(1311-04-27) Cultivation
Summary: Newly conscious of a debt, Philomène proposes to settle it.
RL Date: Sat Apr 27, 1311
Related: Takes place the day after It Isn’t Time For Breakfast Either, makes reference also to Odd Hobbies.
philomene raphael 

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.

Where Philomène's usual time to show up, when she does, is early in the morning before anyone is really awake, today she's picked early evening to appear at the night court. And far from her more recent appearances where she's been looking… well, the polite word might be bedraggled… today she's absolutely assured and in as fine a form as she's ever really seen. The minimal makeup is expertly applied, emphasising that magnificent bone structure, her tall, specially designed boots are polished to a shine, and she's even foregone her favourite jacket in favour of a well tailored and heavily embroidered ivory waistcoat and green velvet court frock coat combination that sets off her figure to excellent effect. Yes, this is the Vicomtesse de Gueret putting on her most striking appearance, for the benefit of who knows. Certainly it's enough to gain a number of glances and longer looks from the assorted roses and thorns filling the salon this evening with their various patrons. Even those who have seen her around in the mornings for her regular tramp around the gardens might need to double take when she moves and that undisguisable limp gives away her identity more surely than anything else.

The activity at the salon reaches its height later at night, but a fair number of people are already gathered. Patrons tend to congregate in groups, which the arrangement of furniture in the salon encourages. Here they gather around a Red Rose with her hands bound before her, there around a dark-haired Thorn with her boot on the fingers of a nobleman who must already have been kowtowing to her. Raphael is coming in through the garden doors, dark shirt worn open at the neck and chest, carrying in his hand a flogger which a specialist might identify as a reduced cat, a short whip divided in five tails rather than the more fierce nine applied to sailors for infractions at sea. As there is a light sheen of sweat on him, a novice passes him a towel as he comes in, and this he uses, wiping his face and chest and passing it back. It is when he looks up that he notices the Vicomtesse, a sight which pushes his eyebrows high on his forehead a moment before his expression settles back into hard self-assurance. He stands still while a few patrons stream in from the garden, chatting amongst themselves, perhaps about whatever festivities they have just witnessed, perhaps about the next pleasure to be sought.

There's something about the way Philomène has found herself a spot against the wall, in theory to keep out of the way of the business of the house, but with one leg slightly bent to keep the weight off her injury and thus with her heel against the wall, her arms folded over her chest quite confidently, and the way she always tends to hold herself, there have been a number of the Red Roses who have offered subservient hospitality but been casually dismissed. When Raphael appears, however, she sets her foot down flat, touches her chin with one hand and cracks her neck, and pushes herself off the wall. "Just the man," she announces without preamble. "Am I interrupting your paying guests or can you spare a few minutes?"

"There is plenty in our salon to keep them occupied," Raphael replies promptly, tone casual while his eyes are sharp, trying to read why Philomène should show up at this time, in her finest. "Do you want to speak in private, or do you wish to stay here in the parlor?" The nobleman kneeling to the much younger Thorn lets out a cry as she walks right over his hand and past him. He goes crawling after.

Philomène's attention is briefly drawn by that cry, but it's a look of irritable disdain rather than one of interest. She shakes her head, turning her attention back to Raphael and giving a little smirk. "In private, I think. But you won't be needing that," she adds, with a nod towards the cat in his hand. “Purely business, if your elders and betters are available?" Sure, she might be on her best behaviour, but she can't resist at least a little dig at him.

The needling draws a quiet laugh from Raphael rather than anger. Which draws a glance or two. Why is this noblewoman, the Vicomtesse de Gueret, who has never appeared like this in her best in the evening, suddenly approaching Raphael and making him laugh? It may be a matter of curiosity for a few of the regulars. "They are not," he says. "They are signing contracts. The afternoon would be a better time to catch them, I should think. But since you are already here." His tone suggests that he suspects Philomène does not intend to spend her evening speaking to the Second of Thorns, anyway. He gestures to the hallway. "My chamber, then?" He glances at the cat. "I shall bring this with me, but only to put it away, you understand."

"That ought to be enough to have the gossips chattering, anyway," Philomène agrees drily, offering the man an amused half smile as she steps off. The limp is still apparent, but there's a chance, a small one, that she's beginning to move with a little more fluidity. "Perhaps you'll be good enough to pass on what I have to say, then, Raphael. And," she adds, smile widening, "you were quite right about the pies. The lamb one was absolutely spectacular." Courtesans and patrons both seem to flow away from her path as she walks, as though between the pair of them Raphael and the Vicomtesse emit some sort of mystical forcefield. Or perhaps they just want to gape from a distance and decide for themselves exactly what this odd turn of affairs is about.

"Naturally," Raphael agrees, walking alongside her down the hall.

The Thorns are kept at a certain distance from the Red Roses and especially the White Roses who reside upstairs, perhaps for practical reasons when it comes to the novices. It seems that he keeps his door locked: an iron key is extracted from a pocket so that he may push open the door and allow Philomène inside.

Raphael's Chambers — La Rose Sauvage

The chamber of a Thorn requires several things. One is ample space, the other is a sturdy bedframe. This room is provided with both. Upon entering, one is first greeted with a mingled scent of leather, the hint of uisghe, and shavings of cedar wood. The furniture, as elsewhere in the salon, is dark wood, including a chest of drawers against one wall, and two cane-seated walnut chairs that are turned somewhat more delicately than the rest of the furniture. The bed, in particular, is imposing: a four-poster where the posts are uncommonly sturdy, and clad in places with collars of iron to which are fixed black iron rings. A slatted headboard has also been affixed between the two head posts, no doubt to provide a great many possibilities. There are slats and rings, too, at the foot of the frame, and along the sides of the frame if one looks closely. The sheets of dark silk promise a soft surface underneath to contrast with all that is hard in the room.

Mounted to one wall is a rack on which many tools of the trade, some dark and some gleaming, are displayed and ready for use. Longer items, such as canes, crops, quirts, and cat-o-nine-tails, are ordered by size along the outsides. A row of gleaming knives takes center stage in the top row, and also present are sets of clamps, coiled whips and wound-up ropes, and other tools more wicked and obscure in appearance. Under this display is a narrow set of drawers which undoubtedly hosts other small implements of use in the canon of the thorny rose.

The room is otherwise relatively spartan: no visible décor beyond the carving of the wooden furniture. Sometimes a round rug woven in the motif of a scarlet rose ringed geometrically with big, green thorns is present, sometimes it is removed to leave only the hard, bare floor beneath.

Only once she's safely ensconced in private does the mask slip a little, Philomène's entire demeanour softening and the lines of weariness allowed to show once more on her face. She doesn't ask but limps over to one of the cane seated chairs and eases herself down into it with a hand on each arm, exhaling steadily with the effort required. Once settled, she absently loosens the cravat at her neck and leans her head back for a moment, eyes closing, before leaning forward, elbows on her knees and gaze keenly on the Thorn. "I do genuinely hope I'm not keeping you from your patrons, Raphael," she tells him frankly. "I won't be a moment if I can help it. How long have I been coming here of a morning now?" comes the question, slender brow raising. "A few weeks? And, as was pointedly intimated to me yesterday, I've offered absolutely nothing in return for that courtesy."

Raphael hangs up the cat where it obviously belongs on his wall with other implements. Then he comes and picks up a chair of his own and puts it where he wants it, in comfortable conversational distance from Philomène's. He sits. "No, indeed," he says. "In fact an absence for a time is quite strategic. Especially as it allows me a moment to sit down." He smiles, but he is also now looking at Philomène with open curiosity. "A few weeks, possibly more," he says. "Since a little before the weather changed. Why, are you proposing to make a change?"

Philomène gives a little irritable shake of her head, blue-grey eyes narrowing a little as she considers him. "Not necessarily a change in my habits — you were quite right, and it's a marvellous place to stretch my legs in the morning when it's quiet — but a change in our arrangement. I do not," she states shortly, "like to be considered in debt to anyone, or any place. It was suggested to me that I ought to just become a patron of your house here and demonstrate my gratitude that way, but…" Velvet clad shoulders shrug amiably. "Without meaning any great slur to you, I've no interest in a whipping, modesty strikes me as a complete waste of anyone's time, and as for the subservience of your Red Roses, I find their lack of self-respect offensive and more than a little distasteful." She pauses, offering a half smile. "If you'll excuse my honesty in the matter, of course. Feel free to tell me if I've overstepped my mark. This is your house, after all."

Raphael interlaces his fingers and rests his hands across his stomach, watching Philomène. He smiles a harder smile than usual. "I would disagree that Red Roses necessarily lack self-respect," he says. "But at any rate you are permitted to have your own tastes and that does not offend me. It would not be right to engage any services that do not please you. That is not, I think, in the spirit of Naamah. But in that case, what are you saying? You wish me to release you from a sense of debt?" His gaze drifts to the door. "Forgive me, I haven't offered you anything. Tea? Tisane? I can send for it."

Philomène dismisses that offer with an offhanded flick of her hand, shaking her head. "No, no, thank you. I think accepting yet more hospitality without establishing appropriate compensation would rather negate the whole point of my being here this evening." She straightens the collar of her frock coat, leaning back again in her seat. "My question to you, to your house, is what I can offer you as thanks for the use of your gardens. What would be an acceptable payment of that debt? The Night Court is not a charity. You've books to balance as much as any other business."

"That is true," Raphael allows, nodding his head once, rather than launch into assurances of Philomène's welcome. "As you say, it is ultimately a decision for my 'betters,' as you put it," he says with a smile. "But I shall raise it with them for you. I think it would be fitting if you might feel moved to make some contribution toward improvement or upkeep of the gardens. I shall ask Jacques what might be needed there. Then you could have the pleasure of walking in a space you have bettered, and the confidence of having every right to be there."

Philomène presses her lips together for a long moment, searching his face for something. Either she finds it or she doesn't, but when she next speaks it's both apologetic and quieter, as though imparting a confidential secret. And perhaps that's exactly what she does. "The Gueret lands are farmlands," she adds hesitantly, fingertips drumming on the arms of her chair without thinking. "Our income is… sporadic. Seasonal. I was hoping perhaps we might come to an arrangement that doesn't require the conversion of assets into currency, as it were." It's stated with as much dignity as she can muster, and the strain on her face in having to mention it is visible even through the carefully applied makeup. What remains unspoken is that there are other debtors who would take a cut long before the salon even got a sniff if the house of Gueret were to be in possession of actual coin. "I have some skill in the cultivation of plants, admittedly mostly grains, but perhaps I could offer that..?"

"Ah," Raphael says, nodding immediately at this suggestion, moving forward immediately to avoid prolonging a painful topic. "Perhaps, then, you cultivate some fine plant in your lands. A fruiting tree that would put forth blossoms in the spring? A fragrant shrub?" he suggests. "Something you might help us source a seedling for, and cultivate. Improvements can certainly be made without coin, which would endanger neither your family nor your people. Might they not?"

"Would certain medicinal herbs be of use to you, perhaps?" Philomène counters, fingers lacing together to subconsciously mirror Raphael. "I imagine you might have need for the sort of thing to ease the sting of light wounds caused by… whatever." There's a glance to the wall of equipment before she returns her attention to the man with a wry lift of one eyebrow. "I could certainly arrange a cutting or two and see them tended."

"I think that is possible," Raphael allows, watching Philomène move. "Provided they need no particular expertise to use. Most of us are not trained in Balm, so we must be careful not to apply any herbs for which dose could be a matter of danger."

"It's more usual to dry the leaves, set them on fire and inhale the smoke," Philomène informs him, half smiling. "Which is usually quite safe, unless one were to set oneself on fire. Certainly it doesn't require any great talent to administer. So it should be perfect for you." That last she adds with a little more spark in her expression and a definite hint of humour in her eye.

"Oh, very good," Raphael replies, a genuine smile spreading now. "You are too kind to take my lack of expertise into account. I shall let Jacques know that you are thinking of making us this generous gift. I doubt he will say no."

Philomène gives a firm nod at this, finally looking to relax for a good few seconds at least, shoulders lowering a half inch or so and the lines that had been marring her brow easing away to next to nothing. Until, of course, she goes to rise, but even then the expression on her face isn't worry so much as the far more usual schooled neutrality that she's perfected over the last twenty five years to disguise the discomfort of straining seriously damaged muscle. Once on her feet, she straightens her cravat once again then gestures with one sweeping hand down her front. "Well, will I do? Or should I ought to scream a little, add a scratch here and there, muss my hair and smack my cheeks so you can maintain your reputation with your fellows downstairs?" she suggests drily.

"We probably ought not to tell the novices about it," Raphael judges on the subject of this herb. But doubtless they would hear of it anyway. Secrets are hard to keep in a salon. Raphael stands up and nods at Philomène. "It's been a pleasure to see you in this form," he says. "I noticed some Red Roses looked upon you longingly." He moves past her to the door. "I think my reputation is sufficient, lately, that I can see a noblewoman in my chamber for reasons that are not anyone's business at all." He opens the door and smiles again. "Good of you to have come," he says. "I do appreciate the contribution. I would not have asked for anything from you, so the voluntary offer is doubly appreciated."

Philomène laughs quietly, briefly touching his arm and giving a quite serious nod of thanks before drawing herself up to her full height and making her way out, the limp once again just that little bit less pronounced as soon as she steps outside of the door and into the public eye. It's a striking change, for those who've come to know her, but then she's a rather striking woman. No doubt the various murmurs under the breath of novices confirm the man's words, but the Chalasse doesn't stop to indulge them or give more than a passing glance to the displays, different ones now but still indicative of the pleasures of this particular house, as she stalks her way out.

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