(1311-11-09) Getting Muddy
Summary: The young vicomte de Barrême gamely attempts to scale Mt. Athénaïs. Well, he lasts longer than some…
RL Date: 11/07/2019 - 11/09/2019
Related: None.
athenais arterre 

Valais Townhouse — Noble District

From a sweeping courtyard approach, a pair of tall, many-paned glass doors open into the vestibule of the Valais townhouse. Intended to be a vast, cool and imposing chamber, its white marble floor is inset with smaller squares of black, and its high stone walls have been hung with paintings depicting notable ancestors of the Valais family. Wherever space could be found there's an elaborate gilded console table with a long mirror hung above, and small armless chairs with curving mahogany backs and seats upholstered in crimson brocade loiter in pairs or trios against the wall to accommodate callers left to wait.

To the left an open, curving staircase of white marble beneath crimson velvet wends its way up several floors, via broad landings illuminated by windows which look out into the courtyard. The ceiling glitters with gilded cornices, and double doors opposite the entrance lead into the salon, whilst another identical set to the right affords admittance to the dining-room.

The weather is wet and the walk was long. Admitted by the concierge Athénaïs de Belfours stalks across the courtyard and brings copious quantities of water and mud with her into the foyer of the elegant Marsilikos residence of House Valais: the one dripping from her dark woolen cloak, and the other outlining each step she takes across marble flooring only too recently polished. Her feet pound out an insouciant rhythm as she strips off that sodden outer garment and drops it into the custody of a Valais-liveried lackey who comes forth to greet her — though, in a mercy granted the other servants, she aims straight for one of the occasional chairs against the wall and parks herself there upon red velvet to unlace her boots.

Her black leather frock coat at least is dry, and the black broadcloth knee-breeches and the soft white linen shirt beneath it. The scabbard holding her rapier at her hip is well-waterproofed. But her hair is falling in wet white-blonde tendrils about her face, and either the rain or the exertion has dampened her sharp cheekbones and her high smooth brow. She bends to attack her laces with brisk, leather-gloved hands, one blue-grey eye and both keen ears trained as ever upon other people’s comings and goings through the house’s public rooms.

Arterre isn't exactly what you'd call a neat freak. Happy to delegate any number of tasks to more qualified people, he's the sort of person that would let his personal study get into a state of particular disarray before someone finally convinces him to clean up. Not to mention his less than immaculate sense of style. But seeing all the mud and damp sloshed across the horribly expensive townhouse floor is enough to make him look askance, when he emerges from the nearby study. He follows it to the source.

And the source, of course, is Athénaïs — looking equal parts dashing, dangerous, and waterlogged. When she is done unlacing her boots, he is standing there, considering her. Certainly her beauty is one thing considered; it has never been much of a secret that Arterre finds the woman captivating, even if he has never done much to act on the attraction. But he seems to have something a little more prosaic in mind. "…What on earth have you been up to?"

At Arterre’s emergence from the study Athénaïs glances up at him, registers what a truly harmless creature has come into her presence, and promptly looks down again at what she’s doing. Laces rasp through steel grommets. “I went for a walk,” she answers, in a quiet voice in which a few lingering Eluan vowels still season the lilt of Eisande. “It’s raining.” That seems to be all the explanation she feels is necessary, though to judge by the condition of her boots — and now her gloves, since she’s been handling them — one might suppose her to have strolled through ditches instead of streets, or just taken a tour of every puddle in Marsilikos.

Arterre is quite harmless, even if he does have a lord's authority. None of the people he pays to swing swords around on his behalf are near at hand. And Athénaïs is not quite in that category. He laces his fingers together as he considers her, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "And here my deductive powers had failed me entirely. I might not have otherwise noticed." A touch gentler, he presses on: "But why were you out stomping mud-puddles in the middle of a storm?" His eyes flit to her sword, as if to make silent inquiry. Was its presence habitual, or an accessory to whatever she was about?

Habitual, yes, exquisitely so. If Arterre reflects upon it he may not recall ever seeing Athénaïs without her rapier, save on one or two family occasions when its presence would have been especially inappropriate — its length is as much a part of her body as her own long lean limbs.

“Beats the shit out of sitting inside all day,” in her opinion, delivered in a distracted drawl as she eases her first boot off and sets it down to one side. The foot thus revealed is large but slender, clad in a surprisingly bright red knitted stocking. There’s a darn on the heel, in thicker black yarn all too obvious against the red. She addresses herself now to her other boot in turn.

Arterre lives in a country where the concept of scandal hardly exists, so getting a look at the contours of Athénaïs' ankles is no great shock or surprise. He laces his fingers together, tilting his head to one side in a way that further musses his already messy mop of hair. "Well," he says to her at last. "I hadn't any notion you were feeling so terribly restless. I was planning on doing a bit of a survey of some of the countryside in the next few days. Perhaps you'd be interested in coming along?" He offers, half serious, half in jest: "You could fill in as my personal guard."

Athénaïs glances up; her hands pause for an instant upon her laces before she resumes tugging at them. “In this weather?” After a beat, and in a rare mood of avuncular indulgence, she looks him over and drawls: “Aren’t you worried you’ll get muddy?”

Arterre folds his arms, possessing something almost like sass as he drawls right back at Athénaïs. "I wouldn't mind getting muddy with you," is his quite nearly flirtatious reply. But, then he hikes up his shoulders. "I hadn't meant -immediately-. You look rather like you're destined for a bath and bed, and I can't imagine you want to plow right back out into it all now that you've got your shoes off."

That earns him another upward flick of Athénaïs’s blue-grey gaze, as she removes her second boot and sets it neatly beside the first. (Well. For a given value of ‘neat’.) Her other stocking, mirabile dictu, is innocent of darns. She huffs her laughter. “I’ve been tackled into the mud too often already lately,” is her drawled answer, as she stands up to her full lithe height— in her stockinged feet a shade smaller than he, by the angels proportioned with every grace. “The rain’s going to continue,” she opines frankly, looking him in the eye. “I’d wait, if I were you.” If she were herself, of course, she’d brave any storm. Luckily, she is.

Arterre has his own sort of careless grace—even his current disregard for formal lordly mannerisms and bearing has an accidental elegance about it. Such is the consequence of angelic blood, which runs through him more strongly than most. Athénaïs has surely been party to at least one of the times when Naamah's peace has leaked out of him like an aura of opiate bliss. It is not doing so at the moment, not even one bit. "Well, it's good you're staying active," he says, gaze sweeping down briefly towards her feet. "Rain or no rain, come tomorrow, will you join me? I do not get quite enough of your company. I'd like to hear how you've been getting on."

“Oh, the fuck’s that supposed to mean,” Athénaïs mutters, not inquisitive but rhetorical, as she sets about peeling off her muddied leather gloves. She has strong, long-fingered hands blessed with an odd set of calluses, a swordsman’s and a labourer’s besides. Her nails are clipped short and kept clean — in the city at least. At Châteauredon she occasionally forgets to wash her hands when coming inside on her way to luncheon or to dinner. “Go and find some company your own age,” she advises bluntly: “this city’s full of pretty young fools. All cities are.”

Arterre points at Athénaïs. "See, that's exactly what I like. You always say exactly what you mean. I run into entirely too many flatterers and connivers who think they can take advantage of the inexperienced young lord's money." Never mind that what she means is in this case something like telling him to buzz off. "Though I do have plenty of more amiable young fools for company, thank you. I met a rather lovely poet a few weeks ago, not to mention endured a formal inquiry about a potential marriage match. And there's the…" He trails off and decides not to enumerate at all. "But. If it's a no, I'm not going to do anything so gauche as command you to come along. Shall I leave you be?"

The thoroughly experienced woman before him listens in silence for as long as it takes her to ease both her hands out of her gloves, the cuffs turned over so that she has some clean part of them at least to carry them by. But by then Arterre has put his own well-shod foot in it, and whilst regarding him levelly Athénaïs slowly raises one eyebrow.

“… Command me,” she echoes. Her voice is low, dubious, her accent a trifle clipped. Then her amusement comes out in another huff. She shakes her head, and then her gaze veers away from his as though she’s already moving on. “Fucking try it,” she advises the vicomte de Barrême in a withering drawl, as she turns her back upon him and strolls away toward the stairs. Her red-stockinged feet are bright as blood upon these cleaner portions of the marble floor. The tails of her leather frock-coat move with her light, sure, Azzallese stride.

Arterre just stands there, watching her leave, looking miserably displeased. He rubs at his forehead, looking momentarily inclined to apologize. But he has entirely too much pride for that. "You'd think I meant it as a threat," he mutters to himself, once she's gone. "So moody." He grumbles, before clapping to summon some servant or other to clean up the swordswoman's mess.

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