(1311-02-27) The Pleasures of Duty
Summary: Naamah’s Temple is the scene of dedication and flirtation both.
RL Date: 19/02/2019 - 26/02/2019
Related: Curious Twists.
dorimene_npc cyriel 

Temple of Naamah — Marsilikos

The Temple of Naamah is a serene and lovely building which has been constructed of stark white marble and cool latticed stonework. Decorations here reflect the gentle side of the angel to which the temple plays homage, the building being filled with an abundance of flowers that spill from columns and pedestals. Within the centre of the main hall, arching columns support a dome that is open to the skies above, and these are hung with garlands of flowers amongst which the temple doves sit and preen. A narrow carpet of carmine red runs from the main doors, through the arches, and towards the rear of the temple to where an exquisite alabaster statue of Naamah herself kneels upon an altar of deepest grey granite. She is depicted with her eyes closed in quiet repose, and with her hands extended palms uppermost before her. On the floor around the base of the plinth are shallow bowls of chased silver, receptacles for the coins and trinkets that are offerings to the angel herself. Scarlet-robed priests and priestesses might be found within the temple whatever the hour of day or night, going about their chores or offering comfort and guidance to those that seek it.

Even in winter the Temple of Naamah is full of flowers, more the gifts of devotées than the purchases of priests: chaotic for that, but no less lovely when taken as a whole.

Their bright colours to the left and the right provide a frame for Dorimène nó Cereus de Shahrizai as her steps skim over the red carpet that runs between them and which her boots hardly seem to touch down upon. On this warmer day she’s wearing her ermine-lined cloak open over a gown of the palest, purest blue silk; her eyes are alight and her smile unfeigned. Her favourite ermine muff is clutched in one hand and her other paw encased in the softest white kidskin; she has a few perfect snowdrops pinned to the breast of her gown and a narrow red silk ribbon about her pale throat, evocative of the cut of some delicate knife.

Passing outside into the gardens lightfooted and joyous and alone, she stops short at the sight of Cyriel Charlot in conversation with another. His first hint of her is just a peal or two of low laughter carrying through the still air of the temple grounds just as far as his ears, each note of it so smooth and polished that it almost fails to sound genuine — perhaps it’s familiar to him from their pleasant moment together on the rooftop of her aunt’s palace? She halts in her passage; she draws in a thoughtful breath. But, rather than call out a greeting, she waits there upon the steps of Naamah’s own sanctuary and wiggles gloved fingertips at him, low down, to see if he’ll answer. Her smile is a trifle crooked, proposing the question: here, what will he?

What business can a Kusheline have in the gardens of Naamah?

And yet he is there, a striking presence with features that will be so easily recognized anywhere he goes. Cyriel Charlot is not alone, however, but it is no priest nor acolyte of the temple that keeps him company, but a man of unobtrusive garb, he has been speaking with at a low volume. Most probably not on matters of Naamah’s business.

That soft peal of a chuckle had made Cyriel look up with a faint trace of irritation at first, but in the moment he recognizes Dorimène, his expression softens a little. Addressing a few last words to the man he dismisses him, only to turn his attention now fully on the Shahrizai lady that beckons him over — an unspoken request he will follow, after a moment. Pale blue eyes flash brightly as he approaches and then offers her a courteous bow of greeting.

“Lady Dorimène. A good day to you.” With his hair pulled back in the usual ponytail, his face may look all the more angular, and that beak-like nose even more pronounced. “You look like the day has already treated you well.”, Cyriel observes, arching a brow at her even as the hint of a smile somehow manages to form on his features.

Before Cyriel has quite straightened again his bow sparks a flawless Cereus curtsey, deeper than Dorimène gave him before and the next proper step in such a courtly dance. Her hand and wrist extend to one side in a frail and graceful line, white-gloved; and her bell-shaped skirts sigh audibly down upon the velvet beneath her feet: the blue of ice upon the red of blood, and the latter hue echoed by the brightness of that ribbon she wears in place of jewels, and even by a faint blush of colour in her pale Shahrizai cheeks. “My lord vicomte, good day.”

Then she glides daintily down the temple’s white marble steps to stand on a level with him. She’s smaller than the other day, having selected her flat boots with the nature of the terrain in mind. Marble is so slippery when it’s wet, and everywhere in Marsilikos snow is melting.

Her soft murmurous soprano confirms his theory, carrying rather less far than did her initial outburst of mirth. “Oh, my lord, it has,” she confides; “I’m afraid in consequence I’m a little giddy this morning. I hope,” and she smiles inquiringly up into his eyes, “I haven’t interrupted anything of too great a consequence? If I have, I do apologise,” she says, rather prettily, lowering her chin and looking up now through her lashes; “I was simply charmed to see a face I knew… You may be the first to hear my news, if you like,” she offers, not coyly in flirtation but with the air of a fair-minded person endeavouring to make up for a small but admitted transgression.

Her motions may express the elegant grace of someone trained on Mont Nuit, but Cyriel’s own reflect the rigidity of Kusheline tradition, as he bows to her. His pale blue eyes are bound to linger on the display, however, of Shahrizai traits but also of a more outgoing disposition that must be the consequence of her Cereus upbringing. That ribbon worn around her neck, blood red, becomes focus of his attention for a moment, and with it the delicate pallor of the neck itself, which brings about a momentary dark flash in his gaze.

His eyes find hers then, paler hue meeting the deep sapphire of Shahrizai, as Cyriel gives his reply to the lady.

“Nothing of consequence,” he assures her flatly, a faint smile visible only at the corners of his eyes, and his gaze flicks the way in which the other man departed moments ago. “My business was already done, more or less.” Which may be all he has to offer her on the matter. “Your news? I would be honored to hear it,” he adds then with a touch more curiosity, as he stands there before her, taller than her but with his gaze lowered as far as to study Dorimène’s features.

That upbringing and all its ineffable delicacies no doubt explains why she lets go of Cyriel’s business, says no more of it, doesn’t even glance after his departing acquaintance: a Cereus is used to being the confidante of the highest in the land, and has no need to pry for gossip. During the natural course of a day in her life she’ll hear more secrets than most others may ever hope… Even, perhaps, to some extent, a Cereus exiled from Mont Nuit: provided that her maman is a former Dowayne, her aunt a sovereign duchesse, her cousins legion.

“Well, all right,” Dorimène says easily; and her eyes lift just far enough to meet her interlocutor’s in earnest. “So often, you know, one cannot be wholly certain what to do for the best,” she begins, “or what unintended consequences might unfurl from one’s actions in times to come… But this morning I am enjoying the surety of having done what is right, without question.” She draws in a deep breath; her bosom rises and her snowdrops with it. “I offered myself again to our Bright Lady,” she explains; “from this hour I am once again her servant.”

It is the bane of a man so thoroughly Kusheline to have a slightly intimidating and intense air about him. It becomes a fact, very much like the skin and face he wears, and even if he may be able to occasionally dim that intensity a little, some traces will always remain. This may be the reason for that faintly predatory grin that curls Cyriel’s lips as he enjoys the view of a comely d’Angeline woman, so pleasant in her confidence and Shahrizai beauty and that rare presence that lives and breathes Cereus canon. Her confession may be the icing on the cake, and it elicits a faint glint in his eyes, as Cyriel responds in that dark timbre of his voice, “Naamah may consider herself lucky. And everyone you will deem worthy of taking as a patron, in the time to come.” And once again his gaze descends from her expressive eyes to her throat and that tempting neckline, and with his nostrils flaring faintly he inhales as if to take in her scent, even as his lips curl even further.

For the complex and sensual colognes of Elua perfumers or the perfumed oils of the Far East the vicomte’s sensitive nose will seek in vain — the Lady Dorimène’s fragrance is comprised of the simplest and most ordinary notes, each of which suggests well-kept and fastidious femininity. The fine Eisandine lavender soap with which she washes her hair. The aromatic herbs with which her garments are stored. The freshness of her own clean skin. The snowdrops secured to her bosom by a small pin in the shape of a golden key almost hidden beneath their nodding white heads. Well, why wear perfume, when you’ve nothing to conceal thereby? Why gild a lily — or indeed a snowdrop? The young lady lowers her chin and her knees bend in the slightest of curtseys, indicative this time of refined gratitude: nothing daunted by Kusheline manners, she’s at once looking up again and sounding pleased by his words.

“You have my thanks for your kind wishes, my lord, and for that regard it seems I’ve done naught yet to lose!” She laughs softly. “Let’s hope I might regain hers as well,” and she glances up the steps and into the flower-lined temple, “by obeying that pull toward service which I have long felt…” Her Shahrizai sapphires, more lucid and more blue than any gem she could wear but doesn’t, come slowly back to Cyriel’s face. There’s a question in her gaze, of course, but she layers others, less consequential, upon it. “And does your business prosper in Marsilikos? Shall we have the pleasure of seeing you about the city and the court through the spring? It’s a beautiful season here — do you know Eisande in the spring?”

She can be certain that each tiny nuance of her scent is taken in and memorized, at least his look very much suggests it, and that subtle flaring of nostrils. Cyriel Charlot leans away just in time to admire the graceful indication of a curtsey, and Dorimène’s confidence in meeting his gaze, and that smile adorning her pleasant Shahrizai features manages to push him as far out of his usual routine, to actually return the smile in an adequate twist of his aquiline features.

“Will you serve Naamah in independence? Or are you pondering to join one of the salons?”, the Kusheline vicomte wonders, meeting that question in her gaze with a faint lift of a brow. Electing not to reply to it, he focuses on the verbal inquiries she puts forth and responds with a soft sigh, “It had better prosper. And I suspect my business will require me to stay at least till April or May. Considering that my last visit here was last summer, this may be the first spring I am to witness then, in this wonderful city.” The way he drawls the word ‘wonderful’ very much suggests a hint of irony.

Of the prospect of so sharp a descent — from the storied halls of Cereus House, walked by royalty for centuries past, to the determined but humbler elegancies of a provincial Night Court — Dorimène has nothing to say. She would never dream of disparaging colleagues even in the abstract, even by the subtlest of hints. She nods slowly as she listens, head tilted, attentive to each word spoken by the smiling vicomte (of course she’s not oblivious to being admired, but nor does she make more of it than it is); and then she lays out her plans with a quiet, fluent confidence which suggests they have been well and thoughtfully made.

“I did consider the salons,” she claims for politeness’s sake, without mentioning how briefly it was done, “but I think it will be more convenient for me to live at home, where I can be sure of seeing my children every day,” she explains, couching her choice in personal terms and the clannishness natural to the Kusheline heart. “The house is sensibly arranged, you understand, my mother and my grandfather and I all have quite separate suites of chambers. My mother receives patrons at home; why should I not do the same?” she inquires, smiling.

“And that is good news, for the social life of Marsilikos. I hope that by the time spring turns to summer again you’ll feel you can speak of the wonders of the city with more warmth, my lord,” she adds. Her tone is gentle, indeed sympathetic, but free of any suggestion of chiding. “After all, if one must inhabit a particular place for a span of time, isn’t it better to try to make the most of it—? Even if it isn’t quite one’s own choice. A duty need not be a burden if it’s performed with a glad heart… But do forgive me,” and she laughs again, very softly, and adjusts her snowdrops in an uncharacteristic fidget. “I have thought so much upon these matters of late that now I speak too much upon them too. Of course it’s none of my business.”

<FS3> Cyriel rolls Perception: Success. (5 7 3 2 3 3)
<FS3> Cyriel rolls Politics: Failure. (6 3 2 1 4 6 3 6)

If his question did indeed offend, Cyriel Charlot appears blissfully oblivious. Of course, his pale blue eyes linger on Dorimène, how could they not? The spectacle of a nod offered with a tilted head, elongating a neck that looks so delicate and unblemished, will certainly draw the attention of a Kusheline with Kusheline preferences. “Convenient,” he echoes that word that leaves her lips, but the way he says it does have a slightly different tone to it. Her next remarks have his brows furrow a little, the spell almost broken, when a question forms immediately on his lips. “Your mother receives patrons there?” This appears to amuse him a little. “I was of the opinion that she left service, but perhaps I have been misinformed?”

It seems to be a minor realization though, filed away to be considered later perhaps, when Dorimène continues about the wonders of the city, and Cyriel agrees, “I believe I shall.”, his eyes narrowing just so as they focus on the delightful Shahrizai and newly returned to courtesan duties. “In regards to mine own duties,” the Charlot confides, “they are seldom performed for pleasure’s sake, but because it is required. We all try to excel in our particular field, and so I try to do so to bring honor to the name of my family. And so I see duties as less of a burden but more as a chance to prove my worth.” His smile has turned slightly thoughtful at that, but it is a fleeting impression, gone as soon as he continues, “Whereas you, my Lady Dorimène, are more fortunate, perhaps, in that you make pleasure your duty, and duty your pleasure. A wise choice, and once that becomes someone of Cereus canon.”

Dorimène is used to her mother raising eyebrows and provoking comment. She answers Cyriel’s curiosity at first only with a faint smile and a slightly deeper inclination of her head, presenting the appearance of one waiting courteously for him to go on… which he does.

“Oh, but I think it becomes us all, doesn’t it?” she theorises aloud, sounding as though this thought at least is occurring to her only in the moment. “To bring pleasure to others is surely a duty we have all in common, in our social lives… I’d agree with you, to be sure, that we to whom it is given to bestow an especial gift of pleasure upon those who stand most in need of such a blessing, are fortunate indeed. Often in so doing we receive more than we give,” she confides simply. “As for my lady mother — yes, when she’d prepared her Second to succeed her she chose to lay down her high office,” she clarifies, with that air of filial respect which seems to come so easily to her, “but she does still see the patrons she’s known the longest and who depend the most upon her care. A few in Marsilikos and a few in Elua. I can’t imagine her ever turning away from Naamah entirely: service is too much a part of her nature…”

Not, perhaps, the view an outsider might be likeliest to form of the lady Emmanuelle nó Mandrake de Shahrizai; but her daughter expresses it with perfect sincerity.

“… She was disappointed, I think,” Dorimène confesses next, with a hint of impishness in her smile, “when I left Cereus House. I’ve been contemplating a return to Namaah for some time now,” and her smile brightens with the recollection of their rooftop interlude, “I think I told you, didn’t I? But I chose today to take the final step because it’s her natality. I wanted to give her a piece of glad news with her breakfast.” She pauses. “I wonder whether, perhaps, there is not some leavening in your duty after all, my lord. Is it not a deep enough pleasure to you,” she puts to him, Socratically, “to prove your worth and to oblige others to acknowledge it?”

“It is a permanent struggle, but that does not mean that I do not appreciate it,” the Kusheline responds with a fine smile. “I need challenges, and the occasional reactions of displeasure I cause the Comte and even my other distant cousin, the Vicomte de Châteaugiron. In that, yes, perhaps you could say that it brings pleasure to me, and as long as I deem this a sufficiently interesting diversion, I may serve my House well.” The statement carries some dry humor that shows in the momentary glint of his eyes, an expression that is already fading as he continues, “Whereas you and others that serve Naamah cater to quite a different sort of pleasure. That is, those I usually prefer to frequent.”

Cyriel gives Dorimène another appraising look, but he cannot deny a certain interest, that shows in the pale flicker of his gaze. “I have never been as fortunate as to enjoy the attentions of a Cereus. I wonder… what would it take to gain your favor that you might perhaps consider a contract?” The question, while perhaps a bit straightforward, is posed in a low murmur, more confidential in tone and volume, as he leans forward to capture her gaze with his own.

“But I am taking up your time, when you must be eager to present your news to your lady mother… It is her birthday, you say? Pray, send her my regards and best wishes.”, Cyriel adds, breaking the gaze as he steps to the side to allow her passage should she wish to depart.

Whereupon Dorimène utters the most flirtatious remark he has yet heard from her.

“Why,” she breathes, “my lord vicomte, I began to consider it as I came down the steps… But I haven’t decided, yet.” This is frank, though not at all discouraging. Perhaps the reverse?

“Why don’t you come and call upon us, one day?” is her easy suggestion. “We might talk more candidly when we aren’t standing about in someone else’s garden… The Maison Sanglante, in the Place des Mains,” she reminds him, smiling pleasantly. “I shall be sure to give your good wishes to my mother, of course, as soon as I see her. Good day, vicomte,” and she curtseys again with exquisite lightness, and takes her leave in a flutter of pale skirts.

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