(1311-06-10) When One Loves An Artist
Summary: Iphigénie’s botanical researches continue, and encompass the discovery of one of the Rose Sauvage’s rarest blooms… (Warning: Mature themes.)
RL Date: 09/06/2019 - 28/06/2019
Related: The Temptation To Linger.
iphigenie severine 

Gardens — La Rose Sauvage

The gardens of La Rose Sauvage offer a different ambience and atmosphere than that of the more oppressive and richly ornate salon. Tall casement windows spill out onto a paved area which gives way to neatly arranged flowerbeds, where a predominance of roses pay homage to the canons encompassed by this salon. The paths are of a dark granite grey which have softened over the years by the encroachment of mosses and lichens, with smaller paths winding off through the beds. It's here along these secluded paths that arboreal areas and private nooks might be found, and where privacy is granted to those that seek it through flowering hedges and curtained awnings.

A fountain plays at the centre of the garden, the copper figures of two nude women, long since mellowed to a soft verdigris, spill water from shells into a pool at its base. The main pathway through the garden leads to a terracotta tiled courtyard that sits towards the farthest end, the walls here flanked by creeping ivy which cloak the walls in scarlet and orange during the autumn months. An oiled silk awning hangs over the courtyard to give shelter from both sun and rain, and oil lamps light the area when evening falls.


The gardens of the Rose Sauvage provide many a secluded and fragrant corner for conversation, though in some of them the bouquet is bitter indeed.

To this clearing in the greenery Iphigénie nó Valerian de Maignard has brought her own scent of blood oranges and honey, the sharpness of the one leavening the sweetness of the other; and also a parasol of watered silk in an unusually dark red, dyed to match a gown of heavier cloth but the same Stygian hue. She holds the handle of it clasped in one white-gloved hand, the long shaft of it stretching up over her shoulder, its angle calculated to put into shadow her sharp-featured face and her head of softly floating white hair… The rest of her, clothed plainly and modestly and yet at considerable expense, is squarely in the sunshine. And despite the heat of the Eisandine sun at this season of the year, she is not perspiring. She is quite comfortable. She asked for speech with Séverine nó Rose Sauvage, a Second of the salon and so a busy woman; and here she is content to wait and sun herself until it should occur.

The small table to her right holds a silver goblet beaded with condensation, the contents of which would upon examination prove to be chilled milk. It’s half-full. An ebony walking stick with an elaborate silver head is propped against the other arm of her chair.

Séverine nó Rose Sauvage had been requested, and here she arrives, clad in a long sleeveless flowing gown of dark green silk. Red blonde hair has been gathered and arranged in fashionable hairdo, another deliberate detail perhaps, as it may draw attention to the slender pale neck of the Red Rose Second. Pale is the skin on her bared arms, pale is the pleasant view she grants in the neckline, and the deep dip of the gown at her back, where the marque of Red Roses is on display.

The lady requesting her had been obviously described to Séverine, for she finds Iphigénie with ease, obviously knowing where to look. And then there is that certainty glittering in her grey eyes as she greets the visitor with a curtsey of Night Court grace. “Lady Iphigénie?”, the Red Rose Second asks with a faint smile. “I am Séverine nó Rose Sauvage. How can I be of service?”

Iphigénie has no book with her, no companion, no other occupation. Her gaze is directed calmly and steadily toward what she can see of the path winding away toward the salon proper — and at a rustle of something besides leaves her eyelids half-lower, and then when Séverine appears her eyes open wide and bright and green, as if sparked by her sudden smile.

“Mademoiselle Séverine,” she pronounces, in a mellow low voice shaped by the same aristocratic Kusheline accent so often to be heard about the Rose Sauvage. “… Perhaps you might indulge me by twirling?” she suggests lightly. “I admire that gown; I should so like to see how it moves. Green used to be one of my colours as well, but I wear it less often now.”

A cushion is waiting, of course, for the Red Rose to kneel upon, carried out of the salon by servants at the same time as Iphigénie’s comfortably upholstered armchair.

That cushion had been noted. It is another detail, subtle but there, and it is met with a faint flicker in Séverine's eyes, the hint of a smile, appreciative of the considerate thought. When her gaze meets that of the Kusheline lady, the lightness fades till it is nothing more than a ghost hiding beneath the layer of polite and respectful courtesy. Even so, her lips curve at the request, and the Red Rose does twirl with unhurried grace before the visitor, making that dark green silk flutter upon her skin even as it will also allow Iphigénie to admire the finished marque on her back. There is a pause, grey eyes lifting to read the reaction of the dowager vicomtesse, before Séverine elects to sink onto her knees, making use of the cushion. "It is one of my own favorite colors," she admits to Iphigénie, "I do favor the darker hues. You've requested to see me. And I see you have already been provided with something to drink. Is there anything else, this salon can do for you, and I in particular?"

The gown, the marque, the beautiful creature displaying them, are alike pleasing to an eye trained in the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers; and Iphigénie's unabashed study of Séverine concludes with a slow nod of appreciation as the younger woman sinks to her cushion in a sigh of silk. "Very lovely," she murmurs. "Yes, I am well provided-for by your novices," she agrees, smiling; "I have found them without exception to be charming children… Let me see. I am settled in Marsilikos for a year or more," she explains, "and in a matter of days I expect my consort to join me — he has one or two last little pieces of business in Elua," and she makes a moue, as one acknowledging but regretting the necessity. "Naturally we seek to enter into an understanding with the Rose Sauvage, and perhaps Monsieur Jacques has told you of my letter—?" Her eyebrows arch elegantly in question. Received by the salon some days past, written in a scribe's hand, it contained the usual introductions and the usual courtesies: an elucidation of the pair's finances as well as their long experience in the sharper arts of the bedchamber.

"I have been seeking amongst your blossoms," she goes on, "a gift with which to welcome my consort to the south… And again and again I am advised to meet with the most refined and resilient among their ranks," and she inclines her head toward the Second in tribute to the skill of which so many in the salon have boasted, "to discuss my particular desires. What I most hope to find, what I hope you might aid me in discovering in some shady corner of the garden you know so well, is not an evening's novelty but a friend, and," holding Séverine's eyes Iphigénie lowers her chin and states confidentially and with care, "a proxy."

"Yes, Jacques showed me the letter," Séverine admits in that soft velvety tone of hers, showing deference as well as the courtesy that is to be expected from a courtesan of the Night Court. "I had wondered which flavor you'd be interested in exploring." The compliment is received with only the faintest flash of gratification. After all, Séverine holds the highest position amongst the Red Roses and it must be her skill that had her rise this far — beside the obvious connections and advantage to have been a favorite of the salon's mentor. "I understand," she replies, nodding her head with a brief downwards flick of her eyes. "To find such a 'friend' may require more thorough discussion of expectations. In regards to experience, there are other courtesans of the Red Roses beneath this roof, that are equally capable. But in case you might choose *me*, I assure you that I would be delighted with the honor. The friendship you speak of may not be that quickly achieved, trust can only develop over time." Stating this with a fine smile, Séverine adds, "And of course, your consort would yet have to approve of the choice. I understand that you would be part of the arrangement, my lady? To observe and delight in your consort's skill, whenever he chooses to demonstrate it on the courtesan in question?"

"Trust," agrees Iphigénie softly, her eyes fixed upon Séverine with the unblinking intensity of her Kusheline heritage, "is the cornerstone of all pleasure, mademoiselle. It is as sweet as it is slow. But one must begin somewhere, no? Shall I place my faith in your reputation and trust you first?

"… I am five and sixty years old, my dear, and age brings with it always infirmities," she murmurs, philosophical and wry, as she switches her parasol to her other hand and takes up her goblet of milk. A mouthful — another — she licks the residue carefully from her painted upper lip before lowering the goblet and restoring it to the table.

"My joints ache, constantly," she admits. "My body does not bend and yield as once it did. I feel some benefit from the Eisandine summer," she concedes with a doubled nod, "and I wonder whether your fine Eisandine healers might not compound it… But in the last handful of years many of my pleasures have become vicarious, and I don't imagine that that will alter substantially in the months to come. My consort is somewhat younger," she states delicately, "and he has ever had a powerful hunger for the diversions the Valerian canon is best suited to provide. We have found ways of indulging both our tastes without harming me unduly. When one loves an artist," she shrugs, and her lips are painted anew by a smile suggestive of myriad private satisfactions, "one cannot but admire the practice of his art.

“When we were in Elua we used to meet with one we knew well at Valerian House, but she retired last year into a consortship of her own. That friendship ran its particular course; to build another is a prospect dear to both our hearts, and it is why we chose Marsilikos over some quieter city along the coast. I tell you this so that you will understand it is not a new notion for us," she explains gently, "and that we are acquainted already with the subtleties of such arrangements as well as the delights they might engender. Whether it is you or another, mademoiselle, I seek not only sensation but sympathy. The soul as well as the body; the heart that may beat with mine… Whether it is you or another," she repeats, "I feel somehow certain she is here, beneath your roof."

"I would very much like to prove worthy of your trust," responds the Red Rose Second with her gaze downcast demurely. "As I feel honored that you do consider me." A brief pause then, as Iphigénie speaks of tribulations brought about by age, and Séverine looks up, meeting that look of the Kusheline lady. "Perhaps… it will please you to watch me bend and yield in reaction to the art of your consort. I do admit, I feel intrigued and eager to make his acquaintance. To get to know his artistry first hand," her lips curve in a subtle upturn. "I fostered at Valerian House in the City of Elua, my lady. Until… Lord Edouard Shahrizai elected to buy out my marque shortly after my debut. But at first… I was taken on to Cereus House, until my disposition became known through the candy test. Don't let yourself be fooled by my frail looks, my lady. I do enjoy exploring the boundaries of what I can endure." Her eyelids move in a slow blink, even as her voice retains that pleasant and unobtrusive softness. "Whomever you will choose as welcoming treat to your consort, Lady Iphigénie, I am certain that to serve as such will be as much an honor as it will be… a pleasure."

Iphigénie listens. Then, already sitting ramrod-straight at the insistence of her corsetry, she shifts forward in her chair and inclines toward Séverine; and a fingertip gloved in white silk is so bold as to touch the kneeling Second beneath her chin, to hold her face angled just so in sunlight and shadow while she is studied with Kusheline frankness and Kusheline intensity.

"… I see the Cereus who might have been," she pronounces at last, "in the Valerian's eyes. My dear, you are enchanting." The fingertip withdraws with a hint of a caress. “Do you like my bracelet?” she asks suddenly, switching her parasol again from hand to hand and offering her lean silk-gloved wrist and the silver chain twined twice about it for Séverine’s inspection. The piece is an unusual one, crafted from highly-polished links that resemble shackles; it fastens not with a clasp but with a dainty silver padlock, to which there must somewhere be a key. “My consort, Monsieur Lefebvre, was the son of silversmiths in Elua,” she explains, turning her wrist over the other way at another elegant angle to show off her treasure, “and he found in himself an atavistic passion for the trade. This is his work. He has a delicate touch for it, no? And yet,” she affords the Red Rose another of those confidential smiles, “what force it requires, to shape metal already well-tested into forms yet more beautiful and refined.”

That fleeting touch against her chin, encouraging Séverine to lift her head just a tad higher, to meet the gaze of the Kusheline lady, it causes the faintest aftershock of a shiver, obvious only to those of perceptive eyes. Those of Séverine hold the stare of Iphigénie, with the alluring paradox of submissive confidence. When asked about her opinion on the bracelet, the Red Rose turns her gaze to inspect the piece of jewelry in question, and there is a certain glimmer of admiration in the expression of her eyes and her tone, as she responds, "It is lovely, my lady. I admire the craftsmanship, and the motif. I can imagine, metal easily yields, if it is worked with skill and determination. Force is not all there is to it, but to make the metal sing so that it may find its most perfect shape…", she remarks gently. "Is your consort fond of chains, my lady? Or is this something that appeals to you which may have inspired this design?"

Iphigénie affects to consider the question. “A little of both—? After our many years together,” she murmurs, “we have acquired most of one another’s tastes… and so I can tell you now, my dear, that he will see as much to admire in you as I do. Perhaps,” she draws shut her parasol with a brisk motion and plants the tip of it upon the stone at her feet — close enough almost to pin Séverine there by the hem of her gown, even as she is pinned by those green Kusheline eyes wide open to her nature, “we shall have you too in silver chains, ere long.”

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