(1311-06-03) Shame Optional
Summary: Iphigénie’s inaugural prowl round the precincts of the Rose Sauvage takes her upstairs to the solar of the White Roses, where she meets a novice soon to debut.
RL Date: 03/06/2019 - 05/06/2019
Related: None.
iphigenie nicolette 

Solar — La Rose Sauvage

Compared to the darker, heavy interior of downstairs, the solar feels like a pleasant contrast, where the use of light pastel tones and white provide a light air that is almost convincing. Floor to ceiling windows overlooking the city are guarded by curtains in light shades of pastel greens and blues. A few thick carpets cover the polished oak floor, where a few high backed armchairs are arranged about a kneeling cushion in the center. Beverages offered here will usually be white sparkling wines, to lighten the mood and keep up a certain innocent air. The tapestries on the white walls are kept to lighter hues as well, picturesque depictions of alyssum flower arrangements along with those of modest maidens in innocent situations, while the darker side to Alyssum canon reveals itself only to the attentive eye, in the details of the woodwork in dark mahogany side tables and the seats, depicting a pair of man and woman caught in obvious amorous entanglement, she faintly resisting and averting her gaze.

Steps are well-muted by the long carpet which leads up to the solar; voices, however, are audible to the White Roses within as soon as the handle is turned and the door ajar, as though to give them fair warning that their privacy is about to be breached by that most alarming and veil-fluttering creature: a patron.

"… You must return to your duties," insists a low and melodic Kusheline accent, flowing across the threshold like spiced honey. It belongs to a stately figure who stands now half-revealed in the doorway, a pillar of dark cloth with soft-floating white hair at its apex. Her orders, issued in an easy voice of command, are for the benefit of a burly young guard in the salon's livery who has escorted her thus far but, she determines, no farther. "I shall find my way downstairs again," she states firmly, "or if I cannot I shall send send word down in my stead."

"My lady," is all he has to say to that before, bowing, he takes his leave; and she watches after him for a long moment or two, as if to make certain of his retreat from such a privileged precinct, before she nudges the door open the rest of the way with the silver head of her ebony walking stick. Another, firmer tap of her stick shuts the door behind her. Her progress into the solar is a slow one, her cane moving at her side nonchalantly despite her years, brushed from time to time by the heavy fabric of her skirts as her steps reveal the true richness of her gown's narrow silhouette. It is not black, as it may firstly appear, but a very dark red: dark red too the smile blooming upon her lips as she looks about at this airy chamber and the delicate creatures softly conversing therein.

"This really is charming," she observes, to the first girl whose movement in answer to her arrival happens to catch her wandering eye.

If the courtesans of the White Rose were behaving in any way unwarranted, they manage to gather themselves quickly. Iphigenie finds the Salon sparsely populated, but populated nonetheless, with a handful of adepts, courtesans, and a single novice gathered about. A few by the windows peek shyly toward Iphigenie and whisper among themselves, before breaking into a bashful giggle. A courtesan with her back to the door timidly plucks at the sleeve of her dress, and makes the transparent fabric that panels her completed marque flicker and dance, illuminated to tease the skin beneath.

But the first girl to move is Nicolette, and so she has the privilege of being addressed. She kneels on a cushion not far from the doorway, adjacent to a table rounded with seats. Being the novice, she makes to rise when the door creaks open, but something about Iphigenie makes her go still in her step. For a long moment her big, blue eyes stare up at the striking woman with a kind of fascination before averting them to smile beneath her veil, shy and full of hidden thoughts.

"That's delightfully kind of you to say, my Lady. We do our best to maintain the beautiful gift that we have been given." Slippers brush soft as a kiss against the ground as she takes a few steps to close the gap between herself and the Kusheline. Blue eyes finally rise in a deferential greeting to the striking woman, though there's still a quiver to her lashes.

"I am Nicolette nó Rose Sauvage, novice of the White Roses, and it would be my privilege to fetch you something to drink. Red wine, perhaps, to match your dress?" Stopped at Iphigenie's side, nicolette turns her head fractionally toward the lone fully marqued courtesan at a table. "I could introduce you to my dearest friend Annette. She can entertain while I gather your goblet, if you've come for a mature vintage." And then she adds, sweetly earnest, "But she has a tender heart, and so you must promise me that you will treat her well."

It must be conceded that Iphigénie's eyesight is not as acute as once it was; still, the chamber is hardly cavernous, and her attention snags upon quite a few little items of interest to any connoisseur of the Night Court. The shiver of gossamer over an Alyssum marque; the sidelong glance accompanying a whisper uttered by an adept who has posed herself deliberately to mirror the tapestry behind her; the outraging of innocence in the woodwork of the occasional table nearest she herself where she stands turning slowly to admire the full panorama of pale wood and pale cloth. Perhaps, too, that stare Nicolette makes such a bad job of hiding… The art of an Alyssum, or genuine inexperience? Perhaps it is that unanswered question which draws out her remark, after all, and not the girl's succeeding haste to rise and offer ingenuous greetings.

She smiles crookedly at Nicolette — downward, despite the sensible flatness of the black leather slippers skimmed by the dark hem of her gown. "My dear child, I assure you — and your good friend Annette — I am the soul of kindness," she confides, "as I see you are yourself. I might have half a glass of whatever you are serving your other visitors, I'm sure it's excellent. But only," she raises a gloved fingertip in gentle warning, "that taste," for a moment her smile deepens, and touches her eyes, "whilst I admire your various views…" And she resumes her progress, toward a window seat into which she lowers herself with her hand tightened upon the silver head of her stick the better to ensure her dignity. Her back never seems to bend: it couldn't, could it, in that sort of corsetry.

It doesn't happen all at once, the Alyssum are too well trained for that, but the Adepts and the Courtesan allow their interest in Iphigenie to mirror her interest in them. One by one they peek toward her a little less, the hushed whispers by the window become *truly* hushed, and the lone courtesan artfully returns to looking preoccupied with tidy little book before herself. Nicolette is left as the lone actress in the room, and she acts by fetching a goblet for the Valerian after a few parting words.

"It warms my heart to hear that you've filled our Solar with more sunlight. I'll return in a moment with your wine, if you'll make yourself comfortable until then." From beneath her veil she smiles until her cheeks dimple. She returns not long after, true to her word, with a single goblet of red wine. However, she also carries a small saucer for a teacup which has been repurposed as a tiny tray for a pair of lemony sweets. Folded beneath the saucer is a white cloth napkin, pinned in place by her fingertips.

Wordlessly, Nicolette passes off the goblet to Iffy, though it's surreptitiously maneuvered so that their fingers might touch as it leaves her hand. Nicolette does her best to mask the motion, but a woman of Iphigenie's experience might well see through it as easily as she sees through the translucent face-veil. "A taste of the other sweets of Rose Sauvage. The red wine is delightful, but I've heard that the light, sweet flavors provide a beautiful counterpoint. I hope you won't begrudge me for the extra treat. It is still just a taste."

Whether or not Iffy takes the offered saucer of innuendo, Nicolette indicates the the area beside Iffy with an uplift of her hand. "I know some of its history and secrets, and might be able to satisfy your wonder. If you prefer to enjoy the solar in quiet, however, I'll be just a short ways away. Please, don't hesitate to gesture if you need anything." Any so the young novice waits for a sign to be sit or be off, blue eyes pouring over Iphigenie with unrestrained curiosity. There's a subtle movement of her lips, as though she nibbled the inside of one for half a heartbeat.

And yet modesty is preserved even betwixt fingertip and fingertip, Iphigénie's veiled still in soft white silk as she accepts that equally modest libation: "Thank you, my dear," she says civilly, smiling at Nicolette as she lifts the goblet to her lips. But for now she contents herself with the scent of the wine, inhaling its earthiness, breathing out as she lowers it again and yet keeps it within her right hand's grasp. Her own scent is of citrus and cypress and bergamot, an initial bitterness slowly ameliorated by custom. Her own scent is of blood oranges and honey, a mellow sweetness touched by a hint of the bitter.

She has propped her stick where the windowseat meets the wall and she turns now a few degrees away from it, toward the empty place which her empty left hand gestures for Nicolette to occupy. She doesn't accept the saucer, yet, only the company. "Why don't you sit and tell me about it, then?" she suggests with another slight smile, this one discreetly inviting. "I have not been long in Marsilikos; I have not visited your salon before," she admits, "and I was told I should not truly have visited it today unless I climbed to your eyrie… I see that I was well-advised. The names given to your canons, those are charming too. A White Rose adept," she muses, regarding her little companion with eyes more considering than covetous. "How do you do, my dear? My name is Iphigénie nó Valerian de Maignard."

Even in touching, the pair never quite touch, each kept apart by the twin embrace of their white gloves. Although alike in color, the brief engagement imparts a knowledge to Iphigenie that the novice's gloves are not so modest as they look. Their opacity comes from layers of gossamer that shift at the gentlest brush, and impart all the security of woven flower petals.

"It is my deepest pleasure to ensure that the patrons of our salon find exactly what they're looking for." Just as Iffy lays aside her cane, so does Nicolette set her offering of treats onto the window seat just beside the Valerian. The White Rose does join the Mont-trained woman, though she takes the modest path and kneels gingerly at Iphigenie's feet. Her head tilts fractionally toward the window seat. If the Valerian decides she wants a taste of the treats, her fingers will come rather close to Nicolette's cheek.

"For a time there were but two salons, the Coquelicot and the Lis d’Or, each founded by courtesans of the Mont Nuit who found Eisande as fertile for Naamah's worship as the City of Elua. Rose Sauvage, so the story goes, was dreamed up by a Shahrizai who had no training of his own. With little more than a heart filled with adventure and the commanding tongue of a Kusheline, he earned the love of the Lady of Marsilikos, and with it a boon. She gave him coin for his dream, and his cousin Annabelle Shahrizai nó Mandrake provided her skill. They flourished and grew a garden of thorns and red roses. After a year, they bought the marque of an Alyssum novice, and transplanted the first white blossom into their field of red."

Here, Nicolette pauses, though it isn't so much for dramatic effect. Her lashes dip and something akin to a shiver slinks its way down her spine. A gloved hand lifts to demurely brush against her breastbone as she bows her head. "I can only imagine what the poor novice thought." A breathy sigh escapes her and flutters her veil, though it's still unclear whether sympathy or fantasy guides the shape of her emotions. "In less than half a century, the salon has flourished and grown into the one you see today. It is a beautiful garden of Naamah's service."

Blue eyes lift from the ground as Nicolette releases a steadying breath. With that breath comes a slight ripple of her veil, as though an unseen shudder of her chest found its way into the very air that parts her lips. "And I am quite pleased to be one of them, sitting here with one of the fabled Servants of the Mont itself. A novice still, but soon to debut in less than a week." Tidily, she folds her hands in her lap and intertwines her fingers together. "It is lovely to meet you, my lady Iphigénie. May I ask what brought you to the White Roses, rather than the Red?"

Most of this history, Iphigénie had from the adepts who received her downstairs; one would never deduce as much, however, from the intent and inquiring green gaze she bestows downward upon the ingenuous young creature at her feet, whose veil dances so prettily with each word and each breath and whose imagination is so stirred by the plight of that first White Rose… The point is not to become better-informed about the Night Court in Marsilikos; the point is to draw Nicolette out of herself, with small nods of encouragement and the occasional murmur of, “I see,” or, “What a bold venture,” or, “How kind you are.” Listening, she takes a sip of her wine, holding the savour of it upon her tongue with no haste to speak.

But then Nicolette confesses her most interesting position within the salon, and Iphigénie swallows that first restrained taste of Eisande and smiles with renewed curiosity at the prospect — it has really only just occurred to her — of another. “But how exciting for you,” she declares softly; “I wonder, how many butterflies have you in your belly this week—?” There’s a tease in her tone, not an unkind one. “I came up to your solar simply to see it, my dear. A light, sweet flavour,” she adds, echoing the girl’s own words, “in counterpoint…”

As Iffy and Nicolette chat, the white-clad novice does begrudgingly come out of her shell — or lower her well-trained guard, depending on your perspective. Her eyes avert a little less, and they shine brighter with an eager expressiveness. Nevertheless, she never fully sheds her modesty, or an implicit deference that clings to her like a perfume, one which wouldn't be out of place on the floor beneath. There's a tender care taken in guarding that latter aspect, however, as if its existence were a delicate secret.

"More butterflies than I've seen in my life. It's coming, just days away, and it stalks so slowly toward me. I can't shake the feeling that there's nowhere to run, and truth be told, I don't want to." Briefly, the Alyssum canon woman nibbles on her bottom lip and casts a gaze toward the doorway. In a lower voice, almost like a whisper, she imparts a soft statement to Iffy that sounds almost like a confession. "One of the Red Roses and I had a chat on the stairs. She told me that the wolves will be out, and that running only makes them hunger more."

The longer Iphigénie gazes down at the face and figure she can half-discern beneath those gossamer veilings, the more the White Rose they shield seems to take on a blushing, pinkish hue. She scented it, yes, even, before she saw it… An Alyssum with the fragrance of a Valerian; what marvels they've dreamt up, here, in this house of three canons. She lowers her own voice until it becomes a private caress, almost too soft to be heard. "Your Red Rose friend is quite correct. Hour by hour they're closer upon your heels," she murmurs. "I can well imagine the fascination of so true a loss of innocence, from which you must learn to counterfeit all the others… Perhaps you are using these days to find the right wolf," she speculates lightly, "to protect you from the rest of the pack."

Nicolette's cheeks warm with the hue of the Valerian canon until the roses of her cheeks stand out, even beneath the diaphanous veil of white. Those blue eyes of hers remain transfixed and unblinking while Iffy speaks, and dart to her lap when she makes her own reply. "I've seen precious few wolves up this way, but late at night I can hear their growls and howls from the stairs. They make my hairs stand on end and my skin prickle with goosebumps." Teeth catch her bottom lip and worry it. "But wolves have been in my dreams. Packs of them. One always catches me, just before I wake, and the last thing I remember is that they tear at my garments with their teeth, but not my flesh." One of her hands lifts to brush across her neck until her digits curl over a delicate, petite shoulder. "Perhaps you are right and I crave the protection of a powerful wolf. One to claim me as their own, off limits to the pack. Or maybe I want to be part of their pack." Dark eyebrows lift in the subtle suggestion of a question unasked. "Dreams are fickle things with as many meanings as there are butterflies in the stomach of a novice days from her debut."

Iphigénie nods slowly at the recounting of Nicolette's nocturnal terrors — and her delights? Her features are solemn, austere beneath her maquillage, the softness of youth long since melted away from her elegant bones. "And the dreams have only grown more frequent, haven't they?" she suggests quietly, nodding again. "As the day approaches, and then the night. You've been blessed with a vivid imagination, my dear, which I think will always stand you in good stead in Naamah's service. It is a vital part of a courtesan's rôle to imagine herself as her patron wishes her to be, to take artifice and hope and desire and craft from them a reality tangible to the touch, even if it lasts only a night's duration…" Her smile grows crooked. "Of course an Alyssum most of all must practice such arts."

Ever so gently, Nicolette shifts forward onto her knees. A hand drifts back to brush along her calf, mostly hidden beneath her skirts, but a sliver of stocking bares itself with her brief movements. Her big blue eyes grow ever wider when Iffy hones in on just what goes in her head. "They have. You and Clara are the only ones who seem to understand. Everyone knows the anticipation, but there's a sense of dread, too. And it becomes hard to tell excitement from fear until now they feel the same." Shifting again on her kneeling pillow, the novice sits up so that her head no longer rests against the window seat. "I'm glad to know that my imagination will serve me well, though for now it torments me. Do you know much about she-wolves? I was told that they're more predatory than the others, because they have packs to feed." Subtly, her fingertips tighten toward her palms in a thoughtless squeeze at the nothing in her balled fists, which sit atop her thighs.

It's beautifully done, all of it. Iphigénie's gaze rises from the pale silk stocking encasing that firm (she suspects rather coltish) young limb, to Nicolette's lifting head; eyes narrowed, she smiles faintly in appreciation. "Of course I understand — I have known many a wolf, my dear," she confides; "it was he-wolves usually who stalked me when I was but a lamb, but I found—" And she lifts one discerning gloved finger to underline her point. "I found it was the she-wolves who were often capable of a subtler and more relentless pursuit, and who arranged the more unusual feasts when their steps caught up to mine." Her eyes glint very green from beneath half-lowered lids. She takes another sip of her wine and then sets down her goblet upon the windowsill, and presents her left wrist for Nicolette's consideration. "Do you like my bracelet?" she inquires. The trinket in question wraps twice round the slenderness of her wrist, its highly polished silver links reminiscent of shackles, and fastens with a dainty silver padlock.

"When I heard about she-wolves that's what I had imagined. A he-wolf may consume flesh to sate his hunger, but I thought a she-wolf would want… more. Not just a thigh, or the throat, but the heart. Subtler is a good way to put it. I'm no Red Rose. I fear blood, and pain. But…" And so Nicolette trails off.

With a little exhale of breath that is more easily seen by the parting of Nicolette's lips and the ruffling of her veil, the brunette raises a hand from her leg. Fingertips extend to hover just before the padlock dangling from Iffy's wrist. "I do like your bracelet. It reminds me of a halter I saw, worn by a Red Rose. I noticed it right away but hadn't wanted to say anything, because I wasn't certain of what it meant." And then with a little smile, bashful and guilty in one, her blues peek up at Iffy from beneath her long, dark lashes. "May I touch it?"

More. Iphigénie nods her wise and worldly confirmation of that truth even an Alyssum child can well intuit… Her eyes are waiting to catch Nicolette's the next time she looks up. To hold them, too, with inexorable gentleness. If the wolves so rarely climb the stairs she may be the girl's first Scion of Kushiel: her first experience of that gaze too acute, too penetrating, too disconcerting.

"Of course you may touch it," she says lightly, and offers it a little nearer so that the sway of the dangling padlock brushes the White Rose's gloved fingertips. A narrow ray of sunshine which managed to get into the solar when the placement of her goblet disarranged the gauzy blue and green curtains, turns the silver blindingly bright. "What it means," she confides with a mock solemnity belied by the return of that glint to her eyes, "is that my consort likes to spoil me with new treasures from his own workshop and his own hands. He has a fine and sensitive touch for such dainty work, don't you find?" She turns her wrist; the two wraps of the bracelet chime very faintly against one another. "I am thinking of a little present to give him as well, when he joins me in Marsilikos — but I haven't made up my mind what he might like." A slight shrug of her thin, sloping shoulders; and she turns her wrist the other way, the line of it graceful and sleek.

With a touch as soft as the beating of a butterfly's wing, Nicolette brushes her fingertips against that padlock, and then across the metal wound twice-over about Iffy's slender wrist. Her exploration is equal parts curious and sensory, indulging her wonder as much as the skin just beneath the fine layers of gossamer. "Oh, it's positively delightful. But there's a strength about it too. It's very powerful. Very…"

The white rose lifts her gaze to speak to Iffy, rather than her wrist, and so there those eyes meet. The result is immediate. Iffy catches Nicolette — not just her attention, but her, like a hooked finger beneath the chin. Although the dark-haired novice's fingers still traverse the length of that cuff, they wander with an absent slowness, secondary to the transfixion of her person by Iffy's hypnotic gaze. "Commanding. It makes a statement." A flicker of dark lashes suggests the desire for Nicolette to bow her head, and demure away from the persistent gaze, but she does not. Instead, she yields to the Punisher's gaze which pins her effortlessly in place.

The girl is unsettled but not, so Iphigénie judges, distressed; and so she lets the moment between them play out a little longer, testing the limits of it, whether she'll break away, whether she truly can if so she desires. A harmless game, in the sight of anyone across the chamber whose eyes may drift toward them, but not so far removed in its essence from the sport to be had downstairs.

"But what does it state?" she asks softly, as those fingertips trail across her bracelet and her glove, seeming hardly aware now of their own motion. "I know what it tells me — but I wonder, my dear, how it speaks to you."

There comes a turning point where the intensity of Iffy's stare doesn't just draw Nicolette in, but cows her. It happens quick. A flutter of her lashes precedes the sunset of her gaze as it slips, slowly, off to one side. It comes gradually enough that it cannot be seen as anything but a deliberate, telegraphed gesture. And there Nicolette holds her chin aloft with face presented, but gaze pointedly turned aside in a declaration of her defeat by Iffy's presence.

She brings her focus back to the bracelet and catches the padlock between forefinger and thumb. "It says enthrallment. Someone has captivated you so that you've allowed them to slip bonds around your person, and now you wear that symbol of your own surrender with pride. It's a kind of…" Nicolette chews her bottom lip. "Basking in the shame of surrender. To accept what has happened and embrace it." As she speaks a sunset hue creeps across her cheeks and down toward her throat, where it vanishes beneath her white collar. "Like wolves, in a way. When the strongest asserts its will, the others do as it pleases to remain in the pack."

"There need not always be shame in surrender, my dear," Iphigénie corrects softly, "as I trust you will have learnt by this time next week." She withdraws her wrist, the her bracelet's silver padlock slipping from Nicolette's grasp; with her other hand she takes up her walking stick and plants it firmly next to the pale pink rose's cushion to aid and dignify her escape from the windowseat.

"I wish you well of your debut," and her left hand comes to hover over the novice's head, palm down, never quite touching her, though the padlock brushes the pale silk that conceals her hair. "May Naamah bless you," and she lowers her chin, smiling crookedly down, "with a wolf just savage and just subtle enough to please."

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