(1311-02-06) Carpetbombed!
Summary: Philomène receives lovely, lovely visitors from Elua.
RL Date: 03/02/2019 - 04/02/2019
Related: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same.
leda philomene genevieve cochonnet 

A Small House in Marsilikos

One of the most striking differences between Elua and Marsilikos is that while Elua never sleeps, the more provincial city by the sea has a very definite if not formally defined curfew. By the time 4am or thereabouts comes round, only the serious partygoers are still out and about and raring to go, and the various bars and taverns, by now running precariously low on vital stocks of glassware, liquor and goodwill, start to move their stumbling patrons on. Those from the various ships tend to find a gutter or an alley to curl up and sweat off the night's excesses, while those of station, title, or at least money, tend to charge off to find the next victim's house that'll take them in.

One such party, awash with title, money and rather a large amount of red satin, furs, frills and bows, having fallen out of a once respectable (after last night this reputation may vary according to the tales told) tavern, and having staggered down the street towards the docks, managed to come up with a new, wonderfully exciting destination based on a half-remembered memory and a pretty mural of golden bream swimming on an otherwise unremarkable warehouse wall.

So it is that Philomène's young servant (newly acquired, to go with the newly acquired house here) is waylaid by ladies and gentlemen with bright, gleaming eyes which no doubt owe their shine to something a little stronger than just the booze, led by a whirlwind of kisses and darlings and laughter and fine silk clothing, who assure the poor girl that not only are they expected but that they are Old Friends of the Vicomtesse and she'll be delighted to see them and never mind yes, they'll see themselves in, and so the party goes on.

And on.

All of this, Philomène, no doubt through a few aids from the apothecary herself, manages to sleep through, and it isn't until the sun begins to rise this winter's morning that she stirs in the (by now) silence, stretches, and pads away to answer the call of nature, still half asleep.

Until she almost trips on a fully naked leg, itself wrapped up in an almost naked arm, and the true and horrifying aftermath of a Leda Lavecq party becomes apparent.

The discovery is a gradual one, of course, as was the upward sprawl of the party from its early-morning waypoint in the better of Philomène’s two salons: those two, garb extravagant but sex indeterminate, were obviously the sophisticates of the group, seeking a spare bedchamber in which to disport themselves, until they were overtaken by such urgency that the carpet in the first floor corridor seemed, in the moment, a plausible substitute.

The carpet will have to be destroyed, of course.

Still, they don’t appear to constitute an armed invasion, and an Aiglemort woman would be equal to such even if they were, so after she’s attended to her own urgent requirements Philomène sets off along the trail of torn garments and lost shoes to see what in the name of the Lord of Hell and all his demons happened in her house while she was sleeping.

For starters each article of furniture appears to have leapt up and done a jolly dance and resettled itself somewhere else, in a configuration somewhat haphazard but unquestionably more elegant than anything that might have been achieved by the eye of a woman more accustomed to superintending the construction of new pigsties, or the removal of dead warriors from cluttered battlefields, than the arrangement of a salon for conversation, dancing, and delight. All the candlesticks Philomène recalls seeing when she moved in yesterday, plus several she wasn’t aware could be found on the premises, are aglow with — if she should happen to count them — the entirety of a supply of candles that was supposed to have lasted the rest of the month. The air is stultifyingly hot, courtesy of fires kept roaring for hours on end and tended recently enough that they’re still going strong — so Philomène may as well kiss goodbye a considerable supply of firewood, too — and redolent of clashing colognes, liquor in vast quantities (scant residue remaining in every single glass, mug, cup, and bowl they could find in the kitchen, but plenty of sticky spills on the other carpets, they’ve been very thorough in that respect), and an unpleasant acrid whiff from under the stairs suggesting that somebody retired there in the throes of a sudden and brutal Unwellness.

Because, you see, that’s the most striking contribution her nocturnal visitors have made to the décor of what was yesterday a modest but neat little house: themselves.

Almost a dozen people Philomène has never seen before in her life, are dozing or downright unconscious in her chairs, on her sofas, under her tables, or propped against the above cuddling cushions or bottles or one another. They seem more at home, altogether, than she herself, for all she’s the one paying the mortgage and it’s they who’ve invited themselves in and covered every surface with empty vessels, plates of half-eaten food, and enough scattered playing cards that they must have had a game going which required at least four packs.

She must wonder, at least for a moment, whether they’ve simply come to the wrong house, or perhaps in search of the previous occupant of this one…? But then, perhaps, her narrowed eyes fall upon a slight, brightly-dressed woman who has curled up with her wavy dark head resting upon a handsome young man, as though he were a pillow. Presumably he has something to do with why she’s smiling in her sleep? Geneviève nó Orchis, last seen in Elua in possession of rather a risqué puppet, and offering a beguiling Jasmine blossom a demonstration of how she got banned from Hellas: transplanted now without a word of warning to the warmer southern city of Marsilikos. And where there’s one unfairly beautiful superannuated Orchis…

The best sofa is occupied by a lovely brunette in her twenties whose round cheeks are marked each with a dot of rouge in a parody of a blush. Her pale bosom is on the verge of tumbling free of her pretty blue gown — what one notices about her first of all, though, is that her skirts are ruched up over her marvelous silk-stockinged legs by a sort of embroidered harness devised to secure in very plain view an enormous ornamental, though no doubt also perfectly serviceable, aide d’amour. She has a tasseled cushion stuffed crookedly under her head, a wilting pale pink rose sticking out of her plunging neckline, and somebody smaller spooned around her, tucked between her long-limbed body and the back of the sofa. This someone has draped a friendly arm over her and wrapped an automatic sleepy hand round her extravagant phallus. The nails of that hand are lacquered a brilliant red, brighter than blood.

“… Oh, Philo, darling,” pipes a groggy but delighted little voice the lady thus addressed knows all too well. Satin rustles; Leda Lavecq nó Orchis levers herself a few tentative degrees towards the vertical, leaning upon the unconscious Piglet of Glycine. “Good morning!”

Philomène stops in her tracks at the voice, fingers going immediately to pinch the bridge of her nose, as though that might possibly prevent the headache that is inevitably going to plague her day. She stoops to at least throw the corner of a rug and my goodness let’s not even consider what that new stain in the corner is over the brunette and her obscenely cheerful artificial genitalia, before turning on the spot, not even bothering to hide the wince of pain, “My dear Leda Lavecq, of course,” she exhales wearily. “Should I assume then that this is not a poor, lost party of revellers, but your inevitable entourage?”

She takes a step forward, poking with the toe of one slipper at a discarded item of underwear, so incredibly lacy that it could barely be called a garment but a decoration. Glancing back to Leda, she raises a brow. “Are there any candles left, dare I ask? And if there are, would I regret asking what you’ve been doing with them?”

Again she exhales, then straightens as her newly appointed maid chooses this most inopportune moment to reappear. “Ah. Geraldine. Do gather your things and be gone within the hour. Your services are no longer required.”

The edge of that rug from the corner of the sofa flops also over Leda’s red satin skirts; she beams up at her old friend as though she’s just been tucked in for the night. She’s obviously still rascally drunk: the hangover has not yet had a moment in which to establish itself. “Oh, no, we didn’t all come together!” she giggles, as though that, yes, that, would be absurd. None of the rest. “Just Geneviève and I came — I wonder where she’s got to? But we made such a lot of new friends tonight,” she explains, “and I wanted to bring them all to meet you, but your girl said you were asleep, so we thought we’d just have one last drink…”

Mathematics has never been Leda’s strong suit.

She’s still giggling at Philomène’s insinuation regarding the candles when it registers that she has just overheard a dismissal: “Oh, did she do something wrong, darling?” she asks vaguely, double-blinking up at Philomène with slightly kohl-smudged eyes. “She was awfully nice to us, you know, she showed us where everything’s kept in the kitchen.”

“I should be grateful I didn’t wake up with all of your ‘new friends’ in my bed, let alone my house,” Philomène grumbles, lips pursing together. “Good grief, I haven’t even finished paying for that carpet yet and look at it!”

All the while she’s deliberately not looking at Leda. She knows what to expect. The big green eyes, the hurt expression, the tears brimming. No, if she’s going to continue being angry, she needs to focus on the strangers.

“How many of them did you even bring, Leda? How did you even know where I was?” come the demanding questions, rapid fire. “Is there anything left untouched? Even a single bottle, or glass, or, hell’s bells, I’d accept a bloody bowl right now so I can just have a bloody cup of tea!”

Alas, even looking away is no proof against that small, tender voice, choked with emotion and Philomène’s own purloined booze: “Well, darling, I //asked/, you know — I did so want to see you again, and to say how sorry I am to have missed our ride together…”

On that note the door at the back of the chamber opens to admit a figure in a neat blue dress and a spotless white apron, who comes in backward carrying a tray and nudges the door quietly shut again before coming farther into the room. A fresh-faced, sun-haired Camaeline farmgirl, a beauty built on a broad scale, a shield maiden in waiting. Philomène of all people must recognise the type at a glance. She’s no stranger an apparition here than all the rest, or is she—? She could carry a pig under each arm without visible effort: at present she’s only carrying… why, a teapot, a pair of clean cups and saucers, a jug of milk and a bowl of sugar, and a plate of fresh, fragrant pastries still warm from some local baker’s oven.

She’s looking about her: she spots red satin and comes trooping up to the sofa. The china hardly rattles with her quick bobbed curtsey to Leda. “Your breakfast, Madame Lavecq,” she explains in, yes, a broadish Camaeline accent, reminiscent of the mountains of Philomène’s youth. A second curtsey follows, to Philomène herself, just in case.

“Oh, bless you, Brigitte,” sighs Leda, turning a beaming smile upon the girl. She sits up the rest of the way, sighing dramatically, and attempts to untangle her legs and her skirts from those of her slumbering companion, who doesn’t appear to have registered any of this. “Philo was just saying how much she’d like a cup of tea,” she explains happily.

Right at that moment, there could be no lovelier vision than this. Not just the spotless — my goodness is that even starched? — apron and the neat blue dress, nor the wholesome sound of home in her voice, or the neat little curtsey. Oh no, this paragon of virtue brings tea.

“Brigitte?” Philomène breathes, not too loud in case the mirage disappears. “You are by far the most wonderful thing I have seen this morning. Leda, is she yours? I find myself inexplicably in need of a new maid as of… about fifty five minutes time.”

Both hands go out for the cup, and she lapses into pleased silence as the tea is poured. Really, she’s so simple to manipulate.

This question is too difficult for Leda, especially so late in the evening, or early in the morning, or whatever time it is for her. She refers it to Brigitte herself, via an imploring look in which many a gentleman or lady before now has discerned the sentiment: be mine.

The farmgirl smiles from one woman to the other; demurely, respectfully, whilst establishing the tray between the edge of the table and her own rounded hip, whilst being in every respect the ideal domestic of every householder’s dreams. She explains, “I’m very happy to be in Madame Lavecq’s service, thank you, milady.” She presents Philomène with her cup of tea as though it were a consolation prize. She has already found out from Geraldine how she takes it.

Leda has managed by now to climb over Cochonnet and straighten her dress, sort of. Some of the bows on her bodice are askew, suggestive of a hasty retying by incompetent hands. Possibly even her own. “Bless you, darling,” she says to Brigitte, for she has never been one to stick on side with the servants. She perches with a sigh upon the edge of the sofa and wiggles a bit to nudge the recumbent Piglet deeper into its cushions and secure an extra couple of inches of room for herself. Her hands curl about her own cup. Black, four sugars. “… I do feel a little tired,” she confesses pensively to Philomène. “Such a long journey, you know.”

It’s a few long seconds in which Philomène enjoys her tea, both hands cupped around the vessel and eyes closing for a moment, before she remembers that she’s supposed to be angry, and more to the point why she’s angry.

Lips pursing, she gestures expansively with one arm, taking in the entire sordid remnants of what must have been a magnificent evening. “This, though. This!” she addresses Leda again, tone clipped. “It’s too much! Really, too much. You could have sent word ahead, at least,” which would have resulted in locking the doors and hiding in the dark so she might have thought they weren’t in. “Do you even know the names of your new friends? They’ll have to go. You, Genevieve, you may stay…” she pauses, relenting at least a little, “with a single guest each. For whom you are wholly responsible.” She sniffs, grabbing for a pastry to attempt to eat angrily.

Have you ever tried to eat a pastry angrily? It’s not an effective tactic. The necessary lip licking and the crumbs that fall inevitably down one’s front strip a woman of all dignified outrage.

“And the carpet you’re going to have to replace, I simply don’t have the disposable cash in February to deal with it.”

Too much? Too… much?

Nice try there, Philomène, old girl.

The ex-soldier’s greatest strategic error, however, was in turning to talk to (or at) Leda again. Thus she unavoidably witnesses the picture of injured innocence taking tea on her sofa in little feline sips — and, moreover, she meets the enormous green eyes regarding her over the rim of the cup as though she’s just personally murdered somebody’s bunny-rabbit.

“Darling, we’ve only been in the city since dinnertime, you know, and I had to ask lots of people to find out where you lived,” Leda says gently, as though if Philomène only calmed down and listened to her very sensible explanation, it would all make sense after all. Reminded of Geneviève’s putative presence she looks about from her new, higher vantage point; “Oh, there you are, Geneviève, darling,” she says to her companion-in-crime, who at the sound of a familiar voice speaking her name only shifts slightly in her young man’s lap, her smile deepening. “… I s’pose she’s chosen her guest,” Leda remarks to Philomène, looking back at her hostess, “and of course Brigitte must be mine. Is that all right, darling?”

At this juncture Brigitte essays a cough. “If you’ll excuse me, Madame Lavecq, for interrupting,” she apologises, “Lord and Lady — live three doors down, I believe, and as you said to me last night their cousin Lady -- has been staying with them while she’s visiting the city. When I went out to the bakery I took the liberty of summoning a carriage to take Monsieur - and Madame -- home, and I don’t think it would be out of their way to drop off Lord — in the rue du -- and Mademoiselle Cochonnet at the Salon de la Glycine,” she explains respectfully.

Leda’s mouth opens. Hastily she shuts it again, and fixes Philomène with a triumphant gaze. “You see, we know exactly who everybody is!” Or somebody knows, anyway.

Leda’s innocent act begins to lower Philomène’s defences, it’s true — she always did know how to wrap a Camaeline around her little finger — but it’s when Brigitte speaks that once again the carpet is forgotten and the sheer efficiency of this sublime domestic can only be admired. “My goodness, I’ve been here months and I had no idea where they lived,” she mentions enviously. Of course she’s referring to the city, rather than this house. This house still has new house smell. Or it would, were it not currently covered with the unmistakable scent of eau de vomit.

She shakes her head in wonder, clearly more than a little smitten with Brigitte. “I shall go and bathe. When I return, Leda… my dear, do please have your friends removed, and… oh, we shall find you a room to stay in, and see that there’s food and tea.” No mention of wine. Perhaps the cellar, only newly stocked, is safe? Ha ha, fat chance. “And please, could some of you at least put some clothes on?”

Presumably, absent running water and having just fired her entire staff (viz. Geraldine), Philomène proposes to nip out to the more respectable of the local bathhouses? At any rate, by the time she returns, miracles have been wrought by fair Brigitte’s hands. The empty bottles have gone, never to be seen again; all the crockery has been exiled to the kitchen; the carpets… well, let’s not think about those just yet, the floor meanwhile is rather bare, but it’s an improvement; four decks of cards have been reassembled into four neat piles upon a table scrubbed clean of all its previous residue. The survivors of the party all seem to have been packed off to their respective domiciles. The fires are prudently put out, and the windows open to exchange the odours of Leda’s evening for a cool and somewhat fresher breeze.

Upstairs Philomène’s hyperbolic pronouncement has come true: Leda and Geneviève are tucked up asleep in her bed, with the handsome young man sandwiched between, presumably lest he try to escape. Well. One can’t win them all, with Leda Lavecq.

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