(1311-11-19) Purposeful Pain
Summary: The Rose Sauvage’s popular new adept, Alienor, pays her first visit to the marquist’s shop — and encounters an acquaintance whose marque was finished long, long ago.
RL Date: 11/18/2019
Related: Four Curtseys and Alienor’s Debut.
iphigenie alienor claude 

Marquist Shop — Grand Plaza

The patinated bronze plaque over the front door of the marquist's shop in the Grand Plaza, has since the 1230s simply stated: LANTHENAY.

The narrow building which houses the shop dates back even further than the plaque, and was designed in keeping with the elegance of its surroundings. The first floor boasts a faceted bay window, set like a jewel into the white marble façade and curtained in ever-changing hues, in between tall pairs of windows protected by fanciful wrought-iron balustrades. The second floor is more modest, while the attic set back behind a low parapet gives from below the impression of a wall of glass gleaming ferociously in the southern sunshine.

Most visitors are concerned only with the shop proper. Shutters painted a deep teal-green are often folded back from its windows at odd hours; behind square panes of fine clear glass, paler teal-green silk curtains are embroidered with so many delicate flowers they might serve passersby as a guide to the flora of Eisande. A stout brass-studded front door to the right of the windows gives onto a square salon furnished in a style which wouldn't disgrace a prosperous merchant or a lady of the middling nobility, though such persons might not festoon their parlours so liberally with swagged velvet in jewel-box hues, or scatter patterned cushions across patterned upholstery with such an unerring confidence. At the back of the salon a small bright purple door opens into a passageway hung with a varying collection of the present marquist's own drawings and paintings (seascapes, flower studies, scenes of life in Marsilikos) and leading past several doors kept shut. Its terminus is a second, humbler foyer, home to a squat iron stove left cold most of the year; a cabinet containing an exhaustive collection of sea-shells and bits of coloured beach glass; a couple of stray chairs; and the entrances to a pair of small chambers which divide between them the width of the building. Most of the time these stand with their doors chocked open and heavy velvet portières waiting to be let down to guard the privacy of clients disrobing therein: one emerald green curtain, one cerulean blue.

The route through the streets of Marsilikos from the Court de Nuit through the Place des Mains to the Lanthenay family’s shop in the Grand Plaza, is so well-worn that every horse employed by La Rose Sauvage knows just which corners to turn and when to come to a halt.

Likewise the route from the front door to Madame Lanthenay’s teapot is so well-known to the guards who shepherd adepts to and fro, that the bell over the said door is still tinkling as the stolid older woman delivering Alienor to her inaugural appointment raps with a casual fist upon the inner portal, presently painted shocking pink. “Any tea on, Madame Claude?” she calls, this being the chief fact she desires to ascertain. Alienor is left to look about.

Amongst Claudia Lanthenay’s latest improvised riot of colours and patterns, there is a patch of unrelieved black cloth which contains the person of Iphigénie nó Valerian de Maignard.

The lady Alienor met not so long ago in the Temple of Naamah is sitting bolt upright upon a scarlet sofa, with the support of corsetry which gives her a figure too slender and waspish to be believed, and an ebony cane planted before her, the silver head of which she clasps in a white-gloved hand. Her enveloping dark cloak, and her black rabbit fur hat and muff, are draped next to her. When the veiled Alyssum child turns in her direction she greets her with a small, kindly, impersonal smile. Who knows for sure who’s under there, after all?

“… Be right with you,” a voice calls from behind the pink door, belonging by the sound of it to a native Eisandine woman of the merchant classes and an amiable disposition.

Footsteps are moving about, more than one set, and muted laughter sounds.

Alienor looks about curiously, practically giddy with excitement that she gets to start on her marque. She has spent half her life looking at other people’s, both finished and unfinished, and it is finally her turn. That thorny rose will mark her for the rest of her life as a Rose Sauvage, and she is proud.

“Ah, it is the Dowager Vicomtesse! My lady of the bees and sweetest honey, it is a pleasure to see you once more,” the girl offers with a deep curtsey, her dress less conservative than the one she wore as a novice, but still fairly utilitarian. It is too cold to be terribly sexy, and she has on a white wool cloak over this. “It is Alienor nó Rose Sauvage; we met in the Temple of Naamah perhaps two weeks ago!”

She lets the uninteresting adults go about their business. Someone will call her when they want her. Her guard — who is not really there to chaperone but still largely serves the purpose — has the purse for this in her safe-keeping as it is.

The interesting adult — comparatively, anyway — nods to Alienor, her green eyes lighting with recognition of the voice and the tale even before their re-introduction is complete.

“Yes, I remember,” Iphigénie answers, smiling. “The novice who offered the lemons. Though a novice no more, I see. I gather your tea party was a particular success—?” she teases gently, for that circumstance is easily inferred from the girl’s swift appearance upon Claude Lanthenay’s premises. “Congratulations, my dear. I was sorry I couldn’t attend.”

“Oh, thank you! It’s quite alright. It was well-attended. And the young nobility of the city have not left me alone since,” Alienor admits with a deep blush. She may very well mean literally, too, at this point. “I would say that it was fairly successful. And the tea was very good. And the food, too, although I was so nervous that I barely ate. It’s been quite an eye-opening experience, being an adept. Many new things are expected from one that one did not anticipate prior.”

She folds her hands against her dress and smiles charmingly, beaming at the older woman for a moment. “I shall have to visit the Temples soon, to thank the Companions for being so kind to me,” she says seriously.

“You look well on your diet of the unexpected,” Iphigénie suggests. Of course there’s only so much she can see through the new adept’s delicate veiling — but the bounce in her step, the ease in her young voice, tell a sweet story of their own. The projected round of temple visits meets with her approval. “It would be very fitting,” she agrees, nodding; “one must always take a little time to appreciate one’s blessings, and to thank the Companions who sent them.”

Just then the shocking pink door opens wider to admit a woman of middle years, dressed in about fourteen distinct shades of green held together by the aid of startlingly orange ribbons, with her hair bound up in a darker orange kerchief. Her prettiest features are her eyes, wide and brown and doe-like — but other people's gazes are almost inevitably drawn instead to her forearms, left bare at present by rolled-up sleeves, and adorned by a wealth of jeweled bracelets which, on second glance, prove to be astonishingly intricate tattoos. She gives the guard a nod in passing, for they’re old acquaintances, but sails straight by the veiled adept who is her next client to address Iphigénie, and to offer her the plain leather folio she's carrying.

"This is for you, milady," she says respectfully, nodding to the older woman.

"Thank you for indulging me, Madame Lanthenay," is Iphigénie's courteous answer as she rests her stick against the sofa and accepts the folio in white-gloved hands. Though her gaze is already lowering to the marquist's glorious forearms: once seen, never forgotten.

Claude catches her at it and chuckles as their eyes meet again over the folio. "You'll have to let me do bracelets for you one of these days, milady," she suggests.

“You do tempt me,” sighs Iphigénie, holding the folio in her lap and shaking her head. “But this is Alienor nó Rose Sauvage,” she goes on, and lifts one hand to indicate the girl, “the newest adept in Marsilikos, I should think, and eager to make your acquaintance.”

The marquist turns at last to Alienor. “Good morning, dearie,” she says easily, nodding to the veil and the adept in it with an impersonal friendliness. “Are you nervous?”

(Iphigénie’s maid has also come into the salon, but nobody’s looking at her.)

“Yes, madame, quite a bit nervous. But my life has been a whirlwind of new experiences already, and I am eager to wear the marque of my house,” Alienor replies with a serious little nod, smiling at the woman with wide open eyes. She stares for a moment at the marquist’s bracelets, and she beams. “Oh, those are lovely, madame. Very lovely. Your attention to detail must be legendary!”

She takes off her cloak and lays it neatly over her arm; her boring little white dress conveniently buttons down the back to a little past the waist, and it’s clear that it’s the sort of thing a girl wears when she goes to the marquist, for it’s a bit large and potentially borrowed.

“Oh, I’ve been doing this a long time now, dearie,” Claude chuckles, folding her braceleted arms and nodding to Alienor. “You’ll be all right, I promise,” and then she turns further toward Iphigénie, to whom she has quite correctly not shown her back. “If there’s nothing else I can do for you today, milady? Another cup of tea? We’ve got the kettle on again,” she offers.

“Thank you, but no,” is Iphigénie’s regal and kindly reply. “I shall just avail myself of your sofa for a little longer, until my carriage comes. Please, don’t let me delay your work.”

“If you’re sure, milady,” and Claude takes a step back and bobs a curtsey to her. “It was a privilege working on you again, milady. I hope you’ll come again when you like.” Another step back and she says to Alienor, “Sit down, dearie, and I’ll be ready for you soon.” She has already spotted the purse being held up by Alienor’s guard: some adepts just don’t have pockets of their own. On her way out of the salon she accepts it, jingles it, and shares a glance with the guard during which their eyebrows lift in a reflection of one another. Well, well. A popular girl. To the guard too she offers the reassurance, “Kettle’s on, Jeanne, won’t be long.”

The vicomtesse’s maid has come to stand behind her mistress’s sofa, a watchful dark angel with wings clasped behind her back. Ignoring her, as one does, Iphigénie watches the interplay between Claude and Alienor. After the marquist’s departure she murmurs to the adept: “You will be all right, my dear. It may surprise you to know that it isn’t only my kind who come to enjoy the needle,” and her dark red lips curve into a whimsical smile. “The pain is a purposeful one, you see, and in each moment you may be certain that you are progressing toward your future and making yourself more beautiful to your patrons. You’ll see soon how excited they are, to watch the progress of your marque and to know they have a hand in it.”

“Your kind, my lady?” Alienor wonders curiously, puzzled for a moment before realizing what the noblewoman means. “Oh! You mean taking pleasure in pain. It seems that there are a great many who do, and I am told it’s not a terrible thing, though some parts are supposed to hurt quite a bit more than others. It’s the holding still part that I’m most worried about, to be perfectly honest.”

“Yes,” confirms Iphigénie with a ghost of a smile, “my kind.”

She listens with every appearance of seriousness to Alienor’s concerns, and then offers, “In the case of marquistry as so many other pursuits it’s quite true that the thinner the flesh, the greater one’s pain.” There’s no use sugar-coating that, considering a courtesan’s marque unfurls itself slowly up along the bones of one’s spine. And she herself, with so little flesh upon her delicate bones, speaks as a matter-of-fact authority. “It’s true too that most people do have some capacity for transmuting pain into pleasure, under the right circumstances,” she adds gently. “Madame Lanthenay is very experienced with adepts of every canon and I’m sure she’ll make it as easy for you as she can, my dear, because that will be easier for her too.

“To keep still, the important thing is to relax your muscles and to breathe evenly. You might find too that it helps to pray,” she suggests. “You know, we Valerians hold that Naamah gave herself in chains and in pain. She understands pain, as all who love must— she will be with you, as she is with all her servants, as you submit yourself to this pain in her service.”

“I feel she was very much with me at my debut — Naamah, I mean. I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect choice for an initial patron,” Alienor admits with a bit of a blush, casting her eyes down for a moment. “Nor a sweeter second one. In fact, all who have asked for an assignation with me have been kind and gentle, appreciated my inexperience and my willingness to learn, and seemed to love my enthusiasm for the novelty of it all. I hope that my popularity continues undiminished.

“Though, you know, some of our Thorns are incredibly handsome. I imagine you’ve some friends amongst them,” she says, and then blushes for a moment at that, looking thoughtful. “They’re always just sweet to me too, though.”

The girl’s gauzy white veil seems to blush with her, though more faintly; and Iphigénie smiles. “It’s a gift, isn’t it, to know that one is just as someone else hoped to find one—? And then, to be in a position to embody that someone else’s dearest wish, even if it’s only for a night,” she remarks sympathetically. “The division of the canons is wisely made to allow us all, servants and patrons alike, to find our right matches… I have met several of your thorny roses,” she confides, no doubt to Alienor’s great astonishment. Her green eyes glitter in contemplation of some memory tucked away behind them. “Not many. You may know more of them than I do,” she speculates. “I’ve no doubt that they’re sweet to you, as your patrons are, because it is a quality you draw out of those you meet by the sweetness you offer in turn.”

She hasn’t seen Alienor in a fit of sulks, mind you, and earning reproof for it.

Every rose has its thorns, even sweet, tightly-wound white rose buds. Alienor has not been much one for sulks lately, though. Having an expanded wardrobe and the ability to touch people together have made a great difference in her outlook on life, not to mention that her patrons have been enjoying her graces quite thoroughly. “The Thorns are very pretty, and I like to chat with them, and they are as affectionate as older siblings, and protective, too,” she notes, then laughs suddenly. “If anyone is to hurt me, they want it to be them!”

Pretty. Thinking of something, no doubt, Iphigénie smiles. “Now, that is something outsiders often don’t understand,” she agrees; “that Thorns are amused only by the pain they themselves give — and they may be quite offended,” she widens her eyes for effect, “by other varieties of pain, beyond their own control… You know, I had an elder brother who was a Mandrake,” she confides, “so I think I understand what it must be like for you, to be a little sister of the Thorns of Marsilikos. He was a terrible tease sometimes. I was to have followed him,” and she shrugs her slender, sloping shoulders, “but I was made for a different kind of service.”

Her maid has been peering out at the Grand Plaza through a gap in the curtains. Now she lets folds of teal-green silk fall from her hand and interrupts with a tentative, “Milady…?”

Iphigénie turns at once. “Oh, he’s here—?” Then, looking to Alienor as her maid rounds the sofa to pick up her cloak, she explains: “My consort is a little late coming to collect me.” She sets the leather folio aside on the sofa and finds the silver handle of her stick again, to rise.

“Oh, do you need a hand up, my lady?” Alienor offers as helpfully as possible, and she holds out a hand to the older woman and prepares to brace herself if she takes her up on her offer. “Sometimes sofas are just a little too comfortable, I’m afraid, and it’s trickier than it ought to be to stand up again.”

“… You put that very kindly, Alienor,” Iphigénie chuckles, and she plants her stick against Claude’s colourful carpet and places her left hand in the adept’s to accept a modicum of aid. One doesn’t lean on a White Rose the way one might upon a Thorn. But it’s useful, undeniably so, to be steadied by a young hand in that initial moment of verticality, when one’s knees are crackling in protest and one’s head is perhaps a whit lighter than it ought to be.

Then her maid Nadège drapes that heavy, wintry cloak about her, and she releases Alienor and switches her cane from right to left just long enough to slip her hands through the slits in it.

Footsteps sound again. “Alienor?” the marquist calls from inside the pink doorway. The guard Jeanne, who has been standing across the salon with her thumbs hooked into her sword-belt, admiring the upholstery and affecting not to eavesdrop, gives the adept a Look.

“Ah, you had better go in,” pronounces Iphigénie. “You and our Bright Lady together, my dear,” she adds, smiling in benevolent and grandmotherly encouragement.

“Oh, my lady, I must go,” Alienor says brightly, dropping a curtsey to Iphigénie gracefully, beaming at her for a moment. “Thank you so much for chatting with me.” She glances over her shoulder at the marquist, drops another curtsey, and goes scurrying in that direction excitably. Jeanne does not get so much as a look.

Poor ignored Jeanne follows, heading at last toward her cup of tea.

The corridor that stretches to the back of Claude’s shop is better-lit than usual, and cleared of its usual detritus of half-finished canvases and boxes of paints and bolts of cloth, in honour of the patronage of an elderly vicomtesse who walks slowly and with a stick. Alienor is swept along it, at a pace probably not quite brisk enough for her liking, with the marquist ahead of her and the guard behind, and neither of them even slightly diverted by the seascapes.

Workroom — Marquist Shop

This modest workroom is occupied by a lowish, lightly padded table of a size to be lain upon by most clients; a smaller, more moveable table with drawers built into it, its surface scrubbed clean but stained with the inks of decades; a three-legged stool that has also seen better days; and hooks for garments, a shelf for small belongings, a cubbyhole for shoes or boots.

Louvered shutters high up on the back wall let in a surprising amount of natural light during the daytime, whilst thwarting prying eyes. Candle-holders are everywhere, built into the walls or standing free: in them only the finest, whitest beeswax burns. A cupboard beneath the padded table contains folded linen sheets dyed in harmony with the velvet curtain over the doorway, a fresh one for each client, whilst a second cupboard hosts the laundry-basket.

Halfway along the corridor Jeanne peels off from their party, seeking the promised teapot— with the door to that inner room left open, no one can pass along the corridor without her seeing them, and that seems to be considered safe enough to be going on with.

Claude leads Alienor further, to the workrooms that will become so familiar to her in the next years, as they are to every adept in Marsilikos. Is that a whiff of honey lingering in the air—? The fire in the stove has been put out but the air is still sweltering, in honour of Iphigénie’s old bones. No wonder the marquist has her sleeves rolled up to show those bracelets of her own making. She’s carrying a heavy leatherbound ledger tucked under one arm; she fans herself with her other hand and then employs it to draw back the blue velvet portière.

“Oof,” she remarks absently, “we could do with a bit of air in here. That’s where you put your shoes,” she indicates for Alienor’s benefit, “and you can hang your dress on that hook.”

“But…” Alienor begins as she takes off her shoes and puts them in the requested place, a dismayed look on her face. “Amélie loaned me this dress so that I wouldn’t have to even take it off!”

The small workroom is suddenly crowded with Claude as well, stepping past Alienor to set down her ledger on the table with a casual thunk. “Oh, is that what she told you?” she chuckles. “That girl’s a scamp, isn’t she?” And she steps out again, and lets down the portière to bestow the moment or two of privacy that is customary at this stage. “That might do some of the time,” she concedes, speaking to the new adept through the blue velvet, “but I do need to get a look at you, dearie. Standing up and lying down. The marque’s the same but it fits differently depending on your own shape,” she explains kindly. “And if you’ve not finished your growing yet, it’s as well to keep an eye out so’s the top will still be in balance with the base of it, see? A lot can still change in two or three years, at your age. Enough to spoil it.”

And whilst Alienor deals with buttons she goes on, and on, the familiar and practiced lecture by which she introduces new adepts to the mysteries of her art, not that they pay much attention, do they? Still, it gives them something to think about besides stripping naked for another stranger, and that’s all to the good, isn’t it. “Ready, dearie? I’m coming in now,” she declares, and very soon thereafter the pain and the purpose are united.

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