(1310-12-08) Laroche
Summary: Isabelle meets the personal healer of the Ducal branch of the Morhban family, Gustave Laroche, seeking answers about Lord Venetien's death.
RL Date: 01-02/12/2018
Related: Kusheline Snakepit Plot
isabelle alcibiades 

The Home of Therese Laroche — Pointe d'Oeste — Kusheth

A few things Isabelle had been able to dig up through her informants about Thérèse Laroche. She had been married and now is a widow, after her husband died some years ago. Since then, she has started working for a local tailor as a seamstress, in the city of Pointe d'Oeste. Thérèse has two daughters and two sons, and the daughters are learning the skill of sewing from her.

Sewing of another kind is the specialty of her father, Gustave Laroche, trusted healer of the Morhban family… at least of the former branch. And it may be through some argumentative sneakiness that Isabelle has convinced Thérèse to invite her father on this November afternoon for a visit. Tea and wine, whatever the preference, sounded like a good excuse and visiting a relative shouldn't actually draw any suspicions. So here they are, in the living room of Thérèse's modest home. She has sent her daughters and sons off on errands to ensure a certain privacy, and now, that her father arrives, she is ready to leave him to the questions of Isabelle and anyone she may have brought along.

Gustave Laroche's arrival might generate some degree of surprise when he finds that his daughter is not alone. A woman with a sunkissed complexion and dark hair is accompanying Therese, seated on a couch and dressed in fashionable attire. If anything, what the Madame Laroche does for a living suits her purposes - word in Kusheth has it that the Lady Valais has been paying house calls to certain clients in the area. Understandably, she would be looking for the skills of a talented seamstress to bring her designs to life, and handle fittings in the event that business takes her back to Marsilikos. If nothing else, this tea could simply be a business meeting, where the seamstress' beloved father just happens to stop by to see his daughter. After all, what would a fashion designer want with a healer?

Though once the extraneous bodies are sent away, leaving just three people in the room, the lady in the company of one Alcibiades Rousse, Isabelle sets her teacup aside, and reaches into the hidden pocket of her coat.

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Monsieur Laroche. I had hoped, however, it would be under better circumstances." She withdraws a ring on a chain, a token that he would find familiar - one belonging to Charlene Morhban de Fhirze. She offers it to him for inspection. "She informed me, however, that she had hoped with all of her heart that she could have seen you the last time she returned to Pointe d'Oeste, and it is in her behalf that I've come to speak with you today."

Alcibiades has dressed as a simple seaman for this meeting, wearing a subfusc blue jacket and a striped shirt of common wool. He seems as comfortable in this as in the finery that Isabelle often adorns him, and the cutlass that hangs from his belt is the same battered and businesslike weapon that he carried on the deck of Myrmidon during her capture.

When the children were present, he played with them amiably — and when they departed, he smiled on them a touch wistfully. But otherwise, Alcibiades has said very little. He cups his tea as though it were a tankard of ale, big hand encircling the cup and ignoring its handle. When Isabelle produces the ring, and announces the real intention of their visit, Alcibiades likewise lays down his mug of tea to gaze at Gustave Laroche with an affectation of polite interest.

Gustave Laroche is a man in his sixties, features that had looked kindly upon his grandchildren, but somehow now shift into another cast. As he is left alone with the two visitors, his friendly demeanor shifts into a more distant courtesy. It also seems to put him into a state of slight tension, making his remarks more to the point and efficient. "I don't think we have met before," he begins, focusing his attention on Isabelle, as it is her that offers up the chain with the ring, while Alcibiades elects to play silent observer. "Hmm…" He will take the chain from the lady's hands, if allowed, and inspect the ring. "The one you are referring to… Please tell her that I regret I was not there when she was in Pointe d'Oeste." A faint smile plays across his features, before it dims. "But I doubt that you have come to see me just to tell me that." At which he elects to sit down, offering Alcibiades whom he seems to notice just now, a polite nod of the head.

"No, but when I said I was here on her behalf, I meant it."

Isabelle lets the man keep the ring for now - she will take it back later, but her fingers link on her lap, dark eyes fixing on Gustave Laroche. "She mentioned that you may have been the one who saw to her oldest brother's health, Venetien, when he suddenly succumbed to an illness," she continues straightforwardly. "I would like to ask you a few questions about that, for the lady's sake. In the last few months, she has come to believe, with good reason, that she is in peril due to what happened to her two oldest brothers. With ill fortune befalling them within a mere few weeks, I can see why she has cause to believe that she might be next."

She leans forward there, her legs crossing by the knee. "She has asked me to ascertain just how true her suppositions are in that regard," she continues. "It might seem odd, but I thought that if I spoke with you and if you could confirm that her eldest brother died of natural causes, it would ease her mind. From what I understand, Lord Venetien perished rather suddenly….a wasting sickness? I'm afraid I'm not an expert. I was hoping if you could enlighten me."

Alcibiades returns that slight nod with one that perfectly matches its depth. He smiles at Gustave as Isabelle speaks, absently reaching to wrap both hands around his tea-cup — and by consequence, keep his hands in plain sight. If Gustave is a worried man, the gesture could be seen as a pacific one, showing that Alcibiades has no intention of producing a blade at this time.

He still does not speak, letting Gustave draw his own conclusions as to the purpose of his presence here. But his eyes are sharp and attentive despite the smile, remaining fixed on the chirurgeon's features. When Isabelle finishes speaking, Alcibiades leans forward slightly, as though eager to be enlightened as well.

Gustave Laroche's mien clouds a little as Isabelle addresses the matter to him, and especially the mention of Venetien earns her a glance from the healer. His fingers tighten slightly about that chain with the ring for a moment, and as if reminded of the token, the man glances down and looks towards the ring as his grip relaxes enough for him to take another look at it. A sigh leaves him in the moment he lifts his gaze again, and his tone is heavy with regret as he gives her his reply.

"I am sorry, but neither can I confirm nor deny that possibility." Grave words, only alleviated slightly by the following admission, "I was not the one who tended to Lord Venetien when he fell ill."

There is a pause, needed for Monsieur Laroche to draw a deep breath. But when he continues he does on another matter. "Lady Charlène is well then? I am glad to hear. I remember tending to her when she was younger, so many years ago, a severe fever seized her once. A few days. I remember reading to her, once when she couldn't find sleep."

The existence of Alcibiades seems to be almost forgotten, as Monsieur Laroche does not look to him again, after that first exchange of nods.

That revelation is startling to her, but she's able to reduce her surprise to a brief narrowing of her eyes. Isabelle doesn't just listen, but gauges his own reaction to the question - the tightening of his grip on the ring, the quiet sigh; small fragments of regret scattered into the air.

"The Lady Charlene did mention that you were away when she visited after his death, and that you were visiting family. Was that the reason why you were not the one treating Lord Venetien when he had fallen ill? If it had not been you, then may I ask who did?"

Frustration worms into her stomach - two steps forward, another step back. But she refuses to give into the urge when on the job, taking a quiet sip of her tea instead.

"She is well and safe. Worried, understandably. As I told you, she believes that she is in danger. Do sudden, severe ailments run in the family then?"

"They do not," Monsieur Laroche states quietly. "And it is very unfortunate that I was not there. Lord Venetien was of robust health usually. I had to see to a personal matter, so I was not there when he fell ill. And when I got back a few days later and they had already found a replacement healer to see to him, I was denied access to his chambers." A hint of bitterness shows in his expression. "You know. Pointe d'Oeste can be like a snake pit sometimes. Anything you do or say may be taken as misstep and used against you, when you least expect it. It seems I had fallen in disfavor with the late Duc. Or so I was told. I tried to get ahold of Monsieur Roquefort whom I knew little, but he was evasive and told me he had been ordered to deal with Lord Venetien on his own. Even so…" He lowers his gaze, his fingers finally placing the chain with Charlène's ring onto the table. "This has been the reason for me leaving this place for a while. The new Duc wished of me to resume my position, for which I am grateful."

"That seems rather strange to me that you would have fallen in disfavor, when Lady Charlene speaks so fondly of you. She thought of you, specifically, when she returned for a visit here," Isabelle says, her brows furrowing faintly. "Were you given reasons why you had fallen out of disfavor? What do you know of Monsieur Roquefort - I understand that you know little of him, but what do you know of him? Who had given him the order to see to him…was it his wife?"

With the ring set back on the table, she reaches forward to retrieve it, to keep it safely in the inner pocket of her coat.

Gustave Laroche sighs. "The matter that required my attention was… I had received word from my brother. Things had not been well between me and him. You must understand that he… has made different choices in life, and now he approached me to help him out with some gambling debts. I wasn't willing to part with my money without speaking with him first. I needed the time. You must understand, that I kept the reasons for my absence vague as to keep my reputation from getting stained. But apparently, someone told the late Duc where I was in these four days of absence. So my precautions had been for nothing, and I was forbidden to see to Lord Venetien." He does not look happy to speak of these things, if one goes by the faint frown on his features. "Lady Charlène has been away from Pointe d'Oeste for such a long time. It honors me that she kept me in fond memory — but she could not have been aware."

The gaze of the man follows the chain as Isabelle gathers it and stows it away. "Monsieur Roquefort had not been in service at the Ducal Castle for long. An assistant healer. He saw this as a chance probably, to recommend himself to the Duc, to prove his skill. Unfortunately for all of us, he wasn't able to save Lord Venetien. And it seems, he is no longer at the Ducal Castle. He was not there when I returned, three months ago."

She has a few guesses, in the end, as to who could have found out about Gustave Laroche's gambling debts, but Isabelle keeps these suspicions to herself. "So the late duc was still alive when Lord Venetien fell ill," she murmurs. "Could you remind me when he passed?" She has another name to try and find, though with Roquefort in the wind, it might be a challenge to find him - still, she might try.

After a moment, she sets her teacup aside. "Alas, I wished I could return to Lady Charlene to ease her mind. Do you think perhaps that the Lady Christelle, Lord Venetien's wife, had been by his side to comfort him in his last days? Perhaps it would comfort my lady as well if she knew that a loving wife was by his side when he took his last breaths."

"The Duc Jacquet de Morhban?", Monsieur Laroche echoes. "He passed shortly after. In mid-January. With Lord Venetien's death, and then the grave news of Lord Richard in December… Such are things that can break a man, my lady." His lips press together for a moment. "After falling into disgrace at court, I went to live with my daughter Thérèse for a while. Here." His hand lifts in a gesture that includes the room and the rest of the house as well. "Doomed to observe from afar." Memories seem to linger for a moment, but then there is a change in his demeanor, as if these impressions of the past were leaving him with the next exhale of a breath. "As far as I know, Lady Christelle was with Lord Venetien in those final days.", he admits then carefully, giving Isabelle a probing look. "So you may return with this information to Lady Charlène. But let me advise you… this province is no less of a snakepit than it has been a year ago… In order not to provoke any misunderstandings… You should tread lightly." With this piece of advice offered he leans back, and with his gaze flicking from Alcibiades to Isabelle, he inquires, "Will that be all?"

"Did the Lady Christobelle have a fond relationship with Lord Venetien?" Isabelle wonders. "And may I inquire as to Monsieur Roquefort's first name?" She smile faintly. "I apologize for dredging up poor memories, and I understand. My aim is to pose these questions for the Lady Charlene and nothing more, as I said, I'm largely here to try and ease her mind about what happened to her brothers. It is a pity that you did not see to him personally when he was ill, you would have been able, perhaps, to put those worries she harbors to bed."

Monsieur Laroche leans back in his seat lifting his brows. "I am in no position as to assess the relationship between Lord Venetien and Lady Christelle," he remarks flatly. "But I suppose she must have been fond enough to see that his death ruined her great expectations. All I know is that she has always appeared supportive of him. And that his death dealt her quite the blow. As to Monsieur Roquefort, his first name is Claude, as far as I remember." His gaze goes distant for a moment. "You can tell Lady Charlène that I don't have any enlightening observations to alleviate her worries. But neither can I confirm that they are founded. Perhaps some uncertainties should better be left that way."

"Perhaps." Isabelle exhales a breath. "But the important thing, in the end, is that she is safe. Whether she feels that way is, ultimately, up to her. But as it stands, I've done what I can as a friend." Her eyes wander over the room, before on the older man. "Still, I am glad that your position in the ducal household has been restored. If I can't alleviate Lady Charlene's worries, I can at least tell her that the man she was so fond of has returned to her family's good graces."

Shifting, she moves to stand up, with Alcibiades following suit. "Your daughter keeps a lovely home," she tells the man. "I am grateful for her hospitality, and for yours. I wish you good fortune, Monsieur Laroche, but I shouldn't occupy your time any further as I'm certain that you would like to spend some time with your daughter and grandchildren as well."

And with that, unless there is anything else, she and her companion will vacate the Laroche home.

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