(1311-02-27) Read To Me
Summary: Jehan-Pascal brings Emmanuelle a birthday present. Two, counting his own fair self. (Warning: Mature, Mandragian themes. I put that on Emmanuelle’s logs before they’re even written. It just seems likely.)
RL Date: 03/03/2019 - 04/03/2019
Related: Refers to the upcoming meeting in The Baphinol Have The Music, also slightly Not So Far To The Left.
emmanuelle jehan-pascal 

La Maison Sanglante — Place des Mains

Directly abutting the walled compounds of Marsilikos's Night Court, and running in fact for some distance behind the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, is a house which boasts a far more modest frontage upon the Place des Mains d'Eisheth. Its name derives from a violent incident in its past; previous owners tried to redub it in the public mind, but the present ones embrace the term. By their design its three-storey façade of grey stone is shielded at street level by a high and forbidding wall of darker stone, into which is set a pair of intricately-wrought iron gates taller than any man who may ring the bell at their side. Kept locked, their curlicues of black iron are enlivened by a pattern of gilded keys.

Between the outer wall and the house stands a small stone courtyard lined at either side with wormwood trees, which impart a bitter and aromatic fragrance to the air within it. From it half a dozen stone steps rise to heavy doors of dark and ancient oak, studded with black iron and hung upon baroque hinges of the same; these open into a large, square, windowless chamber, occupying the full width of the building and yet higher than it is wide. At each side of the doors is a console table of dark purple marble veined with black, bolted to the wall above a pair of elaborate gilded legs and beneath a matching and equally baroque gilded mirror. There are no other furnishings. Sparse lighting is provided by candles in iron sconces bolted to pillars of the same purple marble, which pass into shadow on their way to support the vaulted ceiling overhead.

The light is, however, sufficient to permit examination of the frescoes which cover walls and ceiling alike from a height of perhaps four feet off the gleaming black and purple marble floor. An artist of great skill and anatomical knowledge has limned a series of scenes of Kushiel chastising sinners. Those who come to him for succour are shown enduring remarkably detailed torments before being transfigured by the raptures of his love… or, possibly, hers. In some panels Kushiel is a man and in some a woman, in others an unmistakable hermaphrodite: in all these incarnations the Punisher is depicted with the lean figure, the austere profile, and the hooded blue eyes of a lady who resides beneath this roof.

On the back wall this unconventional masterpiece is interrupted by the outlines of two single doors, and the elaborate black iron handles attached to each. The door on the left leads to an intimate receiving-room wherein a pair of studded black leather sofas frame a low, well-polished mahogany table. In here the walls are covered in frescoes of the Kusheline countryside, from the same brush.

It’s natural that Emmanuelle should want to spend the evening of her natality with family and friends— and so, there you have it, a quiet enough evening of the mundane sorts of familial togetherness in the context of which most people have never had the pleasure of seeing her. That must be where she is, mustn’t it? It makes sense, especially after seeing the invitations sealed! One of the few exceptions to this generality, however, is also present under her roof— if not in person at the presumed family gathering, at least, certainly, in Emmanuelle's mind.

Jehan-Pascal had arrived sometime in the afternoon and been installed in his own chamber, there to pick out his own outfit from the growing wardrobe in residence in his own armoire here. To pick out jewelry and make-up to match, and with a girl at hand to help if he should need a steady hand at the eye-liner or someone to pull taut the lines of his corset— in sum, to be master of his own chamber while awaiting the arrival of its true mistress. And dear, fine fun he finds it, too, asking the girl to take out now this outfit, now that, to try on this gown with this cincher, no— with that cincher. To have her test the colors of the lip stain on her own lips and draw her in close beside him to see how it will go. Not to say that he is imperious or insufferable with the girl— he is, as always, very kind, good-hearted, more than polite, treating her to sweet morsels and bantering, even laughing to and fro with her— by the time he is settled upon an outfit, they are as though dear girlfriends of one another, sharing a bottle of bright white wine, though we all well know who drank the most of it.

His outfit for the evening is festive, luxurious, a gown with several layers of voluminous underskirts and an outer skirt empaneled in a deep mulberry purple velvet and a gorgeous silver silk to produce a cascading ripple effect. The bodice is similarly particolor, with a deep-plunging neckline surrounded to either side by points that indicate down to the waist, which is tucked in with a v-shaped cincher of silver which pinches his waist and descends before him in a v-shape to keep the gown laid flat against his pelvis and make the blousing out in other directions create hips and even more volume to his round, perfect hind end. Silver slippers with the merest of heels, a choker of interlocked silver chains rides high on his neck while his usual long silver chain sits lower to hold his amethyst pendant down close to his belly-button. A silver ring set with a diamond on the middle finger of his right hand— another, with smaller diamonds inlaid all around the band, on the pinky of his left hand. And his lips assiduously dyed a deep mulberry purple to match his gown, after the fact— eyeliner of black shadowed with a lighter purple shade upon the lid, giving his cloudy eyes a hazy, dreamlike fantasy.

Midway between the armoire and the bed has been set a small tea-table with all that will be needed for a quiet after-dinner tea, which, once it is ready, JP's new friend will take her leave.

Jehan-Pascal debates the addition of a tiara to his outfit, but, in the end, decides it's one piece too much and sets it away again, instead preferring to take up residence on his pretty princess bed and peruse the small tome he brought with him, in a last minute fright that he will spot a copyist's error— ready to hide it amid the pillows when he hears the familiar sounds of Emman's imminent arrival.

As so often before Emmanuelle comes to Jehan-Pascal from her bath, with damp blue-black hair pulled back into a short tail tied with a leather thong and her face freshly painted and powdered. She wears, here, closeted with her maiden, no jewels and no boots, no accoutrements of her profession: only layers of black silk robes, deceptively simple in their appearance, flowing down to slippers lined with black fur, and just a touch of her warm and resinous cologne.

She doesn't knock, she never does. Nor is there any calling out, or coy peering around the edge of the door. She enters as of right this pink and white and princessy corner of her own domain, and kicks the door shut behind her in her usual way; her eyes go straight to the bed, looking for him there first, and finding all his best angles charmingly displayed in greeting. (Well. Most of them. One or two others, they'll get to later in the evening.) "… I ought to take you downstairs," she drawls; "you'll suit my jewel-box very well, tonight."

Jehan-Pascal waits for no knock, nor any call, but hears someone on approach from the corridor, and before the door can even open the tome is closed and the hand holding it tucked below a pillow, drawing back out once more when he rises and takes himself closer, lowering into a practiced curtsey before Emman, and then, when allowed to rise, doing so with a smile of good cheer and a slight downward tip of the chin. "Yes, Madame," he answers her. "But may I come hug you and kiss your cheek for your natality?" he asks.

Emmanuelle looks him over slowly, her blue diamond gaze rising with him as though lifting him out of his curtsey by the sheer force of its hold… Then, of course, on a day consecrated to celebrations and intimate indulgences, so sweetly sincere a request can have only one answer. "You may," she pronounces, gravely, but with the very corners of her red mouth turned up in a discreet reflection of his own pleasure in their meeting again. She waits where she is for him to come to her and then presents one pale and velvety powdered cheek; and their embrace is the occasion for both her hands to conduct a frank appraisal of the contours of his derrière through silk of her very, very favourite colour. Why not investigate one's gift through its wrappings, even if one knows already what it is—?

Jehan-Pascal does not, indeed, require more than an elevation of her glance to keep perfect time wherewith, as though he were drawn on the surest of chains from the ceiling of the jewel box. Permission granted, he bounces, just a little bit, producing a girlish jiggle of the rounded hips and rear of the gown— no padding, only excess fabric becoming round with a sort of parachute effect, as Emman will be able to tell when she smooths those shirts back down into place. Jehan-Pascal's own arms stay at more innocent elevations, taking up Madame in a tender but very excited hug about her upper arms and then turning his head to press a sweet, chaste kiss upon the offered cheek, whispering, thereafter, into her ear, "Joyous Natality, Madame," before stepping back, or at least, if Emman's arms bid his bottom to stay within them, he withdraws his arms from around her and tucks them girlishly to his sides. "There will be tea, soon. I thought we might sit together." What is it with this boy and his sitting-together-and-imbibing-drinks fetish? "Would you like to?"

Of course, it's hardly the most peculiar fetish to which Emmanuelle has catered in her long and active life as a courtesan; and, with her present all present and accounted for (she did check quite thoroughly) she releases her charming hostess and agrees, mildly enough. "Very well. I haven't," she drawls, as she finds a chair for herself near to the fire in the chamber's small white marble hearth, "a particularly early night in mind for us, my love." She sits; and she eyes her maiden in motion, admiring the play of purple and silver over that lithe and beloved body compressed by so many steel bones. "How was your sojourn in Avignon?" she wonders softly. "How are you, since we met last?" The real question is in her eyes on his, and in the gentleness of her tone.

Jehan-Pascal might have let loose a little squeak when that census of his hind end reaches its most thorough point, but it's a joyful sound, rather than at all alarmed, tinged with a maidenly giggle at the goosing. She waits for Madame to settle, staying tall and bustling slightly about, more in an effort to demonstrate the long, tall lines of his profile in the exquisite gown he's wearing— finally he picks up a little bell and rings it as a signal for his new friend to come in and once again wait upon him— wait upon them both. Jehan-Pascal may be a servant in his own home, but Aumande is a princess, and, unless Emman objects, will have them tended to quite luxuriously. Then, with a sweep of arms to arrange the voluminous skirts, Aumande herself settles at table, knees together, hands folded demurely, gazing across to Madame. "Very well, Madame. Everything there is prepared to my best ability— I will only have to see how the meeting goes, now. But may we not discuss the business of governance? I am well and I have missed you, Madame. I know how you care for me, and I care for you just so much," she extends a hand across the table for Emman to hold, if she wishes, while the maid returns with the tea to set the service for them.

In the low light of the fire and a few strategic candelabra Emmanuelle's eyes seem sapphire-dark as they divert for a moment to the offered hand, and then rise again to meet her lover's. She is about to speak; before she can, the maid comes in with the tea, and her mistress just sits back and watches impassively the performance of a service in which this newish addition to the household has obviously been well-instructed— even if, in the actual doing of it, she's beset by nerves enough that silver spoons clatter noisily into saucers. She's no longer the chatty and helpful creature who consulted upon Aumande's maquillage. She's pale and silent before the Lady Shahrizai; she hardly dares raise her eyes, even to Aumande.

With a last curtsey, deeper than Aumande's though less elegant, the maid withdraws and seals their evening's privacy by the shutting of the door; and then Emmanuelle sits forward and takes charge of the nearest maidenly paw and brings it to her lips. A kiss, a graze of her teeth. Not quite the bite she sometimes bestows. "I missed you too," she confides gravely. "No governance, then, only…" She favours her lover with a crooked smile. "Romance?" she suggests. Not a word which habitually crosses her lips — but she's feeling indulgent, tonight.

Emmanuelle watches the maid; Aumande watches Emmanuelle. The maid's cheerful demeanor toward him is gone; his friendly demeanor toward her likewise evaporated, but without any sense of malice, at all— it's only that Aumande is gazing calf-eyed at Emman's profile while she oversees the service. Even the rattle of the silver doesn't do much more than make the maiden's shoulder move a little bit, and the final curtsey is the only piece of the process which at all turns her head, eliciting from her a benevolent smile and a dip of her head in recognition for her efforts. But before the door is even closed, Aumande's eyes are back to Emman's, and she has her hand taken up and kissed so very sweetly, the word 'romance' making his heart flip upside-down for a moment. "… Romance," she whispers in rosy-cheeked agreement.

Another press of fingertips into Aumande's palm; and then her hand is laid down again upon the table, where Emmanuelle found it, and gently relinquished. "… Although of course," she goes on, "if romance is to be our theme I expect you to do most of the talking, whilst I sit and sip my tea and make the occasional curious noise." She suits her actions to her words, taking up her cup and saucer and breathing in the fragrant steam rising therefrom.

Of course it's her favourite blend from the Maison Sanglante's comprehensive tea cabinet: she doesn't remark upon it, but raises her eyebrows at Aumande as she inhales again.

Jehan-Pascal doesn't know what he thought might happen on the topic of romance— hand deposited, Aumande smiles shyly and casts down her eyes to her tea, taking a short breath through her nose and then drawing both hands to take up her own teacup and barely daring to look back up again. "I finished your present," which, inasmuch as she brings it up now, must be at least somehow upon a romantic vein. "Will you allow me to present it to you, after tea?" Look at how her fingers move hesitantly about the fine surface of the cup before she takes a bird-like sip.

By some odd chance Emmanuelle is watching the tentative touch of those manicured fingertips upon her own fine Ch'in porcelain, as she drinks from her own cup rather more deeply. This tea for which she has such a penchant is a dark golden brown, served almost but not quite hot enough to scald, and boldly flavourful — though one would never dream of adulterating it with sugar or milk. "I should like that very much," she answers cordially, restoring her cup to her saucer and her saucer to the table, "provided," she explains as once more her eyes seize hold of Aumande's in that steady gaze she can keep up apparently indefinitely, "you do so kneeling. I think that is only suitable, don't you, for so special a presentation? …. You have made me curious, you know."

Provided? Aumande's eyebrows rise in anticipation, breath coming to nest deep down in her lungs— and then, when the stipulation is named, she exhales once again, features resuming their warm-hearted serenity. "Yes, Madame," she agrees readily. It honestly used to be one of the things that bothered him most about the notion of the Thorns— the kneeling, the ceremony, the titles. It did take him a rather long while for him to come to terms with having to call Emman ‘Madame’ all the time— but now, well, he's quite used to it, and kneeling… well, she doesn't require him to kneel very often, but he has, at moments, felt the need to sink to his knees of his own volition, such that the appeal is now clear enough to him. "Oh, I'm so glad. I only hope the thing itself gives as much pleasure as the anticipation," she answers back, gazing adoringly into Emman's eyes.

Is anticipation in itself not the greatest of pleasures? Aumande ought to know that; she's just had another taste herself, courtesy of Emmanuelle's words so expertly paced to encourage that frisson, amongst others. "It is your nature to give me pleasure," she reminds him mildly; "but we shall see, mmm?"

Then a few minutes' talk on the theme of Aumande's gown and its lovely hue, the girl assigned to his service this evening and how far and in what ways she was a help to him, and how beautiful his neck looks in that choker which so resembles a collar, bring Emmanuelle to the end of her tea. She pushes her cup and saucer forward on the table amidst the other porcelain and silver accoutrements of teatime and relaxes into her chair, her hands resting easily in her silk-robed lap. She watches Aumande with a patient but utterly attentive air, savouring the greater gift that is her maiden's loveliness whilst she awaits the lesser one to come.

Jehan-Pascal prattles endearingly the tea long, as he is most wont to do. From any given topic he will take off in any direction with complete and open earnestness— the poor maid may be in trouble, later, after Madame is told of what a cheersome and friendly companion she was, and how they laughed together over wine and clothes and all the fine things which Emman has provided for his beautiful chamber, for which, again, Aumande expresses great piles of gratitude with teary eyes amid sips of tea.

But enough of tea! There is a gift to be had, and when she is excused from table Aumande takes herself to bed to go and find it under its pillow and arrange it beautifully enough, for something not wrapped. Or, it doesn't seem wrapped, but Jehan-Pascal certainly considers it so, with the true work being on the inside. The cover is only the most recent of endeavors— a pale blue suede-wrapped binding and silver corner pieces. Also a place-ribbon of an even paler blue, which he has placed tucked top and bottom in the work so as to fashion a stripe left of center on the cover. This Aumande fusses with in her hands to make sure all is arranged, then turns back around, proceeding with a trembling step toward Emmanuelle until she thinks herself close enough to go to one knee, then the other, then settle her pretty little rump on the heels of her slippers and, breathless, holds up the book in both hands.

It's slim, but not a pamphlet— possibly 125 pages long, to estimate from its size, but not very tall, nor wide, either. A good size to keep open in one hand while eating a peach in the other.

And lo! it has come to pass, that Aumande does most of the talking, whilst her Madame drinks her tea and nudges her chatter along with just such cordial low sounds as she predicted she'd utter. A natural division of the conversational labour, into which so often they fall. In the past Emmanuelle has preferred quiet companions — but there's a different quality of restfulness to be found in that stream of honey which flows unending from her maiden's empurpled lips, revealing everything, demanding nothing, heartfelt and wide open and free.

How well-behaved Emmanuelle is, too, soothed and lulled by that honey which sweetens the convivial rituals of teatime. How mild her speech, how calm and reassuring her manner.

But when Aumande kneels before her abeyante, in a pool of dark violet silk and cloth of silver upon that carpet woven with pink and golden roses, her thighs parted beneath the spill of her skirts, her eyes downcast in becoming modesty even as the gift over which she has laboured so long and so earnestly is uplifted upon both her palms, the Mandrake within stirs at last.

Whilst her half-lidded eyes roam over what is, tonight, her own property, and a number of vague earlier plans melt into something like a final form behind them, she leaves her maiden waiting with her heart in her throat for that precious acceptance of her offering. It comes but slowly: a black-lacquered nail stroking over pale blue suede, fingertips curving about the spine, a silent and unhurried lift of the slim volume from Aumande’s hands into Emmanuelle’s own.

Then, rather than browsing at random between its covers, the birthday beast opens it at the very beginning and then turns over several successive pages at a methodical pace which suggests she’s not reading every word, but seeking and finding a general sense of what it is.

At length she goes back to the poem’s first page and turns the book around, and restores her gift to the hands of the giver — who happens also to be the poet.

Her demand comes low and cool. “Read to me.”

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