(1311-10-09) Albexit
Summary: These young men passing the time of day in La Perle Noire, are fortunate that the proprietress doesn’t overhear their talk!
RL Date: (no one remembers exactly)
Related: Parenthetical reference to The Coat’s Just A Symbol.
airen andre hugo 

La Perle Noire — Grand Plaza

The face this establishment shows to the Grand Plaza is a window display of coffee beans in a fantastic blown-glass vase, against figured silk which changes with the seasons; and a pair of heavy oaken doors guarded by a swarthy, bearded, well-muscled man in Ephesian costume, who bows patrons out of Terre d'Ange and into a foreign land redolent of fine coffee and cinnamon and tobacco, lit by countless candles suspended each in a gleaming glass lantern from a ceiling that billows with ruby-red silk and cloth of gold. Layered carpets of many colours, intricately woven and warmed in winter by a hypocaust, soften the music of pipes and drums and mandolins that filters through this sanctuary of civilised pleasures. Here a friendship might be forged or renewed, a deal struck, or a day simply whiled away in Eastern opulence and ease, amidst the red and the gold and the smoke.

In the middle of the main lounge is a raised circular stage upon which an horologist's glass marks the lapse of two hours between performances by Ephesian dancing girls, or minstrels singing joyously in the tongue of that land, or even a local d'Angeline bard telling tall tales. Low tables of dark wood radiate therefrom, surrounded by lounging cushions and richly-upholstered divans; the outermost are set in alcoves which may for privacy's sake be screened by shimmering silken curtains. If one desires amusement, one may summon at any hour alluring dancers whose brass finger-cymbals chime to accent the undulations of their hips. If one wishes to smoke, one may command a water pipe. But the true business of the house is the coffee. Perfumed young men in loose trousers and embroidered tunics move to and fro like angels dispensing this liquid mercy: strong, fragrant, frothing kahve, brewed cup by cup from the fine-ground black pearls of Ephesium, served in elaborate copper vessels beside tall glasses of pure spring water and plates of esoteric and delectable foreign sweetmeats.

Several sets of doors at the rear of the lounge lead away to the kitchens; to a stairway ascending toward smaller chambers which may be reserved for private parties; and outside into a courtyard, open in fair weather.

As the sunset rolls into early dark, the other acts have finished for the day, leaving Airen sitting on the edge of the circular stage as dusk lengthens the dusky gloaming and shadows dance by candlelight. The thick haze of smoke grows thicker as the night settles in, rain a pattering backdrop to the soft mournful vibrato of the violin's eloquent voice. With an impassioned madness of a sort, he seems to lose himself and the music reaches a crescendo pulling his slight frame along with the bow, dark curls just brushing exposed shoulders, the golden lilies winding from tailbone to nape shifting along with him. His eyes are closed, features near ecstatic.

Andre likes to park himself in Safiye's coffee house when the weather is too bad for riding out to the mancave. There's hot coffee and many an exotic delight such as candied fruit, hookahs and sparsely glad bellydancers. But it's early for those and he doesn't mind a little musical entertainment while he lounges in the pillows with two other men, quietly talking about this and that and only casting occasional glances towards the stage or the other visitors to the coffee shop.

After no small amount of playing, Airen just gets up and walks away, closing on a single resonant note stretched longer than one might think was possible. The walk to a pillow surrounded by a disarray of ink splotched papers with hastily scrawled couplets and half a cup of coffee now room temperature at best. It is the hookah his attention is first lent to, cerulean eyes lingering for a beat or two on Andre and the men in quiet conversation with him. Rather than intrude, he bends over a page and starts scribbling again.

It's deeply ingrained in the prince to praise performers who have played for him either at the palace or during visits in some official function and habits die hard. When he catches the fiddler looking at him, he offers him a smile. "Very well played.", he comments.

Lifting his head again from the paper, Airen's lips tug and curl at the corners, offering a rather large smile, his hand stilling as he tells Andre, "Thank you." His violin is tucked into its case and he starts gathering up the disarray of paper around him.

Job done, Andre reclines back into the pillows, but not without picking up another piece of candied fruit from the low table. He's lounging with two other Flatlandish merchants and all are waiting for the beautiful bellydancers. But for now they had to make do with a violinist, who entertained them with lovely music. When one paper threatens to slip and float away, Andre leans over to catch it and offer it back to the young man.

Hugo ambles down the stairs from somewhere deeper within the Perle and more private, yawning as he emerges. With a glance about, he spots Andre at least and gives his friend a lift of both his hand and his chin in greeting.

"Oh!" Airen breathes an exclamation, lurching after the paper to lose it to Andre's deft grasp before offering him a smile. "I must, it would seem, thank you again," he says, not seeming to mind that at all in truth. His attention follows the movement of the wave toward he and Andre and he offers a dip of his head in quiet greeting even if he was not the recipient of said wave!

"Do you write your own music?", Andre asks of Airen, before they are interrupted by Hugo's appearance. Which was rather unexpected, judging by the quirk of Andre's eyebrow. "I hope you haven't tired the bellydancer out, mate.", Andre greets him casually.

"Invigorated the bellydancer, you mean," Hugo corrects with an easy smile, adding a little wave to Airen even as he goes to join the pair of them without bothering to ask. "Showing the Ephesians a bit of local culture. How's things?"

With the fiddler going elsewhere to fiddle something or other, Andre turns his full attention to Hugo. "Well let's hope so. We're enjoying some Ephesian culture. They're paying." He points his thumb at the older Flatlandish merchants in his company. If they are tired of the young prince, they know better than to risk offending his papa and thus keep paying. At least neither groans when Andre invites Hugo to join them.

"You've got to admit, the coffee here is outstanding," Hugo agrees, slouching down into a set of cushions of his own and giving an amiable smile to the gaggle of Flatlanders. "I took the owner out sailing the other day as a bit of a thank you. And," he admits with a grin, "an excuse to borrow the captain's gig for a day and see what she could do."

"The owner? Isn't she A BIT old for you?", Andre muses and gestures for some wait staff to come and take Hugo's order and top up their own coffees. "Yea, we're all here for the coffee.", he says entirely straightfaced while the black liquid is poured into his tiny shiny cup.

Hugo gives Andre a shove, endangering the coffee, and rolls his eyes. "Mate, I said I took her sailing, not to bed with me. There are better methods of seduction than taking a girl out on the water, anyway. All bundled up against the cold, and ducking every five minutes for the boom? Hardly conducive to getting their kit off, is it?"

"I thought it's all about standing bare-chested in the prow and manoevring the rudder with strong muscly arms to impress the lass stuck on a bench with nowhere to escape to, while you strut about being manly.", Andre muses and shrugs. "I guess it's easier at home in the Flatlands. Lots of little islands between the water, so you just row out to one that's nice and treat her to a picnic on the beach. Should try that some time."

"With Lady Safiye?" Hugo queries, eyeing Andre as though he's gone mad. "Seriously? I'll leave that one to you. What about that girl I saw you with the other day, though?"

"No, just generally speaking. I'm not interested in middle-aged Ephesian ladies beyond their coffee-making abilities.", Andre assures him. The last question earns Hugo a confused look. "Which girl?" Well, it's a justified question, considering.

Hugo touches his hair as though this will give an indication. "Redhead? Quite young? Pretty? No? Was she just serving you drinks? I thought you were chatting her up."

"Ah yes. Her.", Andre remembers but only smirks vaguely. "I may be seeing her from time to time but you know as well as I do, that I could never take her home to Mom and Dad. In fact I received a letter from my father the other day, asking me if I would return with the merchants' ships now that the exhibition is over…"

"Please tell me you said yes," Hugo jibes, grinning broadly so his dimples deepen. "It's about time we got rid of you."

Andre eyes him for a longer time, then shrugs. "I don't know. I quite like it here, but I feel that I'm overstaying my welcome. The only thing that keeps me from boarding the ship is the fact that I know they will be waiting with chains at home."

"Chains?" Hugo asks, leaning forward a little. "What, did you murder somebody?"

Andre rolls his eyes. "The old ball and chain. Marriage. Some ugly Albanese troll I believe."

Hugo smirks at that as he leans back, accepting a cup of strong black coffee with a dazzling smile for the server and a murmured thanks. "I thought trolls were Gotlandish? But sure, it can't be that bad. She's probably got money, at least. And you can always just leave her in the house and go out fishing. Or canal jumping."

"As long as she'll live in Brabant with me and not on that ghastly rainy island of hers.", Andre sulks and shrugs. "Anyway, she might be beautiful, I don't care. I'm not ready."

"They should take that awful rainy island away," Hugo agrees cheerfully. "Remove it from the rest of us here on the mainland. Albexit, they could call it."

"Or just pull the plug until it's drowned.", Andre nods lightly, then shrugs. "Ah well, I have no quarrel with the Albanese themselves, just with their weather. Ah shush, here it comes!" He clearly brightens when three pretty young dames in floaty silks appear to strut their stuff on stage.

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