(1311-03-09) We All Have Our Little Foibles
Summary: During her morning walk Philomène indulges in yet another battle of philosophies with a chance-met stranger, who places a deal of faith in rectangles of pasteboard.
RL Date: 09/03/2019
Related: None.
hase philomene 

Jardins d’Eisheth — Marsilikos

Tranquility and beauty of nature is what those coming to the gardens of Eisheth usually seek. There is a playfulness in the arrangement of paths through the greenery, and the way four of them wind to the center, where there is a pond surrounded by a few elm trees, beside an area with wooden benches and tables beneath an arbor, where ivy winds about wooden posts, and a roof of colorfully glazed tiles offers shelter from the sun but also moderate rain.

Bushes are trimmed, and the green is kept short, so that people coming here can enjoy the dramatic view over the coast all the way to the sea, with the harbor and the citadel slightly to the north. Slightly towards the south and close by is the infirmary with the herb garden beside, where a variety of plants used for healing and treating certain illness are grown under the immaculate care of the healers. Towards the east, a path leads towards the temple district, where the dominant structure of the Temple of Eisheth looms, the white marble shimmering almost otherwordly on late afternoons, when it catches the warm, orange light of the setting sun.

It might be hellish cold out, but at least the sun's decided to make an appearance; and so, then, has Häse, striding out along the green to the point of a hillock and taking a stand there with the worn leather satchel she's carrying over her shoulder continuing to rock against her hip as though they were still in their roving pace for a moment or two after she's stopped. Then, after it, too comes to a halt, it performs a sudden heart-stopping drop, the strap let to slide straight down from her shoulder, along her bicep, to the crook of her elbow, which stops it just short of the ground, thence to be lowered with enough sloth not to upset its contents overmuch. Häse herself follows to satchel, crossing one booted toe behind the other heel and them lowering herself into a cross-legged position with her heels tucked in tight toward her crotch and her knees poking outward like the legs of a frog. From there it's all well to rifle open the satchel and grab a hard boiled egg to crack against her knee.

Philomène can be heard before she's seen, the crunch of boots on icy ground in a distinctive syncopated pattern as one foot comes forward and the other takes a short, dragging pace in turn. It's not an efficient way to walk, but it's relentless, the noise a steady rhythm slowly increasing in volume as the woman comes nearer along the path. As she passes the odd limp can be observed, the left leg favoured considerably over the right while the short tails of her dark brown riding jacket follow the curve of the muscles in use. There's a very brief nod of greeting to the younger woman, but primarily her attention is fixed on the path in front of her, jaw set and back straight.

Häse thumbs along the egg, rolling it between her fingers to loosen the shell and get the pad of her thumb below that second skin in a manner that will tear off the shattered white in the fewest pieces. It's a quiet, meditative sort of process, practical, yet giving space to thoughtfulness. The uneven footfalls do draw notice, and she turns her chin to rest nearly at the back of her shoulder, one deep moss-green eye finding the woman who limps along the path, one corner of lip drawing further toward her ear in a signal of welcome, one egg, half-naked, lifted on a tripod pedestal of angled fingers, as in the tomb of some Etruscan king, some daemon sent with a message of eternal life.

Philomène hesitates for an instant when the path splits, her body already turning to take the one path before she reconsiders and her feet set down on the other, one finger subtly setting outside of the pocket where her hand is tucked, beginning the count. Only once she's a few paces along this new path, somewhere between Häse and the sea, does she offer a more formal, verbal greeting. "Good morning." There's almost a question in the low alto voice, touched with the short vowels of the east but the softer consonants of the interior of the country.

Having thought that the encounter was through, Häse recommits her attentions to the egg, which, once the long peel of shattered shell stuck to film has been set like a shed snakeskin alongside her bag, she bites into, taking the top of the snowy moat and revealing the gilt citadel within. About this time she marks Philomène, having taken the alternate route and now between her and her chosen breakfasting vantage. She barely chews, mostly just swallows, freeing her quickly enough for a return salutation of, "Morning," in a friendly sort of tone, lacking somewhat in formality. She heard a question mark somewhere in the limping woman's greeting— enough to maintain eye contact with a subtle tip of her head inviting the woman to question her further if desired— though not well enough to know precisely what was being asked of her. Still, she makes an effort: "Would you like an egg? I've got another."

"Thank you, no," comes the older woman's response, chapped lips pursing together for a moment or two as she plods on. "I breakfasted this morning already, and I'm sure you wouldn't have brought two with you if you didn't intend to eat them." Clomp, drag. Clomp, drag. On she limps, the movement almost hypnotic in its steadfast monotony. "An unusual place to breakfast, however," she notes, without looking to the other woman further. "You're a long way from home, aren't you?"

Häse takes a more ambitious bite, then points the exposed yolk toward the limping woman as she proceeds to set the knuckle of her forefinger to her lips, lest any morsel attempt an escape while she listens, first easy, then interested. "Yeah, kinda," she admits, on the count of being foreign to these parts. It's obvious enough, of course— her accent, her manner. "It's good to share with the people that you meet on the way, though. You never know, after all," she remarks, with a slight ominous burden of tonality just there, indicative of who-knows-what. But then, lightening once more, "You could even make a friend. Make a home away from home of a hillock in a park… with a nice view of the sea," she concludes by stuffing the rest of the egg into her mouth.

"You won't see a lot of southerners out in this weather," Philomène admits as she continues along the path, beginning to curve back away from the sea now to meet and join the path upon which she first entered the gardens. Unless Häse has a neck like an owl, then, she can expect to spend at least some time unobserved. Not that it makes a jot of difference to that steady pace she sets. "Or out this early. They tend to lie in bed until lunchtime, then lounge around the baths, the bars and the night court. You could spend every morning in these gardens and see the same half dozen people and nobody else."

Häse cranes her neck upward toward the sky when Philomène speaks of the weather, but, seeing nothing but blue, as yet, she returns her head to a more neutral axis. "Looks like it'll be nice to-day, once it has a chance to warm up a little," she offers rather optimistically, as though to lure those shunning the chill out from under their bedclothes. She doesn't try overhard to track Philomène's path wheresoever it goes, but when she (Phil) is not in promptu, she (Häse) only watches the water, instead, and draws her discarded eggshell up to lay over her knee, flattening it to her trouser leg and pressing out the curves of the piece to fit. "I travel a lot," she explains her morning-mindedness, from above this task. "I guess I'm just used to getting up and moving when the light comes. Especially when the days are so short."

"For trade or work?" Philomène queries simply, trudging on until she reaches that same fork in the path once again, and once again chooses the route that takes her closer to the sea. A second finger pokes out from her pocket, laying alongside delicately embroidered green and brown vines and leaves which adorn collars, cuffs and seams in seemingly random patterns. "If I were to guess, I'd have you pegged as for reconnaissance. A scout? Tracker? Hunter, perhaps, but then this is hardly the place for taking down land animals, when they get so much from the sea. No, I'll go with a scout. Why here?"

"Work," Häse looks up, dazzled into a big smile by Phil's insightfulness. "I mean, not here. I like to keep on the move, see different places, take on different jobs. Hunting, tracking, scouting— whatever people need, really," she doesn't sound all that fussed over it. "But I came down to Marsilikos, uh— more for a learning opportunity, I guess," she laughs, lifting her hand to the back of her neck and squinting one eye half shut. "And I thought it'd be a warm winter down here. I was not right. Maybe I brought the weather down with me, huh? The frostlings missed their Häse and came hurrying along."

"And here, I'd thought Siovale was the seat of learning," Philomène responds drily, adjusting her collar against a cool gust of wind that whips in from the sea. "Pressure's going up again. It'll be dry the rest of the day, at least," she agrees with the earlier prediction, "but the sea keeps it mild. Warm winters, relatively speaking at least, and cool summers. This is about as cold as it gets here. There's a reason they all hide away in horror when it sprinkles the tiniest bit of snow." Another few paces along the path, the neatly worked spurs at her heels glinting in the light and making it all the more clear how her boots are cleverly worked with thick soles to give more support and height to what would otherwise be a shorter left leg. "What are you here to learn, then?"

Häse leaves the eggshell on her knee, remaining fairly well still aside from a slight sideways twist of her spine and a nudge intward of that shell-clad appendage while she goes back into her bag, drawing out — not another egg, as possibly might be predicted — but a smaller bag with black ribbon draw. "These, actually," she shows, rather than tells, not entirely usefully, before she loosens the top of the smaller bag and witdraws a deck of cards. "I heard there was a deck of cards, designed here in Marsilikos and used by the locals for divining the future. I wanted to find a set and learn their use."

Philomène arches a brow, allowing her blue-grey gaze to settle on the young woman for a disturbingly long time as she walks. Her expression remains unreadable, short of some sort of polite interest and her hands tuck back into her pockets. "And you believe that cards, made by man and sold by man, can know the future? I'm sure they're very pretty, but don't let them scam you into paying good money for ordinary playing cards with some sort of mystical promises."

Häse finds herself somewhat disturbed by the way the limping oman is looking at her. It's enough to raise her hackles a little bit, or, at least, to make her draw her chin aside and return that lengthening glance askance. Then, asked after the efficacy of the cards— well, she takes that better, possibly, than being stared at in silence. She does cup a hand tenderly over top of the deck, running her thumb along its topmost card as though a mother holding her hands over the ears of a child too tender to hear such criticism. In reply, as if to consult the very deck in question about its usefulness, she slides the cards, drawing the top of the deck from the bottom and glide-shuffling them in amongst one another until she rubs the top card of the deck once more, and turns it over to face upward. A hand emerges from as though the middle of the sun, holding a knobby green club with blood red wood within, emitting wisps of flame in all directions. "I think that… inspiration is all around us, and answers, too. The tool you use to see it— that's up to you."

Philomène half smiles at the response, both the redirection of the woman's gaze when under such frank scrutiny, and the words to go with it. Small victories. "And what do you intend to divine, madame? I'd argue that the only useful thing to tell of the future can be predicted from the clouds, the pressure, wind direction and temperature. Not from a playing card." By this time she's moving round in turn for her third lap, another finger poking out from her pocket.

"You can ask all manner of thing, it doesn't really matter," Häse explains, half-tentative, but still offering the information in a helpful spirit. Keeping the ace of batons face-up as though in aversion of the evil eye from the rest of the deck, which she must assume is what it was put there to do, she moves it to her left knee and holds it still with her left hand, while her right proceeds to descend to the grass and tug up a small tuff of the winter-yellowed greenery by the root. "Even if you only need a quiet minute in the morning to see what the world has got to say to you, or what warnings you should take along with you when you go." Grass tuff laid aside, she lifts her right hand to the egg-shell laden membrane still resting on her knee, beginning to fold it up.

"I wish you every success, madame," Philomène decides after a moment, expression softening to amiability. "We all have our little foibles, after all, and asking a deck of cards to help you make a decision still isn't the worst idea I've ever heard. You take your quiet minute in the morning to set your world to rights, and I'll take my quiet walk in the morning for much the same end. You'll let me know if I'm disturbing you?"

Häse finishes rolling up the eggshell against her knee, and, folding that in half and then again, she applies the little pellet of remnants into the hole she'd created by loosening the frostbitten land with the roots of the sturdy winter grass. Which, then, she applies back on top of the discarded remains, hiding the evidence of her passing by this way as well as leaving it as sort of a nutrient gift for the hillock so kind as to host her thus. "Only when you stare," she answers back, as honest as one may be, taking back out her little bag and sliding the Ace back into the deck before the deck returns to its haven and away again into her satchel, replaced by a bread roll, which Philomène may find more acceptably practical. "How many courses will you finish?" she wonders, having noted the counting, by now.

"On this path, twenty four," Philomène responds with a slight frown, pausing for a few paces more before looking squarely back over, "and you're right. It's rude of me to stare. Consider it a bad habit of which I've yet to break myself." The eggshell planting is noticed with a small nod of approval. "I would imagine that remaining unnoticed is more your style, hm? I suspect you make a good scout."

"It's good luck if you can peel an egg without losing any of the shell pieces," Häse explains, rather less pragmatically than that. "If you leave it as a gift for the sprites of the land, they send the luck back to you double," she goes on, as if those are just the rules and she's only playing along with it. Of course, there must be reasons why superstitions like that have gained purchase among those who are given to such fancies… or maybe she's just covering her commonsense survivalist know-how with a veneer of spiritualism? It's hard to tell which way the wisdom flows, but it could well be hard to admit that the two are not mutually exclusive. "I do alright," she admits, as to her resume in scouting for the troops, but she does not add any further details on that matter, now beginning to peel away an edge of the roll's crust for consumption. "It's alright." In re: staring, "But you should know it's kinda offputting. Does the walking in the morning help warm up your leg?" she wonders, in turn.

"It's meant to be offputting," Philomène admits, snorting a short laugh. She shrugs both shoulders, an easy motion, and lifts her chin, that striking profile cutting a clear contrast against the bluish vista of sea and sky. "In any conversation when you're sizing up a stranger, put them on edge. See what it takes. Stare a moment too long. Tell them things about themselves as though you're some sort of fortune teller, when you're nothing more than observant. And when they think they have the measure of you, throw them again with an apology or an explanation." She flicks a quick grin. "The equivalent in the world of politics and trade of the basic drills we learned as children with a sword or a spear. Balance, thrust and misdirection. It's just a different sort of battle they fight here in the towns. And," she adds with a wry smile, "Never answer a direct question. Stay on the offensive. A straight answer is like a block instead of a parry, and it'll take every ounce of strength to win. Redirect it. Make them think."

Häse folds the peeled-free crust from her roll and tucks it into her cheek, sucking on it until it softens and begins to dissolve, her jaw working just faintly, lips kept together but working as though a child nursing at mama's teat while she draws in Philomène's explanation, listening without outward judgement while dallying along in her breakfasting on the grass. Being made to think, she does, in fact. "I think… it strange… that you should come upon a person breakfasting quite peaceably in the park and decide to do battle with them. Are you alright?" she wonders, possibly a more general question than pertaining to any one thing in particular.

Philomène's next finger appears from her pocket as she continues to limp along her route of choice, never wavering in speed or length of pace. "The walking," she explains simply, "keeps my body ready. The conversation keeps my wits ready. I would argue as a Camaeline that there is no such thing as peace, and that it is our duty to always be ready."

Häse leans forward, knees now cleared of cards and eggshells both, and plants her elbows on them, biting into the white of the roll and chewing down the squishy fluff laid bare from the crust she'd peeled off ahead of time. The explanation from Philomène draws a smile even mid-chew, which, once she's swallowed, gives rise to, "Oh, so this morning I'm your playing-card, for your morning's meditation. What lesson, then, do you take as you go?"

Philomène half smiles in return, responding, "That a playing-card can only ever give an indication, not an answer, madame. That the only one who can influence your future is you. How's the bread?" It's an odd question, but it appears to be genuine, eyes narrowing with curiosity as she waits to hear. "From the local bakery in the town?"

"What, a card made by men and sold can give you as much as an indication?" Häse's brows rise, lips twisted into an impish little expression at such a benevolent grant from the skeptic with the limp, though warming, thereafter, to show she appreciates the sentiment. As to the question, she wags the half-eaten roll at Philomène, "Ohhhh no, you're not going to fool me into answering a direct question."

Philomène laughs, lifting a finger at her. "Ah, but that's a block. Redirect, my friend. Deflect. A straight refusal just encourages more questions, or closer scrutiny. If I were to take a guess I'd say it's not from the bakery on the promenade, certainly. The crust is too well fired for the local taste - they like their bread pale and soft, much like themselves. You can't have brought it with you from… wherever you were last, I'm still in two minds as to where that was, but it would have been stale. Which leaves the bakery to the north of the city, but I know they've had supply issues, or the one by the docks. Now if it's the one by the docks, that would imply that you've come in from a ship, stopping at the first place along the way for boiled eggs and bread rolls." Once more she hits that fork in the path, and now her hand is fully outside her pocket. "You can't have travelled far by sea, or you'd have got a taste for salt by now from the food on board, and you'd have added some to your egg. Caerdicci, then?" she hazards, raising a brow.

Häse lifts a brow, looking back down at the bread in interest, as if seeing it again for the first time through Philomène's perspicacious gaze. Then, when the attention falls upon her, in turn, she looks up, presenting, as it were, the blank card face upon which the limping woman can read what she will. "South, from 'round about Lyon, along the ranges and villas toward Valence and to Orange," she corrects, almost apologetically. "And the roll I got at the inn. Where they got it I don't know, it's real fresh, though, I figured there was an oven in the basement.”

"Oh, it's more than possible they do," Philomène allows easily as she tramps back round, taking a moment to pause with one hand against a tree. Ostensibly she's just looking out over the sea view, but there's a tension in her shoulders as she takes a few deep breaths. She's not there long before she's limping on again, however, brow furrowed in concentration as she eyes the muddying path in front of her, her own shadow indicating the way forward. "River rations would explain why you've no need for salt, then. Coming downriver with our grain and bacon, no doubt."

"Mhm!" Häse pipes up more enthusiastically when Philomène hits the nail closer upon the head. "From Peaugres to Valence I was taken on to accompany a cargo of bacon, scouting out ahead of the expedition for signs of banditry. I ate pretty well in Valence," she adds with a quirk of a grin, telling well enough of the success of the mission just so. She finishes the rest of her roll, in turn, and reaches for her second egg. "Wanna see if I can go two for two?"

"What happens if you don't?" Philomène asks drily, setting her teeth as she continues along the way round her self enforced track, by now beginning to tread a single narrow line in the remaining frost. "Do the sprites come up to gobble your children?"

"Now you're just being silly," Häse accuses, as if there were some very clear line between the sorts of silliness she'll believe and the sorts of silliness she won't— and the irony is, yes, rather lost upon her. And, with no further ado, except for a subtle crossing of her other set of fingers, hidden tucked below her thigh, she knocks the egg into her knee, then begins to peel, maybe trying a little hard to seem not to care whether she gets it right. But the pressure's on, now.

"I am," Philomène agrees solemnly as she passes out of view once again. "I don't believe you have children."

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