(1311-09-13) Great Exhibition: Opening Feast
Summary: The opening feast of the Great Exhibition, held at the ducal palace.
RL Date: 13/09/2019
Related: Great Exhibition Plot
aedhwyn alphesiboe antoine armandine arterre etienne farah fiora hugo safiye shaffan symon vespasien 

NPC Leif Gunnarsson

Great Hall — Ducal Palace

High and light colored are the walls of the Great Hall, woods of golden tones used in the wainscoting that reaches till mid-level, with elaborate ornaments of fish chasing each other carved into them. A great hearth governs one end of the hall, with a large shield looming above, showing the coat of arms of House Mereliot. With six tall windows on one side framed by long dark blue curtains of heavy brocade, the wall opposite has a line of a couple of shields of Eisandine Houses, placed at regular intervals, and the pair of impressive double doors, through which courtiers usually will enter. The floor is of polished cream colored marble, enhanced with white inlay work depicting the ever repeating pattern of Mereliot fish. Lighting is provided through the lamps at the walls and three large chandeliers suspended from the arched ceiling, polished glass beads glittering where they catch and magnify the light of candles.

Early to the gathering, entering without ceremony a Great Hall almost empty but for servants in ducal livery putting the final touches to certain sumptuous arrangements worthy of a sovereign duchesse's hospitality, is a woman of foreign aspect and attire and perhaps sixty years of age: modest and matronly in silks of aquamarine and blue and gold which, close to, are more intricately figured than a d'Angeline lady might expect to add to her wardrobe. She moves with surpassing grace, her slippered feet whispering lightly over pale marble, her limbs in an easy harmony with the angle of her head and the line of her gaze as she looks about her with a warm, brown-eyed curiosity. Gleaming golden medallions engraved as flowers — and almost too large to seem real — draw light to her ears and her bodice. She is shadowed by a much younger woman, taller than she, in plainer garb (gathered trousers, a tunic) of darker hues chosen to compliment her own.

To d'Angeline nobility acquainted with the personnel of the recent Ephesian embassy to Terre d'Ange, or to habituées of La Perle Noire in the Grand Plaza, she's a recognisable figure: Lady Sophia, or Safiye Hanim, whose name in its melodic variations is intermittently linked with the news of bloodshed in the far east, and with the phoenix risen from those bitter, internecine ashes.

Arriving early, being the sort of young chap who is wont to assume everything runs to strict timing rather than any consideration of what is acceptable to civilised people's unwritten rules, Hugo de Travalion abandons his formal hat and boat cloak, along with a coin by way of thanks, at the door to a stout older sailor, revealing the clearly rarely worn but exquisitely tailored full dress uniform of a Lieutenant, Royal Navy. The sailor, who rather looks as though given provocation could probably benchpress the majority of the Great Hall without breaking a sweat, knuckles his forehead and disappears into the night, leaving Hugo unchaperoned, eager, wide eyed and ready to partake of all the delights of polished society. By which we mean he naturally drifts towards the drinks.

For tonight's banquet, the Great Hall has been decorated with banners of the foreign countries and houses currently visiting the city. The setting seems to be a more informal one, as trestle tables have been moved to the sides, now to carry plates bowls and platters with finger food, small refreshments to go along with the wines that are being served. The cooks of the palace have outdone themselves, presenting cold slices of roast deer decorated with cooked cranberries, pastries filled with spinach, goat cheese and garlic and others filled with smoked ham and onions. Prawns, roasted in olive oil and garlic, sit beside slices of pear and apple, wrapped into rolls of smoked ham. Sweeter delicacies are laid out on another table, rolls of cinnamon and small lemon cakes, darker colored chocolate toppings on cookies, and small bowls with apple-crumble.

As there are only a few accommodations of seating (and those to the side, before the great hearth), people are scattered across the hall in smaller groups, allowing for a more dynamic way of mingling. There is an air of d'Angeline elegance about local nobility in attendance, but also there is that tempting spice of the exotic, brought in by the delegations of foreign dignitaries.

Each delegation has found their spot, most of them sticking together, instead of venturing about on their own. There are exceptions of course. And it adds to the positive mood of friendly exploration and cultural audacity, to see foreigners engage in conversations with d'Angelines on their turn about the great hall.

Recognizable even within the crowd is the figure of the Duchesse de Mereliot, standing as she is somewhere in the center of the hall, engaged in talks with three or four people. It may be the ducal coronet that gives her away, golden with a line of sapphires glinting in the light. It may be the upright confident posture of hers, or maybe the dress, in signature blue with golden fish embroideries.

Beside Armandine de Mereliot it is the tall figure of a foreign man in his mid-fifties. Blonde is his hair with a few grey streaks, and the lines in his face show him to be a non-d'Angeline. His demeanor is earnest and a bit grave perhaps, even so, Leif Gunnarsson manages a smile now and then. Quite a feat, given the rather unfortunate news of the recent death of his charge, the Lady Elin Asbjornsdottir. He is clad in dark colors, courtly but of a plainer elegance than what a d'Angeline court may be used to.

Foreign by her looks, but Mereliot by name is Lady Farah. The young wife of the Vicomte de Toulon enters through the double doors, in a dress of light peach colored silk and lace, emphasizing the slightly darker tone of her skin. Dark hair has been arranged in a courtly do, combs and needles glinting where they peek forth from the wealth of black curls held in check. Maybe she is early. Or maybe she is late, looking for her husband as she lets her dark eyes sweep their gaze over the crowd. Sleeves reach to her elbows, flaring out slightly in trumpet fashion, and long are the skirts that give a faint rustling sound as she moves. A glass of red wine finds its way into her hand, and Farah smiles as she has a first sip, feeling at ease perhaps from the fact that she is not the only foreign looking woman for once, in the great hall.

Of course Safiye is not in herself a delegation. She received her invitation not by formal right but in an exchange of courtesies, to ensure that even in the absence of an accredited ambassador Ephesium is not without an ear in these halls. As soon as the other guests begin to foregather she finds a casual acquaintance to chat with, a happy coffee-guzzling patron of her house — and then another — making her gliding and gleaming way from one conversation to the next, too discreet to foist her company upon anyone who might not desire it but ever alert to a glance, a smile, a friendly gesture. She glimpsed Hugo de Trevalion earlier: coming near again to his distinctive uniformed figure she greets him with a slight, deniable bow and the familiar (by now) chime of her golden earrings.

Étienne's pale skin contrasts with his thick, glossy, black curls and small goatee. His eyes are the bright blue like the Southern Sea. His face is roundish, but his cheekbones pronounced, though he has an unformed look, as if he's still growing into his adult face. His lips are of average shape and fullness, but very mobile. He is of average height, wide of shoulder and slim of waist, like a bull dancer in an ancient fresco. He is heavily tanned at the momment.

Étienne is freshly scrubbed in a formal, Northern cut tunic of leaf green with blue dolphin and wave embroidery, wearing his best boots, dyed green to match. His shoulder length curly hair has been pomaded into a tail, that is likely to stay put, at least, instead of follow it's usual wayward tendency towards escape. The pomade has added a pleasant soft citrus tinge to the sea scent that clings to him and the natural musk of his skin. He has replaced the practical leather thong he usually uses to tie back his hair with a green ribbon. He has freshly trimmed his goatee and shaved around it.

Just now he is peering around rather shyly while advancing towards the refreshment table.

Arterre is totally enraptured by the food on display—the young local nobleman clearly more interested in culinary options than the pomp and circumstance of the occassion. Indeed, by the time he's done exploring the food on offer, his plate is quite heavy, almost intimidating; it's doubtful the young lissome fellow is going to be able to pack it all away. But he seems eager enough to make the attempt, minding his own business (for now) as he assumes a seat. He doesn't really seem to recognize many of those in attendance, save the Duchess herself, not does he attempt to distract so esteemed a person from her current meeting. For now, he sits and eats. And drinks. And eats some more. Important priorities!

Hugo can deny nothing about the way he beams the Ephesian purveyor of coffee a wide, dimpled smile and lifts his wine glass (already with a good amount missing - never give a sailor a free bar) towards her. Subtlety is not his strong suit, but the smile is genuine enough, and he's generally an affable sort that he might be forgiven. "Hullo!" he offers up to Safiye. "Time for the other foreign nations to see if they can produce anything to compete with your lemon sweets and your coffee, hm? Do you have a drink? Would you like one? Shall I… here, you stay put, I'll get you…" but before he can attempt to be gentlemanly, one of the many, many Mereliot servants drifting about the place is already there with a tray of drinks.

Having made his way into the hall for this event, Antoine looks around rather carefully to see who the others present are. Some familiar faces, but still many that he doesn't know, or doesn't know that well. There are smiles and nods offered as he looks around, taking a few moments longer before he makes his way over towards the refreshments, steps a bit slow for now.

The Vicomtess de Sartene, Fiora Rousse is present today as well. The golden haired lady clad in a flowing gown that is both d'Angeline and Hellene inspired. made of the finest emerald green silk that dress has been stitched with silver thread forming an elegant geometric pattern around the waistline, that pattern also inset with real aquamarine gems. The single sleeve is short and drapes lightly over her slim shoulder. The shimmering green silk trails slightly behind her as she walks more of those tiny polished aquamarine gems have been sewn onto the skirt of the dress to catch the light. Her circlet is made of delicate waving silver, resting over her brow with a teardrop aquamarine dangling from its center. Her hair is pinned up into an artful bun, silver pins holding it in place while several curls escape to frame her face. She steps into the great hall with a smile on her face, seeking out a place for herself with smooth graceful strides. Looking around she tries to spot someone she might know, or at least someone to talk to.

Shadowed by her tall young attendant Safiye takes a few smooth steps toward Hugo, as if drawn in by the beam of his wide-open smile. "I think this is d'Angeline food, no? The duchesse's hospitality," she suggests, nodding to the nearest laden table, "and the rest of us to offer our own in the days to come." Then, bowing her head as she accepts the glass of wine the young officer places in her hand: "My lord, you are very courteous. Thank you. I do hope," and she smiles gently up at him, "that the rest of your birthday was full of delights."

Leif Gunnarsson smiles politely to a particular remark of the duchesse, nodding his head even as he lets his pale blue eyes wander. The current acting ambassador of Gotland is quite attentive to his surroundings, or so it seems. Even so, he bows to Armandine with a murmured excuse to venture over to the tables. Apparently Gotlanders too are subjected to the daily needs for drink and food.

Farah seems to be on her own for now, after she has found the Akkadian delegation and exchanged a few words with them. Her cousin Mirzeta is nowhere to be seen at the moment, and perhaps it was her she had been looking for, after all. The golden fish of House Mereliot rest in the dip beneath her collarbones, a pendant dangling from a necklace she wears tonight. Noticing her goblet is already empty, she moves over to the tables, and thus comes past Arterre. "I believe, they handed me an empty goblet," Farah remarks to him in half-jest. Not that she would know him. Or would she?

Hugo laughs at Safiye's question/insinuation, his quite self-satisfied smile enough to indicate that yes, he did have a lovely birthday, thank you. "Delights even beyond your Ephesian ones, but again I must thank you for your kindness. I'm certainly going to miss all of this," he indicates the general gathering with a wide sweep of one neatly tailored arm, "when I'm back aboard. I'm hoping there'll be dancing later, if only so my education growing up wasn't entirely wasted. Do you dance?"

Étienne loads up his plate with the hunger of an active young man. He northerner is just beginning to grow into his face, the large, intensely blue eyes finally finding a proper setting in the good bones of his face just emerging from more youthful roundness the way a fine jeweler might set sapphires in a good setting. He studies the others from under long dark lashes as he tries to find place out of the way to enjoy his food and wine and get his bearings among so many strangers. There is a simple elegance to his movements, not a fidgit or a movement wasted. he moves like a dancer or a swordsman. His movements, like his eyes are the clearest sign of his illustrious forbear though his line is no longer particularly distinguished in other ways.

Fashionably late, the youngest son of the Sultan Chakir Zamani enters the Great Hall. His posture basically screams out that this man is not a simple member of a nobility but the Prince himself. The Prince who thinks highly of himself and his pride is absolutely equal to that one of d'Angeline being d'Angeline. A smile curls his lips up and perfectly white teeth offer a star-like twinkle by reflecting the light. That same light dances in Shaffan's brown eyes which observe the surrounding with a curiousity and a touch of a very natural mischief. A mischief which can be found in any young man's eyes. The ambassador of Carthage is wearing a high class silk clothes of a design similar to that of d'Angeline. However, his blue silks are decorated with golden embroideries. The patterns of those embroideries appear to be traditional for his land.

"Ah!" Shaffan seeks out for a glass of wine from one of those tables. He takes a generous gulp of a precious drink before raising his goblet in greeting for a few faces. He might not even recognize them but if he catches eyes on him, he politely greets the gawker. Instead of a rise of a glass, Shaffan greets women by a playful wink. Mingling in the crowd, he also sends a few compliments to some of the ladies and even staff members: "Oh, aren't you looking marvellous today?", "Oh, look at this fabric. I will catch you up later to know where you got it!", "Your eyes are brighter than that gold of your pendant, dear!", "Ah! What a grace!"… But the man does not pause to have a prolonged conversation with any of the people he passes by.

Which question from Hugo prompts Safiye to a warm low chuckle. She sips her wine and gives a slight shake of her head, her flower medallion earrings once more catching and reflecting the light. "Not for many years, my lord," she confides; "that part of my education is useful now only to be passed on. Ah, I see that poor Gotlandish man is by himself— shall we spare him that sorrow at least?" And she tilts her head in question, and if Hugo chooses to drift with the tide he may accompany her into the orbit of the surviving Gotlandish envoy.

"Monsieur Gunnarsson," the Ephesian lady murmurs, in the d'Angeline which is the Great Exhibition's natural language of diplomacy, "may I offer you my condolences upon the loss of your lady—? A tragedy which touches us all gathered here," she assures him, with genuine compassion in her warm, brown-eyed gaze. "I wish I had had the opportunity to know her."

Antoine looks around once more, as he moves to fill up some food and drink as well. Those that know him knows that he's usually a rather quiet person, not as fond of the large gatherings. So he still looks around, before moving to find himself a place to seat himself. Still watching the people rather carefully.

Monsieur Gunnarsson, finding himself suddenly addressed as such, turns to regard the Ephesian woman, looking faintly startled before settling into that d'Angeline pronunciation and accepting it. His own d'Angeline sounds a bit rough around the edges, not quite hiding the melody of speech his mother tongue is known for. "My lady." This a safe way of greeting, at such occasion. "Thank you for expressing your condolences." His pale eyes flit downwards for a moment as his hands, having placed his plate on the table, fold at the small of his back. "Lady Elin will be… sorely missed. I've send word to her father. It is not the kind of news that is easy to… put into written form. But… I see you are at an advantage for knowing who I am? With whom have I the pleasure of speaking?"

Farah cannot help but glance towards the Carthaginian prince, shapely brows furrowing just for a moment, as she tries to place him. She has gotten a refill for her goblet and moves on, fingers curling about the drinking vessel as she continues through the hall. Her dark eyes glint, and she smiles, cheeks dimpling just so, in a face that shows Akkadian complexion refined with d'Angeline traits. She stumbles and almost spills wine onto Etienne, murmuring a mortified apology. "Forgive me, my lord." Ready to move on.

The Ephesian bestows upon the Gotlander a slight, graceful bow. Straightening, she introduces herself and her present companion both: "I hope you will pardon me for listening to so much gossip," she says gently. "I am Safiye Hanim; I have come from Ephesium to live in Terre d'Ange. This young man is Lt. Lord Hugo de Trevalion of the Royal Navy, who desires also to condole with you, monsieur. I can imagine what a heavy task," she goes on, "to write such a letter. But how much more comfort your words might offer to her family, than those of a stranger."

"Well, that would be a marvellous event if we would have a bit louder music and more people dancing," Shaffan comments when he approaches another lord who has found himself a more quiet spot to sit and observe. A lord he does not recognize. "I am Shaffan Zamani of Carthage." A glass is raised when he introduces himself to Antoine. "Let me guess, you will be one of d'Angelines. Why are you not out there, not mingling with the crowd?" The young man takes a sip curiously looking down at the stranger and smiling.

"Lady Safiye." Leif Gunnarsson returns that bow, even if the smile seems a little tight around the edges. "It can never be a light task to speak of death and loss." But he seems willing to let the matter rest there, instead turning now towards Hugo to regard the man with a bit of curiosity. "My lord." Acknowledgement of his intention, as mentioned by Safiye.

Étienne listens to the talk around Monsieur Gunnarsson with concern and sympathy. He drifts that way, dodging farah's near miss with a quick side step. "It is nothing. Don't worry." He gives her a flash of his dimples. He gives a bow graceful as the sweep of a heron's wing. His accent is very Azzallese, gentry, rather than elevated or common. His tone is solemn. "I never know what to say on these occasions, but you have my deepest sympathy as well."

"Hmmm?" Antoine pauses as he hears Shaffan's words. "I will be mingling a bit more in a little while. I just figured it was a good thing to observe the crowd and see what interesting people there is out there, after all." A brief pause, and he smiles, "It's a pleasure to meet you, my lord. I'm Antoine Valais, Vicomte de Marcoux. I hope you have enjoyed your stay here so far."

Farah looks relieved when her blunder didn't cause more than make a gentleman evade with elegant ease. Dark eyes meet those of Etienne, as he looks her way, and her smile deepens, before she moves on, as the lord is already headed elsewhere.

At Safiye's side Hugo murmurs appropriate words of his own to the Gotlandish envoy, having — as previously mentioned — been educated in some of the social arts as well as the seafaring ones. Though then he is the first to excuse himself from their diplomatic chit-chat, while she lingers to inquire of Leif: "Have you yet decided whether to carry through with your exhibition, monsieur? I hope you shall," she offers softly; "it is a delicate situation, of course, but it is also a means of remembering Lady Elin, and of carrying through the work she intended here. I cannot imagine anyone thinking less of Gotland for doing such honours to her memory," she suggests, again gracefully bowing her head. To Étienne, a stranger, she offers a courteous smile before looking again to Leif.

Alphesiboe has had the mixed luck to be presenting among the first of the ambassadors at the exhibition— tomorrow, in fact. The luck is mixed thus: to its detriment, she has been extraordinarily preoccupied in its arrangement and preparation, such that she and Neaboule appear in their hand-woven woolen tunics, dyed in such vivid colors as only knew a sheep in the age of myth, rather tardily even to the opening event; to its benefit, she will then be free to enjoy the remainder of the exhibition in leisure, and even see a bit more of this Angel-Born land. An additional benefit has been a distraction from the dire events of recent past— news of which, however, has certainly at least touched her ears. The news of the Ambassador's death especially alarming; she has tasked Neaboule to begin to consider preparation for evacuating these lands rather earlier than planned, if there is further evidence of its lack of safety. The pair of them enter hand in hand, more like best friends than mistress and servant, Bo the taller of the two and more impressive of footprint, fairer of hair and longer of arm and leg— and the one wearing the diamond-inlaid diadem marking her status. Farah seems foreign, to her eye, and she leans to nudge into Nea and indicate that they should intercept her, which the pair of them thence intend their course to manage.

"Well, my ship has been delayed," Shaffan leans against the wall beside the bench on which Antoine is seated. He takes a sip of wine again and looks down at the other lord. "So, I have been here for about two days. The city is definitely beautiful. A little bit too cold for my taste though. The weather, I mean. I can not judge on people for now. But one is for sure! You god damn have pretty women and even men, I already have seen like at least seven I would gladly fuck." He laughs and finishes off his wine. "It's a pleasure meeting you, m'lord. I hope to see you in more than one of the upcoming events. But before that, introduce me to this court of yours. Who is that lady over there," he gestures towards a redhead woman who is at least five years or more older than Shaffan.

Leif dips his head in an affirmative nod towards Safiye. "It is my duty to continue with planning and carrying through with presenting Gotland at this exhibition," he intones in that slightly angular accent of his. "Even with our delegation grieving over the loss of our beloved Lady Elin…" He inhales through his nose, making that appropriate pause. "We are not to forget the reason for coming all the way to Marsilikos. It is my duty towards Jarl Asbjorn, and to the king of Gotland. And… duty can be a relief in times of loss, as it gives us something to do." To Etienne, the Gotlander inclines his head. "Thank you as well, for your kind words, my lord. They are truly appreciated."

Antoine hmms at Shaffan's words, as he finishes off his food, and his drink. "I'm sorry we could not change the weather," he replies, with a brief chuckle, as he gets to his feet again. "I hope to be able to enjoy those events. I've always found different cultures quite interesting." As for the talk about the lady, he offers a grin to the other man. "Why don't we go see who she is?" he suggests, lightly enough.

Étienne edges carefully a little further away from Shaffan. his manners may be rough, but he's trying. He gives Leif a look of respect, "I'm Étienne d'Arguil, by the way." He is looking at Armandine as if trying to place him. He has one of those faces that telegraphs his thoughts of the moment the light dawns it is quite visible to all.

A target thus pursued can be easily cornered, and so Farah pauses in her restless wandering when she almost runs into the Illyrian pair that crosses her path, perhaps not so much by accident. "My ladies.", comes the greeting, and a graceful curtsey executed by the Mereliot of dark hair and dark eyes. A faintly worried look towards her goblet, but it seems, Farah didn't spill anything. "I am Farah Mereliot. Welcome to the palace." At least the pair looks somewhat foreign. She looks from Neaboule to Alphesiboe, perhaps expecting some introduction in turn.

"Then I shall look forward to attending your exhibition, Monsieur Gunnarsson," is Safiye's smooth answer, "and I shall pray that you do indeed find solace in your duties. Will you pardon me…?" she asks gently; and with another bow which takes in Étienne as well she excuses herself from Leif's company— for beyond his shoulder she has glimpsed Armandine less than previously thronged by relations and sycophants. It seems an apt moment to offer her greetings.

And if she should be so fortunate as to catch the duchesse's eye, Safiye will sink into another of those curtseys which — whilst being nothing compared to the obeisances expected and offered in her homeland — are elegant, deferential, and held a little longer than the locals usually do. "Your Grace," she murmurs, "I must thank you for inviting me to pay another visit to your beautiful halls. It is a pleasure and a privilege to enjoy your hospitality."

Shaffan briefly glances at the man who has withdrawn from him. A light shrug follows that and then the Prince focuses again on his current companion. "Nah, I was just curious about her. I had a hope to meet another fair lady in white hair. I believe she introduced herself as Vicomtess Fiora. Do you know her? Have you seen her somewhere around?" He asks Antoine and pushes himself from the wall since another lord shows an interest to move and mingle more.

It is the fate of a duchesse to attract courtiers, and why should it be different for Armandine de Mereliot on this particular eve? Hearing herself addressed by Safiye, the duchesse seizes the opportunity to extract herself for a moment from her current company. "Ah, Lady Sophia," she greets, taking the other woman's arm to take her for a brief and only slightly conspiratorial stroll at an unhurried pace. "You know you are welcome to these halls, and always will be. I hope you are enjoying the festivities? Have any more news reached you from your home country since last time we spoke?", Armandine inquires gently. "I hope, things are continuing to develop as you hinted in that conversation we had."

Farah's introduction is genially related to Alphesiboe by her companion and interpreter while the former dips into a curtsey of her own— not a native custom, but one she is happy to endeavor— and it makes those flat brows of hers nudge upward. "Na?" she asks, "Em Alphesiboe Khersides," she gestures with her free hand to herself, then, long fingers held in a gently cupping gesture toward her companion, "Es Neaboule Panoeides. Ma sen idestei Merelioides, ikeins… ia, ep' Hellenike?" she breaks off, looking to Neaboule, who interprets: "This is Princess Alphesiboe, and I'm Neaboule, her interpreter on this journey. She says that to approach you from across the way she hardly would have thought you Mereliot in birth— and she wonders whether you happen to speak Hellene?"

Antoine nods a bit at Shaffan's words. "I think I only know that particular one by reputation, I'm afraid," he offers after a few moments of pause. "But it would not surprise me if she was here. Many people are, unless they have urgent business coming up." A brief pause, as he looks around again for the redhead lady the prince mentioned earlier.

Farah smiles, brows wrinkling a touch as they give away that she is not at all familiar with the language. "I am sorry, I don't speak Hellene. Lady… Alphesiboe? Lady Neaboule. I speak Akkadian and a bit of Ephesian. And… I've arrived in Terre d'Ange less than a year ago. From Khebbel-im-Akkad." The admission brings a touch of rosiness to her cheeks. "I was not born a Mereliot, but I am one by marriage."

"Reputation?" Shaffan really grows curious. "I know that it's a woman's business to gossip, but perhaps you could tell me more about lady's Fiora's reputation? I hope it's something nice? After all, she must be quite a woman if she earned a chance to rule?" His eyebrow rises and curiosity grows.

No doubt this in itself causes a small stir among the d'Angeline nobles and the foreign dignitaries they pass by— the duchesse d'Eisande arm in arm with the Ephesian lady who makes that uncannily good coffee in the Grand Plaza, both of them quietly dignified in blue and golden formal attire of such vastly differing styles. To Armandine, Safiye murmurs: "Thank you, Your Grace, for all your kindness and for the welcome you have given me to your city. By God's will the news continues favourable to the friends you and I have in common — and now that trading has resumed as usual, I venture to hope that this friendship between our states will lead to greater prosperity for us both."

"A! Na, na na na, idema," Alphesiboe just ploughs on ahead in Illyrian, then, though the clear notes of realization and understanding in the words above, together with the way Bo's neck dips to one side and her posture slouches slightly in a clear signal of same, really negates any need for Nea to interpret: "Oh! She understands now." But she does, anyhow, while Bo continues on, "Po 'si sei onero sei? E bunolesto, ide is pasoi?" "She wonders how you are finding it being married to a d'Angeline man. They seem very naughty."

The Alban delegation is here in force and they are a lively and fierce looking bunch. Each is marked with the brilliant blue woad in designs along their visible skin. Some wear more tribal designs, others still look imposing with the woad designed to make them look even fiercer than their usual countenance. Still others, like Aedhwyn, wear flowing designs in the brightest of blue with accents of white, vermillion, saffron, and verdant green, the designs meant to attract the eye for their beauty as well as ferocity.

For the fete, Aedhwyn wears her hair in an elaborate braided updo that allows the tatoo at her temple to be seen, the design embellished by micah and small gems. A small tiara set with sapphires sits atop her head matching the torc around her neck and arm. Her gown is a blend of Alban and D'Angline, the entirety of her back visible so that the artistry upon her skin is visible, along with the more permanent tattoo at the base of her spine. There is a smile as she speaks to a curious noble, answering his questions easily enough even as she turns her head to allow him to see the tattoo a bit clearer.

"Ah, everyone has a reputation, even if it might not be very well known," Antoine offers, before he shrugs a little. "Although I don't know very much about the Vicomtesse." A brief smile is offered. "I'm sure she is quite a woman. Most of the ruling women are, after all."

"Well, you are very right!" The Prince of Carthage agrees. "I guess I will stop bothering you know. After all, I need to refill my glass. It was a pleasure meeting you, lord Antoine. I am sure we will run into each other soon again!" Shaffan raises an empty glass at Antoine, offers him a bow of his head and then wanders off to get more wine.

The gesture was probably meant that way. Armandine tilts her head slightly towards Safiye as they walk beside each other. "Of course," she replies. "And I will be happy to hear that these developments continue. I should pay La Perle Noire a visit these days, I hear the place is thriving." The duchesse smiles, giving Safiye a sideways look. "It seems you are already enjoying prosperity of your own. But yes. Ephesium can use some calmer tides. There certainly has been enough storm there, of late."

Étienne bows low to Aedhwyn whom he remembers from the market. His Alban was clearly learned from a book and is spoken with a heavy Azallese accent, «It is good to see you again, Ambassador. I am looking forward to the festival.»

Farah looks from Alphesiboe to Nea and back, enjoying the melodious sound of the language but with the expression of someone clearly not understanding a single word. It is when the latter translates that Farah's smile broadens, flashing a glimpse of her white teeth and she bites her lip. "It is… never boring," she admits then, rolling her eyes just so. "I don't regret my fate, and in Lord Marco, I have found a kind husband I can get along with." In the moment she mentions his name, however, the rosiness of her cheeks increases. "Are you seeking husbands here, my ladies?", Farah wonders, eyes alighting.

Aedhwyn smiles brightly at Etienne, answering in Cruithne, «It is good to see you again as well, Lord…." There is the briefest of pauses as she reaches for a name and find it, "…Arguil. It has been far too long. I am looking forward to the festival as well, to learning about the others present here as well as having the opportunity to share my own culture.»

Antoine nods to Shaffan as he heads off. "It was a pleasure to meet you," he offers in return, before he starts to move further through the crowd, watching the various people now.

Safiye's own unnaturally black hair, arranged in smooth interwoven coils, inclines likewise toward Armandine's paler coroneted head as they speak. In the fluent d'Angeline which from her earliest days in this land made her privy to so much ambassadorial business she answers: "Your Grace, you do me too much honour. But of course I would be delighted to prepare coffee for you whenever you wish." Then, a little less formally, but a little more quietly withal, she adds: "I think of it more as a fire than a storm, Your Grace. Good husbandmen working the land often set a blaze to clear the undergrowth, and to allow the strongest trees the light and the air by which they will thrive all the more. But I think the embers have died away, and Ephesium shall now enjoy that peace you so kindly wish."

Étienne beams at her, with those dimples and the kind of teeth one has if one hardly ever eats sweet things. «I am pleased you remember me. how are you enjoying your stay in our country?» He is ridiculously pleased to have a chance to practice his Cruithne with a real live native speaker and it shows. «I have been practicing my sailing this summer. I hope you have found pleasant amusements to your tastes as well.»

Armandine's honey blonde hair looks right now the fitting counterpart to Safiye's dark curls, as they continue on their unhurried stroll that takes them past other arrivals. "Peace, my lady Sophia," Armandine tells Safiye at a low volume, "is the most precious treasure there is, and often so hard to maintain. But…" Her gaze brushes the gathering and she pauses. "Allow me to introduce a member of my family. Lady Farah de Mereliot, wife to my second cousin, the Vicomte de Toulon. I see she is already in conversation. Princess Alphesiboe. Lady Neaboule." It seems, the duchesse has an excellent memory for names and faces. "This here is the Lady Sophia, acting ambassador of Ephesium."

Aedhwyn seems quite pleased to speak in one of her native tongues though she slows it down a bit for Etienne. «I have been enjoying my time here. Though I have yet to go sailing.»

This most gracious dismissal, Safiye accepts by unlinking her arm from Armandine's and turning slightly to offer her late companion a respectful inclination of her head. The golden flower-medallions suspended from her ears and brightening her bosom gather and reflect the light as she moves. "Again, Your Grace, you do me too much honour— I, a mere woman, would not dare to claim such a title," she insists gently, though there's a warm light of amusement in her gaze moving from the duchesse to the trio of the ladies to whom she finds herself presented. In such company — to be a female diplomat is no contradiction at all. "Your Highness," she murmurs, directing a slight courtesy toward Bo in her diamond diadem. "Lady Farah; Lady Neaboule. It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance."

It is a joyous little language, Illyrian, and Alphesiboe is graced with a low and husky voice which may dull the more trilling of its melodies, but which smoothes them over into something sounding like one long, honey-sweet lullaby, one black-wooled blanket snugged about against the night. She shares a sly, side-long smile with Farah as Neaboule relates her answer, then lets out a sharp cry of laughter that she muffled underneath both hands, only a moment too late from having made quite a conspicuous noise as she quite near doubles over in mirth, then rises again, eyes wet with tears, grinning boldly, "Ma Marco Mereliot onero's sei?" she reaches out her arms toward Farah as though welcoming her into an embrace, "o'iketei mei Nea'te par s'belepoleis, ma ton iketeimo," she relates in a friendly fashion, allowing Nea to pipe up from her side: "She is astounded to find she and I are already met of your husband. He came to the pens where we were occupied and spoke to us very naughtily— but please do not fear, he made no true effort upon our virtue. We found him, more, as— funny," Nea is definitely going off-script a little bit here, just from the length of her explanation. And then the Duchesse herself is approaching, and the Princess composes herself from her moment of jocularity to lift her chin and present herself once more to the Duchesse with a cursey in the d'Angeline style. "Nass' Mereliot," she greets, voice low, smile warm, taking in the other introduction with some interest— Ephesium being in as frequent trade with Hellas as Illyria, perhaps. She endeavors, in Hellene: "Good to meet you, Lady Sophia. Or Lady Wisdom, I hope?" Sophia being 'wisdom' in Hellene, after all, she poses thus her hope that she is understood.

Étienne sips his wine, «Are you doing an exhibition? What sort of things will you be doing? I really am interested in your country.»

Farah regards the new arrival with curiosity. But first, it is the presence of the duchesse, she needs to acknowledge with a curtsey and a respectful dip of her gaze. "Your Grace," her gaze shifts from Armandine to the Ephesian woman, "Mademoiselle Safiye." There may be a bit more than the usual amount of interest flashing in her dark gaze, a faintly nervous twitch of her brows, a telling tightening of that smile, for a moment. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance." Just before, the reactions of Alphesiboe to the name of her husband, the strange displays of mirth and references to naughtiness managed the feat to have her olive-skinned cheeks bloom in a dusky sort of blush. A blush that now quickly subsides, as Farah regards the ambassador of Ephesium with a mixture of curiosity and caution.

Aedhwyn mms softly, «I believe it will be much like when the Alban games were held with both games of skill and a bonfire.»

"I hope so too, Your Highness," Safiye answers Alphesiboe in easy and fluent Hellene, her voice velvety and low and coloured with a slight Ephesian accent; "though on many days I confess I doubt it," or at least, modesty requires her to disclaim it with another gentle shake of her head. Her attendant has found her meanwhile — having been instructed not to pursue her whilst she was with the duchesse — a tall young woman in plainer garments, a tunic and loose trousers, in darker hues of the blue and aquamarine and gold Safiye herself wears. She stands as a shadow behind her mistress, with her hands clasped at the small of her back and her eyes watchful. For Farah Safiye has a small compliment: "You pronounce it beautifully, my lady. I wonder," and her dark brown eyes are kindly inquiring, "can you perhaps have Akkadian blood, as I do—?"

Vespasien steps into the great hall in his typical dress, he hasn't done a single thing to try and look as if he belongs in a large gathering of nobles or foreign persons of importance.

No, Vespasien is once again lost in his own world- writing in one of his many pads of paper as he enters into the great hall and pauses. Looking up slowly. "Oh. This is *tonight*." he states, largely to himself.

He's certainly not dressed badly- but it isn't the finery one might expect from a D'angeline nobleman. His hair fussed, his clothing unpressed- clearly thrown on without much thought. A bottle of golden liquor peeks out of his bag, along with one of his smaller telescopes. He obviously wasn't expecting to see a room full of feast or anything else. Frozen for a moment, he weighs his options.

Antoine has been talking with a few people off to the side. Shaking his head as he glances around at the other people present, a bit thoughtfully.

Safiye's observation turning into a half-question has Farah's brows move upwards in a faint and very subtle twitch. "Indeed," the Vicomtesse de Toulon replies after a moment, in her slightly accented d'Angeline. "I am a niece to the khalif of Khebbel-im-Akkad, Mademoiselle. But I also have d'Angeline blood flowing through my veins." She looks curious. «You have Akkadian blood?», Farah asks then, in Ephesian, but the foreign tongue does not quite manage to conceal her surprise at the revelation.

Armandine has continued on her stroll, only to be intercepted by another throng of courtiers vying for her attention. Even so, the arrival of her dear first cousin does not escape the duchesse, and she shoots a glance and a warm smile in his direction, shoould Vespasien Trevalion look her way. Alas, it will take her a moment or two, to extricate herself from her current company. Oh the woes of those in positions of power.

Alphesiboe laughs again— laughter comes easily to her, as a sort of general mark of approval, when not absolutely tickled as she was over the coincidence with the Lady Farah's husband. This particular sound is joy and relief, finding a speaker of Hellene with whom she may at least relate through a second tongue, rather than through a whole second mouth. "Confessions of ignorance gain a strange and unusual traction as a signal of wisdom among the Hellenes; I'm sure they would give you the laurel crown— or at least the oak," she underscores that last with a low murmur of laughter still accompanying the words. Neaboule takes a moment of temporary relief from her duties to hang herself from Bo's elbow in a friendly manner, smiling along with the conversation in a manner that well indicates she, too, is versed in Hellene, though she doesn't join in.

Étienne nibbles at his food, «Oh, that does sound fun. What sort of games?» his eyes are caught by the light glinting off Safiye's earrings and he is momentarily mesmerized, but soon he turns back to the Ambassador, «Is there a religious significance to the bonfire?» He waggles his glass at Vespsian in greeting, switchingback to Angeline, "It's the Artist and athematician! I fear I forgot your name!"

The Khalif of course serves as a key. Safiye segues deftly into Akkadian, her phrasing courteous and the title she employs suitable to a niece of that great potentate. «It is not unusual, princess,» she murmurs, «our lands being neighbours to one another. I asked because— your beauty has an Akkadian quality, and d'Angelines, you know, are seldom adept at pronouncing foreign names…» To the Illyrian ladies — well, to Alphesiboe — she helpfully adds in Hellene, «Your Highness, I remarked that the Princess Farah's particular beauty suggests Khebbel-im-Akkad, and she tells me that she is a niece of the Khalif as well as a kinswoman of the duchesse d'Eisande. What an honour it is to meet with such illustrious and well-traveled young ladies as yourselves.» Which, then, she repeats in Akkadian to Farah, switching between languages with the panache of a professional interpreter: which, for two years, she was.

Vespasien does happen to look up- smiling and waving towards Armandine when she gazes his way. It's a fond familiarity, clearly- of course, it likely helps that he visits his second cousin often with tails of the sea, and telescopes to look at the stars.

"Oh.." Vespasien begins as he comes across one foreign person, switching seemlessly to the language they're speaking- Hellene - <Oh, excuse me- I think I should be over there..> he begins, passing through those folks as he spies Aedhwyn through the crowd.

He passes near Safiye and their group- stepping through. Hearing Akkadian, he speaks the same as he passes through- <Oh, pardon me, excuse me. Just trying to squitch on through.. My apologies.> Then he hears the HEllene and does just the same nodding to Alphesiboe, <My Apologies.> and onward until he can find a spot near Aedhwyn where-ever she's ended up. And now, in Cruithne <"Ah, Princess! Lovely as ever, I see. I admit, I'd come to give my cousin a new telescope, I didn't remember that this was happening this evening.">

The smile that plays on her features is a bit hesitant, but no doubt it is there, when Farah de Mereliot elects to respond to Safiye's remark. In Akkadian. «Oh… you mistook my meaning, I am not related to Her Grace, but… I have a d'Angeline mother who was born in the province of l'Agnace.», she clarifies softly in the tongue that seems to come the most natural to her. Around her, there is a buzz of so many different languages, and Farah's dark eyes lower to regard the goblet in her hand. "If you will excuse me…? Please…?", she says then, in d'Angeline, with a hasty curtsey as she takes her leave. "I am… feeling a bit unwell." The look she gives Safiye, but also the other two women includes them into her apology, before the young Mereliot lady by marriage begins to head for the double doors. Perhaps in need of a bit of fresh air?

Now that distinction seems a curious one to Safiye, Armandine having introduced Farah by naming her family as unequivocally as she did— but she simply tucks it away to mull over later and says soothingly to Farah, again in polite Akkadian: «Perhaps it is too crowded, princess, with so many gathered together and so much talk. I hope you find that a little air will restore you,» and her look of gentle concern follows the half-Akkadian lady for several paces of her progress through the crowd of local aristocrats and exotically-garbed dignitaries. But at least Farah's departure simplifies the question of languages. Looking again to Alphesiboe she inquires in genial Hellene: «Might I ask, Your Highness, what pleasures we shall enjoy from Illyria during the exhibition?»

Aedhwyn nods her head, speaking the melodious Cruithne, the litling tones and the brogue rolling off her tongue. «The bonfire can have religious tones or it can be simply to celebrate and keep the darkness and the things that inhabit away.» At hearing Etienne mention a mathematician and artist, she turns her head, her smile brightening. She steps closer towards Vespasien, her hand reaching out to brush the backs of her fingers against his cheek. She shakes her head, «How could you forget when I had you add the accentsnon my back?» There is a small blush, "My lord may I present to you Lord Trevallion."

Étienne peers at Vespasian with real amazement, «You speak Cruithne?» His Azzallese accent is thick and he sounds like he learned from books, but he does speak it intelligably. «It is good to hold back the dark.» He bows, "Etienne D'Arguil. We met briefly, but I had to rush off because of the trial."

<"In honesty, I thought you wanted to be painted."> Vespasien offers, looking then towards Etienne, <"Oh, yes. I speak.. what is it now.. Eight- Yes. Eight languages."> Vespasien offers- although, he seems far more interested in standing near the Princess- his smile warm and fond. "Ah! Yes, a pleasure to meet you. Lord Vaspesien d'Trevallion, a pleasure, absolutely!" he assures the other gentleman. "Anyways, yes. I brought some of my honey liquor.. I.. had planned on watching the stars from the roof." he explains, "But- it seems I've confused my days again- it happens, up all night as I often am."

Symon is late, but he turns up in his finest clothes, and he looks delighted with all the decorations and festivities, at times gaping open-mouthed as he hears several tongues flowing around him in the space of a few steps, and smells the wonderful cuisine of the finest cooks in the palace. He cranes his neck a few times, squinting at the crowd until he picks out Etienne and moves his way. Only to find him speaking some unknown language, which has him blinking round-eyed until it stops. "Oh," he says when familiar words return. "Hello."

Étienne smiles self depricatingly, «Three. I'm no scholar, just a dabbler.» He doesn't try to crowd them. His whole face lights up when he spots Symon. A warm laugh geets his confusion and he offers symon his own plate and goblet, "This is Lord Symon de Perigeux. Symon, this is Princess Áedhwyn mab Mór Ríoghain de la Courcel, the Alban Ambassador and Lord Vaspesien d'Trevallion."

Aedhwyn speaks just a touch quicker when speaking with Vespasien, though it is sltill quite a bit slower than when speaking with her countrymen. «Eight? Is that all, my lord?» She shakes her head, obviously teasing. «Keeping away the creatures of the night is a good thing indeed but we only know how dark it is because we have the light.» She turns to include Symon, switching to a flawless d'Angeline though her accent is a bit watered down as if she learned the language second or third hand. "It is good to see you again, my lord."

Alphesiboe dips her head toward Farah by way of a non-verbal farewell in this multilingual knot in which they'd tangled themselves. The d'Angeline fellow passing by with another chime of Hellene grasps her attention just long enough for him to pass, and then— back to the Lady Wisdom. "There will be a tasting of cheeses and yogurts from our royal flocks," she answers, "And we will get to watch Nea dance, which is always a great treat," she jostles her interpreter companionably.

That informality is really just what Safiye would expect from Illyrians— they're more casual even than the d'Angeline nobility in how they talk and laugh together, without regard to rank or style. In fact Safiye rather likes it. «Then I shall look forward to such a treat, Your Highness,» she answers, inclining her head to both women, «and I shall hope too that you will choose to honour my own Ephesian dancers with your attendance when the day comes for their performance. I am fond too of Illyrian cheese,» she admits; «I think it is justly called the finest in the Levant. To taste it again will be a privilege.»

Vespasien ends up standing next to Aedhwyn, a hand gently resting on the small of her back- apparently he's decided to be her companion for the moment.

"So then- should we drink the liquor?" he asks of those who've assembled, taking the bottle of the golden liquid out and popping the cork. He flags down a servant passing by, "Empty cups, please. Thank you." he says, with a bow of his head- they're brought quickly enough. Small cups, of course. They seem to know what Vespasien wanted.

"Ah, perfect!" he begins to pour- filling the glasses. The bottle goes back into his bag, cork returned into place. "So then, be careful, it'll sneak up on you." he smiles, a roguish kind of thing- it's clear he's not particularly formal.

Symon makes a little bow, an elegant if abbreviated demonstration of respect for the others. "Charmed," he says to Vespesien in particular, whom he has not met. Then he beams a smile at Aedwhyn and nods. "Did I hear there is to b-be entertainment?" he wonders. He looks delighted to see liquor. "Oh," he says, "W…what sort of liquor is it?"

Alphesiboe definitely doesn't seem to be much one to stand on ceremony, does she? She fairly well beams with pride, though, when her homeland's cheeses are praised. "Each of the samples I have brought are made by my own hand… several of them even made fresh, here in Marsilikos, with flocks of my own which I have brought with me for the purpose," she boasts— surely a boast, in tone; in Illyria, excellence in cheese-making is among the chiefmost praised qualities of a woman of noble blood and virtuous bearing… though it may have been a shock to any passing d'Angeline to see a princess in diamonds emptying a ewe's udder into a pail. "And I certainly anticipate watching your dancers, as well. Once my own exhibition is complete I look forward to breathing easy and enjoying the rest to the fullest." As long as it's safe to do so, she does not add aloud.

«Indeed, Your Highness,» agrees Safiye, opting for a tone of neutral courtesy toward all their colleagues in the hall official (e.g. Alphesiboe) and unofficial (e.g. herself); «your cheese will surely be a pleasure to us all. And I understand we've many other rare amusements ahead of us to beguile the coming days. I spoke earlier with the interim Gotlandish envoy, the late Lady Elin's advisor— it seems he does intend to go ahead with the exhibition she planned before her unfortunate demise. I think that shows an admirable and expected spirit, don't you, Your Highness? The Gotlandish,» she adds in a more confidential murmur, taking another sip of the wine she has been imbibing so abstemiously, «being known for their stalwart bravery under fire…» She lifts one eyebrow.

Aedhwyn smiles, gems and golden accents in her hair catching the light now and again as she moves. She takes the offered glass of the golden liqueur. There is a duality to her, a blend of the d'Angeline and Alban, and mix of the formal and informal. Her manner of speaking, the way she holds herself holds a certain formality to it but she allows the familiarity of Vespasien's touch on the small of her back "I will let Lord Trevallion explain the drink since it is of his making but as to the festivities, of course Alba will participate. Long have our lands enjoyed a friendship and I would wish to continue it, continue the sharing of our cultures so we might learn more about each other so we might celebrate not only our differences but our similarities as well."

Étienne is eager to try new things as always, "Oh! Do tell us about what we're drinking. I shall be careful as I lack symon's head for drink." He is smiling at symon again, with all the sunshine of his nature, "I'm not sure what if anything is planned for later. So far it is just mingling." He reaches for the goblet, "Thank you for letting us taste it."

"Honey." Vespasien says simply over to Symon. "I supply the honey, only." he says, "From my bee hives." he goes on to explain, as he offers the glasses- first to Aedhywn, and then to the rest. He would take only once everyone had a glass, deftly taking the tray they'd been brought the drinks on to tuck under an arm. "Quite heavily alcoholic." he says next, "But very sweet." The small, almost shot glasses are lifted then. "To health!" he begins, a rather standard d'Angeline toast- at least among sailors. He throws back then his small glass of liquor and swallows it down. The stuff is sweet, slightly syrupy. IT goes down dangerously easy, with the alcoholic burn happening only after a few moments.

"Ah, w…wonderful," Symon replies sunnily to Vespasien, but he's already picked up the drink before learning exactly what it is. He toasts in return, and drinks it all down in one go. "Ooh, I'm quite w…warm now," he says when the alcohol strikes.

Étienne lifts his glass, repeating, "To health." He drinks his innocently enough, following Vespasian's lead. Later his lapis coloured eyes go wide as it hits him, "Like silk being set on fire." He looks to Symon and unconsciously reaches for his elbow.

Aedhwyn smiles softly, turning as Vespasien says honey, "Yes?" Her cheeks pinken a bit, lifting her glass in toast to cover her answer. «May you never know thirst!» It must be an Alban toast though a decidedly abreviated one. She has been known to wax poetic for several moments. Almost in answer to her toast, the Alban contigent say down to a man "Sláinte!" Drinks are upended, each finishing their drinks in but a swallow be it long or short.

Aedhwyn licks her lips, just the barest peeking of a tongue to make sure non of the syrupy goodness remains on them. "Delicious, as ever." She might be the only one of the four not terribly effected by the mead but then again hers is the land of the potent uisghe.

Vespasien looks over when Aedhwyn says 'yes, leaning in to press a gentle peck to her cheek. It was, perhaps, bold- but it certainly did show his affection. "So then, who's up for another shot?" he wonders of the small group. The tray is out again, his own glass on it before he grabs the bottle to refill his own glass. "So then, what is it you two do to wile your days away?" he asks of Etienne and Symon.

Alphesiboe seems satisfied with Sophia's recognition of her lactic excellence, anything less than which might well have been fighting words where she comes from. And then, with the conversation taking a more somber turn, her lofty milk-arrogance fades back into that genial countenance with which she generally banters about, if touched somewhat dim about the eyes. "I don't know that it isn't somewhat disrepectful, to my view. If I were to be assaulted in this land— Nea, mark this— everyone else had better take both the sheep and the goats and go home immediately. I can only hope that this is an aberration in events, but given the trial recently completed… what else is there but to be wary?"

A misstep. Safiye endeavours to retrieve it by means of slow thoughtful words and gentle brown eyes. «The Gotlandish seek I think to do honour in their way,» she suggests, «which may not be yours or mine, Your Highness, but it is their own. Truthfully, from what I've heard the conflict which claimed Lady Elin's life may have been a Gotlandish matter brought by chance to these shores— but I do at present take Damia,» a slight gesture toward the tall young woman behind her, who hasn't spoken a word but did inhale deeply at Alphesiboe's mention of wariness, «wherever I go, and I trust that you have made your own precautions. That is perhaps the wisest advice I might hope to give you, Princess Alphesiboe,» and the Illyrian name trips off her tongue with an elegant fluency.

Symon slips his arm through Etiennes and grins. "Oh, m-me," he volunteers, lifting his other hand. "W…we never w-want for things to p-pass the days with here in M…Marsilikos," he says cheerfully. "Especially in the summer. I've b-been learning to swim, a b… a bit. And then of course there are the salons. The Glycine is the b-best, naturally."

Étienne says, "It really is delicious…." He hesitates and looks to see what Symon thinks. "You are doing really well, we'll have you swimming in the surf in no time… If I drink this, you'll make sure I don't get lost on the way home, won't you Symon?""

Aedhwyn blushes a bit brighter, the pink spreading out towards her ears and down her neck. Perhaps the alcohol had a bit of a delayed effect and it is merely a flush? «I am fond of Glycine. A dear friend of mine counts himself amoung their number.» Her words truly have this lilting quality to them as she speaks. "I would like another, if you are offering." She looks back to Symon, "Swimming is refreshing especially with the heat of your land. I do not believe I have ever experienced such heat before coming here. I thought the summers in my own homeland were overly warm in the south but then I came here."

"Ah, but at least the winters are rather mild." Vespasien says then to Aedhwyn- "And it only gets hotter the further south you go. There are vast deserts there where it gets so hot you'll start to see things in the distance that are not there- the heat tricks your brain." he goes on to say as he refills Aedhywn's glass with a smile. He offers then to Symon and Etienne- filling their glasses if they so agree. And when the drink has been distributed it again is returned to his bag, corked, and the tray tucked under his arm. One gets the sense he's done this before.

"B-but of course," Symon assures Etienne. "Oh, he says to Aedhwyn, "B-but the heat of summer is so fine! W…winter is so m…melancholy, w-with no flowers and everyone all b-buried in cloaks. Summer is full of p-pastoral w-walks and naps under trees." At least for him. "Although," he allows, "Deserts do not sound terribly nice." He is of course ready for a refill.

Étienne gives Aedhwyn a winsome smle, "I feel the same. I wilt if I stay in the city in the summer weather. I am used to the cooler summers back home, but the Ocean still frefreshes." He nods at Symon's reassurance and holds out his glass to be filled, "Thank you for sharing this, truly."

Alphesiboe lifts a hand, the hand not currently engaged in keeping Nea casually close in to her side. "I mean nothing against her retinue; they would obviously best know her wishes, and honor— as you say, comes in different flavors the world wide. I walk freely with Neaboule within the Palace grounds. Outside I will bring my bodyguard with me," she agrees to its being very sensible. "But you think a guard wise even in the heart of the Duchesse's own palace?" she lifts a brow, not so much thinking it a slight against the Duchesse as wondering whether she herself is underestimating the danger.

Another lift of Safiye's dark brows; she hastens to correct that natural misconception. «But I am not one of the duchesse's honoured guests,» she answers; «I have come to live in Marsilikos, Your Highness, and I must consider my journeys to and from my home. It is not far,» she smiles gently, «but in the streets of the city I feel the better for Damia's companionship.»

Aedhwyn mms, her head tilting to the side. "I am not certain I would wish to go some place where it grows even hotter during the summer season or to a place where my mind would by tricked by the heat." There is a nod of her head in thanks at the refill, "But in the winter months one might imagine them to be bearable, hot but not so much as to make me wish for the relief of the ice and snow." She speaks softly to her group, "Winter has it's own beauty, the land blanketed in white, crisp, untouched. The feel of the furs around you, the sound of the fire crackling. Within the caves, it is the warmer, the feel of it rarely changing, cool in the heat of summer, warm in the cold of winter. Voices raised in song, resounding, each voice lifted in melody and harmony that only seem the grander in the cave. There is a joy to winter, the feel of the air against your skin. It is a time where the land slumbers, renews it's strength, when the barriers between our lands and the lands of the gods."

"Oh, liquor should be shared." Vespasien states simply as he lifts his glass again. "To friendship!" he says then, another toast as he throws back his drink. "I prefer the winter. The skies are often clearer." he then states, "And the cool air is refreshing and brisk- it's much easier to chart the stars. But, the stars change through the seasons, so it is important to watch at all times."

"No, no," Symon argues casually and good-naturedly with Etienne's preference for the cool. "Friendship," he echoes the toast and tosses down another lovely shot. "How can the stars change through the seasons?" he asks. "Aren't they in the sky? W…where do they go?"

Étienne listens to Aedhwyn rather wide eted, "That does sound beautiful!" He hangs on to Symon's elbow as he drinks another toast, looking rather flushed under his tan. He blinks at Symon's question and then explains, "The stars move slowly, but they move, it's why there's so much math in navigation, Sweet."

"Yes?" Alphesiboe is, indeed, corrected in an assumptin never so much spoken as implied. "I have not seen half as much of the city as I would like, being mostly here and in the stables in preparation. But I'd really like to see what sort of place you're in in the city, if you're up for welcoming guests, and— if I might be so bold as to invite myself and a small retinue," she laughs.

"We are the ones who move." Vespasien replies. "The mathematics and angular distances don't lie- the stars sit in the same place, I believe, with us moving instead. It's all very interesting to me, but many do not agree."

"I should be going shortly, though, I have measurements to take this evening from the roof- I'd hate to miss it- there should be some shooting stars this evening, if my calculations are correct based on last year's showing." he explains. "And really, the measurements must be done when these events happen."

"I don't understand," Symon says. "W…why do they m…move? W-where are they going? Do they have a tide and come b-back? Isn't the m…moon the same in w-winter and summer?" These questions all seem to be occurring to him for the first time. Not ever being at sea, he has never had any need to navigate by stars, after all. He now looks to Vespasien even more uncertainly. "W…where are we going?"

<FS3> Vespasien rolls Astronomy: Good Success. (6 8 2 8 2 2 2 3 5 6 8 6)

Safiye smiles. «Welcoming guests is my duty and my pleasure both, Your Highness. One might say I live over my shop— I am now the proprietress of a coffee-house,» she explains modestly, «in the Ephesian style, in the Grand Plaza of Marsilikos. It is called,» and this phrase she pronounces in d'Angeline, "La Perle Noire." She bows her head; then, straightening, she meets Alphesiboe's eyes with a friendly brown gaze. «It would be my honour to brew our Ephesian coffee for you and your retinue whenever you might wish it, Princess Alphesiboe.»

Aedhwyn lifts her glass once more, "May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face and rains fall soft upon your fields." There is yet another chorus of 'slainte!' and more cups tipped up and drained by their holders. She looks to Etienne, "The winter is beautiful and yet also deadly, like most things of beauty." She tilts her head as if inviting thought and comment before turning towards Vespasien, "Of course the starts move, one can not always expect the ancients to keep reminders of them perfectly still in the night sky amd the Fair Folk certainly have no wish to keep perfectly still."

Étienne cocks his head, "People are disputing Ptolemy? I had heard there were anomolies and epicycles are a little weird…." Then he's binking slowly at Symon. He leans in and getly kisses his cheek, leaving explanations to cleverer heads. "It's going to be okay, Symon. The math still works, so we aren't lost." He smiles at the Alban, "That's realy beautiful."

Vespasien leans closer to Aedhwyn, kissing her cheek. "Of course." he says, to something- but who knows what- "I believe I will be stealing this Princess away- she has great interest in the stars." he offers with a bow of his head, "You'll please excuse me." he then offers the bottle to the two gentlemen. "Please, enjoy the rest of the bottle together."

"W-well, I don't…" Symon begins, but then he thinks better of getting too involved in a discussion where very important-sounding names are being mentioned. Instead he smiles at Vespasien and takes the bottle. "Thank you," he says. "Awfully kind."

"La Perle Noire," Alphesiboe tries it out for herself, and… well, it definitely sounds as though she's sounding out the syllables rather than making coherent words of them, but she marks them to Neaboule, who smiles indulgently at the effort and pats Bo on the shoulder. Then, back to the safety of Hellene, going a little loose with its own proper inflection and lending it a melodic Illyrian flow: "Give me a day to recover from the showing… when the sun rises the second time after that, let me come and find you to break our fast together?" she proposes with a fond-leaning smile, beginning to draw Neaboule along with her as though to fend off any protestation. "Until then!" and she will draw Nea along to continue introducing herself generally about before calling it a night; tomorrow will be a busy day.

Aedhwyn's cheeks pinken a bit at the kiss to her cheek. She nods towards Etienne and Symon, "I believe I am to be stolen away but it was wonderful speaking with the two of you once more. I look forward to seeing you again soon and that I may count on you both to come to the display of Alban culture and compete in the games." With that said, she very lightly sets her hand upon Vespasien's arm in escort though there is a much larger, slight older Alban that shadows her.

Alphesiboe's parroting finds favour and a deepening smile from Safiye; «Yes, Your Highness,» she echoes after the name is spoken, and then, «I shall hope and trust that we see you at the Pearl when the sun has risen on the day you name.» The slightest correction, perhaps: not the very dawn but a short while thereafter, when her establishment is opening anyway for a new day's business.

Then she murmurs a last farewell and inclines her head toward the retreating Illyrians; and, taking another sip of her wine, she turns a few degrees the other way to single out the next target of her diplomacy… Her eye catches the azure blue gaze of the young man who followed her to speak with Leif Gunnarsson. Her serene expression warms into a slight, curious smile. She takes a step and then another, her figured silks flowing about her. "… Did I see that young man take a bottle out of his bag—?" she inquires of Étienne in a husky undertone, nodding towards the retreating backs of Vespasien de Trevalion and the Alban ambassador. "Is that a d'Angeline custom I don't know, my lord?"

Étienne gives Safiye one of his warm dimpled smiles, "I was admiring your ear ornamets earlier. I'm Étienne D'Arguil." He bows low, havig no clear idea of her rank and not wishing to offend. He murmurs in tones not intended to carry past Safiye and Symon, "He did and not that I'm aware of, but I don't travel in distinguished circles generally. With a house name like his…" He shrugs.

Symon bows, since Etienne bows. It's a pretty gesture, at the very least. "It's quite good, though, w…will you have some?" he offers. "I suppose you'll need a fresh cup." He looks over his shoulder to see if one will appear, then looks back. "Oh, I'm Symon de P…Perigeux."

The well-kept fingers of Safiye's right hand, two of them respectively laden with large pieces of topaz and jade set in gold, lift to graze across her right earring and set it again agleam. "My lord, thank you," she says gently to Étienne, awarding him a similar degree of provisional courtesy and a bowing of her dark head which is swiftly re-angled to include Symon as well. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, my lords. I am called Safiye Hanim; I am from Ephesium," she explains, to forestall the natural next question one of them was bound to ask. "I cannot imagine anyone in my land," she admits softly to the two of them, "attending the reception of a high noble and bringing his own liquor. Among us it would be a serious insult to the hospitality he was offered and seen to reject… But perhaps," she grants, "in these halls, your friend feels he has the right. I learn something new every day of Terre d'Ange," she confesses modestly.

Étienne's eyes go wide, "Did you come by sea? How do you like Marsilikos? I heard… exciting things are going on in Ephesium right now, or is that rude to mention?" He is terribly ernest and a bit tipsy. "That is a really lovely name, like music!" He thinks it over, "He said he forgot what night it was and was on his way to the roof to make measurements. I think he had the bottle for his own enjoyment on his planned evening activity."

"Ephesium is a b-beautiful name for a p-place, isn't it," Symon remarks in reply. Though he leaves the remarks on the name of this new acquaintance to Etienne.

<FS3> Safiye rolls Composure: Great Success. (3 6 7 4 5 8 4 1 7 8 4 2 2)

Perhaps Safiye is a trifle taken aback by Étienne's effusions— but she is too worldly and too self-controlled to let it show in her painted visage, only smiling serenely at the blue-eyed young man and at his friend too as he excuses himself in pursuit of something more alluring even than her earrings. "Ah," she agrees with a glimmer of amusement, "that would perhaps explain the bottle, though not his haste to brandish it." Then she addresses herself to Étienne's questions, more or less. "Yes, we traveled by sea from Ephesium," she confirms, nodding, "two years past; and I like your land very much, my lord, so much so that I have come to live here in Marsilikos… Sometimes in Terre d'Ange I am called 'Lady Sophia'," she offers gently; "it is easier upon d'Angeline tongues."

Étienne watches Symon go like a man who thinks the world revolves around the particular geometry of… nevermind, but then he snaps backto her, "Wisdom? How wonderyl to be known as Lady Wisdom. I fear I don't know your language, though my tongue is trained to other than my own… Oh!" He blushes quite prettily as he relises the other meaning of hs words, "I didn't mean disrespect, Lady Safiye."

That perhaps is too much innuendo, too quickly, for even Safiye's excellent ear to follow— or else she affects not to notice the boy's faux pas, instead regarding his change in hue with warm dark brown eyes, just barely narrowed, set in an exotically asymmetrical countenance turning a fraction to the side. Or perhaps it's his look for Symon that intrigues her. One or the other, yes. "It was a name given to me a long time ago, my lord," she murmurs, "by one whom I greatly admired as a true possessor of that quality… Proud as I am of her gift to me is not always wonderful," she smiles faintly, "to be teased about it."

Étienne is looking at her from under those long dark lashes with a look that suggests it's not just her earrings he finds beautiful, but he is far to polite to be obvious about it, even puppyish as he is. "Oh, but I did not mean to tease, and I often wish I were wise. I know I'm not and likely never to be so. My little store of learning is just that, though I try to be better. I would never want to offend someone as truly clever as you."

"My lord, do you always pay so many compliments to strangers?" Safiye teases gently, and catching the eye of a passing servant she places her almost-empty goblet upon his tray, though without yet taking another. "I think there is never a moment which any of us achieves wisdom— I think it is a process of striving that occupies the whole life of one who respects learning." And again those finely-wrought strings of golden flower medallions gleam at her ears, as she bows her head to the sentiment perhaps more than the boy.

Étienne lowers his lashes, "I don't think I've ever met anyone remotely like you. I can't help myself really." He looks up, "It is honestly meant." He is watching her earrings again as they flash, and then his eyes flick back to her face, "I am not very clever, really, but I'm trying to be better."

"Well," suggests Safiye in that velvety voice which lends so alluring a foreign texture to her least pronouncements, "if you have not met anyone who came from Ephesium, my lord, perhaps that would explain it." She smiles. "My lord, will you excuse me? I have seen someone to whom I owe my greetings."

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