(1311-09-29) Tea and Sausage at La Rose Sauvage
Summary: Philomene brings a gift and stays for some late breakfast and conversation.
RL Date: Sun Sep 29, 2019
Related: Previous Philomene/Raphael logs.
raphael philomene severine 

La Rose Sauvage

A huge hearth of black marble, with gargoyles of stone adorning the mantlepiece, governs the foyer of the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, which emanates a certain dark air, the interior design of the more heavy sort, that could easily be encountered in a gentleman's club, especially with the dark cherry wood wainscoting used on the walls. Dark leather upholstery is predominant in the furniture of chaise longues, couches and long-backed chairs that are arranged in a half-circle, leaving space in the center for courtesans (or patrons) to kneel for an inspection. Three tall windows with circular stained-glass insets are framed by dark red curtains of heavy brocade, a few golden threads worked into the fabric catching occasionally the light of flickering oil lamps at the walls. The lamps light a pair of portrait paintings, of the two founders of the salon, Edouard Shahrizai and his cousin Annabelle no Mandrake, resplendent in their dark Kusheline appeal; and a cabinet in a corner, holding a number of quality wines and a flagon of uisghe.

The foyer has a high ceiling, and a gallery beyond a balustrade of dark teak wood, carved in the shapes of gargoyles. Sometimes a few veiled creatures can be spotted up there, stealing glances at what is going on below; from the gallery, which can be reached by ascending some winding stairs at the back of the foyer. Beside the stairs leading up is a hallway on ground level, leading further into the building to where the offices of the leader of the salon and his two Seconds can be found, along with the two wings of private quarters for roses of Mandrake and Valerian canon.

Morning is, as ever, quiet time around the Salon de la Rose Sauvage. The majority of adepts and courtesans are sleeping off a late night of physically demanding pleasures, though on the whole they do not have to contend with the enormous hangovers that some of their neighbors, particularly at the Glycine house, invite. For those who are awake, some remain in their rooms seeking counsel from friends or preparing their appearance for the day. Some take this time of day to eat or catch up on reading, or reckon when their marques will be complete. Raphael, meanwhile, follows his usual custom of being awake and about. He has chosen for himself one of the imposing leather chairs in the parlor and, tisane close to hand, appears to be reading a book which looks somewhat well-worn and may belong to the salon itself.

Quiet is always best as far as Philomene is concerned. She can show up, tend to the plants in the garden, and be away before most of the salon even know she was there if she's early enough. This morning it's not perhaps as early as it can be on occasion, but then again this morning when she makes that distinctive, limping figure in the doorway, she's got a bag over one shoulder as well as the set of secateurs at her waist, and from that bag comes the waft of a savoury, meaty aroma.

Mornings, even not so early mornings, are a good time to while away the time in the public area of La Rose Sauvage. Or so Séverine must have thought as she too has elected to venture early into the salon's parlour. She arrives from the corridor at the back of the room, attired in a long sleeveless gown of flowing silk. Dark green contrasts to the pallor of her skin, a choice made on purpose, most probably, and her red-blonde hair has been gathered in a knot a the back of her head. Spotting Raphael, the Red Rose Second walks over to greet him, with a light graceful curtsey and incline of her head. "Good morning." Her grey-green eyes flick to the cover of the book, checking whether it is one she is familiar with. "What a lovely morning it is…" And a morning that already brings a first visitor, obviously. Straightening, Séverine turns to regard Philomène, and makes a step or two towards the Vicomtesse de Gueret to greet her with a deeper curtsey. "My lady. Welcome to our salon."

Raphael does not fail to notice either of the women who appear, Philomene just moments ahead of Severine. The book in his hands has a plain cover, but it has belonged to the Rose Sauvage for years and may therefore be familiar to Séverine even so. It is a book about the features and customs of other lands and kingdoms. His gaze lingers on the cursey the Second of Red Roses favors him with. "Good morning," he returns. "It is fine, now that the heat has started to break. Then he turns his head to smile on Philomène. "Well," he says. "I have not caught you at one of your visits for some time. What are you bringing in your bag?" For his own part he seems to be skipping the pleasantries with the Vicomtesse.

Philomène returns Severine's greeting with a deep inclination of her head and, remarkably, a small smile. "Good morning, madame, I hope I'm not intruding today," she responds as she limps her way in, the bag swinging with every step and banging back against her good leg. "I wanted to check how the plants are getting on, and," she adds with a little flourish, reaching into the bag to pull out two greasepaper wrapped, long, somewhat phallic parcels, "a small thank you for the pies you so very kindly brought me when I was bound to my home, Monsieur Raphael. I would appreciate your honest and professional opinion, also. I'm told it's a new technique for smoking they've tried with these."

"Yes, the days are growing colder," Séverine confirms towards Raphael, rubbing her bare upper arms with her hands. Nonetheless, she has chosen this dress for today, and in the salon the temperature is agreeable, of course, heated by a fire in the hearth. "You are not intruding.", this said towards Philomène. "And it is good to see you are well." Some word of recent developments will also have reached the Night Court, of course. The Red Rose remains standing, hands folding before her as the visitor addresses the Thorn Second with her gift.

Raphael stands to receive these gifts from the Vicomtesse who is a benefactor, if not a typical patron, of the salon. "Shall we all break our fast, then," he suggests, gesturing at seats near his, "Before we let you plunge your hands in the dirt?" That's probably what people do when gardening. Raphael is not much for it. He looks to Séverine. "Have you eaten?"

Philomène gives another small nod of thanks as she hobbles over to the indicated seat. Both parcels of sausage are presented to Raphael purely in order to free both her hands, one of which then steadies her on the back of the chair and the other holds her bag out of the way as she slowly and with exquisite care belied by an absolute freezing of the expression on her face, lowers herself to sit. She looks expectantly to Severine, suggesting amiably, "There'll be storms this afternoon, madame, so I'd consider sending your people to get the firewood in early rather than getting soaked through." This unerring sense for what the weather will do is almost spooky, but it's not the first time she's offered her forecast and later been proven right, and it's not the worst superpower in the world to have in a friend. "Sausage?"

"Indeed, I have not.", Séverine replies to Raphael, but the gesture is noted, of him including her into the interactions with Lady Philomène. "But it is not my wish to intrude…" She lifts her gaze and looks towards the Vicomtesse. Her words statement as well as question. "If that isn't the case, I'd be pleased to stay and keep you company." She does not stare and watch Philomène as the older woman takes her seat, instead electing to address a Red Rose novice to bring them some tea. When her attention returns, it is in the moment, when the vicomtesse elects to pass on some advice. A quick glance is shot towards the windows, and Séverine agrees. "It does look like it, yes. Thank you, my lady. I shall heed your advice. The firewood is kept in a small shack at the back of the gardens. It is quite the distance to brave…" She takes a seat near the other two, going about that task with graceful ease, not hampered by any transient injuries at the moment.

Raphael looks at Séverine a moment, but then he does turn his eyes toward Philo, perhaps looking to take in what sort of a mood appears to be on her today. At length he smiles. "I am sure you cannot be intruding in our own parlor," he says, having made his judgment, and turns his head to summon another unlucky novice on morning duty, whom he sends off to the kitchen with the sausages. "Some of that sliced," he says, "And bread and butter." The novice hurries off. Raphael takes his seat once more to join the women.

"On the contrary, I have a marvellous talent for intruding no matter where I am," Philomene insists, leaning back a little in her seat and reaching into her inside pocket for her flask, apparently without even thinking about it. Bum hits seat, hand goes to flask. It's probably Pavlovian. Retrieving it and unscrewing the cap, she offers the battered copper vessel to her two companions in turn, a brow raised. "I was thinking, also, about our conversation," she notes. "I've rather more time to myself than I'd like at the moment. If you've novices who'd benefit from some basic instruction in finance, I can set aside my afternoons for them? Your novices, also," she adds towards Severine. "I can't imagine it's a skill that ought to be limited to Monsieur Raphael's particular canon."

"True, but…" Séverine lifts her gaze to meet the gaze of the Thorn. "Lady Philomène came to see you, Raphael." It remains a vague objection though when Philomène so readily includes her into the conversation. "Finance, hmm?", the Red Rose ponders, leaning back in her seat. "It is not a skill that is taught at our salon, my lady. So… at least for the Red Roses, I would like to decline. Basic knowledge of mathematics should suffice for our novices. They are not intended to be more knowledgeable in these things than a trained Glycine of Bryony canon. It could in fact cause a stir and sow discord between the salons." Her objection is offered softly but with no less determination. "I thank you though. It is a generous offer, to share knowledge. You are very kind in offering this."

"It will do her good to share a little conversation with you, too," Raphael diagnoses, smile undisturbed. "In fact I find it hard to understand anyone whose outlook should not be improved by the proximity of a fine red rose." He sits back to drink his tisane while observing the negotiation between the women on the matter of finance. He does not interfere when it comes to the decisions for the Red Rose novices.

Philomène shakes her head. "I'm not kind, I'm merely selfishly trying to fill my days with something more interesting than sewing another decorative vine onto my coat or staring out of the window, wishing I were out on horseback instead of being altogether far too sensible and dull indoors." She flicks a half smile, lifting a hand. "But I hadn't considered that it might be thought of as stepping on toes. My apologies. Well, if any of them have an interest in raising pigs or growing wheat and barley, I'd gladly lecture on that subject instead. It might cause fewer ructions between your salons, but I'm not entirely certain if they ought to be encouraged to take up a sideline in agriculture when they ought to be here, serving Naamah."

Séverine gives Raphael a sideways glance, her brows furrowing only faintly, at him leaving the topic for her to handle at the moment. But she for her part seems to be in no doubt about how to respond. "I understand," she replies gently to Philomène. "And I wouldn't expect anyone who isn't part of the Night Court to understand the twists and turns in our politics. The Night Court works as nicely as it does here Marsilikos, because there is no overlapping in canons, when it comes to the greater four salons. We have our own politics, and we are also part of the grander scheme, inasmuch as one Dowayne is elected per year, to represent our interests in the Ducal Council. There are of course newer, smaller salons that choose a different blend of canons, which is perfectly in order, of course. When it comes to the education of novices, more focus is given the particular techniques as required for the canon one represents, the basics of etiquette and politics, knowledge in general, as to ensure our courtesans are perfect companions on more than one level." She exhales, as her lips twist into a slightly apologetic smile. "Agriculture may be a thing to pursue at the Salon de Coquelicot. I know, Mademoiselle Elspeth has a fine herb garden, where she grows the ingredients needed for her healing salves."

"We discussed this partially yesterday," Raphael puts in quietly. "And I did mention that while we allow courtesans to choose their own destinies, we typically do not particularly encourage the young ones in our training to go off to pig farming. I would say we typically take more away from the pigs than we return to them." He drinks from his tisane. "Still, I hardly like to turn away offers of energy from friends. Perhaps it is only a matter of finding exactly the right purpose." The novices return about this time with trays laid with tea and breakfast, the second tray featuring the sausage just gifted.

With neither of her companions taking up her offer for the flask, Philomene lifts it to her own lips and takes a couple of healthy swigs before the cap is replaced and it's tucked back into the depths of her chocolate brown jacket. "It seems appropriate that I ought to offer more than just the occasional sausage and tending your plants as thanks for your continued good will," she notes. "Well, should the leverage of my name be of any use at any point, either as a respectable old family or as a threat for young people like the boogieman, do please let me know. You'd know far better than I the politics of the city and how your salon fits with it. Alternatively if my visits here cause a problem, I'd hope you'd let me know that, too. It's as I keep telling Caroline, I've no objection to being told I'm being a little shit if I am, indeed, being a little shit."

Raphael's words manage to bring about a smile on Séverine's features. "True," she agrees. "It is not my wish to discourage the support you are offering, my lady. Your name, indeed, can be a helpful asset. Even moreso, if you chose to visit the salon as a patron, once in a while. Which is not a requirement, of course, but it would add to the prestige of our salon, no doubt. Tea?" The flask was not ignored on purpose, but it seems, the Red Rose Second prefers other beverages at this time of the day. "This sausage does smell very tasty. It is a treat I hadn't dared to hope for, on this morning.", Séverine adds, deepening the smile as her gaze finds Philomène.

"We shall have to see," Raphael says dryly, "It may be a very good sausage." He reaches for his helping without hesitation, but lets their guest speak first on whether she would like some tea to accompany her other beverage. But he does give out a low chuckle as he sits back. "I do not think our talents please the Vicomtesse overmuch, though she is kind enough to look in on us," he mentions.

"Well, if it would be of benefit to the salon, I'm sure I could arrange some sort of assignment if I must," Philomene allows, although the expression on her face is more than a little dubious. "For the sake of appearances, certainly, although please take it as no slight that I'd rather have a good night's sleep than partake in a whipping or whatever else your colleagues intend to offer."

Séverine inclines her head to this. "I don't mean to force you into an assignation that you don't desire, my lady," she clarifies softly. "The tastes pursued at Rose Sauvage aren't for everyone, and there is no shame in admitting that you don't feel the desire to explore the realms of dominance and submission. You asked about how you could show support the salon, and this is the first reply that came to my mind." She pours a cup of tea, presumably for herself, before an interruption comes, unbidden, and in the form of a Red Rose novice. "Please, Mademoiselle Séverine… Could you come along and check on Noelle, please…? She is not feeling well, and I fear there is some graver matter…" The novice bites her lip. A soft sigh leaves the lips of the Red Rose Second, but she moves to stand while offering apologies to Raphael and Philomène. "I am sorry, but I fear I need to go and check. If you would excuse me for a moment? I should be back in time to partake of the tea, and the sausage." A light curtsey is offered to the both of them, as Séverine nó Rose Sauvage takes her leave, allowing those that glance after her a glimpse of the finished red rose that adorns her back, visible on purpose through the cut of her dress.

Raphael nods respectfully at the Second's departure. "It is a shame that she must go without even tasting the sausage first," Raphael says, for his part already enjoying the breakfast they've been served. He does take a moment to enjoy also the view of the marque that they are treated to as a result of this departure. Then he looks back to Philomene. I think you do us honor and benefit as it is. It's my perspective that your friendship in some ways could mean more as someone who does not take part in assignations here. Though really I hope we never need to call on you for anything other than the benefit of your conversation."

"I'd hope you're never so desperate that it's my conversation you call on in an emergency," Philomene notes with a faint smile, her own gaze likewise following the retreating back of the Red Rose. "But perhaps the sausage will make up for that lack." She leans back again, crossing her booted feet in front of her with a soft clink of the spurs on the flooring. "It really is nothing personal. There are some really very attractive courtesans here, but the idea of not taking somebody to bed as an equal is… well, it's not for me."

Raphael shakes his head at Philomene's clarification. "I do not count it as insulting," he says. "If you grow up in this salon you are raised with the knowledge that our pleasures are incomprehensible to some. We are a slightly different breed from the other canons in that way. But by the same token, our ways are the only ways for some, if they truly wish to enjoy themselves." He finishes off his breakfast and then smiles briefly. "And although we may prefer different roles in the bedchamber, that of course does not mean that patron and courtesan may not consider themselves equals in other respects." He nods to the plate. "That is a good sausage."

"Smoked over beech," Philomene supplies regarding the sausage, herself taking little more than a nibble from a crust to be polite. "I'm wondering whether it's a suitable sort of gift to give, in place of a bottle of wine. I'm invited to dinner and I'd rather like to make a good impression. In my opinion it's an eminently practical gift to give, but I don't want to imply that the food they're providing is in any way inferior and thus I'm providing my own." Her brows furrow for a moment. "Your gift of pies, as I mentioned, was most incredibly welcome and thoughtful, and that's the sort of impression I'd like to give."

"To give to whom?" Raphael wonders. "I should think the impression would be down to the receiver. A practical person appreciates a practical gift. An enemy will seize on any opportunity to interpret badly."

Philomène allows her grey-blue gaze to settle on him for a long few moments, fingers absently drumming on the tabletop as she pointedly fails to answer the question. "Wine is the safer option, then," she muses, lifting her chin a little. "But what's life without a little gamble? And if they don't appreciate a practical gift, are they really worth my time in the first place?"

Raphael looks amused to hear Philomene will dine with a potential enemy. Or at least someone she does not consider practical. "If you are in the position of power to determine whether or not you need spend time on them," he says, "Then giving a gift at your own pleasure could be a powerful move."

Philomène gives an amused snort, having recourse once again to her flask as she mulls this over. "It's a tactical game, as much as any skirmish in the mountains. March and countermarch, strike and counterstrike. Which means, if we follow the metaphor further, that the deciding factor will be good reconnaissance and a steady flow of information. But then without my spotters being spotted."

"Everything is a tactical game," Raphael opines. "Including the ones we play here." He gestures to the flask. "Do let me know if we can replenish you at any time," he says.

Philomène shakes her head. "No, thank you. I don't want to impose on you. But I do want your honest opinion on the sausage. I'm inclined to suggest the meat should be ground more finely…? You're a man who knows his meat. Does it need anything more? Less? Does the pork speak for itself?"

Raphael looks up, as though considering the matter, or perhaps the double entendre, though he doesn't dispute either way. "Is it pure pork?" he asks. "Any grain?" Apparently this will affect his recommendation. "What herbs and spices have you put in?"

"I haven't a clue," Philomene admits ruefully. "I provide the pigs, not the expertise. I was hoping you might be able to tell. All I can tell you is that it's smoked over beechwood - my fellow was quite clear about that and sounded very proud, so I nodded and smiled, naturally. I think we've established our bacon as second to none. If we can get a reputation for the finest sausages, too, then not only will they be an excellent gift but there's the opportunity to open up new trade deals."

Raphael nods at the explanation. "Coarse is all right if it's cased and smoked like this," he says. "If you grind too thin, once you get through the casing it will feel like mush. Unless of course you're trying to match the texture of a grain. I think it would be possible to add a touch more fat, and balance it out with a spice—I imagine with the exhibition on you could find more spices than usual on the market. But then you'll have to consider if you want to impress once with an exotic spice but run the risk that you won't have access to it later if people are buying in the long term." He lifts his eyebrows, as if to ask whether that is the sort of answer she'd hoped for.

"It has to be sustainable if we want to hold the market," Philomene decides, absently running her tongue over her teeth. "A touch more fat, and then the local spices. I'll pass that on and come back to you with the next prototype. Or," she suggests with a slight smile, "I'll try the prototype as my gift for this dinner and see if she likes it."

"It is very good. Is this mystery hostess partial to pork?" Raphael wants to know. Or possibly he is only angling to find out who the person in question may be.

Philomène flicks the man a half smile. "Well, I'm hoping so, if I intend to lay all my hopes on impressing her with our sausages. Knowing my luck I'll find she eschews meat in its entirety and lives entirely on peas and spinach."

"That hardly seems possible," Raphael says of the existence of vegetarians. He pours himself a cup of tea. "Is she practical-minded? I cannot imagine you having very much time for a silly woman."

Philomène leans forward to press an empty cup towards Raphael. Apparently she doesn't live entirely on schnapps. It's schnapps interspersed with cups of tea. "I can't imagine any way she wouldn't be," she admits after a moment. "One can't spend any time in Camlach and have your head in the clouds, else it'd be cut off by a raiding party."

Raphael fills Philomène's tea cup as well. "Then it seems a safe bet. Anyway, you ought to do what is most like yourself, if you mean to see a good deal of one another."

"Well, that seems like foolish advice," Philomene responds tartly. "You've met me, you should know better than to offer that as your wisdom."

"On the contrary, I think you are practical enough yourself to want the truth of things quickly," Raphael argues evenly, setting the tea in front of the visitor. "You are not the type to be satisfied by a lot of pretense and eggshell-walking."

Philomène takes up her tea with a nod of thanks, cradling it in both hands as she settles back once more. "Really, the whole thing is taking on a wholly unnecessary importance. I'm fifty three years old, for fuck's sake. I ought to know better than to be distracted by what kind of sausage to take somebody as a present. It's frankly absurd."

Raphael nods slowly at that reply, sipping his tea. But then he lifts his eyes to Philomene's face. "Is it not, perhaps," he suggests slowly, "A little exciting?"

Philomène lifts her tea to her lips, taking a long sip before lowering it again, meeting his gaze square on. "Desperately," she laughs, shaking her head. "But that doesn't stop for an instant how bloody idiotic I feel about the whole thing. I seem to lose about thirty five years of adulthood and cynicism somewhere whenever I see her, and I can't decide if that's a good thing or bad."

"Did you want to keep it so very badly?" Raphael wants to know, looking back at her with a clear an open expression, curious about her thoughts and feelings.

"It's made for some excellent armour over the years," Philomene admits frankly, letting her thumb run along the rim of her cup. "So perhaps yes. I'm not entirely sure I want to give that up unless the cause is absolutely and unequivocably certain."

"Even a soldier takes his armor off from time to time," Raphael points out quietly. "Better for the soldier, better for the armor. Taking it off in private doesn't necessarily mean smashing it, unless you choose to do so."

"But a soldier doesn't take off their armour until they're safe to do so," Philomene retorts. "Until they're certain that the area is clear of enemy activity."

"Why do you suspect her of being your enemy?" Raphael questions next, drinking tea. He sets down his cup and refreshes his, then gestures to Philomene's cup as well as he awaits the answer.

Philomène takes another gulp of her tea before holding the cup out for a top up. "Raphael, I suspect everyone of being an enemy," she points out drily. "If they are, then I'm ready. If they're not, then I can at least be pleasantly surprised."

Raphael refreshes the cup and sets the pot down gently. "There are some prizes it is worth risking a wound to win," Raphael replies. "You have the valor to accept the danger, I should think."

Philomène snorts another laugh, lifting her tea. "And again you act as confessor. I shall expect you to start charging me more than a sausage soon. You're right, of course. I'm Philomene d'Aiglemort de Chalasse, Vicomtesse of Gueret, veteran of dozens of battles and skirmishes. Nothing scares me, anyone will tell you so. And never in my life have I skirted the edges of danger when I can throw myself in head first. So if my assault fails, what of it? I'll be in no worse a space than I would have been by hiding back and doing nothing."

"No, I'll just throw it in your face the next time you suggest my religious devotion is too mercenary," Raphael says in good humor. "But I think you are right, in this case, to march forward even without armor. What is the good of throwing yourself headlong into swords if you cannot throw yourself headlong into affection as well?"

"At least with swords you've a fair idea how it'll pan out," Philomene grouches, aiming a kick at his shin. "Whereas now I'll play out a hundred different scenarios in my head, to plan for every eventuality I can think of. I ought to set up a war room."

Raphael moves his leg and lifts an eyebrow at the Vicomtesse. "You mustn't kick me in the shins in the parlor, it sets a bad example," he says. "You needn't, you know," he says about all these plans. "One can't force victory in love."

Philomène glances around, then raises a hand in apology. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to undermine your authority here. I've made myself too comfortable, I fear, and I'm forgetting that I'm a guest here." She lifts her tea to her lips and drains a good half of it before dabbing at her mouth with the back of her sleeve. "I ought to tend to the plants before the storm comes in. Will you join me for a while? A bit of fresh air will do us both good, I'm sure."

Raphael does not look terribly put out about the matter, but he has a tendency to take things in a rather stoic stride. He stands up at Philomene's suggestion. "Certainly," he says. "I like the cool winds that come in ahead of a storm." He seems to be trusting to the novices to clear up after them without being told, and inform Severine what's become of them should she come looking.

Philomène sets down the half finished cup, frowns a little in concentration as she braces to rise, and in a gesture that has perhaps never been seen before in Marsilikos, reaches for Raphael's hand to help pull herself upright. It's quickly released again once she's on her feet, of course, but it's just further proof that she's been replaced by a pod person. "Victory would be nice, but as long as it's a good fight I'll be satisfied." She touches the secateurs at her belt, scabbarded where a dagger might usually be, gives a nod, and with a very slight wince begins to limp her way out towards the gardens.

Raphael takes Philomene's hand with his own strong, warm one. He follows along when she leads the charge. "I have every faith in your ability to find a good fight," he says assuredly.

That makes the woman laugh aloud and flick him a fond smile as the door opens and the closeness of the air is moderated by the cool breeze. "Words I expect on my grave," she notes as they make their way out, winding their way along the paths flanked by roses and along to the back corner where a peculiar five lobed leaf indicates where her particular botanical gift grows here. "Either that or 'the most stubborn idiot that ever lived'. Maybe both."

"Save up for a big stone and a skilled engraver now," Raphael suggests, following Philomene to her plant, hands tucked behind his back as they walk. "We can plant one of these on your grave as well, to give relief to the passing traveler."

"Seems a waste of good money," Philomene notes practically, fingering the smaller leaves to turn them this way and that to examine them for any sort of infection. "I could get a tiny stone and just write 'prick' on it, and that'd do, surely?"

"Someone might kick it away and then no one would know who you were," Raphael replies, flashing a brief smile. Then he indicates the plant with his chin. "How do they handle the winter?" he asks.

"They don't like a frost," Philomene admits, releasing the leaf and bending a little to examine further down the stems. "My plan was to set up wire cages and pack them with straw. It should keep the worst of it off, unless we have a particularly sudden snap. They won't like it, but they should be hardy enough to survive through to spring. With luck we've enough of a stash of the leaves now to last until March or so, as long as nobody chooses to be greedy."

Raphael nods at this intelligence. "We'll have a little while until the frost," he says. "And I expect we can all survive. We give them only to patrons. At least officially. I do not ask full courtesans if they partake."

"My lungs haven't been up to it lately," the Vicomtesse informs him quietly, poking one leg out at an awkward angle rather than try to bend it as she stoops yet lower, withdraws the secateurs from her holster in a single slick move and snips away a darkening leaf. This she presents to him, simply expecting him to take it. "But when they are, it's a welcome way to ease the pains of the cold winter. There are, after all, only so many baths any one person can take before the acolytes of Naamah's temple would rather see you gone."

Raphael snorts out a faint laugh, taking hold of a leaf for now. "You know," he says, "I suppose I should admit that lately I have been put to a certain amount of romantic confusion of my own." His brow furrows. "But in fact I do not care for admitting it at all, I find."

"This from a man who has goaded me into deciding a wholly unwise but potentially fulfilling course of action," Philomene points out drily, flicking the secateurs closed and reholstering them with a worrying precision. "Let me turn your own arguments against you, then. Is the prize worth the risk?"

Raphael tilts his head at an angle on being confronted with this question. "I think it is a rather more complicated matter. For me it is tremendously so. The anniversary of my wife's death is soon approaching and my mind is much on that, to begin with."

"I think," Philomene decides, turning a little so she can glance back at him, "we are very fortunate in that the One God designed us with an infinite capacity for love. We don't have to apportion this chunk of it to our parents, this to our sisters and brothers, this much for our children, this much for our spouses, and this much for our friends and lovers. If anything, it's the other way around. The more we love, the more we have the capacity to love." She pauses, running a hand through her hair. "Loving your wife is hardly a reason not to offer what you have to another lover as well."

Raphael lets out an audible sigh through his nostrils, turning his body away slightly toward the garden. "I don't know whether it is or not," he says. "When someone is dead, you see…" There is a significant pause before he continues, longer than is rhetorically necessary. "One feels the terribly real possibility that they might disappear."

Philomène purses her lips for a long moment, then reaches out to touch his elbow, the other hand delving into her jacket for her flask to offer. "Tell me about her."

Raphael does reach out to accept that offer, jaw tightening and releasing before he tips the flask to drink. "About my wife?" he asks. "She was called Sylvie no Lys d'Or. Her canon was Eglantine." This he says in a tone that is calm yet not entirely without effort.

Philomène folds her hands behind her back, implicitly suggesting that he ought to hold on to the flask for now. She gives a small downward movement of her head to prove she's listening, eyes fixed solemnly on the Thorn. "Go on?"

Raphael gives his interlocutor a vaguely suspicious look, but he does ultimately say more, closing the flask in his palm once the lid is affixed. "She was a sculptor. Of exquisite quality. As you might imagine. Being that she was Eglantine."

Philomène shakes her head, a little impatiently. "See, now you're telling me what she did. You're not telling me who she was. I'm sure her sculpting was outstanding, but I also doubt that a sudden interest in sculpture made her special enough that you loved her. Tell me the little things. The things that made you smile, or be exasperated, or laugh, or cry. What used to drive you crazy, and what melted your heart?"

Raphael himself looks rather put out by this request. Or perhaps it isn't annoyance at all, but the difficulty in facing up to such a question and the dangerous tide of memory it is bound to unleash. "Ah." There is one false start. Raphael looks momentarily inclined to walk away along a garden path but checks the impulse. "She had…a way of…" He pulls his chin back in a little, just a twitch of a gesture, coming to a momentary halt.

Philomène isn't cruel enough to keep her eyes fixed on him as he struggles, turning back to the plant to re-examine leaves which have already been tacitly declared free from blight, and only briefly glancing back to him to encourage him to continue.

"Look, she was very intelligent," Raphael says, sounding more irritated than he means to. "Funny. Most of the Eglantines are terribly self-important, think themselves the gods of art." He makes a less-than-usually-composed gesture with his free hand. "She knew the value of her talent but it didn't make her pretentious."

"And how did you meet her?" Philomene prompts as she smoothes down the leaves and pinches away a bug she spots crawling over one of them. "And if you tell me nothing but 'through work', I swear to god I will stab you with these secateurs."

Raphael laughs faintly at that threat, turning back to Philomene. "Wouldn't that be a very funny way to die," he comments. Then he tips his head back to look at the gathering clouds in the sky. "No, there was an evening of entertainment put on at the Lys d'Or. Have you visited them before? I had never been inside. I was a young adept, invited as a companion to a patron. A sculpture of hers was on display beside the Cereus girl who modeled for it, to show how close the art was to the girl and how close the girl was to marble, but…as you guessed, I had no particular interest in sculpture. But I…remember her eyes. A young Thorn… A young Thorn who is making his marque, who is striving in all ways to wield the authority that is challenging to grasp at a young age…" He trails off somewhat. "Well, you understand that a young Thorn is accustomed to fixing on everyone an intimidating gaze. In the salon, the eyes of Red Roses and patrons too drop before you. But…I remember very clearly…her looking at me. With hazel eyes."

Philomène can't help but smile at that, a small, fond, understanding smile. "Where everyone else looked away, she treated you as an equal, you mean? I can certainly understand that attraction."

"She was bold," Raphael says. "More than I was, in some ways. She was the one who wanted to leave the salons and go into business for ourselves when we'd made our marques. I was never as sure as she was. But she knew her worth."

"And what would she tell you now?" Philomene prompts, absently straightening her cuffs and jacket lapels as she turns back to face him. "If she's a decisive woman, I'm sure you know somewhere inside exactly what she'd suggest."

Raphael shakes his head at this question. "But that isn't the point," he says. "And the matter is also not up to me. Which I may be glad of. Given the confusion of it all. I am…reminded of Sylvie, sometimes. Like a heavy blow."

Philomène briefly touches his elbow again, giving a simple nod. "It's rather unpleasant when it happens, hm? Remembering her is almost as bad as not. You have my sympathies. What can I do to help?"

Raphael clasps Philomene's upper arm in turn at that touch on the elbow. "You're very kind," he says. "But I have not the slightest idea what will help. She died in October. She'd been very ill."

"I'm sorry," Philomene states simply, meeting his gaze. "I genuinely am. If nothing else, you know you can always just hide away in my home if you need a quiet place away from… people. I can provide tea, wine and space."

Raphael inclines his head gratefully. "Thank you for that," he says. "Truly, it is appreciated. I am… I have done better than I expected. In going back to my life as a courtesan. In some ways that is…itself worrying. But there is a way of separating things… I am sure you know what I mean. Soldiers must do it, too."

Philomène smirks. "Not me, I just raged at the world for a few years. It was not a particularly effective tactic and I don't recommend it. But I was also very young. I can understand the value in throwing yourself, heart and soul, into something you know instead."

"The strange part is that I am better at it now than I ever was," Raphael admits, opening the flask again for another draught before he closes it up once more. "I thought I would want for patrons."

"What was I just saying about the capacity for love only increasing…?" Philomene suggests with a half smile. "You're better because you've more experience, you're rounded out, and in your particular canon are you seriously considering arguing that knowledge of pain isn't going to make you a better Thorn?"

Raphael snorts out a faint laugh again. "No, what you say is true," he admits. "I only hadn't foreseen it. And it does help me that authority is associated with age. I am lucky to have been taken into this canon and not Cereus or Camellia. Not that I ever would have been suitable for either of those in the first place."

"Authority, right up until you find yourself described as an elderly, crippled old woman, anyway," Philomene notes drily, lips pursing for a moment. "Or man, in your case. But you have a patron now of whom you're particularly fond?" she prompts, raising a brow.

"I…yes," Raphael admits after hesitating over the matter one last time. "I must admit. Naturally the rules of privacy that govern my profession prevent me from saying too much. But I must admit to having moments where I…enjoyed my work beyond the pure pursuit of the craft."

"Then don't be a bloody idiot, and make the most of it," Philomene suggests with the sort of forthright insistence that perhaps proves that she's not a pod person after all. "The chance doesn't come round that often. Grab it. And if all you get from it is a single day of joy, well, it's a day you wouldn't otherwise have had. Lay out your options, and choose the path with the greatest reward. What's the worst that can happen?"

Raphael holds up his free palm to suggest a slowdown. "We have had three very gratifying days," he says. "However, I am not the only term in the equation, as it were. The person in question has certain commitments and choices that I must respect."

Philomène considers this for a moment. "Which," she decides in a slow drawl, "just means you have other options to consider and suggest. Sharing your time or your bed are both valid suggestions. I'm sure she would be amenable to the idea of either."

"Quite," Raphael agrees, nodding faintly. "To the extent that other commitments and considerations make possible. In fact I cannot say I am unhappy with things as they are, but…to admit they are anything at all is more than a simple matter."

Philomène laughs suddenly, shaking her head. "Fuck me, but it's a farce, isn't it? Just when you think you're getting the hang of this life you've been dealt, somebody pops up to scramble your brain and make your heart lurch. And, it would appear, you're never too old to know better."

"I'm afraid so," Raphael admits with a rueful smile. "I only thought you should know you aren't the only one it happens to."

"I do feel much better for it," the Chalasse confesses, face breaking into an uncharacteristic grin that only serves to accentuate the fine lines of her cheeks and jaw. "If even a professional like you can be struck down, what chance do we mere amateurs have?"

Raphael smiles in return. "I'm afraid I've always been softhearted, in truth. But usually not toward patrons. So as you say, we are at the base of it highly unruly creatures." He holds up the flask. "Would you like this back? And that leaf you handed me, was I supposed to hold it or throw it away?"

Philomène holds out her hand and gestures with a flick of her fingertips towards herself. "I'll claim my flask back, thank you. It's seen me few a good many years, and is one of the oldest friends I still have. The leaf… it'll dry with the others. Dry it until it'l crumble, then wrap it in paper and smoke it. Or offer it to your lady friend as a far more practical gift than a sausage, even."

"Hm," Raphael replies, handing the flask back and peeling the leaf that had also been in his palm off it. "We shall see," he says.

Philomène takes a swig from the flask for herself, giving it a little shake to identify just how empty it is by now, then slides it into her inside pocket. "And I shall leave you to your work and thank you once again for your hospitality," she decides. "If I'm quick about it, I might yet get a half hour's ride around the city before the rain comes in."

"Then we had better let you go," Raphael says, gesturing back to the house with an empty hand. "We appreciate your expertise in tending to the plant, of course."

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