(1311-03-21) Unconventional Exercises
Summary: Philomène visits the Rose Sauvage in search of a form of exercise not usually offered to patrons therein — and manages, even, to spread her walking mania amongst the courtesans of the house… (Warning: Some mature content, but no matter what anybody tells you, the donkey is just fine.)
RL Date: 21/03/2019
Related: Consolation Prize, and probably some other things that aren’t occurring to me off the top of my head.
raphael philomene clara denise aurore 

La Rose Sauvage — Night Court

A huge hearth of black marble, with gargoyles of stone adorning the mantlepiece, governs the foyer of the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, which emanates a certain dark air, the interior design of the more heavy sort, that could easily be encountered in a gentleman's club, especially with the dark cherry wood wainscoting used on the walls. Dark leather upholstery is predominant in the furniture of chaise longues, couches and long-backed chairs that are arranged in a half-circle, leaving space in the center for courtesans (or patrons) to kneel for an inspection. Three tall windows with circular stained-glass insets are framed by dark red curtains of heavy brocade, a few golden threads worked into the fabric catching occasionally the light of flickering oil lamps at the walls. The lamps light a pair of portrait paintings, of the two founders of the salon, Edouard Shahrizai and his cousin Annabelle no Mandrake, resplendent in their dark Kusheline appeal; and a cabinet in a corner, holding a number of quality wines and a flagon of uisghe.

The foyer has a high ceiling, and a gallery beyond a balustrade of dark teak wood, carved in the shapes of gargoyles. Sometimes a few veiled creatures can be spotted up there, stealing glances at what is going on below; from the gallery, which can be reached by ascending some winding stairs at the back of the foyer. Beside the stairs leading up is a hallway on ground level, leading further into the building to where the offices of the leader of the salon and his two Seconds can be found, along with the two wings of private quarters for roses of Mandrake and Valerian canon.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a spring day. The weather is warm and drizzling.

Very few members of Rose Sauvage will turn the salon into a craft fair, but the red haired Clara is apparently finishing up a carpentry project in the early afternoon. She has a small piece of wood, a few inches across, with a hinge on one side. And she is just finishing putting a lock on it. "Ah hah!" She beams triumphantly.

Denise descends the stairs, dressed in a form-fitting gown of midnight blue, her eyebrows shooting upward as the scent of wood and the sound of hammering attract her attention. Heading in further, she smiles wrily as she catches sight of Clara, softly murmuring "I was beginning to think someone was developping a truly esoteric part of our canon in here…"

With what really ought to be an ominous creak but is in fact absolute well-oiled silence the heavy teak door is pressed open from the outside, letting a little of the spring sunlight in to spill on the parquet flooring, a refreshing bright gleam of pure sunlight, unfiltered by stained glass windows. For a moment a shadow is cast in the doorway, a tall, slender shadow that soon materialises into an older blonde woman with sharp, high cheekbones and a well worn riding jacket. What draws the attention, however, is the way in which her weight is awkwardly shifted to favour her left leg as she limps in, grey-blue eyes narrowing as she gets used to the darker interior.

Clara grins as Denise comes over to her, and holds up her creation. "Finger stocks! Good for your thumbs, or big toes. Portable, and annoying!" She grins happily, before someone else comes in. Clara turns to the woman and offers a deep curtsy. "Welcome to Rose Sauvage, my lady! Please let us know how we may serve your pleasure today. I'm Clara, and this is Denise, both of the Red Roses."

Denise lifts her eyebrow further, her fingertips brushing lightly along the device. "You'll want to test them first… -very- carefully" As the door to the foyer enters, she turns, her playful smirk fading into a more demure though inviting expression. She curtsies deeply as Clara makes the intruductions, murmuring softly "My Lady."

Philomène adjusts her cuffs then straightens her collar as she comes to a halt in the salon. She allows her gaze to settle on one woman then the other, then inclines her head politely before finally speaking, voice a low alto. "Mesdames. I should apologise for disturbing you, I suspect. I must be a little late today, unless you were still recovering from last night? I'm led to believe that your profession tends to the nocturnal." Her arms fold across her body, weight settled squarely over her right leg to best minimise the impact of that distinctive limp.

Clara shakes her head. "There is nothing to apologize for, my lady," she offers sincerely, smiling. "While it is true that much of our profession is nocturnal, our salon is open at all hours. You are absolutely welcome here," she grins, curtseying again. "Can we fetch you a drink?"

Denise quirks her lips faintly "And after all, being night-blooming flowers mostly means that daytime is for preparation. But we, and our House, are indeed ar your disposal, my lady."

Raphael has been out on some errand, and because of the fine, warm weather, he has changed his clothing, this time in dark brown broadcloth trousers and a light linen shirt and a vest to match the trousers with two rows of buttons up the front. He lets himself in and closes the door softly behind him. Turning, he lifts his brows slightly on seeing Philomène there. "I'm afraid your prediction has come to pass," he says with mock gravity. "Spring has come at last."

"A little wine, then?" Philomène suggests with a very slight nod and an even slighter smile, lips barely curving up at the edges. "Thank you, that would be most kind. But please, don't let me disturb your… woodwork." That last has a faint pause before it, as though questioning exactly what sort of toy is in the courtesan's hands but then deciding on the generic word to suffice in place of any further thought as a gust of cool air from the door opening heralds Raphael's presence. She glances back over her shoulder as the man makes his proclamation, flicking a smirk. "Which means, of course, that rather than traipsing through snow for the next three months, we are to suffer through the deluge instead. Good morning, monsieur."

Clara nods and motions to a novice, who scurries off to return with a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white wine, and some glasses. She grins at the woman's comment. "Oh I assure you, we are very well trained to not let anything interfere with out…wood work," she draws the word out saucily. "This, however, is complete. A trap for digits, to confine without needing much set up." She smiles to Raphael. "Good morning. I take it you are already acquainted with our guest? Excellent!"

Denise permits herself a brief little grin "As for my part, I know to stay out of the way when Clara is in one of her… creating moods." She takes a graceful step back, as if subtly inviting Philomene to make herself at home anywhere in the salon. She inclines her head to Raphael as he enters, the same coy smile lingering on her lips "Messire."

"Good morning," Raphael returns with a blatant disregard for horology this afternoon. "Yes," he confirms for Clara, "We are indeed acquainted." He does not volunteer precisely the nature of their acquaintance, but who could expect that here? "Shall I show you through to the garden?" he offers to Philomène. "Or will you sit inside and have a glass of wine?"

"Or perhaps I shall combine the two and take a glass of wine with me?" Philomène suggests, unfolding her arms and half turning to look the man over. "If it's no longer raining, at least. I don't mind walking in the rain, but it's a crying shame to dilute the wine." Clara gets a long look with pursed lips. "I'm certain, yes. Well, it's good to have a hobby, isn't it? It ought to keep you out of trouble. Or, given your home," She gestures vaguely around with one hand, taking in the dark leather and heavy red curtains of the salon, "perhaps it will keep you sufficiently in trouble."

"Idle hands are Kushiel's plaything, my lady, which is why we try to restrain them as much as possible," Clara offers, almost…piously. She looks over (up) at Denise and sniffs. "Geniuses are so rarely appreciated in their time, I'm told." But then she is back to business. "We can certainly have the wine brought to the garden for you, my lady, and we have shelters in case it drizzles. Would you prefer company beyond Messire Raphael?" She asks.

Denise gives another wry smile as she murmurws quietly "Some forms of genius are best appreciated from a safe distance" a teasing wink cast at Clara with the words. She remains standing qith quiet, graceful poise to the side, hands lightly folded in front of her.

"It has cleared off," Raphael confirms. "Wine, then." He makes no move to get it, looking between Denise and Clara a moment, but then gesturing to a novice in the corner, sending her for one goblet unless anyone adds to the order.

"If I'm absolutely honest, I'm not certain I prefer Monsieur Raphael's company over none at all," Philomène notes drily, but there's a hint of humour in her tone as she limps a pace forward, a little closer to the light of the still glowing embers of the fire, and the daylight streaming through the stained glass windows forms mottled colours against her long neck and exquisite bone structure. From the waist up there is no doubt at all of the d'Angeline blood running through her veins. It's just from the waist down that it all goes horribly wrong, that single pace enough to demonstrate to anyone paying enough attention that not only is the left leg twisted to an unnatural angle from the thigh downward, but without the built up sole of what appears to be a specially built high leather riding boot, it would also be a good couple of inches shorter than the other. "Will you walk with me this afternoon, then, Monsieur Raphael, or did you have vital and pressing thrashings to administer to your highly religious and highly affluent flock?"

Clara raises her eyebrows at Philomene's words, before she detects the hint of humor. She doesn't seem to mind the gait and obvious injury, or if she does she doesn't say anything and her expression doesn't change in the slightest. "If you two would like to enjoy our gardens privately, we will happily leave you to it while I discuss with my colleague exactly what she meant by 'a safe distance'; we certainly don't wish to intrude."

Denise gives Clara the most innocents of expressions, the smile still hovering about her lips. She maintains her poise, achieving that Valerian trick of fading into the background while remaining quite visibly ornamental.

Raphael glances at Philomène with the suggestion of amusement in his expression. Whatever her deviation from the expected and idealized d'Angeline form, Raphael must know her well enough to take no particular note of it. He glances to Clara and Denise. "Has anyone come by while I was out requesting a thrashing from me?" he asks dryly.

"No doubt there's a queue somewhere," Philomène reassures the man with a sardonic smile, straightening her cuffs once more before beginning to move in the direction of the garden, that gait very distinctive with the wide swing of one leg and upright posture, merely expecting Raphael to follow and the novice to appear thereafter with the drinks. "Perhaps they merely got lost on the way," she adds charitably.

Clara shakes her head. "No, Messire, there have not been anyone seeking a thrashing from you, although of course that doesn't guarantee someone will not beat down our door to do so. But if they do we will attempt to keep them in line until you can complete your walk, since we of course can sympathize," she offers, with such sincerity that she is probably not being sarcastic. Probably?

"Then it looks as if I shall have to settle for you today, lady," Raphael replies to Philomène, seeming to take her ribbing in good humor. The novice brings Philomène a goblet of red wine on a tray. A smirk is returned to Clara. Then he crosses the room to join the noblewoman on her way out to the garden.

"Your life is just one misery after another, isn't it, monsieur?" Philomène notes, pausing to hold the door for Raphael as she steps through. "And still you suffer through. Perhaps you're confused about your canon after all. Are you not drinking today, Raphael? I should if I were you. It makes the day so much more tolerable, and the company doubly so."

Clara apparently has little else to do as well, so she packs up her supplies (it was just a couple small tools), and takes her finger stocks with her as she moves to follow the amicably bickering couple.

Raphael turns round to invite Clara along, only to see that she is already reading her welcome in the air. He eyes her little finger stocks. "Bringing your device, are you?" he questions, though her accompaniment does not seem to put him out. He passes through the door, saying, "You will like the Vicomtesse, she has a sense of humor." Which no doubt Clara has already noticed.

"I can't imagine for a moment that she will, few do," Philomène corrects, glancing up to the sky as they exit into the garden, judging wind, cloud patterns, air pressure and goodness knows what else. "And I should imagine this drizzle will be on and off all day, so if you don't want to be both enraged by the lack of tact and wet through, I'd recommend a waxed cloak, if you have one, mademoiselle. What in seven hells is that confounded thing you've made, anyway? Some sort of restraint for midgets? I shall have to inform Geneviève."

"I'm proud of it, and you never know when it might be useful," Clara points out primly, although the smirk that she gives belies this last point. She holds it up proudly to Philomene. "It's for fingers!" She explains. She sticks her thumbs in the holes, to illustrate the utility. "Thumbs, or possibly big toes. I'm interested by ways of being restrained that require very little actual restraint. It seems…elegant. And efficient." She considers. "Although I suppose it would work for a very tiny person as well, but that's not what it was intended for."

Because of the light snows of recent days, the ground in the garden is muddy, but the path is clear. "Surely your friend was not quite so tiny," he says to the Vicomtesse. "She'd hardly dare to sport with donkeys if she were." He lifts his chin at a novice. "Fetch cloaks," he instructs, and closes the door, taking in a lungful of springtime air and all the wonderful pollen that rides it.

It may be muddy, but apparently Philomène has a fixed path in mind, even if part of that route involves skirting around one particularly large puddle, itself shimmering in the spring sunlight as drops of somewhat less springlike rain splash into it. "Not my friend, but my houseguest's friend," she's keen to correct, casting a sly smile towards Raphael. "Although were her guest that small, do you think she ought to charge more or less? I ask you as a connoisseur of getting as much coin as possible from those with more money than sense, you understand."

"I…" Clara begins, but then the phrase 'Sport with donkeys' is used, and Clara's mouth closes. That's…hoo buddy, that's a whole world of mental pictures she was not prepared to be sorting through on short notice. She just kind of blue screens at that, tilting her head to the side as she follows along with them.

"Pardon," Raphael says, a glint of mischief in his eye though his expression is otherwise solemn. Possibly he wanted to tie the lady closer with the diminuitive visitor. "Your friend-once-removed." He stands under the eave for now so as not to be rained on. "Oh, much more," he replies. "She is, after all, a rarity." He looks to Clara and blinks once. "Oh, dear," he says. "Thank goodness I didn't say such a thing in front of a White Rose."

Philomène snaps her fingers multiple times, shaking her head as she continues on at her slow, peculiar pace. "Oh, good grief, I can never remember which is which. You must be of the red variety then, mademoiselle? Well, I imagine having to deal with Raphael daily is pain enough to have you in a constant state of ecstasy. Perhaps you'd like a lie down and a smoke of something already?"

"I will admit that our torment is normally more of the physical than the…existential?" Clara offers, finding words in her newly blighted existence once more. "Philosophical?" She apparently has to consider some technical aspects. "Engineering? My mind is racing to come up with scenarios where I don't see the rumors being 'woman trampled to death by equine lover,' and I am just not really managing it."

"I think you'll find," Raphael says with the solemn air of someone who knows he is about to do a terrible and stupid thing with language but is compelled to do it anyway, "That donkeys are asinine." The novice shows up with rain cloaks for Raphael and Clara.

"As, it would appear, are my Orchis friends," Philomène duly provides the rejoinder in what cannot possibly be a surprise to anyone. She tugs her collar up closer around her neck, giving a little shiver as a drop of rain finds its way down her back. Or possibly it's just the continued thought, in more detail than strictly necessary, of the feat of engineering required to spend the evening with a donkey. "But they remain, as of this morning at least, happily untrampled."

"…I'm normally a fan of puns," Clara points out, "But that might be stretching even my limits." She shakes her head. "Well, I will whisper prayers for them to the Companions that they might remain so, and…possibly some other things," she says almost piously.

"The stories of the Vicomtesse," Raphael says, donning his cloak, "Lead me to wonder whether the appeal of the Orchis house lies not so much in their jocularity as in their indestructability." He steps out into the rain, though he stays out of Philomene's path. "But indeed we must be discreet with them, since I don't think we want a demand for such services here. Do we." It's very hard to tell when he's kidding and when he's serious, sometimes.

"It's either the luck of the Bryony or the fortitude of your own canon," Philomène decides, quietly amused despite the occasional winces where the path is not entirely even underfoot and a step here or there jars her unexpectedly. "Or it's because they're constantly so bloody sozzled that they wouldn't notice or remember if they were killed in their stunts." That she takes as a cue to take a long drink from her wine as she walks.

"If for no other reason than we would have to seriously expand the stables, and what would the neighbors think," Clara offers wryly. "And the builders would ask questions, and probably the Priests of Elua if word got out…I'm not entirely sure the Precept applies to the equestrian world, but who am I to judge."

Raphael for some reason lets out a laugh at the question of the neighbors' opinion. "Magical creatures, indeed," Raphael concludes. "In my canon, of course, we can never afford to be so drunk. Truly each house has its benefits and costs."

Philomène eyes the man sidelong, noting drily, "If one is prepared to pay the costs, naturally. Although if you did indeed add stables to the place I should be more interested." She holds up one slender finger towards Clara. "Not for sexual purposes, I hasten to add. The riding I enjoy is of the more mundane variety."

"I would never have assumed, my lady," Clara says obediently, and again with such great conviction; a shade less and she would surely have to be taking the piss, but she offers it sincerely. "In fact most of this conversation I would not have assumed anything about, even as it continues to happen around me. I think it is much safer that way."

Raphael is disappointed by Philomene's clarification. "Really, you ought to leave a little mystery," he chides. He looks to Clara. "You see," he says. "Our Red Roses each develop ingenious means of protecting themselves."

Philomène laughs easily before taking another long sip of wine from her cup, moistening her lips with her tongue to catch any stray drops. "Of course," she agrees, doing her best to appear duly chastened. "If I'm not careful there will be no gossip about me whatsoever and then where should we be? A wholly pointless endeavour to be here at all."

Clara nods to Raphael. "It's self-denial or the gaping maw of madness, waiting to swallow us all. This is less difficult on the carpets," she offers primly. "Mmm, if you want good rumors you need to have mud more…strategically spread."

Raphael givess Clara a glance subtly imbued with amused approval. "It is good to have a few budget-conscious courtesans in the house," he says. And looks back to Philomene. "I'm not sure the Vicomtesse would wish to sacrifice her favorite breeches to mud." A dig at how often she wears the sameor similarclothes?

Philomène arches a brow at Raphael for a half second, her thumb coming up to absently run around the rim of her drink. "Again, I think sacrifice is more the young lady's thing than mine, don't you?" she drawls, skirting that puddle again as they complete another circuit of the gardens. And, indeed, it might be noticed that despite the fact that her well fitted breeches are a little faded through wear and her jacket is well weathered and worn, it is scrupulously clean, and even her boots look to be cleaned and polished, splashed only with delicate droplets of mud from today's expedition here. "Although I've heard that mud is supposed to be good for the skin. I imagine even if I were to strip naked right now and roll around in it, the only gossip would be that I'm indulging in some kind of novel treatment to keep the wrinkles at bay."

Clara quirks a little bit of a smile as she looks to Philomene. "Are you asking if I would roll 'round in the mud for you to get positive rumors, my lady? It wouldn't be the strangest assignation I've ever had, although it would at least be competetive. And you know what they say…any publicity is good publicity?" She offers, before looking to Raphael. "Well, we do try. Carpets are expensive, courtesans lost to the depths of insanity can probably still be at least amusing to watch."

"It is the privilege of the nobility that their strangest habits should be considered fashion," Raphael says, smiling at Philomène. While he's known for sometimes presenting a stern façade in the salon during working hours, these women keep returning a smile to his face.

"Well, that would explain why I've seen three young ladies in the last week who can't walk properly either," Philomène notes, a faintly self-deprecating smile actually curving the corner of her lips. Yes, it's a genuine miracle. Raphael smiles. Philomène mocks her own shortcomings. What next? Spontaneous human combustion? A sudden rain of frogs? "I do wonder, though," she adds towards Clara with genuine curiosity, "If rolling about in the mud for the dubious pleasure of some deranged patron is not the strangest request you've had, what is?"

"Well, my lady," Clara answers very reasonably. "Sometimes they want you to roll around in desert so that they can eat it off of you. And that is somewhat weirder than rolling through the mud. And there was a lady who just wanted me to kneel naked next to her desk while she worked, because it helped her focus."

"And did she indeed focus on her work?" Raphael wonders. "Focus can be so difficult to maintain when Red Roses suffer nearby." But this is said matter-of-factly. He nods to Philomene. "I'm glad you asked her that. Just the other day she was asking the Thorns their favorite assignations. Very impertinent. We refused to answer." He doesn't actually seem to have been offended.

Aurore strides in, surveying those present. Her eyebrows go up when she sees her kinswoman. She wends that way, offering cheek kisses of greeting, "Philomène!" She raises her eyebrows again, "What poor manners! To ask such things! Good evening, Raphael and who is your lovely companion?”

"I'm surprised you're not haranguing her for not claiming payment before answering, though," Philomène smiles wryly, glancing once more to the sky to gauge the weather. In a salon famed for some truly outlandish practices, this one has to take the biscuit. Apparently it's a casual, polite stroll in the gardens, fully clothed and without even the hint of a whip or rope. "Aurore!" she responds to the greeting, seeming for once in her life to be genuinely pleased to see somebody, entire expression relaxed into an amiable smile. "Oh well, poor manners are rather my calling card, I think. I'm with the gentleman here, though," she notes quite seriously. "I can't see how having a young lady kneeling naked beside one's desk could possibly help one focus on the work. I imagine it would quite put you off your figures."

Clara raises a red brow to Raphael. "I never said I wouldn't be willing to reciprocate. I only wanted to strengthen the bonds between houses, and also hear all sorts of dirty things," she confesses. "Although these wouldn't be the ones that I would have listed as my favorites. I believe it helped her focus on her work because she had told herself she could not have me until she had finished it. Once her work was done, however, we put the desk to very different duties." She offers with an angelic smile. She offers a curtsy to Aurore. "Clara no Rose Sauvage, my lady; a pleasure to meet you."

"She'll take the payment before she rolls in the mud, I'm sure," Raphael replies, as if confident that that arrangement will go forward. He turns, looking between Aurore and Philomene, pleased to see that there is no ill will between the kinswomen with each of whom he has spent a fair bit of time in recent weeks. He inclines his head to Aurore on her arrival. "She's impertinent enough to present herself," he says to Aurore, though he seems to mean this as a joke. And then he adds, "I admire a patron with a sturdy desk."

Aurore seems genuinely pleased to see Philomène as well. This is clearly someone who's company she enjoys, "Oh! I see you have excellent taste then. He does make a fine escort." She smiles at Clara, pleased that this one has manners. "I'm Vicomtesse Regent Aurore nó Bonnel de Chalasse of Ferrand." She laughs, "I do enjoy a bit of impertinence as long as it comes with the right sort of mind. I also agree that a sturdy desk is a good thing to have."

Philomène shakes her head in amazement as she hobbles on along her set path, not even about to stop for Aurore. "A desk..? But see now, a bed is surely a better option all round," she reasons. "For a start it's padded, it has pillows, blankets for the cold, and when you're quite finished and fancy a little nap, well, you're already there, aren't you? A desk, though… you've to clear away the paperwork, and the ink! You don't want to spill that everywhere, do you? Think of the carpets!" This, at least, is directed towards Clara. Perhaps she might sympathise when it comes to flooring.

"A sturdy bed is also a good idea," Raphael confirms. But he can't help smiling about the poor carpets, today's hero. He says to Aurore and Philomene, "I'm glad to see that the two of you are friendly," he says. "One never knows about these things."

Clara grins. "The de Chalasse are a fine family, my lady, and you have very distinguished titles." And then she gives a bright, beaming smile to Philomene at her comment. "While I will not disagree a bed can be quite nice, there is a certain…something with the right person and a desk. It is a different experience to be pushed over something hard and unyielding while one is explored with something else hard and unyielding. A meeting of very pleasurable sensations, especially when your wrists are tied to it and your hair is pulled." She shivers a little bit. "But yes…you do want to be careful of the carpet."

Aurore says, "Sensible Coz. I suspect it's in what exactly you are planning to do with the desk. Or the bed for that matter." She smiles at her cousin, "Well, she is the most sensible of my kinfolk. I too have good taste." To clara she says, "It is a good thing when a person has a calling she enjoys.""

"Clearly the Vicomtesse Regent Aurore nó Bonnel de Chalasse of Ferrand," yes, the full title, with Philomène's tongue firmly in cheek, "doesn't yet know me well enough to have fallen out with me, monsieur. Give it time." Clara's explanation is met with a look of… well, it’s not exactly disgust and it's not exactly bewilderment, but it's somewhere between the two, corners of her mouth drawn down comically as she hobbles on. "My goodness, I can't think of anything worse. If anyone dared try to tie my wrists they'd get a damned black eye for their trouble." She smirks. "But then, as Aurore points out, if it's for you then you're in the right place, at least. And no doubt there are plenty of ladies and gentlemen who'll pay for the pleasure of somebody who'll do as they're told." Another pause to drink, draining the remains of her wine then shaking the cup out over the gardens as she passes. "One wonders if they don't have the ability to inspire that sort of obedience without the lubrication of coin, of course."

"That," Raphael points out to Philomene, "Is precisely why courtesans such as Clara are of such great value. Although," he mention, "Red Roses sometimes earn their punishment by not doing as they are told. Or by ruining the carpets."

Clara smiles to both Aurore and Philomene. "The beauty of the precept is that we all can find those circumstances in which we truly shine, and explore the depths of what makes us happy. I would no more wish to force what I enjoy on anyone than I would allow them to force it on me. Within certain circumstances, of course, since part of what I like /is/ someone else forcing what they like on me; but you take my point," she rattles off in agreement. "Oh, there are plenty of people who enjoy what we do here that meet in private circumstances and never have to pay for more than drinks, rope, stocks, and other accoutrements." She definitely does not say 'equestrian supplies', although she clearly wants to. And then she gasps in faux horror to Raphael. "We would never do that, knowing that a patron wants to punish us. We're only human, however, and if we happen to lose control or be willful, well…there is nothing to do but punish us so we will be better next time."

Aurore snorts, "Eh, i'll take frank over smiles and stabs you in the back any time. If we fall out, at least you'll curse me to my face, coz." She grins at Philomène, "I admit it is not to my taste, but the world is wide and if she enjoys herself, what harm?" She nods, "Well, I do hate to see a pretty thing ruined, even if it is a carpet.

Philomène laughs easily, shaking her head. "True enough," she agrees with her cousin. "If there's any stabbing to be done, you'll see the knife coming. But I'm not keeping you from spending your hard earned ducats, am I? You can blame Raphael for my presence here - he pointed out that the quietest place in the entire city if I don't want to be disturbed is the gardens here of a morning when the courtesans are sleeping it off. And then somehow my walk this morning has become a walk for three of us, now four."

It is at this point that the novice from earlier reappears and comes to deliver a message to Raphael, speaking sotto voce. Raphael seems mildly surprised. "Really," he says. "At this hour. Tell her she is to wait until it pleases me to see her. If it does. You understand?" The novice nods and disappears inside again. Raphael makes a small bow to the company, straight-backed. "I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me."

"I wasn't aware that walking was contagious, but I will have to be more careful in the future. Most red roses are not buff, and if I work my legs out too much I'll have to even it out with my arms, and that's a whole lifestyle I just can't get in to right now," Clara sighs, shaking her head before she quirks an eyebrow at Raphael. "It is not just red roses that like to push boundaries for punishment, it seems," she teases.

Aurore shakes her head, "I'm here for the conversation, so you are only enhancing the pleasure of the visit, Coz." She sighs, "Work is work, Raphael. I shall enjoy the walk myself, I think.”

"Conversation?" Philomène queries, raising both brows. "Between us we're going to get this place a reputation for debate instead of riding crops at this rate. Thank goodness at least Clara is here to maintain the respectability of her house." She exhales as she passes the skeleton of a rosebush, still not yet beginning to bud. "But I find myself close to the end of my mile if I walk directly to the temple now, and I'm not in a mood to walk any further than my target today. It may be spring, but it still isn't warm and there's a bath with my name on it to ease the ache. Will you also excuse me?"

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