(1311-06-30) Fresh Fish
Summary: Lately returned from her home in l'Agnace, Philomène goes out to lunch with Raphael to take a bite out of the fish of the day — one of whom transpires to be Oliver de Basilisque.
RL Date: 30/06/2019
Related: Other logs with these characters.
raphael philomene oliver 

Maison aux Herbes — Rue du Port

In contrast to the gaily painted yellow door with its fragrant pots of vibrant green herbs which guard either side, the interior of this house is austere to the point of severe. The whitewashed walls bear little to no decoration, if one precludes the single, almost full length mirror in the main room, and the tiny, framed pencil sketch of a pair of horses beside the door. The front door enters directly into a spartan salon, equipped with a single dark leather sofa and a comfortable chair in front of the fire, where a square section of the rugged brown carpet has been stripped away to facilitate drying out firewood or cleaning out the grate with minimal upkeep.

To one side of the room, an opening leads through to an equally minimalist dining room, containing no more than half a dozen stiff backed wooden chairs and a table that could comfortably fit only four of them, and from there a door leads to the small kitchen and on to simple quarters for a single servant. On the other, a plain staircase leads upwards, the carpet laid in a strip down the centre, with bare, unpolished floorboards visible to either side, to a pair of small bedrooms and a cramped privy. Where furniture has been placed, it is mismatched and looks more as though it's been bought and dumped in the closest available spot than that any sort of thought to interior design has been paid.

It's been several weeks since Philomène's been spotted glaring around the place, tramping around the gardens or out in the courtyard for her daily walks. Her horse has been gone and a feeling of general peace has descended on the neighbourhood. But this morning a note was left with a novice at the Rose Sauvage - a short, very concise note, brief and to the point - for the attention of Raphael. 'Back in town. Join me for lunch.' with a smeared stamp of the Chalasse bull to indicate from whom it comes. And so here, this drizzly morning, Philomène finds herself opening the door to the man himself and stepping away to allow him in.

The place is spotless. For anyone who's been here in the last few months, this in itself should ring alarm bells - one cannot live with two Orchis women and expect the house not to be filled with all sorts of extraordinary tat, but today it's scrubbed, empty of all extraneous items, and appears to contain nothing but the Gueret herself. And, over by the seats by the fire, a number of Agnacite beers in opaque brown glass bottles. At least one is under consumption, judging by the half empty glass, still smeared with the foamy residue up the side. "Raphael, you do drink beer, don't you?"

Raphael could hardly have had any doubt who would leave such a brusque message for him. Since he is being invited for lunch, he shows up empty-handed this The rain is not significant enough for him to have worn a cloak, so the shoulders of his jacket are darkened by droplets. He takes a moment to notice the new emptiness of the maison, then bring his gaze back to his hostess. "Certainly," he says. "Though we almost never have much at the salon." In some way it must not suit the image of the Rose Sauvage. "You've been away. Seeing to the farmlands?"

"Seeing to the farmlands," Philomène confirms, limping over to the chairs at the hearth, taking up a bottle of beer and cracking it open with a well placed palm and the edge of the table. The bottle is offered over, along with a mismatched tankard in which to pour it, and she gestures sharply with the fingers of one hand for his jacket. Brigitte, the valkyrie-like maid, is notably absent. "Louis-Claude isn't well. Somebody had to go and keep an eye on things. And the family. How are things?"

"Ah, I'm sorry to hear that," Raphael replies, taking the other seat and leaning forward to accept the bottle and tankard to pour for himself. "The salon has been relatively calm lately, after we had two debuts in relatively short order." He sets the tankard aside so he can remove the damp jacket. "And did your Orchis guests take the maid away with them, or is she merely prostrate after clearing up after them?"

Philomène quirks a half smile, topping up her beer from a bottle and waiting for the head to stop frothing before she adds a little more. "Brigitte? She's Leda's maid, not mine. I assume she's gone with them. I can't imagine for one moment they'd survive without her. You're keeping your novices in fine order, then? Terrifying the little buggers into obedience?" The jacket she claims from him, but in the absence of any real idea what to do with it, just hangs it over the back of her chair. "Is there anything I can do to help? I may not have a great many useful skills, but petrifying youngsters seems to be a knack I've picked up somewhere along the way."

"Oh, indeed," Raphael replies, though his tone is mild. He allows his host to steer the conversation back to the matters of the salon. "Terror is only one of my many tools," is his reply. At her offer, he lifts his eyebrows, either with interest or surprise. "I wonder if I could devise something," he says. "The trouble is that they would hardly know what to do with someone who did not desire their service."

Philomène settles back in her seat, wrapping both hands round her glass and taking a long sip. "Ah, once again I'm causing problems because I don't want sex with some random teenager with a will to please," she notes drily. "Is it really so uncommon? Or is it just that anyone else with a similar propensity for something more than a quick screw in a salon doesn't tend to visit?"

"I don't think you're causing any problems," Raphael says with a small, amused smile. "But they are inexperienced. As you say, most of the people they will have encountered are salon patrons with some interest in one or more of the canons in the salon. Novices are rarely permitted to leave the salon, and never truly alone. Their training concerns their patrons above all. Still," he says, pausing to drink from the tankard again, "As you and I can prove, there are many benefits to being able to interact with those who have no interest in one's service. And learning to tell and respect the difference is a meaningful skill."

"Well, I'm not sure I can offer anything to their training concerning patrons, but perhaps I can offer a quick course in economics or similar," Philomène offers after a moment to drain her glass, then upend the bottle over it to dribble the last inch or so in. The bottle is placed neatly beside two such others, kept separate on the table. "I don't know what you teach them, but if they're handling money or budgets or looking to stimulate economic growth, it can't hurt. If, that is," she notes with a look directly at him, "that wouldn't offend your religious sensibilities."

Raphael sends back a blank look in response to Philomène's concerns about his religious sensibilities. "You're right, it's time that some of them could be sharpening their acumen beyond arithmetic. If I bring you in to teach them, you must allow me to attend as well. I expect I could learn a great deal from you, myself."

Philomène knocks back the beer in her glass and reaches for another bottle to crack open on the edge of the table. "So you can keep an eye on me," she notes with quiet amusement. "Make sure I'm not upsetting them, or putting crazy notions into their heads, hm? Raphael, to be honest, it would be nice to have an audience of people who might appreciate learning for once. I'll behave." She lifts the bottle, nodding towards his tankard, in case he has been managing to keep up with the prolific pace she's setting to get through these.

Raphael is drinking more slowly. "Only partly," he says with a smile. "I'm responsible for knowing what they're learning, you understand. And if they learn a new method of planning or reckoning, I ought to know about it so we speak the same language. Besides which…" His gaze wanders. "The only reason I have any particular qualification as Second beyond the quality of my interaction with patrons is that I kept a humble shop for a while. I have no other special training in what you call economics." His eyes pass from bottle to bottle. "Do you miss them?"

"Your greatest qualification to be Second of your canon," Philomène counters sharply, glibly ignoring the question, "is that you're not a massive bellend. You've been in the real world. You know real people. You're not institutionalised, you understand more than just the damn salon, and you're prepared to think for yourself. What next for you? Are you going to take over the whole place when whoever's in charge right now retires?"

Raphael cannot help but look amused at Philomène's initial observation, but the rest has perhaps not entirely occurred to him before, or he had not expected to hear it from Philomène, judging by his somewhat pensive expression. The last questions, however, force another half-suppressed smile. "In fact Jacques is younger than me," he acknowledges. "At the same time, retirements are unpredictable. It would be advantageous for me to become Dowayne should the opportunity appear later on, particularly when I am past the point where I can reliably accept assignations."

"And Jacques is in good health?" Philomène queries, swirling her beer in her glass and eyeing him over the rim as she takes a sip. "You'd be surprised, you know. I thought my Louis-Claude was in good health, but… well, turns out not so much the case. You never know. The opportunity could come up. Who else would do it?"

"So far as I know. Edouard is not, of course, but he will never be replaced." Raphael drinks, looking back across at Philomène. "It's true," he says. "Illness is unpredictable. It is as likely to strike me as Jacques. I would not wish it on either of us. But as the other Seconds are quite young and have had little experience outside the salon, I agree with you that should a new Dowayne be needed, I would be the best candidate. And in that position I would be assured of being useful well into advanced age."

Philomène lifts her glass. "It's that or go back to running a little shop when you're too old and creaky to take assignments," she suggests with a smirk. "Or back to butchery. Or… what was it your wife did, before she passed?"

Raphael firms the corners of his mouth in a manner that suggests he has considered the problem Philomène brings up. "My wife," he says, pausing to take a quiet breath, "did sculpting and carving. She was Eglantine canon. We sold primarily the things that she made, or that I made to her designs."

"Or I hire you to keep my shipments on track here, when I'm back in Gueret," Philomène muses, shaking her head and taking another long swig. "You have options, I mean. But whatever it is you actually want, I'll back you. Let me know what you need and I'll see what I can do, hm?"

Raphael looks at Philomène a moment without a clue in his expression as to what he is thinking, but ultimately he inclines his head. "Thank you," he says. "I appreciate that. It's a valuable thing, a friendship with someone as trustworthy as I think you are." He lifts his mug in a small salute in her direction. "I suppose I can depend on you to let me know when I am erring, as well," he says with a note of humor.

Philomène laughs, a short, overly loud laugh that cuts off as abruptly as it starts. "Oh, now that I can do. Pointing out other people's mistakes is my entire raison d'etre. Raphael, they say he's going to die," she switches track, finally coming to the point of the entire invitation. "He's going to die and I can only feel relieved. I should be sorry. Or angry. Or something, but I'm not." She sets down her glass with a thump of finality on the table. "I went back to see him and all I wanted to do was come back here. I suspect I'm a lost cause. Have another beer?"

Raphael sets his tankard aside at this intelligence, leaning his elbows on his knees, eyebrows pulling down. "Why relieved?" he asks, ignoring the offer for more beer. "Has he been ill for some time?" He is all gravity now.

Philomène shakes her head, frowning in return, although more at her glass than anything else. "No, no, nothing like that. It's all rather unexpected. Why am I relieved? Clearly because I'm a bad person, I think. He's not a bad man. He's never been a bad man. I've generally grown rather fond of him over the years, if anything. Why am I relieved? I'll know where our money goes. So perhaps, having accused you of being horrifically mercenary, it's me that is?"

"Love is not a matter for noble marriage," Raphael says. "You must—" He changes course. "These matters are complex. Even when you are…deeply in love. To lose someone… There will be so much that you feel. It will never all be noble. Today you feel the relief of it. But it is a mistake to think you will know what you will feel tomorrow." He speaks with more animation in his expression than usual. "But what you feel is…it doesn't belong to anybody else. It's not anyone's place to pass judgment."

"The only one to judge me is me, hm?" Philomène smirks. "Oh, well, rest assured I'm judging. Relief, and the only other emotion available to a d'Aiglemort. Anger." A finger goes to the corner of her eye and she takes a long breath. "I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be by his side, wailing in grief. But I'm here, worried for the fate of our grain that hasn't moved in weeks because I haven't been chasing it. I'm concerned about fucking trade routes to Caerdicca Unitas. I'm worried for me, not for him, not for the family. For fuck's sake, that fucking woman was right. Don't you dare tell her or I'll punch her smug little fucking face in. Oh for fuck's sake have another beer. Let me feel I've done something in my life that's not entirely selfish, even if it's just to let you get drunk on Chalasse money."

"Fine," Raphael agrees easily enough, sitting up and finishing what's in his tankard before sticking it out again. "I wouldn't say anything to her about this," he replies. "But frankly, it sounds to me as though you are feeling guilt more than relief. Guilt that you are still a person with mortal worries. But. The cruelty of it is that in most cases the world in fact cares very little when we are bereaved. We may pretend that it is otherwise, but few have the luxury of not having to plan in a moment like this." His expression is grim rather than sympathetic.

Philomène knocks the top off another bottle with what might be a worrying display of ease, competence and experience, letting the dark brown liquid glug into the offered tankard and stopping with perfect timing to allow the head to froth to the top and no further. "And," she points out drily, "now I've ruined your day with my bullshit, too. I'm half bloody tempted to come and shock the whole city by coming back to your salon with you and throwing some money at some attractive young thing to spend the night."

"Oh really?" Raphael asks evenly. "And which is it that you want: someone to flog or someone to be flogged by?" He tilts his head slightly and lifts his eyebrows. Then he gives the expression a rest and drinks from the tankard instead. "It's not bullshit," he says. "Someone who matters to you is dying. You think that you aren't having enough feelings about it, but these things that you are saying to me? These are your feelings. These empty bottles, these are your feelings. You may not be having the ones you think are correct but take it from me that this is a messy business and most of the people who do it however you're supposed to do it are probably faking."

Philomène lifts her glass, then drinks solidly until it's at least half empty again. A cuff goes to wipe her mouth. "I think," she admits softly, "that I'd pay good money for somebody who'd just share my bed. And snore, and fart, and be too warm and who'd roll over just when I was getting off to sleep. Perhaps," she admits with a half smile towards him, "that's not entirely your canon, however."

"Not precisely the way you describe it," Raphael answers, and he smiles in return. Only a little. "Philomène," he says, a rare use of her given name, "I'm afraid you won't be able to control it. How you feel. How you don't feel. Now or later. That is a special part of the pain of it, for people like you and me."

"You want biscuits?" Philomène announces, pulling herself to her feet with a visible wince of pain. "I promised you lunch, but I clearly lied because there's nothing in the damn house apart from some biscuits Brigitte must have left us. Don't know how old they are. You want to risk it?" Already she's limping off towards the kitchen, the peculiar gait accentuated by more than a few beers by now. "If they've gone hard you've got your own teeth, haven't you?" she calls back.

"I have," Raphael confirms. "But wouldn't you like to go with me and get some real food? Or shall I send a boy to fetch some for us? I know you may not really have an appetite, but you might need the stale biscuits for yourself for later. Eh?"

Philomène pauses in the doorway, leaning against the jamb. "You know… sure. Let's go out and get something." She gives the man a nod, limping her way more slowly back over to her chair where she can take his jacket, shake it out and offer it over. "Where did you have in mind?"

Raphael gets up and accepts his host's help in getting into the jacket. "Fish?" he proposes, perhaps intending to avoid reminders of de Chalasse pork for the time being. "There is a place by the docks. Not particularly high-toned, but I don't suppose you mind. Haddock, I should think, this time of year. And asparagus perhaps."

Philomène runs a hand through her hair in some sort of attempt to appear presentable. She checks her buttons and fastens the top one, then gives a short nod and a confident smile as she straightens to her full height and puts on her best face to present to the outside world. "With a squeeze of lemon, I hope? Really, the fresh fish is one of the great draws of coming here, you know." She lays a hand on his arm, more for the appearance of the thing than for any actual assistance - she's far too stubborn to actually lean on anyone - and opens the door. "Shall we, then?"

"If we're lucky," Raphael agrees, and steps out into the street with her. "You'll need a new maid," he opines. "Aurore will know about how to get one who is suitable to your station without being overbearing."

"I've managed this far without a maid," Philomène points out sourly as they walk. "Brigitte was never mine to begin with. I can survive without again."

Port — Marsilikos

Fortune laid the foundation for the grand port of Marsilikos; look how the arms of the land spread wide to embrace the setting of the sun, welcoming a bay of still waters rendered all the more peaceful by the presence of a small island to the south, on the flanks of which the waves cut themselves into powerless ripples as they move in from the sea. But what Fortune gave the D'Angelines their cunning and craft has improved to a hum of efficiency and culture. The natural bay has had its curved shores sharpened into straight edges bolstered with ridges of heavy stones on which the tides have left long mark when the waters are low, algae and barnacles hung onto the rugged stones. Then stone foundations have been piled out into the harbor to hold up wide wooden pillars and the great treated slats of the piers and boardwalks which extend into the bay, now at wider intervals for massive trading vessels, now at shorter intervals for private fishing and pleasure yachts.

The southern arm of the bay is reserved for the great sourthern fleet of the Terre D'Angan Navy, which is headquartered here in Marsilikos, and is ever a hub of activity, the giant slips outfitted to haul the massive warships up into the air for repairs, while further inland on the southern peninsula a forest of masts rises into the air where new ships are being built and old ones repaired in full drydock. Between the naval slips and the drydock rises the stately edifice of the Southern Naval Headquarters, glistening with huge latticed windows on the upper floors. Beyond the headquarters rises the massive fortified promontory of the Citadel, with bleached-white parapets and fluttering banners.

Markets and vendors throng the plaza at the innermost fold of the harbor where civilian and military seamen alike might find a bite to eat, supplies for their next mission, a good drink or a little bit of companionship. Far in the bay, that little isle sports a lofty lighthouse to guide the ships in by night.

"What if two people visited you?" Raphael asks. "You'd run out of chairs to hang the coats on." He is needling her rather than expressing concern. Here at the docks there are taverns and stands crowded close together. "They've got a kitchen in that one," he says, indicating a wooden building. "Worth the trip before. A few tables where you can look out over the ocean."

"Not counting Genevieve and Leda," Philomène points out drily, limping her way over towards the building indicated, "in the time I've been here I've had a grand total of two visitors. And not at the same time. I think I'll press my luck on the coats front. Wine for you, or something with a bit more bite?"

"Wine I think," Raphael replies. "I think it is best with fish. And you? I seem to remember their wine is very poor, so it might be wise to buy our own bottle before we go in. If any of these taverns can be expected to have any better vintage."

Philomène straightens her cuffs and glances to one tavern then another. "I'm not convinced any of them are going to have bottles of anything worth drinking. I propose just drinking quantity over quality. After enough to drink we won't realise it tastes of vinegar. Two bottles of white to begin with, please," she demands of a surprised looking server who'd only stepped outside for his own personal reasons, but who hurriedly steps inside again. "Table?" she suggests to Raphael, gesturing to one not far from the door just outside the building.

"Very well," Raphael replies. It is by no means a place that caters particularly to nobility, so there is only really the meal of the day on offer besides the poor quality wine, but there are indeed tables available, and Raphael claims the one Philomène indicates without asking anyone's leave. They'll figure it out. "When my wife first started getting ill, I did not think it could be much," he says. "And then for a time it just seemed a normal state. Everything always seemed to catch me by surprise, somehow. And then afterwards, I don't really remember what I did, many days."

"You were close," Philomène notes as she settles into her uncomfortable chair, adjusting one of the clips on the table that holds a tatty piece of paper in place of a tablecloth to stop it blowing away. "I don't doubt you loved her. It must have been significantly more difficult for you when she was gone?"

Raphael doesn't seem to exactly know how to respond. Instead, he says, "People will come around a lot at first, until you wish that they wouldn't. Then later, they won't. I think that you should not deride yourself for having things to plan for and see to. They'll help you."

Philomène eyes him, folding her hands on the table. "I've never been particularly good at accepting help, you know. I'll put a sign up reading 'fuck off', shall I? Haddock, you said?"

"I had indeed noticed," Raphael replies dryly. "Yes, I expect it will be haddock. It's possible we'll be surprised." They are brought the two bottles of wine Philomène initially requested; no sign that they took her order with a grain of salt. And two relatively clean wooden cups are also set out. The fragrance of cooking fish is renewed, so it seems that the order is being cooked whether they explicitly asked for it or not.

"Besides, the plans are in place," Philomène points out, leaning back in her seat and looking out over the water. "All we have to do now is wait. And see to the grain and the pigs, of course. Nothing changes."

An afternoon at the docks, and Raphael and Philomène are sitting at a table outside a humble wooden building that serves meals of fresh fish mostly to stevedores and low-level merchants. There are two cups and two bottles of wine sitting on the table, though Raphael just now takes one down and sets it on the ground so that they need not contend with so much clutter. He fills Philomène's wooden cup, then his own. "Waiting is also painful," he says.

"Ah, well you'd know, wouldn't you," Philomène notes as she claims her cup, swirls the wine in it for a second or two, then takes a swig and pulls a face. "You weren't kidding about the wine, were you? Pain is definitely more your thing than mine."

"I think you and I are probably both intimately acquainted with it," Raphael returns, and then smiles at her disgust. "Just as I remembered it," he concludes from her expression, and then tries it himself. After a swallow, he nods. "Exactly."

A small rowboat is rowing into the bay. It's not hurried but it does reach the dock a soft voice can be heard being carried over the water. "You are horrible." Henri, a tall man in black jumps out of the boat and ties it up. He reaches down and pulls a soaking wet lord from the boat. "You need to learn to swim and I thought it was a good time. You could cool off and swim." He lays him out on the dock. Oliver, for his part is just in a horrible mood now. He slowly pushes himself up and stares up at Henri. His hair is sticking to his face and his clothes to his body. A point and puffing of cheeks then giving up and sloshing down the docks. Squishing and leaving wet foot prints as he walks away from the docks. The young lords bright blue eyes catch sight of Raphael and he quickly looks to Philomène. Gulping he looks around and rushes behind a set of barrels. Henri watching unconcerned from the docks.

"You make a living from it, though," Philomène points out, leaning an elbow on the table as she sips at her wine, enjoying this spectacle of some drowning boy squelching his way inland and behind the barrels. "For me it's more of a pastime. What do you think. Did he slip or was he pushed?"

<FS3> Raphael rolls Perception: Good Success. (1 5 7 3 4 3 1 4 7)

"Neither, I would imagine," is Raphael's reply as he glances calmly in the direction of the barrels. "Shall I call him out for you, or would you prefer to allow him to skulk?" Raphael makes no particular attempt at keeping his voice low. At about this time, their lunch is served up: haddock and asparagus, the latter dressed with butter, preserved lemon, and a little vinegar. It is simple food and not plated with any particular care. But there are plates! And forks. So that is perhaps better than expected.

Henri looks between Oliver and then Raphael and just slowly grins. He unties the boat and gets back in. He starts rowing back to where they started and away from Oliver. Abandoning him to his fate. Oliver having been so concerned with hiding looks for help from Henri and the man isn't there. He stands up and sees him rowing away. The young lordling rushes back towards the dock but Henri is too far out and he frowns slowing his run and he stands there. Wet clothes dripping around him. In that moment, revenge was being plotted.

Philomène taps her finger on the rim of her cup as she watches. "He's not doing a particularly good job of skulking," she points out, takes a sip, then casually picks up an asparagus spear with the other hand. "I mean, as skulkers go I can't rate him more than about a two out of ten. Poor skulking skills. Must do better."

"Oliver de Basilisque," Raphael raises his voice enough that there is no alternative but to hear him. "Come and meet Philomène Aiglemort de Chalasse, Vicomtesse de Gueret. She does not think you are doing a particularly good job at hiding yourself." Meanwhile, he coolly separates one morsel of fish from the rest so that he may taste it. "Ah good, as fresh as it ought to be," he comments to his dining companion.

The young lord tenses and takes a deep breath. He turns and puts on a small smile that just touches the corner of his lips but does not rise to his eyes. He walks over to the table and stands an arm length away. He bows his head. "Vicomtesse." He speaks softly. He lifts his chin. "I wasn't hiding." He waves it off with his hand but his lips twitch slightly. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Vicomtesse Aiglemort de Chalasse."

"Vicomtesse de Gueret, or Lady Chalasse," Philomène corrects absently, looking the damp young man over as she crunches into her asparagus. She chews, scrutinising him carefully before licking her fingers, dabbing them clean and giving a small nod. "Ah, of course you weren't. You'd lost a treasured family heirloom behind the barrels, no doubt, and you were crouching to see if you could find it. It's the sort of thing that could happen to anyone."

"Unfortunately it was not a barrel of textiles, that you may have dried yourself," Raphael comments to Oliver. "I suppose you capsized at sea? I hope none of the crew were lost?" He does not really seem to imagine that anyone has been hurt.

His cheeks flush pink. "I'm sorry. Vicomtesse de Gueret." He starts to absently fiddle with the string on his tunic as he keeps his eyes down. He winces and shakes his head. "No I was hiding. I didn't want to interrupt your lunch. It looks lovely and you both look lovely and I've interrupted it. I'm sorry." He doesn't lift his eyes. He shakes his head. "Henri and I went fishing and… it's a long story. I'm sorry I'm wet."

"Sit," Philomène commands simply, in the same sort of tone of voice one would expect of a top trainer at Crufts. It's not an order she expects to be disobeyed. "Take off your damn jacket and let that dry at least. You're a Basilisque. Basilisques do not apologise, in my experience. It doesn't suit them. Wine, my lord?"

Raphael makes a gesture to summon a new cup from the lad who's been serving them. This comes soon, and Raphael pours the cheap white wine in. "I expect they'll bring you some haddock unless you tell them not to," Raphael predicts.

His cheeks light up and he pulls back the chair and sits. He removes his jacket and hangs it over the back of the chair. "This Basilisque does." He counters. "My brother Anse does too. Sebastien not so much." Those eyes turn to watch Raphael's hands and watches him pour the wine. He turns to look at Philomène. "I don't mean to counter you, Lady Chalasse. That is my experience. Which in all respects is quiet small."

"Ah, your brother," Philomène responds drily, picking apart her fish with her fork. "The only Camaeline man I've ever met who believes we ought to roll over and let the Skaldi invade. I say 'man', of course, but…"

"The Vicomtesse is largely unmoved by the charms of the Salon de la Rose Sauvage," Raphael puts in, perhaps in part to spare Oliver from her full force, "But as you can gather, she has a certain sharpness of her own." That said, he tucks back into the fish and asparagus.

The young man shakes his head though he doesn't yet counter her. Sitting back he keeps his head bowed before lifting it. "Lady Chalasse, you have not done things my brother has done or been where my brother has been just as no one has truly been in your position as everyone lives unique lives. A priest is a man or a woman but they retain their sex even while serving. Belittling a man who fought for the very border you speak as important while still in his teens, perhaps a minute bit of respect for him. Even if his views do not match your own. After all, what do Camaeline's or any others fight for than our way of life which allows freedom of expression." He takes a deep breath and looks at Raphael, a small nod to the man. It's clear Oliver is waiting for something from his words.

Philomène glances sidelong to Raphael, slowly and deliberately tucking the morsel of haddock between her lips and chewing. She sets down her cutlery and takes up the wine. With a long breath, she moistens her lips, then fixes the young man with a steady, long stare. "We fight," she explains in a crisp, low tone, "to maintain our civilisation. Our culture. We fight on the border to keep the wolves from tearing apart our sheep. A man who values whining over freedom is not a man at all. There are those of us who fought and would fight again, because it's our damn duty to keep the nation safe, not piss off to a comfortable life to cry about how it's not fucking fair."

Raphael does not intervene in the disagreement between the two nobles. "My lord," he says to Oliver. "Will you eat lunch with us, or do you prefer to search out dry clothes?" Invitation and a plausible out are both provided.

Oliver turns to look at her. "Someone obviously said life should be fair but I did not. I never mentioned anything about being fair." He looks right into her eyes. "You have fought for our civilisation and culture and yet you belittle one of those sheep. A man who is scarred. It happens to some but that doesn't make them weak. It makes them sheep." He frowns. "I would fight as well. I can't barely swing a sword but if I could save just one family than my sacrifice would be worth it. I have not had a fair life so I know it's not. Thank you for fighting when I could not." He turns his eyes to Raphael and looks at the food. He bows his head and just shakes it. To which is unknown.

Philomène raises both brows, shaking her head as she returns her attention to her lunch. "Is that what a scar does? Well, how enlightening," she decides, picking off another flaky piece of white fish to hold up to the light on the tines of her fork, then pop into her mouth. "I shouldn't judge you for your brother's nonsense, though, you're quite correct. Although if you'd swing a sword to save a family perhaps you ought to consider learning?"

At this point a new plate of the same food is delivered to Oliver. "Lord Basilisque is being somewhat modest," Raphael puts in, though his tone is mild. "It is my understanding that he has been making a study of swordsmanship. You will perhaps have heard of him as the man to whom a miracle was granted not long ago."

Oli frowns. "Scar of the mind, milady. He hasn't really left the front lines." His voice breaks a little. Then Raphael jumps in and his cheeks flush. "I was studying it. I had a few lessons and Anse begged me to stop. He played my big brother card and I must respect him as that and listen. It's my duty as a younger brother. So instead of learning to kill, I've been learning the staff. Less poking." He looks at the food and doesn't yet reach for it though there is longing in his eyes for food.

"The thing to remember," Philomène mentions conversationally, "is that Skaldi are not people, but vermin. Pests to be destroyed. Like rats, trying to get in to destroy our harvest. Culling a Skaldi is a noble endeavour and don't let any idiot tell you otherwise."

"Oh, indeed," Raphael replies to Oliver. New information to him. He contents himself with the fish for a while, looking to see what Oliver will think of this claim.

Those blue eyes lift to look at Philomène, unable to hate and quite innocent. He slowly turns his eyes to Raphael and that innocence shines and uncomfortableness. He reaches for the cup that Raphael poured and he drinks a sip and then just keeps drinking. Occupying his mouth for a time while his eyes avert.

"Now, you were going to explain why you went swimming?" Philomène insists as she takes up another asparagus spear between finger and thumb. "Young lords are an unusual bait for fishing, but I'm intrigued to hear if you were successful?"

Raphael offers no particular rescues, nor barbs of his own, his expression impossible to read as a rock face. But he does seem to enjoy the food.

Shoulders lift slightly as he's spoken too and he puts the wine down. Having not yet eaten today, he feels his brain turn to fuzz. He reaches out and takes a sprig of asparagus and starts to nibble on it, small little bites. "Didn't get a fish. Ended up in the water accidentally." He says quickly, clearly hiding the rest of the story.

"Call me naive, but I'm certain the purpose of a boat is to keep you out of the water, no?" Philomène prompts, quietly amusing herself by goading the young man. The corners of her lips curve upwards as she enjoys her fish and his discomfort in equal measure. "Raphael, I'll admit to being no seaman, but isn't it rather difficult to 'accidentally' go swimming from a boat?"

"Now that I would hardly know," Raphael says. "I have very little experience on boats and am by no means an angler. Have you fished before, Lord Oliver, or was it your first excursion?"

Oliver finishes off the food in his fingers. "I have never fished before…never really been around that much water." He speaks softly. "Raised up to be a Cassaline before I was blinded and then was … pretty much locked in a room until I got here. So fishing and water and boats are all new."

"Well, it rather looks as though you're around all the water now. Or that it's around you, anyway," Philomène points out amiably, leaning back a little in her seat and adjusting position. Her face momentarily freezes in a neutral position as she shifts before resuming its careful watchfulness over the young man she's goading.

"Given our dearth of experience with the sea, we are fortunate to have this kitchen, then," Raphael concludes neutrally. "I think they serve a fine haddock. Have you tasted it, my lord?" he asks Oliver.

Oliver frowns. "It seems to be all around me." He dead pan. "I'd be quite giant to be around all the water." He looks at the fish and then shakes his head. "No m…" He coughs and covers his mouth. "Excuse me. No I have not, Raphael." His cheeks light up again and so do his ears, bright red. He reaches his hands forward and takes a small piece, sniffing it and then eating it.

"I'm sure none of us would call you giant," Philomène agrees placidly. "Of a decidedly average size, Raphael?" She takes up another forkful of her fish, savouring the taste with a serene smile.

"Part of a courtesan's training in discretion," Raphael replies to Philomène, "Is learning that it is seldom wise to discuss anyone's size in public." He polishes off his haddock. "Do you like fish, my lord? I understand that this is just the season for haddock, though animals do not quite have seasons as plants do."

Oliver lifts a brow. And the coughing again. His face turning red and he brings his wet tunic up over his face as he lifts his knees up. He easily curls into the chair. Once his coughing is done, he reemerges and nods his head. "It's good." His voice scratchy. He grabs the wine and drinks back the rest of it.

Philomène helpfully reaches for the bottle and leans over to top up Oliver's cup then her own. "I have to say I'm enjoying it immensely. Thank you, Raphael, for the suggestion to come out here. It certainly beats biscuits."

"Much fresher," Raphael agrees. Then he looks to Oliver. "Did you swallow a bit of sea water, my lord? Not more than you can handle, I hope." He drinks some of his own wine. Which is still terrible. "I'm afraid the wine may be hard to distinguish from the brine."

Oliver bows his head to her. "Thank you." He turns his eyes to Raphael. "I can handle a little more than some sea water in my mouth." He offers that up. He takes another piece of fish as his cheeks now show his embarrassment that that came out of his mouth. Ohh fish.

"How very fortunate for you," Philomène notes. She picks up her last piece of asparagus, lifting it high over her mouth so she can crunch into the tip, one eye on Oliver as she does so. Piece by piece the spear of asparagus disappears. Lips are licked. Cheeks are wiped of the butter that drips. If it weren't, well, Philomène, it would be a filthy display.

"Ah, good," Raphael returns to Oliver, smiling. "I am certain that you are resilient enough to overcome this experience." He seems to be focusing on the terrible wine by now.

Oli watches Philo a few seconds before just copying her. He eats a few pieces of fish before licking his lips. He nods his head. "I might need a stabilizing hand or two." He sips more of the wine. "Excuse me… is this higher in …" He waves his hand a little trying to come up with the word. "I forget but is it high?" He slow blinks.

Philomène eyes him. "Higher in vinegar content? Certainly," she agrees, nonetheless knocking back the last of her wine and reaching down to where the second bottle was stashed to top up her cup. "It might be awful wine, but I'm sure it makes a very fine window cleaner."

Oli brings a hand to his forehead and lightly rubs it before he rubs his eyes with the back of his hand. He clears his throat and takes another sip. He finishes off his plate with gusto. He finally sits back and looks at Raphael. He parts his lips to speak but thinks best of it so he just sits there, might slightly open staring off into space.

"It's particularly bad," Raphael says. "Possibly the proprietor chooses it on purpose to keep excessively fancy people from scaring off the usual custom. After a glass it would perhaps be wise to go home and get dry, my lord," he suggests.

"By which he means never drink it, or any other turpentine like it, again," Philomène helpfully adds.

Oli frowns and then looks at Raphael. "I… am alright." He grins kindly to the man. "So handsome." His inner words start being his outer words. He looks at Philomène. "It's not that bad, is it? I don't drink normally. It all tastes like this." He points out to her.

"Not that… my dear child, this is absolutely awful," Philomène insists, horrified. "Really, go and speak to a decent wine merchant and try a few bottles of wine and you'll change your mind. Good grief, no, it doesn't all taste like this. Nobody would bloody buy it if it did. We're not savages!" Clearly choosing to ignore that right now not only have they bought it, but they're drinking it.

"Hm," Raphael replies, glancing to Philomène. "If Henri is not coming back to fetch you, I suspect we ought to escort you home when we go." He looks into his own cup. "I'm afraid she's right," he says. "It may be worth cultivating a certain appreciation of the better types. With a certain degree of discretion."

He blinks innocently. "Then why drink it?" He asks Philomène. "If you have tasted better… and you drink this… either you like bad things in your mouth or you secretly enjoy it and doing so some how cheapens you." He leans over a little. "Enjoy it." He nods slowly. There is a shake of his head. "Wouldn't know where to start." He frowns. "Henri isn't coming back. He pushed me in the water. He knows I'm going to throw my shoe at him when I get home." He grumbles. "He'll have a cheese platter ready."

Philomène lifts her cup. "Because the fish is fresh, and you can't have fish without wine," she explains succinctly. "Why don't you take the rest of this wine and throw that at your fellow, save your shoes?" She levers herself upright, jaw clenching for a moment as she does so, and finds a number of coins from her purse to leave on the table for the three meals. It's only when she steps away from the table that her limp becomes apparent, one leg twisted at an odd angle so every time she takes a step she has to swing the leg out, toes scraping the ground and brass spurs on the back of her tall boots flashing in the sunshine. "Come, where are we taking you, young man?"

"He is lucky if he has a master who takes no more than that out of his hide," Raphael opines, and he too rises, picking up the untouched bottle he'd tucked under the table. "I know the way," he says. "And really he can go no other place than home after having his swim." He makes a gesture in the correct direction.

Oliver blinks a few times. "Wine bottles break. Shoes don't?" He doesn't seem sure. He sees the money put down and then stands up. He's not wobbly. He looks at Philomène and sees her limp. "Master? I pay him." He points out to Raphael. He stands, grabbing his jacket and squishing after the two of them. "We could go.. somewhere not home?" He walks behind them both. "Perhaps… towards pie?"

"I've no great appetite, but by all means if you gentlemen would like to get a pie I shan't stop you," Philomène decides, straightening her collar then her cuffs. "Where did you find your Henri?" she adds, curious.

Raphael blinks once at Oliver. "Yes? He is your servant. But really I think it would be best if you found fresh clothes, my lord. Otherwise the tale of your fishing expedition will be all through the town tomorrow."

The young man grins happily as he moves after her. "My father hired him from the stables to be my personal companion when I was nine. I needed help walking around, eating, …everything. He's been a constant in my life for almost a decade." He brushes the wet hair out of his face and blushes at Raphael. He chews his bottom lip. He nods his head. "Yes master…" He speaks under his breath to Raphael.

Philomène purses her lips thoughtfully as she limps her way on. "The stables? Hm, I hadn't considered the stables. What do you think, Raphael? You say I need a replacement for Brigitte. A stable lad wouldn't be a bad shout. I spend most of my days riding anyway."

"If you bring a stable boy into your house it will be the talk of the town," Raphael replies to Philomène. "Which I consider a rather extreme way to move the spotlight from Lord Oliver." That part is a joke. "But of course it is up to you whether such gossip is desirable to you or not."

Oliver being a young man snickers when she says she enjoys riding. He holds his jacket to his chest and keeps one step behind Raphael. His jacket is hiding most of his body with his jacket. "If you want something, why not have it?" He shrugs his shoulder. "Ride that stable boy."

Philomène reaches back almost casually to flick the young man's ear. "Mind your damn manners, boy. I shall stick to riding my Hirondelle. I was considering," she notes pointedly, "that it would be useful to have a taller servant than a short one, and one who can lift and carry. A valet, perhaps, rather than a maid. Maybe not a stable boy, but a strong young fellow. Or a sturdy lass, if she's got the right qualities. It's just not something I've ever had to consider before and I admit I've no idea where one hires these people."

"I think you must ask Aurore," Raphael says. "Since she moved to the city not long ago, she would surely have experience in selecting servants not long ago." And therefore she can be the one to opine about tall valets and sturdy girls.

Oli squeaks in the most unmanly way when he's flicked. "What's a Hirondelle?" He speaks softly. He watches as she walks and keeps that easy grin. He turns and his eyes focus on some shiny trinkets and he stops walking and moves over to the booth. Distracted!

"Six year old dun mare out of Etang," Philomène explains as though that ought to make things perfectly clear. "She's got some eastern blood in her. Lovely lines. If you see Aurore before I do, which I'm sure will be the case, can you let her know I'm asking? Somebody with a bit of wit about them. Somebody who isn't just going to nod and agree and say what they think I want to hear?"

"I will," Raphael agrees with Philomène. "Assuming you don't wish to write." He reaches out a hand to catch Oliver by the upper arm and pull him along.

Oliver was just reaching for something and then he feel the strong hand and a pull. He pouts a little as the shinies get further and further away. He finally turns his head and rushes right into Raphael's side, bouncing off and then walking beside him as his cheeks go red. "Did you speak… D'angeline right there because if you did I'm really more out of it than the fuzzies make me believe." He grumps slightly.

Philomène eyes the young man. "Did I… good grief, somebody give the boy an education." She shakes her head, briefly touching Raphael's arm as she limps along. "I shall leave you to take the boy home, if you don't mind. Thank you for joining me for lunch, however. It's really been very much appreciated. I'm not certain if I'll come walking your way any time soon, but do feel free to drop in for a drink any time, hm? And let me know how the plants are doing?"

"It's a horse," Raphael supplies, steering Oliver into a straight line with pressure on his arm. "I expect I will," he tells Philomène. "I may have a certain favor to ask you, in fact."

Oliver frowns a little. Then Raphael explains. He nods his head slowly but he still doesn't seem to understand. "I can walk home on my own if he wants to walk you home instead. I'll make it. If not, what's the worse thing that can happen?" He smiles kindly towards her. He turns to Raphael. "Go walk with her and ask your favor. I'll make it home."

"I am quite capable, thank you," Philomène bristles, chin lifting at the sniff of the suggestion that she might need assistance of any kind. "But what is it you need, Raphael? Did you want to drop me a note later?"

Raphael shakes his head. "Not today," he replies. "Another time. I'll come and see you about it." It's possible that in the first place it is an excuse for a visit.

Oliver shakes his head a little at Philomène. "Of course you can but company is lovely." He lightly tap tap taps Raphael's side and looks up at the man. Then he seems to click in and he slowly smiles. "You like her." He speaks quietly. "She's scary but I do too." Again with the words being outside his mind.

Philomène presses her lips together for a moment, electing not to hear the words rather than engage. She dips her head. "Gentlemen," she offers, then peels away towards a smaller road and her smaller house, people instinctively clearing out of her limping way as she strides on home.

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