(1311-03-02) New Lutes For Old
Summary: The victim of a vicious kitten attack, is entrusted to the care of a qualified professional who has lately settled into new premises in the Grand Plaza.
RL Date: 02/03/2019
Related: None.
oriane roxane 

Ange Luthiers — Grand Plaza

This shop is not the largest in the grand plaza, but it's quite comfortable, by all standards. There has been obvious care put into the design and layout of the space, with a place for everything and everything in its place. Closest to the nearly full-length windows overlooking the street is the display. Both intricately wrought designs intended for courtly performances and more utilitarian instruments meant for general use and practice have been arranged by type. The shop seems to offer a wide array of instruments, from members of the violin family to cellos, guitars, and lutes. A few rarer specimens are also carefully displayed, including a sitar of particularly delightful craftsmanship and a pair of lap harps. Just past the display area, the shop is neatly divided in two. To the left is the area in which the luthier creates their instruments. A door leads off to the storage area. To the right is a comfortably appointed space for lessons and practice. A small harpsichord sits against the wall. In the far rear of the shops are where sales and other business is conducted. A door leads off to what must be the back room of the shop.

The crisp, clear weather of early spring is an enticement to the denizens of Marsilikos to get out and about — and to throng the Grand Plaza wherein all the city's most exclusive merchants cluster together behind white marble façades. The hired bearers transporting a black and white litter, curtained in cloth-of-silver and with a polished silver crescent-moon inlaid in its door, have been instructed not to behave officiously as they make their way through the throng of pedestrians leavened by a few other noblewomen being similarly transported: but a broad-shouldered man accompanying this litter on foot, armed with sword and dagger as well as his beautiful blue eyes, feels no such qualms, and he'll get a gentle talking-to later on from the lady peeking through a gap in the curtains.

They set her down at last in front of a luthier's shop from which the habitual shutters of past times have lately been drawn back every day: and she emerges, placing a gloved hand in her guard dog's waiting paw to steady her, but not for a moment letting go of the musical instrument that has been sitting cuddled in her lap all the way from the Rue du Port, in its well-made case of sturdy black leather embroidered with climbing roses in thread-of-silver. She herself is also sensibly encased, in a simple white woolen cloak lined with black fur and secured by a silver brooch in the shape of another crescent moon. Within the hood of it her own fair skin and snow-white hair appear very pale. She is a creature of considerable antiquity — and so, in fact, is the lute she carries…

The retainer accompanying her holds the door ajar, and a gust of cold air precedes them into the shop whilst the lady is briefly distracted by the display of instruments she can see through the window. Her last few steps towards and through the door hasten a little; once inside she slows, azure eyes already seeking for the beauty she expects to find, the beauty with the familiar name which stirred so many recollections — slowly, one by one, like the plucking of strings coming into tune — when she heard it again not long ago. Her name might be familiar too — it usually is. But her smile comes first, and for the exemplars of the younger woman's craft, which are everywhere to be found and can't help but distract.

The beauty was indeed there to be found, if not, strictly speaking, on display. Dressed in a gown that managed at once to be both elegant and serviceable for the work at hand, Roxane's blonde head sat bent over the table at which she was working, one hand at the neck of a violin, fingers wrapped around as gently as she might grasp the neck of a lover, the other poised to set a glittering dark red gem into the scroll of the instrument's head. Though she felt the wash of the cold air, even there, in the far side of the shop, she did not look up until she had set the faceted stone into its place, and used the end of her tweezers to settle it to her satisfaction.

Only once she had finished that tiny detail, did she straighten, turning to see who had entered her shop. A flash of recognition in her eyes livened her face, though when she rose, there was no hurry in her movement, but all of the grace and poise for which her house and the woman herself was well known. Even her dress seemed to know how to be about its business, as it fell back into place, eschewing the possibility that it might have found itself unduly wrinkled by long hours at the table. The smile she offered as she approached matched the one on her guest's. "My Lady Toluard."

At Roxane's approach Oriane tears her eyes from the intricacies of that sitar and turns to meet the one who surely must have made it. "… My dear," she says gently in greeting — the privilege of old age, and of an old Eglantine patron besides, "you haven't changed. But what a beautiful shop!" Her guard dog looms behind, a man in his middle forties who doesn't seem overcome by any particular enthusiasm for sitars: in exclaiming she looks about for him, finds him just where she expects, and entrusts her instrument case to his hands rather than putting it down sensibly on table or floor. Freed, her own hand rises to unfasten her cloak pin in recognition of the shop's comparative warmth; her gown beneath it is black silk, in the vaguely Hellenic style she often favours. "How long have you been been here?" she asks Roxane, courteously eager to know. "Do you still perform, or do you devote yourself now to creating such treasures as—" Gloved fingertips indicate the sitar. "I should so like to hear how it sounds."

As she was acknowledged, out of both respect and desire, Roxane's hands found her skirts, offering a bow of her head, a band of the knee in a curtsey that spread, for just a moment, her skirts in imitation of a fan. hands freed a moment later, she tracked the movement of the instrument case from Oriane's hand to that of her watchman. "Time has been kind to me, my Lady. As have your words, to pay such a compliment." Roxane made short work of the distance between herself and Oriane, offering her hands to complete the removal of the cloak, which would soon find itself set on its rack, out of the way, but easy enough to hand. "Thank you. I have spent the better part of three years arranging for it, but I have only just made the final journey from Elua to take up residency here." Seeing the interest in the sitar, the instrument was picked up, offered for examination. "I still perform, though, as I suppose, with any new business, I have had to devote much of my time to seeing the venture eventually flourish." her lips warmed with a smile, "I would be happy to offer a small performance now, if you have the desire to hear."

"Oh, thank you, my dear," and Oriane turns again, to let the light but luxurious weight of her cloak fall into Roxane's hands: the pleats of her gown drape elegantly about a figure upright and slender still, though without the fitting magnificence she was apt to array herself in for visits to Mont Nuit in years gone by. Her only adornment seems to be a strand of luminous white pearls woven through her simply-pinned white hair. A discreet fragrance wafts about her as she moves: white flowers, and the hint of apples which marks her as a Somerville scion.

"… You do tempt me!" And she presses a hand quickly to her heart. "Though I fear you won't be so generous with your arts," she goes on, as her gaze meets Roxane's again, "when I show you what I've brought you… You may find your curse my name," she sighs with a rueful smile. "In short, I hoped to arrange a repair, if you find that at present you have the leisure to accept such commissions."

Roxane moved with the ease of long familiarity, both with the shop, for had she not built it to her own expectations? And to the lady now settled into her shop. The years since they had last seen each other had no diminished her memories of the elder stateswoman who had, on occasion, blessed her with her patronage. "I believe it is my sole purpose and duty to tempt you, my Lady." But for now, the sitar was set back into its place, as the conversation turned to the topic of business. It was delight, though, rather than despair that brightened Roxane's eyes, as she met Oriane's eyes, and then glanced away to her guard, holding out her hands for the case, "A silver lining to the day," were the light words, "you have brought me a challenge then? You have not forgotten me at all." And that did seem to delight her. "I am of course available for such a commission."

Their talk of temptation brings a soft laugh to Oriane's lips; "Indeed," she agrees, "and I well recall your skill in it, my dear. I hope very much that I shall hear you play again — if not today, then…" She shrugs.

Roxane may reach for the case; but Oriane's retainer looks to his mistress for permission, and then at her gesture sets it down upon a suitable bench or table or something of the kind. Oriane keeps close, haunting it. She has the key to the case in a purse in the pocket of her gown; she unlocks it for Roxane. "It was made by Jehan-Hervé nó Eglantine," she confides seriously, naming an acknowledged master almost half a century in his grave, "one of the last from his workshop before he became ill — and so you understand I wasn't certain what I ought to do, until I heard talk of another Eglantine luthier, and here in Marsilikos—! You are simply the answer to a prayer," she admits with a smile.

And she opens that embroidered case (close up, the OE ligature may be espied lurking here and there amidst the roses) and reveals the ten-course beauty languishing within. The dark shell and the strikingly pale soundboard, the embellishments of silver and ebony and mother-of-pearl, suggest irresistibly Oriane's own style, as though that lamented Eglantine genius of yesteryear had the touch of her hands and the monochrome elegance of her lap very much in mind as he worked. But every single string is broken — three pins have unaccountably gone missing — and somebody with tiny sharp teeth has been chewing through the intricacies of the rosette, leaving several jagged gaps in it.

Oriane's gaze lifts from the lute to the luthier, her expression tinged with regret. "You must think I don't guard it well — the truth is that I have a small house, now," she explains apologetically, "and two half-grown cats."

"Though I do not often find myself in the salon, my Lady, I have not retired completely from service. I have simply…chosen to go my own way. To take such work as I will." Roxane allowed her hands to fall to her sides as the instrument was set in its place, her eyes picking out the familiar echoes of the marque that graced her back etched into the leather of the case, though the case displayed its marque more fully than the woman's own flesh. She approached, once Oriane had unlocked the case, though she came only so far as to examine it, and refrained from touching it without the lady's leave. "A thing of rare beauty. And one of the very last of that long lineage." Roxane gathered her skirts, holding then out of her way as she bend down, bringing her nearly on the level of the table, so that she could examine the instrument in better detail.

"It has certainly had a long life, no doubt filled with stories both joyful and dire. But there are years left in her, I think, only waiting to be brought out again by the right hand." Once she had seen her fill, she rose to her feet, "She can be repaired, but it will not be a working I can undertake alone. I will need your input as well, as you are hers as she is yours, and the sound of one must be made to echo the other."

Standing by with her hands clasped before her waist, studying the luthier as the luthier studies the lute, Oriane appears quietly pleased — she is. This is why one comes to an Eglantine: a woman who is not merely a worker in wood and lacquer, but a sensitive artiste who appreciates the relation one enjoys with one's favourite instrument, especially when one has known her for most of one's life. "She was my late husband's wedding gift to me," she explains, "a long, long time ago now," and laughter ripples through her pleasant, educated alto voice. "She has had a little attention, sometimes, though never like this… Of course I'm at your disposal, whenever you wish — and of course there's no hurry, my dear," she assures her. "Such a task must simply take as long as it must take."

Roxane settled herself back onto her feet, not far from the lute. Not out of an air of covetousness, for she had never displayed such an air, save for with her own instruments, but out of an air of protectiveness, which was only natural, as she stood by the scion of a master Eglantine's hand, "I am grateful that you appreciate that. The damage is extensive and will likely require many weeks, if not months work, and that only for the initial repairs. Retuning it to your own self will be on top of that. "She was a rare gift, though, it does not surprise me, if such stories as I know of him are even half truths." For a moment she studied the lady and not her instrument, "How often do you still play, my lady? Do you still practice, with a lesser instrument to keep your fingers nimble?"

"… Quite true," Oriane murmurs, assuming they're speaking of the Eglantine craftsman, and not any of the generous gentleman who have figured more intimately in the story of her long life; "I visited his workshop several times while he was making her, and he was kind enough to let me play one or two other pieces he'd lately completed that had not yet gone to their new owners. Each a marvel — I felt so privileged to have my own," she says sincerely. "At present she's the only lute I have, and I was practicing every day until— well, you see," and her gloved hand comes to rest upon the side of the case, likewise protective.

Roxane stood in silence, listening to the story as it was offered to her. The telling of the tale of a life was a thing to be treasured, "That you had the fortune to meet him is a privilege that I think will not again come in this world. For he was storied even in his day, and has become a thing of legend now, even within my own House." As Oriane pronounced that she had no other instrument, Roxane excused herself from the lady's side, moving to pace through the collection of lutes she had on display., finger tips touching this one or that as she seemed to be selecting a temporary ward for Oriane. "Then you must have another. You must not touch her, once she is prepared with stiff fingers." She glanced back towards where Oriane was still standing, "Do any of these strike your fancy? Or shall I make the selection myself?"

Oriane answers Roxane's prediction with a thoughtful tilt of her head. "Perhaps, or perhaps not… At thirty, you know, he wasn't so famous yet either," she ventures, an implicit compliment to the Eglantine present before her.

Then she follows Roxane about the shop (her man stands guard over the lute, bless him), speculatively unfastening the pearl buttons at the wrists of her thin black leather gloves. She hadn't intended to take on another expense today, on top of whatever untold sum the repairs will cost her, which can't in honour be avoided; still, she can't help but see the sense in what Roxane says. And there's no harm in looking, is there? Perhaps no harm either in playing a little, as she hasn't done since Daisy's rampage. "I'm sure you're right," she agrees; "at my age especially…" A philosophical shrug of one shoulder acknowledges the mounting difficulty of keeping elderly hands in good form. "You would know better than I, the sound of each. But I know you haven't heard me play," she laughs, "so perhaps I should say: which one do you find treats mistakes most kindly?"

"Perhaps not, my Lady, as you knew him in life. I have only stories, and stories, as they do, often grow longer in the telling.” Roxane allowed her pace to slow, so that Oriane could walk with her, pausing now and then as she looked from instrument to instrument, finally selecting one which was of a size with the lute the lady was accustomed to, though ht was not so richly adorned. Only a small cluster of inlaid pearl around the neck, which seemed to remind of green and silver new leaves in spring. "This one, I think. with softer strings of gut to begin, so that you can reacquaint yourself with the trick or if, before we replace them with steel." She glanced towards the lute now being guarded by Oriane's watchmen, "A fair exchange, I think. I will hold your instrument in safe keeping while I work on her, and you will hold one of mine until such time as yours is returned to you." A loan then, and not a sale.

The offer raises Oriane's eyebrows. "How kind of you to suggest it! But I'm not certain I could allow you such a risk, my dear — though, to be sure, I've learnt my lesson about leaving an instrument unattended. It might have been all right, even so, had a servant of mine not shut the cat in the same room as the lute… She's not a vicious animal but she was bored. I daresay I'd have taken to playing it, too, in her place." Despite the extent of the damage to so treasured a possession, she doesn't seem wroth with the little beast: just wistful. She turns from Roxane, pulling off her gloves. "Quintavius, will you tell the men I may be slightly longer than expected—? And see to… We need not go on to Lady Isabelle's today if they have another engagement." Her guard dog utters some variation upon a theme of 'very good, my lady' and bows to her before stepping out of the shop again to confer with the bearers taking their ease around her litter where it is neatly parked out of the stream of foot traffic.

And Oriane lays down her gloves and reaches toward the lute in Roxane's hands, though she doesn't touch it yet. "May I?" Her hands look well for her years, fingers long and white, nails shapely and unlacquered. On the third finger of her right hand she wears a silver signet ring engraved with the OE ligature which for many years sealed the duc de Toluard's personal correspondence as well as her own; opposite it on her left hand, is a diamond commensurate with the size and the sparkle of his feelings for her. It's a wonder she doesn't walk lopsided.

"It is no great risk, my Lady. You have held a treasure for many long years and it survives, despite now being a bit…careworn. And such an instrument as this…it should be played, and if not by you, then, most likely, it would go to one who might want to try their hand at the instrument. You would not be the first student to whom I have lent an instrument, you would not be the last." Roxane dipped her head, as she handed over the instrument, "If it is money you worry about, you should not. I have spent the better part of the last ten years saving for this venture, and I am comfortable. I am no longer beholden to take even assignations unless I so choose, and I have made arrangements with at least one of the salons to repair and maintain their instruments and to tutor their members. I would be glad for you to have her for as long as you need. A repayment, perhaps, for the generosity you showed me years ago."

<FS3> Oriane rolls Lute: Good Success. (2 3 8 2 1 5 7 3 2)

The philosophy that instruments are meant for playing, is Oriane's also — hence her treasured Jehan-Hervé being in daily use, left out in her salon, vulnerable to feline depredations. She has made her token protest, anyway, to satisfy honour; and now she backs down from it with a gracious smile, accepting the instrument in hands which know very well how to hold it safely. "… It feels to me as though that was another life," she confides, "from which there could hardly be a debt between us, save mine for the delight your playing always gave to me and His Grace the late duc — but I shall be glad of your generosity, my dear. If," she inclines her head modestly, lifting the lute in her hands, "she likes me."

And she makes her way through the shop to the practice area, where she can sit with her new acquaintance nestled comfortably in her lap. Her hands move to the strings, and a touch suffices to assure her keen ears that the lute is already ideally in tune. Then, eyeing the professional diffidently, she essays one or two of the warm-up exercises taught to beginning pupils in Eglantine House. The familiar sequences of notes — and her undoubted competence, for an amateur — prove beyond doubt that she had Eglantine teachers herself, once upon a time.

"Perhaps it was another lifetime, my Lady, for I am certainly not the girl I was then. But generosity to matter how great or small should never be forgotten." Roxane stepped back, allowing Oriane to make her way towards the practice area and to find such a seat as would be comfortable for her, turning her attention to moving the seating in such a way as to not allow it to crowd her as she sat. "If she does not, then we will simply have to find one that likes you better." Once Oriane had settled herself, and taken up the instrument, Roxane found herself a place that was not far, her gaze lowering to settle on the instrument being played and the hands playing it. And if she felt the work the work of an amateur, it did not show in her face, her expression showing only keen interest in the work being done. "The old familiar songs."

<FS3> Oriane rolls Lute: Failure. (2 3 2 4 5 6 3 3 2)

Roxane's words about generosity find favour with her visitor, who gives her the kind of warm and appreciative smile which brings the storied beauty of Oriane Somerville back into the shop, for a few fleeting instants.

Then she bends her head over the lute and segues from simple exercises into a real song, the tune of which must call into both their minds unsung lyrics in praise of the first new greenery of the springtime — a choice dictated by the lute's own pretty inlay, glinting in candlelight as the instrument tilts subtly in the player's hands… It goes well at first; then she gets herself into a tangle in the second bridge. She lowers her hand, giving up the losing battle.

"You see, it's been so long already," she apologises to the craftswoman whose work she so fumbled with. "You're quite right, I need to keep in better practice than I have done this winter. I must say the sound is beautifully mellow," she adds, "though — so golden. Mine," she glances across to the invalid, "has always had a silvery quality. It suited me very well fifty years ago," she chuckles softly, "but my voice is so much lower now… I may be better off with gold."

Roxane settled back in her seat as she listened, showing both appreciation for the work as for the skill with which Oriane played. Even the misstep that took her from playing to holding her hand still and away from the string seemed to be appreciated. "It is difficult, if you have not played frequently, to carry a melody all of your own. It is easier to begin with an accompaniment." The comment on the tone of the instrument clearly pleased her, "It is a more gentle sound, indeed, which lends itself to a more intimate audience." She considered a moment, before she began again, "If you would like to make the attempt, I will sing, and you may support me. That way we can both carry the music."

"It's true, I'm more used to accompanying others," Oriane says, smiling, for she has not quite been able to relinquish the pleasure of having a lute in her hands again. She's missed it. "I should be delighted to try, if I am not keeping you too long from your work…? You seem to have established yourself here on so sound a footing, that I shouldn't wonder at your having a good deal of it." But her hand is already up again and poised; she's regarding Roxane attentively.

<FS3> Roxane rolls Voice +2: Good Success. (3 8 1 5 6 2 7 1 3 7 3 1 1)

"Those three years were well spent, fortunately, and I have some good stock of pre-made instruments as well as pieces for repairs, as well, so much of the work that I might have had to do had I simply bought the building and moved in is already done for me. And as I also teach as well as play, I have ample time to devote to a few moments of pleasure." Roxane, seeing Oriane ready to accompany her, rose from her seat. She might have remained seated, but this would make it that much easier for the lady to mark the beats of the song as she sang. She settled her hands at her waist, one hand over the other, so that she could tap out the beat of the song to be followed.

Once she began, however, any of the worries might have faded away. The song she chose was one which Oriane would have had no trouble remembering. It had been one of the first Roxane had sang for her and her consort, when they had come to Eglantine, only a few short years after Roxane's debut. And one she had often sung for them when they had contracted her. A slow and sweet romantic melody, the words all of love and flowering in the spring.

By now Oriane's hands have warmed to their present duties; and the simple accompaniment which suits a melody likening love to a white flower, is well within her powers. Recollections gleam in her eyes as she looks up at Roxane, who truly hasn’t altered, though so much else has done, since those days… The new lute suits her very well, and she it.

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