(1311-04-28) The Shaming of Poetkind
Summary: A triumphant poet seeks to lay garlands upon the doorstep of his Muse. (Warning: Rascally drunkenness; poetic irony; nature calls.)
RL Date: 28/04/2019
Related: Follows upon Day of Eisheth: Performance Contest and Down Amongst the Bottles.
emmanuelle jehan-pascal 

La Maison Sanglante — Place des Mains

Directly abutting the walled compounds of Marsilikos's Night Court, and running in fact for some distance behind the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, is a house which boasts a far more modest frontage upon the Place des Mains d'Eisheth. Its name derives from a violent incident in its past; previous owners tried to redub it in the public mind, but the present ones embrace the term. By their design its three-storey façade of grey stone is shielded at street level by a high and forbidding wall of darker stone, into which is set a pair of intricately-wrought iron gates taller than any man who may ring the bell at their side. Kept locked, their curlicues of black iron are enlivened by a pattern of gilded keys.

Between the outer wall and the house stands a small stone courtyard lined at either side with wormwood trees, which impart a bitter and aromatic fragrance to the air within it. From it half a dozen stone steps rise to heavy doors of dark and ancient oak, studded with black iron and hung upon baroque hinges of the same; these open into a large, square, windowless chamber, occupying the full width of the building and yet higher than it is wide. At each side of the doors is a console table of dark purple marble veined with black, bolted to the wall above a pair of elaborate gilded legs and beneath a matching and equally baroque gilded mirror. There are no other furnishings. Sparse lighting is provided by candles in iron sconces bolted to pillars of the same purple marble, which pass into shadow on their way to support the vaulted ceiling overhead.

The light is, however, sufficient to permit examination of the frescoes which cover walls and ceiling alike from a height of perhaps four feet off the gleaming black and purple marble floor. An artist of great skill and anatomical knowledge has limned a series of scenes of Kushiel chastising sinners. Those who come to him for succour are shown enduring remarkably detailed torments before being transfigured by the raptures of his love… or, possibly, hers. In some panels Kushiel is a man and in some a woman, in others an unmistakable hermaphrodite: in all these incarnations the Punisher is depicted with the lean figure, the austere profile, and the hooded blue eyes of a lady who resides beneath this roof.

On the back wall this unconventional masterpiece is interrupted by the outlines of two single doors, and the elaborate black iron handles attached to each. The door on the left leads to an intimate receiving-room wherein a pair of studded black leather sofas frame a low, well-polished mahogany table. In here the walls are covered in frescoes of the Kusheline countryside, from the same brush.

The pre-dawn grey is already warming to hues of apricot and scarlet in the east — and soon it will be dawn, and day again.

Jehan-Pascal is one of those few nobles more commonly accustomed to seeing the dawn after waking up rather than before going to bed, and this is hardly the only oddity about the event. Jehan-Pascal, you see, is quite drunk. Which is different from saying that he has had a lot to drink — that is a rather quotidian occurrence, after all — he is drunk and reeling from it, having drunk past his own prodigious capacity for drink and come garlanded in congratulatory flowers swaying down the Place des Mains in the most common of tunics and trousers, no hint now of gold or of purple except in the pre-dawn sky.

"Alba nequ' Assyrio— fucatur lana veneno…" he's crooning over and over again, hands fumbling to pull the garlands from around himself, one of which has gotten under his arm somehow, and he turns in baffled circles until they come loose from him, one whole, the other torn, and he drops to his knees to lay his garlands of victory upon the doorstep of his Muse, setting them in place with a blind patting of his hands.

… Well, it's the front gate of his Muse. A good try for a poet who's put in a solid twelve hours of Dionysiac revels even after being cheered by half the nobility in Marsilikos.

Alas, a gate guard in a tabard blazoned with fish heaves immediately into view to warn the ill-clothed litterbug through the bars: "You can't leave those there. Move along, now, or I'll move you myself."

His companion on this shift, not so much a brighter lad as one who's just been pulling Shahrizai duty for longer, and who knows more of the ins and the outs (if not the shake-it-all-abouts) of this curious house under Mereliot protection, plucks at his sleeve. "Steady on, Luc. It's his lordship."

Jehan-Pascal swings an arm up protectively overhead at the approach of the guard, inhibitions down and so, too, those gates that stop him from reacting thus to everyday occurrences such as being told to move along. He squints up past his elbow when the other guard calls the first one off, and, "It is— it is his, uh, lordship," he gestures to himself with his other hand before setting it on the ground, half-crushing a poor little mum amidst the garlands as he tries to use that appendage as a leverage point from which one of his knelt legs can scoot its booted foot to the ground.

Then, feeling dizzy of that attempt, he reverses posture, putting that knee down as well as his other hand to try t lift his other foot, instead. Getting down was easier than getting up.

The two guards share a speaking glance with one another in the soft pre-dawn light. This, now, this is a duty intimately familiar to the retainers of any ancient and storied noble house whose family tree is well-equipped with young sprigs.

They unlock the gate. They pick him up, one at either side, remembering to lift from their knees. His lissom figure is no great burden for one man to hold upright whilst the other hastily bundles the garlands in out of sight — can't leave rubbish lying round to spoil the elegance of the façade, can we, lordlings or their flowers — and locks up behind.

"If you'll just come this way, your lordship…" is the gist of their conversation, a pretense at offering him a choice in the matter even as they manhandle him in slow motion not up the front steps into the Kushiel chamber, but down the narrower but deeper flight which terminates in the entrance to their own little guardhouse. Inference, they're not allowed to go in the front door without permission. At least that's one reason why the heir to House Baphinol is accommodated for a time in this clean and homely chamber with its teakettle singing on the hearth, whilst an emissary is dispatched into deeper recesses of the Maison Sanglante to seek further instructions.

"Oh, bless the both of you," Jehan-Pascal sighs in relief as they take over the work of coordinating his resurrection. He helps, of course — he's never liked to be unhelpful, but they are — just the thing he needed, "Luc, was it? And your name, good fellow, I pray," he burbles along conversationally enough, though heavens only know whether any of it is more than the spontaneous firings of his polite conversation synapses. "Yes, yes, presently, this way," he agrees easily enough, following along with his had lolling precipitously backward before snapping upright again and dipping instead to a shoulder. "Do you want to hear a poem?" he asks, and will regale them, oh, yes he will, with the same lines repeated over and over again before he moves on to the next. Certainly not his best presentation.

They hear a poem, oh, yes they do, for which they are not paid half enough; eventually Baltasar Shahrizai appears in the doorway of the guards' chamber, wearing a dark shirt tucked into loose black leather breeches and shadowed by a manservant whose garb speaks similarly of casualness and haste. "We'll take him," he pronounces, addressing the guards rather than their amiable guest. One glance at the expression upon those chiseled and sardonic Kusheline features of his would discipline most poets to silence. Not this one, we bet. Jehan-Pascal is taken again into charge, to the relief of his recent hosts, and hauled off through parts of the house he's never seen before and would probably find quite interesting if he were in a state to retain any clear idea of them whatsoever.

"BALTASAR! HI!" Jehan-Pascal is just— so glad that Baltasar is here. It distracts him from his poeticisms, at least, which is a favor to everyone about the place, as he's transferred into Baltasar's care. Instead, on the way to wheresoever they might be headed, he starts missing his garlands, which, he explains, somewhat haltingly and with an interruption of a case of hiccups, he left on the threshold for the Muse, that she should see them and know they are a sign of her victory. He will go on ahead at some length on the history of the Hellene custom of leaving garlands on the Lady's doorstep, and possibly come back around to explaining it all over again, depending on how long the journey lasts.

Their wobbly six-legged perambulation through the Muse's palatial halls lasts long enough, certainly, for Baltasar to receive a thorough grounding in the subject: he grits his magnificent jaw and endures this, too, in her service.

At length they pop out into a corridor Jehan-Pascal knows well, at least when it's better lit; and then they begin to ascend the cool and venerable stone stairway which climbs past the chamber in which the Muse arrays herself for her combats in the lists of love, and up toward the Princess Aumande's own snug quarters. Surely the occasion for further oration — or perhaps just a lament for garlands lost, upon the threshold of another prime location for their disposal.

Jehan-Pascal begins, indeed, to be conflicted in his lessons presented thus to Baltasar— now by one place he sort of recognizes, now by another place which he does, decidedly, so. So much so that he even makes an effort to escape Baltasar's guiding hands, a swift pitch to the side to hurl himself at the dressing-room door, perhaps with sufficient spontaneity that he may make his escape unimpeded for long enough for him to howl his Tiberian refrain — MUSA MIHI CAUSAS MEMORA— MUSA — while fainting at the dressing-room door. At least one wilted, trampled flower he might leave there for her.

Their charge's sudden segue from biddability into waywardness does take the men by surprise; the other, lacking Baltasar's control, hisses, "Shit," as he lunges after the peripatetic poet, too late to arrest his collapse.

They've almost got him up again (despite his best efforts) when the Muse comes out of her chamber to shame poetkind. At least— the door opposite that of the dressing-room opens silently, behind them, to the width of a foot or so.

Emmanuelle's habit alone with her delicate lover is to bill and coo and purr in a manner most of her acquaintance would find hard to credit. Jehan-Pascal has never before heard in her voice the quality of frigid and steely disapproval that she — standing in shadow well inside her chamber still, no more than a white hand upon the door and a suggestion of Shahrizai pallor above the blackness of her dressing-gown — imparts to the softly-uttered phrase: "What is that noise?"

And Jehan-Pascal cannot even take refuge upon the threshold, having been once more raised aloft, his shoulders back, chest forward, held all vulnerable and in direct path of the wrath of Emmanuelle. For all that Baltasar's cool tongue could not dampen Jehan-Pascal's sodden spirits, Emmanuelle's disapproval comes over him like so much icy water, and his features fall from joy to despair. Still, she asked a question, and he answers, the only answer that bubbles up through the various wanderings of his mind. "It is… his… his lordship," he remembers his earlier introduction.

Several seconds pass, during which the men in Emmanuelle's direct employ are sensible enough to keep their mouths shut and stay out of it.

"… I see," she pronounces. Then, addressing Baltasar in tones of cold command: "You will escort his lordship to his chamber, and pour as much water into him as you can." Somehow it sounds more like a torture than a mercy. "I will see him," she declares, still very softly, "in the morning."

And her door shuts.

Jehan-Pascal manages elsewise to stay of gracious countenance while Emman stands at the door. After she has gone, however, he remits himself back into the care of the arms that hold him, knees slumping and making their labor momentarily the more laborious ad he tips his head to the side. "She is so mad," he whispers, as though it's a secret. Despondent, he continues the ascent of the stairs.

In Aumande's chamber the candles are lit, the fire is burning, and plentiful provision has already been made for the water-torture decreed by Emmanuelle for her bibulous and besotted princess. How? When Baltasar went one way, he sent a maid in the other. The sheets are regularly refreshed in any case. The newly cowed poet is soon undressed and sponged down; before he passes out he's liberally watered and tucked naked into bed to await the morrow and its reckoning.

He's allowed his eight hours and a ninth for grace, before Emmanuelle in black silk robes and immaculate maquillage settles down upon the edge of his alcove bed and wakes him with a hand lifting his head. "Drink this," she orders aridly, and touches the lip of a capacious earthenware mug to his parched mouth.

Jehan-Pascal takes each and every of the allowed hours; it's fortunate for him that the alcohol lulls him to a quick sleep almost the very moment that anyone stops poking him to take water or be washed anywhere. In fact, he may well fall asleep between applications of water, as well. The sleep is dark and free of dreams or thoughts, a blessing enough in the present situation.

His head is limp and easy for her to move, and he wakes up to the new application of liquids somewhat blearily, but without resistance or hesitation— at least until the liquid actually touches his tongue and teaches him that it is not in any way related to the clear taste of water. His shoulders shrug upward, his chin draws back, his whole face screws up at the flavor and he sputters over it.

"Drink," Emmanuelle reiterates, in that very tone of command in which he heard her address Baltasar in the wee small hours: it hardly seems possible to disobey, despite the vile, possibly even murderous, nature of the herbs which contributed their roots or their leaves to the draught. At least brewed into a tea it's drinkably warm. It will go some way towards soothing his head as well as his sour stomach, if he gets enough of it down his gullet, which is so much shyer this afternoon than it was this morning. And last night. And yesterday afternoon. Nonetheless, after he's struggled through a few mouthfuls and dribbled some of it upon her very hand, his ruthless chirurgeon lowers the mug and replaces it with a cup of cool water. A little of that, to refresh: and then the tea again.

Jehan-Pascal, in fact, doesn't have much in the way of a headache — or an upset stomach. He does rather energetically need to make water, and he is a little muffled about the wits, but those are his only two complaints. It is, perhaps, that his constant state of mild to moderate intoxication has inoculated him against the hazards of hangovers— at the price of having something really quite terrible waiting for him if he ever does dry out, as Emman only began to see on their little journey together. Still, he becomes accustomed to the flavor, in time, and does not complain of it out loud, however much his bodily reactions speak loudly enough his distaste for the medicinal, only sighs through flared nostrils his appreciation for the breaks of clear water when it comes for him. Of course, it only comes about that his urge to urinate is becoming more urgent. "Madame," he whispers, over what he can only hope is the last of that medicinal.

<FS3> Emmanuelle rolls Empathy: Great Success. (2 8 8 2 4 2 6 5 2 6 8 2 6 3 7)

Well, then, he'll still be all the better for submitting to the will of his chirurgeon: imagine a day and a night like that and, only minutes after waking, no headache and no sourness of the innards—! He'll be fine any minute… and finer still for the reprieve which comes upon him when, after he's been a good girl long enough, Emmanuelle lifts the mug to her own lips and swallows the bitterest dregs herself. She's not feeling quite the thing either, after her interrupted night's sleep and how long it took her to nod off again.

The budding anguish in his voice raises her dark brows: he's not obliged to drain the mug, so what's his problem now? … Ah, yes. She sets down the empty mug and angles her foot under the bed to hook out the shyest article of bedroom crockery, and then rises to make way for him to get up as well. "Go on," she advises drily.

She turns her back to him but remains present, her feet in black velvet slippers carrying her to the armoire in quest of something or another within.

Jehan-Pascal does not need to be advised more damply than that; the dryness, indeed, is much the preferred mode, given the givens. He slides from the bed once he has room so to do, and then takes up the bedpan and faces the wall. The vigor of his stream is an auditory testament to his morning need to deliver himself both of the wine and of the morning watering he had obtained before falling asleep. The vigor, yes, and the duration, too, accompanied by a deep, guttural grunt of relief just past halfway through. Once finished, he merely holds his course, and, in a moment, begins over again, for a shorter amount of time, this time, before he gives his person a shake and sets the used bedpan in its usual spot for clearing. "Ahh, that's better, thank you," he breathes out the words, sounding— better, yes, and also dutifully grateful for her allowing him his basic bodily functions.

Whatever Emmanuelle seeks in the armoire seems to be ready to hand — she shuts the drawer with a crisp thunk and stands with her back to Jehan-Pascal and her hands upon her narrow hips until he has quite finished delivering himself of the evidence of his excesses. Then she turns back to face him and regards his innocent matutinal nudity with a scrutiny which implies personal possession. "You look well," she drawls at last, "considering."

Jehan-Pascal does look well, doesn't he? That potion he took has cleared off the waking fuzz and filled his eyes with their usual bright gleam. "I feel well, thank you! What was that which I took? It was the very thing— you always know the very thing," he concedes with an over-fond tilt of his head and the sort of amorous eyebeams she might well shy away from lest they lead the way to more proposals. "I don't quite remember having got here last night, but it looks as though I made it safe and sound, at any rate." Which, given the number of murders in the streets these days, is perhaps a miracle in and of itself.

"Get back into bed," instructs Emmanuelle, more gently than before, perhaps owing to the subtle and insidious effects of the eyebeams: she lifts a hand to point where he ought to go, and then follows to her usual perch next to him.

"My love," she begins, the words tender but the tone formal. "I am glad that in the state you were in last night you found your way safely to my house. I would prefer to have you here, than in any place where you might be ill-received, or alone. But I have given orders that if this should happen again you are to be accommodated in one of the guest suites. You understand, the chief reason why I sleep alone is my natural and ineradicable impulse to murder anyone who wakes me up."

Jehan-Pascal almost bounds back into bed; it's comfortable, and, of all the things he doesn't remember about yesterday, there is one thing that he certainly does remember. Declaiming to Emman in the balcony beside the Duchesse, feeling his whole heart in his words and leaving it all there before the people of Marsilikos— and being praised so highly for it. He snuggles in back below the blankets and leaves his arm in the upper air to offer her his hand when she comes to sit by him. "Oh— did I wake you?" he asks, a rhetorical question, since it appears that he did do so, in fact. "I'm sorry," he offers up in the full, wholesome richness of his spirit. "Tell me how I can make it up to you?"

Only by an effort of her cultivated and indomitable will, joined to the natural gifts of her ancient Shahrizai line, does Emmanuelle remain stern of face and cool of tone as she sits down again and twines her fingers securely through her lover's own. "I can think of an infinitude of ways," she drawls, and quirks her eyebrows, "not all of which you'd find agreeable, my love. But perhaps," and she turns his hand and lifts it to graze her teeth across his knuckles in a kiss replete with the stricter kind of sensual promise, "we might settle on one or two."

She glances about the chamber. Of course his clothes were taken away to be attended to by her laundresses— Her eyes return to his. "I see you're not wearing your pendant," she murmurs, half-statement and half-question. "A shame."

Jehan-Pascal could lie here forever if only Emman would never let go of his hand. The kiss, even tooth-ridged as it is, stirs his breath and makes him sigh in fondness — the subsequent mingling of threats and promises makes his eyes go all shy-boy and sweet on her, and he squeezes her hand adoringly in the moment.

Pendant, though— he lifts his other hand beneath his blankets to his stomach to feel for the amethyst pendant he habitually wears, only, in a moment of panic, to find it absent. His eyes widen until he recalls taking it off and storing it at home since the silver chain didn't match the theme of his yesterday's costume, and would be visible beneath it, to boot. And then when he had run home to change for his evening out buying drinks for the other competitors (and anyone else who wished him well), he had neglected to put it back on. All of this he explains to Madame, including the last part, rather contritely, but with the note that he's glad it hadn't had a chance to get lost or mislaid in the fuzzier portions of his revelries.

Emmanuelle receives these justifications with an apparently impartial eye; then, though, she amuses herself. "… Yes," she drawls; "it might have set off your cloak stained with Assyrian dye, but not your inlay of gold, mmm?" And her lacquered fingernails dig just a little into her lover's soft palm.

"Aah-hoowww," Jehan-Pascal half-complains, half-laughs, legs wriggling under the blankets when she digs in her fingernails, hardly a serious protestation, but, then, neither is it a serious gouging. The rebuke, however, that calls back the sardonic smile he'd shared with his gilt hem on stage. "Yea, that— was… I hadn't planned that, of course. I was put on the spot and that passage came to mind. I can only hope the irony accentuated the performance rather than detracting from it. As though a man… covered in gold and purple… were weary of it all…"

And Emmanuelle releases his hand and produces from the sleeve of her robes one of Aumande's own tremendously pretty white silk stockings. "If only," she drawls, holding it up and awaiting the offering of his likewise white, likewise pretty wrists, "there were some remedy for such a man's malaise…?"

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