(1311-03-01) Of Dureza and Cahors
Summary: Raphael advises Aurore on wines.
RL Date: 01/03/19
Related: Well Met Over Cahors.
raphael aurore 

Wine Cellar — Noble District

Stairs lead down to the heavy oak door, above which the sign of the place, the likeness of a Hellene amphora spilling over with wine painted upon wood, swings lazily in the occasional breeze. Beyond that door the entrance hall comes into view, where various kegs and casks of differing sizes are arranged in oenological allure before the roughly hewn walls of ancient stone. There is a chill down here on hot summer days, that will be efficiently battled in the colder months through the heating of a giant hearth to the back. The place has a decidedly cavernous character, alcoves to the left and right offering seating at small tables for two or three. Lamps are dangling by chains from the ceiling, shades of milky glass work from La Serenissima offering sufficient lighting. There are no visible windows, which means lamps will be in use even during the day.

Further to the back there is a small hallway branching off from the main area, leading to a medium sized chamber where the bigger barrels are stored. Here, a larger group of up to eight people can sit about a round table of heavy oak, while they are being served the rarer vintages or even the heavier spirits that are stored in a wooden cabinet to the back. Staff is mostly male, clad in black breeches and white shirts with dark red vests, knowledgeable sommeliers of superior training that will be glad to wait on guests in person and offer insight into the variety of wines, red and white, from Terre d'Ange and a variety of specialties from abroad, that are available here.

Aurore is tall and slender. Her chestnut hair is long with gentle curls when loose, though it is usually up in elaborate braids. Her face and nose are long, with strong cheekbones and full lips. Her features are more handsome than pretty, with the kind of looks that suit a woman grown far better than they likely did when she was a girl.

Aurore is in a forest green velvet overdress, with a lighter coloured green and silver brocaded underdress and a black cloak. This is a day dress, sturdy and warm, but cut to the latest fashion. She is wearing sturdy forest green boots dyed to match the overdress.

She is just sitting down. A liveried guard is pushing in her chair for her, before taking an unobtrusive position at a nearby table. Somehow, her expression manages to be dignified, but with a hint of mischief underneath as she surveys the room.

Raphael makes his entrance at the head of a short line of people: himself, two sharp-eyed youths, and what looks like a hired guard, making it all but unmistakable that the youths are novices being watched over in an excursion out of the house. His clothes, in contrast to Aurore's and several of the other patrons', are rather plain: ordinary material dyed black. The youths are dressed more richly. And yet it is Raphael who appears the most assured, as he draws forth a list from a pocket and, having summoned one of the attendants with a gesture, says, "Your best of those four." If he had already a list written and such simple instructions, surely there was no need to visit himself nor to bring the two youths with him. But, for some reason, that is what he has done. "Against the credit of the Salon de la Rose Sauvage," he informs the attendant, whose stride briefly hitches, then resumes.

Aurore's eyebrows go up. This at least is interesting. She gestures to her guard, who steps to right away, bending for instructions. The man is well built and very good looking, though he moves in a way that suggests he was hired for competence as well as his looks.

He straightens and approaches the Adept with a bow. His accent suggests L'Agnace. "My mistress, the Vicomtesse Regent Aurore nó Bonnel de Chalasse invites you to share a glass with her while you wait."

Raphael looks to see first who is extending this invitation through the figure of a handsome guard (to whom he pays almost no mind). Whatever he sees in Aurore, or hears in her title, makes up his mind. He nods to the guard. "Very well." One novice presumptuously steps forward as if he will be joining the table, but Raphael catches him by the shoulder to put him back in his place. Turning then to both novices, Raphael says softly, "You will wait for the bottles and carry them home. Carefully. If there is a single drop missing by the time I return, you know exactly what will happen." The remark certainly seems to be understood by the novices, who turn their attention to waiting for the steward to come back. Raphael, meanwhile, steps forward to the table of this Vicomtesse Regent, pulls out a chair, and occupies it. "And are we drinking a particular favorite of yours?" he asks, in place of greeting.

Aurore's smile widens slightly at his direction to the Novices, "I'd love for you to advise me. I am new to the south and am still learning the best vintages. White or red, do you think?" Her accent is very elevated Agnace, but there is something a little too precise about it.

Raphael lifts his eyebrows just perceptibly. "Always red," is his reply, which needs no consideration. The remark is accompanied by the merest hint of a smile, though if looking at the mouth or the eyes individually, neither quite seems to be smiling. His own accent is what it should be for a courtesan born in Marsilikos. It is not the tone of nobility, but he does speak precisely.

Aurore grins at him, "Oh, I much prefer that myself." She studies him, "So have you a good vintage in mind. Perhaps something rich and complex?"

Raphael makes an unhurried nod. A moment's thought, and he says, "I know exactly the thing," and beckons an attendant with a gesture. "The Dureza," he requests, "Two glasses." Meanwhile, the wines are delivered to the rest of his party. The two Thorn novices each take two bottles and, carrying them carefully, ascend the stairs under the watchful eye of the guard, the hasty one casting a glance over his shoulder at Aurore. "Rich and complex," he repeats belatedly. "Does that describe yourself or merely your tastes?"

Aurore adds to waiter, "My tab." To him she gives an amused look, "Yes. So if you were a wine, which would you be?"

Raphael looks Aurore over again, perhaps impressed by her wit. It is difficult to read in his expression exactly what he means. He takes a moment of settled consideration before he answers, "Cahors. Some call it 'black wine.' It reminds me of leather and spice."

Aurore nods, studying him, "We could have a glass of that next, perhaps. It sounds fascinating."

"I imagine they would have it here," Raphael says. But their first course is delivered: two glasses of the Dureza he requested. It is indeed complex, somehow balancing flavors of smoked meat, herbs, vanilla, and a hint of dark fruit, bound by oak and a fair but not excessive dryness. He picks up his glass. "What made you invite me to your table?" he asks directly.

Aurore studies the colour and scent then sips, holding it in her mouth to make the most of the complexity. When she finally has swallowed it, she remarks, "You're a good judge, but then you'd have to be." She cocks her head slightly, "I'm very new here and short on acquaintances. I arrived in festival season when the city was half deserted and I fear I am a touch bored. You, at least, look interesting."

Raphael dips his nose over the rim of the glass, then tastes. "It is my calling to be interesting," he replies in lieu of modesty. "Is it also yours?" Another potentially bold question, though asked indirectly.

Aurore sips again, "Oh it was and I did rather well at it, but now my calling is to be amused." A faint smile, "We all must make our way in the world somehow. Lest there be confusion, I'm not interested in the more flamboyant of your house's advertised talents."

This makes Raphael's eyes narrow slightly, perhaps trying to see through Aurore's intentions. "A great pity," he replies. "Those are the highest of arts." A swallow of wine. "But it is a waste for a person such as yourself to be bored in such an interesting city as Marsilikos."

Aurore nods, taking him seriously, "Oh yes, I have nothing but admiration for the sort of art you make, but it isn't my inclination." She sips, "I have taken in a few performances. There was a fine story teller at the local fête, but it wasn't the sort of entertainment one expects for Longest Night."

Raphael silently nods acceptance at that. His gaze drops to his wine glass, the lines scoring his forehead darkening a shade. "I admit, I was not here. I was in Elua. Where I am sure you would have found exactly the entertainments you would have expected. In abundance." The gaze rises again to make eye contact.

Aurore nods, taking him seriously, "Oh yes, I have nothing but admiration for the sort of art you make, but it isn't my inclination." She sips, "I have taken in a few performances. There was a fine story teller at the local Fete, but it wasn't the sort of entertainment one expects for Longest Night."

Raphael silently nods acceptance at that. His gaze drops to his wine glass, the lines scoring his forehead darkening a shade. "I admit, I was not here. I was in Elua. Where I am sure you would have found exactly the entertainments you would have expected. In abundance." The gaze rises again to make eye contact.

Aurore looks back boldly, lips curled up in amusement, "I suspect that was the case. Alas, the needs of my house have brought me here and so here I must stay for the nonce. What sort of entertainment do you enjoy when you are not… supervising the young." Sip. That challenging gaze stays fixed on him.

"It is not a bad city, I assure you," Raphael says, pausing to drain his glass, which is then set aside. But he rises to meet this challenging look, perhaps predictably. "Entertainment," he repeats. "I will make you a confession," he decides, choosing to frame things dramatically, not an unfamiliar strategy for a courtesan. "I have been away from this city for some time and only just returned. I find that my work and entertainment…are closely intertwined. I have not sought far outside my house for diversions." He makes an open-palmed gesture. "Yet, here I am today." Their glasses of the Cahors wine he requested are delivered.

Aurore finishes her glass and sets it aside, still watching him with those bold dark eyes as she reaches for the Cahors. She does not taste it just yet. "Yet here you are." He cocks her head, "Ask me one thing." She lifts her goblet of the dark wine he chose to represent himself. She studies it as carefully as she's been studying him, its colour as the candlelight hits the surface, the scent. her eyes lift to meet his again as she sips, holding the liquid in her mouth to really taste its nuances.

"You're setting the terms," Raphael observes aloud. But he doesn't buck too hard. He leaves the wine alone for the moment. "Who else do you know in town?" It is a question that could be entirely innocent. Or for a courtesan, it might not be, as one's acquaintances can be a source of tremendous meaning and power. One place where the light strikes the wine glows deep red, but the surrounding liquid does indeed appear black. It is dense, full-bodied, velvety in texture, indeed leathery and spicy in scent and flavor as Raphael promised, hinting at plum and cedar as well. "What do you think?" he asks of the wine.

Aurore swallows, the muscles moving in her long pale neck. "I met a rather dull noble child here and already forgot his name. I met Lady Hélène Verreuil by the quai and spoke of shipping routes with her. That's part of why I'm here, you see. We are looking into river and overland transport of goods to this port. I met a number of people at the local fete, including the charming young storyteller. The people I knew in my youth? Are far away, as far as I know, at any rate." Of course she is young still, certainly young enough to be his daughter, but well old enough to have a complicated past. "I do like this wine. It is strong and has hidden depths."

Raphael keeps his face stony as she gives her report on the wine, showing no indication of how he considers that may reflect on her opinion of him personally. "Any city fairly crawls with dull noble children," he agrees. "But charming storytellers are worthy of note. A commoner? Tsingani? Or someone with training?" By which he presumably means either someone raised in the Night Court to a house such as Orchis or Eglantine, or a noble poet or scholar of some stripe.

Aurore she gives him a slow smile, "Eglantine. A chit of a thing but sixteen. She dances too and I am thinking of hiring her for that. To see if she dances as well as she talks." Something in her tone makes clear it is just the dancing she's interested in. "It is funny, I was in such a terrible hurry to leave my House and earn my independence, but now when I have all the freedom I could possibly want," and wealth judging by the quality of her rings and the good taste displayed in their settings, "I find I miss the company of adepts. Socially."

Raphael looks away briefly, toward the door. Perhaps he is concerned about his novices. But the last part of her conversation brings his attention back again. "I suppose you might still have it at the salons," he says. "Though not in the same way. Was that your house, then?" he further asks, and on asking reaches for his glass and drinks.

Aurore says, "Bryony, originally, but I wasn't really suited to the life there and a patron sponsored me as an independent, which suited me very well indeed. And you? Have you lived your whole life inside one house or another?"

"Not…my whole life," Raphael allows, with the faint and uncharacteristic note of caution in that hesitation. "But I was brought up a Thorn and I shall surely die one." No intention of going into independence, it sounds.

Aurore nods, her expression softening a little. Surely she saw that hesitation. She may not know the reason, but she chooses not to press, "It must be pleasant to have a place that suits you so well. You are good with those novices, I can tell."

Raphael continues to gaze back at Aurore, adjusting the position of his fingers on the glass. "A Thorn novice is much less amenable to punishment than a Red Rose," he points out. "They have a great pride, which can motivate." He looks Aurore over, then pauses for another swallow. "You are interested in trade?" he asks.

Aurore nods, "Pride certainly motivated me. It got me very far indeed until other motivations developed." She sips, "I am interested in looking after my son's interests, thus I have brought him here in hopes of giving him broad education and expanding the trade interests of our house in his name. An investment in his future."

"Wise," Raphael pronounces. "What is his age?" he wants to know, glancing to the wine glass and back to Aurore. "Has he siblings?"

Aurore says, "He just turned eight. I am pleased to think he takes rather after me. Thierry has no siblings of any kind. Have you any children?"

"No, I never had," Raphael replies, with a stoniness that is perhaps as telling as if he had shown some emotion. "But I have my place in the salon." Which is perhaps more than a childless commoner might have to depend on in old age.

Aurore nods, sipping her wine. Those intelligent eyes are studying him over the rim of his goblet as she drinks. As before when she touched something too personal she moves on breezily, leaving him his privacy, “I think they are very lucky to have you there, handsome and interesting and good with the novices.”

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