(1311-10-27) Repertoire
Summary: Safiye takes on a new singer to entertain at La Perle Noire, though after his first performance she has certain stipulations…
RL Date: 10/28/2019
Related: Follows shortly upon Not Perfect.
alair safiye 

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.

By Safiye’s order the beautiful new singer is kept on the stage in the lounge of La Perle Noire — to the despair of his accompanist, who was due a break ages ago — until the difficult and too-knowing Kusheline vicomte has taken his leave, entourage in tow.

But then he is summoned to the sybaritic small chamber which serves her as an office, divan-lined and decorated rather like the private rooms upstairs (which Alair hasn’t seen yet, and may never), though with the addition of a trio of chairs and a heavy carven desk. He saw it briefly this afternoon, and defied its unflattering acoustics to sing for Safiye a single ballad, on the strength of which she allowed him his turn to impress her on the main stage. She asked him only a handful of questions then. Perhaps more are to follow now.

Beneath the light of a many-coloured stained-glass lamp set softly asway by the hand that just tended it, Safiye is at her desk covering a sheet of parchment in the elaborate and curving marks of some foreign alphabet. The boy who fed her lamp goes out — Alair comes in — she beckons him nearer with her quill and inks the tip of it anew to continue her writing as, slowly, glancing up at him between one long twisty word and another, she murmurs in d’Angeline slowed by the contrast: “Good, you are still here. I liked that second song in particular.”

Alair does not disguise his interest in the decor and the unfamiliar lettering on the parchment. "Still here," he confirms. "Plenty more songs like that, though I do like to keep it varied. Vicomte seemed to like the first one."

“Yes,” agrees Safiye, laying down her quill, “he did.” She clasps her hands together upon the edge of the desk and regards Alair with a more businesslike air than she’s apt to show to the patrons of her house. “You seek employment at the opera house, also?” she inquires.

"Yes," Alair answers. His air's a bit different, too. "Unless you're proposing to pay better than them, of course, and you want me exclusive." A smile. "In that case we could negotiate."

“Why don’t we speak of that when the opera house makes a definite offer for your services—?” Safiye counters smoothly. For he’s as good as said he hasn’t got one yet — and it may never come. One cannot negotiate a negative. “Until then, I would like you to sing for half an hour in the morning and half an hour again in the late afternoon, three days a week to begin, and your fee is as we discussed and will be paid to you after each performance.” So that he can’t pocket a week’s worth and skive off to drink it: yes, these last months of trying to keep La Perle’s patrons diverted have taught Safiye a great deal about the artistic professions.

"As you like," Alair replies easily enough, not apparently bothered by this counter. "Your terms suit me all right. My choice of songs, or do you want some sort of input on that?" He looks at the stained-glass lamp.

“I don’t know the d’Angeline repertoire well enough yet to direct you, but I hope to hear nothing with ribald words,” is Safiye’s immediate response, restating in similar words what she requested him to offer for his audition. “For that, they can go elsewhere than La Perle. If I don’t like what you sing I will surely tell you so. But you have not yet heard all my terms.”

"Oh yes, of course," Alair agrees. "It's a bit of class you want in here, naturally. But is there more?" That gets his eyes off the lamp and back on the proprietress.

Safiye gives him a gentle smile across her desk. “I understand of course that you acted as you did this evening because you hoped, urgently, to impress me and to secure employment here. You are newly arrived in Marsilikos — you have room and board to pay in an expensive city — your clothes have patches, and your boots need new soles,” she lists, accurately and not without a certain sympathy in her husky voice. “Very well. You have a position here and you will be paid fairly for your time.” Then he may glimpse the steel beneath her silks. “But I prefer that you open your mouth only to sing sweet songs. If a patron of my house speaks first to you, you may answer — but if you are invited to sit and drink, your first thought will always be that you ought to attend your duties. I don’t want you lounging on the time that is mine, or interrupting my conversations, or using my house as a place to seek your next job. Do you understand?”

There's a pause. Perhaps Alair's look is even dark in response to these instructions and these remarks about the wear on his clothes. It is a long pause. But at length he smiles. "Very well, I promise not to open my mouth to help you again," he says. "Song, then, at the times you've ordered, and nothing more."

“I am glad you accept, Alair, the customs of my house,” says Safiye — softly, now that her point has been made and, she’s sure, taken. “Such songs you will sing for the pleasure of my customers are the only help I will ask of you… Shall we say tomorrow morning, to begin? An hour before noon,” she suggests, “would suit me well, if you have no other engagements. And then afterward we might discuss the schedule of your singing for the next week.”

Before the door shuts behind him her quill is back in her hand, and dancing.

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