(1311-03-30) Enter François
Summary: Catherine Valais makes Symon de Perigeux known to a small and colourful gentleman, of whom we have not heard the last.
RL Date: Indeterminate.
Related: None.
catherine symon 

Port — Marsilikos

Fortune laid the foundation for the grand port of Marsilikos; look how the arms of the land spread wide to embrace the setting of the sun, welcoming a bay of still waters rendered all the more peaceful by the presence of a small island to the south, on the flanks of which the waves cut themselves into powerless ripples as they move in from the sea. But what Fortune gave the D'Angelines their cunning and craft has improved to a hum of efficiency and culture. The natural bay has had its curved shores sharpened into straight edges bolstered with ridges of heavy stones on which the tides have left long mark when the waters are low, algae and barnacles hung onto the rugged stones. Then stone foundations have been piled out into the harbor to hold up wide wooden pillars and the great treated slats of the piers and boardwalks which extend into the bay, now at wider intervals for massive trading vessels, now at shorter intervals for private fishing and pleasure yachts.

The southern arm of the bay is reserved for the great sourthern fleet of the Terre D'Angan Navy, which is headquartered here in Marsilikos, and is ever a hub of activity, the giant slips outfitted to haul the massive warships up into the air for repairs, while further inland on the southern peninsula a forest of masts rises into the air where new ships are being built and old ones repaired in full drydock. Between the naval slips and the drydock rises the stately edifice of the Southern Naval Headquarters, glistening with huge latticed windows on the upper floors. Beyond the headquarters rises the massive fortified promontory of the Citadel, with bleached-white parapets and fluttering banners.

Markets and vendors throng the plaza at the innermost fold of the harbor where civilian and military seamen alike might find a bite to eat, supplies for their next mission, a good drink or a little bit of companionship. Far in the bay, that little isle sports a lofty lighthouse to guide the ships in by night.

The docks of Marsilikos are always bustling with activity, from fish coming in to ships being loaded or unloaded, people selling anything they can to sailors just in from a long voyage, or those sailors selling on the exotic wares they've obtained abroad.

Among the throng is a dark clad woman, being jostled this way and that but apparently barely noticing it as she holds up a small glass box with a rattan lid, gawping in wonder at the brightly coloured green, red and orange tree frog she's somehow, for some unknown reason, decided she NEEDS to buy from the tanned sailor who is only too keen to take an exorbitant fee for the odd little pet.

Symon no longer has to avoid the docks now that the plot to rob him, or the plot to marry him to a coarse farmgirl, has been thwarted. It is just the time to explore the city, as well, after the discouragement of winter snows seems to have abated at last. Symon must have come by way of the market, as he is chewing on some variety of pasty as he curiously gazes at goods being brought in from the ships that will surely be coming more frequently now that freezing to death is no longer among the dangers for a crew at sea.

His interest is divided among so many things, but a glass box is much less common than wooden shipping crates around here, so it catches Symon’s eye immediately and he squints, leaning a bit to try to get a better look without realizing how conspicuous that makes his staring.

Oblivious to most things, some sort of sixth sense nonetheless alerts Catherine to the staring. The initial impulse to hide away only lasts for a second, time enough to begin to draw back, pulling her box and frog with her, but then he looks so harmless and she's really awfully proud of her new purchase (for now, anyway) that she presents the box with outstretched arms and a shy smile in his direction. There's no way to hide her emotions, drawn all over her face as they are, and this is clearly one of hope for approval. Because look. It's a fucking beautiful frog. How could anyone fail to approve?

Symon straightens up when he realizes Catherine drawing back. “Oh, I b-beg your p…pardon!” he says in a tone both apologetic and cheerful. “Only…” He leans in a little again when she holds out the box. “Heavens,” he says softly. “W…what is that? Is it a frog? Is it p…painted?” It’s obvious from the look of wonder on his face that he has never seen anything like it. “Did it come off one of those ships?” He’s just full of questions!

“I just bought him from that sailor..?” Catherine offers, tilting the box to an unhelpful angle, much to the chagrin of the poor animal inside, which puffs up in indignation. “Isn't it beautiful?” She taps on the glass with a finger, gaining for her pains a slow croak. “And he talks, listen!”

Symon’s eyes go round, and then he blinks at the little thing. It croaked! And puffed! “It’s incredible!” he says enthusiastically. “You b-bought it just now?” he asks. “W…where does it come from? W…what does it eat?” The questions have not abated. “Is it a p-pet?” Surely she can’t intend to eat the little thing.

The look of excitement remains for a moment longer before her face falls, turning to worried indecision. She chews on her lower lip, bringing the box closer to her chest. “I… don't know,” she admits in a near whisper. “I didn't ask… oh, I should have asked!” She looks absolutely heartbroken, glancing around in case the sailor is still there. Spoiler, he is not. “He can live in my workshop?” Everything with Catherine is a question, it appears. Making a decision for herself is not a viable option.

Symon looks grieved to have burst the bubble. “Don’t w…worry,” he says. “I had a b-bird once as a p…present and I had no idea w…what to do with it, so I just had the servants keep trying different things…” He looks at the frog as though it will give some clue as to what on earth frogs eat. “Let’s see. Frogs live b-by p…ponds. P-possibly they eat small fish? B-but I think m…most of the time they are on land? So p-possibly you should put some water and some rocks in the box or w…whatever it w-will live in. Do you want to take it to your w…workshop now?” Apparently he intends to invite himself along.

This display of confidence and competence is enough that Catherine gives a wide, relieved smile, nodding quickly. “I'll get some fish,” she helpfully offers, presenting box, frog and all to him with both hands. Clearly he was offering to take it, right? “It's just off the grand plaza,” she adds, perhaps more helpfully, before disappearing into the crowd to obtain fish, and presumably rocks and water too, and leaving the poor man and frog stranded with only those vague directions for guidance..

“Oh, ahm…oh,” Symon replies, looking down at the box he has. There’s nothing to do but to head for the plaza with it, occasionally lifting it up higher so that he can get a clearer look at the charming little amphibian inside. “Is it fish?” he asks the thing with a puzzled expression. “Or do you eat cattails? There m…must be some reason you live b-by p…ponds, after all.” Once he gains the plaza, he looks from building to building, trying to divine which looks the most plausibly like a workshop that Catherine might belong to.

God forbid she should be any bloody use at all with her directions; her workshop is hidden away down a side street and unlabelled in any way. Chances are that he'll still be trying to find it by the time Catherine catches up with him, flushed and with a bag of fresh fish and even less money in her pocket.

“Come on in,” she insists with a small smile, unlocking an unmarked door into a gloomy interior that smells of sawdust and solvents. “If you want to, I mean. It's very kind of you to bring him for me, I'm sorry… you probably have better places to be, don't you?” It's as though she's only just realised that not everything in the world revolves around her frog. “I'm sorry,” she repeats herself, biting on her lip again uncertainly and bringing both hands in front of her, shoulders forward, to try to look smaller.

While Symon is waiting, standing in the plaza with no idea where to go, he finds his hand going to the woven cover of the glass box, sorely tempted to lift it off…but he does actually consider the consequence of this before going through with it and ultimately pats the top gently with a palm.

He is quite relieved to see Catherine. When she suggests that he might have somewhere better to be, he looks altogether astonished. “On the contrary,” he replies. “I’m delighted. I’ve never seen the like of this little fellow! Have you named it yet?” He lifts the box again to look inside. “Can you imagine the sort of p-place that has creatures like this?”

Sweeping an exquisitely inlaid jewellery box from a well doodled on workbench, Catherine clears a space in what is a dimly lit but obsessively tidy little workshop for the box and the frog, gesturing to it hopefully. “Here for now..?” she suggests, moving over to a shelf where several similar boxes are open to view and moving every box a little to the left so that when the one in her hand goes on to join them they're all still perfectly evenly spaced.

“I didn't ask where it came from, but it did sound grand,” she admits, eyes lighting up as she recalls the tall tales from the eager sailor. “Huge trees, bigger than anything we have, and flowers that you can sail a boat inside the width of the petals, can you believe it?!”

She bounces a little on her toes, fidgeting with the rings on her fingers as she drifts back over to the workbench and the frog, tapping the glass once to see if she can get a reaction. “What do you think we should call it?”

Yes. We. This is clearly now a joint endeavour, even if she doesn't know Symon from Adam.

“Ah, p-perfect,” Symon pronounces the placement. He seems fascinated by the tale of such enormous flora. “I can not,” he replies, though he sounds delighted to hear of it. “And yet such a tiny little chap!” He considers the creature again, bringing his face close to the box. “I ended up calling my b-bird ‘Birdy,’” he confesses, not sounding terribly pleased with his performance on naming that pet. “B-but surely w…we can do b-better this time. W…what do you think of François? François the frog.” He looks aside to Catherine, then blinks twice. “Oh, m…my name is Symon, by the w-way. De Perigeux.” Since they’re naming things.

“François is a lovely name,” Catherine agrees delightedly, pressing her hands together in the softest, quietest clap. “François the frog. Oh… oh yes… Hello Symon,” she offers, dipping into a precise curtsey. “I'm Catherine Valais. So this is François the Frog… de Valais.” She casts him a small, hopeful smile. She's brilliant, right?

She goes back to claim her bag of fish, which she clearly set down at some unspecified moment, and lifts it, brows lifting as she puzzles this. “Is there room for the fish as well..? I don't think… No, wait, I could make François a bigger box?” Again, she looks to him for approval.

“A w…well-heeled frog,” Symon replies, which is very nearly a joke. He looks at the fish and looks at the box. “W…well, you do seem just the p-person to do so,” he says, judging by the other items inn the room, which he is only just now taking in. “Oh, I say, these are quite fine,” he remarks, distracted by the inlaid boxes. “Right,” he says as he brings his attention back to the frog. “I think definitely w…water and rocks and…if the fish are too b-big, w…we could try feeding it p-pieces?” He doesn’t sound confident. “Or…w-what else m…might they eat? Around p-ponds.”

“… Seaweed?” Catherine suggests, demonstrating a blithe lack of knowledge of both the flora expected near ponds and the etymology of the word 'seaweed’. She rests her hand on the edge of the workbench for physical and moral support both and chews her lip. “Oh! Oh, those big grass things with the blobs on the end..? How big a box should I make? That's a lot of different foods to try.”

“Seaweed,” Symon repeats thoughtfully, as if testing the word to see whether it will reveal its potential as frog food. “B-but surely that’s…” he hesitates to finish his sentence lest he make a fool of himself. “I really couldn’t say,” he replies. “Birdy lives in a cage about so b-big,” he says, gesturing in the bell shape of a fairly large birdcage, “B-but is larger than the frog. And a b-bird.” So.

“Frogs can't fly,” Catherine muses, as though perhaps this might be a revelation all round. “It might not need to be that tall.” She taps on the glass again, prompting a belligerent croak from the little creature, to which she shrinks back, eyes widening a little.

“I'll make him a big box,” she decides, then pauses, chewing her lip and looking to him. Sure, she made a decision, but then the second guessing is clear on her face. Should she make a big box? “Would you… I mean, do you mind… if you take him home while I'm making it? I don't want to accidentally knock him over while I'm working..?”

Yes, the frog is clearly now Symon's problem while Catherine forgets all about this box she's only just promised to make. Such is the life of Catherine Valais.

“But they do jump, surely…” Symon replies, so he is relieved when Catherine decides on a large box. But then such responsibility follows. “W…well, I suppose I could look after it for a little w-while,” he allows, bobbing his head solemnly. “Only w…when should I bring it b-back?” He has no idea if a box for a frog takes two hours or two months to make.

“Only a few days,” Catherine promises, and in her defence she genuinely and honestly believes it in that instant, eyes wide and guileless on Symon. “And you can take the fish with you so François has his supper?” This, and a wide, relieved smile now the frog has somewhere and somebody to look after it, and she can get back to her wood and things she actually understands. One might, on the one hand, wonder why she bought the overpriced animal in the first place, but then one look at its exotic colours and a second look at Catherine, her expensive frock, abundance of jewellery, and even here in this workshop the number of knick knacks just gathering dust on shelves might give a clue as to her willpower or lack thereof when faced with impulse buying pretty things.

“A few days,” Symon repeats, nodding earnestly. “Yes. And the fish. Absolutely. I’ll b-be back soon, then. You’re really terribly kind to trust me w…with it. I’ll do m…my best.” Since Catherine does seem to want to get back to her workshop, he reaches for the glass box and also the fish. “Catherine V…Valais, yes? How fortuitous to have m…met you.” He dips his head, too encumbered to bow, and makes to go.

Catherine gives the pair a wide smile, dipping her head in return. “Goodbye, Symon. Goodbye, Francois,” and the frog gets a wave to go with it, being that the frog is of far more interest than some random fellow, Perigeux or not, she’s only just met in the street. And then, pretty much the moment he’s out of the door, she’s forgotten all about both.

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