(1311-05-13) The Charms of Springtime
Summary: A romance-minded White Rose novice comes across a romantic heroine of yore: where else but in a spring garden?
RL Date: 13/05/2019
Related: None.
oriane nicolette 

Jardins d’Eisheth — Marsilikos

Tranquility and beauty of nature is what those coming to the gardens of Eisheth usually seek. There is a playfulness in the arrangement of paths through the greenery, and the way four of them wind to the center, where there is a pond surrounded by a few elm trees, beside an area with wooden benches and tables beneath an arbor, where ivy winds about wooden posts, and a roof of colorfully glazed tiles offers shelter from the sun but also moderate rain.

Bushes are trimmed, and the green is kept short, so that people coming here can enjoy the dramatic view over the coast all the way to the sea, with the harbor and the citadel slightly to the north. Slightly towards the south and close by is the infirmary with the herb garden beside, where a variety of plants used for healing and treating certain illness are grown under the immaculate care of the healers. Towards the east, a path leads towards the temple district, where the dominant structure of the Temple of Eisheth looms, the white marble shimmering almost otherworldly on late afternoons, when it catches the warm, orange light of the setting sun.

Although the striking vantage over the coast and harbor imbues the gardens with a sense of exposure, they're off the beaten path enough that only the most intentional miscreant might trample the infirmary's herbs underfoot. This makes it the perfect place for a young Alyssum novice on her rare days out: Secluded from the prying eyes, yet not so removed from public that the isolation itself becomes a danger.

Nicolette, for her part, sits on a wooden bench in the arbor, swathed from head to toe in the delicate white of her canon. Her hair and face have been veiled in equal measure, and the foliage does its part to keep eyes from her form. Only the occasional breeze moves veil and leafy branch alike to let passers-by spot the lamb-white angel. A trio of guards linger nearby, one close to her person and two off to the side, near enough that a yalp might catch their attention. A trusted servant of the Rose Sauvage sits beside her, as chaperone.

Every so often, the breeze sweeps in the scent of salt and sea, then stirs it among the flowers and herbs nearby.

The nature of winding paths is that they do wind. Lifting her eyes beneath her shadowing hat Oriane can glimpse the roof of the arbour which is the goal of her walk, its glazed tiles delighting the eye with a splash of warm colours amidst the burgeoning greenery of late spring, but its occupant and her protective little retinue are shielded from her sight by the elms in between, as she is from theirs in turn. Before they see her they'll hear her: musing aloud a low stream of pleasantries in an alto voice in which Eisande has begun to soften the crispness of Eluan consonants. "You look very handsome this afternoon. Such glossy green leaves… someone's watering you, aren't they? I am glad to know you haven't been forgotten… Oh, my. Four new buds since last I saw you. Springtime and the sap is rising, isn't it?" … For when her speech resolves from a murmurous sound into intelligible words, her compliments and observations and even her questions seem to be directed to no human companion but to the plants growing along that path, all of whom appear to be known to her personally.

She steps off the path and into view between the tall trunks of the elms, an elderly lady dressed in fresh white linen, neatly pleated, and white gloves. A broad but shallow hat of plain golden straw protects her velvety pale complexion and the shoulders her gown leaves half-bare. Looming over one such shoulder is an armed guard who overtops her tall, dignified frame by half a foot. They have in common azure blue eyes; his for the guards and hers for Nicolette, whom she identifies at once as the principal party present.

"… Forgive me," she says lightly, taking another step nearer, in sensible black leather walking shoes that don't quite go with her dress; "I hope I haven't disturbed your tranquility. It's such a pleasant afternoon, isn't it?"

If, on Oriane's approach, the young Novice stared in anticipation of the voice nearing their secluded little arbor, she makes no sign of it when the elderly noblewoman steps between the trees. On the contrary, she bashfully keeps her head fractionally turned away from the other woman in white. That gesture, small as it is, stands out in its reclusiveness when contrasted to her companions who scrutinize Oriane with respectful, courteous caution. One by one they offer their bows, pleasantries, and then respectfully mirror Nicolette in averting their gaze to permit the woman her privacy.

Nicolette takes the cue to bring her big, blue eyes around to the older woman. Long lashes brush her cheekbones in a few slow beats before she rises so that she might stoop again in a respectful curtsey. Her skirt flutters enough to bare the white of a slipper on her feet, but no more. When she reclaims her seat, those blue eyes shine like the nearby sea caught in sunlight, excited and anxious all at once. "No forgiveness is required, my Lady. It's my hope that our presence doesn't crowd your walk." The corners of her eyes crinkle with the hint of a smile, though her mouth remains hidden beneath her veil.

"The weather is breathtaking." Her voice has the delicate quiver of a butterfly in flight, tumbling forward and back with equal parts curiosity and propriety. White-gloved hands fold tidily in her lap as she lowers her voice to a stage-whisper. "And the leaves are so glossy and green." An impish lilt carries away some of her guarded nature. "I'm so glad that the weather was pleasant. When I last came here three years ago, it began to rain not minutes after I arrived. We had to rush back to the salon in a hurry." Blue eyes drift to her hands, linger a moment, and then jolt back up to Oriane. "Forgive me, Mademoiselle, for my tardy manners. I am Nicolette nó Rose Sauvage. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

Oriane receives that curtsey with an easy smile and a nod accentuated by the dip of her straw hat; it has a band of white silk gauze wrapped round its shallow crown, trailing down behind her as diaphanously as Nicolette's own veils. The stage-manager in her makes an absent note of what a pretty tableau they must make together; and since the guards seem to have finished sniffing one another like prowling cats and decided that neither of their charges is a threat to the other, she comes a little nearer again, to a civil distance for conversation.

"You certainly don't crowd me, my dear. I think during a walk in a garden one always secretly hopes to come upon an unexpected flower, doesn't one—? Better that than the downpour you met with when last you were here," she suggests sympathetically, "however healthful it might be for the plants…" Closer to she smells like white flowers herself, and the fingertips of her gloves show themselves stained with golden pollen. "As soon as I saw you I knew you must be one of Olivia's roses — Marielle's now," she acknowledges with a rueful curve to her smile, "though Olivia d’Albert was a friend to me when I came to Marsilikos. I won't keep you long from your thoughts but I thought we might commiserate: I'm sure you must miss her as I do. I'm Oriane Somerville," she explains in a friendly and nonchalant tone, as though that very name hadn't been fitted into the scansion of so many verses and engraved on plaques beneath so many paintings; "how do you do?"

"Olivia was a dear mentor to me, and many of the other roses to be sure. She knew how much I missed the greenery of the country, and so she would occasionally take me on trips to the gardens of the salon. It meant a lot to me then, and still does." Honey sticks to Nicolette’s words like pollen to fresh white gloves, though she breathes a long, wistful sigh afterward. The young woman allows herself only a moment of nostalgia before her eyes dart back up, rounding with awe and affixed on Oriane. One hand absently lifts from her lap and steals under the translucent veil atop her dark locks, where her fingers twirl a lock of hair before tidily urging it behind her ear.

"Pardon me if I've misunderstood," she begins, though her voice crackles with subdued excitement. "But would you be the same Oriane Somerville from the stories? I've read all about her romance with the duc. It's one of my favorites." Behind her veil, Nicolette's teeth catch her bottom lip so that she might worry it. For an instant she looks like she might burst out of her gown from sheer hope, but a dip of her head prunes away the buds of immodesty. Her long lashes sink to veil her eyes, but even with her head angled away one can catch the bright blue of her irises. "If I've mistaken you for another you have my sincerest apologies."

Another tilt of Oriane's head puts her clear blue eyes into shadow again just at the moment when she senses they might reveal her burst of weariness, or the sudden dulling of her pleasure in their warm green surroundings. Such things are not fitting before an excited child who so obviously means well. One more tilt of her head, disguised as a nod — and she presents to Nicolette only a composed and courteous mien, a reserved smile of acknowledgment, clever but kindly eyes ready to meet the girl's own if her obedience to her canon should permit her to lift them once more. "I am not the only Somerville called 'Oriane'," she answers — at least, she isn't now, "but I think I am the only one who was consort to a duc, once… It's all right, my dear. It was my favourite too," she confides, wryly.

Nicolette does stir her gaze from the aversion imposed by her canon, and brings her blue eyes up to seek out Oriane's own. Even in this she moves with the skittish energy of a doe nosing its way out into an open, vulnerable field, ever wary of predators. To Oriane, though, she shows no sign of impending flight. "I'm sorry for your loss. If it brings you any satisfaction, know that your stories have touch the heart of many people, mine included. When I was new to the Salon and fretfully far from all the people I knew, I found a novel dedicated to the tale. It made me weep with joy and happiness, and I felt less separated from my loved ones."

Fingers brush together in a slow, thoughtful entanglement. She turns her head to look about the green gardens around them. When she faces Oriane again, her eyes have turned to the yellow stains on the woman's gloves. Her own garb is bereft of any marks, and even the way she sits on the bench is careful, ever mindful of it when she makes the slightest adjustment of her form. Carefully, the doe backs from the field of conversation, but edges toward another.

"I see that you like the plants too." Although the novice maintains a courteous tone, dignified and deferential, it isn't hard to pick out the youthful wonder in her eyes. They glimmer like daystars for the romantic idol in white and black. "I love calla lilies. They look so fanciful and elegant at the same time. How did they catch your interest?"

"Thank you, my dear," is Oriane's gentle answer to Nicolette's condolences. Looking between the novice and the chaperone she lifts her eyebrows slightly in question and wonders aloud: "May I sit for a moment?" The chaperone obliges by vacating her own place upon the bench with a curtsey and a murmured 'milady'; and Oriane sits, decorously distant from her companion of the moment, smoothing her skirts with the back of a gloved hand to avoid spreading the pollen across them.

"I do like gardens," she confides, her tone suggestive of gossip despite the innocence of her words. "I miss having a garden of my own, but I grow flowers in pots on my balcony and of course we're fortunate the city planners left room for several such lovely green places even within the city walls… Marsilikos is thoroughly charming in the springtime, isn't it? I'm glad you're allowed to come out sometimes and refresh your eyes. I'm not certain when I began to admire lilies," she admits, thoughtfully, hat tilted toward Nicolette. "My mother was fond of white flowers and I suppose it must have been from her that I learned to look for beauty in simplicity. She was an Eglantine, though, not an Alyssum."

Nicolette tracks the departure of her chaperone with a gradual, and fractional skew of her head. The lock that she earlier stowed away makes a daring appearance by spilling forth from her veils, though she seems not to notice it. Shifting, the novice crosses one leg over the other as modestly as one can manage, thinning her form and widening the space between her and Oriane at the same time. "Make yourself comfortable, my Lady. I'm afraid that the bench isn't terribly comfortable, but it beats standing." Both hands fold atop a knee, and when she brings her gaze back around to the Lady Somerville, her head maintains that subtle cant. From this angle, though, it looks more like she tenderly demurs away from the newfound closeness of a relative stranger.

"You're fond of lilies too? Most everyone favores roses, or the flower of their own House. There weren't many lilies in the countryside, so I'm thankful to the city for introducing me. They're nice because, unlike wildflowers, they don't turn my dresses into rainbows." A smile spreads across her pink lips, visible through the sheer fabric of her veil. "I've never met any Eglantines, though their music sometimes carries on very, very quiet nights. I'm lucky to catch more than a few notes. They don't like us listening out the window too much, because they sometimes worry that we'll catch what the Thorns and Roses talk about."

The dark brown lock of hair brushes affectionately across Nicolette's cheek as she turns her head to properly face Oriane. "Was your mother a Lady, like you? Mine milks cows. I miss her dearly, even though we write often."

Already sitting almost sideways on the bench, with her knees pointed toward Nicolette, Oriane encourages the girl with a warm smile when she turns too. "How sweet that must be to hear through the night," she exclaims softly, "even if it's only a little. Eglantines are the finest musicians in the world, I believe. My mother certainly had a touch upon the lute and the violin that I've rarely heard equaled… She was Mont-born," she explains, "the child of another Eglantine courtesan. I never saw her milk a cow — but she did love digging in her garden, and at harvest time she always joined in the grape-treading, or when her feet needed a rest she'd put her hands to work playing music for the others.

"One usually thinks of courtesans as city creatures rather than country ones, but I don't see why a courtesan might not love the country and the city alike," she offers, implicitly endorsing those twin pulls upon Nicolette's own heart. "In fact, it might be to her benefit — as to anyone else's! — to see the beauty in whatever places her life and her assignations might carry her… It does you and your mother credit that you miss her so," she adds gently, taking the liberty of her years to address so personal a matter, "but I'm sure your marque will be made sooner than you realise now, and then you'll be free to visit as you like. She must be very proud to have a daughter blooming amongst Naamah's flowers — and that kind of pride is always a great consolation to mothers, you know."

"Courtesans usually are." Nicolette agrees with a bob of her head that stirs the lock of hair and brushes it past her eye. Only now does she notice it, but she merely nudges it out of the way. "I suppose that's what made me such a perfect fit for the White Roses, or at least part of it. We worked a homestead on some hilly, rocky Rousse lands. Cows, sheep, and a horse." The corners of her mouth curl as her smile turns wistful. "We had a little garden plot for herbs and fresh vegetables, but you couldn't grow much in that soil. Still, I loved to help. The grasses were beautiful, too. Shoulder-high when I was just a girl. There were wonderful fields and meadows of colorful flowers too. And honey! Fresh honey."

The young novice in white sweeps her gaze across the garden, and then out to the expansive waters. She looks past them to the harbor, the ships doddering in and out, and past that to the horizon. "I like the city, from what I've seen of it, but truth be told it's still very foreign to me. I was never allowed to go… see it. If you blindfolded me and dropped me onto a random street, I might never find my way back to the salon." As she speaks, her hand slinks up her arm until her slender fingers curl at her far shoulder. Gingerly, she squeezes herself as a sort of protective embrace. "Sometimes I wish I could go explore, but it's also so fretful."

Again, Nicolette nibbles on her bottom lip. "My marque…" Her gaze dips to her lap as she brings her hands back into their proper place. On the subject of her debut and the assignations to follow, she remains silent, though the warm glow of rosy blush dawns in her cheeks and crests over the uppermost hem of her veil. Her voice drops to a low whisper, and as she murmurs, she spares an occasional glance toward her chaperone. "Have you ever visited the Night Court?" She peeks aside to Oriane and, at once, looks terribly guilty for such terrible indecency.

By means of soft murmurs Oriane marvels appropriately at Nicolette's description of the home of her birth and its seasonal charms and the freshness of its honey — though then she nods gravely at the girl's alarm at the very thought of being so misplaced in the streets of Marsilikos. "You're very young, I think," she suggests, for as little as she can see through the gap in Nicolette's veils, the girl's manner is skittish and uncertain even for a White Rose. "Your time for exploring will come later, perhaps. I'm sure Marielle and the others will see that you learn what you ought to learn, at the right time for you to learn it. Life goes on, always, my dear, and at its own pace. There's no sense in hurrying on to the summer, when springtime has so many of its own charms to be savoured."

And then Nicolette dares her impertinence and the idol of her girlhood lets out a quiet chuckle. She betrays no embarrassment as she admits to so usual an occupation for a noblewoman — even one justly famed for her fidelity. "Oh, often," she says easily, and in recalling those days her Eluan accent of old overpowers that hint of Eisande in her voice. "His Grace the late duc and I visited Eglantine House whenever we were in Elua — they have concerts and performances nearly every night, you know, music and dancing and plays… I'm sure you might enjoy something of the kind at the Lis d'Or, one day." Because one doesn't speak of Mont Nuit's other delights to Alyssum blossoms whose petals have hardly begun to open.

A slow breath flutters the veil that shadows Nicolette's face. "Sooner rather than later, I think. I'll be sixteen in three weeks, with my debut planned for the week after." Both of her hands brush across her skirts in a slow, careful preen, modest as she can muster, to tease out any wrinkles in her skirt. Once the fabric lays against her form, she braces her palms against her knee, one over the other. "Once I've been made an adept, I understand that I'll experience a great deal of exploration." After a heartbeat, she smiles beneath her veil, innocent as a dove. "I am somewhat excited to learn about the city I've lived in for half of my life."

When the topic turns to the arts, and another Night Court house, something in Nicolette's demeanor shifts. "I've seen some of the Lis d'Or from the windows of our Salon. The Camellia are living works of art. So… so beautiful. My heart skips whenever I see one." Bashfully, she brings a hand to brush across her nape, just beneath her veiled hair. "Then again, some of the Thorns have that same effect, though I suspect it's a very different kind of heartflutter. They're a little frightening."

Nicolette rolls her ankle in an idle stretch. The lazy, stirring motion permits an impression of the lower bounds of her calf, just above the ankle, sealed in translucent white stockings. "Perhaps one day. I think that I would like to visit them the most, so that I can see the plays of the stories I've read. And Coquelicot's Heliotropes so that… well…" Her cheeks tint red as she allows herself a guilty grin. "So I can feel like I'm in love, rather than just reading about it." And at last, she adds one more with a playful lilt. "And the Orchis, because they sound like fun friends. Though some of the courtesans who know them say they're incorrigible. I can't see how, truthfully."

"… Ah," sighs Oriane, the wheel of her straw hat turning as she gives a slow, wistful shake of her head. "Fifteen, going on sixteen," she repeats, smiling indulgently. "When I was— yes," she waves a gloved hand as though to dismiss her own words, "since then I've become one of those terrible old women who are always talking of the distant past," and that thought seems to amuse her more than anything else — even to put a little more pink into her fair cheeks.

She clasps her hands together in her lap and begins again, with a tutelary air belied by the sparkling of her sea-bright eyes even beneath her hat's shadow.

"When I was your age, I was lady-in-waiting to the duchesse de Somerville — and feeling just as much a fish out of water as any country girl who finds herself suddenly in a court, I imagine," and again she laughs softly. "You have so much ahead of you, my dear. So many good things, as well as the inevitable lessons to be learnt. I hope this time of change in your life will bring you a great deal of unimagined joy," she says sincerely, "and I wish you every good fortune of your debut." She rises in a rustle of pale linen, and lifts her right hand in its pollen-marked glove, to shake Nicolette's if she wishes it.

Gingerly, Nicolette rises from her seat alongside Oriane. It takes a visible manouver to discreetly disentangle her legs and rise without revealing too much of the silhouette of her figure beneath. Once on her slippered feet, she slides her palms down her sides to urge her dress to lay flat against her form, then reaches out to gingerly shake the noblewoman's hand. A little dab of pollen marks the soft white of her gloves. "Your words are so kind, my Lady. I'll be sure to gossip freely about your sympathetic nature."

Feather-light, Nicolette brings her other hand around to squeeze the Lady Somerville's palm between her own. She lacks any real strength in the gesture, and mostly relies on the heat of her hands to share her affectionate tidings. Her hands fall away to fold before herself, fingers intertwining. "It would be a great honor to me if you were willing to receive my letters. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I feel like we have a great deal in common. Plus, I would love to hear all about the distant past." A dollop of pink anoints her cheeks as she smiles a hopeful smile to the older woman. "I promise not to write too often!"

It all catches Oriane a little off guard, after the girl's earlier hesitances—! Her handshake is gently firm and she brings up her own left hand to shadow Nicolette's right, so that all four of their white-gloved paws are clasped together for a moment before their decorous separation. Then she nods. "Of course, you may write to me if you like… The Maison de la Porte Bleue, in the rue du Port," she clarifies, naming a respectable address that is hardly yet the most expensive or the most select in Marsilikos. "I shall look forward to hearing of your new adventures," and for a wonder, she finds that she means it.

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