(1310-12-20) The More Things Change
Summary: Innocent amusements go awry.
RL Date: 17/01/2019 - 23/01/2019 (shh, yes, I'm awful)
Related: Leads informally into Changes That Lead To ‘Yes’, when Philomène returns from her night on the town…
leda philomene 

A Completely Made-Up Place

Ah, yes, it's a party for the middling nobility of Terre d'Ange, a few upper and a few lower, in a house fronting upon the better side of a square neither the most nor the least fashionable in the noble quarter of the City of Elua. And how would the modestly-catered but well-lubricated festivities be complete without a skinny little woman in red satin whose frequent laughter and Namarrese allure draw the younger people in particular into a charmed circle about the fauteuil upon which she has draped herself? Leda Lavecq nó Orchis has already lost her shoes. She has one small and shapely silk-stockinged foot propped up upon a tapestried stool and her second leg crossed over her first, and with each glass of whatever that is— she slouches a wee bit lower against ample cushioning, and her green eyes grow commensurately brighter.

It appears to be one of those organic parties that haven’t really been planned so much as people gathered and met and a bottle came out here or there, and before one knew it, critical mass was reached and it became something which could only be described as a party.

For that reason, the personnel are somewhat eclectic, as are the sparse entertainments. One fellow brought along a pack of cards, or more likely just produced a pack of cards he happened to have and was invited in purely on those grounds. Another showed up with a few bottles and a couple of limes and immediately became the life and soul of the party, until supplanted by the next, and the next, and then next, until, naturally, towards dawn, Leda.

Of course, a party of critical mass has its own sort of gravity, drawing in all manner of guests. While Leda is entertaining an ever growing crowd in the centre of the room (always the centre, naturally), over in an ill-lit corner to one side there’s a serious game of backgammon going on, although with a few coins which indicate it’s not entirely just in the spirit of friendly competition. In another, there’s what appears to be either dancing or stripping, it’s not entirely certain which, but one will certainly meld into the other given enough lubrication, given the cheers and whistles emanating from that direction.

In yet another corner, however (how many corners does this place have? Perhaps it might be better described as a nook?), there’s what appears to be a quite serious conversation going on about tariffs and the effect of recent royal directives on the movement of currency, the gold standard, and how the political climate in the east might affect this in future. Naturally, this conversation is also well lubricated, and for much of the time the conversation is rather circular, depending on the political views of the parties involved, but should one pay careful attention and actually watch what’s going on it’s clear that the tall blonde woman seated in the corner and almost blending into the dark leather of the seats in her worn, brown, practical clothing is directing the flow of conversation, probing and clarifying, without much giving away her own position. This is the natural environment of the lesser spotted Philomène Aiglemort de Chalasse. Out of general sight, but not missing a single trick.

<FS3> Leda rolls Mime+Presence+4: Great Success. (8 6 8 4 5 4 5 3 6 5 7 4 2 8 7 3 1 3 4 6)

Before Leda can quite fall out of her fauteuil she yields to a chorus of pleas, because a) she feels beholden to this marvelous, beautiful, terribly sweet company of young people for her own entertainment, and she’s never b) more than a hair’s breadth from it anyway. Asking her to perform is as good as asking her to draw breath. She can’t help herself. So she unfolds her legs and stretches them out and sighs magnificently and then gets up on her stockinged feet, preparatory to hopping from one to the other as required by her own special art.

First she regales her audience with that crowd-pleasing classic of the genre, the old duc d'Aiglemort eating soup. (Her fans would be so disappointed if she left him out.)

Then — well — shall we say, a great lord who must remain nameless, but whose physiognomy even in imitation is immediately recognisable to most of those present, not that they’ve actually met him but they like to pretend they have done — a great lord who, unaccountably still lacking an heir, chanced to encounter his lady wife unexpectedly in a chilly corridor.

At this point four rude words are helplessly uttered, three drinks are spilt on expensive rugs, and one young lady in the audience laughs so hard she is taken ill and relies upon a friend to hold her hair whilst she avails herself of a vase with the flowers hastily removed.

Then the cry goes up: "Oh, do that poor old countrified vicomtesse with the limp! You know! From the other night—? The one who can't stand to see other people having any fun?"

“Oh!” gasps Leda, twirling in her red satin toward the youth presently soliciting her. With both hands lifted she completes her circle, wiggling her fingers with their red-lacquered nails to quiet her circle of admirers: it doesn’t really work, but it does draw to her even more attention than she had before. Nobody can help wanting to know what’s so funny. And, oh, it is funny, especially given that somebody else came in just a minute ago with a cask of joie…

Leda takes the small glass of clear fragrant liquor offered to her and knocks it happily back: she passes it empty to somebody or another and then, between one step and another, her neat little figure suddenly becomes lopsided and her hand curls around the knob at the end of an invisible walking-stick… And there she is, this vaunted vicomtesse, with her awkward stride and her country manners and her affectation of the greatest antiquity; the precise angle at which she looks down her nose at the other people having fun, is rendered with remarkable fidelity simply from descriptions vouchsafed to the cleverest mime Orchis House has produced in the last century. There are howls, from all those who have seen Philomène about the city in the last few days — which, come to think of it, is just about everyone who’s present here and now. Because she is, see? Not that the blithely wicked Leda Lavecq has any idea.

In the nook in the corner, the conversation drifts aimlessly as one opinion is given by a voluminous gentleman with greying side whiskers and, for once, not countered or queried.

Those who have been following along, taking Philomène's cue to argue or agree or elucidate are left bereft of direction as the woman's attention is drawn to the laughter and gaiety of these marvellous impersonations. At first there's a good natured smile on her face, widening into genuine joy as with one sweep and turn Leda's face moves from profile to briefly face this darker corner and the identity of the wit is no longer in question.

And then that expression freezes, held still in a forced smile but with a flash of something quite unlike joy in her eyes. The conversation dulls around her, with the exception of the one, self absorbed chap with the whiskers who takes this silence as an excuse to push his more extremist financial and commercial views.

Philomène excuses herself after a few moments of stunned silence, shuffling awkwardly to extract herself from the corner, and, keeping to the sides of the room as best she can, limps her way towards the exit, back straight and expression carefully neutral.

But meanwhile her face is a magnet unto Leda Lavecq: who, betwixt receiving various spoken and gestured accolades, happens to catch the eye of… “Philo! PHILO~!”

It’s really as though she’s got no idea.

Bounding stockingfooted through the surrounding crowd she arrives promptly at the other lady’s elbow; and though the truth has been vaguely occurring to her step by step (the depth of it remains a bit blurry, thank Elua, she hasn’t got that far: it’s just such a suspicious circumstance for somebody to be walking away when she knows how jolly funny she’s been, perhaps it’s because Philo has a limp too) she simply touches her with a gentle hand, nails impeccably red-lacquered (well, one on the other hand has got a chip): “Philo…?”

It has, after all, been umpteen years. Twenty? Thirty? Oh, do let’s not

Philomène turns on the spot as that hand is laid on her arm. It's older now, with a few telltale signs of those thirty years not quite masked by a régime of expensive hand creams, but the red-lacquered nails are barely any different. Nor, it should be admitted, has the face changed as much as thirty years ought to have ravaged it and Philomène can't help but offer a warm smile and both her own hands in response. “Leda Lavecq,” she returns, squeezing the hand. “I should have guessed that you'd be here, causing a stir and with the ladies and gentlemen of the city hanging on your every word. You don't look a day older than… my goodness, how long can it be now? Still the master of mimicry, I see. How the…” she trails off, just shaking her head and looking the other woman over. “Leda Lavecq.”

Having got hold of that potential escapee of an arm Leda clings in her usual style, half-woman and half-octopus, unshakable; and, studying Philomène all the more closely now, she blinks at her twice and then in a tone fractionally more subdued murmurs: “… Oh, Companions, you really did get the looks in House d’Aiglemort, didn’t you?” With the mutual admiration society established, and her dark green eyes now quite wide, she ventures: “Oh, but but you are sweet to me,” though really she feels only justice has been done. “But how is this the first time I’ve seen you in Elua? Wherever have you been hiding yourself?”

It might be considered by some that this would be an appropriate juncture for an apology. It’s even possible that Leda had one in mind when she rushed up like this. It’s just, she’s got distracted, and there’s no telling what will come out of her next.

It may be an unthinkable number of years that nobody should consider counting, but does a leopard ever really change its spots? Could Philomène ever really have thought for a moment that the ever-ebullient, red satin-clad figure would eschew the chance to paw and gossip and spread her particular brand of life in favour of something as paltry as an apology for some slight that’s seconds, even minutes in the past now. And, perhaps, just being told that she got the looks is better than any apology anyway. The vicomtesse can’t help but smile instead of scowl, and with those wide, trusting green eyes on her, all she can do is try to keep up with the barrage of questions. “I’m sure there always used to be Aiglemorts you preferred, but then you’re being kind. Would you believe this is the first time I’ve been to Elua?” She shrugs helplessly, hands still holding on to Leda’s. “They sent me to the interior, Leda, to the sheep and the cows and the endless fields of wheat and barley.” Every crop is listed off in a pained drawl, as though said sheep might more usually be found in one of the circles of hell, sent to torment the wicked. “We have lands, and… oh, so many fields…” She rolls her eyes, then laughs. “You’d absolutely hate it. But this year I’ve been down on the south coast drumming up trade deals, and the opportunity arose to be here. In the city. For midwinter. You’re here every year, I imagine? I should have come sooner.”

“… Well, p’raps one or two,” Leda concedes, giggling, of her affinity for Aiglemorts, though in fact it was always quite famously two, and what they were suspected of getting up to was the chief fascination of all Camlach during some otherwise tremendously dull winters in the mountains. For instance, there was that one night when all three slipped away from a banquet honouring some past victory over the Skaldi, and the tower they were occupying somehow caught fire, and one of the gentlemen jumped out the window first and the other one threw Leda down to him dressed in nothing but her shift… The smoke, the screams, the general commotion drew attention from throughout the keep; and Leda, in between squealing at the chill, and stealing odd bits of clothing from the revelers who came out to see what was going on, immediately separated them into teams and kicked off a re-enactment with snowballs.

Meanwhile, yes, hands are all clasping at hands, for motives innocent or ulterior or both, and the talk is turning from the patently absurd — never been to Elua? — to the purely incomprehensible.

“… Sheep?” inquires Leda, small-voiced, with the air of one doing her best to mimic technical terms uttered in a foreign tongue: a true challenge of her powers! “Cows, darling? What in the wide world have you got to do with barnyards? Or vice versa? I should as well take up sword and shield as, as—” She can’t make frantic hand gestures without letting go of Philomène, and she isn’t ready to do that yet, so she makes her shrugging shoulders and her wildly mobile eyebrows do the work for her. “Oh, but you did get married, didn’t you? I remember now… Oh, what a terrible thing to happen to any woman,” she sighs, soulful-eyed.

Philomène laughs aloud at the expression, releasing one hand (if only for a moment before it’s claimed once again) to gesture around herself. “What have I to do with all this either?” she queries, shaking her head lightly. “Oh, my dear Leda, the whole world has changed since we were young, hm? Marriage. Children. Sheep. I’ve never picked up a spear again since I left, even. Sent out to pasture, quite literally, in L’Agnace. But tell me about yourself! I don’t doubt for a moment that you have more interesting stories than cows and wheat. Or am I keeping you from your adoring fans?” She considers for a moment, then suggests more gently, “I shall be in town for a few weeks. Will you come and see us? I’m imposing on the Rousse family at present, but I’m certain they wouldn’t object.”

Speak for yourself! Leda Lavecq is quite young, she'll have you know, people tell her so all the time… But her surge of affront at the unfairness of being included in that sort of retrospective is swiftly superseded by the delight of being invited to talk about herself, at length. (It will be at length. Philo must know this.) And so she blooms, smiling her prettiest smile and pressing her old friend's fingertips with tender feeling.

"Darling, they'll wait for me, they've got the dice out again. But if you find the evening a little too late…" People do, sometimes; usually round about now, when the winter sun has commenced fitfully to rise. "I should adore to come and see you and meet all your friends. And then we could have a really long talk," Leda promises, beaming bright. "I don't see that things have changed so much, though," she goes on, lightly protesting, because for her they haven't: even her measurements appear infuriatingly identical under those red satin bows, "I mean, aren't there some things always and ever the same—? People do still laugh at the same kinds of jokes, to take their minds off the same kinds of problems — now, the price of peau de soie has gone up something ruinous in the last few years, but a Bryony I was talking to in a dress shop the other day, she thinks it's going to go down soon."

And Leda presents this tidbit as though it will solve any problems Philo might have amassed in the intervening years: the barnyard notwithstanding, standing so near to the other woman now and reckoning up the cost of her dress she presumes these to be mostly sartorial.

From the state of her dress one must presume that Philomène wouldn't know peau de soie if it fell into her soup, but she gives an appeasing nod anyway. If she's lucky then Leda will leave it at just that and move on to something else on which Philomèe might actually have an opinion, but on the other hand… "It is a little late for me," she confesses, a hint of apology in her voice. "Tomorrow morning?" A pause. Well, that seems unlikely, so she amends her offer. "Tomorrow afternoon, perhaps. We could have lunch? I'm sure you know all the best places to go here, whereas every time I walk along the road I can feel every sou being squeezed from my poor, gullible hand." She pauses again, then flicks the other woman a fond smile. "It really is such a pleasure to see you again."

"Oh, of course, of course," says Leda solicitously to this warrior woman two years her junior, "I'm sure these mustn't be your usual hours in the country, are they? No, in the countryside one wants to be sure to get up in time for a little pique-nique."

Having displayed the vastness of her agricultural knowledge, Leda laughs aloud at the imputation of gullibility to that hand still held fast in her own: she lifts it up and impulsively kisses it. Only a tiny smudge of red, in her martial career Philomène surely had worse. "Oh, poor hand!" And she leans in closer, smelling like a peach. "They can't squeeze so many sous out of me," she giggles, "because I never seem to have got any… Shall I call for you at the Rousse house, then?" she offers, without making it at all clear what time, or for which meal. She'll show up when she shows up.

Philomène takes a moment to consider what the worst case scenario could be if this vision in red satin were to show up at the Rousse house. Morning seems unlikely, so that's out. There's the chance she'll show at 3am, of course, but with a little warning to make sure the servants are aware and the bell outside the house is removed, well, yes, not too awful.

"That sounds marvellous," she assures the other woman, briefly touching her fingers to Leda's cheek as she leans in, but then the hands are released and she gives a precise, decorous nod and a small smile. "Tomorrow," she reaffirms, and then turns on her good leg, braces on the back of a nearby chair to try to disguise the worst of her hilariously caricatured walk, and awkwardly makes her way between the various patrons to the exit.

"Tomorrow, darling," agrees Leda earnestly, without stopping to consider whether she even knows what day today might be. And then…

Poor… old… countrified… vicomtesse, with a limp.

Heh heh. Oops.

Over the next handful of seconds several innoc— several partygoers, are intimately brushed past or outright stepped upon by a red satin apparition moving at speed through the suite of none too capacious salons wherein the party has been permitted to spread itself out. This apparition seizes a bloom or two from each vase of flowers it passes, until it comes upon the bunch of primroses dumped out under a table earlier on when the vessel in which they'd previously reposed was put to a different, more urgent use. Jackpot! Leda walks straight over a chair and bounces off a rascally baron and rushes on stockinged tip-toes after her poor old countrified vicomtesse who, let's face it, with that limp, isn't displaying any great turn of speed en route to the front door.

The peach scent must reach Philomène an instant before the next exclamation of: "Philo!" Above that hasty, still-dripping bouquet of humble winter flowers in yellow and pink and blue-violet, brandished toward her in both hands, Leda Lavecq's eyes are putting on a show of the earnestness and the sheer size for which they were and are justly famed in the Camaeline mountains.

Philomène half turns at both the scent and her name, and is surprised by this bedraggled bunch of flowers in her face. Nonetheless she accepts it, because what else does one do in the circumstances, and what else could she do when faced with those huge green eyes. "I… ah… thank you," she responds, somewhat awkwardly. This has hardly helped her make a dignified, quiet exit, being as though a good three quarters of the room are now looking to see what's got Leda so excited, but the sentiment is truly appreciated.

During the ritual transfer of the flowers Leda glows, as though bestowing a benediction.

Her conscience salved — it's a rackety old beast, showing its years, long accustomed to contenting itself with the scraps she feeds it upon — she returns to the thick of the party, escorted by all those interested and adoring gazes and not a little laughter from those present capable of seeing far enough, straight enough, to realise they've just witnessed the original.

Another wave of demands for entertainment swells up in one chamber and swiftly crashes across the other, lifting Leda's mood higher still upon its crest. She teases, and teases, and pretends not to know what they mean, and then for an encore she does the Dowayne of Cereus House in the Presence of an Unpleasant Odour, to tumultuous applause when at the last she faints dead away.

A nice young man helps to pick her up off the floor and has his bottom pinched for his trouble. This is plainly visible to most onlookers and earns another round of giggles from those who know Leda the best and were in fact watching for something of the kind.

Plus ça change indeed.

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