(1310-11-26) The Carriage Held But Just Ourselves
Summary: Sarielle calls upon her mother Alette, a Priestess of Eisheth, only to find Emmanuelle has already arrived and got her boots on the table.
RL Date: 12/12/2018 - 23/12/2018
Related: None.
emmanuelle sarielle 

Alette’s Chambers — Temple of Eisheth

The quarters of a Priestess of Eisheth are modest but beautiful in their way, like all the rest of her temple and its attached infirmary. The proportions are graceful, the appointments sufficient for comfort in any season — and the personal touches accumulated over nearly a decade of residence by Sarielle's mother Alette, add a thin but gentle layer of homeliness over priestly simplicity. But this afternoon all is rendered tense and unfamiliar by the presence of a slight, black-clad figure in Alette's most comfortable chair, and a pair of feet in spike-heeled leather boots propped up on her work-table.

Her old colleague's sitting-room seems hardly big enough to contain Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai and all she represents. Her tricorne hat and her cloak are disposed upon separate pieces of furniture, and her gloves of dark red leather so thin and so fine it holds still the shape of her hands, are strewn upon the table just along from her crossed ankles; her resinous cologne scents the air, and the gaze of her cold blue eyes roams at will over every object and into every corner with the assurance of a sardonic conqueror, returning periodically to Alette's face as they sit together and drink a sharply astringent herbal tea the taste of which has inspired a slight smile to touch her painted red mouth. There's no red on her cup. Much like her patrons, her maquillage is trained to stay where it's put. When the girl arrives Emmanuelle, no longer smiling, looks her over with more detachment than curiosity. The cup held in one of her deft and sensitive white hands, clinks delicately into the saucer clasped in the other. She awaits the introduction; but she scarcely requires it, having perceived at once its nature.

With the little free time afforded to her, Sarielle had decided today would be as good of a day and time as any to call upon her mother in Marsilikos's Sanctuary of Eisheth. Upon seeing the woman Allete is keeping company with, she may be rethinking the decision. Her ensemble is fairly casual but enough to do her House justice: an ivory gown of satin with reserved skirts and a smooth, tight, conical bodice with a dropped shoulder over a high-necked eggshell white chemise. A blue shawl, a similar shade to robe her Priestess mother wears, is tied firmly around her shoulders to provide another layer of coverage to the finial of her yet-unmarqued back for propriety's sake. The slashed sleeves are caught with gilt clasps over voluminous chemise sleeves.

Alette rises to give her daughter a kiss of greeting with the same uncanny grace the girl shows. Her coloring is darker than her progeny's, rich auburn hair almost garish comparably. "What a pleasant surprise! Please, join us." A guiding hand is placed on her daughter's shoulder, directing her inside the chamber. "Lady Shahrizai, may I present to you to my daughter, Sarielle mac Caolan nó Lis d'Or," the woman announces formally, a twinkle of mischief disturbing the typical serenity of her sea blue eyes. "Ellie, this is Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai. We trained to become chirurgeons together, Elua, how many years has it been now?"

Sarielle swallows her trepidation and allows herself to be guided by her lady mother. A flicker of recognition runs through her face at the name before she's curtseying with all the fair manners instilled by her house to the woman insouciantly sprawled in her mother's quarters. "It is my pleasure, Lady Shahrizai." Whatever she expected to find today in Eisheth's Sanctuary, it was not the former Dowayne of Mandrake House.

How many years has it been? "… Several," Emmanuelle suggests to Alette, favouring her with a deadpan expression to match the tone of her low, drawling, uisghe-dark voice. Then with another lazy tilt of her head she regards Sarielle rising from that curtsey every line of which betrays her Night Court training. "Sarielle," she murmurs, letting the sound of it linger upon her tongue. "Very pretty," she pronounces. She may mean the name or the girl or both.

"… But then," she goes on, taking her time to speak for she knows very well she shan't be interrupted, "I do have such pretty, pretty neighbours." Without stirring from her comfy cushioned position she lifts her cup and saucer toward her hostess, signaling her desire for another drop of that sharp-tasting tea. "And what brings you to your maman today, Sarielle?" she inquires in a more courteous vein. "Where is your guard?"

<FS3> Sarielle rolls Composure: Success. (6 2 4 4 8 1 6)

Gracious hostess to the last, Alette responds to the unspoken request for more tea with alacrity. Though lacking formal training, there's still an innate flow to her movements. The Shahrizai's presence is such that the young adept has to quash the urge to fall into abeyante when she's addressed. Her mother's smile is infuriatingly serene as she settles back down in her former seat, a wide, low couch of an older D'Angeline style that's been lovely tended through its tenure at the Sanctuary. Sarielle blushes prettily like the delicate blossom she is, though her gaze does not drop. "Simply a social call, my Lady," she responds with an indrawn breath, light mezzo steady after a shaky start. "Messire Gérard is paying his respects to Eisheth. I thought myself safe enough with my maman." Thought, past tense. The smile she manages is a bit rueful, but in as good humor as one can have when unexpectedly caged with a predator.

Emmanuelle, nodding to Alette her thanks for the tea, is hardly deaf either to the tense or to its implications; she regards Sarielle for a long moment across the rim of the cup as she sips that bitter and fragrant brew, and then she inquires in a purr somehow more than merely rhetorical: "But would you not say that we are all safe, here beneath Eisheth's sheltering hand?" A beat: and then she uncrosses her ankles, and those highly-polished boots begin to make their way down again to the floor. "Your filial piety does you credit, my dear. I shall leave you," but first, another unhurried mouthful of tea, "to your colloquy."

Sarielle's deep-seated poise finally gives way under the inexorable force of personality, leaving her a flustered, stammering mess for a moment in time. The glance her mother gives her speaks to intimate knowledge of the phenomenon, the two older women being long-standing acquaintances, and an amused tolerance behind a peaceful mien. "O-of course, my lady," the adept eventually manages. There's a limit of suffering for the sake of suffering Alette can stand to bear in her presence and she exchanges a look with Emmanuelle requesting — for one only requests things of the Shahrizai — forbearance.

For that look Emmanuelle returns only an opaque expression; but the act of lifting her gaze from Sarielle’s face is in itself a mercy for the girl, who has thus a moment to gather herself whilst Emmanuelle lodges her cup and saucer on the table where her booted feet were just resting and moves her hand to the right in a casual sweep that gathers up her gloves.

Then she stands, sending a faint waft of cologne toward the other women: warm, leathery, with a hint of clean bergamot… Her stance is unconsciously powerful, feet well-planted and shoulders squared. The change in her position reveals an unnatural bulge in her snug-fitting black buckskin breeches, and the glint of a golden pin within the folds of her black silk cravat. Three Shahrizai keys, twined together in a delicate triumph of some Elua jeweler's art. Likewise golden are the spurs on her boots, which jingle softly as she moves.

“You and your tea were a pleasure, my dear,” she drawls to Alette.

Well enough for Sarielle's sake, the mercy provided is an actual rather than an untender one. An astute eye might note the telltale palpitations of a quickened heart in her slender chest; the girl's eyes flutter closed as she takes a silent but steadying breath. Naamah have mercy, Emmanuelle hasn't even done anything except exist in her proximity; it's apparent she's been afforded naught an opportunity to interact so intimately with a scion of Kushiel, sequestered with the frail blooms of Lis d'Or. Her shawl shifts as narrow shoulders are squared beneath it, drawing herself back into nigh perfect posture. Thus rebalanced, the poor dear is able to withstand the onslaught of Emmanuelle with all of her Night Court courtesies and faculties intact. A flicker of askance runs through her delicate features as she notes the bulge before she's able to school them into the neutral prettiness encouraged to prevent signs of aging.

"The pleasure, as always, is mine, my dear," Alette teases, cheekily echoing the other woman's tone. "You know I do appreciate your company, Emmanuelle," her calm gaze slides to Sarielle as she drains her teacup, lips twitching, "though I had forgotten how thoroughly disconcerting it could be to those unacquainted. Ellie, would you be kind enough to bring over that cup?"

The few seconds during which Alette summons her daughter and the latter obediently begins to move, find Emmanuelle raising a slow and inquiring eyebrow at the priestess. Otherwise she is absolutely still, a tableau of restrained power clasping a pair of gloves. “It must have slipped my mind,” she drawls after another moment, “that you and I were ever on terms of such intimacy, Alette.” Then without looking to gauge the priestess’s reaction to the well-honed edge in her tone, she takes two or three prowling steps toward the smaller table where on coming in she left her hat. She flips it up in the air, catches it the right way round, and with a negligent hand conveys it to rest upon her head at the perfect rakish angle.

The weight of her attention shifts to Sarielle. “I have another call to pay here today,” she tells her, rather more gently, “upon an old colleague of your mother’s and mine who has been treating…” She pauses; in selecting the right word she smiles crookedly. “An interest of mine, shall we say—? If you wish it, I will convey you home in my carriage when I’ve concluded my business… You and, of course,” she adds punctiliously, though with a suggestion of mockery about her wide red mouth, “the good Messire Gérard. The Lis d’Or is not out of my way.”

Explaining this, she lifts her cloak from the back of a chair and drapes it over her arm, revealing within the black of it a lining of midnight blue velvet embroidered with a wealth of tiny seed pearls in the shapes of the night sky's constellations.

This time, it's Sarielle's turn to observe the sparks of power fly. Her mother remains remarkably composed, considering the circumstances, a sharply indrawn breath giving lie to the truth. The cup quakes in her hand, ringing against the saucer in the tense silence. As the Shahrizai approaches, Alette leans forward to place the drinkware on the table with the hat, tilting her head in a way that causes her hair to slide over her shoulder and reveal an expanse of bare neck.

Sarielle looks away. Truly, there are some things a daughter doesn't need to know, even in Terre d'Ange.

The adept busies herself with fulfilling her mother's request, acquitting herself with elegance and aplomb. One hand wraps around Emmanuelle's discarded cup with fingers artfully splayed to support it, while the other slips under the saucer, stabilising it with her thumb. Her feet whisper across the floor, dance instruction in full evidence, and she bends at the need to situate the porcelain beside the Ch'in-style metal teapot. She looks up just in time to catch the hat-donning flourish, an off-kilter smile causing a dimple to materialize on the right cheek as she fluidly rises. The smile stays in place as she's addressed, eyebrows raising at the particular choice of words. With a gracious curtsey, she replies in a measured manner, taking care to enunciate, "A generous proposition, Lady Shahrizai. I'd be pleased to accept your offer."

The telltale rattle of porcelain, the bowed head and the bare throat, have no discernible effect at all upon Emmanuelle, whose ice-blue eyes still rest upon the daughter rather than the mother. She's tangentially aware of it all, of course she is; but affecting to ignore Alette's discomfort at the cut of her verbal flechette is at once courteous and cruel, and thus irresistible to one of her temperament.

"You'll be ready when I come to collect you," she informs Sarielle, a serenely confident instruction and prophecy combined. She hefts the ebony cane she left propped in the corner by the door, the head of which is a silver fish reminiscent of the arms of House Mereliot, nods crisply to them both, and departs.

The rap at Alette's door, when it comes, is swift and sharp. When Sarielle has taken leave of her mother she finds quite the party assembled without. Her own guard from the Lis d'Or; a pair of others in Mereliot colours; the former Dowayne of Mandrake House; and a man carrying her cloak, whose colouring and elegant black garb mark him likewise as a Shahrizai, though in place of a cravat he wears a collar of dark leather with a gleaming steel ring set in the front of it. He's a handful of years younger than Emmanuelle and a handful of inches taller. He looks at no one but her; he isn't introduced to Sarielle, nor does he expect to be.

A cursory word of greeting to Sarielle; then Emmanuelle sets off as though the leading goose in a migratory formation, expecting the others to sort out their precedence and follow in good time. She knows the way, of course. With each step she takes the ebony cane in her grasp strikes the floorboards in harmony with her boot-heels and the soft jingling of her spurs. A formidable music.

In the temple's main hall the party pauses long enough for the Shahrizai lord to arrange the Shahrizai lady's midnight-sky cloak about her shoulders and pin it tenderly in place. Her carriage is waiting just beyond, a black-on-black jewel-box of a conveyance in which the seats are upholstered in night-dark velvet and the inside walls in lustrous onyx-studded satin. The unnamed lord quickens his pace to reach the door first and open it. He hands up first Emmanuelle into her accustomed place and then Sarielle into the seat facing her, with her back to the horses. It seems already arranged that the men will ride outside to give them privacy: the Mereliot guards hanging on at the back, and the Lis d'Or guard sharing the high seat at the front with Emmanuelle's coachman and her lordly attendant.

The door shuts and the carriage sways gently as the men dispose themselves. The half-curtained windows let in a little of the wintry afternoon light, which falls mostly upon Sarielle. Emmanuelle secures her cane against the carriage's inner wall with a leather strap installed there for the purpose and settles comfortably into cushioned shadows. Her cologne is more intense in these close quarters; her silence as she regards her passenger, doubly so. The wheels begin to turn.

True to the Lady's prediction, Sarielle is immaculately prepared to depart. The disparate retinue is grazed over, eyes catching on the glint of silver at the Shahrizai lord's neck. Taking the woman's lead, the man is not acknowledged, and her gliding steps keep pace with Emmanuelle's confident stride as they traverse the halls.

Graciously, the adept accepts a hand up to the carriage, restraining herself from gawking at the obvious wealth in residence. It's one thing to know of a house's monetary status and quite another to experience it. Her fingers linger on the velvet of the seat, tracing circles as her nostrils flare at the proximity of Emmanuelle's… everything. Despite that, she's comporting herself with equanimity at this juncture, crossing her ankles neatly at the carriage springs to life.

She lets the silence stretch and remains, at least for the moment, nonplussed, figuring the Lady Shahrizai will break it when she wills it so.

Emmanuelle lets that silence bloom between them a while. To some, it might seem a cheap trick; in truth it's a test, of the girl's manners, her composure, her resolve. It's interesting to see who can withstand the discomfort of it and who blurts out something, anything, from a place of fear or of eagerness to please.

Traffic in the streets of Marsilikos is considerable at this hour of the day, when its denizens are finishing their business or their errands before the sun dips any lower in the sky. When the carriage has left the temple grounds and made its way more slowly a block or so beyond, she takes pity upon her young companion and states: "You are a dancer." Pause. "Do you also sing? Or play an instrument?"

A streak of fierce pride is apparent in the young woman. After her dreadful performance earlier in the afternoon, the commitment to conduct herself in a manner befitting her status, salon, and company has come to a head. The only thing she does in the silence is raise her chin with a hint of defiance—acknowledging the challenge, consenting to play the game, accepting the gambit. The playing field is unbalanced, make no mistake, but her resolution lends her steel.

Even so, Sarielle lets out a breath she didn't know she was containing when the other woman finally speaks.

"Yes, my Lady," she acknowledges, "I play the harp; specifically, if I have my choice, one we brought 'cross the Straits when my mother and I returned from Eire. It has a tonal quality different from the typical D'Angeline design and is my suited to my physique besides." A dimpled smile. "I look well with it."

This show of justifiable pride piques Emmanuelle's interest more than mere humility would have done; a ray of light passing through the carriage's window as they pass a cross-street between two blocks illuminates a lift of her bold dark eyebrows. "I might like to see that one day," she allows, nonchalantly. "You are young yet, I think? An adept? Do you find that Naamah's service agrees with you?"

The small allotment of interest in her playing causes Sarielle's smile to deepen and cheeks to flush. Modestly, it's clarified, "I'm a passing hand, but Eisheth's blessing isn't upon my music; it is simply the result of endless practice. But we do look well together, my harp and I." Smoothing her skirts and adjusting herself upon the velvet-covered seat, the girl nods. "I gained my sixteenth year this May, my Lady." There's that whisper of pride again. "I find much joy in it. Laughter is not my purview, but bringing people joy through my art, through the gifts that have been bestowed upon me, is bliss in its own way. I think, perhaps, it is why some people are drawn to service," indicating with a subtle movement of chin, "such as yon lord Shahrizai. It is my own form of service in my own way; I like being appreciated for what I do."

For a woman who never wears pink, Emmanuelle is oddly fond of that hue upon others: her eyes never leave Sarielle's warm and radiant young features as she digests these clarifications and issues a thought or two of her own. "And I imagine you are," she drawls, "appreciated." A pause, allowed to drag on almost till one might suppose she has finished speaking… But again her finely-drawn red lips part upon purred words. "There is no woman or man born but must serve; you and I are fortunate that our service is to one whose highest virtue is the satisfaction of another's deepest need." She speaks in the present tense, for all the gossip has related her official retirement from the heights of Mont Nuit.

Then, consideringly, she pursues her lips and charts a different conversational course. "I am fond of your mother. Even in her youth she had a backbone."

The penetrating blue gaze upon the adept does finally provoke a squirm, though, to her credit, the shade of her fair skin reddens no more. "I have found it to be so," Sarielle states in simple agreement. Whether it's to the philosophy or implication of how very much her patrons find to be appreciated in her is left up to interpretation.

If the sudden shift in their exchange is meant to nettle her, it is nonetheless met with sangfroid. "I've naught an opportunity to meet with many of the compatriots of her youth. It is a rare treat to find, for me. Since I was scare a babe, Mother has held herself in the guise of healer's tranquility. In truth, I have never seen her as ill composed as today." It's a calculated admission, as it should come as no surprise to Emmanuelle.

And Emmanuelle interprets, of course, in her own opaque manner. Her immaculate and dignified features suffer no shift until, at the end of another strategic pause, she speaks again. "I daresay you gathered that she was always fonder of me than I of her," she drawls; "I wonder, what did she tell you about me—?"

… The horses slow and the carriage draws to a halt; the erstwhile Mandrake swivels on her velvet-upholstered seat and subjects Sarielle to one last cool, critical, ice-blue appraisal. “Answering in the negative is such a cowardly evasion, don’t you find?" she drawls, sounding slightly weary. "… All right, child. Away with you.” She nudges the carriage door ajar and her hand falls away; as it opens the men outside hear her saying, cordially, “And you’ll be sure to give my regards to your Dowayne, when next you speak with her.”

A flicker of trepidation, a slight fluttering of eyelids, and then there's no more time to lodge a complaint or protest: Sarielle is thrust from that dreamlike jewel box, night-dark and sumptuous, onto the stage of the world. After such a respite, if it could be called such, the edges of reality seem to cut sharper.

"I shall do so, my Lady. I'm sure she'll find your insights of interest. You have my thanks, again, for seeing me home so kindly," she responds with equal courtesy — there's no tell in her tone, but one simply needs glance at her face to see how even the small amount of dissembling pains her — whilst gathering her skirts to depart. As she steps down into the winter-slanted sunlight, her doll-like hand rests lightly upon Baltasar's, whose lowered gaze is far less partial than the one afforded to her by M. Gérard.

Indeed, her guard appears at first stricken by the state of her — the crumpled silk gown he last saw pristine, the rosy hue shared in common by her lips and her cheeks, the slight tender swelling of the skin around her forget-me-not blue eyes — until he receives from her an imperiously quelling look that, were she able to see it, might even do the Mandrake proud. With a muttered curse, barely audible, he steps smartly forward to take a position in heel behind the girl, as if his presence were enough to ward her against events already transpired.

Her attention returning to the carriage, Sarielle provides another Lis d'Or-trained curtsey for its inhabitant, her eyes lingering overlong upon the shadows wherein Emmanuelle sits.

When her gesture goes unacknowledged she turns on her heel in a flurry of skirts, setting off toward the salon’s entrance, her gliding steps dogged by that urgently whispering, questioning, disapproving guard. With a whip-crack word of command belying the girl's apparent frailty and the uneasy balance of power between the guarded and the guard, he sets his jaw but holds his peace as he follows.

The scathing glance of Baltasar Shahrizai is lost upon both the participants in yonder tableau: he’s Emmanuelle’s submissive, but no one else’s. And anyone who fails sufficiently to appreciate his mistress, anyone who casts even implicit aspersions upon her character, is liable to suffer his scorn… With a bow he must suppose will go unheeded, but which he wouldn’t dare to skimp, he shuts the carriage door and checks its security with a careful hand.

Inside, leaning back now against her marvelous upholstery, Emmanuelle indulges in the softest kind of chuckle. She was right; and she does like to be right. But before Baltasar is up on the box and before the wheels begin to turn beneath her she is already contemplating her responsibilities: what she owes to the girl, the mother, the Dowayne, and how to balance it all. The sensation of another duty settling into place upon her shoulders is a not unfamiliar one, and by the time her carriage has rounded the corner and she’s alighting before her own wrought-iron gates she has composed in her mind’s eye the ideal approach.

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