover brings her up to date on his search for a wife.

What she thinks of this isn't clear till she has wiped her hands on her napkin, folded it and restored it to the table, and taken another draught from her glass. "You must be five-and-twenty, Aumande," she observes, turning more fully toward him with her glass still in her hand, and looking him over as though to reckon up his years anew by means of that considering blue gaze which has moved on from supper to dessert; "it's high time you attended to that particular duty, I agree. I'm not acquainted with the lady Fleur, but certainly her Eisandine and Namarrese connections couldn't be bettered…" she muses, eyes narrowing. "Of course you might find other prospects in Elua. It's hunting season," she remarks with dry humour, lifting her boldly-drawn eyebrows and her glass to him.

Jehan-Pascal hardly needs encouragement, once he gets onto a topic, but at least he's lulled into the notion that he isn't boring her with all his notions, something that might bode well for his opening up to her on other ideas he's in mind for the future of the comte. He takes the accounting of his age as a chastisement, even if it wasn't meant as one, but it's mollified to hear her call him by his middle name, which— no one does, really, but her, and it does his heart well. "I must be; I can hardly help it," he jokes lightly into a sip of his juice. "There's always just so much to do, and— it's such a big decision. What if I pick the wrong person? It could be ruinous to my home, my people— the people I've been entrusted to care for." The notion of hunting for a wife in Elua tickles a light laugh from him, but also stains his cheeks with pink. "You don't think it will be strange to look for a wife in Elua while there on Madame's arm?"

That favoured hue arrests Emmanuelle's gaze again about his face. "On the contrary," she drawls, "we might thus weed out young ladies inclined to object to your understanding with me. The fact is that I don't intend to let you go," she states with the same casual ascendancy with which she planned his winter in the capital, "and Avignon will be well-served by a domestic harmony in which that is understood from the beginning. I hope you know, Aumande," and she's gentler now, sliding a few inches forward in her chair to take his hand once more into her own, "that no one has a greater interest than I in seeing you safe and happy. The right wife is a vital component of your future. You'll best protect that future, and your people's too, by considering the advice of your elders and your friends who wish you well. I speak as both," she concludes drily. "I grant you, I have never myself been inclined toward matrimony — I've whipped and beaten," her lips quirk in recollected amusement, "men for proposing it — but I've been looking on at these games for long enough that I know very well how to play, and to win."

The cherry color she so much admires in him fades to a quiet pallor the further Emman speaks— it's a strange thing to feel the halves of one’s life, heretofore considered fairly separate from one another, coming together in such a way. It's not entirely pleasant, either, like becoming all at once all too aware that the top half of your head is only tangentially related to the bottom half. But it's a truth, no less, that he won't be able to keep this quiet dreamtime he spends with Emman entirely compartmentalized in his life, even if an unpleasant one, from the perspective of a man who has already experienced the whiplash just this evening between his abandonment to her will and the various considerations of his daily life. "Well— alright. I appreciate your advice on the matter," he summons up— that much is earnest, at least. "It's a strange thing to me, to go about asking after peoples' marriage plans. I only just managed to write something appropriate to the Lady Fleur. I think she'll be in Elua, as well, in fact. I should look her up again."

Emmanuelle pats the back of the hand she's holding. "It is strange; and that is why people often don't enter into such inquiries themselves. You require a go-between," she informs him simply. "I assure you I'm not volunteering — one of your parents, an aunt or an elder cousin, would be the most suitable choice. Someone tactful and socially experienced, capable of softening rejections in either direction. Have you such a relation?" she wonders aloud, without so much as a hint at… any privy knowledge she might enjoy of such subjects. "Think on it," she advises then, and gives a quick shake of her head that sets barbed braids rustling against silk. "… My poor Aumande," she purrs, turning his hand over in her own and then tickling his palm with her lacquered nails, "you're having so little pleasure from me today. You may be sure I'll make up for it."

"I— yes, I could ask Aunt Delphine, I suppose," Jehan-Pascal considers, so far taken up by a hundred considerations of the needs of state, and, to wit, so far withdrawn from the serene abandon of Aumande at present that the name draws a small titter from him when she draws it on him next. "Oh, that's— it's alright. It's only when you asked me to Elua with you I thought perhaps I might have a vacation. But there's no rest for the wicked, is there?" he grins across to her, slipping his own fingers up to tickle her palm while she tickles his, a fond little gesture. "What's that in your hair?" he finally notices her strange little embellishment.

In her hair? A few threads of white, a few narrow strips of dark leather — and those shining barbs… "They are made the same as the tips on a scourge, but blunted. I'm not mad," Emmanuelle drawls. She lifts her lover's hand and with her other draws one such barb across his palm to demonstrate. No worse than her fingernails, even if she pressed more heavily. Just now it's only a different kind of tickle. "We'll have six quiet days of travel to get there, and six back, and I will not be busy every night," she promises, smiling crookedly. She drops the braid, but keeps the hand. "I had intended to take my elder daughter with me," she confides, "to gather my children together for the first time in a year and a half — but of course now she's decided she doesn't want to leave her new baby for so long. Perhaps her choice will prove fortunate for us all."

Jehan-Pascal leans close to offer up his hand without her having to draw it too far from him— that way he can look up close at the blunted barb being drawn across the lines of his palm, as though he were back at a carnival in his youth getting his palm read by someone pretending to be Tsingano for the sake of the act. Looking back, that was probably not the most culturally sensitive attraction, but he was always fond of it. At any rate, the barb fails to hurt, and the tickle is its own kind of pleasant, so he smiles along with the demonstration, then looks up from his palm to Emman's eyes at her further explanation. "Oh— I'm sorry," he suddenly feels rather like he's imposing on what was meant to be a family reunion. "She's very sure? You might not bring the child along?" he tries, after his own manner, to fix things.

"The very young, like the very old, had best not travel in the winter," pronounces the experienced parent and grandparent in the room, "and, in truth, I had rather be confined in a carriage for six days with you than with Dorimène, the babe, the two-year-old, and the wet-nurse," she explains, and if that cosy familial picture doesn't settle his nerves, surely the lift of his hand to her lips and her ensuing delicate nibble at one of his fingertips, will. Being who and what she is of course she uses her teeth — but with exquisite restraint…

His discreet scratch having gone unregarded, Baltasar makes so bold as to knock at the door at the far end of the dressing-room. Emmanuelle at this end raises an eyebrow at Jehan-Pascal, lowers his hand from her dark red mouth, and pronounces a quiet, crisp expletive: "Shit."

She releases his hand and rises with her features newly composed to sternness; her robes swirl about her as she stalks along the chamber to answer the knock. In flat slippers her walk is less swaggering than in her boots, a pair of which soon enter her dressing-room polished to such a shine that Baltasar is handling them wearing white gloves. He bends to place them reverently in the rack at that end of the room, the purpose of which finally becomes clear, and the two Shahrizai converse briefly in whispers before Baltasar goes out and Emmanuelle comes rustling back to her fireside and her visitor.

Jehan-Pascal used to bite his fingernails when anxious. It took him a long time to rid himself of the habit, and here Emman is reminding him of a long-lost yen when she goes after his fingertip with her teeth— in truth, he almost sees fit to join in, but for the rather amusingly terrifying picture painted of a very long carriage ride with a possibly quite querulous band of fellow-travellers making him chuckle low to himself. "Oh, yes— not to say I don't care for children, of course. But it does seem a long trip, put in that light. Wh—!" he's startled by the knock, then even laughs softly, about to remark that it's to be tea all over again, when Emman curses and wipes the frivolous levity off of his face, making him wonder, once again, what might be wrong. He draw his hand back onto his lap, and he sits there very quietly while Emmanuelle and Baltasar complete their business. When she returns, he's only looking up at her with question marks in his eyes.

Emmanuelle comes close enough that her full-cut robes brush Jehan-Pascal's legs; and for a long moment she reflects that her maiden might be the only person she knows, who could see her stand over him like this with her hawklike painted mask and her hair dressed as a scourge, with the knowledge of what she is, with all her most Kusheline features accented with such care, and not feel even a frisson of fear… Indeed, today he has only feared for her. Her lips slowly curve. "I haven't finished with you," she informs him, and who could blame her; "and yet I'm afraid you have found me preparing for an assignation tonight, with someone whose carriage I am informed has just drawn up outside. A little early," and she inhales in a manner which those who know her best would recognise as a subtle signal there'll be hell to pay, "before I have even dressed or said my prayers." A quirk of her eyebrows, to soften the blow… or is it a blow? If it is, what kind? Did he even know that she still receives some of her old patrons? He didn't, did he? "… Come with me." And she takes his hand again into her own and steps back, drawing him up off the purple cushioned bench and along with her… whence?

Jehan-Pascal knows, after all, that Emman would never hurt him. He trusts her that far— far past her ominous clothing, at least, and— well, if he has a limit of trusting her, she hasn't found it, yet. As to the new development, well— he came here prepared for the worst sort of news, not for an evening of pleasure, and, thus, having avoided the former, not attaining the latter is no great loss. And jealousy— well, it's just not really part of Jehan-Pascal's make-up, or, again, if it is, he hasn't yet discovered it. "Oh, that's— it's alright," he tries to assure her, half wondering whether the lady or gentleman in question will be treated the more harshly for having interrupted their conversation— and maybe trying to come up with some way to intercede on his/her behalf, when he's drawn ably from his seat, "I should go home and write out my correspondence. Or begin to pack," he realizes that the latter will probably take most of tomorrow… suddenly he's going to be spending the Longest Night in Elua, and he's going to need to sort out what to wear. Oh, hell, he'll probably need to shop when he gets there, won't he? And, then again, Emman might bring some outfits of her own choosing for his wardrobe. "Unless you want me to… wait for you? Here?" He supposes he could do that.

Emmanuelle, still facing Jehan-Pascal as she takes a second step backward, could count the worries flitting across his face even before he names them. "Aumande," she murmurs, invoking his private name with just a shade of warning, the better to call him back to her, "I said I have not finished with you." A beat. "Tomorrow you may have Baltasar to pack for you," he has her packing to finish as well, but he doesn't need to sleep, does he, "but tonight, you will not fret."

Upon this firm declaration she leads him by the hand via the old stone staircase he already knows up to a dim corridor on the floor above, beautifully paneled in oak if only one could get a good look at it — and she opens one door among several and ushers her maiden ahead of her into a petite and princessy paradise.

Its white boiseries are touched with gilding; its bed, of a size perhaps just capable of accommodating two, is built into an alcove in one wall and made up with fine white linen sheets edged with restrained quantities of lace. The pillows are bountiful, in several different sizes. Set likewise into the alcove and rising above the foot of the bed are half a dozen white-painted bookshelves, one filled with reputable histories and a few books of fairytales (Kusheline and otherwise), and a copy, too, of a certain book of poetry with which the Baphinol heir has lately become acquainted. The others are empty. It's more intimate than offering a drawer: he's implicitly invited to unpack his mind here, not just his clean underwear. Bed-curtains of rosy pink brocade stitched with floral garlands in thread-of-gold are tied back from the alcove with great big golden ribbons, while swathes of the same fabric on the opposite wall suggests the positions of two narrow windows at either side of the dressing-table. (They look out on a small empty stone court.) The latter is laid with blue and white Ch'in porcelain vessels and various accoutrements of a feminine toilette: three delicate scents from which to choose, a hairbrush and a hand-mirror, a few little pots and bottles — but also the necessary tools for shaving, if that should be felt necessary by the chamber's occupant. The cupboard beneath is full of fluffy white towels, as is not after all unusual in a courtesan's house. The furnishings are completed by a single white-painted chair next to the bed alcove, a stool covered in darker pink swagged velvet in front of the dressing-table, and a small and dainty armoire.

At present there's also a Baltasar. Emmanuelle's man must have rushed straight up here ahead of them, peeling off his gloves en route. He has already lit candles, set here and there in silver candelabra; he is just now rising from the dark pink marble hearth, where he has kindled a healthy young blaze to keep Jehan-Pascal cosy and snug. A basket of logs waits conveniently, and a set of ornamental but sufficient fire-irons. The fine glass mirror over the mantel matches the one over the dressing-table. The Baltasar is bowing low to his mistress.

Jehan-Pascal lets his arm stretch outward rather than following Emman another step back, taking her warning with a deer-like stare and, finally, a silent nod of his head. Silent until he remembers to add, "Yes, Madame," which he does, after a moment.

And then he's being introduced into a room he's never seen before. It's admirable, obviously, and suits his aesthetic— but it isn't until he sees the empty book-cases that his eyes scour over everything a second time. "You haven't outfitted a room… just for me, have you?" he seems fairly overwhelmed by the extravagance of the gift.

A small gesture of Emmanuelle's free hand is enough to dismiss Baltasar, who has received already the rest of his instructions and who has work to do on her behalf in the dressing-room anyway. He vanishes discreetly, drawing the door to behind him to preserve both their privacy and the chamber's growing warmth.

"Yes," she says easily to Jehan-Pascal; "I imagined you would require it, at one time or another. You'll stay here tonight," she explains, one eye still on his face as she lets go and steps past him to the armoire in a waft of cologne. She opens the top drawer and withdraws from it a pink silk chemise intimately familiar to him; she nudges the drawer shut with the back of her hand and tosses the garment self-explanatorily onto the bed for him to don at his leisure. "Baltasar will serve your supper and bring you anything you might wish from the library, if these aren't to your taste," she goes on, indicating the books she selected personally as a beginning for his Maison Sanglante library. "With this visitor of mine it is usually," her hand, returning to her, turns thus and so in the air in the universal gesture of 'ish', "two or three hours, and a little time to dry the tears. And then I shall come up and see you, mmm?"

Jehan-Pascal looks after Baltasar with a quiet look of gratitude on his way out, then returns to being somewhat awed by the trappings she's had so artfully arranged in his little princess chamber. His eyes are watering a little bit in a flustered sort of merriment, and when he turns back to Emman he bobbles his head in a tearful agreement to her assignment that he stay there. His smile grows wide when she lays out his chemise for him, his heart beginning just slightly to race and his color to rise— not really a blush, in form, but a genial rush of heat. More nodding— he can't quite make words, but he will certainly be here when she returns for him, and, by way of answering her question, he only throws himself somewhat into her arms and gives her a grateful and giddy sort of squeeze, overcome by affection.

And that's something else he gets away with that would astonish Emmanuelle's general circle. Touching her without a specific invitation to do so. Spontaneous embraces, even, with all that they reveal. She's made of skin and bone and lean muscle, with hardly a curve to her at all except slightly behind, and given her habitual breeches that at least is common knowledge. For the rest… He has been so close to and so twined with her before but never when she was clothed this lightly, with little or nothing beneath her thin silk robes: no subtle padding at her shoulders, no binding of her admittedly meagre bosom, no suggestive hardness between her thighs to press into him as she gathers him close in turn, allowing his affection, but just for a moment before she pulls away and clasps his forearms in firm hands and regards him across a few decorous inches of space.

"You'll be patient for me," she states to him gently, looking up into his eyes, "and for Baltasar too, who must dress me before he can return to you." One hand lifts, and she grazes her nails along his cheek. "This is a part of my life, you know, as Avignon is a part of yours." One hand leaves him and then the other; she's departing.

Jehan-Pascal produces a small sniffling sound when he's eased back from Emman's embrace, lifting up a bashful smile, graciously flowering in the light of her forbearance, a tender-hearted reward for allowances granted to her softest and most mild of maidens. Then how his back arcs pliantly, his shoulders forward and his forearms held close to one another as though bound by her grip, and his lips are parted as he nods his obeisance, "Yes… yes, Madame" he assures her of his understanding— he will be patient.

Although, in truth, he really hardly needs to be— there's a lot to explore, here, and he's not even a third of the way through exploring the one stocked bookshelf before Baltasar is already arriving with dinner. Yes, he started with the library. Not that he isn't eager to get into the girly things, but he thought, perhaps, he would wait until after he was finished eating to change. And possibly to spare Baltasar from being scandalized, though— what a silly notion that even is.

He's hungry, by now, but almost too hungry, or too much a combination of hungry and excited, to be able to eat very much. Still, he gamely pecks about this and that, and, once he's assured Baltasar that he really is done, he expresses that he would be very grateful if he would take the rest of the meal away so that he could dress. He may, of course, leave the wine, and that wine guides him into a rosy-cheeked exploration of some of the finery left for him. He trades his boots and trousers for a pair of slightly pearlescent white stockings he discovers, and— little silken panties to match. A pair of pink lace garters studded at the sides with pearls as though the centers of little lace florets keep his stockings up his well-formed thighs, and for a long moment he simply strides across the room in stocking feet before discovering a pair of impractical thin silk slippers aglitter with crystal beading. Then it's only a matter of his trading his grey sweater for his pink chemise, and he can settle at the vanity to sip his wine and color his eyes with a bit of grey liner and a more pale grey shading, his lips with a berry-colored stain that will make him look more drunk than he is, though he's— very drunk, now, if drunk on his own feminine beauty rather than the wine, for which he has a remarkable tolerance. He quite near to finishes the bottle left for him while in the final stages of his beautification. He can't discover whether there are any wigs he might don to cover his short-shorn hair, but neither does he quite mind it, because he is tremendously pretty and is feeling his oats on account of it.

When the bottle is slain, he draws himself to his new bed, and, laughing, he slithers back onto it, reclining slowly with his arms drawn behind his head, and he lifts his delicious legs in their sparkling slippers to press against the inside of the alcove, bending them inward toward one another at the knee, letting his chemise ride up just enough to let the firelight catch on a pearl-inset garter. Don't mind him, he's just posing for an imaginary artist to paint a very suggestive portrait. The Next Comte d'Avignon — in his Night-Clothes, will read the placard…

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