(1311-02-07) Table For One
Summary: Mainly a display of Camaeline seduction techniques. (Warning: Some nudity, not that on this occasion Leda means anything by it.)
RL Date: 05/02/2019
Related: Carpetbombed! and Fiscally Responsible Valkyrie.
leda philomene 

A Small House in Marsilikos

Replete with an excellent fish pie concocted by Brigitte and perfected in the local bakehouse, Philomène tucks herself into her bed at a decent hour and stretches out blissfully alone under fresh sheets. The Orchises are out raising Hades, elsewhere. She dropped enough hints, surely, about the undesirability of wild orgies on the premises. She’s safe.

Hélas, ‘safety’ is a relative term for those who invite Leda Lavecq into their lives, or at least fail to object strenuously enough when she invites herself…

About halfway, it must be, between midnight and dawn, the door of Philomène’s chamber opens and shuts, and various rustly satiny sounds ensue in a darkness lit only by a dwindling hearthfire. These may not by themselves be sufficient to rouse the vicomtesse to wakefulness: but then somebody pads over and lifts the edge of the covers and slides sighing into bed next to her, a someone who is small and fragrant and stark naked. Hello, Leda!

One has to assume that either Philomène is not entirely awake even then, or that her eyesight is definitely failing, as her response to the quilt lifting and a body slipping in beside her is to murmur drowsily, “Oh, not tonight, Louis-Claude,” and roll away to grasp the corner of the covers to her chin at the edge of the bed.

You’d think the fact that the leg which comes up to hook around Philomène’s is rather smoother than that of her husband, and the pair of breasts which press into her back are at least more pert (let’s not compare size, as Armand Louis-Claude de Chalasse is a fellow approaching his sixties who shows a certain fondness for the finer things in life, not necessarily including exercise), might give away that this is Leda instead, but it’s the scent that has the vicomtesse thinking twice, and musing dreamily, “Hm, you smell nice.”

Of course, that might just be part of whatever she’s dreaming at the moment, as she’s quite clearly not actually awake, even if she’s managing words in something resembling a sentence.

The unexpected, unlooked-for presence of another party in what one assumes to be one’s own bed, is an experience Philomène and Leda now share in common. Bless.

Where they differ is in their instincts. The warrior woman from the eastern mountains retreats hastily to the far corner, issuing an informal protest against the incursion: the drowsy, dreamy, drink-fuddled courtesan from the capital, hearing a familiar voice so close at hand, automatically snuggles in because she’s here now, isn’t she? Wherever ‘here’ is. It’s too late in the evening to start asking those sorts of existential questions. Especially since ‘here’ is warm.

So she wraps herself companionably around Philomène’s turned back and nuzzles her cheek against the soft white linen of her friend’s nightshirt, and composes herself for sleep.

Only, you know, there is such a thing as Good Manners. When Philomène is so sweet as to compliment her perfume she murmurs a contented, “Oh, thank you, darling, how kind.”

Philomène is one of those absolutely horrifying people who go from a state of slumber to full wakefulness in a few seconds in the morning. Worse, she’s one of those reprobates who wakes before dawn, even, and immediately gets up. It’s not natural.

This morning should in theory be no different, only in the few seconds between waking and sitting bolt upright, legs already sliding out of the bed and feet into her slippers (left specifically there, ready, the previous night), it registers that she has a guest wrapped around her. After the initial panic of wondering if she’d managed to black out last night, she reasons that Leda must have crept in after she fell asleep, and the expression of wide eyed concern changes to one of resigned, if fond, irritation.

Unpeeling the arms and legs from around her, Philomène takes the time to actually tuck Leda back up in the covers, and refrains from lighting the lamp in case it wakes her, and instead tiptoes out of the room with an armful of clothes to get dressed. One wonders where she intends to get dressed, given that she currently has a houseful of guests, but perhaps it’s in the hallway.

Even asleep Leda gives the impression of being not an Orchis but an octopus: her hands especially are difficult to remove from one’s person both at the same time. Then there’s the problem of her uncannily powerful legs. An adventurous girlhood and a frankly misspent middle age have left her with thigh muscles she could crack walnuts in between. It must all remind Philomène rather much of galloping through fields of alpine flowers together, in the old days in Camlach, albeit with small protesting kittenish moans and sighs standing in for the squeals of glee which Leda was wont to admit right in her ear when reaching particularly high speeds on horseback… In the end she colonises Philomène’s half of the warm spot in the bed, and nuzzles her pillow in lieu of her shoulder, and is left safely quiescent for the next few hours.

Meanwhile in the corridor there’s a bare spot, where a tolerably handsome carpet once lay. So if this is to be Philomène’s dressing-room she hasn’t even got something to stand on softer than plain boards, while she exchanges slippers for stockings.

It’s possible Leda’s own room is empty at this hour, no? … Possible.

Why, no. Geneviève is occupying Leda’s bed, diagonally. Is this the root cause of Leda’s appearance in Philomène’s? And is Genviève’s chamber vacant? It’s lucky Philomène is such a morning person. Many others would wilt under this kind of matutinal strain.

Philomène does not wilt. It is not the natural state of being for a Philomène. Faced with adversity, she straightens, sets her jaw, and readies for a fight. Her war paint these days lends itself more to a touch of eyeliner, and her armour is a rather unfashionable brown riding habit, but the principle remains.

Actually, for those people paying close attention, her trip to the privy this morning is a little longer than usual, and she spends more time in front of a mirror in the salon to make a more careful attempt at makeup than usual. Apparently she is trying to Be A Girl. Terrifying.

Three guesses why she’s making the effort?

Yeah, it’s not needed. Once dressed, she drifts down towards the kitchen to fetch herself a cup of tea, or, more likely, to catch the ineffable Brigitte in action, who has no doubt already started making it.

Tea’s up; a cloth-covered basket of fresh pastries is keeping warm by the hearth; and at the back door Brigitte is in negotiations with a butcher’s boy, inspecting the bacon and the sausages and the chops he’s brought her and sending back the latter in favour of something cut better and thus likelier to meet her own exacting standards. If it wouldn’t have passed muster in her mother’s farmhouse kitchen, why, it won’t do for her mistress neither.

That is the gist of the conversation Philomène overhears, before Brigitte — who really is passionate about meat — shuts the door in the hapless lad’s face and, turning around, spots the lady of the house. She flushes suddenly, all strawberries and cream. “Milady,” she says, bobbing another of her quick, serviceable curtseys. “Good morning, milady.”

And she sets the bacon and the sausages aside upon some suitable piece of kitchen equipment, and hurries to pour out a cup of her excellent hot strong black tea.

Could life get any better than this? Tea, good tea, and served by this veritable amazon. Philomène’s face is all smiles for the domestic as she accepts, greeting as casually as she can, “Ah, good morning, Brigitte. Your mistress seems to have got lost in the night, so I’ve left her to my bed for now,” she explains, sipping from the cup and leaning back against the countertop. “But I intended to go out for a ride anyway. If you’re finished dealing with the meat the offer still stands to join me. Nobody else is awake,” she adds, as though that might help sweeten the deal. All the while watching the other woman over the top of her teacup.

Brigitte bobs another curtsey. “Thank you kindly, milady,” she answers, lowering her teapot and her eyes and Philomène’s hopes, and clasping her hands in front of the radiant starched white expanse of her apron, “but I wouldn’t feel right going out when I’ve so much mending to do for Madame Lavecq this morning, and for Mademoiselle Geneviève too.”

She sugars the pill, then, by tentatively suggesting: “Would you like a raisin brioche with your tea, milady? Or a croissant, or an éclair? Or if there’s something else you’d rather have instead I could order it for tomorrow, milady, for before you go out.” You, singular.

Philomène shakes her head as she enjoys just the tea for now, although she does suggest, “If it’s not too much trouble, I do like an orange for breakfast if I can. I think my supplies were… somewhat depleted the other night.” Because mixed drinks, clearly. She cups her hands around her brew, watching the other woman thoughtfully. “So what do you do in your time off, then?” Aha. A new tack. The horses thing isn’t working, so let’s see what else we can find!

“Very good, milady,” says Brigitte, who is starting to pick up city ways.

She bobs again, good strong farmgirl legs easily equal to these repeated displays of courtesy; and she steps backward away from the table where Philomène is sitting to get on with the business of readying the customary Orchis breakfast binge as far as possible in advance of the unpredictable risings of those two old reprobates still slumbering upstairs. It’s a sort of domestic ballet, performed with an efficiency containing its own seeds of grace.

When Philomène speaks again, though, she stops whatever it is she’s doing and wipes her hands on her apron as she turns around to face the lady of the house. “Well, I haven’t had much time off lately, milady,” she concedes, “but I don’t mind that, I like to keep myself busy.” She smiles. Respectful — oh, she’s very respectful. But there’s a certain implication nonetheless that having a lady of all things cluttering up her kitchen, swilling tea, addressing personal remarks to her, flirting, is an impediment in the way of getting on with her work.

It’s really rather painfully awkward to watch, so it’s probably for the best that Philomène has no audience to hold up scorecards for effort (6, 7) and style (1, 2). She finishes her tea without pressing further for more information. Really. Horses didn’t work, asking about pastimes didn’t work. Clearly this is out of her area of expertise.

“Right,” she decides, that being the universal signal of anyone anywhere who realises that they’ve overstayed their welcome. “I’ll be off to ride, then. I should be back soon,” in case Brigitte needed to know for any reason. “Right.” Again. Clearly she’s doubly outstayed her welcome. And with that, setting down the empty cup, she limps her way out of the kitchen, picks up a heavy cloak against the weather, and then on out to go and tame something wild that she understands.

Just in time, too. Philomene will surely be happier missing the parade of persons in fish costumes who trickle out of Geneviève’s chamber about twenty minutes later, complaining of loose scales and missing fins and, of course, splitting headaches.

Brigitte cracks a great many eggs and serves them all a concoction Leda taught her how to make, for just such delicate mornings. One of them tries to pinch her bottom and gets a sprained wrist for his trouble, and then they swim away unsteadily up the lane.

The next morning the lady of the house comes down at her usual pre-dawn hour to find tea and two fine oranges waiting for her in the salon at a table for one, neatly laid.

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