(1311-11-07) Four Curtseys
Summary: Two servants of Naamah, representing in their way the past and the future, meet when making offerings at her temple.
RL Date: 11/07/2019
Related: Innocent Curiosity.
iphigenie alienor 

Temple of Naamah — Marsilikos

The Temple of Naamah is a serene and lovely building which has been constructed of stark white marble and cool latticed stonework. Decorations here reflect the gentle side of the angel to which the temple plays homage, the building being filled with an abundance of flowers that spill from columns and pedestals. Within the centre of the main hall, arching columns support a dome that is open to the skies above, and these are hung with garlands of flowers amongst which the temple doves sit and preen. A narrow carpet of carmine red runs from the main doors, through the arches, and towards the rear of the temple to where an exquisite alabaster statue of Naamah herself kneels upon an altar of deepest grey granite. She is depicted with her eyes closed in quiet repose, and with her hands extended palms uppermost before her. On the floor around the base of the plinth are shallow bowls of chased silver, receptacles for the coins and trinkets that are offerings to the angel herself. Scarlet-robed priests and priestesses might be found within the temple whatever the hour of day or night, going about their chores or offering comfort and guidance to those that seek it.

The autumn air is chilly and crisp within and without Naamah’s temple. The sun approaching its zenith seems to light but not to warm the gracious Hellenic architecture of these precincts designed to be open to all the world — and not just symbolically. Though the Bright Lady’s pledged servants are in the main still sleeping off the previous night’s devotions, conducted in bedchambers throughout the city, a handful of her priests are always present, always attentive, always eager to dispense whatever solace her worshippers might come craving.

And so when Alienor arrives a pair of burly red-robed acolytes are engaged in lifting up over the steps from the garden a curious wooden chair with a large wheel at either side of it, like a cart. The chair is occupied mostly by a dark cloak, a black rabbit fur muff, and a fur hat made to match; but between the collar and the hat there is an impression of pale skin and paler hair, high cheekbones and meticulously painted dark red lips, and something silvery at each ear which catches the candlelight and returns it with interest. One of the acolytes bows and withdraws; the other lingers in conversation with the lady, whilst a silent woman in the plainer garb of a maidservant pushes the wheeled chair slowly along the red carpet that lines the main sanctuary’s avenue of hothouse flowers, toward the alabaster Naamah.

“… Thank you, my dear. Yes, the wording is a little different in the Kusheline version,” the lady confides to the acolyte, as he bends his head nearer to catch the soft words she’s speaking to him. Her voice is low and melodic, honeyed, one of those too-charming Kusheline accents that even an unopened rosebud must have heard about the Rose Sauvage. She quotes a prayer that is at once familiar and strange to any child raised in Naamah’s service.

In a very conservative plain white dress that covers her fairly completely from its high jewel neckline to its long full skirts near sweeping the floor, bell sleeves long enough to almost entirely cover the hands, Alienor is a sharp color contrast with this woman who is praying. She wears a very plain white wool cloak for warmth, and in her dark hair is pinned a white rose, though under her veil that conceals her face, it is difficult to tell if it is real or a very good facsimile. The accent catches her attention, though, and she smiles gently at the familiar yet not prayer.

A chaperone and two guards watch Alienor jealously like a precious jewel, but she ignores them out of habit as she steps closer to this praying woman to listen and to bow her head in prayer. She closes her eyes and folds her hands together, looking a bit angelic and very peaceful.

The rhythmic cadences of that ancient prayer last until Iphigénie’s wheeled chair reaches the silver dishes at Naamah’s feet — perhaps she slows her words a-purpose? — and then she tilts her head to smile up at the acolyte. “How you indulge me,” she remarks wryly. “Would you please—?” she asks, and she produces from the depths of her fur muff a small glass jar of dark golden honey, the scent of which seems somehow to surround her. The lid of it is bound about with a brightly-polished silver chain, its ends vanishing beneath a seal of dark red wax.

“Of course, my lady,” and the acolyte accepts the jar from her white-gloved hand and conveys it respectfully to a place amongst the other offerings. He steps back then, to give her time — and back again to get himself discreetly out of Alienor’s way as well. The girl’s retinue raises no eyebrows here, where the young people of the Night Court so often come to pray. In fact, if a veiled Alyssum appeared alone, the priests would be quite concerned about her!

From the pockets of her white dress, which is full enough to not be lumpy even when she has shoved half a fruit tree into the pockets, Alienor withdraws three lemons: two small but charmingly round, and one larger perfect fruit. She gathers them together in her hands, brings them to her nose for a deep inhale, enjoying the aromatic scent, before kneeling to place the set at the feet of the statue, artfully arranging them to be most aesthetically pleasing.

"Oh, Naamah," she prays suddenly. "Make me brave like you." There's a quaver in her voice, a sense of need, and she lingers for a moment on her knees. She reaches under her veil to wipe her eyes from the tears that have sprung up there, and she takes a deep breath as she lingers a moment.

Iphigénie sits pensive in her chair, with both her hands tucked again inside her fur muff— until that small voice arrests her attention and she opens her eyes to see Alienor battling her veil and her tears. She produces from another silk-lined pocket of that capacious muff, a clean and folded handkerchief of plain white linen and offers it not to Naamah to herself but to her passionate young worshipper. Her green eyes are vivid and intelligent and kind. “You already are, my dear. It is always an act of bravery to love,” she offers sympathetically.

<FS3> Alienor rolls Politics: Good Success. (6 3 5 7 1 6 8)

Alienor stands up slowly, as if she is not entirely certain of herself, but she does manage to do it gracefully, with the sort of artfulness that is expected from someone as well-trained as she is. "Thank you, my lady," she says as she hesitantly takes the kindly offered handkerchief, and she carefully dabs her eyes. "Soon I will have my debut; it is only to be scheduled," she explains to the noblewoman, and then she remembers to curtsey. "Vicomtesse," she offers politely, taking a deep breath as she figures out who the older woman is.

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Religion: Great Success. (7 7 7 4 4 2 5 5 8 5 6 3 7 4 6)

Iphigénie arches a finely-drawn eyebrow at Alienor’s correct address — and then she smiles. “I gather you are acquainted with my friend Nicolette,” she deduces in a murmur. “For a moment, you know, I wondered whether you might be she… One of the mysteries of your canon, how little anyone can be sure of until you choose to reveal the truth,” she remarks. “But the Bright Lady sees you very well, and you may be sure she’ll be watching closely in this season of your life especially. You need only let her presence renew your courage, my dear.”

"I have been encouraged by everyone I know and love, and I am bolstered by their faith in me and my abilities, my lady," Alienor replies, dropping another respectful curtsey to the Vicomtesse out of respect and appreciation. "I am excited. And yet the anticipation wears at my nerves and makes me doubt myself. I do not wish to disappoint either my future patron or my fellow courtesans." She shifts on her feet slightly, for she is young and fidgety by nature, brimming with energy. "So I will not. I refuse to disappoint."

The agèd Iphigénie sits, by contrast, still and tranquil in her wheeled chair, with her chin tilted slightly upward to regard the novice. “I am glad you have the wisdom to trust in the judgment of your superiors,” she says gently; “that is only right and proper. Remember, too, you were chosen for Naamah’s service not just because of your lovely face, but for your good heart. And such a heart will always find a way to please another heart, in her name.”

"I wish that I could see more of the world without the veil on, but perhaps someday I will be able to remove it for you," Alienor offers, smiling at the older woman with great respect and just a little bit of awe. "Perhaps you will come to my debut. I do not know yet when it is, but I am told soon. And then I will serve as an adept of the White Rose." There's a pause, and she lowers her gaze. "May I ask you a personal question, my lady?"

“Yes, perhaps,” Iphigénie agrees, “but I will not make you a promise that my health may leave me unable to redeem… You may ask, my dear,” she grants, “provided that first you tell me your name,” she nudges kindly, “so that I shall know whose debut I hope to attend.”

"I am Alienor," says the novice, with yet another curtsey and a smile. Then she glances to where the offerings are for a moment, and she says, "Together, we have offered Naamah the fixings for rather good tea: honey and lemons. Lemons are my favorite fruit. They're sour and sweet at the same time. Tart. Acidic. Good for cleaning. Bright and cheerfully yellow. That is why I offer them: because I love them. Why do you offer honey?"

Iphigénie smiles at the belated introduction and the third curtsey. “How do you do, Alienor,” she says softly. “Perhaps Nicolette didn’t tell you that I keep bees in my garden— one of them stung her, once, when she came to tea with me in the summertime,” she recalls, and amusement deepens the curve of her dark red mouth. “I give honey from my bees because it is the most personal offering I can make — I’ve no skill for making anything with my hands,” she explains matter-of-factly. “And I think it not unfitting,” she goes on with a more serious mien, “when I come to give thanks to the Bright Lady for the unexpected sweetnesses she has granted me in this season of my life. Does that answer your question, my dear?”

"Yes, that's perfect, my lady," Alienor replies to Iphigénie with a beaming smile, sounding delighted at her answer. "I paint a bit, and I have to be careful not to get paint on my dresses. Mostly I paint still life, largely lemons and white roses. I eat them afterwards. The lemons, not the roses. Roses are edible, but they don't have much flavor to them, and they're prettier to look at than tasty to eat. I suppose still life is sort of boring, but they're so pretty in such a peaceful sort of way. And you don't have to worry about your subject running off to an assignation."

“I am fond of still lives,” opines Iphigénie. “I think they serve well to remind us of the beauty to be found in our own ordinary lives, if we should chance to forget it. Perhaps you’ll show me your pictures one day, Alienor?” she suggests, though having given no promise herself she seeks none in return. “I’m fond too of the taste of roses,” she adds; “my garden here in Marsilikos is full of them, and my bees ate their pollen all the summer long so that the honey they give,” she nods toward the silver-chained jar standing next to Alienor’s lemons, “has a savour of roses, which I think quite pleasant in black Chi’in tea. We shall have to hope,” she teases, “that the next of us who comes to pray at Naamah’s altar, will bring her tea leaves.”

"I shall. Perhaps I'll paint a little something for you on wood or canvas when I'm whiling away time in the solar of the White Roses. One of the Thorns teased us White Roses for being bored," Alienor notes with a charmed laugh. "I love gardens, and I love bees. Most of the time, they won't sting you unless you scare them, so you must hold very still and watch them as they move their ticklish little feet on your skin."

“If I were you I should worry about bees tangling in so much flowing cloth,” confides Iphigénie, looking Alienor over and giving a concerned little shake of her head. But then from one potential prick her thoughts alight upon the other kind. “But why was there a Thorn in your company, my dear?” she asks. “I thought they were forbidden to go up into the solar.”

"Thorns listen to rules not very well, and lingered to tease, just to make us blush," Alienor admits with a little blush now, remembering it, shaking her head slightly. "I've been clad in flowing cloth so long… well, it does get inconvenient sometimes. I lost my veil in my skirts the other day, and it was a scramble to find it."

“Is that so? … In my experience,” Iphigénie confides, with a note of wry insinuation in her low voice, “Thorns are very fond of rules.” Then she lets it go, albeit with a private resolve to speak with the Second of Thorns about the behaviour of his charges toward the innocent little kittens who frolic in the house’s upper reaches. She glances up to where her maid is silently hovering and murmurs, “Nadège, you’ll find me those two wonderfully willing young men.”

"From the way he described it, he preferred to impose rules on others while not having rules imposed on him. Which isn't particularly fair, if you think about it," Alienor admits to Iphigénie, wrinkling her nose in such a manner that may or may not be obscured by her veil. "I do try to follow the rules closely, but then, a lot of my future depends on my ability to follow rules, as I am quite dependent upon other people."

The maid Nadège moves away to secure the services of the acolytes who got Iphigénie’s wheeled chair over the steps the first time; alone with Alienor, within that broader perimeter of Rose Sauvage functionaries, Iphigénie nods thoughtfully. “Of course, Thorns have rules of their own, which are not always the same as anyone else’s,” she suggests. “I wonder, who was this young man who visited you? Perhaps I might know him,” she speculates.

Alienor bites her lip awkwardly, and then nods. "Baptiste is his name," she replies after a moment. "I do hope that you won't get him in too much trouble. He was well-meaning, and when he stopped teasing, he was pleasant company."

“Yes, Thorns can be very pleasant company when they wish to be,” agrees Iphigénie, giving the girl an encouraging smile; “I am not acquainted with Monsieur Baptiste,” a slight, tutelary emphasis upon the title, “but I can hardly fault you for enjoying a visitor I’m sure would delight me as well. But the proper running of a house does require that everyone who lives there follow the rules made for them, not just the novices. You understand that, don’t you, my dear—? We each have our own part to play, which tends toward the harmony of the whole.”

Alienor ducks her head slightly as she is corrected, and she nods seriously, listening to the older woman respectfully. "Of course, my lady," she says quietly. "I shall keep that in mind. It is difficult for someone like me, a novice, to influence the actions of Monsieur Baptiste, as there is a natural power disparity in play."

Iphigénie smiles. “Of course,” she agrees softly, “and that is why you must rely upon the care of your elders, who can act as you very properly may not. If it happens again, Alienor,” and just like that Kusheline charm turns to Kusheline command, and the elderly vicomtesse displays a fine vein of steel beneath her pale skin, “if any Thorn should trespass in your solar, or tease you too much, or if any other incident of the kind leaves you disquieted— you must promise me you will speak with one of the Seconds of the salon. You may trust that they’ll know what to do for the best, and that they’ll protect your innocence as innocence itself knows not how to do.”

Hardly has she issued this edict than her maid returns with the red-robed acolytes whose aid is necessary to her departure, confined as she is today in her wheeled chair.

"Thank you, my lady. I shall do as you advise, and I shall hope to see you again. Either here or at the Rose Sauvage," Alienor replies as she offers the older woman a beautiful sweeping curtsey that makes a pretty if modest show of her voluminous skirts. "It has been a pleasure speaking with you."

And that’s a fourth curtsey, each one a superb specimen of the gesture, carried out by good young knees; and Iphigénie’s expression softens. “You’ll do very well, my dear,” she promises. “And now I shall leave you—” She glances up and nods to Naamah, who has presided silent and open-handed over their talk. “To your prayers, and to better company than my own.”

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