(1311-06-16) Much Better
Summary: Étienne meets a changed Oliver, whose metamorphosis is only continuing now that he’s regained his sight.
RL Date: 16/06/2019
Related: The First Sip, The Dance Lessons of Ingénue, Sporting Luncheon, Just Seeing, Nature's Warning.
etienne oliver 

Leaping Fish Inn

The Main Room of the Leaping Fish is tidy and well-kept - and warmed by a fire in the hearth to one side on colder days and evenings. An old tapestry depicting a pair of two leaping fish is adorning the opposite wall - a reference to both the ruling House of Mereliot and the name of the inn. The common room has five tables of sturdy oak with chairs and benches, between which two serving maids move to take orders or bring food and beverages. The air is filled with tasty smells of freshly cooked meals, and murmurs of conversation - and occasionally even melodies rippling through the room, when a lute player is around to provide entertainment. The fare is of good quality that even would not disappoint noble tastes.

There are stairs leading upstairs towards a number of comfortable and well kept rooms the inn has to offer.

The evening is warm with light rain drizzling on people as they walk around outside. Oliver follows his nose towards the smell of food. He opens the door to the Leaping Fish. Another sniff to the air and his smile slowly lifts up to his lips. His glances around to then moves towards an empty table. He takes a seat and not long after a man all in black and a man in armor with Basilisque colors walks through the door and chooses an out of the way seat but keep their eyes trained on Oliver. Oli grins as the maid comes up. "May I please have the best food here, some cheese, and a tea please."

Étienne arrives not long after. He is dressed in practice leathers and quite damp. Spotting Oliver he heads that way, studying the young man with some interest, "I heard you were doing well," his accent making his voice distinctive.

Those eyes turn to look at Étienne and confusion flashes over his expression for just a moment before his eyes close and then he nods. His eyes open and he grins a little. "Yes." He gestures to the seat across from himself and he puts his hands on the table. "I just ordered food and cheese and tea. You are welcome to join me."

Étienne flashes him a dimpled smile, "I'd love to. Those sound good." He sits with a characteristic grace. "Did your brother mention he turned up when I was poisoned? That was not my finest hour.”

He sees the dimples and then points to them but stops and drops his hand. "He did not. He doesn't talk to me about his life. Sheltering me or something." He shrugs his shoulders. He points to his own face and grins, feeling for dimples. He grins and then frowns. He lifts his eyes up again and watches Étienne's mouth for those dimples.

Étienne smiles again, "I see you're enjoying your new lease on life." His eyes are a cornflower blue. His face is otherwise, young man handsome, still halfway between the face of the lad he was and the man he's becoming, the good bone structure just starting to emerge. His black curly hair tied back with a leather thong. "Have you decided what you wanted to do?"

Oliver looks much healthier than he did last time Étienne saw him. He has muscles and he's no longer waif thin. He's sturdy but still has those baby face cheeks. Oli watches Étienne carefully before speaking. "Why do you have spots on your cheeks when you smile and I don't?" He sits back and shakes his head. "I haven't really found a passion. I have been trying a lot of things but I'm not very good at them which is understandable when I'm first trying them." He's starting to babble. "I really wish it was easy to find something I'm good at and I like." He grins warmly. "What about you?"

Étienne says, "They run in my family. They're called dimples. About half of us inherit them. usually the ones who also get this eye colour. I've been keeping up my sword work and my… sword dancing." He blushes at this, "People seem to like it and i'm helping a friend improve his sword work, since a way to practice that feels less like work. Oh! And I've been learning Tiberian. I have a cousin who won an award for a poem he wrote in it and… I sort of hope I'll have a chance to travel further south a little before they call me home."

He nods his head at that information before grumbling. "I have blue eyes. Shouldn't I have dimples or am I of the half?" He grins a little at the idea of sword dancing. "Oh swords and I are not friends. I tried. I almost killed myself so now I stay away from sharp things." He chuckles. "I like … liked listening to dancing perhaps I will enjoy watching it. Sword dancing sounds interesting." He nods his head. "Another language and travel? What do you mean call you home? Call you home for what?"

Étienne says, "Not necessarily. I think it depends on if a bunch of people in your family have them." He cocks his head, "You don't learn with sharp swords. You learn with wooden ones, Then weighted wooden, then dulled, then sharp, but even then you use wood for some types of practice. Who's been teaching you?" Another quick smile, "Swordsmanship and dancing are both languages in a way. They have rules that are kind of like grammar and steps, that are kind of like words. Both have a sort of sense to them that make them coherent to the eye. They both require endurance, grace, and discipline to do well." A sheepish smile, "I'm the heir. I'm here for… polishing, and to look for a bride, maybe, but at some point I'll need to return and take on some of the family responsibilities."

He tilts his head. "Well out of my family I've only seen Anse recently as Sebastien is… I think he went back to Camlach and I don't remember what mother looks like or Stephane. They probably got old like Anse." He lifts his hand and points to the man in black. "He's been training me and teaching me. I told him I might have remembered how from before I was blinded and took his sword. If it wasn't for him, I'd be an arm short." He lifts his eyes to the maid and drops the hand to the table. The tea pot is put between them and the platter of foods, fish and potatoes and cheese are set out between the men. She bows her head and leaves. "A bride should be easy to find if you are an heir. Plus look at you. You are all handsome and graceful so why not." He grabs a piece of cheese and eats it happily.

Étienne gives a bark of a laugh, "Anse isn't old, though he's older than us." He says more seriously, "Stick to the wooden practice swords until you have the basics down and so drilled in your body will remember them whatever your brain happens to be doing. It's dull, but it's essential. It's how you learn control and you need control with a live blade." He pours them tea with that same unconscious elegance he brings to all his movements. "Money. My family is a cadet branch. We're not particularly rich or influential. Still, I would rather a love match than to marry a stranger I meet for the first time the week before the wedding."

He lifts a brow. "Last time I saw Anse he was 18 and I was nine. I was big and younger and now he's got lines and looks older. Hell I can't even look at myself without feeling…out of place." His voice trails off. "Anyways, Anse has asked I do not learn any forms of harm against another person like blades or knives. I am learning a staff just to trip someone and run. His request and I will respect my older brother." He nods his head. "You still have land. An unlanded lady would take little money and land then not." He points out. "Unfortunately even if you love, it might not be an approved match. If it doesn't benefit both parties it will be rejected. You will find someone, this I'm sure of." He nods and grins at the man. "You are still young yet though. Give plotting time."

Étienne nods, "Anse is wise. I don't think you'd like how harming someone feels. I've helped fight off Skaldi raiders. It changes a man." He nods, "That's the hope. An unlanded lady or one from a landed family close to our level. I know better than to go hunting heiresses for myself, though I am trying to help my friend find one for himself."

Oliver frowns and takes his tea. He sips it. "Anse said… he went to the border and fought and what he saw there made him swear to never hurt another soul. I don't know what he saw but Anse is stronger than I am and if it upset him so deeply… I don't want too. I am… still a little fragile. Well a lot fragile. I like to smile to cover it up but I'm overwhelmed by seeing again. There is so much movement and colors and…And not taking anything to darken it while at the same time trying to figure out my place as a man is … sometimes I want to drink and then I think about that night were I just… word vomited all over you and then I think against it and have tea." He clears his throat. "There is a woman I know looking for a man. The Baronesse de Cargese." He grins at Étienne. "I am sure she'd like you or your friend."

Étienne smiles crookedly, "It's not a good thing to see the light leave men's eyes, enemy or no and the… smell of a battle is… unforgettable. Odds are, he won't want to talk about it." He nods, "You've been through a lot of change, and I suspect my imagination can barely scratch the surface of how hard all this is to deal with, but you are wise to stick to tea and take things slowly if you need to." He cocks his head, "I'd appreciate the introduction."

Oliver shakes his head. "I… think I've seen a man die before." He frowns and holds his tea to his chest. "He fell from high in the stable and I remember hearing the crack. I ran to him and he…just stared up at me." He speaks quietly. "He looked like he was about to cry and then he just … didn't. Sebastien grabbed me and brought me inside. They told me later that he wouldn't be working for the house anymore since he needed time to heal but I don't think that's right." He frowns a little before lifting his eyes again. "I've grown to like tea a lot. It's warm and comforting." He nods his head. "Next time you both are in the room or perhaps I could set up a meeting? She is really sweet. She wanted to be a perfumer but… her sister passed away and she needed to take up the barony which… put her dreams on the shelf. It's sad."

Étienne nods, "You likely did see a man die, yes. I'm sorry. I am not a fan of lying to children about such things. Doubt is so much more distressing than certainty." He sips his tea, "I'm sorry she had to give up her dreams. I would like to meet her, yes, but if she's not in a position to move north, I don't think it will work in the marital sense."

Oli frowns and shakes his head. "I've been sheltered my whole life. Of course they would keep that from me. I thought I was so wise, interesting, and rebellious because I was addicted to this thing. Yet, I didn't understand anything in the world. I'm far from wise or interesting or a rebel." He grins and shakes his head. "I'm just a kid who is lost and confused who loves cheese." He grins a little. "Oh I am not sure of her plans in that regard. I will get you two to talk though. I'm not … marriage material so she should have someone worthy of her, ya know? Someone who knows themselves."

Étienne says, "I should send you a wheel of our camembert. It's quite good." He nods, "Back home I was a rebel. Big fish; small pond. Sometimes we need a bigger perspective…. You really did scare me, you know? I am incredibly relieved at how well you are now, even with the challenges." He cocks his head, "Do you want to talk about it? What you're trying to work out about yourself?""

Oliver nods his head. "I'd like that. I've never had it." He speaks softly. He grins. "Sometimes we are looking too closely at things to understand. We need to step back and look around, to see other perspectives to truly understand." He looks at Étienne. "I'm sorry I scared you." He sips his tea before grabbing a piece of blue cheese. "My family sheltered me a lot. I was hurting from my abusive father. Too stupid, too ugly, too weak. He told me I should have died that day. I would have…still have… nightmares of standing in the corner and getting hit with stick as he screamed at me. Horrible things." He pops another piece of cheese in his mouth and takes a deep breath. "Those things become ingrained in you even if you don't want them too. It's why I don't look at myself in a mirror. Why I don't think my body is ever going to feel strong enough or I give up in studies in case I fail." He sips more tea. "I don't know what direction to go. I don't know what I like or dislike. I know that I feel…light now that I can see. Which he caused too." He grins bitterly. "He never attempted to get healers. He just let me suffer. That was my dad." He puts his tea down and sits back. "I need to find out who I am and I don't even know where to start."

Étienne's expression is gentle in its empathy, "It's wrong you were treated like that. That anyone is." His expression goes grim, "Men like your father don't deserve children." He sips his tea, thinking, "You should try a little of everything. Go sailing. Go riding. Go dancing. Go to a book seller and poke around and see if anything strikes you."

Oli shrugs. "And yet he had five of us. Sebastien, my sister, Stephane, Anse, and then me. I was the only one out of four that he said he didn't want." He grins. "Well, I outlived him so there." He grabs his tea and sips it, not looking up. His cheeks flush and he sighs. "I'm…afraid of horses and I can't read. I can't swim. I could try dancing though. I've only danced once and it was nice."

Étienne nods, "Outliving him and doing well are the best revenge…. You can learn. The reading and the swimming at least, and there's no reason you can't do more dancing. Can you remember your letters at all?"

Oli grins. "I… can see the letters and I know they should form words. Henri has great penmanship but for some reason I can't… put the word together. I guess the stupid comes in when I read." He chuckles a little. "I have only danced with a courtesan. She was a dancer and I heard her soft feet on the floor and how her skin moved with her clothes and it… brought tears to my eyes. I kind of waddled in place." He chuckles. "As for swimming, yeah I'm sure I could if I had a teacher."

Étienne cocks his head, "Does it look like the letters sort of… shift around? Does it give you a headache when you try to focus on them?" He smiles, “Ah! I remember. It was the night before we rode for Elua. Sarielle. She was an excellent dancer. There is nothing wrong with getting courtesans to dance with you. They are patient and are very well trained in it."

Oli lifts his eyes. "A little. Only in that the first and last letters stay the same and all the insides are jumbled." He nods at the head ache question. "It's okay though. I have Henri to read for me. Or Bellamy." He points to the guard. "Oh companions… Anse told me about this. Let me see… I am not ashamed of Naamah's blessing. I have all the sex. So many sex." He clears his throat since it cracked a little. He averts his eyes and grabs a small plate of fish and potatoes and starts eating it, little tiny bites.

Étienne nods, 'I've seen this before. It doesn't mean you're stupid. I don't know why it happens, but I've seen cow's eyes and how they attach. There are a whole lot of little muscles. I've often wondered if it might be some difficulty there with all those little muscles trying to do delicate things at the same time. It's possible to make some progress with it, but better to let them read to you if it hurts." He smiles gently, "You can hire them just for the dancing you know. I've done that. You can go to performances at Eglantine and Orchis and just watch the dancing or the miming. There is nothing at all wrong with going to have sex too, but you can also stay downstairs and just enjoy the music and the like."

Oli shakes his head. "Eisheth has healed me. So I think I just need to learn it again." He nods his head resolutely. "I'm happy to be able to see." He eats a little more of the fish. He lifts his eyes to Étienne and nods. "I know. I hear it from a distance and it sounds lovely. The slights are a little overwhelming though." He eats some of the mash potatoes and then pours himself more tea. "I want to preface this with… I am not ashamed or belittling Naamah's servants." He clears his throat. "The only people who seem to sleep with me are her servants. As no one with no incentives really looks at me like that. So while it's lovely, I would like to feel warm without coin. Then again, listening to music is nice too. I can almost hear it from my balcony if they play in the gardens."

Étienne nods, "You are good looking and young yet. I'm sure someone will soon." He looks down, blushing, "I have a lover, and… I am not made for making love casually, I think. It is intended as no slight."

Oliver shakes his head. "I'm young yes but.. this face doesn't seem to attract anyone." He lifts his eyes. "I'm not asking you to sleep with me, Étienne. That would be a pity fuck." Someone's teaching him bad language. He finishes off his plate silently before he finally speaks, "That rhyme about sticks and stones…As if broken bones hurt more than the names I got called and I got called them all. So I grew up believing no one would ever fall in love with me. That I'd be lonely forever and that I'd never meet someone to make me feel like the sun was something they built for me in their forge. So broken heart strings bled as I tried to empty myself so I would feel nothing. Don't tell me that hurts less than a broken bone." He whispers that. "Who wants a soul so metastasized that it hurts to try. I'm not broken, I refuse to be. Yet I am lonely. It's hard going into an empty house and crawling into a cold bed. That's when the demons come. Just one hit and you won't think about it. Just one won't hurt you." He gazes off to the other tables. "But it will. It always makes it worse so I lay there, eyes closed, praying for sleep that doesn't come. I need to get right with me. Fix me before I … let someone mess me up."

Étienne looks him in the eyes, "I wouldn't lie to you about pain. I think that you are approaching it the right way. Be complete in yourself and love will come.”

He looks at Étienne. "I don't know how to be complete within me. I don't know where to start." He frowns. "I go to the temples and pray. I go to the Houses and get what I need. Pain. Kindness. Two different encounters but equally needed. I spend time in nature. I work on my body. I spend time eating different foods. I walk. But I'm still missing something and I cannot pinpoint what."

Étienne says, "You need something you really love to occupy you. Like me with the sword dancing and the travel related study. you need something specific to throw yourself into. I… used to be lost too, but once I worked out who i was and what i wanted everything fell into place."

Oliver thinks. "There is nothing I love." He lifts a finger. "That's a lie. I love cheese but how… how can that do anything? I can't throw myself into cheese." He frowns and pops another piece of cheese in his mouth.

Étienne thinks it over, "If you weren't noble you could, of course. I don't know much about your family lands. Have you goats, sheep, or cows?"

Oli nods his head. "Probably. More horses and men. Neither good for milking." He grumbles. "War. We knew war. I first tasted cheese here. I drank milk a lot in Camlach so we must have goats or cows. Never cheese. Perhaps the climate is too harsh."

Étienne says, "No such thing as climate too harsh for cheese in Terre d'Ange. What's your land like? If it can support goats, you can make goat cheese. Not you personally, I mean, but you could study up on it and get your family to invest in a local goat cheese varietal. You could talk to cheesemakers, have your companions read you treatises, learn the process."

"Étienne… I don't know. I haven't seen home in years. As a kid everything was so big and I wanted to just follow my brothers around. Didn't really take in much scenery." Oli speaks softly. "I can't go around just tasting cheese and I don't have any control on the investment or lands or anything. I'm the youngest meant to only marry off for title. I make sure the taxes are paid and that the common folk don't go hungry. That's it. Even then I can't read reports or do much economy. I'm not much help. I'm sorry."

Étienne says, "You should talk to Anse about it. See what he thinks, and who knows, maybe whomever you marry will have good herds." He nibbles some cheese, "Here in the south they leave a lot to stewards. Up North we tend to pay more attention to manorial husbandry. You may not ever manage accounts, but you can know your people and let them get to know you. I keep trying to explain this to… my friend. If they know and trust you, they'll tell you when something starts to go wrong, so you can sort it before it becomes a crisis. If you learn about the land and crops and animals, then you can… guide things in the direction that's wisest. You can make trading contacts and arrange for transport from your lands and those of your tenants to better markets. A lot of this is just talking to people and listening to expert opinions, even if that expert is the lowliest goatherd among your tenancy. You know how to learn by listening, so use that."

Oli nods his head and thinks about it. "I can do all that but it still doesn't bring me closer to knowing who I am. That's just a vessel for information, between people and lands. That's not me. How can they get to know me if I don't know me?" He finishes off his tea and then sits back. "Étienne… I'm just over all confused. It's a mess in here." He points to his head.

Étienne nods, "I know that feeling. Some of it is patience. Some is trying things until you find the ones that help you feel right in your skin."

He nods his head and sits back. "It's easy to say of course. I can't even look at myself in a mirror though. He tried to help me but it was hard to see." He pokes a piece of cheese, his eyes locked on it. "Did you have someone help you?"

Étienne says, "Help often is hard to see." He looks away, "None of the places I looked for help were the right ones. Help found me when I wasn't looking for it. In Orchis House in Elua, and… and through helping someone else."

The young man lifts his brow. "I'm glad you found help." He speaks softly, finally grabbing his cheese and eating it. Though he doesn't move too far from there. He takes a deep breath and bows his head.

Étienne says, "I think maybe… you should find someone you could help. It might give you better perspective on your own troubles."

Oli nods his head. "Give of myself…" He frowns. "How do I find needy people? Do I go onto the street asking if people need help?" He tilts his head. "I have always been the one being helped how do I… do the other thing?"

Étienne says, "You might ask Anse. I bet he'd know people who might need help, or you could look around at the people you know and see if you might ease someone's burden by listening."

Oli nods. "Do you have a burden I can listen to?" He leans a little more against the table, staring at Étienne with his bright eyes. Expectation and warmth in his eyes.

Étienne looks at his with wide intensely blue eyes, "I did, but not anymore. I didn't realise until just now talking to you that beyond the whole finding wives for my friend and I, everything is pretty wonderful right now." He rubs his forehead, "I was a mess last winter but, I guess I'm better?" He gives him a sunny smile, "I'm sorry that's not very helpful, but perhaps it's hopeful? That things can get even better for you."

Oli nods his head and grins. "I might have found you a wife too. If all parties are agreeable. Perhaps I can help there. Finding you and your friend a suitable wife." He takes a piece of cheese and grins happily. "Yes. Finding you both wives."

Étienne says, "That would really help. We are terrible at it. My friend is an heir with an old name and influence, but needs an heiress who is good with accounts and has… a sense of humor."

Oli nods his head. "Alright. Perhaps I could meet your friend. The better I know them the easier I can find a good match for them. You too. What are you looking for in your wife?" He seems so much happier.

Étienne blushes and looks down, "I don't know. I mean, she'd have to have the temperament for northern winters and a life where… It's not like it is here. We live close with our people. It's more hands on running our lands and it's not… fancy. Not like southern nobles think is normal. We live very well, very comfortably, but we aren't… I've seen how the upper nobility live. We don't race lobsters for sport. That sort of thing. And I… we'd have to suit."

He grins a little and puts his elbows on the table. "Why are you blushing? You are just speaking about a potential bride. So, thick skin, worldly, and relaxed. Got it. I might know the girl if she's up for marrying you though granted… she can also probably beat you up so … less relaxed more growly. Though I know lots of ladies. Blindness had perks." He chuckles.

Étienne laughs, "I like a strong woman. I'm… a little used to being managed."

He grins and nods his head. "Then this woman… she had foreign clothes and paint all over her face and she was pretty. I mean stunningly beautiful. I should try to set you both up."

Étienne says, "Is this the woman from Eire?"

Oliver thinks about it and shakes his head. "I don't think so. Not like I'd know but I don't think so?" He leans back a little. "Aedhwyn?"

Étienne nods, "I met her once in the market I think. We were eating pasties. I don't know her though. We only talked the once. I…speak her language. Sort of."

He smiles. "That's a start! Speaking her language will get to her heart. You and your love matches. I'm pretty sure she's eligible. I really need to meet everyone again because I don't know."

Étienne smiles crookedly, "I wasn't sure you'd know who I was but I thought it would be… rude to introduce myself again and I thought my accent might be distinctive."

He nods. "I had to close my eyes and listen again but I heard you." He grins. "When I meet people I close my eyes to see if I recognize the voice. Most of the time I do and then I open my eyes to their face." He points. "You don't look like your voice."

Étienne cocks his head, "What does my voice look like? Some rough sea captain, I bet. Or a pirate?"


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License