(1311-02-13) Curious Twists
Summary: A chance meeting on a rooftop leads to an exchange of truths about love, marriage, and consortship: a little surprising to both its principals.
RL Date: 10/02/2019 - 18/02/2019
Related: References this encounter with Dorimène's mother.
dorimene_npc cyriel 

Rooftop Garden — The Dome of the Lady

Soft booted steps sound somewhere behind Cyriel Charlot.

Their pattern is uneven, measured at first and then hastening as their owner approaches the edge of the rooftop terrace and the prospect beyond. She has chosen, without thinking, based upon who knows how little or how much previous experience, the best and most panoramic view: the city, its public architecture in the Hellenic style stretching down toward the sea, the harbour itself, the tall-masted ships, coming and going again since the priestess was found and the restrictions lifted, the sea beyond rocking in wine-dark waves against the shore…

She’s slight, obviously slender, even beneath her costly cape and hood of pure white ermine: even in the high-heeled boots that show briefly beneath her swaying skirts (ice blue under white) she’s hardly five feet and seven inches tall. At first she leans her large ermine muff upon the parapet, leaning over… But when she hears, as how can she not, footsteps coming nearer from behind her, she takes it up again and twirls with another tremendous sigh of her skirts.

Her face is exquisitely sculpted, even by d’Angeline standards: she’s a rare beauty, with full unpainted pink lips and the most striking of sapphire eyes, suggesting to the educated Kusheline observer a distinct possibility of Shahrizai blood. It may be that she reminds him of somebody or another, parenthetically? That face is not sui generis: it owes a debt to previous generations of the highest blood… It appears he has caught her at a disadvantage, already so close that she laughs and clasps a hand to her fur-cloaked bosom, and extends it then toward him to make his acquaintance. Her gloves are of white kid, wholly pristine. She can’t have touched a single thing on her way up here through the palace precincts.

Which curious twist of fate is it that brings the Vicomte de Chavagne to Marsilikos, a city he left almost five months ago, when he considered the matter that had first led him here settled… And yet, here he is, Cyriel Charlot, clad in fine attire befitting his station in the colors of his house, red and black. Brown hair that would reach to his shoulders if allowed to hang loose, is tied into a ponytail at the nape of his back, thereby drawing more attention to the slightly aquiline features that are rather behind in beauty, compared to others of d’Angeline blood. And yet, it is there, the aura of something dark and unpleasant that sometimes surrounds him.

Cyriel had been in thoughts obviously, perhaps seeking a moment of solitude on the rooftop gardens, when he hears that soft footfall of the young woman that ventures outside from the solar. With his gaze turned towards the view, albeit not really doing it justice, his pale blue eyes seem to look beyond, into the realm of brooding and chances not taken. Maybe. Who can tell the thoughts of a man, whose traits show such an affinity to the Angel of Punishment and Repentance? In his hand, he holds a crumpled piece of parchment, a fact the young woman may note, as he — having turned to glance after her — elects to approach. His own steps may not resound as harshly today, and it is more of a predatory prowl than a confident stride that makes him sneak up on the unsuspecting lady.

Perhaps not silently enough? There are limits to stealth, when moving in riding boots on the stone tiles that mark the path through the rooftop garden.

The young woman turns, and Cyriel comes to a halt, straightening ever so slightly in the moment he considers her with a brightening gaze.

“My lady.” Kusheline accent even evident in these two words. Followed by a bit of Kusheline courtesy some may think old-fashioned. The Charlot lord offers a bow of greeting to her, curt and yet precise. “I did not mean to startle you. And if I did, I apologize.” His tone, perhaps not as apologetic as could be expected.

The lady’s smile deepens, showing no fear when confronted with this obvious predator who has so unmistakably been in pursuit of her. “My lord,” she breathes, in murmurous and delicate accents which betoken her heritage to one with sufficient worldly experience to discern the lilt of Cereus House, “I assure you, I am not at all discommoded.” Her kid-gloved hand hovers pristinely white before him, accentuated by a lowering of her chin whilst she yet holds his eye. “It would appear we have a taste in common,” she adds gently, “for this fresh air and this quiet.”

There is something scrutinizing in the glance Cyriel Charlot gives her, even as he reaches for that gloved hand of hers, which has obviously been held out in expectancy of even more courtesy. His lips never touch the material, but the kiss to the hand is at least hinted at, with a brief tightening of his lips.

Her remark, however, causes his brows to lift, faint amusement playing with his features, as Cyriel straightens and releases that delicate hand from his grasp. “I suppose you are right, my lady,” is his somewhat non-committal reply, his voice adopting a low volume whereas each word is distinctly pronounced. “You reside here in the palace?”, is added with another inquiring glance in her direction, as this Kusheline takes two unhurried steps that will bring him to her side. “I cannot say that I have spotted you here before. But then again, some time has passed since I last visited here.” For once, he releases her from his stare as he lets his gaze drift. “I used to frequent this rooftop garden. Tell me.” And here he half-turns his head, remaining in that casual lean against the balustrade, pale blue eyes flashing brightly as he regards the young woman. “Are you by chance one of Her Grace’s ladies?”

The young lady cloaked in ermine withdraws her hand in the instant in which Cyriel releases it: she tucks it away again deep within her warm winter garb, causing the very briefest flash of ice-blue silk. She laughs softly, musically: “By chance, I am not,” she teases, meeting his eyes without any hesitation — and then looking away when he does, and drifting to some mooring-place next to him at the balustrade. “I do like,” and there’s a hint of merriment in her voice, “to look out to sea, to watch the waves crash in and smother the shore…” She breathes in, lips curving. “One has such a vantage from here,” she breathes out, this erstwhile bold creature scarcely caring whether he can hear her faint voice or not; “it’s irresistible, don’t you find?”

“A visitor then, just like myself?”, the Kusheline lord continues the guessing game, even if — for the perceptive eye — her admission inspired a slight shift in his expression, a vague hint of disappointment. “The sea,” he agrees then, content to indulge in the view for a moment. “It is quite the view, but I would not call it irresistible. For anyone who has seen the waves crashing at the shores of Pointe d’Oeste, this here,” one hand lifts to gesture towards the sea, while the other continues to rest on the balustrade, “can only appear pleasant. Not exactly what I would call irresistible.” The line of thought is presented in a calm voice but also with a certain pride that could be easily mistaken for arrogance, even as he turns his gaze towards the woman beside him. “As you are not from hereabouts, would you do me the honor of giving me your name?” His eyes narrow just so. “The blue of your eyes is impressive and reminds me of the family trait of one of our great Kusheline houses and yet…” He pauses, perhaps pondering how to put it. “You don’t appear Kusheline in your manner.” A pause occurs, before he offers his own introduction, late, but perhaps not too late. “I am Cyriel Charlot, Vicomte de Chavagne. At your service.” This said with another hint of a bow, as he studies the young lady’s reaction.

At the suggestion that she might merely be visiting this place the young lady with the Shahrizai eyes draws in a breath. She laughs softly at her new acquaintance’s talk of these waters and those, without yet turning again to face him. She speaks to the sea; and if he wishes to catch her words he must lean in nearer, or simply close the distance between their places at the balustrade. “Perhaps even some who know the Pointe d’Oeste might, once in a while, prefer a prospect gentler and more pleasant,” and there’s a teasing note in her small and distant soprano voice, before the wind can whip it away, “though with the Middle Sea’s powerful undertow beneath, capable of drowning a man in the span of a breath.”

That thought seems pleasing; she lifts her muff from the balustrade and turns toward her inquisitive companion, and the eyes upon which he has already justly remarked look up into his own from beneath the white-in-white hood of her cloak… Her gaze is by no means challenging, but steady, unafraid, unashamed to meet his. Her blue-black hair is arranged softly about her shoulders, a few tresses spilling out of her hood, a jeweled pin glinting deep within the recesses of it. She accepts his bow as though it’s perfectly natural, only her due, a courtesy to which she is well-accustomed. “Of course, my lord vicomte,” she agrees in that Cereus lilt, inclining her head towards him before straightening again into her natural, rather erect, rather lofty posture. “Indeed, I was born in Marsilikos and I was blessed to be nurtured at first beneath this very roof whereupon you and I stand… I am not one of Her Grace’s ladies,” she explains gently; “I am one of Her Grace’s nieces. My name is Dorimène nó Cereus de Shahrizai,” and she honours this Charlot lord with a slight but exquisite curtsey; and if he should desire to pay, now, greater homage to that white-gloved hand he scarce held before, it’s too late: both her paws are tucked away in the depths of her white ermine muff, not to be seen again today.

Of course now she’s said it, it must be obvious: take another lady Cyriel once met at the far side of this rooftop, strip away twenty years, and shape her in a purely feminine style — and there one has indeed Her Grace’s niece, rather than Her Grace’s illustrious half-sister.

Regardless of his slightly intimidating aura, Cyriel Charlot does what he has to, if he is to catch those words, Dorimène utters at such a low volume, easy prey to occasional breeze. He edges that little bit closer and angles his head slightly to the side, his gaze falling to study her lips as she forms her reply. It takes him a moment or two, before his aquiline features twist into a smile.

“An interesting remark,” Cyriel allows, and faint amusement laces his tone. “And I cannot completely disagree. Variation may indeed sharpen the senses, my lady. To be appreciative of a rougher and more tempestuous scenery should not prevent me from admiring a gentler view.” His pale eyes remain fixed on her lips and then lift to regard her features — a gaze that would make some more uncomfortable, the longer it lingers. She turns her head towards him, and their eyes meet, and perhaps she notes the faint chill in his expression, but a growing interest as well. With them standing now so closely together, such a look could easily taken as intimidating. A good thing perhaps, that she finally gives him her name and familial context, which has him straighten and offer her enough space to perform her curtsey.

<FS3> Cyriel rolls Composure: Good Success. (3 2 6 2 8 8)

The introduction causes his brows to twitch upwards, almost perfectly concealed surprise there, even as he regards her, his expression and posture now slightly changed. “Lady Dorimène,” Cyriel intones, gaze flicking towards hands that are hidden away, and he inclines his head in a respectful nod. “You looked vaguely familiar, and now I must thank you for your introduction explains it.”

Did he edge a touch further away from her?

“I had a fleeting encounter with your mother, once, some months ago. Here in this very rooftop garden. A curious coincidence. Lady Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai.”

The Cereus courtesan, retired, in no more than the second flush of her loveliness — not yet the proverbial fading beauty! — rises from her curtsey in no great hurry and lifts her gaze again, just as languidly, to her interlocutor’s face. She’s smiling, fondly, at her mother’s name.

There are differences, of course, perhaps more acutely apprehended by a gentleman with reason now to make the search: besides the skirts, the feminine delicacy, the lack of paint, Dorimène’s nose is smaller and more ladylike than her mother’s handsome patrician beak: and her eyes, perhaps, are a darker shade of blue. Or is that the mood of the moment?

“Perhaps not such a coincidence,” she muses, letting a note of genteel uncertainty into her voice — for form, more than out of any conviction, “considering my lady mother delights in calling upon my lady aunt… I think this is one of her favourite places in the city,” she confides, “and perhaps, by degrees, it is becoming one of mine as well. I live in Marsilikos too, now,” and though she holds Cyriel’s eyes with all the composure of a young lady accustomed to taking her breakfast, her luncheon, and her supper in a nest of Kusheline predators, she lowers her chin and inclines her head just a little bit nearer to explain. “In our family home, in the Place des Mains. The Maison Sanglante. Do you know it?” she wonders: faintly, innocently, sweetly.

There can be fascination in the study of differences and similarities between mother and daughter. At least Dorimène can be certain to hold all of Cyriel’s attention, right now, after she again points out her relation to Her Grace, the Duchesse of Eisande.

“I take it, the City of Elua has been your home in the past,” the Vicomte de Chavagne observes lightly, poking his gaze a little into hers. “And you have recently arrived?” That look of his is assessing, attentive, eyes brightening just so at the sweet tone Dorimène adopts in her reply. That she does not seem to be easily intimidated by his Kusheline ways is a fact that he notes, but given the last name it should have been expected.

“I do not,” Cyriel replies to her question of him knowing la Maison Sanglante, with a light shake of the head, never breaking the gaze. “Do you miss Cereus House and Mont Nuit, occasionally?”, he then wonders lightly, in turn.

The young lady keeps hold of his eyes as easily as he hers, giving him all her attention for the time being, no matter who else may come or go from the rooftop or what sights below… However sweet her nature, she cannot easily be made to demur: there’s a core of gentle confidence in her, and experience supplies the rest. “Oh, no,” she says at once, eager to correct his misapprehension, “I suppose I have lived in Eisande now for— oh, more than a year,” she says easily, “perhaps two: though very quietly, you understand.” Again that dip of her chin, inviting him to do just that: to enter into a conspiracy with her, and to understand.

When he’s so sensitive (though also so curious) as to inquire into her antecedents, she seems to give a moment’s serious thought to what he has said: “Perhaps,” she sighs. “At moments I have considered returning to Naamah’s service — but it seems not the time, yet.” She leaves that there and, letting her pale pink smile brighten, she wonders: “And you, my lord? Do you spend a great deal of time in Eisande, or do you pay us only a fleeting visit?”

“I see.” It is a noncommittal reply, leaving it rather open, whether he really understands. But the play of light and shadows on her beautiful face as it is lowered is certainly considered by the Kusheline. “Very quietly. Hmm. Away from Marsilikos, though? It must have been.”, Cyriel assumes with a fine twist of a smile.

It is a notion, her next remark seems to support even more. And if this stirs his curiosity, the Charlot lord does not let it show, his features now shifting back into a more polite and slightly detached cast. Which seems well-advised, given the direction of their conversation.

“I cannot tell yet,” Cyriel states with an almost imperceptible sigh. “I have visited here last year, on different matters, but now it seems, the Comte de Charlot wishes me to explore possibilities of trade…” Turning to face her fully, he adds, “My stay may span a few months this time, depending on how successful these negotiations turn out to be.” It is a very vague reply, and he seems to be as much aware of this as she must be.

Dorimène tilts her head, the ermine lining of her hood coming to rest against a cheek in which the only colour is nature’s own: a faint and becoming shade of pink.

“Then I wish you well, my lord,” she says easily, “in your negotiations… And I hope your… your father? Your uncle?” she wonders, “will be pleased with what you achieve on his behalf during your sojourn here. Marsilikos is certainly the hub of all trade in the south; you are well-placed here… I do hear talk sometimes,” she admits, with a mischievous wrinkling of her pretty retroussé nose, “for you were mistaken in that, my lord. I know little of Eisande beyond Marsilikos. And,” she confesses, her features returned to their sweetly cordial mask and her gaze lowering at last in something approaching bashfulness, “I know little of Kusheth either, but for a visit or two to my cousin, the comte de Chartres… I have lived always in cities, my lord; in Marsilikos, and Elua, and Marsilikos again. Circumstances have had it so; but then, it is also my taste,” she admits. “No matter how quiet I may be myself, I like the hum.”

And as she utters those last words, her sapphire eyes rise again to his, wide and liquid and wholly composed, the colour of sapphires, of royalty, of the summer night.

“The Comte is a removed cousin of mine,” Cyriel clarifies matter-of-factly, leaning his hip in a casual manner sideways against the balustrade. Bright eyes break the gaze for a moment, as he pulls his attention away from Dorimène to admire the view of the sea in the distance. This lends his features a slightly thoughtful cast, as if speaking of his relative inspired other sentiments and mental associations.

“But thank you,” this added as he shifts his gaze back to the Shahrizai lady. “Trade… yes. Along with some other… matters.” Like a seashell, the Kusheline lord seems to clam up, and his features have become a polite and noncommittal mask. Her remark of being largely unacquainted with Kusheth’s beauty has him lift a brow. “Well. In that case, I can only advise you to visit the Ducal Court at Pointe d’Oeste next time, after your visit to Chartres. It may not be as light and pleasant as the Eisandine Court here in Marsilikos. But it should have enough… hum, as you put it, to entertain you.” It is only a faint nuance, a faint glint of amusement that shows in his look as he adopts her way of expression.

But, ah, those sapphire eyes. The Charlot’s own are a far lighter blue, but then again, he is no Shahrizai, not even from his mother’s side. Cyriel has his gaze lowered a little, chin tilted slightly downwards to meet that confident look of Dorimène nó Cereus de Shahrizai, not even the faintest smile softening his unique features. His expression, inquiring, his gaze appraising, even if not yet really trying to look past her pleasant facade.

Ah, but what is the question asked by those eyes? “… You understand,” chuckles Dorimène gently, for she is in her own pleasant way determined to pursue their discussion thus and so; “I am of Shahrizai blood, and I hardly need tell you that in Kusheth the ducal court is the domain of the Morhbans: however I might desire to feast my eyes upon Kusheline lands I might not be so welcome at Pointe d’Oeste as I am here,” she teases, “nor greeted with such pleasantries.”

That purported lack doesn’t seem, for her, to be of any profound concern. Now that she has been put in mind of House Morhban she goes on, in a tone imbued with the deference and respect proper towards the one who gave her birth: “My lady mother always says the Morhbans eat their young — but we do not,” and that emphasis in itself is a tease, almost inquiring: where might the Charlots fall, upon such a spectrum of Kusheline activities, priorities, schemes—? Especially, perhaps, considering recent shifts in the Morhban lineage which might just prove the lady Emmanuelle’s caustic point? Her daughter’s eyes open wider as she speaks, their sapphire hue pure and crystalline and clear; she adds, delicately, “I suppose for us, Shahrizais and Mereliots both, nothing is more precious than our own kin.”

Dorimène’s counter about the Ducal court in Pointe d’Oeste elicits a fine smile in Cyriel’s aquiline features, the notion somewhat enhanced by the manner in which he cocks his head to the side — so very much like a bird would do. “Whether they eat their young or not,” the Vicomte intones with faint humor lacing his tone, “I cannot imagine you not to be welcome there. You have the blood of an ancient Kusheline House running through your veins. You have served Naamah in the oldest and most respected House there is.” He pauses, considering the young woman and her perhaps a little disturbing similarity to a former Mandrake Dowayne. “I have seen Shahrizai come to the court occasionally, because, not to go there would certainly be taken as weakness. But yes, perhaps that is the root of the game, to demonstrate presence while in reality focusing on the other court of the provincial duchy.”

There is a pause, as the Vicomte considers Dorimène again, his demeanor a bit thoughtful. “We Charlots have more of a history with House Morhban than with the Shahrizai. But I have to admit, I have wondered occasionally, about what you Shahrizai are up to.” It may be a light jest, or a tease to test out her composure. “I admit, this connection between House Mereliot and Shahrizai seems like a curious twist of fate. Especially when it has yielded such pleasant descendants.” It is an old-fashioned, Kusheline kind of flattery, but there it is.

How fortunate, then, for the vicomte de Chavagne, that he’s addressing a young lady who resides in a houseful of old-fashioned Kushelines. At those words Dorimène, having lowered her sapphire eyes with becoming modesty when he treated of her sure welcome in Kusheth, her high blood and her high service both — having murmured something non-committal about the lord vicomte’s kindness, having seemed infinitely practiced in the ritual of accepting but just as quickly shrugging off the compliments it is only natural for her to receive — not the least bit flustered, either, by his wondering — ceases simply to listen with an ear toward him and to give the occasional well-timed nod of interest, and looks up again to his face with a suddenness which bespeaks a certain surprise, even as the curve of her lips suggests pleasure.

“But is love not often a curious twist, my lord?” she inquires in that airy soprano, her gaze full of curiosity and a genuine desire to tease out his meaning. “We make such fine and sensible plans for our lives and our lineages — but then our hearts are touched and, Elua’s children that we are, sometimes we act purely for love’s sake. In the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers we are constantly reminded that there is a higher honour in following our father’s precept, than in denying his will and our own as well, if it should manifest itself with a certain lucidity…” Such as that made manifest now in Dorimène’s own lovely gaze, as she speaks from her heart. “My grandfather was traveling and seeking and then when he met my grandmother, he stopped and made a home. I should not be here, else — and had I not followed his example in a like moment, nor would I have my two little daughters — and so I do like to think that even the most curious twist of passion and of fate may indeed yield…” Another flicker of a smile. “Something pleasant for all concerned, even if it may be many years in the blossoming.”

“Love…”, Cyriel barely manages to utter that word without a snort of disdain. It is a brief lapse in his composed façade, a brief flicker of something in his pale blue eyes. And then the expression is gone, as swiftly as it came, his hawkish features shifting back to a cast of polite courtesy. “I would not dare to claim that it does not exist. It apparently does, and you are proof of that. But forgive me, if I cannot join in on your praise of love and what it does to people. Very recently, I have been confronted with the folly and lack of sense caused by that very love, which made a relative of mine seek to solidify his claim on a lady in a match. Despite any reasoning I put forth on the matter, it seems that his plan went through. As the lady in question, for whatever other qualities she is lacking, has the benefit of her father’s high station. So forgive me, if the praise of love leaves a sour taste in my mouth at the moment. It would be unfair of me to condemn love as a whole just because of my foolish cousin.”

Whatever it was Dorimène did to loosen the tongue of this Kusheline, he probably would have withheld this remark under other circumstances. It shows in the surprised look in his eyes, the slight furrowing of his brows. “You are… were a Cereus, so you will certainly agree with me, that matches are usually made for other reasons, and that love may become a complication rather than an asset.”

Dark eyebrows plucked and shaped into elegant curves unlike Emmanuelle Shahrizai’s bolder and blacker style, rise when her daughter hears the noble word ‘Love’ uttered with something verging so closely upon derision… Dorimène’s face, turned slightly up toward Cyriel’s, is intent and inquisitive as she listens. As he goes on her expression is unchanging — she has had such fine training in the social arts — but a shadow comes over her sapphire Shahrizai eyes and for a moment she closes them and nods, slowly, in a temporary but trusting blindness.

When she opens her eyes again it’s to apologise.

Impulsively, she puts a gloved hand upon his arm: the lightest of touches, the least of liberties, lasting but an instant. Then her hand vanishes swiftly back into the depths of her ermine muff, where it may remain warm and snug however long it pleases them to converse. “I hope you will forgive me, my lord, for the disquietude it seems I’ve brought you with my careless talk when you can only have come to this place seeking peace… I was speaking only of love, not of marriage,” she explains, enunciating each word with delicate distinction. “I took a consort for love; I would not marry so. Perhaps, as you say, I am proof of love,” though there’s no telling glow of smugness about her as she allows his point, “but I hope I am not also proof that a woman of Cereus House might abandon her senses.” A mild jest, accompanied by the shrug of one shoulder. “If your cousin has, as you say, lost his in a woman’s lap, and so far as to suppose that a marriage tie might in some way guarantee his romantic interest, then— I do hope that his choice will bring you and your kin no discredit,” she says sincerely, “and that this twist of your house’s fate will prove fortuitous in the end. All manner of things are possible,” she points out with great gentleness, “with Elua’s blessing. Even a suitable resolution to such… complications, as following his precept may bring us. We must try to believe that, I think.”

“Forgive me.” Pale blue eyes study the slender hand that reaches out to touch him at his sleeve. “The fault is all mine, to bring up the recent dissonance between my cousin and myself, before someone not really acquainted with either of us. It is quite another facet, and perhaps it would not have enraged me so, had he chosen to delight in her for longer before going for this rushed approach of a match. A consortship…” The Kusheline’s tone, quiet and thoughtful as it had been all the while, becomes a little less rigid, as he meets her gaze, after noting the manner in which the former Cereus had closed her eyes upon his initial reaction. “A consortship is another matter, entirely, it has less of a tinge of duty. And everyone entering a consortship does so for reasons that are sacred and respected. It is… sensible and honest. And I daresay, those that enter a consortship are to be considered blessed with a rare kind of happiness.”

It may be Cyriel’s way of turning his lapse into a belated compliment. When Dorimène, in all her frail optimism makes him perhaps even out his usual rather angular Kusheline ways. “You are right, and we all should be advised to hope for the best until proven the contrary.” His gaze, that had been considering the Shahrizai lady for a moment, releases her from its hold, eyes looking out over the balustrade again as he adds, on a whim, “Your consort stays with you at La Maison Sanglante, I suppose?” Not that it would be any of his business.

It isn’t; but Dorimène is an obliging conversationalist, moving with the twists and turns of her interlocutor’s talk as though the rooftop were a ballroom and this a dance of a different kind. When Cyriel’s gaze wanders off into the blue sky over Marsilikos hers lingers upon him, of her own thoughtful volition rather than compelled by his stare; she explains tranquilly, “Oh, no. Lord Victor is at Aix, paying a long visit to his kin.” The name of the place supplies handily the surname of the man. A Delaunay, though not so prominent a son of his house that he might have come readily to the attention of a visiting Kusheline vicomte.

“… Of course,” she adds with her apparently customary gentleness, “no forgiveness is necessary. We all know from time to time such moments, when the weight of a truth grows so heavy that it breaks through one’s social mask… I shall gladly forget your truths, my lord, if you will have the grace to forget mine.” Her eyes lower; she smiles faintly down at the sea.

His eyes continue to look towards the blue sea in the distance, his profile perhaps even more striking from this angle. Cyriel is not really handsome by d’Angeline standards, but only few who have met him would ever forget his face. Even if the information provided so subtly manages to cause a momentary furrowing of his brows, there is only the briefest of sideways glances he gives her.

“I see.” Lowering his gaze thoughtfully, and with his hands resting on the balustrade, Cyriel nods his head slowly. “And you can consider your truths safe with me. I cannot promise that I will forget them though.” And here he turns slightly to face her, giving her a considerate look. “Nor will I hold you in any lesser regard because of them.”

Hearing those words Dorimène peeks at Cyriel round the edge of her ermine-lined hood. When she finds herself unexpectedly meeting his eyes she turns further, angling her chin toward her shoulder and mirroring him delicately but perhaps not quite consciously. Would that she knew just how unusual it is to glimpse the vicomte de Chavagne in a moment of such open compassion: her gaze might, then, linger even longer upon his unlovely face.

“It is always interesting, isn’t it,” she murmurs, “to hear a Kusheline give assurances of ‘safety’—? In any connexion,” and the playful note has come back into her light soprano voice. Artifice has triumphed over truth — or has it? She’s once again holding his eyes and holding her own, easy in herself as she cuddles her great big ermine muff against her encloaked bosom. There’s little to be seen of her in her winter costume, beyond her inherited face and those unmistakable Shahrizai eyes, and the occasional wraith-thin, white-gloved wrist.

“My lord, I thank you, for your verity and your kindness — and for granting me a moment more pleasant than I had thought to find even upon these heights,” she confesses, her smile having turned puckish now that she’s dragged the mot du jour back into their talk, to tease him with it. “I may be a while in forgetting, myself, the honour of enjoying your regard.”

The rooftop is still touched with a scattering of snow yet to melt; the hem of her white cloak skims it again as she sinks into a curtsey just fractionally deeper than that with which she greeted him, her head bowed and her dark ringlets falling forward over her shoulders to frame her pale face and throat all the more prettily when she rises from it. Her eyes meet his for another fleeting instant as she takes her leave. “Good day, my lord vicomte.”

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