(1311-04-23) The Least Sexy Striptease Ever
Summary: Philomène visits the Rose Sauvage for a spot of healthy, fully-clothed outdoor exercise and a non-alcoholic tisane. Well, when does she ever hew to convention? (Warning: She also takes her vocabulary out for a stroll.)
RL Date: Tue Apr 23, 1311
Related: It Isn’t Lunchtime.
philomene raphael severine 

Gardens — La Rose Sauvage

The gardens of La Rose Sauvage offer a different ambience and atmosphere than that of the more oppressive and richly ornate salon. Tall casement windows spill out onto a paved area which gives way to neatly arranged flowerbeds, where a predominance of roses pay homage to the canons encompassed by this salon. The paths are of a dark granite grey which have softened over the years by the encroachment of mosses and lichens, with smaller paths winding off through the beds. It's here along these secluded paths that arboreal areas and private nooks might be found, and where privacy is granted to those that seek it through flowering hedges and curtained awnings.

A fountain plays at the centre of the garden, the copper figures of two nude women, long since mellowed to a soft verdigris, spill water from shells into a pool at its base. The main pathway through the garden leads to a terracotta tiled courtyard that sits towards the farthest end, the walls here flanked by creeping ivy which cloak the walls in scarlet and orange during the autumn months. An oiled silk awning hangs over the courtyard to give shelter from both sun and rain, and oil lamps light the area when evening falls.

Late morning. Which for courtesans is the early morning. Or the middle of the night, depending on the previous day's demand. But there are already two or three novices out in the garden today with rakes, trowels, and sacks of soil. Either this is springtime garden maintenance day, or else something terribly filthy went on in the gardens last night, and this is a means of covering up the evidence. Whatever the case, there are some plants here that have already begun to bloom, though not all have done so yet. The work of the novices means that the space smells faintly of turned-up soil and small green things. Raphael is also here, but he is not doing garden labor. He is drinking from a mug that sends up a few wisps of steam in the cool morning air.

This late in the day (as far as Philomène is concerned this is late - all these odd hours for different people are very confusing) means that by the time the Chalasse has weaved her way through the salon proper and found herself in the gardens there's a definite hint of pink to her colour and the short hairs at the back of her neck are slick with sweat. Despite her usual insistence on immediately settling in to begin her laps, today she makes a beeline for what she's come to consider as her ironwork bench, limp particularly pronounced and she doesn't look like she cares. If anything she looks somewhat drawn, dark circles under her eyes, and where usually she bothers with at least a touch of minimal makeup, today there's none at all.

"Good morning," Raphael says, observing this from his spot between windows. He leaves the side of the house and comes to sit down on Philomène's bench, though not so close as to invade her space more than usual. "I am drinking barley-mint tisane, would you like one brought? Or water?" Perhaps he's noticed that she looks a bit warm.

Philomène takes a few steadying breaths before she glances over to him, giving a civil nod of greeting, followed by a more pleased nod of acceptance. "Barley-mint tisane would be marvellous, thank you," she agrees, physically shifting her leg with both hands under the thigh as she settles back more comfortably on the bench. "I'm assuming business has been good to you, then. As I haven't seen you up early the last few weeks."

Raphael nods once, satisfied to have made the right offer. "Geoffroi," he says to a boy holding a rake, "Go in and send someone with clean hands to the kitchen to fetch another tisane." The novice leans his rake against a wall and trots off to do as he's told, and Raphael brings his attention back to Philomène. "Indeed, I have been…much engaged," he says, "Called away on a number of occasions. I hope my absence has not been inconvenient to you. It's good to see you at last." It sounds like he means it. Though who can ever be sure with a courtesan? "How have the last few weeks kept you?"

"'Much engaged'," Philomène mocks good naturedly, unfastening the top button of her jacket. Oh the scandal. "Well, no doubt that'll help the old bank balance at least, and, of course, your spiritual soul. I won't judge which of those strikes me as the more useful." She folds her hands in her lap, leaning away from him enough to be able to look him up and down, then shrugs. "As for me? Well, in theory I'm supposed to be walking better. In practice am I fuck. New chirurgeon," she adds by way of explanation. "Only about twenty five years too late."

Raphael smiles cheerfully at Philomène. "I hope so," he says. "One of my engagements required very fine clothing, and another of my patrons has requested me to wear the robes of a Kusheline priest and hear her confessions. So I shall have to have a set of those made. We also have the feast of Naamah approaching, to which I intend to make a sizeable contribution." He drinks from his mug. At a glance, he looks in fairly good health; it would at least appear that the life agrees with him. "Are they any good?" he wants to know about this new chirurgeon. "As I get on in years, I suppose I had better consider who are the best healers in the city." A note of humor there, but not too much. The pair are sitting on one of the garden's benches as a couple of novices are working on freshening the garden soil for the spring, tidying up the plant beds, settling in seedlings, and the like.

Some beverage had been sent for, and here it arrives, carried by a Red Rose. Séverine may usually have left this task to a novice or even and adept, but perhaps, when hearing the request for another mug of tisane had come from Raphael, this has prompted the Second to act as cup bearer on this late morn. With the warmer weather, her own layers have become thinner. Gone is the longsleeved dress, today she is wearing a sleeveless gown of dark red, contrasting nicely with pale skin that shows a faint spray of freckles. Whether she overheard any of Raphael's confessions as she entered the gardens is left to speculation. However, she appears and in spotting Philomène and Raphael seated on the bench, approaches. A faint smile curves Séverine's lips as she — Red Rose that she is — moves to a kneel before said bench and offers up that cup of tisane to Philomène. "My lady?"

"I haven't yet throttled them and dropped their still twitching carcass in a ditch, so I suppose that in itself implies that they can't be awful," Philomène admits, both brows rising as somebody kneels in front of her to present the drink. "…thank you?" she offers, bemused, before she continues, "Give it time, Raphael. I swear I'm only ever a gnat's ballhair away from losing my rag entirely and going for it. She's fucking vicious is what she is. One of your lot, so I suppose it makes sense."

Raphael looks a bit surprised to see that the tisane comes borne by Séverine herself, but it is not an unpleasant surprise by any means. "A much prettier presentation than I'd anticipated," Raphael remarks, the hint of a smile hardening into the corners of his mouth and eyes. "Are you acquainted with our Second of Red Roses?" he asks Philomène. What Philomène says about a vicious chirurgeon of his own kind lights Raphael's eyes with interest. "Is it possible that you are visiting our neighbor, the Lady Shahrizai?" he inquires. "Vicious she may be, but she is also precise of mind and hand. And I expect she could also give you a good fight, should it come to that." A joke, probably.

<FS3> Severine rolls Composure: Good Success. (7 5 1 5 2 4 2 8 5 2)

It was perhaps not what she had aimed to achieve, that look of bewilderment in Philomène's eyes, and so Séverine lowers her eyes when the mug is taken from her hands. Hearing the Thorn's compliment has her smile deepen just a little. "You are entertaining a guest, Raphael," Séverine remarks softly. "So I thought it fitting." Stormy grey are her eyes, and she had lifted her gaze to look towards Raphael, only to have them focus on Philomène again. "Séverine nó Rose Sauvage, my lady," softspoken introduction. And she remains as is, kneeling abeyante on the grass, hands resting in her lap. While her eyes seem to brighten a little as she catches some of the conversation between Philomène and Raphael, she seems content to silent for a moment.

"Got it in one," Philomène admits as the Shahrizai's name is dropped, adding a little sardonic smirk. "But no, I'm not acquainted with your second here… really, I'm not a patron, I'm just here for your gardens, madame," she insists irritably, offering her hand to Severine. "Do please stand up, I don't need any further ego-boosting. As Raphael will no doubt attest. Good grief."

"It is always fitting to see you kneel," Raphael replies approvingly to Séverine. He chuckles faintly at Philomène's response to Séverine. "The Vicomtesse de Gueret and I have a certain arrangement," he says, perhaps misleadingly implying that money is exchanging hands, "But unfortunately she is not a devotee of any of our canons." He sips from his own tisane and offers Séverine a hand to help her rise gracefully. "Do you know the Lady Shahrizai, Séverine?" he asks, perhaps knowing full well that she does. "I saw her speak to you at our garden fete. Perhaps you can attest to the precision of her hand." He smiles.

Philomène's reaction has Séverine's eyebrows lift as she looks from the lady to Raphael. "Ah, yes. The gardens. They are delightful. I take it then, that you were not around for our fête of Roses in Bloom…?", the Red Rose asks, as she moves to stand with the assistance of the Thorn, even if she may not need it. Rising the grace of a Night Court trained flower. "A pity," this said in reply to his remark about the vicomtesse not being fond of their canons. As she stands now, Séverine holds her fingers laced loosely in front of her, when Raphael poses his question to her. "The Lady Shahrizai," she repeats, and one can almost hear the appreciative thrill and awe in the way she speaks the name of the most ancient of Kusheline families. "Of course, I am acquainted with her. But only fleetingly. Hence I cannot attest to the precision of her hand, Raphael. Even if I would expect it to be quite precise. Perhaps… the Lady Shahrizai has refrained to test me, so far, because I am quite well acquainted with her father."

"I generally avoid large gatherings if I can," Philomène admits candidly, her thumb absently running around the rim of her cup as she speaks. "I find that there's an inverse rule of intelligent conversation. The more people gather, the more inane the topics until they might as well be bleating about anything at all. And, if you'll forgive me saying so when I'm your guest here, the spectacle of bodies no matter how attractive strung up for display rather turns my stomach." Her free hand goes to her thigh, absently kneading the muscle through her worn breeches. "There's good reason you'll find me here in the early hours, and it's not because Raphael has suddenly developed a taste for breakfast at a sensible breakfasting hour."

Raphael's light touch acknowledges that Séverine does not truly need his hand. "Undoubtedly you are," he says to the Second. Few in the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, except perhaps the younger generation, can fail to be acquainted with Edouard in one fashion or another, though particularly a Red Rose of Séverine's appearance and skill must be expected to know and be known by the man very well indeed. "And of course she may have a favorite or two from our young days." He looks to Philomène, appearing unoffended by her judgment of their displays. It is, after all, not an unanticipated opinion. He drinks from his mug and greets Philomène's last remark with a smile. "Quite."

"I was one of those Roses," Séverine admits with a smile that shows more in the gleam of her eyes, less in the curving of her lips. "But of course, our canons are not for everyone, my lady. And I agree, if it is depth of conversation you enjoy, such can be found at more tranquil hours, as this one," she inclines her head, and her hand lifts to check of her honey-blonde hair with that tinge of red is still properly secured with the ribbon. To Raphael's guess about Emmanuelle, the Red Rose Second reacts with a low silvery chuckle. "The Lady Shahrizai is known for a quite distinct taste in picking her favorites." Is there a hint of disappointment and sarcasm lingering beneath that softspoken layer of courtesy? After all, her acquaintance with Emmanuelle is merely fleeting, as she stressed earlier.

Philomène takes a long draught from her cup, folding the weathered, slender fingers of both hands around it as a distraction from rubbing her leg. "I'm afraid I don't have anything to add about the damn woman, except that she's made more difference than any barber surgeon I've had poking their nose in before, and I could quite cheerfully throttle her some days. But then I'm not speaking from a professional point of view as you no doubt are, but a far more practical one." She snorts quietly. "She's taken a grindstone to my boot," she explains towards Raphael. "Apparently it was a quarter inch too tall or so and I ought to have been measuring every time I have the damn things resoled. I bet you didn't know she was a fucking cobbler in her spare time, did you?"

Raphael lets out an open-throated laugh. "I confess, I did not," he says to Philomène, although the news seems delightful to him. "I am afraid I missed a substantial portion of her life." He drinks from the mug. "I certainly hope you shall continue to improve in her care. And that if you throttle her it shall not prove deadly for either of you." Definitely a joke. His gaze cuts to Séverine, evaluating her tone and expression on the subject of Emmanuelle with some interest, though whatever information he gleans is set aside for later.

Séverine probably already revealed too much. Whatever glimpse it was, it disappears in the Night Court trained perfection of her façade. "The Lady Shahrizai has many talents," she offers in non-committal tone, "and if it helps to alleviate the discomfort of your leg, you are obviously in most capable hands." She inclines her head to the pair on the bench. "Vicomtesse, it has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance. But perhaps I should be ill advised to irritate Raphael by diverting your focus." Her head turns and she looks towards the door. "I fear I shall be needed soon in the salon, to oversee the preparations of the novices." After all, quiet hours will be followed by busy ones at some point.

"Madame Second," Philomène responds courteously, dipping her head and raising her cup. "I wish you… well, whatever is appropriate under the circumstances. A steady stream of custom and obedient novices, one might suppose." With that, she takes another sip from her tisane and glances back to Raphael. "I'm fairly certain I could take her in a fair fight, and she doesn't strike me as the type to skulk about with a dagger, waiting. Any more than I'd expect it of you. There are very few honest people in this bloody city, but I'd put you both on that short list, I think. I do want to know why she's fixated on me, though. Is there a real shortage of cripples here to twist and abuse? Is that your reason for letting me walk here, too?"

"Pity, I thought you wanted to court my punishment," Raphael replies to Séverine, teasing. "If you really must go to your duties then I suppose we shall have to make a longer game of it." Then he looks to Philomène. "I think it would be very expensive to have me wait in the shadows with a dagger," he agrees. Her final question raises an amused quirk of the lips. "You have asked me before and I have told you 'no,'" he reminds softly. "I have plenty who will pay me for the twisting, whether they are crippled or no. You, I simply enjoy talking to." The last sentence comes without any sense of irony whatever. Instead there is openness in his expression.

"Perhaps I am," Séverine quips back to Raphael with the sweetest of smiles. "And this game shall be as long as you see it fit to be." To Philomène, she adds, "Wish me some enlightening new acquaintances to make, perhaps an assignation that is worthy of my skills. Novices, at least mine own Red Roses, will do as I say." A curtsey she offers to the seated vicomtesse and the Thorn, "but for now, I will leave you to your conversation." Said as she already turns and heads towards the door to the salon.

"You enjoy talking to me? Well, I suppose if pain is your thing…" Philomène muses, draining her tisane then presenting the empty cup to Raphael and just expecting him to take it. "I've another half mile to get in today, though," she notes, already pushing herself upright. "And if I don't start now I'll have all the novices gawking and wondering exactly what you've done to me when they start waking up. Are you joining me today?”

Raphael watches Séverine go with an expression like the cat watching the mouse go down the hole. But now is not the time for pouncing. Instead he turns to Philomène and inclines his head as he takes her cup with a faint sign of amusement. "For a time. Geoffroi." He passes off the two mugs to the novice, who must once again interrupt his work to see things off to the kitchen.

"So," Philomène insists, brows drawn together as she takes a few tentative paces forward. Every time her weight is on her left leg, she breathes in through her nose with a soft hissing noise. "They pay you to dress as a priest now, too, hm?" Her movements are a little slower than they have been previously, and there's a look of concentration on her face combined with a subtle clenching of her jaw. "No doubt that helps you further your spiritual aims directly. Maybe I should dress as a priest and have an excuse for boring everyone to death with philosophy."

"I've been asked," Raphael replies, with a sense of humor even at Philomène's needling. "I don't think it is directly good for the soul, necessarily. But it is not blasphemy. It would be blasphemy if she asked the priest." Perhaps he notes her breathing, her clenched teeth, her slower pace, but none of it moves him to offer any help. He makes not even a feint in that direction. But he does stand ready to accompany her up the path. "It might work," he says. "What sort of philosophy do you want to bore them with?"

The very fact that he doesn't go to help her is perhaps one of the greatest attractions of walking here with Raphael for company. Not that Philomène would ever admit it, of course, but the fact that she returns often and hasn't yet tried to garotte Raphael with his own small intestine is a testament to something, and it's probably not just his looks and charm. "Oh, I'm not picky," the Chalasse insists, gaze fixed steadily on the path in front of her as she places one foot at a time. "I'm as happy to talk about the greater meaning of life itself as I am about the inherent flaws of mankind as a whole. As you're here I feel that flaws is probably the more pertinent discussion, of course." The tone is intentionally light, but it's a forced lightness through those gritted teeth as she pushes herself onwards. "How could it be blasphemy to ask a priest to wear priest's robes, though? Or are you suggesting it's blasphemy for a priest to roger their confessor?"

"Ah," Raphael says, folding his hands behind him for now. "What is the meaning of life, then? I think my parents must have forgotten to tell me before I was brought here." His eye wanders to inspect the work the novices have been doing, though they are just finishing up now and clearing away their tools and any soil or seedlings that haven't made it to their places yet. They have other duties to attend soon: kindling fires, taking up the linens, and a great deal of cleaning. Raphael looks back to Philomène. "I think the blasphemy would be in asking a Kusheline to hear her sins and give her a punishment she will enjoy. You are not supposed to enjoy your penance. That would rather make it the opposite, don't you think?"

"So in training your clients to enjoy pain, you're damning their eternal soul, you mean?" Philomène asks airily, not bothering to detour around the novice in front of her and instead simply demanding in a voice which brooks no argument, "Move."

Raphael laughs. "Not a bit of it," Raphael says. The novice scurries out of the way before he even thinks about it. Raphael does not stop. "I will apply a quite different treatment. She would still not enjoy a Kusheline punishment. And if her sins are truly genuine — which they probably are not — then she can still at any time go and make a heartfelt confession in the right place. But this is not really about atonement."

"I'd like to think that if I felt the urge to confess it might be with a man like you rather than a holy dicktrumpet of a priestly arsewipe," Philomène admits, nose wrinkling as her foot comes down at an odd angle on the uneven path. "I've yet to meet a single priest who wasn't a sanctimonious bunglecunt. Admit my sins to a shitweasel like that? Fuck off, I'd rather give up my eternal soul to damnation than suffer the kind of patronising judgement of a sodding priest." She glances sidelong towards him as she limps along. "Now's your time to tell me again how your spirituality is so important to you and I'm a bad person for daring to think evil of our wise and generous clergy, I think."

"Did anyone ever tell you you speak musically?" Raphael returns, but he nods at her judgment. "I don't think I have any standing to speak on Kusheline confessions," he says. "I do not make them, myself. My service has been to Naamah alone, whatever that may say for my soul. I have been blessed by Naamah, and I return my debts. I think a person who paid great and equal homage to each of the companions would have little time to do anything else."

Philomène snorts a laugh. "I don't think musical is usually the term, no." She lapses into silence for a few unlikely paces, scowling at the path in front of her for being there. "But your debts are paid directly," she surmises from his words when she finally speaks again. "And so the priests have little value to add there either, hm? One wonders why we need the lazy cuntpuffins at all."

Raphael looks Philomène's way. "You are worried about whether we need priests, whether we need courtesans… Which people would you retain, if you had your power to sort the useful from the useless?" The question doesn't sound sarcastic or critical. It is just the next step in the conversation.

Philomène considers this as she trudges on, muscle in her jaw tensing visibly with every step. Yep. Definitely walking a lot slower than she had been. "People with tangible output," she eventually decides, letting her blue-grey eyes glance over to his face for a moment. "Farmers. Craftsmen. Fishermen. Builders and architects. The miller who takes our grain and makes it flour, and the baker who turns that to bread. Perhaps there's a place for the intangible," she allows. "Art. Pleasure. They're of the same sort of stuff. But why should anyone who's never done a day's work in their life except to stand with fingers steepled and give a smug recitation of dogma decide they have the moral superiority over those that feed the nation?"

"I don't know," Raphael replies, smiling. "I suppose part of what they do are to keep our religious texts and our stories for us, to read them for those who cannot read, to explain them for those who cannot understand. To examine in detail what the rest of us catch mostly second-hand or in moments of contemplation squeezed amid our other tasks." He looks up to note the budding leaves coming forth on one of the trees. "I asked you once what you thought of the nobility in this context and as I recall you spoke of your military service. What about the nobles who have not fought?"

"Do they actively make the world a better place for their tenants?" Philomène counters, holding up a finger to emphasise her point. "That's the duty of a noble. To lead, inspire, protect and improve the lives of the people in our care, isn't it? So no, not every noble needs to fight, but without those that do we'd be lost. Not every noble needs to heal, or comfort, or pass judgement, or pass on the knowledge needed to keep the fields full and the mill wheels turning, but every noble should do some of that." She lowers her hand, letting it brush over the top of a shrub as they pass, which releases a fragrant scent into the late morning air. "The ones who can go jump off a cliff for all I care are the ones who do nothing to leave this world better than it was when they entered it. The squawking young lads who do nothing with their idleness but drink, whore and cause a mess for other people to clear up, by dint of being born fortunate enough to carry a family name or a title? They don't deserve any respect, and they cheapen the ideal of nobility itself."

"Might it not be the same among priests?" Raphael suggests quietly. "That there are those who have nothing but sanctimony and pomp, while there are others who help people to understand their places in life, who ease sorrow, who absolve guilt, who give charity, who heal, who witness life and death as helpfully as those nobles who provide aid, decide disputes, and the like?"

"Find me half a dozen and I'll concede your point," Philomène challenges, pausing as they reach her bench once again so she can rest a hand on it and take a moment or two to breathe. "I've yet to meet a single one."

"Heavens, you're going to send me priest-hunting, are you?" Raphael wonders, apparently taking this challenge seriously. He stops walking when Philomène does. "I don't know that I have the time to meet your challenge, but you have me curious enough to make inquiries."

Philomène arches a brow at him. "You think it's a valid use of your time? Well, when you're not busy fleecing useless young nobles out of their birthrights, then, with the promise of some sort of unspeakable torment they'll adore. There are worse hobbies you could have than searching for the rarest of all things, a useful priest."

"I don't fleece," Raphael replies, but calmly. "The price is as clear as on any work of art or craftsmanship. Probably clearer. I tell each when they first come to me that they cannot afford me. And if they are gifted through this birthright with money, but not with the sense of how it must be spent, then there are more harmful uses it could come to." He looks as if he might say more, but ultimately decides to stop there. "There must be a limited number of priests in Marsilikos. I would only have to turn over so many rocks."

"It's true it's the best place to find scuttling insects," Philomène confides, taking a deep breath before pushing herself off the comforting support of the wrought iron bench and back to her painful trudge around the garden path. "Fuck me, but it's too damn warm for this today," she grumbles vehemently, picking on the weather now for clearly singling her out for additional misery. She furrows her brow, hands going to the buttons of her jacket to unfasten a couple more. It's the least sexy striptease ever, particularly given the high collared, somewhat masculine shirt rather than any sort of feminine flesh that's revealed.

"I am warm-blooded, myself," Raphael agrees, though he doesn't seem as sweaty as Philomène is today. "I hope you have something in linen ready for the summer." He gives her no lascivious looks.

"I was hoping to be back in Gueret by the summer," Philomène admits through gritted teeth as she allows her jacket to flap open in the light breeze, revealing an even more stitched and repaired lining. Where the repairs on the outside have been cleverly disguised with neatly embroidered vines and flowers, the lining has suffered no such treatment and every hurriedly fixed tear or darn is clear to see. "But we shall see. It depends on the return on investments made. If I'd serve the house better by staying to broker more deals, then I'll still be here. Lucky, lucky you."

The lady is frugal. This is not surprising. If Raphael notices, he does not comment. "I have always been tremendously lucky," Raphael says. Is that gratitude, sarcasm, or a curse on Philomène?

"So it's in the nature of balance that you're out of luck now, then," Philomène rejoins amiably, her hand going up to run through her hair and keep it back from where it would otherwise plaster her forehead. "Here I am, the great equaliser."

"Thank heavens," Raphael says dryly. "You'll tell me if you do leave town?" he wonders. "I would miss your conversation, but I would also lie in a little longer in the mornings."

"I imagine you'll be woken by the raucous celebrations to begin with," Philomène counters with a sardonic half smile as she limps determinedly on. "The street parties. Poetry and songs about how the wicked old Agnacite was drummed out of town. The cakes and pastries made to celebrate the fresh, Philomène-free start for the whole city."

Raphael cannot help but laugh, tipping his head back and getting a look at the clear spring sky. "Well, a drummer creates no tangible good. It makes sense that you would want to flee him."

"I'm Philomène d'Aiglemort," the woman responds shortly, mostly through lack of breath rather than any real displeasure. "I've never fled from anything in my life, and I'm not about to start with a percussionist."

Raphael laughs again, greatly pleased by the wit of that rejoinder. "You win," he concedes. "Have you raised your children all to be as fiercely witty as you are?"

"I'd like to think I've raised them better than that," Philomène admits, tone becoming perhaps a little more serious. "If all they have to see them through is a sharp tongue, I've done them a great disservice." She falls into silence for a few struggling paces more, wincing more and more with every step of her left leg but too damn stubborn to stop and rest. "You'd like my youngest. She's got an answer for everything."

Raphael follows along, though he adjusts his pace to match her slowing. "I am sure they have many other qualities," he allows. "As you have."

"My many, many other qualities," Philomène agrees drily. "Such as being able to tell if it's likely to rain today, or do long division in my head, that sort of thing, presumably?"

"Those are useful," Raphael replies. "But you are also brave enough to consider a fight with the Lady Shahrizai," he says, as though that might be more fearsome than military battle. "That is something."

"I was brave enough to consider a fight with a seven foot Skaldian axeman, too," Philomène argues, eventually coming to a halt purely by dint of not being able to push her leg, by now screaming out with indignant pain at being abused so much in a single day, "and that was a fucking stupid idea, too." She takes a few steadying breaths, reaching to lean on a tree. "Fuck. Fuck!" Her face contorts, less with pain and more with impotent anger. "Fucking… fuck. Not even a fucking mile today and fucking look at me!" Her hand, up against the tree trunk balls into a fist and she tips her head back to look upwards. "The Lady Shahrizai can go fuck herself with a six foot cactus," she spits out, eyes squeezing closed for a moment.

Raphael shrugs at Philomène. "No one is blessed with all the gifts." He looks at her, since she is asking, though he still shows no particular intent to intervene. But he does give vent to curiosity: "What is it that the two of you are doing that makes it hurt more now than before?"

Philomène thumps the tree with the side of her fist, shaking her head once before she draws herself fully upright again, with only a single light shiver. "No booze, no poppy," she explains succinctly. "And weekly torture sessions to twist things back where they ought to be. Fuck," she exhales again, although the vehemence is almost all gone from the word. "Raphael… can you arrange a carriage? And not a fucking word to anyone."

That makes a lot of sense. Raphael lifts his chin a bit as things become clearer. At the question, he simply nods. "Stay here." The novices have gone inside by now, so he steps in to collar one and send her running for a carriage. Then he returns. "It is between us," he says.

"I'm in your debt," Philomène grates out, that statement seeming to pain her even more than her leg. "Give me your damn shoulder." Because apparently being in his debt doesn't mean she's going to start being polite, or thoughtful, or less demanding. But it does mean that she's going to allow herself to accept his help, and perhaps that in itself is the great miracle. "I'll get myself home before the whole world's up to gawp."

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