(1311-11-09) The Thorn in Autumn
Summary: Iphigénie visits the Rose Sauvage to enjoy a last look at its gardens before the winter draws in, and to take tea with Raphael.
RL Date: 11/04/2019 - 11/10/2019
Related: Other scenes with these characters; especially Particular Customs. More recently, Innocent Curiosity and Four Curtseys.
iphigenie raphael 

La Rose Sauvage — Night Court

A huge hearth of black marble, with gargoyles of stone adorning the mantlepiece, governs the foyer of the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, which emanates a certain dark air, the interior design of the more heavy sort, that could easily be encountered in a gentleman's club, especially with the dark cherry wood wainscoting used on the walls. Dark leather upholstery is predominant in the furniture of chaise longues, couches and long-backed chairs that are arranged in a half-circle, leaving space in the center for courtesans (or patrons) to kneel for an inspection. Three tall windows with circular stained-glass insets are framed by dark red curtains of heavy brocade, a few golden threads worked into the fabric catching occasionally the light of flickering oil lamps at the walls. The lamps light a pair of portrait paintings, of the two founders of the salon, Edouard Shahrizai and his cousin Annabelle no Mandrake, resplendent in their dark Kusheline appeal; and a cabinet in a corner, holding a number of quality wines and a flagon of uisghe.

The foyer has a high ceiling, and a gallery beyond a balustrade of dark teak wood, carved in the shapes of gargoyles. Sometimes a few veiled creatures can be spotted up there, stealing glances at what is going on below; from the gallery, which can be reached by ascending some winding stairs at the back of the foyer. Beside the stairs leading up is a hallway on ground level, leading further into the building to where the offices of the leader of the salon and his two Seconds can be found, along with the two wings of private quarters for roses of Mandrake and Valerian canon.

When he wakes Raphael finds waiting for him a note in Iphigénie’s dreadful crabbed handwriting — the day has dawned clear and bright, and warm for November, and so she proposes according to their half-formed scheme of a week past before to call at the Rose Sauvage in the late afternoon, unless she receives word from him to the contrary.

No such discouragement follows, and the afternoon has hardly reached its middle when his network of in-house spies informs him that the lady in question has appeared in the salon.

By chance the Red Rose adept Capucine is already present, and Raphael finds the two of them arranged upon a leather sofa by the fire in a tableau that is beginning to draw interested eyes. The one bolt upright and severely corseted beneath a gown of the darkest red — the other attired in a brighter shade and a far gauzier cloth, her ripe young figure unrestrained by undergarments, cuddled up so close she’s halfway into Iphigénie’s lap already, with the elder Valerian’s arm about her and her white-gloved hand resting warmly upon her hip. They’re whispering together. Capucine’s dark head lies upon Iphigénie’s steel-encased bosom, her hair half-covering her face; Iphigénie, smiling indulgently, is looking out across the chamber as she murmurs something. Seeing Raphael come in, she meets his eyes and then lowers her own, stroking Capucine’s thigh with a touch maternal rather than lascivious as she waits for him to come to her, or not, as he wishes. She confides another thought— her pet adept laughs and then gasps and falls silent, belatedly restraining her mirth. This all results in a certain unavoidable heaving of the girl’s spectacular accoutrements. Well, if one likes that sort of thing.

Anticipating a brief turn round the gardens Iphigénie has retained her dark woolen cloak and her black fur hat and muff, arranged tidily on the sofa on her other side rather than spirited away by a servant or a novice. Her stick lies across them, its silver head glinting bright.

Raphael has in hand a short horsewhip when he emerges from the Thorn corridor. Perhaps he is coming from an assignation with another patron, or some other special tete-a-tete, and then again perhaps he is not. He wears no cloak, but he does have a jacket on, and his shirt is fastened at least halfway. "Cozy enough for an autumn afternoon," he pronounces the scene that greets him.

When he comes to stand before them Iphigénie raises her eyes slowly to his whip and then — with a ghost of a smile — to his face. “Monsieur, good afternoon,” she says softly.

Then she gives Capucine a pat upon her shapely behind and murmurs, “Run along, my dear. I shall give your regards to Monsieur Lefebvre, and perhaps in time we may call for you again.” Her tone is carefully noncommittal, suggestive of a decision still being weighed. The mention of her consort’s name, though, is enough to put two spots of high colour into Capucine’s pale cheeks as she wriggles off the sofa (and off Iphigénie!) and curtseys deeply to patron and Thorn alike. Or is that merely the warmth of the older woman’s conversation—?

Raphael watches the curtsey and the Red Rose's departure with cold, glittering eyes, then inclines his head to Iphigénie. "How good of you to come to see us," he says. "The Roses yearn for you when you are away. Do you wish to take the air now, or shall I call for a glass of something here before we step out?" He is a trifle more formal here in the salon parlor than he might be in her bedchamber, but there are many more eyes here. And formality, after all, has its charms once in a while.

In the same spirit Iphigénie lowers her eyes again. With no rosebud to hold close her white-gloved hands are clasped together in her lap. “I am ready to spend a little time in the garden, monsieur,” she murmurs, “if it pleases you to go out now.”

"So it does," Raphael answers, leaning to pick up her stick in his left hand. He tucks his whip under his arm and offers his right hand to Iphigénie. "It is a shame to waste daylight in the fall."

As he collects her stick, so does Iphigénie take up her fur hat: she settles it onto her already somewhat flattened cloud of silky white hair, and then places her hand in Raphael’s and accepts his aid in rising onto her sensibly-shod feet. Her knees pop, as ever. But not too loudly. Standing so close together he’ll surely discern about her a whiff of a familiar sweetish scent suggesting she fortified herself before leaving the protective cocoon of her own home.

“Thank you, monsieur,” she murmurs, and half-turns from him to take up her cloak. A convenient adept, who has been hovering at a distance in the expectation of orders, steps forward to claim it from her hands and then drape it about her shoulders. She offers distracted thanks to him, too, as she slips her arms through the slits in her cloak and fastens its clasps from her neck to her waist. “I agree with you, monsieur,” she says quietly, looking to Raphael again, “that Nature’s gifts are given us to be savoured and not squandered, in any season.”

Raphael puts the stick into Iphigénie's hand once she has managed her other accoutrements. That is not to be entrusted to novices or adepts. An elbow is also offered as he recovers his whip with the other hand, and gestures with it toward the door, walking that way when he's sure her joints are ready.

The black rabbit fur muff, which is useful mostly to maintain cosiness during carriage rides, remains on the seat by the fire to reserve it for Iphigénie’s future use, as she accepts her stick from Raphael and rests her left hand upon the reassuring firmness of his right arm. Her gloves are of white wool today, rather than the white silk she favoured through the summer. Warmth enough for a stroll, surely. She murmurs some other small courtesy and lets herself be led out. She cuts a dignified figure: straight-backed, her skirts a-rustle, her eyes a-gleam.

Gardens — La Rose Sauvage

The gardens of La Rose Sauvage offer a different ambience and atmosphere than that of the more oppressive and richly ornate salon. Tall casement windows spill out onto a paved area which gives way to neatly arranged flowerbeds, where a predominance of roses pay homage to the canons encompassed by this salon. The paths are of a dark granite grey which have softened over the years by the encroachment of mosses and lichens, with smaller paths winding off through the beds. It's here along these secluded paths that arboreal areas and private nooks might be found, and where privacy is granted to those that seek it through flowering hedges and curtained awnings.

A fountain plays at the centre of the garden, the copper figures of two nude women, long since mellowed to a soft verdigris, spill water from shells into a pool at its base. The main pathway through the garden leads to a terracotta tiled courtyard that sits towards the farthest end, the walls here flanked by creeping ivy which cloak the walls in scarlet and orange during the autumn months. An oiled silk awning hangs over the courtyard to give shelter from both sun and rain, and oil lamps light the area when evening falls.

"I hope it was not too demanding for you to visit us today," Raphael says as he pushes open the door to let them out into the garden and along the path. Much of the garden has died back, but a few late roses have hung on.

Iphigénie looks about with interest as they walk, measuring these remnants of summer against her memory of their fullest and most fragrant blooming. “I feel fairly well, monsieur,” she murmurs, “and you did make such an excursion sound delightful… Ah, look,” she teases; “the roses fade with the season, but I see the thorns are ready as ever to draw blood.”

"I hope it shall be," Raphael says. He nods at the nearest rosebush. "Yes, you see I might have known that thorns come into their season late." Their pace on the path is unhurried. "But some roses bloom long indeed."

His visitor’s dark red smile deepens with secretive pleasure as she looks along the path ahead. Her head inclines a little toward his, the top of her cosy fur hat a tad higher than his bare head. “Later than others, perhaps, but they are not untimely. You see, they are offering me amusement in just the season when I stand most in need of it,” she suggests.

"Indeed," Raphael agrees, reaching the horsewhip out to nudge a drooping rose to show its face a little more fully to them. "A special blessing of our salon. Not every garden will have blooms now."

The rose is responsive to the guidance of Raphael’s whip, which sight naturally coaxes another smile from Iphigénie. “I’m afraid my garden has little left to offer in this weather,” she admits then, lifting her eyes from her friend’s whip to his face before turning her head to look up into treetops turning to red and ochre and gold. “But it is a matter of taste, I suppose.”

"Is that so?" Raphael asks, lifting his brows a fraction. "Well, one might plant something now for early spring blooms, of course. Or look forward to a charming blanket of snow."

“Yes,” agrees Iphigénie quietly, “I do already entertain one or two hopes for the spring… It’s quite crisp, monsieur,” she admits, glancing about her; “I fear you and your colleagues may not find me entertaining company, if I stay out in the air too much longer.”

"Well, I'm glad you had the chance to take a look. And perhaps a bit of inspiration for your own garden." He gestures with the whip. "Shall we return, then."

“… But slowly, monsieur?” Iphigénie suggests, her green gaze lifting to follow the line of Raphael’s whip. “A last look ought to be a lingering one, don’t you think?”

"Certainly," Raphael agrees, moving at an unhurried pace toward the salon. "We'll need some fine memories to see us through the cold season."

“Of course I can speak only for myself, monsieur,” ventures Iphigénie in a discreet murmur, planting her stick firmly with each slow step, and hanging on to Raphael’s supportive arm; “but I feel I’ve stored up quite a number of those already, during my time in Marsilikos… And, who knows—? My visit today may yield more. Yours is, after all, a remarkable house.”

"Really," Raphael replies. "Will you stay with us a while more, then? Shall I send for Capucine again? Or perhaps you'd like a look at the Thorn wing."

The latter notion sparks a smile; and Iphigénie turns it toward him, suddenly quite distracted from the garden’s autumnal severities. “Monsieur, may I ask— would you show me your chamber?” she wonders. “I think I should like to see what your other patrons see.”

Raphael looks at Iphigénie for a moment while he decides on that request. Ultimately, he concludes, "Yes," he says. "You've earned that, certainly." He opens the door for her once more and follows her in. Just inside, he instructs a novice to bring tea and milk to his chamber. The novice moves briskly off to the kitchen.

Perhaps it helps that Iphigénie issues her request in so tentative a tone, with her head tilted toward him but her eyes slightly downcast— she knows, better than most, in what language of the body one ought to speak to a Thorn. Only when she has murmured her thanks to him, and bowed her head a little further, does she let go of his arm and step ahead of him into the salon’s warmth. The next breath she lets out is a deeper one, a discreet indication of her relief. She hears his orders; “Monsieur, you’ll spoil me,” she murmurs then, fondly.

"I might wish to, today," he says, and indicates the corridor he came from earlier with the whip. "This way." As they move down the corridor, he indicates a door. "Second's Office," he says, then indicates another. "And this is my chamber."

The corridor inside is shorter than the path outside; still, by the time they arrive on the threshold of Raphael’s domain, the chief pleasure Iphigénie is contemplating is that of sitting down. “How convenient for you,” she murmurs, “to have your rooms together, and close to the salon, and yet far away enough that I don’t imagine the noise travels…” From the salon or toward it, she doesn’t say. Nor does she say anything more of spoiling. It’s his business. When he opens the door she hesitates, and looks to him, to be sure she’s intended to go ahead of him. And then she does, stepping into a chamber that can’t be so very unlike others she has known.

Raphael’s Chambers — La Rose Sauvage

The chamber of a Thorn requires several things. One is ample space, the other is a sturdy bedframe. This room is provided with both. Upon entering, one is first greeted with a mingled scent of leather, the hint of uisghe, and shavings of cedar wood. The furniture, as elsewhere in the salon, is dark wood, including a chest of drawers against one wall, and two cane-seated walnut chairs that are turned somewhat more delicately than the rest of the furniture. The bed, in particular, is imposing: a four-poster where the posts are uncommonly sturdy, and clad in places with collars of iron to which are fixed black iron rings. A slatted headboard has also been affixed between the two head posts, no doubt to provide a great many possibilities. There are slats and rings, too, at the foot of the frame, and along the sides of the frame if one looks closely. The sheets of dark silk promise a soft surface underneath to contrast with all that is hard in the room.

Mounted to one wall is a rack on which many tools of the trade, some dark and some gleaming, are displayed and ready for use. Longer items, such as canes, crops, quirts, and cat-o-nine-tails, are ordered by size along the outsides. A row of gleaming knives takes center stage in the top row, and also present are sets of clamps, coiled whips and wound-up ropes, and other tools more wicked and obscure in appearance. Under this display is a narrow set of drawers which undoubtedly hosts other small implements of use in the canon of the thorny rose.

The room is otherwise relatively spartan: no visible décor beyond the carving of the wooden furniture. Sometimes a round rug woven in the motif of a scarlet rose ringed geometrically with big, green thorns is present, sometimes it is removed to leave only the hard, bare floor beneath.

<FS3> Raphael rolls Carving: Great Success. (1 4 7 6 2 5 4 6 8 8 8)

"No, not unless I deliberately leave the door open," Raphael replies, suggesting that this is perhaps among his techniques. "I find it very comfortable."

He opens the door for her and gestures her in. It smells particularly like sawdust, today, although there is not much in evidence. What is apparent, however, is a freshly-carved woodwork on his table: a lily entwined with smaller eglantine blossoms. They are worked with an unusual delicacy for wood, the thin sweetbrier petals rendered as though they really might bend to the touch. For the time being, Raphael ignores that work and instead pulls a chair out of a corner so that Iphigénie might sit there.

After taking a couple of paces inside Iphigénie stops and inhales deeply. The scent of Raphael himself, concentrated. Happily she does have her stick to lean upon.

Her gaze flicks this way and that. The sturdy bed with its dark sheets, the display of implements, it’s all more or less as she expects— except when her eye falls upon that table, and the carven lily displayed upon it in an attitude which suggests that her very arrival may have called him from labouring towards its perfection. He has already decided, it seems, where she is to sit. Of course she obeys the mute summons of the chair and his hands upon it— but she walks past that table quite slowly, her eyes lingering. She forgets to breathe out.

"I haven't burnt it," Raphael admits softly, knowing full well that she sees the work and understands what it is. "I tell myself it isn't finished." He sees his guest seated and then pulls a chair of his own nearby.

Still cosily encloaked, Iphigénie settles herself in the indicated chair and lets out her breath at last. She takes off her hat and holds it in her lap, her white fingers nestled idle in black fur. “You’ll finish it when you’re ready to finish it,” she says quietly. “You will know that hour when it comes, monsieur — no one else can pretend to know it for you.”

The room itself is not kept especially warm, though it isn't frigid. "No, I don't think anyone could tell me," he agrees. "I'm afraid you won't find my chamber particularly stunning, having familiarity with the canon," he says. "But it suits me."

Iphigénie nods. “Of course you don’t— usually,” she qualifies, glancing again toward the table and giving his carven flowers a nod of their own before she looks back to him, “want to give anything personal to those who come to you here. It’s natural.” She pauses, ruminating upon what she has seen. What he intended her to see. “It’s what you need to be, at present,” she suggests with the same quiet seriousness; “the rôle, more than the man.”

Raphael listens to this estimation of his strategies and needs in stillness, then leans to toss his whip onto the bed. "I didn't come back here," he says, "To cultivate the quirks of my personality. That is true."

There’s a quick tilt of Iphigénie’s head, as her eye follows the whip’s trajectory until it lands in a luxurious splay of leather upon silk. Then she breathes out again and looks back to his face. “… I know you will tell me if I overstep by mark, monsieur,” she says softly, “and that you will understand it is always my affection for you that prompts me to speak.”

"I'm sure I will," says Raphael. "I bring what I can to the rôle. And frankly, it seems to have been needed around here. A traditional Thorn to fulfill expectations and be a model for the younger generation."

Iphigénie’s eyebrows arch at that. But: “Speaking simply as a patron of your canon, monsieur,” she murmurs, lowering her brows and then her formidable green gaze, “I think the young ones in your house could seek no better exemplar… perhaps the older ones too,” she remarks, and her voice lifts by a studied fraction to imply the possibility of a question. “I heard an odd little tale the other day about one of your canon, monsieur. I wonder whether I ought to repeat it.”

Raphael's face turns granite at this news: hard, cool, and composed. "I wish you would," he says. "If you do not, others surely will. How embarrassing it would be for us all if I should hear it not just from outside the salon, but from someone who is not a friend to us?"

That was rather what Iphigénie imagined her friend would say — though how he looks in saying it is a treat she lifts her eyes again to partake of, when she hears in his voice so well-remembered a note. “I was praying at the Temple of Naamah,” she explains slowly, to set the scene, “when I met a novice who had come to make an offering before her debut. One of your little White Roses — her name is Alienor. I found her in a confiding mood, one might say?” Or she invoked it, by that pure green Kusheline glance novices are less equipped to withstand than Seconds of Thorns. “Now, it may have been the innocent chatter of a child who hardly knew what she was saying… or,” a wry smile, “given that she knew who I was and used my title to a nicety, perhaps she confided in me so that she might tell a tale without telling a tale. If you see, monsieur.” She pauses. “She told me that one of the Thorns, a Monsieur Baptiste, had been frequenting the solar of the White Roses and— teasing her, in some fashion,” she equivocates carefully. “I understood that in your garden here the palest blooms were planted deliberately out of reach of the the thornier variety. Is that not so, monsieur?”

The pale eyes narrow a fraction, for a long moment, but the hardness of this expression is soon dismissed by a slow blink of the type that summons patience. "It is so," he confirms after that stretching pause that has already confirmed so much. "Did she mention whether he had touched her in any way? I would rather know in advance before I speak to the girl."

But there is the interruption of a soft knock at the door. Raphael calls for the two novices to enter. "Bring a small table as well," he instructs, and one holds the tray while the other goes to do that. It is a process of a few minutes, but a small table is brought and laid with the tea and milk and a small selection of dark, red, and white sweets that may supplement the tea or may serve purely for decoration.

This all transpires under the watchful eye of the Second of Thorns, and one of the novices takes obvious note of the whip on the bed before executing the rest of her tasks without delay. The tea is poured and the novices dismissed again. Raphael looks to Iphigénie once more.

"As I recall," he says, getting up as the door shuts, "You time your steeping precisely." At his cabinet of drawers, he opens a small compartment and withdraws an hourglass that he judges will keep the same time as Iphigénie's.

They’re both such patient people. Iphigénie sits placidly with hands clasped while the novices go about their duties and draw their conclusions about the kind of tea-time which involves a bedchamber and a whip; while Raphael watches them, she watches him.

“… And I’m sure you, monsieur, time a great many things precisely,” she murmurs at last, her voice threaded through with a ripple of fond insinuation. “Monsieur, this is beautiful. You’ll spoil me for the pleasures of my own fireside.” More seriously, as the sands fall, she adds, “I have no reason to suppose he touched her. I didn’t hear any distress in her voice when she spoke of him— but, of course,” she lifts a hand from her lap and turns it over in the air, “she was veiled, and that obscures a multitude of reactions. One cannot be sure, with an Alyssum.”

"When it seems right," Raphael allows gracefully, turning the timer and setting it down by the teapot, then assuming his chair. "But it is of course my pleasure to give you tea when you have so generously done so for me many time." He nods once, precisely, at the news of the novice. "It is possible she will be no less so for me, but I think I must have a chat with her. And certainly with him. He is a full courtesan, but being so he ought to know well enough to have a sense of propriety for the sake of the salon."

“In that rôle Monsieur Baptiste too has an example to set,” agrees Iphigénie softly, “for the younger ones… I’m sure there was no real harm in it, of course,” though that is the formal reassurance of a friend who knows it isn’t really her business, and who having pierced the shield of the salon’s privacy is now papering over the hole. “Alienor paints still life pictures,” she offers in closing, “and she is inordinately fond of lemons. You might start her talking there… Monsieur, I think we’ve left our tea long enough. Shall I pour for you?”

"Yes," Raphael agrees, to the pouring and to those other things besides. "You know I do appreciate your bringing this to my attention. I will make her understand that in the future I must be the first to hear."

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