(1311-08-31) A Wonder There Isn't Music
Summary: Courtiers gather to witness the rare spectacle of the duchesse d’Eisande sitting in judgment over a recent cause célèbre that has had Marsilikos abuzz.
RL Date: Sat Aug 31, 1311
Related: The Incident at the Palace plot in general.
etienne symon ortolette 

Entrance Hall — Ducal Palace

Large double doors upon into the entrance hall of the Dome of the Lady. High is the ceiling, and it sports a playful fresco of ornamental golden fishes swimming upon a background of ultramarine. A number of high rectangular stained glass windows add to the lighting, painting the marble floor occasionally in many colors, especially on hot summer days. A red plush runner leads towards the entrance of the Great Hall, always flanked by a pair of guards in Mereliot livery, and to the right a stairway winds majestically towards the upper floor.


The courtyard outside is bustling with a to and fro of citizens. It's not quite a festival atmosphere, but only just not. This affair has caused the wagging of a lot of tongues and now it has come all the way to the judgement of the Duchesse. Most people aren't even entering the palace halls, they're just loitering outside, attracting vendors of honied pine nuts and skewers of lamb, who in turn prompt impromptu picnics while the people outside wait to hear tell of the goings-on inside, or at least the highlights and a verdict. Inside, everyone who has dared as far as enter is dressed in their best court finery, and most of them are moving directly along toward the grand entrance to the Great Hall where they are being searched for weapons on their way in.

Ortolette, herself, is dressed with her pale, milk-colored shoulders bared, hugged to her sides with sculpted bands of silk striped in gilt chain, with a piece of the same fabric circumnavigating her upper torso, out from under which breast-band a golden silk gown spills like honey, overlaid in translucent, pearly chiffon— and her feet are encased in glass slippers with a gilt sole, beautifully wrought if completely impractical to walk in. Fortunately, she is in her chair, with Girard, her Great Bear, walking behind her, so the toes of those so-delicate kitten heels are on display, poking from below her gown, without any danger of injuring their wearer's feet, or splintering into shards if knocked against a table leg. She is being pushed slowly down a side corridor, whence she can observe the entering throng without calling too much attention to herself.

<FS3> Ortolette rolls Stealth: Good Success. (1 7 2 8 2 7 1 1 3 3)

There is a bustle and a hubbub, so Symon absolutely must appear. Even though he's aware that he doesn't quite know what's going on and that he really rather should because didn't someone say something about a stabbing? Or was that not this? His expression is all insufficiently-concealed question marks as he approaches in his fine clothes. But he hasn't decided if he'll actually go all the way in or not yet, so he hovers a bit on the periphery, only to see someone he recognizes fondly: Ortolette! He sidles in her direction to fall in beside her. "Oh," he says, not loudly. "Hello. Quite the crowd, isn't there?"

"My Lord," answers Ortolette quietly, in her little doll's voice, with the articulation of pure correctness of form. She'd seen him coming— that much is for sure, from over here in her little hunting-blind. "Yes, it's going to be rather an event. Everyone in their very best. It's a wonder there isn't music to be had," this last, faintly arch, either a barb at the entertainment value held in a trial which could well end in an execution, or else a bald endorsement of the same— it's rather hard to tell from behind her small girl's smile. "I think that I will go about the back of the chamber and enter that way. There are too many people at the front. Would you walk with me, my lord?"

Symon absolutely doesn't know how to take it, that much is plain. So after a moment's hesitation he give a faint laugh and says "Rather." Surely that could pass for an appreciation of either! The invitation makes him nod. "Oh yes, of course," he answers. "B-but um…w…what p-part have they got to, do you know?"

"Nothing is happened, as yet. There are still people waiting to come in and be seated," Ortolette's eyes have to turn to maintain contact with Symon's while Girard maneuvers her invalid's chair in an artful three-point turn and begins her back down whence she came. A benefit of palace life is knowing all the back passages, the places where normally the servants alone do tread. "What do you think of the whole affair?"

"Ah…" Symon gives himself a little time to come up with something sufficiently vague to say as he walks along beside Ortolette, but it doesn't really turn up. "To b-be honest, I haven't followed it all that closely. W…what is your opinion, m…my lady?"

"No? Well, that makes one of you," Ortolette remarks with a quiet smile, easing back into her chair to more easily look up and to her side at Symon above her. "I don't think there would even be a trial here today if the whole city hadn't given this matter greater attention than it was due. There would have been a judge appointed weeks ago and it would have been over with. Instead, a trial in the Great Hall? What a spectacle. Still, the Vicomtesse will, perhaps, be edified. I should hardly be, in her position, but perhaps she will be."

"Edified?" Symon repeats, as though himself mystified. "B-but w…why the spectacle, then, do you suppose? Just to satisfy p-people's curiosity? Or that they'd riot if it didn't go the w…way they thought was p-proper?"

"Too many people are interested; with a judge there would have been questions, appeals… it's better Her Grace's voice speak on the subject once and for all, and the matter be closed to further discussion," Ortolette expounds, but this exposition takes a considerable amount of her breath and she has to pause for a quiet moment or two before beginning again: "As to the spectacle… there will be such spectacle any time a Duchesse pronounces justice before court."

"Yes, of course," Symon replies, dipping his head. "I only m…meant to ask… W-well, as you answered anyway." He looks sidelong at his delicate friend. "B-but w…what do you think the sentence ought to b-be? How would you rule if it w…were you?"

"I am not a judge, nor am I trained in the law," Ortolette begins as some manner of prologue— or caveat, recusing herself from any earnestness in presenting an answer. Still, she seems to have been rolling it about in her head already, because she has an answer at the ready: "There are too many interests at stake for a sentence either too harsh or too lenient; the prisoner's partisans seem pessimistic in the extreme, however, and that is to the benefit of the situation; she could pass sentence of banishment from d'Angeline lands and those hoping for leniency will consider that they have found some. I would not yield to those calling for her execution; I would put them in mind of their dignity in refusing to do so. But that is— were I she. Were I me, but in the position to judge and cast sentence, I doubt that I would be swayed from my cousin's wishes."

"Dignity in refusing?" Symon asks with a little smile and the ghost of a nod. "I suppose that is a clever w…way of p-putting it if there aren't too m…many followers of Kushiel among them." He seems to mean that humorously. "Your cousin," he clarifies, "B-being the V…V…Vicomtesse?" He's a little shaky on his peerage and heraldry.

"My cousin," Ortolette repeats back, "Being the Lady Desarae, in this instance," she does have an awful lot of cousins, after all, "To whom this entire episode has been but a reminder of her own tragic misfortunes." Wow, what a downer, Orto. Her wheels glide about a curve and they're in quite a dark passage, and a narrow one, too, such that his walking beside her chair might be a little cramped, or offer him the danger of knocking against one of the candles posted at intervals against the darkness.

"Oh," Symon says, nodding, turning sideways, and ducking under a candle as he turns the name over in his mind. Desarae. Something connects about a time at court, and things not going well socially… "I see," he claims. "Er, is it…safe, b-back here? I sent w…word to Étienne that I w…was coming to see w…what was afoot here, you don't think he'll have any trouble finding me, do you?" He asks, in a narrow dark passage that he couldn't find again himself if he tried. But he knows that he is Symon and Étienne is absolutely not Symon.

Étienne read the note and changed into his best doublet, rather too heavy for the season, and after some inquiries of servants he wound up here, his wet ringlets brushed out and tied back with a green ribbon. He gives a deep and graceful bow.

"If it would make Desarae feel better I would take the prisoner's life myself," quivers a thread of girlish righteousness in Ortolette's voice, the proposition a patently ridiculous one: how could an invalid do such a thing? "But," quiver vanished, all propriety once more: "I am neither judge nor Duchesse, and my mother will not be so swayed— nor should she be. It is a weakness, don't you think? To yield to anger?" Well, there's a trap, if ever there was one laid; Symon may be safe in the back corridors and passageways of the palace, but in the conversational snares of La Malade Mereliot? Who knows? "It's alright, we're nearly there." There's a broader passageway up ahead, coming just into view, crossing perpendicular to the one they're proceeding along at present. And, lo, there appears at the crossroads a 'Tien. "My Lord," Ortolette greets him. "It doesn't seem as though he had any trouble at all, no," she answers Symon.

"A w…weakness?" Symon asks, and smiles. "Oh, b-but you shouldn't ask m…me. I'm all w-weakness. And little anger, you know." It's not clear if he's deliberately dodging the question or if that is his truest answer. "Oh!" he says when Étienne appears. He's momentarily startled, but then delighted. "Oh, good! You've m…made it."

Étienne comes and kisses Symon's cheek in greeting, "I'm not sure where I am or what's going on, but I'm here." He turns a sunny dimpled smile on Ortolette. "I don't think we've properly met, but you were kind enough to let me watch an Eglantine dancer at one of your parties, an occasion I'll never forget. You are a most gracious hostess and Symon always speaks of you in the most glowing terms.”

"Yes, my Lord, I remember your presence," enunciates Ortolette most precisely— not unkindly, only with a girlish cadence. "And I'm certain my Lord Symon is only too kind," she lowers her eyes in a gesture of youthful bashfulness at the praise. "He and I were making our way to the back of the Great Hall, not to get caught in the crowd thronging the grand entryway. Are you intending upon attending the trial as well?"

Symon puts a hand on Étienne's arm, squeezing. "Oh, it's such a— I didn't expect quite so m…many p-people, did you? Only I suppose a trial b-by the Duchesse is terribly dramatic. As w…we were just discussing. B-but w…we have to go b-because it's all anyone w…will b-be talking about."

Étienne bows again, "I'm not entirely sure what the trial is about, but I think not being too pressed is a fine idea. Might you too catch me up on the gossip?" He blushes. "I've been rather preoccupied with practicing my sailing this summer." Which would explain the dark tan.

"Well, I'm attending, at any rate. I'll sit in the back— I have a spot where I sit for most functions. If you find chairs, you may sit with me and have a fine view, if at an unconventional angle." Girard leans slightly forward and angles his weight against the chair to turn it down the wider corridor. "The Vicomtesse de Gueret was wounded in a swordfight with an amnesiac foreigner. It became quite the to-do," she sums up the situation in as many words as needed.

"W…we're quite unconventional," Symon hastens to agree. "As you can tell b-by our failure to catch the juiciest gossip in m…months. B-but yes, that's m…more or less w-what I'd heard," he confirms needlessly. "Only I can't imagine anyone getting the b-better of the V…V…Vicomtesse, especially some amnesiac foreigner, can you?" he asks Étienne. "She's terrifying. Oh, I should've sent her flowers, I didn't think. Do you think she w…would hate them? M-maybe w…wine is b-better."

Étienne nods, "I see… Amnesiac? How peculiar. I admit, I was having trouble imagining it. Wine and cheese makes more sense, I think. I'll contribute the cheese." He flashes Ortolette another smile, "Unconventional, that's us, and we'd be happy to keep you company."

"I'm sure the Vicomtesse will be at hand for the trial, if you would both like to pay her your respects in person," Ortolette brings up the fact with a mere lightness of tone that belies what sort of thing it might be to approach said Vicomtesse on the day of this particular trial. They're there, now, just around the corner is a small archway which will gain them entryway to the hall. It is guarded, of course, but the guards know Ortolette and that this is her usual course of ingress to her customary spot. The two accompanying her will probably gain a wary eyeing and are asked for any weapons they might be carrying.

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