(1311-04-17) Do Frogs Sneeze?
Summary: This and other pressing questions are answered (or not) during a high-level summit on the care and feeding of exotic frogs, at the Temple of Anael.
RL Date: 17/04/2019
Related: Enter François, Honey Cakes and Slugs.
symon catherine 

Temple of Anael — Marsilikos

Anael's temple in Marsilikos appears, at first, to be a humble affair. Columns of reddish-brown marble hold up pantile roof of terracotta clay, whilst the walls are left open to all sides to encourage the encroach of the weather, whatever the season. Vines scramble up the pillars and over the roof to soften the structure to offer fruits and berries in the autumnal months, and glorious scents the whole year through. The apple trees so beloved by Anael are much in evidence within the temple and its grounds, forming pockets of quiet within which to worship. Like the temple itself, the effigy of Anael which is set within its heart is a thing of natural beauty and construct. Carved from wood, it depicts Anael seated upon the stump of a tree. A gentle smile is ever-present on his face as he looks down and across the grounds of his temple, a bowl cradled in his arms that's filled with a collection of fruits and vegetables which worshippers have given as offerings. Of all the Companions, it is to Anael that the farmers of the lands surrounding Marsilikos come; to make offerings and give prayers in the hopes of a bountiful harvest.

An oasis of nature and peace within the city, the temple and grounds are tended to by the brown-robed priesthood of Anael, considered to be amongst the finest horticulturists in Terre d'Ange.

Symon is talking with one of Anael's priests, earnestly. "Flies?" he is saying. His brow knits as he considers this. "W…well, how do you know?" The soft-spoken priest replies and Symon nods, enlightened. "W…well, I suppose it's good someone w…watches frogs. Just never occurred to me, I suppose. No, that's all, thank you. I'll leave something in the, uh, fruit b-bowl." The offering bowl may have a formal name, but Symon doesn't know it. The priest bows and moves on to work that surely must be more important. Even if it's frog-watching.

There's something oddly incongruous in the overall impression of the woman who makes her way quietly between the pillars to enter the heart of the temple. On the one hand she's in exquisitely fashioned and tailored dark, luxurious velvets, picked out with actual silver thread in the sort of fine embroidery that speaks volumes about its quality and likely price, with bracelets at both wrists, bejewelled rings on nigh on every finger, and a gleaming sapphire brooch high on one shoulder. On the other hand, she carries in one hand a tool box. It's finely crafted and inlaid with all kinds of layers of different colours and shapes of wood to depict a detailed bucolic scene, sure enough, but it's still quite clearly a tool box. Whatever she was here to do, however, falls out of her tiny mind when she spots a familiar face and she takes a moment or two to place it before exclaiming, "François!" Well, sure, that was the frog, but she's remembered one name, so let's give her some partial credit at least.

"Oh," says Symon, turning. "Hello!" He smiles, and is momentarily distracted by Catherine's ensemble. "Oh, b-but how b… beautifully you are dressed," he comments with what sounds like sincere appreciation, taking a moment to absorb the details of jewelry and embroidery. Then back to her face. "Is the b-box finished for him, then?" he asks. "It's not…" He looks at the tool box she has with her. "That's not it, is it?"

Catherine glows quietly at this praise, cheeks warming as she dips into a short, practiced curtsey in response. As she rises, so the box is brought in front of her with both hands and she offers a small smile. "Well, no," she admits quietly, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "This is just for my tools… but I could make another like it? It's only that… I'm sorry, I have a commission for a card table, you see?" She chews on her lip for a moment. "You don't mind hanging on to Francois a little longer, do you?"

"Ah," Symon says, looking like he's only sort of sure what a commission exactly means as he nods. "I see. W-well. I've b…been m…meaning to tell Étienne about it anyway…" His eyes narrow a shade. "I heard a rumor, b-by the w…way. Of sickness among sailors. Yours didn't seem sick, did he? The one that sold François?"

Catherine hesitates at this question, hugging her tools closer to her chest as a sort of reflexive reaction. "I… don't think he looked sick..?" she responds ponderously, every statement inflecting upward at the end as though to check that she's saying what he wants to hear. "But sometimes you can't tell, can you?" She pauses to think. "I don't suppose… is François the frog sick?"

Symon does seem as though he very much wants to hear about the absence of sickness, but the fact that you sometimes can't tell brings a shadow to his expression. "I…w-what does a sick frog look like?" he asks. "I think it's all right? Only of course I don't know m…much about frogs."

"I think," comes Catherine's slow, considered answer, "that maybe it would just sneeze a lot?" She looks to Symon hopefully at this, perhaps for corroboration, or perhaps for reassurance that there have been no tiny froggy sneezes recently, the frog-sized kleenex have been unnecessary, and François the frog is if not fighting fit, at least leaping fit.

Symon nods several times, though there's an air that he is trying to convince himself, and not entirely succeeding. "It hasn't sneezed," he confirms. "I don't think. It has made a little creaking sound and a little clicking sound and hopped a little."

This, being that Catherine is no amphibian expert, is not as reassuring as it might have been. Her brows draw together and she shifts her weight again. I don't know, perhaps she needs the loo. "… Are they supposed to creak and click? Do you think he's broken?"

Symon blinks a few times. "B-broken? I don't know. I haven't done anything to it. W…what are they supposed to sound like? In the p-poems they say frogs croak, b-but I don't know if that is so different from creaking?"

"Creaking doesn't sound good, though, does it?" Catherine considers, teeth nibbling at her lip once more. "Do frogs need oil? I could find you some oil for the frog, if you want? I've never had a frog before," she admits softly, as though this might be a surprise. "But he was so pretty. You will look after him?"

"No, surely not?" Symon says about oil. Who ever heard of an animal needing oil? But then, who ever heard of keeping a frog? He looks over his shoulder. "Oh rot, the p-priest's gone." He looks back to Catherine, looking worried lest she think poorly of his efforts. "I have b-been doing m…my b-best," he says. "It has b-been eating and everything. I'm going to show it to Étienne and he knows about outdoor things so he will know if there is something wrong with it."

And apparently she's quite content to take him at his word at that, letting out a sigh of relief and beaming the man a grateful smile. "You're such a wonderful person for helping. I know he's in the very best of hands with you."

"B-but you are w…working on the b-box?" Symon asks, with a hopeful smile that says surely he is, and Symon of course trusts in that! Surely. Surely she is.

"As soon as I've finished this table for Lord Belmont," Catherine promises solemnly, and in that moment she truly believes what she's saying, too. "But it won't be more than six or seven weeks, I'm sure."

"Seven…?" Symon repeats, looking a little worried for his ability to be responsible for anything for seven consecutive weeks. "How long do frogs live, anyway?"

"I… don't know," Catherine admits, crestfallen once again. Really, the woman's emotions go up and down like a yo-yo. "You don't think he'll pass away before I've finished, do you? Do you want me to work through the night, then, so I can make him a box and Lord Belmont's table? I don't mind."

"W…working through the night doesn't sound v…v…very safe," Symon admits, somewhat off-balance at these changing emotions. "He doesn't show any signs of not b-being w…well that I can understand. Only I don't know m…much about frogs, you see. That is all. B-but it did eat some small slugs and a spider. And the p-priest says they w…will also eat flies, w…which is rather handy, as it is just coming up on fly season."

Catherine wrinkles her nose, informing him in no uncertain terms, "I hate spiders. Good riddance to them. Ugly, creepy, scuttly things!"

Symon wrinkles his a little in sympathy, though he's also smiling a bit. Which clashes terribly. "Yes, they're not terribly nice," he agrees. "I think it is quite all right for it to eat those. And the flies."

"And a bit of fish," Catherine recalls being something they were going to try the frog on. "As a special treat for eating all the spiders?"

Symon looks aside, as though deciding if he's going to admit to this or not: "I'm not sure it w…will eat fish, after all. So far it doesn't seem terribly interested in that."

"Probably," Catherine informs him, suddenly the leading expert on frog diets in the local area, "because it's been eating all the spiders, so it's full up. It's only small, so it can only have a small stomach, after all."

"Oh, I see," Symon says, nodding credulously. "W-well, it is quite small," he agrees. "So if you think it good, I w…will give it m…more fish tonight. And I w…will introduce it to Étienne and see w…what he says about w…whether it seems all right."

Catherine considers a moment longer, then stoops to plop her toolbox down on the ground right where she stands, so she can hold out both hands to Symon. "I really do think you're the most wonderful human being for looking after him, though. Your friend, Étienne, too. I don't know what I would have done without you."

After several minutes of anxiety over Catherine's emotional journey, Symon looks delighted and relieved to be liked again, clasping her hands warmly. "Oh," he says. "My p…pleasure, really. It is after all a fascinating creature. Étienne w…will know more of what to do, I'm sure. He always knows things."

"Did you know that frogs could even be that colour?" Catherine asks guilelessly, squeezing his hands with some reluctance to let go now she's decided that actually he's a Good Person. "Shall I put little frogs on his box, do you think? They won't be blue, though, just orange and brown and yellow, really. You don't get very blue wood. I suppose ash is quite grey, but… is it really blue, though?"

"No!" Symon says in great wonder. "Every time I look, it is m…more v…v…vivid than I remembered." He tilts his head at this question of the box. "I w…would think frogs are rather difficult to…carve?" Is that the right verb. "It is all right if there are not frogs. Surely he w-would outshine any other frog."

"I'm not doing spiders on it, no matter how much he likes eating them," Catherine tells him flatly, finally remembering that she has his hands and releasing them only to then have that awkward moment where she's not quite sure what to do with her own. Clasping them in front of her first, then she changes her mind, plucking at her skirts, then finally they're folded at the small of her back, shoulders hunched a little. "… Unless you want me to do spiders..?"

Symon smiles a little, uncertainly, and then blinks twice. "Unless I…? No, I think…It's all right if it's just a p-pretty b…box? I'm not sure if it likes the small b-box or not."

"It is only a small frog," Catherine reasons. "It probably likes its little bijou home."

"Probably," Symon agrees, though that is rather contrary to his previous remark. "It is a quite clever b-box. Only I imagine yours w…will be cleverer, somehow."

"I will make him the finest box," Catherine promises firmly. "He's a very fine frog and he should look his best." She stoops again to pick up her tool box, holding it in both hands in front of her. "As soon as I've finished making this table..?"

Symon nods faintly. "All right," he says. "I suppose I can come call on you if anything happens, good or b-bad. Shall I leave you to it, then?"

Catherine blinks once or twice, bewildered for a moment before she recalls why she was here. "Oh, the statue!" She eyes up the wooden effigy, nibbling on her lip again. "I'm sorry. For interrupting you," she adds, dropping into another brief, awkward curtsey before backing away, protected by her tool box in front of her, and over towards the weather-stained Anael. But even then she waits in case he wants her to do anything before she lets out a reluctant sigh, brings out tools, cloths and waxes to begin her careful restoration work.

Symon does not ask anything, seeming quite reverent at the idea of actual work being performed. But that he wants no part in, so after a dip of his head, he makes his way out of the temple grounds. Six or seven weeks.

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