(1311-02-04) Happy to be Back
Summary: Philomene and Helene meet by the fire, and catch up on recent events.
RL Date: February 3, 2019
Related: None
philomene helene 

The Leaping Fish Inn

The Main Room of the Leaping Fish is tidy and well-kept - and warmed by a fire in the hearth to one side on colder days and evenings. An old tapestry depicting a pair of two leaping fish is adorning the opposite wall - a reference to both the ruling House of Mereliot and the name of the inn. The common room has five tables of sturdy oak with chairs and benches, between which two serving maids move to take orders or bring food and beverages. The air is filled with tasty smells of freshly cooked meals, and murmurs of conversation - and occasionally even melodies rippling through the room, when a lute player is around to provide entertainment. The fare is of good quality that even would not disappoint noble tastes.

There are stairs leading upstairs towards a number of comfortable and well kept rooms the inn has to offer.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a winter morning. The weather is cold and snowing.


It is growing late, the dim light of winter evening just piercing the panes of the Inn's windows, falling on the woman who sits alone by the fire. Hélène's green eyes are unfocused as they take in the flames, her left hand idly turning a ring on the ring finger of her right. There is wine set before her, but at least, for the moment, she is too distracted to touch it. Jean-Marc, as always, stands near enough by to watch, but also allows his mistress her space.

When Philomène enters, it's not with any bodyguard or companion, save that of her thick woollen jacket, about fifteen years out of fashion but still serviceable and of decent quality. The jacket, at present, carries in with it a few rapidly melting snowflakes, which glisten in the firelight and leave the occasional drip as she limps forward, heading directly for the fire. Well, it's that cold out, it's hardly surprising. "My lady," she greets cordially, extending one icy cold hand towards Hélène in greeting, and holding the other out to the fire to begin warming through already. "May I join you?"

It takes a moment for Hélène to realise she is being spoken to, but when she does (with a slight start), the colour rises to her cheeks and she rises, gesturing towards the empty chairs. "Of course you can join me Viscomtesse. I had hoped to see you soon actually, now I have returned from Siovale, to make arrangements for the coming shipping season." She gives Philomène a warm smile, and waits politely as the elder woman settles before sitting down herself, smoothing the blue wool of her skirts over her legs.

"Can I offer you some wine? I do not think I can finish a bottle myself," Hélène adds, her eyes already turning to look for a staff member to bring her another glass.

"That would be very kind of you, thank you," Philomène insists, returning the smile if to a lesser, more polite degree, face fixed in that smile as she lowers herself carefully into the seat beside the firedogs. "I trust your trip to Siovale was successful, and you remain well?" she offers once she's safely ensconced in her chair.

Hélène pauses, her lips pursing slightly as she considers her answer carefully. The glass appears, supplied not by a staff member by rather, by Jean-Marc while she thinks, giving her an additional reprieve as she pours the wine for Philomène. Finally she nods her chin slowly, "Yes, I suppose. The investiture was a success, and the rest…" Her voice trails off, perhaps unsurprisingly given she left abruptly at her father's passing.

She takes a steadying breath and asks, "and how was your time in Elua? I have not seen you since before," Another pause, another moment to compose herself, "The longest night."

Philomène gives a nod of thanks for the glass, accepting it with one chilly hand to draw closer to her. "It was… enlightening," she decides, after a half second to choose the most apt word. "The town is full of hawkers and conmen, trying to diddle the tourists, the streets are full of rats and beggars if only you look away from the shining lights with which they try to dazzle, and Mont Nuit is… well, it rests on the laurels of its reputation, I would say. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. It can't be easy when the city suddenly doubles in size for the winter season, but I do feel that very little effort beyond the superficial was ever made. It's all show, do you see? Nothing honest in the town at all."

The younger Baronesse leans in as she listens, her attention given fully to Philomène, nodding in understanding as she makes her points. "Do you find Marsilikos any better? It is still big, I was reminded of that after my visit home, and full of pretty young things looking for the next night's entertainment." She pauses to sip her wine at last, the red colouring her lips a moment before being whisked away as she bites her lips together. Clearly, Hélène is agitated, and distractible, but focusing in on the conversation through force of will as Philomène's conversation is most welcome.

"Marsilikos is still, at heart, a port," Philomène argues, sipping at her wine and letting her thumb run lightly around the rim of the glass. "It has a reality at the centre, no matter the gloss that some of these youngsters want to spin on top." She eyes Hélène for an instant, then leans forward to take up the poker and stoke the fire to a cheerier glow of dancing flames, which reflect prettily in the glass in her hand, and the melting snow beginning to puddle at her feet. "Would you like a little brandy in your wine to keep out the cold?" she suggests delicately. Because keeping out the cold is clearly the aim, here, not the soothing of obviously jangled nerves.

Hélène agrees, her chin nodding, even as she turns the ring around her finger once more, an unconscious habit at this point. "It is. It is the port that brings many of here to do business. Is the court itself not also a drawn in Elua though? There is both the social season, and the political one after all."

She glances to the fire a moment when Philomne suggests brandy, and the younger shakes her head, "No, but thank you. I find the fire quite warm enough, at least after sitting beside it for so long." She gives Philomène a wane smile, "My apologies. It has been…. It has been a very busy month, or six weeks? Short periods that have been very eventful, with strangely felt slow periods between. Elua, I'm rambling now." She reaches for her wine to keep herself from stumbling on.

Philomène sniffs. "The court is shallow by its very definition. Politics is nothing but frantic battles deflected this way and that by the unseen powers." She pulls out a flask from an inside pocket, adding a few drops from it to her wine, regardless. "You seem beside yourself. Can I assist in any way?" She tries the more direct.

Hélène watches as the drops are added, little to add to the comments about the shallowness of politics. It is well enough known that it is not a topic that has held her attention. She takes another breath and explains, "It has just been busy, one crisis after another. First I found myself travelling halfway across the province searching for a lost priestess, almost lost Eneas, in more than one way, and then… Well after the busy days of searching, things were too still until I learned my father died, unexpectedly. Then off to Siovale for two weeks, two and a half? I scarcely know, and now I am back, and Baronesse, and much too young for it. I should have had at least another ten or twenty years to prepare." She pauses, and chuckles softly, her head shaking, "But hardly things that I ought to be burdening you with. Though I should warn you, I think Eneas and I both hold you partially to blame for what happened there. Without your words, I'd not have allowed it to happen between us, and others would not have been… hurt." She struggles with the last word, the singular syllable caught in her throat.

Philomène arches a brow, leaning forward to press a gentle hand to Hélène’s sleeve. "My dear, I'm so dreadfully sorry, I had no idea. And of course I apologise wholeheartedly for whatever foolish words I've chosen to make your life so much more difficult. Please, do have a little brandy, I insist." And insist she does, unscrewing the cap of her flask again to tip over the other woman's glass.

That earns a laugh from Hélène, not harsh, but sincere as she shakes her head and takes the woman's hand in her own, stroking the back gently. "Your words also brought me a happiness I never sought or expected. It was just that neither of us knew that Gwenaelle would leave. He thought, and so did I from our one conversation, that she understood his nature, and that he and were more than a fortnight's dalliance." She sighs softly, "do not regret encouraging us to love, even though it has had unintended consequences."

"And so now..?" Philomène presses, setting her flask on the table behind her and turning to take the other woman's hand in both of hers, because she has two hands, you see, after all. "What do you want now? If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?"

"A few weeks reprieve?" Hélène suggests, her eyebrows rising. "A chance to grow accustomed to my new role, to build on the trade relationships I have made? I want Eneas to recover from his injury. I want… I want many things Viscomtesse, but most of all? I would like not to worry as I am doing now. And I would like not to feel so badly about being happy with Eneas, given what it cost someone else."

“Philomène, please," the Vicomtesse interjects softly, thumbs running over the other woman's knuckles, "And being happy, being in love, is never a crime but a directive from the heavens themselves, is it not?" She shakes her head, pressing her lips together. "My dear, you have a notion of duty, which is admirable, but remember that there are some things that you will never be able to change. Concentrate instead on the things you can. A rest? Then take a week, the world won't fall apart. You've had a trying time. Rest."

It is late enough that the winter sun is nearly faded, and Hélène and Philomène have sought refuge from the winter's night by the fireside in the inn. They share a bottle of wine between the pair of them as they talk, hands clasped together as they both lean in.
Hélène sighs softly and nods, "Perhaps I should. A few days at least, but there is still much to do before I can consider it. I have not even been back a day, and with the investiture there is so much paperwork to register, and changes to be made. When it is done though I will take the time. No promises on the feelings of guilt though. That may be too deeply ingrained." Of course, what she has just described is not quite what Philomène meant, but given that noted sense of duty, perhaps a small win for the elder woman.

Philomène pats the hands again, freeing one to take up her drink and look over to the servant standing near by. "Jean-Louis, was it? Monsieur, would you do me the very great favour of ensuring that the appropriate paperwork is signed and the Lady Hélène can have at least two days respite from these trifles of bureaucracy?" She shakes her head. "And you," she adds to the woman, "must first get a good night's sleep, and then we shall face the challenges as they come, hm?"

"Jean-Marc," Hélène gently corrects before shaking her head, "And he has known me far too long to take orders from another." she reaches for her wine to take a sip, colour rising slightly to her cheeks before she leans forward to whisper something in a low tone before leaning back, looking oddly satisfied with herself for a moment.

Philomène exhales resignedly, straightening where she sits and fixing Jean-Marc with her steeliest gaze. "The apothecary, then, if you would be so kind, when you take her home, Monsieur. They should be able to furnish her ladyship with appropriate tinctures that she might rest. No, no," she waves off the expected protest. "I absolutely insist. You're no use to anyone if you're not at full strength."

It is Jean-Marc that snorts then, his low voice answering back, "My Lady is perfectly capable of ensuring she sleeps, or at least finding someone else who can." If they had been together any less long, or were less good friends, or had there ever been sexual tension between the pair, he likely would not get away with saying it, but ten years in, his children call her aunt, and his wife is amongst her closest friends. Jean-Marc gets away with it, though he earns a snort and exaggerated eye roll in return.

"I will be fine Philomène, I promise. Better than that even. And you? What are you working on now that you have escaped the shallow clutches of the capitol?"

"Oh, barely anything," Philomène deflects deftly, "I've a few deals I'm working on, and I'm buying a house of my own if I'm to be here more permanently, but really, superficial details. I've found a few possible matches for my Laurene, but we shall see what comes of them."

"Anyone I know?" Hélène asks curiously, leaning forward once more, happy it seems to move the conversation on to other matters. "And does Chalasse not have a house in the city? I had to have Verreuil house reopened, but it was here for my use at least."

"Oh, a few families in Camlach, one or two closer to your neck of the woods, nothing set in stone," Philomène insists, content to give no more detail than that for now. "And yes, of course, and I've been a guest of the Chalasse here thus far, but I am rather accustomed to my freedom. I make a poor guest, I'm afraid, and a place of my own makes so much more sense. I shouldn't need to worry about inviting potential partners in the evening without disturbing the house, for example."

"I would volunteer my brother, but I learned he had taken a consort when I was back in Siovale, with no intention of taking another female lover again," Hélène answers with a chuckle, her head shaking. "I can understand the desire for privacy, though I do not expect most care if you have partners in the evening, though you may take less pleasure in disturbing others than Eneas does." She chuckles again, then asks, more kindly, her voice slightly lower, "Are you concerned of your husband's reactions were his family to tell him?"

Philomène arches a brow, uncomprehending. "Why on earth would Louis-Claude object? He has as much an interest in arranging trade deals as I do. No, no, it's purely a matter of logistics. My extended family here are early to bed, and I don't like to disturb by bringing home guests. Besides, with my own place I have the chance to decorate as I would like, rather than covering the place in horse brasses and twee little ornaments."

That earns a brighter laugh from Hélène who nods, "I was in my cousin's room before I left, and it was… ostentatious. Of course, she finds my accommodations sparse, but it is more that I do not need anything, and I am perfectly happy furnishing a room with whatever was hidden under the dustsheets when the house was closed up. Of course given the house itself is mostly furnished with books, and nooks to read in, I cannot complain too much. And I… I rather thought you meant other evening visitors. My apologies Vis," she catches herself, "Philomène."
Philomène half laughs, shaking her head. "Ah, no. I've been really rather too busy to focus on other evening visitors. Although perhaps I ought to start looking if I'm to be here longer than I thought. It does a body good to have company, as an old friend of mine told me only a few weeks ago."

"I you asked me four months ago, I would have disagreed," Hélène answers, "Now I will only say it complicates life, but not too badly… I think." And one thing is clear, she has focused so much on other matters, that competent as she may be in trade agreements and organising shipping routes, until very recently, her heart was a distant thing. She is inexperienced, perhaps even naive, though not so far as to come across as a love struck sixteen-year-old.

"It only complicates things if you let emotion get in the way of sound business," Philomène notes, ever the practical one. "I'd like to think I've stripped out just about every emotion from my body by now, save for the useful ones of anger and contempt."

"I would argue with you there. There is no danger to business with Lord d'Aiglemort. By all accounts we are a good match, for our families as well, though neither of us are interested in a marriage. It still complicates matters. Emotion though, you have them Philomène, even if you try to be hard. I see it in your love for your daughters, and your concern for the way the world works in the cities. It may not cloud your judgment at a negotiating table, but you feel just as we all do," Hélène says gently.

Philomène half smiles. "Perhaps, then, I simply don't allow my judgement to be clouded by them, if I can," she allows. "What prevents a marriage for you, though?" She turns the question round. "It would be advantageous to both parties and a marriage is, by nature, a matching of family and reputation for coin and skill. You'd both do well from it."

"But neither of us are interested. I could be persuaded. I do not think Eneas could," Hélène answers with a laugh, her shoulders rising in a shrug, "Besides, it has only been three months, and it would be hurtful to Sister Gwenaelle when she learnt. So why go through all of that, if we are happy as we are?"

"For the political alliance, of course, why else would anyone marry?" Philomène responds simply, raising a brow. "Produce an heir or two and your line is secure, with alliances in Camlach and Siovale both."

"I need an heir, it is true, but I do not need to marry to do that. My family has never pressured me to either, and his older brother has already secured their own line twice over," Hélène answers once more with another slight shrug. It does not rule out that they might one day have a child together, but it is far from a certainty, perhaps even a likelihood. "Honestly, Philomène, no matter what, there is no rush, and neither of us are likely to press the matter. I love him enough to have chased Gwenaelle across the countryside, because he loved her. And he loves me enough that when she said she would leave, he chose to stay here. It is enough." and there is confidence in her voice at that.

Philomène rolls her eyes. "My dear, I'm not talking of love. I have no doubt that you have that in abundance, but it's a matter entirely divorced from marriage. Good grief, I'm really quite fond of my Louis-Claude, but my goodness I'm hardly in love with him. It's a completely separate transaction."

"And it is not one I require at this time. If my family were to intercede, perhaps I would marry. Whether that be the Lord d'Aiglemort, or another. They have not," Hélène answers again, her had shaking, "And I know they are distinct. Yet, I am lucky that there has been little pressure to find a match to secure an alliance. So far shipping routes have sufficed."

Philomène nods slowly to that, considering. "So Lord Eneas is still a valid option for my Laurene, then?" she clarifies, brows lifting. "That would be an excellent match, and fits all the criteria I'm looking for, it's true."

Hélène chuckles, "He would never agree, or likely would not agree I should specify. And you are just saying that to put me out. As I said, I could be persuaded, but I do not think he could, at least with anything short a threat from the Duc d'Aiglemort himself." She takes another sip of the wine, her spirits certainly lighter than when Philomène first entered. "Have i offered any of my other brothers yet?" she teases.

"Frequently," Philomène admits with a half smile, taking up her wine to sip and letting her thumb rest lightly on the rim. "And while I'm sure they're lovely, I'm really looking for alliances in Camlach. At least for one of them. A Camaeline granddaughter would be my dream."

"I think my own mother would be happy with just a grandchild. Louis' consort, Pierre has children with his wife, but Maman says they are not entirely the same, though she does adore them too," Hélène answers with a gentle smile. "In all truth though Philomène, I would marry him if he wished to, but it is not necessary. It would be wise both politically and personally. But I would not do it until enough time had passed to mend Sister Gwen's heart. It would be unkind since I know she wished the same for herself. Perhaps one day, but not yet, so don't go writing to his brother about your daughter quite yet."

Philomène snorts. "Take it with both hands when you get the chance. If Sister Gwen missed out, that's hardly your problem. Or invite her to join you, but for all that is holy, you can't feel guilty for her."

"I would have been happy to muddle through, figuring things out, the three of us. She chose not to be part of that. It is not my problem, but I will still be respectful. I will not however let go of Eneas without a fight, or simply stand aside and tell him to run after her to Elua, Philomène. I will hold on as long as he will let me," Hélène answers firmly, for once her own wants and needs weighing equally against her usual inclination to give way to others.

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