(1311-05-18) Assorted Pigs
Summary: Philomène walks into a minor contretemps in the salon of the Rose Sauvage and, of course, takes advantage of the occasion to debate worldviews with Raphael.
RL Date: 18/05/2019
Related: Odd Hobbies, Cultivation.
philomene raphael lillian 

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.

With a faint draught of cooler air swirling in around the ankles and cutting through the warmer atmosphere of the salon, the door to the outside world opens and there, framed by the light behind her which has the effect of making her short blonde hair almost glow in a halo, is the unlikeliest of angels. With a lopsided limp, the older Vicomtesse de Gueret makes her way in, eyes narrowing at the comparative darkness in which she finds herself, shaking out both crisp white cuffs beneath an elegant dark forest green jacket with considerable and elaborate embroidery in an understated matching thread. Pursing her lips, she scans the various patrons and courtesans with a careful scrutiny and a cool glare, finally noting Raphael at least and lifting her chin a half inch or so in recognition.

Raphael does note Philomène there, though he is not as quick as usual to greet her given the unfolding situation with a patron overstepping his bounds. "That is the last cup you will drink here today, Lord Maurice," he says, so that the novice who has been attending him may hear. "And anyone else laying a finger on a novice this afternoon will be shown the door," he announces. Of course, this show of protection may be calculated to raise interest among those who may be looking forward to an imminent debut: the news that patrons can hardly keep their hands off this soon-to-be adept is probably not bad for business. That attended to, Raphael turns to Philomène. "Good afternoon," he says. "I see Baltasar did not wound the jacket mortally."

Philomène finds herself a spot against the wall, leaning back and absently bending one leg up behind her to rest the booted foot flat against it. "Immediate aid was administered," she allows with a faint smirk, "and the jacket recovers well. Can the same be said for your novices here, or should I expect you to call in the heavies? I do like a good day's entertainment, and seeing some fat, drunk waster," and there's no attempt to hide the way she settles that unwavering blue-grey gaze on the unfortunate Lord Maurice, "called out with a blade would round out the perfect day."

Lillian draws her gaze up towards Raphael and Philomène with an adoringly wide-eyed look to her watery, near-teared eyes at the protection they give her, in their own ways. Her eyes having grown red-rimmed with emotion in the interim as she kneels on the cushion, well away from the patron. Every little thing they do is a calculated ploy. The almost-tears to show that even simple teases are enough to stab at the heart of the 'innocent' thing. And the subtle, occasional caress of her fingertips up along her dress's skirt, towards her hips, then taking them away when she 'notices' where her hands were drifting, to show those attentively watching patrons that want stirs in her, from the treatment. Lillian takes a white cloth napkin from a nearby table, and runs it across her lips while looking downward, as if she's trying to clean the stain of Lord Maurice's touch off.

"I think I am equal to ejecting anyone who wishes to embarrass themselves by failing to observe the rules they all know perfectly well," Raphael replies to Philomène, eyeing Maurice and anyone else who is known for being 'difficult.' "But I am glad you had the skill to save the patron. Will you have wine, uisghe?" he offers, returning to his own cup.

"Tea," Philomène counters, folding her arms across her body and lifting her chin a little. "For now. Thank you," that last added with a little more warmth, at least. "Unless I'm keeping you from your work, of course? I realise I'm a little later in the day than usual."

Attentive even after her little ordeal, it's Lillian that brings Philomène the tea she requested, not making any eye contact as she pours from the kettle to the cup on a table in front of the blonde patron, the telltale red rims still around her eyes, but otherwise with the gentlest of smiles on her lips, happy to help. Afterwards, she stands close at hand, should there be anything else she can tend to.

Raphael nods at Philomène's continued observance of the prohibition against alcohol. Approvingly? Impossible to tell. "Lillian," he says, to send the novice after the tea. Perhaps this is to give her the opportunity to dry her eyes. Or she's just the closest. Either way, Lillian is so attentive that she is already on her way by the time he sends her. "No, indeed. I don't plan any assignations today." And he's already done his pro-bono stepping on someone for the day. "What news?"

"Pigs," Philomène answers easily, flicking the older courtesan an easy smile, marred only by a moment of irritation as her tea is poured and she feels the urge to snap, "For fuck's sake, girl, at least look at me. I don't give a shit what act you've got for the rest of these bastards, but for me at lease show some bloody self-respect. Raphael, what's the procedure? Do I tip?" Her hand is already going to her inside pocket, the one where the battered copper flask is now notably absent and a small purse of money takes its place which she absently rifles through for coin to offer to the young lady. "We've had the first few litters of the year," she returns to her pig conversation, informing the Thorn amiably, "And with the agreements in place, there's a steady market to the finest tables in the country for our bacon. Will you drink to that with me?"

Lillian allows herself a satisfied smile at having preempted the order, once that's quickly slapped off her features by Philomène's chastising. She quickly straightens up, looking right into the blonde woman's eyes, an odd bit of fear causing her to quiver just a tad, the nose of the ceramic teapot lid moving against the pot itself clattering until she stops it with a hand atop the vessel. Usually, that kind of reaction would just be part of her 'act that's not fully an act'. But this is the first time someone's so blatently cut through it. Eyes that can't stare at one exact spot look quiveringly into Philomène's as thoughts race in the girl's mind. Did she screw up? Did something give her away? Was this patron simply intelligent enough to realize know true girl of house Valerian would ever really act that way, and cynical enough to not even pretend so? At least the look of horror keeps her image up for the other patrons, if nothing else.

"No, she is yet a novice and earns nothing until her debut," Raphael says, despite the closeness of that debut. He does not intervene as far as Philomène's harshness with the girl goes. Instead, his attention is on her remarks about pigs. "In fact I would," he says, raising his cup. "Do you sell the pigs directly, or do you have them butchered for you in between?" He does not take enough pity even after having spoken to clear up the mystery of Philomène's attitude for Lillian's benefit.

Philomène runs the coin over her knuckles in a curiously deft display before producing it between thumb and forefinger and presenting it directly to Raphael. Her gaze, however, remains on the novice. "For the house, then. With my continued gratitude." It's not until she's accepted the cup and cradles it in both hands with her thumb running around the rim in what appears to be a habitual gesture that she turns her attention back to her unlikeliest friend. "Ship them live to the coast here, where I've an arrangement with the slaughterhouse," she explains, shrugging one elegantly clad shoulder. "It's simpler to ship the entire pig than to import those quantities of salt. Which means, of course, that the hearts, livers, kidneys and so forth of good Gueret Old Spot should become a Marsilikos staple. Are you a kidney man?"

Like any novice, Lillian's quick to be ignored while her better's talk. On the one hand, she's grateful, stopping any more of Philomène's non-nonsense personality from worrying the girl. But on the other? It just leaves her to stew in uncertainty, eyes downcast with thought as she returns the kettle to the kitchen, and returns herself near the pair, out of the way as is proper, still lost in thought.

Raphael accepts the coin. "Yes," he agrees on Philomène's system for disposing of her pigs. "We used to receive our pigs live from various sources and keep them until they were wanted." As meat, of course. "I appreciate a kidney," he adds, just glancing off to follow Lillian's progress.

Philomène sips from her tea, observing the salon in general over the rim of it. "You mentioned you had contacts within the butchery trade," she adds casually. "And those pies, of course. Do you think it might be beneficial to offer the offal, as it were, to your local fellow? A protected trade in some of the very finest livers and kidneys strikes me as a useful marketing tool for any good butcher."

Lillian dips down to whisper in Raphael's ear, gentle but loud enough for Philomène to overhear. "Madame Severine needs to me to prepare for my debut, now that my shift is at an end." followed by a simply bow towards the pair before she slips out to do just that, satisfied that word will keep getting around after today. The innocent little Red Rose so near her debut. Alluring enough that a man shamelessly broke the rules, and so forth.

"Yes, I can make you some recommendations," Raphael replies. "Marny — who makes the pies — and her husband would be one fine choice. Especially if kidney pie is to your fancy." He nods to Lillian's need to leave. Now back to Philomène. "Though they may not be able to handle an enormous volume themselves."

"If you have names of people who would benefit, perhaps that might go some way to paying off the debt of gratitude I owe you for continued use of the gardens here," Philomène mentions, glancing sidelong at the man. "At least until the shrubs are shipped in. That man really is odious, isn't he?" she adds offhandedly as her gaze is caught once again by the somewhat sozzled Lord Maurice ogling after Lillian's retreating back. "I don't know how you put up with the little shits."

"Very well," Raphael says, nodding once. "I shall send you a list of just a few. Marny, you know, grew up across the way from me. Two years older." This may not be of particular interest to Philomène, so he leaves off, looking instead at Maurice. "The fortune of my canon is that I do not have to be quite so diplomatic as others might. If I see him take one more cup I intend to toss him into the street myself."

Philomène allows herself a half smile at that. "Oddly enough, it's a comforting thing to know I can come here and speak my mind, although I do try to limit myself, for the sake of your economic buoyancy. I imagine I'd be a far less popular guest if I scared away all your patrons. Perhaps, if I'm lucky, word might get round among the more timid acting youngsters that I'm not here for their demure theatrics, though. I do find the entire culture to be disturbing. Self-respect is a basic right, is it not?"

Raphael lifts his eyebrows at this question of Philomène's. "I suppose that depends very much upon what you think self-respect is, what you think is necessary to retain it, and to whom basic rights are given." He drinks from his cup. "Do commoners inherit these basic rights? We are taught to bow to nobles as children, to call them by titles, and to go to great lengths to avoid offending them. Is that a lack of self-respect?"

"You know my opinion on that," Philomène smirks a little, lifting her tea. "If you're born to nobility, prove yourself. And if you're born a commoner, well, you can prove yourself, too. Bowing and toadying just for the sake of it is a city thing. Not my style. So maybe in the city it is a lack of self respect. Or self awareness. In the mountains it's a little different."

"For the sake of it? Or the sake of survival?" Raphael questions. "Further— Do you care to sit?" he asks, gesturing at an open seating area with both couches and armchairs, "There are people who find it pleasurable to bow. Is is self-respect that they should deny this in themselves to shape themselves as you would like to see them? Must a Red Rose's self-respect resemble your own outwardly?"

Philomène shakes her head to the offer of the seat, that in itself rather an automatic reaction. "I'll admit that you have a unique perspective on these things," she allows, lips pursing. "I acknowledge that I stand in a position of considerable privilege and while I might berate my fellows for their lack of respect for the common man who works and fights and feeds us, I do not perhaps do all that I could to remedy it. Is it survival? How in the name of all that is good and right should anyone be permitted to abuse their position to make it a matter of survival? Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these radicals with ideas that commoners should be raised to rule - it's not the natural order of things - but I do believe that a noble who can't mutually respect their tenants has no place wielding authority over them." There's a pause and another wry smirk. "But then I digress. Your question is about the pleasure given by bowing and scraping and moulding oneself to best please a mistress, hm? How then is moulding oneself to stand straight and look a woman in the eye to please my own image of self-respect not pleasurable?"

Raphael shakes his head. "I am not particularly thinking of a nobleman beheading a commoner who calls him by the wrong title. But if I own a butcher shop, and I offend my noble customers by acting as their equals, the reputation goes out that I am rude, that my shop is not hospitable, in fact that my cuts of meat are not so good as people have said they are, on reflection." He lifts his eyebrows as if to ask whether this makes sense. "That man and his friends find other shops to patronize. People notice that a number of fashionable nobles are avoiding our shop. They wonder if our meat has made people sick, or if the quality has fallen off. They see the line at the shop of the next butcher, who makes them feel important. Do my children now get as much to eat? Do we have money for medicine when they fall sick?" These are the hypotheticals he places before Philomène. "I haven't said it is not pleasurable. It is evidently pleasurable to you. And I believe most of our Red Roses can learn to serve that pleasure if that is what you wish. But it may be different from their natural inclinations. By nature, they enjoy submission. Many do. And they cultivate their nature and make it available to patrons. Just as I, in my own way, do."

"That is hardly a symptom of commoners alone," Philomène argues, gesturing with her tea which comes dangerously close to spilling with one wider movement. "That, Raphael, is simply politics. There is always a bigger dog out there who can shit on your reputation. That is just society as a whole." She steadies her cup, wiping a drop from the rim with one finger. "But as for pleasure, I think you misunderstand. A lack of displeasure is not the same thing as an enjoyment. I actively find the entire submissive act to be distasteful. But then that's why I'm not a patron here, yes, before you say anything I know," she adds, raising a hand to stall the argument. "If I have to set up some sort of standing arrangement, remuneration and so forth, so that they'll meet my eye when I walk in then perhaps that's the fairest way to do it."

Raphael takes a moment to consider this point. "There is a difference in the quality of relationship, I think," he responds. "I think it is less common for a nobleman to drop his eye before another just due to the difference in their power." He pauses to drink from his cup before he makes enduring eye contact to ask: "But why is the dropped gaze so offensive to you?" This question is asked softly. "Why is it incompatible with self-respect to your mind, and why does that upset you?"

Philomène pauses a long while to consider this, tongue absently running over her teeth as she swirls the tea in her cup. It's a rare enough thing, a silent Philomène. An iconic moment to be treasured, clearly. "I'm not certain," she eventually allows, both brows raising at him. "Perhaps it's the implicit idea that one is backing down from a challenge and acknowledging oneself as inferior." She flicks a tiny smile. "They're not words in a d'Aiglemort's vocabulary. It's alien to the way we were raised. Without challenge, what's the point in life?"

"Do you think the world could long survive," Raphael poses, not at all harshly in tone, "Were it populated exclusively by d'Aiglemorts?" He drinks from his cup. "Perhaps people meet challenges in different ways. And even the bravest commander, should she refuse ever to let her troops retreat, will eventually send them to their deaths. The wise commander of troops counts retreat among her options, and at some time in her career follows the orders of a general above her."

Philomène laughs. "Ah, well, perhaps the world wouldn't last long, but it would be glorious while it lasted," she counters, lifting her cup before sipping from it. "I was a bloody awful soldier, I think I've told you before. I'd like to think perhaps I've made a better job at being a farmer, though. The pigheadedness works well when you're dealing with swine. And merchants."

"There is no need to give any quarter to swine when they are so delicious," Raphael agrees with the flash of a smile. "And I am sure your many special qualities have served you very well in life. I sympathize with many of your impulses, as you can imagine given my own tendencies. But as a courtesan it is also my job to find the appeal in every type of person. If I can."

"I'm pleased to be able to offer you my own unique challenge, then," Philomène responds solemnly, eyes flashing with amusement. "As a master of your craft it's important to push yourself every now and then with the more difficult cases."

Raphael lets out a laugh. "In fact I find your company very congenial indeed, as I think you know," he says. "There are only a few people I can freely inform when I think that they are talking rot. Fewer still who are interested in my reasoning as to why."

Philomène nods to this, curling her fingers around her cup once more as she drains the dregs from it. "And there are few enough people in this damn city who'll stand and tell me. I think you'd like my Louis-Claude," she decides. "Once you'd got to know him, anyway. You should visit us when I'm home."

"Ah," Raphael says. "Perhaps." As far as visiting them goes. "I'm sure any man who can manage to win your approval is a man worth knowing. That is, I assume you are speaking of your husband?" It only occurs to him then to check.

"Approval is a strong word," Philomène replies with that sardonic smile again. "We can't have people going around assuming I approve of anyone. My reputation would be in tatters and then where would we be?"

Raphael smiles his appreciation of Philomène's difficult nature, and her self-awareness of it. "Too true. I am often in the same position in my own way." Indeed a Thorn cannot be known to give out approval willy-nilly.

Philomène goes to set down her cup, only to have it claimed by another demure novice with eyes cast downward and a deeply respectful curtsey, which in turn draws a scowl from the woman for the poor novice's retreating back. She clenches her fist by her side and lets out a graargh or sheer frustration before turning the glare on Raphael as though perhaps it might be his fault and he's prepped them all to come and be particularly subservient to her and her alone. "You know… I came to tell you about the pigs and see if you could let me know some names. I should leave this house to its dubious business before I come to blows with one of your roses and you have to kick me out into the street. I'm going to take Hirondelle out for a bit of fresh air. If you find yourself at a loose end you're welcome to join me, but if you're not a half decent horseman I'm not going to slow down and let you catch up. You've been warned."

Raphael accepts the glare from this friend of his with only the hint of a smile. "Oh, I think it would take two of us to throw you into the street," he says with light humor. "I must confess that I am not much of a horseman at all. So I will leave you to a refreshing ride." He stands. "I hope your horse is not too subservient." That he punctuates with a more obvious smile.

"We've a healthy level of mutual respect, I think," Philomène allows, pushing herself off the wall and adjusting her cuffs and collar again. "She doesn't throw me, and I treat her like the damn princess she thinks she is." She flicks the man another smile and a dip of her head - the closest she ever comes to a bow. "Always a pleasure, Raphael. Perhaps you ought to start sending me invoices? Have a profitable afternoon, won't you."

Raphael lifts an eyebrow at this suggestion of payment from Philomène, but he neither confirms nor denies that she should. Instead, he inclines his head in return. "Until next time," he bids her.

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