(1311-10-25) Not A Governess
Summary: Philomène and Aurore make plans for a certain friendship, but an uncertain future.
RL Date: 10/25/2019
Related: None especially.
aurore philomene 

Maison aux Herbes

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

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

Aurore's hair is up in a particularly elaborate braid-and-headdress combination. Her forest green velvet overdress has elaborate silver and black embroidery, with a lighter coloured green and silver brocaded underdress. This is a day dress, sturdy and well chosen for the weather, but cut to the latest fashion. Her forest green boots are dyed to match the overdress.

She has come with a basket of assorted cured meats for her hostess and a floral tisane she mixed back home with her own hands as a gift for her coz. Her smile is genuine as she's ushered in to see the older woman, "I'm back from Ferrand and I thought I'd stop in to see if you've had any more trouble this summer." The travel seems to have suited her, she is rosy cheeked and cheerful.

Philomène has apparently relented and finally the maid, Caroline, has been allowed to open the door for their guest. In stark contrast to her cousin, however, the Vicomtesse de Gueret is not dressed in fashionable finery, but in a loose shirt, only buttoned really far enough for a semblance of decency, tucked into a worn set of breeches, reinforced along the seams, and her iconic, tall leather riding boots with the attached spurs. She pulls herself with a grimace to her feet as the door is opened, the expression soon turning to genuine pleasure on spotting her guest. "My dear Lady Aurore, how the bloody hell are you?" she asks, already extending both hands, expecting to grasp Aurore's but instead being given gifts. Oh, well, all the better! "You're looking damnably well. Something in Ferrand clearly agrees with you. A drink?" she offers, giving Caroline the super secret signal to get out the good stuff.

Aurore says, "I'm in very good health, as is my son. We spent all summer riding his lands so I could teach him the basics of how managing them works and so his people would know him and he them. We had a marvelous time. How are you? How was your summer? I'd love a drink with you." She has included in Philomène's tisane packet some bark and roots generally considered to help with the winter aches, mixed in with stronger tasting pleasant things, so that the flowers and bits of fruit to make the whole pleasant to drink. "It really is good to see you. You are one of my very favorite people. How is the husband hunting going?"

Philomène half smiles, nudging out a seat for her guest and setting the gifts down on the table. "Clearly you need to meet more people," she insists, doing her best to hide the wince as she goes to sit down again. "How's the summer been? Well, if I'm perfectly honest with you, from a personal point of view it's been fairly awful, but at least it's been a good harvest so I can't complain too much. As for the husband hunting, I've had a few expressions of interest from a couple of minor sons from the north and the west, but I'm still holding out for something with a bit of bite. Perhaps our awful summer might at least result in some more reasonable offers, as soon as they realise they're marrying closer to the title after all."

Aurore lifts her chin, "No. I just have a particular taste in friends. I'm in a position not to have to please or pretend interest in people I find terribly dull. You are the opposite of that." She settles by her, wincing herself at the news, "Oh! I am sorry. I fear I've been a bit cut off and missed most of the news."

Philomène waves her off, shaking her head. "Ah, no, it's not exactly news we've spread around just yet. Louis-Claude is a little unwell, and so Laurene and Julie-Claire are effectively running the lands at present. My middle and youngest," she explains without pausing for breath. A slight smile of approval for Caroline as the good uisghe comes out, along with a pair of smoky glasses. "And I made a bit of a tit of myself, too, with the whole Skaldi business. I'm not quite the fearsome warrior I used to be."

Aurore's eyebrows go up when she spots the good uisghe, "See? Shared tastes and interests go a long way." She looks worried though, "I'm really sorry to hear about Louis-Claude. Is there anything I can do? I'm glad to hear your girls are doing so well at least. I'd heard there was some trouble here in town, but not the details.”

"Either prayers or a well placed pillow?" Philomène suggests with a little laugh, but there's a tightness about her expression that implies she might not entirely be joking. She leans to claim the uisghe bottle, pouring out some incredibly generous measures and offering one over to Aurore. "As for the business in town, there was a Skaldi spy, I went to take her out and collapsed a lung for my troubles. It all went to Her Grace's courts, and the mercy shown was generally quite unsatisfactory all round."

Aurore is watching her face and is neither put off by her humor, nor deflected by it. She winces, "Is he in much pain?" She holds the tumbler under her nose to enjoy the heady fumes before sipping, still studying her friend, "I'm glad you lived, though I'm betting the immediate aftermath wasn't pleasant. This Skaldi? Sent back where she came from?"

"I've no idea, but I pray not," Philomène admits quietly, gaze meeting Aurore's quite frankly for a few seconds. "He's rarely lucid for long enough to tell." She takes her own glass and knocks back a good slug of it in a single go. "The Skaldi? Exiled, but there's a rumour that she got out, murdered a couple more people, and ran back home to tell her masters all our secrets. Southerners." She snorts.

Aurore studies her friend over the rim of the glass, "If you're sure there… is no hope? If you think it might be kinder for him to… dream away the time he has left…" She impulsively reaches out to touch Philomène's wrist, "There are ways to make his last weeks gentler if that's what's wanted." She wrinkles her nose perturbed, "Too soft, these southerners. It's a terrible shame. I'm sorry."

Philomène eyes her with some consideration, swirling what remains of her drink in its glass. "I did try to get some milk of the poppy for him from the courtesans here, but they were all 'oh no, let's try tea and massage and we'll read your dreams'. Seemed rather rude to point out that my dreams involved taking the damn stuff back to Gueret to try to ease the poor fellow into… well… to soothe him away. And then of course there's my own selfishness. As long as he's still breathing, I'm still somebody. The moment he stops, I'm just the leftover wife, hm?"

Aurore nods, sipping, studying her, "I haven't any poppy. I'm sorry. If… you decide that you'd rather let him go to sleep, I still have some contacts I could call on. I could check around and see if something might be done to help him." She looks really distressed, "Oh Phil! I'm so sorry! And here I am talking about my plans for my boy and you've been here dealing with all this alone!"

Philomène lifts her hand. "Oh, don't be a bloody idiot," she rejoins with a hint of impatience. "No, tell me how your lad's doing? How's he settling into the accounts? Is there anything I can do to help? I might not know an awful lot about the way your sausages are cured, but I do know pigs, and I definitely know accounting."

Aurore smiles, "He's very young yet, but he's doing very well at his sums. I just think the… other side of it's as important. Knowing how things are done, how they're grown, how they're made. How to tell if you're being cheated and about how much by the way a person carries themselves. When to give wiggle room and when to be hard and sharp as a good scythe. How to tell when it's time to make hay, and when to slaughter. How to strike a bargain that leaves both sides satisfied and how to go for the throat when you've been cheated. I have a feeling you might be an excellent teacher for these things."

"Perhaps I might come to visit for a while, afterwards…?" Philomène suggests, running her tongue over her teeth before suddenly remembering the uisghe in her glass and taking a sip from it. "So I'm not stepping on any toes at home, and to see what I can do for your boy? I can promise I shall try not to fight with any Skaldi spies while I'm there if you like?"

Aurore nods, "You are most welcome to come stay with us for a bit. A change might do you good. He's got good tutors for the more academic things and sword and strategy with someone who seems to be doing a fine job, but you really know the land and the way things are done in l'Agnace. You know our larger family far better than I and the less visible politics. You certainly know pigs and the essential details of managing estates better than I. I've studied hard and listened to my best people, but I'm not from farm country. I know my best in these areas wouldn't be nearly as good as yours on a bad day if I have another two decades to try to catch up. He's a little boy still, but he's bright and curious and I think… exposure to more types of experts and a variety of people would be good for his education." She looks her in the eyes, "You would honestly be doing me a favor. He's outgrown his governess and I could redo her room with your taste and comforts in mind."

Philomène laughs, setting down her glass on the table with a sharp thump. "From soldier, to vicomtesse, to governess. It's certainly true that fate has a fucking wicked sense of humour, eh? Not that I'm ungrateful for the offer. It'll be a good deal all round, I think, but it's hardly the life I dreamed when I was twenty. Do you think anyone ends up where they imagined? Did you? When you were small, did you imagine all this? Shit, I certainly never imagined myself with children, and I've got three of the little buggers."

Aurore laughs and laughs, "My dreams were much smaller when I was that age. My appetite grew with my height." She shakes her head, "Not a governess. Houseguest who might share the occasional meal with my son or a free hour here or there listening to a very clever and fascinating auntie. I would never insult you by asking you to do… that sort of work. I am offering you home and hearth and friendship for as long as you would like it. I had assumed you'd want to bring your Caroline and was already calculating where we might put her." She laughs, "I definitely never imagined children or how very much I'd love the one I had. But here we are, unlikely friends grown into people we'd barely recognise when we were ten. I like the people we became. Will you come then and live with us when you are ready? Will you let me know what sort of things would best make you comfortable?"

Philomène extends her hand, fingers downward, towards her cousin. "My dear Aurore, I'd be honoured and most terribly grateful," she admits. "Might there be space in your stables for my Hirondelle? Anything else I can manage quite well without, but she and I have been together some time."

Aurore takes the hand, "Of course we'll find stableage! And there should be no question of your doing without. Let me know what I need to find space or place for and I'll arrange it! And won't the two of us be demons ganging up on merchants we sell Ferrand goods to. My dear Philomène, I'm sorry the occasion is a grim one, but I am very glad you're coming to share my home. I think it will be marvelous. Shall I send my man over tomorrow to sort out details of furnishings and other practicalities? I'd rather you have a room befitting your station ready in advance for whenever you want it."

Letting out a fond laugh, Philomène squeezes Aurore's fingers briefly before releasing her hand. "If we don't have the merchants terrified I'll consider the pair of us short-changed. But please, don't go to any effort on my behalf. I spent time enough sleeping under trees or under canvas when I was younger, and my room at Gueret's nothing but a bed and a desk. This," and she gestures around herself at the house she's renting in Marsilikos, "is far more than I need here, but apparently I need to keep up appearances, at least on the outside. Much as I might lament it," she admits with a wry smile, "perhaps it's for the best that I don't regularly bring home company here. They'd probably assume they're being kidnapped and held in some sort of sterile storage warehouse. Hardly conducive to a romantic interlude."

Aurore laughs softly, "I'd never think that. Not with the sort of uisghe you serve. Still, things like hard or soft mattress, bed curtains or not and like would be useful to know. Also if I need to work out sleeping arrangements for more than just Caroline or stablege for more than one horse, that sort of thing. Just know while you're under my roof, your room will be yours. You'll have company when you want and privacy when you don't." She give her a wicked smile, "I think that terrorizing the merchants with you will be great fun."

Philomène gives an almost wistful smile as she takes up her glass and holds it to the light to examine the dregs. "If I'm honest, I never really got a taste for the stuff. I had a friend once who taught me everything she knew about it, though. Told me what to look for in a good uisghe, and I don't think she's steered me wrong, has she? But you're a wine drinker for preference, aren't you? I don't suppose you can let me know what I ought to buy to impress?"

Aurore smiles crookedly, "I have wide tastes, but I don't know enough about uisghe to make good purchases myself, though I know what I like when I taste it. You could help me choose the right sort to buy and I'll open my cellar to you and suggest what wine would suit depending on the occasion. A lot depends on what if anything you plan to serve it with if anything and what sort of thing your guest likes. I could send some samples bottles over. Have you an occasion in mind?

"Nothing in particular," Philomène is quick to deny, lowering her glass and flicking a glance towards Aurore. "Merely in case I have guests. Wouldn't want them to think all I drink is gutrot, even if for the most part they'd be absolutely right. I wonder if I ought to buy… throw cushions." She wrinkles her nose at the very words, looking dubiously about her very spartan living room.

Aurore laughs, "No throw pillows, but you might want a variety of bed pillows including a good heavy propping pillow in case you have another accident with a Skaldi spy. We're up in the mountains in Ferrand, so your room there, I'll make warm, but you could come stay with us here too if you wanted the company. As I said, I think your knowledge and influence would be good both for my boy and his interests."

Philomène shakes her head. "This place is in my own name, not the family name. This house remains mine, no matter what, so I've somewhere to stay here. But when you're in Ferrand, then I'll gladly come and look at your soil and your crops and see what I can pass on to the boy. And," she adds with a smirk, "tear a strip off any merchants who want to try to pull one over on you. Do you have plans to visit Elua this winter? Or is he too young yet?"

Aurore nods, a little disappointed, "At least come to dinner with us here when you're free… I hadn't decided yet, but I think he's too young. Better simple pleasures at home.”

Philomène cracks a half smile. "Oh, gladly. You're one of the very few members of the family I can stand. I mean, I'll defend any one of them from outsiders, that's my duty, but I don't much like most of them. And you're always welcome here, if you can stand the whole kidnapping-chic aesthetic."

Aurore laughs, "Trust me, I've slept in much worse. It's decided. We visit each other more often."

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