(1311-12-04) Tea Among Angels
Summary: Alienor and Iphigénie meet again whilst paying their mutual respects to Naamah, and during one teatime they conjecture another.
RL Date: 04/12/2019
Related: Four Curtseys and Purposeful Pain.
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.

In every season Naamah’s blessings flow like honey for the delight of her devotées; and they attend her temple, even in the growing chill of winter, to give thanks.

The latest débutante amongst the White Roses of the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, already one of the most popular adepts in the city and the possessor of a marque unfurling like lightning up over her strong young back, has much in her life to be thankful for lately.

Perhaps she’ll be inspired to add to the roll of her good fortune the sight of a wheeled chair already drawn up close to Naamah’s altar, and a dark-cloaked figure occupying it. Iphigénie nó Valerian de Maignard sits with her head bowed so low that her black rabbit fur hat seems on the brink of toppling off her fluffy white hair, and her green eyes closed in prayer. Absent their intelligence and vivacity the painted mask of her face seems tired, old, paper-thin. Another little jar of her honey rests among the offerings, next to a ripe pomegranate. Her maid seems to be praying too, her head bowed in respect for the angel— or perhaps just for her employer’s devotions, as they spin out minute by minute, while others come and others go.

The lemon that Alienor has managed for today's offering is a little lumpy, but still good, and she's poured the angel a cup of tea from a little decorative pot that she brought with her. She's made her acceptable prayer with great reverence and fervor, all but crying in thanks for how successful she's been since her debut. She's prayed in thanks for her patrons. She's prayed in thanks for her wardrobe. She's prayed in thanks for her marque. It's true that her prayers are a little gossipy, but she's sixteen, and this is how she communes with the divine.

Realizing the presence of the wheelchair, she asks Naamah to hold the conversation — something about white lace and where it's appropriate to wear it and when — and goes slipping over towards the older woman. "My lady," she says after a moment, uncertainly, unwilling to interrupt prayers but eager to offer greetings. "I have a little tea for Naamah; would you like some, too? It's still hot."

Suddenly Iphigénie’s colloquy with the Bright Lady — not a feast of gossip, but a frank talk between two old friends who have known some ups and downs in their relationship (and one of whom substantially outranks the other) — is also on hold, and from gazing into the true Terre d’Ange the shade of which lies inside her eyelids, she looks up disoriented into the mere earthly one. She looks about her: then the brightening of her gaze when she matches Alienor’s remembered voice to the white-veiled figure before her, is unmistakable.

“Alienor,” she asserts, “my dear child.” And she extracts her left hand, gloved in soft white wool, from the depths of her black rabbit fur muff (it matches her hat) and offers it to the little Alyssum in greeting. “You remembered the tea,” she adds, smiling. “It’s very considerate of you to offer it to me as well, but I could never take what properly belongs to our lady.”

"Of course I did. And there's plenty enough that I don't think Naamah would begrudge you a cup. Tea is better when it's shared with friends, isn't that right? I made a whole pot, and Naamah's is cooling for her, with a little lemon and honey in it. Just to help her keep from getting a cold in this weather. Although angels probably don't get colds, do they? Well, anyway, I had a bit with her, and I was thanking her about my marque and my dress and my patrons," Alienor explains in a rush, and she reaches in a pocket for a couple of tin teacups that aren't necessarily in ideal shape, but will hold tea well enough.

"She's been so good to me," Alienor continues as she moves to pour tea into cups, one for herself, one for the noblewoman, and one for the maid, too, so that they can all partake with Naamah. "I pray to her about my patrons a lot. What to do with them and for them. And oh, that she acts in their lives, too, and blesses them. Here." She offers out teacups and sets the little teapot on the ground at her feet, next to her little white shoes, which are more scuffed than they really ought to be, giving her a bit of a careless youthful look.

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Religion: Good Success. (5 7 6 6 2 6 3 4 7 4 1 2 5 6 1)

“No,” agrees Iphigénie, smiling faintly, “angels don’t catch colds, my dear. Nor do they grow old, nor feel the winter chill in their bones— and so perhaps today we’ll follow your theology, shall we? Thank you,” she says as she accepts the tea. The maid Nadège takes the cup offered her as well, with a bobbed curtsey and a cautious ‘thank you, mademoiselle’. “… Just remember, my dear,” the elderly Valerian suggests gently to the fresh-minted Alyssum, “that it is not a question of Naamah begrudging us any comfort or pleasure, for that is not in her nature. It is rather a question of the deference and respect due to her. We’ll take tea with our lady,” she agrees, “but I think we must also say a grace to thank her for receiving us as her guests this afternoon.”

This she does, improvising a few measured and eloquent lines in praise of the Bright Lady’s hospitality to her servants, and the sweetness of her company. Only then does she lift the tin cup to her dark red lips and drink, signaling that the others may partake as well.

"Very gracious of her, I think. I try to be like her, but it's hard to be that good. But then, I am not an angel," Alienor admits, sliding her veil slightly to the side so that she can sip her tea, which is blessedly still reasonably warm, though not quite piping hot any more. She is quite respectful, though, of the grace that Iphigénie offers, and it's clear that it makes her feel good to participate in religion with the older woman.

"It is an honor to be her Servant, and to live as she might have," Alienor adds eagerly, letting her veil fall in front of her face more fully again. "I am meeting so many people, and yet I am still very tired of the Solar of the White Roses. But I got to travel with an escort to a patron's home, and that was very exciting!"

The tea is nowhere near hot enough to scald Iphigénie’s tongue. Alas.

“It must have been,” she agrees mildly, conversationally, between sips. “You know, I keep to a single chamber a great deal of the time myself at this season of the year,” she adds, offering what perspective she can to aid in reconciling a restless child to her lot. “I don’t find it dull because I too receive marvelous visitors sometimes,” she mentions, “and I like to read, and to write letters… and to pray.” She smiles. “Your patrons are fortunate indeed to be remembered in your prayers, and I hope you find it helps you as well as helping them… We are none of us angels, of course,” she goes on, “but in a way, doesn’t that make it easier—? If something is impossible to achieve — being as good as an angel,” she suggests, “then that relieves us of the burden of accomplishing it in full, and we may count our success in merely continuing to try. To be a little better today than one was yesterday is always a worthy purpose, my dear.”

"Oh, I do! Oh, I wish I could tell you all about some of the sweet things patrons have done for me, but that's all to be confidential, of course. But some of it would be like bragging, and I suppose I should try to be humble about them, even if they have been extremely kind to me," Alienor says brightly, giggling in spite of herself. She picks up her teapot in its cozy so that she doesn't lose it, for she does seem to be in a forgetful sort of mood, and she leans over to tip the few remaining drops over into a planter. It won't mind the watering.

Grateful for a little more heat Iphigénie drinks the rest of her cup, and offers it back to Alienor. “To me, your happiness speaks for itself, and so does your very becoming gratitude to our Bright Lady,” she assures the child, “and such kindnesses from patrons are easily inferred too from how quickly you visited Lanthenay’s, my dear— wasn’t that only the third or fourth day after your debut?” she teases gently. “How did you find it? Did you manage to keep still?”

Alienor takes the cup and pockets it promptly, careless of the little tea mark that shows on her dress. As if that is a thing she doesn't even notice. "Oh! I wish I could show you how much it has grown. It's hard to believe how big it is already, but also, how much further I have to go. I have a lot of work to do yet. And then, someday, when I am a full Courtesan and can do things on my own, I shall come have tea with you," she declares.

The tea-mark draws Iphigénie’s eye, but she doesn’t remark upon it. It’s too late now and she can only conjecture that a posy of White Roses must enjoy the services of laundresses as adept as her own… “Sooner than that, perhaps,” she suggests instead. “At my age,” a smile flickers across her painted lips, “one doesn’t like to postpone one’s pleasures. I think you ought to meet my consort, too,” she adds, and her gaze lifts past Alienor, seeking between the columns and the flowers. “He’s here somewhere— he was,” she corrects herself; “I daresay he has escaped into the fresh air. He can’t abide idleness for long.” Again she smiles.

If the White Rose doesn't have good laundresses, then there are a bunch of novices in stained dresses and blouses, because nothing about teenagers says that wearing white all the time is in any way a good idea.

"Oh, yes, your consort," Alienor pipes up, glancing around, just in case the mysterious consort should appear, but of course, he does not. "It's a bit cold for fresh air, my lady, but whatever makes him happy, of course, of course." She drops a little curtsey and beams for a moment. "Yes, if you would like a bit of my time, I should love your company, but I would choose to spend time with you, too, if I could, instead of just hoping to run into you at the Temples. I'm always quite keen to see you here."

Iphigénie regards her fondly. “You’re very sweet, my dear. The truth is that the colder the weather the less I shall go out, even to the temples — today’s visit was rather a daring one for me,” she admits, “and the chill in my bones is already telling me I ought to hurry home. So we shall probably not meet again at our lady’s altar, in this season. But if you wouldn’t find it too tedious, and if your other patrons can spare you,” an amused glint in her vivid green eyes, “perhaps I might offer you a contract to come and amuse the invalid for an afternoon—? It’s a little unusual, but I wouldn’t think it right to occupy hours of an adept’s time without adding something to her marque,” she explains scrupulously.

"Oh, yes. Yes, it would be appreciated. And I'd love to entertain you, however you like," Alienor offers, and there's something just naturally innocent about it, as she folds her hands against her little teapot and beams at the elder noblewoman. "I don't think I'd get bored at all." She lowers her voice to a whisper. "You'd think I'd get bored of some of the things some of my other patrons have me do, too. Some of it's …well, I shouldn't say." She giggles girlishly.

One of the least innocent women presently walking or being wheeled about upon the blessed terrain of the angels, gives an understanding nod to one of the most.

“Of course,” Iphigénie says gently, “not every moment with every patron is pure delight for the courtesan as well. But never forget, my dear, the pleasure you are surely giving in such moments… nor what it must mean to your patron to know the fulfillment of their desires. Even if what they ask of you may seem silly to you sometimes, to them it’s a true gift from Naamah, mediated through you as her servant. Sometimes,” she adds, her green eyes twinkling as she gazes up at what can be seen of the contours of Alienor’s face through the gauziness of her white veil, “the same act may be quite absurd, and quite sacred, all at once… it depends how you choose to experience it, my dear, in your own way or in your patron’s. But perhaps I’m boring you already,” she teases. “When you do come to visit me I trust you’ll bring your painting things. I’ll be sure to mention it when I write to your Second.”

"Yes, sometimes it's a real …service," Alienor admits, nodding once in agreement. "But a lot of the time I really do enjoy what I do, and it makes me happy that I can fulfil my patron's desires so completely. That is worthwhile, and I think that is indeed a gift from Naamah, for both me and the patron." She wrinkles her nose in amusement. "Yes! I will paint for you. It will be lovely."

Iphigénie smiles up at her. “You’re a very good girl,” she assures her, and somehow upon her lips the words have a flavour of real praise, not mere patronisation. “I shall look forward to watching you paint a little something for me and then eat lemon cakes at my tea-table. And that will be something new for you, too, won’t it?” she teases. “A new house to visit, and a new kind of assignation. Let’s make it a fine day, when you can see my garden too.”

"Yes, I cannot wait!" Alienor agrees, bouncing up onto her toes for a moment like a schoolgirl, which she essentially is. "Oh, thank you so much, my lady. I promise you it will be very entertaining for you, as well. I shall absolutely do my best for you, as I try to for all of my patrons."

“I’m sure you will, my dear. But I must leave you now to your devotions,” says Iphigénie kindly, “and repair to my fireside to warm up… If you’ve a moment, say another prayer for me as well,” she suggests in parting, as Nadège steps forward on cue to offer Alienor the empty cup she has been uncertainly holding all this while; “one can never have too many.”

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