(1311-03-20) Predators of the Sea
Summary: … (sharks and sea monsters) become a topic, when Belmont commissions a table from Catherine Valais.
RL Date: 27-28/03/2019
Related: None
catherine belmont 

Marquetière's Shoppe — Somewhere near the Grand Plaza

Off the edge of the Grand Plaza, in a quieter side street frequented mostly by piles of rubbish, rats, and the occasional small workshop, one door is left open to let in a warm spring breeze, and to let out the smell of fresh sawdust and the acrid stench of glues and polishes. The door isn’t labelled with a sign - if you know, then you know.

Quietly humming to herself as she works inside said building is the relatively small figure of Catherine Valais, tiny knife in one hand with which she’s carving away slivers of thin veneer in delicate, intricate curves to fit into something or other as yet unknown.

It may have taken Belmont a moment to find the right shop — the door in question has been pointed out to him by the third or fourth person he spotted in the alley, probably. But here he is, a young man in his mid-twenties, walking with a confident stride, his attire, darker blues in breeches and a matching doublet allowing glimpses of lilac from the shirt worn beneath. His features are definitely d’Angeline, devoid of any facial hair even without regular need for shaving. Dark is his hair of middle length, and expectant is his gaze as he steps into the room which appears to be where Catherine does business.

“Catherine Valais?”, comes the nonchalant question, followed by a bow, as Belmont adds the formal greeting, “My lady.” A brief sweeping glance follows, as the Eisandine lord takes in the interior of the room, before he looks towards Catherine again. “This place wasn’t easy to find.” It is a friendly observation rather than a rebuke, as the smile that accompanies the words betrays. “I am Belmont, my Lady. Lord Belmont Eresse Delaunay.” The man who was married to the heiress to the Comté of Delaunay last year, as Catherine may recall. If she follows local gossip.

Catherine barely follows what day it is, let alone local gossip, usually quite happily off in a little dream world of her own, thus it is that the look of polite bewilderment is not at all put on but wholly genuine. Not that even if she attempted to disguise her thoughts she’d ever be able to. It’s just one of those things about being Catherine Valais.

“Lord Belmont, how do you do,” comes the quiet response, the knife carefully set aside into its precise leather sheath and the piece of veneer set down and caressed carelessly with one hand. “We don’t… I mean to say it’s not…” Words are apparently difficult, words in any semblance of sense or order even more so. “Somebody sent you? To me, I mean?”

There’s a wariness about her now. There are only two good reasons that people tend to come to see her unannounced, and one of those is to collect money owed. And this young man has the build and the confidence about him to perhaps, despite his title, be here to gather debts.

“Fine, thank you.”, comes the reply to her reply, more in automatic reaction to her courtesy than deliberate statement. Belmont’s voice and demeanor are pleasant. There is not a single hint to be found in his bearing, that could add to Catherine’s instinctive suspicion. On the contrary. “I heard of your skill in the area of marquetry,” Belmont admits with a smile. “I believe, we have a cupboard at the Eresse residence in town, that shows some of your work. Commissioned by the Comte Félicien d’Eresse, some years ago.” He looks towards her, as if to gauge if that name rings a bell.

“I might have a commission for you, Lady Catherine,” the lord continues then, regardless. “I have some money at my disposal, and I am investing some of it on renovations in a building not far from here, at the Grand Plaza. You’d probably know it.” At which his brows twitch upwards and he rolls his eyes just so. “Of course, you must know it. But most possibly only from the outside. I am referring to Le Requin”.

“It’s really no more than a hobby,” Catherine demurs, despite the evidence all around her, not only of the quantity of work but the elegant and masterful quality of the one or two small boxes casually left to one side, or the tabletop half-completed not far from where she’s working. Glancing up from the floor to her guest, you can almost see the cogs turning in her head. Refurbishment. Some money at his disposal. Her eyes narrow a little and she fidgets absently with an oversized jewel set in a ring on her finger.

“How much work did you have in mind, though?” she asks, mentally considering exactly how many people are currently already on ‘final demand’ for payment, and which of the seedier loan sharks need to be paid off first. “A desk, or all the panelling for the inside, or somewhere in between?”

“No more than a hobby?” Belmont looks a little amused at that statement, especially as he looks over the various oeuvres in varying stages of completion. “You must have a lot of time on your hands — or are you already too busy with other commissions?”, he asks, suddenly a bit thoughtful, but it will only be a momentary shadow flashing on his features. A relieved exhale then, as she inquires further. “I was thinking… a card table, large enough for upto six people to play at. The main room does not have any panelling, but instead, red damask at the walls which I have hired others to renew.” His brows furrow for a moment. “But perhaps… there is a possibility to change the design of one wall. But I still need to decide on that. How long would you need to have that card table ready?”

Catherine licks her fingers in a habitual gesture as she reaches over to where she was working, claiming a square, heavy pencil and beginning to sketch out directly on the wooden work surface where many such sketches already litter the area. “Card table for six… and the dealer?” she queries, initially drawing out a quick sketched hexagon, but adjusting it to have eight sides as she considers. “So if we design something for the outside, but leave a large playing area of baize for the centre… or leather, I suppose..?” That at least is a question that has the pencil pausing in her hand. Apparently he might get some say in what he wants.

She begins adding in a few measurements down one side of the sketch, glancing over to one wall with a thoughtful look, before crossing out a number and adjusting it. More numbers. Nothing but a simple framework so far, but she gestures to it to show him. “The basic table, two or three days. The inlaywork. Six or seven weeks?”

Belmont approaches the work table, bending slightly forward to watch the sketch evolve. “I like the shape of a hexa… I mean, octagon,” he remarks with a smile. “I was thinking, round, at first, but… yes. I would say, leather for the center, and hmmm… “ His words trail off as the nobleman considers. Perhaps making that pause deliberately to allow Catherine to come up with suggestions of her own. “Yes, that works,” he nods his head then, “although, six weeks would be preferable, for the marquetry. “The table would be used for cards and games of dice. No dealer, per se, as we aren’t aiming to make it into a gambling hall. This would be more… a way of diversion among like minded gentlemen, perhaps a few personal wagers, but nothing to draw any profit from.” And for a moment, his thoughts seem to have left his lips in the moment they crossed his mind, offering information beyond what Catherine would perhaps require. “The design?”, he then poses the question, voicing his hope that the marquetière may have indeed any suggestions for him.

Moving her pencil aside to another space on the unpolished wooden surface, Catherine begins sketching out a few shapes as she answers. “A continuing shark theme, perhaps,” she muses, the pencil apparently getting away from her thoughts and adding some embellishments of its own. “Sirens, maybe, luring sailors in. The sea, certainly.” And then, as quickly as she’d apparently made a decision, she hesitates and looks to him. “Or… not the sea? I don’t know. What colours did you want? Which woods?”

The initial sketch is set aside and she begins again, pencil moving with short, precise strokes to draw in an elaborate sea vessel, its spars and gunwales enveloped with an elegantly curved tentacle or two from some half-submerged sea creature. There’s no commentary. This is just her brain at work, it would appear.

“Sharks. Yes.” Well, that connection was obvious, and yet Belmont looks with open fascination at shapes evolve through the inspired strokes of pencil on paper, watching Catherine’s train of thought coming to life as she sketches out her ideas in the moment they cross her mind. “The sea. A ship… yes certainly. As for woods…” At this, Belmont looks up, faintly bewildered. “I… don’t know. I was thinking something darker, as background, and shapes maybe in some lighter wood?” His gaze returns to Catherine’s current vision, and he smiles when he spots the slightly disquieting presence of a sea creature, reaching for the ship from below the waters. “Now… that looks perhaps a touch too dark…” But it helps him gloss over his scandalous ignorance in regards to different woods and whether or not they can be used for the purposes of marquetry.

“Something darker…. And then a lighter wood,” Catherine echoes, the disappointment in her voice quite clear, as though she expects everyone to share her extreme and somewhat niche interest in wood and anyone who doesn’t know their pine from their cedar ought to be hanged. “Well, the warmth, then? What colour will the furnishings be? And are you looking for something more abstract or realistic?” She moves a few inches to the side of her sea creature beset boat and with a minimum of short strokes creates the feeling of a ship tossed on the waves without really filling in any detail. “Like this..?”

She exhales, setting the pencil down and rubbing her fingers together to remove any trace of woodchips or sawdust from them before folding her hands in front of her. “I’m sorry, my lord. For the questions, I mean. I just want to make something you’re happy with..?”

It’s almost as though everything she ever says is a question, always with that faint inflection at the end, waiting for approval.

All these questions prompt the young vicomte to ponder for a moment, brows furrowing just a little as he tries to recall certain details. “Cherry wood, I think. It is a darker albeit warmer tone, venturing slightly into the red. The other furniture, I mean.” His gaze continues to linger on Catherine’s pencil and what it draws, in some sort of second suggestion. “Realistic,” he decides then with a slightly apologetic smile. “Forgive me, my lady. This is the first piece of furniture I am commissioning. I’m not that used in formulating ideas — and forming them..” Seeking approval, perhaps, as well, as he is still somewhat new to a position that — besides granting him monetary freedom and coin to work with — infers duties and certain expectations as well.

“I am getting the hang of it, though. And I find your suggestions and questions quite inspiring. We should keep the sea monster, add sharks and other fish. But remember, that it should stick to a more ornamental feel, not to distract overly much from the cards that are to be played at the table’s center.”, Belmont adds with a smile, conveying approval and appreciation of Catherine in subtle reaction to her tone.

“Scales,” Catherine prompts, teeth dragging across her lower lip as she considers this, tilting her head a little. “With the right pieces of wood, we could almost make them glisten..?” She twists her hands inwards, bringing her elbows closer together in front of her so her already slight form is rendered even more so.

She risks a look up at his face when his tone indicates a smile, relief and hope in her eyes that perhaps she’s doing something right here after all. And then she just waits. The silence lengthens, stretching out until it’s uncomfortable, her eyes darting up to his face, then back down again to the floor. When social skills were being given out, Catherine clearly hid behind the door.

<FS3> Belmont rolls Perception: Failure. (1 1 4 4 1 2 1 5)
<FS3> Belmont rolls Charm: Good Success. (7 7 7 1 2 4 2 1)

“Glistening scales… I like that,” Belmont replies. Where Catherine seems to have her limitations in being social, he appears all the more charming, coming to his own, as he — to his own relief — begins to get a better grasp of what the card table will eventually look like. He may be oblivious to the Valais lady’s lack of social ease, but he, for his part does display some of that d’Angeline charm. He did not become Vicomte de Rognac due to mainly political reasons, after all. Nevermind, that his attention is sparked by Catherine’s professionalism in her craft.

“Look…”, he continues then, “I am not an artist like you are. Of course, I am scion of this province, but my talents lie elsewhere. What if I pay you some in advance, and you can look into working up a draft of the inlay work you have planned? If you want to get an impression of the place… well, it is usually… I mean it will once again only be open to few, once it opens again.” The Delaunay’s demeanor turns a bit thoughtful. “Besides… renovations are currently underway. I’m keeping most of the previous interior, but I wanted to add this new card table, as this seems to be what Le Requin has been lacking…” Thoughts left unspoken as of yet has his gaze linger on Catherine. “But for you to gauge on the right material to choose… Perhaps it would allow me to disregard certain rules that will be in place once again, when renovations are finished.”

The concept of disregarding rules, no matter how sensible the suggestion, has Catherine’s eyes widening in alarm and she shrinks away a pace. “Samples!” she blurts out suddenly. “You might send samples of the upholstery instead? And any existing furniture?” Hands shift from in front of her to behind, and she fiddles nervously with one of the many rings on her fingers. Perhaps it’s the cool touch of the gem there that reminds her to ask, “You’d pay half in advance..? How much..? I mean…. I don’t know what you’d pay a professional, but would six hundred ducats seem about right..?”

“It is a gentlemen’s club,” Belmont clarifies with a soft sigh. “And no ladies are allowed to enter. At least it was that way, before Le Requin closed.” The slightly mischievous glint in his grey-blue eyes betrays that he’d be most likely willing to allow Catherine this rare opportunity — but her shying away from the mere possibility of acting against regulations that currently are not in place anyway has his brows lift, and then his shoulders in a light shrug.

“I’ll have a chair brought to you then,” he considers, “it has the red upholstery and the hue of the wood used in all furniture there in the parlor. Six hundred ducats? I’ll pay you four hundred now, and another five hundred when the table is ready. And there is also the possibility, that I might have more commissions, as there are a few more rooms in need of some elegant details.”

Catherine has no concept of hiding her feelings. The little leap of her heart is quite clear in the spark in her eyes and the way she squeezes her hands together when he mentions a number significantly higher than she’d anticipated. Four hundred now? Well, that’s a little shopping trip later, then! All thoughts of paying off debts are set aside, because money, to her, means she can buy more.

Already she’s eyeing those glimpses of lilac from his shirt and the quality of his dark blue doublet and daydreaming about exactly what kind of gown she could buy in those colours, because don’t they go together so well. A glance downwards and a little bounce on her toes and she’s thinking about matching slippers, expensive trim, lace, bows and of course jewellery to match.

And, you know, there’ll be another five hundred to come later, and surely that’ll pay off any pesky debts from creditors if they happen to come round. Paying for things is future Catherine’s problem. Buying things is current Catherine’s idea.

“If you bring the chair tomorrow… no, wait, Saturday… then I can begin working the table’s frame at least,” she agrees, beaming him the huge smile of a woman who has a plan and that plan involves shopping most of Friday. “And then if the wood talks to me, I’ll start the detail work.”

<FS3> Belmont rolls Perception: Failure. (3 2 6 2 4 4 2 2)
<FS3> Belmont rolls Empathy: Good Success. (2 8 8)

Belmont may be oblivious to Catherine’s assessment of his clothes and their colors — but he does catch a certain glee in her reaction when he gives her the price he is willing to pay. It is what he aimed to achieve, a certain enthusiasm and motivation as a nice sum of ducats can provide when offered in payment upon completion. And so the smile on those handsome features deepens, as Belmont inclines his head to Catherine Valais. “I shall see to it that the chair will delivered to you on Saturday,” he confirms. “I might even come along myself, time permitting. For now, I think you have all that you need to get started. Oh. Save for this.”

The Vicomte de Rognac produces a purse and hands it over to Catherine, it is heavy and gives some of those reassuring jingling sounds of ducats. “There you are. Four hundred ducats.” He manages to offer that payment along with a bow “Have a pleasant day, Lady Catherine…”, Belmont tells her, before he straightens and takes his leave.

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