(1311-12-03) About Rest
Summary: Now in the ninth month of her pregnancy, Emmanuelle is keeping to her chamber — and putting her affairs in order…
RL Date: 03/12/2019 - 05/12/2019
Related: De Quiete.
emmanuelle jehan-pascal 

Princess Chamber — La Maison Sanglante

This narrow, rectangular bedchamber is carpeted with blushing pink roses; its white boiseries are touched with gilding. The bed, just capable of accommodating two persons on intimate terms, is built into an alcove in the wall to the right as one enters, and made up with fine white linen sheets edged with restrained but exquisite lace. The pillows are bountiful, in a range of sizes.

Set likewise into the alcove and rising above the foot of the bed are half a dozen white-painted bookshelves, replete with literature and reputable histories in d'Angeline, Tiberian, and Hellene, as well as a few books of fairytales (Kusheline and otherwise). Bed-curtains of rosy pink brocade stitched with flower garlands in thread-of-gold are tied back with great big golden satin ribbons, while the same fabric continuing upon the same wall suggests the positions of a tall narrow windows at each side of the dressing-table mirror. (They look out upon a small, empty stone court.) The dressing-table itself is laid with blue and white Ch'in porcelain vessels of the first quality, and all the accoutrements of a feminine toilette: a silver-backed hairbrush and matching hand-mirror, a row of delicate scents in fanciful bottles. The cupboard beneath is full of fluffy white towels; a tabouret covered in dark pink swagged velvet is drawn up close.

Against the opposite wall a pair of double but dainty mahogany armoires stand separated by a small fireplace executed in white marble. A basket of logs waits conveniently, and a set of ornamental fire-irons nonetheless fit for service. The fine glass mirror over the mantel matches the one over the dressing-table, framed alike in gilt. Yet a third looking-glass, full length, occupies the wall opposite the door. A simple, armless, white-painted chair stands between the door and the bed, beneath an artist's watercolour sketch of sportive rabbits.

What a homebody the colder weather has made of Jehan-Pascal. He has grown sleepy of constitution — the short hours of the day, and those, ever more frequently, gloomy and cold, make him prefer his little nook in his princess chamber beyond anything else. An hour or perhaps two in the late mornings devoted to correspondence and study (more study than correspondence), and he's back here, letting himself remain swaddled in warm things with a book, either of the lighter fare here in the Princess Chamber, or else pilfered from next door in his study if he's up to something more vigorous. In the last week he's been frequenting the domain of the Roses next door, and more than he has since ending his long-term contract with Marielle almost a year ago. But further than that — it's been a week since he last was out to tea with friends, and the cold nights don't tempt him out to the wine bars like the summer nights do. There's fine wine here, and he drinks it in plenty.

Cloelia, as he calls her, in a more amply accented Tiberian than he had before he made his sojourn thither, is keeping the cut glass goblet of wine on the vanity quite replete, all while attending her Lady's toilette with a dedicated but soft-handed industry. In the lates of the autumn and early winter the Lady Aumande has become overly fond of a certain silvery green hue, like frost on undying laurel, and she has been styled in a gown of the color that would hardly be shy of a Ducal court, pulled trim at the waist and voluminous in pleats of velvet at the hip, with her amethyst pendant gleaming against the green at her waist, and the while gold of her pinky ring trailing where she pets down the embroidered silk of the frontpiece, admiring the play of colors from the corner of her eye even as Cloelia plays with the shades of her make-up, blending greens and silvers at the eye and letting her keep that amethyst lip she adores. Cloelia is become, simply by trial and error over time, a rather keen hand at blending over the more masculine contours of her Lady's face without quite smearing her entirely in coloration. The Princess Face is quite nearly perfected. If only she had hair, the effect would be almost perfectly entire, but Aumande is neither fond of wigs nor eager to grow her own hair out.

However long they spend painting and preening there’s still a rush to get the lady ready when a servant instructed by Baltasar downstairs, knocks deferentially to convey to Clélie upstairs, that Lord Baphinol has been summoned into the presence of the Lady Shahrizai.

She’s up from her nap, then, a little early today.

Jewel-Box — La Maison Sanglante

This palatial chamber is designed to stifle sound. The walls are padded with cork and covered in quilted dark purple satin, and the floor is layered with thick, priceless Akkadian carpets in warm hues of orange and violet, red and gold. The copper-gilded ceiling above serves as a distorted mirror, reflecting the flicker of candle-flames and whatever alarming games may be played herein.

In the middle of the room stands a massive high bed lavishly layered with jewel-coloured silks and satins and velvets: its four posts are not carved from wood but intricately wrought of black iron, of a piece with shackles and chains and an interesting pulley system inside the canopy, against all of which the strongest man might struggle in vain. The latter is silhouetted against the flames of Lord Kushiel's hell, painted red-orange but violet at their very core. None of this is Mandrake House's standard issue, but an invention of the lady of that house and this one; likewise the cross hewn from rare and costly purple heartwood, attached to a wheel presently chocked but quite capable of spinning.

To the left of the doors by which one enters from the corridor, are three pairs of wide glass doors which open upon the courtyard and are customarily hidden behind floor-length drapes of soft black velvet edged in gold-embroidered Shahrizai keys. Arranged across the farther wall, on ebony shelves against purple satin, is a display of every possible aid to love or incitement to pain, precisely arranged and immaculately dusted. Some would be familiar to any patron of the Night Court, and others bewildering to anyone unaccustomed to the practices of Mandrakes and Valerians. One might wonder why any single person requires quite so many whips, straps, canes, tawses, crops, and flails, organised by size and by colour: but each has its own particular gifts to bestow upon its fortunate victims. To the left of this joyous array, between it and the courtyard doors, stands a locked, glass-fronted cabinet which contains various Akkadian trinkets, designed in the main to inflict extraordinary pains upon masculine anatomy — though there are also one or two pieces of interest to ladies. They obviously comprise a set.

The back wall is anchored by a massive fireplace of dark marble.

At either side of it, dividing the wall into symmetrical sections, stand finely-carven screens of purple heartwood shielding arched openings into smaller chambers. Beyond the left-hand screen is a miniature infirmary, furnished with a lowish, padded, sheet-draped table of the kind one might see in a marquist's shop, or in certain Balm or Coquelicot patron rooms. Shelves above and behind that table hold an extraordinary variety of vials, flasks, jars, and boxes: all the equipage, in fact, of an Eisandine chirurgeon conversant with the very latest theories in medicine. Of course there is also an unusually well-appointed washstand.

The last patron of the year visited in October. Since then Emmanuelle’s jewel-box, long a shrine to Naamah and her rituals, has become instead a temple of repose. Sometimes she even sleeps here rather than climbing the stair to her other, fanatically private bedchamber. (It is understood that in her present well-nigh-spherical state, she doesn’t pay calls up two flights in the princess chamber: she sends word, and Aumande flounces down.) The display along one wall of all the fearsome implements of her art remains in situ, tenderly maintained by Baltasar, no matter how little cause she has to employ it (or has she?); but the sheets on the ‘Hell’ bed are always white linen now and the silk coverlet across its foot always lavender, and there’s a chaise permanently installed by the fire. The little dressing-room tucked away behind it serves in lieu of the larger one overlooking the courtyard. The black-lacquered and gilded sécretaire moved in from her sitting-room, with books lined up along its marble top, does duty as her study whole and entire. Whatever she wants from elsewhere in the house she sends someone to fetch to her nest — though it must be admitted that’s hardly out of character…

When Aumande scratches at the door, to be admitted by Samanthe, she finds her Madame still in bed. At any rate, on the bed, with the covers thrown back and the pillows in another of the arcane and original arrangements she’s been dreaming up lately, interference with which earns one the harshest side of her tongue. She’s draped in layers of black robes, of necessity larger and looser than she used to wear, the silk clinging to the contours of her present preposterously bountiful female form— and slipping away from one pale calf, for that foot is in Baltasar’s clutches as he kneels on the foot of the bed, providing a tender and expert massage.

Samanthe curtseys to Aumande and slips out of the chamber as she comes in, no doubt already assigned some task of her own for Emmanuelle’s pleasure.

Glacial blue eyes, meanwhile, rake up and down Aumande’s sylvan array.

Oh, yes, a flurry of activity when the summons comes earlier than expected. Just enough to tidy up— the Lady will not condone being made to leave Madame in expectation. And so she rises, beautified, and, with a press of Cloelia's hands in appreciation of her skill, she flutters away, letting her maid to tidy up and prepare her bed for her return in the evening. The wine is barely stoppered by the time Aumande is at the door and being admitted, greeting Samanthe with a warm, companionable smile at their crossing-of-paths. Then, flitting bedside, she lowers herself into a curtsey. "Madame," she greets, voice thrilling with the excitement so often percolating just beneath it when she knows she is dressed quite beautifully. Rising, a coy swivel of a green-pleated hip marks a girlish stance. "May I sit by you and kiss your hand?" she asks.

The worker bees and the drones who circle through the labyrinthine passages and compartments of Emmanuelle’s palatial hive, all have their duties to perform in service to their breeding Queen: mostly, lately, keeping her serene in her unaccustomed confinement. Some do this by yielding themselves gladly to her more violent instincts — one rarely sees Samanthe without a bandage or a bloodstain, or perfectly symmetrical rope-marks marching up both her pretty wrists — and some just by being sweeter than honey upon her palate.

She watches that curtsey, and considers the thrill in her maiden’s voice and the rich sighing of her skirts, with no more reaction than she offers to Baltasar in exchange for his own practiced ministrations. “… You may,” she says at last, and offers a hand plumper than Aumande first knew it, though sporting the same immaculate black-lacquered manicure.

Two books lie next to her on the bed, on the other side. Identical slender volumes, bound in fine calfskin the same clear blue as the Eisandine summer sky.

Aumande sweeps the pleating of her skirts together, hopping a tiny bit in excitement to be allowed to ascend the bedding alongside Madame. She flashes a graceful enough ankle and svelte enough calf — though these, too, are plumper than Madame has known the past, swelling softly in sympathy with Madame's burden. Her feet are clad in a grey suede slipper-cut heel, with a tiny, flared heel to it, and she draws up one calf to slide along the bedclothes, extending it from under her voluminous skirts as she crawls up with such girlish innocence that Madame can sense about how many hours she has dwelt among the White Roses this week simply from watching it. Once she draws the rest of her along after, and nestles in, she holds the offered hand in both of her hands and dallies in offering it a dear and affectionate kiss.

"Thank you, Madame," she whispers. Oh, there are books! "Would you like for me to read to you?" she wonders.

Emmanuelle’s gaze rises along ankle and calf, and loses itself a while amongst the costly folds of her maiden’s petticoats; she accepts the kiss and then, a breath later, withdraws her hand. “Yes,” she drawls, her painted mouth curving into a cool red smile. “Why not.” She selects the topmost of the two pretty little blue books and presents it to her princess.

Its sky-blue covers hold a wealth of familiar words in two tongues, and a handful of figures that may be disquieting to a shy young poet: this copy of De Quiete, privately printed in Marsilikos upon the finest and softest vellum, is numbered 1 among 400.

"… Among… four hundred," Aumande duly reads along with the serial notation. Despite having just drawn herself up into a perfect reading posture, back twisted near to the hips and diaphragm resting upon the corsetry which hugs her internal organs most pleasantly — such that she can intone clearly and smoothly over any finer points of syntax which might catch her by surprise — even now she trails to a halt in her recitation, lips parted, fingers uncertain any longer how to turn a page. She looks up, finally, brows knitting upward in the middle, somehow awed and baffled: "Among four hundred?"

Emmanuelle rests against her pillows with one eye upon Aumande and both hands clasped upon the upper curve of her belly. “Yes,” she confirms mildly. “Some I have already sent to friends and acquaintances outside Eisande, where they will take longer to arrive. I have a list of local recipients in my desk for you to look over, my love, and decide whether and to whom you wish to include personal messages or inscriptions. The last fifty copies are marked down for Raziel’s, by agreement, but if you find I’ve left off anyone you wish to include, we might steal a few of those to ensure that no particular friends of yours are left in want.”

Aumande's eyes are already welling up. Emmanuelle must have known it even before it happened — when was her maiden ever lacking tears at any of their happiest moments? She closes the book, more protectively than with any other impulse, and she holds it over her breast, shielding it with hands crossed at the wrists and thus displayed to Madame. "Four hundred, Madame, it's— I'm overwhelmed," she professes, and this much, too, is patent. Still, she remembers enough of her manners, breathless as she is, to say, "Thank you, Madame."

The foot Baltasar has been tending escapes his hands; the other rises peremptorily from a pillow to take its place. This is hardly the most intimate talk of theirs he’s overheard. He’s even read the poem, by now — most of the household has read the poem.

“We’ve discussed publication before, more than once,” Emmanuelle reminds the work’s actual author, “but I think you have been too shy of your accomplishment, my love, as well as too busy to give it the attention it deserves. You may consider this my gift to you for the Longest Night,” she explains gravely to the tearful beauty at her side— made not less lovely to her Shahrizai eyes, but more so, by that glistening expression of feeling, “though I grant you it’s early for it… I corrected the proofs myself while you were in Avignon not long ago; any errors remaining are the printer’s own, and if you find one I’ll gladly whip him for it,” she drawls.

The tip of Aumande's suede slipper meets Emman's calf where she moves her leg to replace it with the other for Baltasar's attention, and, almost as she as she declares, he traces a little heart against her leg, just there. "I know," he agrees that they've discussed it — and he's been putting it off, for many ostensible reasons, on the surface — business — priorities — nearly ending assassinated. But now that it's out, and in a D'Angeline setting, the real reason floats somewhat closer to the top of his thoughts, and prompts him to his best and most practiced of all sports: worrying. "Oh, that's… alright," he assents, knowing that to plead for the pelt of the copyist would be to insult all the work she's done for him, which is really… "It's such a lot, Madame. I've been having something done for you, too — but it's not finished, and won't be for a little bit. And it can't ever live up to your generosity in scale. Do you— are you sending Her Grace a copy?" He has to assume she is.

<FS3> Emmanuelle rolls Empathy: Great Success. (3 8 1 5 4 4 8 7 5 1 7 1 3 6 5)

Oh, look. A nervous and dithering poet. This time it is Emmanuelle who reaches for Aumande’s hand, and peels pretty fingers away from sky blue calfskin that she might take them into a firm but not unkindly grip. “Your thinking is your thinking, my love,” she informs the heir to Avignon, in a steady and soothing low drawl, “and it is too deep in you to be likely to change. You have made it so plain by your acts that it would be fruitless to deny its expression in words.”

Aumande's graceful fingers come loose under the most mild of prying, and claim hold of Madame's hand, instead, while still holding the first of their four hundred — FOUR HUNDRED — copies close against the metallic green sheen of her bosom. Clear winter sky over grasses blanched by a midnight freeze. And, above, that stormy winter sky is all in her eyes, threatening snow, or, at least, more rain. "At least in Tiberium there stands a long tradition of republican or even— populist sentiment in literature. It felt like a safe place to let our… opus into the world for the first time."

Her comments upon her maiden's acts touches her heart all the more warmly. It's not a surprise that, of all people, Emman understands the design unfurling between Jehan and Pascal for the future of Avignon, and that she sees how well it aligns with the somewhat opaque political encoding within so many hexameters… well, it makes her maidenly heart flutter, her color to rise, but hardly in a bad way. She presses Madame's hand fondly and looks into her eyes.

"I worried, too, when the hospitality was opened. I suppose, in a way, I owe the Bulldog a debt of gratitude. For treading upon the heels of the opening and immediately taking all the air out of the room, as it were. But that's why I kept the plans so close between myself and the Baroness. It seemed like a dream that would sweep away if spoken aloud." She pauses; if Emman's arm is amenable to it, she (Aumande) draws her (Emmanuelle's) hand to rest against her (Aumande's) stomach. "Were you upset I waited so long to tell you?" In a round-about way, she may really be asking whether Emmanuelle would like to be included in future plans along this route.

There’s a moment of resistance before Emmanuelle allows her hand to be moved. She tilts her face toward Aumande’s for the specific purpose of raising an eyebrow at her, and then looks away again past the kneeling Baltasar to her spare grey stone courtyard, visible through glass. It’s dusk and her coloured lanterns are just beginning to glow along their ropes.

“I assumed,” she drawls, “that you waited to reveal to me a fait accompli, lest I should speak of it to my sister before your plans were sufficiently far long. I think you worry too much about her interference in the internal affairs of her vassals,” she says frankly; “it’s in her interest to be on dining terms with you as well as vice versa. Someone has to really fuck up, before she’ll take a strong hand… As for the poem, she’s already given you a medal for it in front of half the nobles in the city,” she points out, her other hand lifting to touch the Eisheth pendant that doesn’t seem to have left the hollow of her throat since he bestowed it upon her in turn, on the eve of his voyage to Tiberium. “Your work has been blessed by Eisheth and so have we, my love.” She breathes in, and out. “I believe it will all be well,” she judges.

Aumande lowers her eyes. Emmanuelle always sees right through her, anyway. It would be easier to have glass for flesh. It's a little shameful to be called out for mistrusting Madame, after all, but her eyes lift again when she is granted that much insight into the Duchesse's approach. "Well, then I haven't fucked up too badly, yet," she smiles, then smiles all the more broadly as Madame parades the evidence of their many blessings. "May I lie next to you?" she asks, next. "How do you feel?" Not very solicitous… that tendency has been well swatted off of her, that urge to fuss over Madame and worry about her. But, still, she will lay open the path for Madame to tell her anything she might need done, or want tended to.

Again Emmanuelle eyes her maiden sidelong. The slightest shift in her gaze is sufficient to pierce. “You may not,” is her judgment on the question of lying down. “I don’t like you to use that kind of language,” she reminds her: coolly, hypocritically. “It doesn’t suit you.”

She relents, then, just far enough to elaborate upon her plans. “I shall get up soon anyway. I’ve a couple of business letters that arrived just before you did, that I want to look at before we dine. A woman in my position naturally prefers to keep her affairs in order,” she drawls; “on which note, have you made any progress with your betrothal negotiations? Are you still insisting on meeting her first, and is she still unable to come here? One of you,” she remarks with a slight, withering shake of her head, “is just going to have to get in a carriage.”

"No, it doesn't, does it?" Aumande replies; she usually doesn't, after all, and she seems to think it a fair critique. She also doesn't particularly care for it when Emmanuelle does it, either, but has come around on that point well enough— at least to be used to it. Maybe a little too used to it, that it's rubbing off on her.

Then, options as to finalizing the betrothal. She wrinkles her nose in thought. "Would you like her to come here? I didn't want… you know… someone else to be in the way, just now. I thought I would wait until at least the first nice week. Travelling in winter can be so wearisome."

“My love. If you are to marry before your next natality,” Emmanuelle lectures, not for the first time— there’s something marital about this, this repeated rehashing of a discussion she’d have had closed and locked and barred months ago if her word were the only one, “you must be betrothed sooner than the springtime. If that means bringing the girl here, I’ll gladly put her up and spare her your company as often as may be necessary.”

She pauses. In a tone that slits open the matter with the precision of a fléchette, and then leaves it bleeding between them, she adds: “What I don’t think you fully realise, my love, is that by prolonging this uncertainty in your own arrangements, you prolong it in mine as well. I can’t put my life in order as I might wish until you’ve ordered yours — and, unlike you,” one of her more withering drawls, “I have an engagement that cannot be postponed until the weather is nice enough and no one will find it wearisome. Now.” She squeezes the reluctant bridegroom’s manicured paw and, having vented her spleen, goes on more gently. “We’ve agreed this one is your likeliest prospect. In my view, the sooner you settle a contract with her — or take a firm decision not to — the better for all of us… and if I were in her place,” a wry addendum, “I wouldn’t dream of signing till I’d sat down with me.”

That she herself will not be traveling for some time yet, need hardly be said.

Aumande's amethyst lips tense slightly in the prelude to the formation of words when Emmanuelle lays out her concerns, on the verge of drawing some manner of reply before the press of her hand and the more gentle cant of her tone soothes her away from trying to press on any given point. "If you're sure it's alright, then I'll ask her down, if the weather up north is amenable to her setting out. If you like her, we'll write home, the both of us, from here, and start the arrangements." If Emman likes her, mind. Jehan and Pascal are already well sold, sight unseen. She must be quite the pen pal.

And now that her vacillating princess has almost managed to agree to taking the next dainty little baby-step towards matrimony, rather than postponing the most important decision of his life for another few months on the grounds of dreary weather, Emmanuelle — who will not permit her own feelings to be enrolled upon the roster of his unending excuses — squeezes his hand again, more firmly, and declares, “Good. Stop saying ‘if’ and do it. In fact,” she levels a cold and steely blue gaze at him, “I’ve plenty of parchment and quills in my desk, you can sit here and write your devoir while I go over my letters. Up, Baltasar,” she directs, and her kneeling attendant leaves off pressing his thumbs into the arch of her foot and hastens to restore to her feet a pair of lavender velvet slippers lined with fine black fur.

It takes both of them, of course, the maiden and the dog, holding a hand each, to provide the necessary boost in motive power to get their mistress upright again.

Aumande crawls backward the way she'd mounted up beside Emman, one toe meeting the floor, a heel, and, with her other knee planted on the bedding, she gives her own self, a stalwart enough post against which Emman can brace in order to rise from the immaculately arranged pillows once more. The thought of seeing to correspondence side-by-side makes her smile, and a heart-felt one, at that. "Alright," she answers, trailing along with Madame as she goes, continuing in contact hand to hand, if let.

… Yes, their next activity was designed as treat rather than punishment, a reward for Aumande’s acquiescence to the overall scheme. But Emmanuelle in waddling slipperfooted towards her sécretaire lets go her lover’s hand to clasp both of her own beneath the swell of her belly, supporting and embracing that rich weight of their future.

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