(1311-12-13) The Same Language
Summary: Aurore calls on Philomène to see how she is, and the two Chalasse vicomtesses plan a trip back to L’Agnace on… family business.
RL Date: Fri Dec 13, 1311
Related: Not A Governess.
aurore philomene 

Maison aux Herbes — Rue du Port

In contrast to the gaily painted yellow door with its fragrant pots of vibrant green herbs which guard either side, the interior of this house is austere to the point of severe. The whitewashed walls bear little to no decoration, if one precludes the single, almost full length mirror in the main room, and the tiny, framed pencil sketch of a pair of horses beside the door. The front door enters directly into a spartan salon, equipped with a single dark leather sofa and a comfortable chair in front of the fire, where a square section of the rugged brown carpet has been stripped away to facilitate drying out firewood or cleaning out the grate with minimal upkeep.

To one side of the room, an opening leads through to an equally minimalist dining room, containing no more than half a dozen stiff backed wooden chairs and a table that could comfortably fit only four of them, and from there a door leads to the small kitchen and on to simple quarters for a single servant. On the other, a plain staircase leads upwards, the carpet laid in a strip down the centre, with bare, unpolished floorboards visible to either side, to a pair of small bedrooms and a cramped privy. Where furniture has been placed, it is mismatched and looks more as though it's been bought and dumped in the closest available spot than that any sort of thought to interior design has been paid.

Aurore turns up in a practical outfit, fashionably cut, but in warm, sturdy fabrics against the chill. Once divested of her cape she starts removing her gloves, intelligent eyes studying her coz. "How have you been?"

With the maid on door opening duty, Philomène offers one of the two glasses hanging from between the fingers of her left hand, the right hand taken up with a bottle, poised to pour. "Up and down," she admits, flicking her cousin a half smile. "So on average… average? How's things?" Glancing aside to the maid, she adds, "That'll be everything for tonight, Caroline. Go have the evening to yourself and I'll see you in the morning."

Aurore takes the glass, her attention still narrowly focused on the mistress of the house. "I'm sorry to hear that. Is there any way I can be of assistance, coz?"

Philomène fills the glass almost to the brim, then gestures the woman over as she limps towards the small sofa and the fire. "Come. Sit down." There's a slight pause, a wait while Caroline disappears from view. "You are really very good to offer, but I'd like to be certain that it's meant sincerely before I abuse that. I'll take absolutely no offence if you're just being polite and I ask too much of you. I hope you realise that."

Aurore smiles sadly, "Philomène, you are my only relative besides my son I actually like and spend time with for the pleasure of it. Of course I mean it." She settles by her hostess, with a graceful sweep of her hand over skirts to avoid wrinkling and assure they settle in a picturesque way. She sips her wine, "Tell me what you need and I'll do what I can to arrange things."

Philomène takes her time to pour a second glass of wine for herself, setting the wine bottle down, holding the glass up to the light and generally busying herself until she's absolutely certain that the maid is out of earshot. "Relative by marriage," she reminds the other woman with a little smirk. "I think it's far easier to tolerate relatives by marriage. How do you feel about a little trip this winter? I intend to return to Gueret to see Louis-Claude one last time, and I'd… well, I'd appreciate a friendly face for support."

Aurore laughs softly, "It's probably true." Her expression sobers instantly at the mention of the trip, "Of course I'll come. There was never a chance I wouldn’t. I am entirely at your disposal." She touches the other woman's hands with her fingertips, "I know how difficult this must be for you, probably better than most."

Philomène extends her fingers and pushes her palm flat, then takes a moment to sip from her wine. Or, more accurately, gulp. There's nothing of the dainty and ladylike about it. "I'd like to be absolutely certain that we're both talking the same language here," she confides in a low voice, barely heard above the crackle of wood burning on the fire. "I intend to go to Gueret and actively encourage Louis-Claude to let go, through whatever means necessary." She lifts her chin, fixing an imperious blue-grey stare on her cousin. "I do believe it is the kindest thing to do, for everyone."

Aurore meets her eyes steadily, "There are times when that is truly the kindest and most loving thing you can do. Such things can be made gentle if a person has the skill. Would you… like help easing him?" She breathes out slowly, "I know how you've agonised over this. You are a good person, and I think you should not have to bear the full weight of this yourself."

"Let's not go so far as to claim I'm a good person when I know full well I'm nothing of the sort," Philomène insists drily. "Nor am I particularly skilled at… this sort of thing. I suspect running through with a sword might not be the most effective method. I think it's rather important that my daughters are spared any doubt that it was simply his time to go. Am I right in thinking you have a certain amount of skill with tea and so forth?"

Aurore gives a small nod, "I have skill with simples. There are a number of things that are medicine if taken in small doses, but rather the opposite in larger ones. It is not something I like to talk about given the rumors that have gathered around my name. Something subtle and gentle and natural looking can be arranged. Especially so with a long illness."

"I don't want to start any rumours about you," Philomène insists firmly. "You'd be doing me a great favour, so if you'd rather stay far away and just lend me the tools I need to do the job then I absolutely understand. It's hardly your problem to deal with."

Aurore shakes her head no, "I'll come. It's better that it be done right and I do not want you to have to do this alone. It's not like striking a man in the heat of battle. This is so much harder."

Philomène flashes the ghost of a smile. "How hard can it be, the man's out cold. I can be sure I won't miss." She sets down her wine and offers both hands. "Thank you. Thank you, though. The question, then, is… well, how, exactly? During the night, so he might simply not wake up in the morning? But then how does one explain creeping about at nighttime if I'm caught?"

Aurore sips, thinking, "How is he fed exactly? What is the last thing he's given at night?" She says firmly, "We aren't getting caught."

Philomène rubs both hands through her hair before offering them again. "I don't know," she confesses. "I haven't been there these last months. I've been here. All I really know is that he can't feed himself, so it must be Eleanor doing it for him, or one of her servants. Presumably some kind of soup, if he can't chew."

Aurore sets her wine aside and takes the other woman's hands in hers, "All right. When we get there, we'll work out what he's given when and by whom. If we can't add a little something to whatever they give him before sleep, then we do it when Eleanor is out of the room near bedtime. Coming to kiss him good night or seeing he's comfortable for sleep won't be odd, especially if you do it each night we're there. Once we've let a few days pass, we'll slip him a bit of tea. If it's not sufficient, we'll give him a stronger infusion the next night. Nothing instantaneous or within minutes. Those are… liable to be unpleasant for the person taking them and obvious. We want something gentle and slower, that leaves fewer signs." She searches Philomène's eyes, "This takes a lot of nerve and of a different sort than in battle. You'll have to keep up appearances day after day for as long as a week. Can you do it, coz?"

"Keeping up appearances of distress and grief?" Philomène clarifies, squeezing Aurore's hands lightly. "I think even I should be able to manage that. Call me any number of things, but you won't hear coward among them. And it's the right thing to do. It is. It needs to be done, and it needs to be me to do it."

Aurore squeezes back, "Hiding your guilt, coz, under your very real distress and grief. You are admirable in every way and I will do my level best to smooth this path where I can. When do we leave?"

"If you're happy to ride with me and only stop for the horses, we can be there in a week," Philomène replies, considering the logistics for a moment. "We could leave the day after tomorrow, unless that's too soon? I only need to leave word with a friend, so she knows I'm out of town for three weeks or so, but I'd like to do that in person rather than just leaving some sort of cold note."

Aurore gives a faint smile, "I suspect I'm not the horsewoman you are, but I will do my very best to keep up. I can be packed by then and can travel lighter than it might appear. Better to go quickly now you are resolved."

"I was thinking to go quickly before the snow stops us coming home," Philomène admits with a dry laugh. "Back, I mean. Here. Or wherever. Here seems best. Or we could arrange a carriage, but it'll take longer. If you're not so confident on a horse?"

Aurore gives a bark of a laugh, "Oh that too. I don't like leaving my son alone the length of time a surprise blizzard would require. I can manage a horse, I'm just not conditioned to long rides so may need more rest than you, but I think fastest is best." She squeezes her hands again, "Thank you for trusting me with this most personal of things. I will not disappoint you."

"And if we are caught?" Philomène queries, withdrawing her hands so she can take up her wine again. "I think it's probably best that I threatened you, or your boy, or something along those lines, and forced you to go along with me. Would it be best if Caroline looked after him here, so he's a valid hostage in case it all goes sour?"

Aurore cocks her head, quietly, visibly impressed, "That's good thinking. Best you come take him tomorrow. I shall take him for a walk and we'll arrange a hand off. I'll prepare him so he won't be alarmed, but in a way that will ensure he can say nothing useful if asked later." She leans in, "Most would lay the blame on me, you know. I make a far better villain than you."

"Oh? Been perfecting your evil cackle, have you?" Philomène asks, arching a brow. "You're doing me a great favour, I'll make sure nothing sticks to you. Shall we say tomorrow at noon, in the temple gardens?"

Aurore gives a bark of a laugh, "I'll remember to practice. All right. Noon at the temple gardens. He won't be trouble for your Caroline, though it's best to keep him occupied. He's well behaved and mature for his age, but he's bright and best not to leave him to make his own fun or ask too many awkward questions."

"I'll arrange for books for him," Philomène promises, apparently having little to no idea how to keep young people out of trouble. Well, she's never going to be nominated for mother of the year, is she? "And will you need… anything? I don't know what's involved. Eye of newt and so forth, isn't it?"

Aurore smiles, "He likes books. I'll contrive to have him bring some of his small soldiers as well. It might be interesting for him to see how Caroline goes about her work. We’'ll see." She shakes her head, "I'm well supplied. I'll bring what we're likely to need myself, along with some similar looking innocuous things in case of trouble."

"Then we'll push for a quick funeral," Philomène muses, "And we should be no more than three or four weeks before we're back. I'll need to stay for the funeral, of course, but you could make your way back sooner if you would rather?"

Aurore shakes her head emphatically, "I'm not abandoning you in your grief. You should have a friend there who understands what you've been through. I am coming for the entire journey. I'll be there for whatever comes after it."

"He's been functionally dead for eight months already," Philomène points out, taking up her glass to drain of wine. "I've done my grieving already. This is just a formality now."

Aurore takes a long drink, "This I understand better than you could know. Still, you aren't doing any of this alone." She sets the glass down, "Until tomorrow, coz."

Philomène pulls herself upright with a visible wince, then offers her hand. "Until tomorrow. And you have no idea just how grateful I am. I owe you more than I can possibly repay."

Aurore takes the hand, "There is no need for repayment among friends and I really do want to be a good friend to you."

Philomène flashes a hollow grin. "And friends help friends murder their husbands."

Aurore gives Philomène's shoulder a squeeze, "In this case they do. Good night, Philomène. I think we'll both want as much sleep as we can manage while we can get it."

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