(1312-01-18) Before Supper
Summary: Justine wishes to meet more Chalasses, even so, the conversation shared before supper with Philomène and Aurore has its awkward moments.
RL Date: 18-23/01/2020
Related: None.
justine philomene aurore 

Chalasse Residence — Noble District

A good and thorough upbringing in anything pertaining to courtly etiquette can become a catalyst, when a lady arrives in a city foreign to her and takes lodgings in the residence of her husband’s family because that is what will be expected of her. When Justine Chalasse de la Courcel arrived in Marsilikos, she had found that other Chalasse family members were away from the city. It only seemed natural to issue an invitation for Chalasse kin, even if by marriage, when word reached Justine, that some of them had returned to the city.

A menu had been discussed at length with the cook, and now on this wonderful early evening, Justine is waiting in the parlour, for the convenient chat that would precede dinner; waiting for these ladies to arrive, in a decidedly civil and amiable fashion that infers patience and leisure without the need to rush or make others feel bad, in case they would be late.

Anyone entering the parlour will see a young d’Angeline lady of blonde hair and a certain Namarrese charm that sort of gives away her origins. She has dressed with utmost care, choosing a long-sleeved gown of white and green color, fine but not too fine; making a statement of taste while keeping the attire appropriate for the more informal setting of a family dinner.

Since her return to the city of Marsilikos, there’s been little seen of Philomene de Chalasse. The early morning tradesmen who have come to expect to see the Camaeline noblewoman limping her way to one of a limited number of haunts for her daily walk have been spared her appearance. The only sign of her at the stables, even, has been a terse note requesting the assistance of one of the older grooms, renowned to be almost as irascible as the woman herself, in exercising and taking care of her Hirondelle for now.

It might come as a surprise, then, that not only is the invitation to supper accepted (with a terse note reading just that, ‘I accept’ with a scrawled cursive letter P and a hastily stamped bull insignia), but the suddenly reclusive Chalasse is here, on the dot of the hour, with what can only be supernaturally precise timing.

The house is not unfamiliar to her, having spent some months on the charity of the local branch of the family on her initial arrival, before all were quietly agreed that perhaps it would be for the best if Philomene found herself somewhere she could live and work uninterrupted and sighs of relief were uttered all round. Servants, recognising that dread footstep, with its odd syncopated step-drag, suddenly find other places to be, and when the woman sweeps into the parlour, it is alone and unannounced.

If the limp weren’t enough to announce tacitly exactly who she is, perhaps the odd angle of her black breeches-clad legs, one straight ahead in its riding boot with the gleaming spurs, and the other unnaturally twisted and considerably shorter, this made up with a thicker sole on the other boot. She’s a tall woman, standing a good few inches above most, who seems to be made entirely of sharp angles. Her blonde hair is cropped short in a practical, military style, and it’s possible that her cheekbones and magnificent jawline were sculpted by the same tool. Eschewing the careful forethought of a tasteful gown this evening, she instead has a long black waistcoat over an ivory shirt and cravat, and over that a full skirted black jacket with wide turnbacks and a split back which imply it’s more for riding than walking.

As the light catches her clothing, it becomes apparent by the glossy sheen that delicate, intricate embroidery has been worked around every seam and buttonhole, only the shine contrasting with the matte finish of the wool material of waistcoat and jacket, vines, thistles, elegant leaf patterns, and, significantly, a broad d’Aiglemort eagle across her shoulderblades, wings outstretched. The only hint of colour she allows is a tiny red brooch in the shape of a bull, a nod at least to the family she married into.

The Vicomtesse Regent Aurore nó Bonnel de Chalasse sends her polite acceptance on elegant, heavy paper marked with her crest. She has been keeping rooms here with her young son and servants, taking no notice of the way many of the family would prefer her at rather more of a distance, given either her fame or infamy, depending on which singer one listens to.

She arrives exactly ten minutes past the hour, dressed in the most fashionably cut over gown of forest green with elaborate white and crimson embroidery, giving the impression of flowers growing amoung vines. The undergown is so dark a red as to be nearly black, perhaps a nod to her widowed state. Hers is a tall, erect figure, though not quite as tall as the forbidding Philomene, handsome rather than pretty, with the sort of face that tends to age well rather than look it’s best in the first blush of youth. Her hair is in coiled braids, with an equally fashionable matching headdress pinned neatly over them. Her nod to their house is in the colours of her dress, as there is no sign of a bull ornament anywhere about her.

There is that about her expression than might be red as arrogance, but on seeing her older kinswoman, her smile of greeting is genuine and warm, as is her tone, “Coz! How do you this evening?” She looks over their hostess with an intelligent, almost mischievous expression, “And you must be the heir to Brioude. How interesting it is to meet you.”

“My dear Vicomtesse de Guéret.”

Justine takes a step towards Philomène and dips into a graceful curtsey. Her blue-grey eyes shimmer with curiosity, and her smile is warm and hospitable. “I am glad to make your acquaintance. Shall we sit down for a moment?” She gestures towards the comfortable chairs not too far away from the hearth, where a fire has been lit to drive away the chill of the winter season. “How fortunate, that you could accept the invitation. I must admit, I have been curious to meet you.” Justine’s gaze brushes the older woman, a lady slightly older probably than her own mother. “I have arrived in this city only one or two weeks ago. And truth be told… I am not too acquainted with members of the Chalasse family — apart from my husband’s immediate Brioude kin, and the Ducal family, of course,” she is quick to explain, words that could sound haughty, but are brought forth with the charming ease of a young lady.

When Aurore arrives — fashionably late — she will find Philomène and Justine seated and in conversation. “Good eve, Lady Aurore.”, the latter greets with an amiable smile, as Justine gets to her feet just to perform another of her Courcel-trained courtly graceful curtseys. “You look lovely, that is a wonderful dress. I am happy to meet you at last. It is one of the things my father-in-law asked me to. To seek out family when in Marsilikos.” How ironic, that each of the present ladies is no Chalasse by blood, but rather connected to the family by marriage alone.

It’s really a good thing that Aurore arrives when she does, as beyond an initial correction - ‘It’s Lady Philomene, the Vicomtesse is my daughter’ - it’s really entirely Justine carrying the conversation. Considering Philomene’s reputation for acidity and cutting wit, it’s as though she’s not even in the room but just phoning in the necessary pleasantries, nodding as required, and occasionally busying herself with staring at and/or poking at the fire to encourage it to greater warmth.

Aurore’s arrival does at least prompt a small, relieved smile from the taller, older Chalasse-by-marriage. Not enough that she gets up - sitting down was chore enough, even if the impassive mask of neutrality was carefully fixed in place as she did it.

“Aurore is the best of the Chalasse lot,” she does insist, however, absently adjusting her cuffs as she looks her cousin over with approval. “Or at least of the set who aren’t in L’Agnace. I’m not sure I could name a half dozen of the rest of them I’d give the time of day to.” This, in the family house. “Do you think we could get some schnapps?”

Aurore makes a small gesture that somehow suggests she would never expect the Lady Philomene to stand on ceremony. Certainly not literally. There is a hint of the wolf in the Dowager’s smile as she studies the younger woman, “It is a pleasure to meet you, though I am not entirely sure your Father in Law would be best pleased by you keeping company with me. Still, it is a pleasure to meet a kinswoman, and having missed Longest night, it is rather nice to find cheerful company. How long do you expect to be staying?”

“Ah…” Justine nods her head, considering Philomène for a moment. “I didn’t know. A recent development? Forgive me, I may have been caught up too much with my own…” Her lips form a smile, “recent developments.” There is a pause, and then, “I suppose you must be glad for your daughter to take up your former duties.” It is a comment, uttered with a pleasant smile.

To Aurore, Justine responds, “The Comte de Brioude instructed me to meet with members of the Chalasse family. Neither did he tell me anyone in particular to seek out, nor anyone to avoid. Be it as it may, my husband, the heir, will benefit of me getting acquainted with any part of the family.” Her smile loses a few degrees in temperature. “I was sent ahead. Or rather, I chose to travel ahead. Evariste will join me soon. He said, it’d be a month, but I expect him to be even later. Late spring, maybe? Which may answer your question. I will enjoy my stay here and I won’t leave before he has come to Marsilikos and seen to his duties here.”

“To be fair, the Comte de Brioude probably had no idea we were here,” Philomene points out frankly, again trying to get the attention of a servant who is studiously ignoring her. “No doubt he meant you were to make the acquaintance of the rest of this insipid pile of simpering arseholes. How fucking hard is it to get a damn drink?” she adds, with growing irritation, snapping her fingers now.

Aurore’s own smile loses several degrees of warmth at the implication her recently widowed friend might be ‘glad’ to have lost her husband. “Ah, it is a beautiful city with many interesting entertainments and types of cuisine.” She gives a rather mannish bark of laughter at Philomene’s description of their mutual kinfolk by marriage. Her eyes narrow as she studies their hostess.

<FS3> Justine rolls Perception: Success. (6 2 2 4 2 3 7)
<FS3> Justine rolls Composure: Success. (3 3 2 1 2 1 7 5)

“Ah, forgive me.” Justine bites her lip, a momentary lapse in composure when she realizes her mistake. “We may have a bit of uisghe,” an inquiring glance towards the servant and a particular cabinet. “Would that be convenient for you?” As belatedly, some implications sink in and she lowers her gaze. “My condolences, Lady Philomène.” As the black of the dowager vicomtesse’s garb suggests she must be in mourning.

The choice of language, of course, comes unexpectedly, and Justine appears shocked for a moment, as becomes apparent in the expression of her slightly dimming smile. Aurore’s statement provides most welcome distraction, and so Justine looks up, meeting that narrowing gaze of the regent vicomtesse of Ferrand. “Entertainments, yes. I heard as much. Are there any particular entertainments and sights that you can recommend, Lady Aurore?”

Philomene gives a short nod of acknowledgement rather than risk any actual words (as, let’s face it, they’d probably all be four letter ones anyway until she has a drink inside her). Again she leans forward to poke at the fire irritably, shifting a log this way then that until she’s quite satisfied that it’s giving out all the heat it’s likely to. Only once she has a glass in her hand and has managed half the contents does she add to the conversation.

“I’d get out of the city,” she suggests, tone somewhat more subdued now. “There’s a waterfall not far out that’s worth a ride to. Or plenty of fields and tracks. You do ride?”

Aurore leaves the strong drink to her older kinswoman, under the belief the amount maybe limited and Philomene may need rather more of it before the meal’s end. Her tone is terribly, terribly polite as she addresses the younger woman. Her accent is very carefully cultivated upper nobility of L’Agnace, though that bit of carefulness suggests her original accent is likely something different. “It all rather depends on what sort of amusements you enjoy, Lady Justine.”

Her posture relaxes a little, as soon as Justine notices how Philomène’s irritation fades. Where the Camaeline born Chalasse has been offered uisghe, the Namarre based lady has requested a glass of red wine for herself (and for Aurore as well, should the lady feel inclined). “A waterfall? That sounds delightful,” Justine replies to Philomène’s remark. “I do ride, yes. I left my Flocon de Neige at Brioude, though. Are there any stables around where I could find a horse to rent?” There is another pause. “I arrived here by carriage,” Justine adds then, lowering her gaze again. “As at the time of my departure, taking Flocon along was not an immediate concern. I could send for her though, and have her brought here.”

Towards Aurore, Justine turns then, considering the lady’s words for a moment, before giving a reply. “I am quite interested in the arts, in painting and sketching especially. I also have paid the local Night Court a visit, and found it to be quite charming.”, the blonde lady remarks with a smile, with an accent that is definitely Namarrese and shows only a faint hint of l’Agnacite lilt.

Philomene’s eyes widen at the unthinkable hardship of having to leave behind one’s horse, and the wary eyeing of this new cousin turns to something of more genuine sympathy. “You can pluck my reins from my cold, dead hands,” she insists, although it’s more a grumble than with any real heat to it. “Of course we’ll find you a suitable horse until you can get your Flocon here. Whatever your idiot husband was thinking, when he arrives I’ll give him a piece of my damn mind,” she insists, knocking back the other half of her uisghe and holding up the glass with a little shake for more.

“Really, if you’ve no horse, you’ve no freedom at all, and anyone who wants to debate with me the merits of a Chalasse woman’s freedom is very welcome to argue it with the point of my sword.” She snorts. “Sure, you can pay the Night Court whatever it takes to have you believe you have comfort and safety and all that rot, but if you can’t even make up your own mind to ride out of the city and avoid people, then what’s the point? No offence, Aurore,” she adds belatedly, rather too late to avoid making her opinions on courtesans in general known. Really, it’s a wonder she’s not invited to every social event in the city, isn’t it? Oh no, wait, that other thing.

Aurore politely accepts the offer of wine, so very, very correct. She has a sip, taking her time, like a connoisseur, “Ah. I fear I’m fonder of dancing, gaming, and music. I don’t know much about painting or which local artists are good.”

She smiles fondly at her friend, “I suspect anyone who tried to snatch your reigns would lose a hand and rightly so.” She confides to their younger kinswoman, Lady Philomene is like a centaur, a truly fine rider. I fear I haven’t her stamina.” She shakes her head amused, “No offense taken at all, though certainly there are far worse things one can do with one’s talents and education. I’ve seen many a young lordling with every advantage without the sense of a sheep, and that’s a very low bar indead.” Sip. “Oh, there are some silly in young chits in the houses, but to find one’s way out of them requires more wit than is often credited.”

Sip. “In truth, I was thinking I really ought to buy a riding horse for myself and a good pony for the Vicomte. If you both intend to visit a horse faire, perhaps we could make an outing of it, though I fear the weather’s a bit chilly and uncertain now.”

“What my husband must have been thinking…” Justine repeats those words in a soft thoughtful echo of Philomène’s statement, “he was not actively involved in the decision to come here.” There is a flicker in those blue-grey eyes of hers, and again, more thoughts are held back, before they could get spilled before the other two ladies, strangers, as they are.

A nod is given towards the servant, urging him to give Philomène the requested refill, before any further delays might threaten to increase her irritation.

“I have been taught that avoiding people is not an option,” Justine Chalasse de la Courcel informs the two ladies after a moment of regathering her composure. And there, a smile manages to sneak back onto her features. “I do enjoy riding out. But I like to do so in company. Perhaps you would be agreeable to joining me. You both.” At which she looks towards Aurore, including her into that particular thought. “Either that, or a horse faire, as you say.”

“Avoiding people is not an option, and yet…” Philomene can’t help but needle, looking as innocent as she ever manages as she looks around the room, one way then the other, as though searching for something or someone. She’s found a weakness, and it’s like a loose thread. She has to just… tug at it. She shrugs, putting on her best bemused face, before replacing it with a benign smile. “We definitely need to find you a horse. A good one. And one for you and a pony for Thierry,” she adds, including her favourite cousin in the offer. “And then next time you’re definitely not avoiding people, we can ride out and definitely not avoid people together.”

“Well then, that sounds like a fine plan indeed.” Aurore sips, watching their younger kinswoman over the rim of her glass, measuring, “I take it it was your father in law’s idea you come to Marsilikos ahead of your husband?”

<FS3> Justine rolls Composure: Good Success. (4 6 6 7 2 7 6 7)

That pointed glance of Philomène about the suite along with her comment has Justine sit up straighter in her seat. “I assure you, I am quite sociable,” the blonde lady points out gently, with a fine smile blossoming on her features.

“It was my own idea, but one that the Comte de Brioude seconded when I brought up the suggestion. One hears wondrous things about Eisande, and Marsilikos in particular. My husband is currently detained with some matters that don’t require my presence, so me travelling ahead won’t pose any inconvenience of note,” Justine explains then, shifting her gaze towards Aurore. “But my father-in-law asked me to reach out to family, as I would be spending time here, after all.”

“Personally I’m here to get away from family,” Philomene admits candidly, although she does allow herself a wry smirk. “It’s altogether far easier for the new Vicomtesse to take over her duties without me hovering around. Makes it clear to the tenants who they go to if I’m in another city entirely, doesn’t it?”

She takes another, more moderate, sip from her glass, settling back in her seat quite comfortably now, the very model of not giving a shit. “The city’s not a bad one. The fish is good, the riding is half decent, and if you’re lucky you can ride out on the quieter roads and get accosted by bandits, which is enough to get the blood flowing. Theirs, I hasten to add, not mine.”

Aurore dips her head in acknowledgement of justine’s words. She gives Philomene a crooked smile, “It is important to have amusements to suit one’s tastes.” Sip. “I’m here to try to secure more markets for our saucisson, which given this is a major port is a fine place to find buyers interested in seasoned cured meats, broaden my son’s experience of the world and education, and because entertainments are more varied in a city this large.”

“Elua forbid.” Justine’s eyes widen at the bold remark of Philomène about encountering bandits in the woods. “I’m by far not as brave as you, Lady Philomène, nor would my husband and my father-in-law forgive me, if I put myself at such a risk. I think I will not dare to ride out without the Chalasse guards, the Comte has sent along with me.” Her gaze flickers just a little as she gives the Dowager Vicomtesse de Guéret an assessing glance, “You, my lady, must surely know how to defend herself.” And there, she empties the goblet and regards Aurore with a smile. “I would like to make your son, Lady Aurore. How old is he, if I may ask?” Sometimes it helps to turn the conversation towards lighter topics; it is an art and a necessity, the Courcel born lady has been brought up to master.

“Stupid,” Philomene corrects. “You mean, of course, that you’re not as stupid as me.” She gives a rather pleased smile as she sips again from her drink. “But yes, how old is he, Aurore, if we’re to keep an eye out for a good pony for the lad? I’ll show him how to ride, if you like, between boring him to death with discussion of the logistics of shipping pigs and slaughtering them.”

Aurore gives Justine a genuine smile, “My Thierry just turned eight. I would love for you to meet him. He’s had no chance to meet other branches of his family and a broader acquaintance would be good for him, I think.” Sip, “He’s had basic lessons in riding and is taking sword work and tactics seriously, or as seriously as one can take anything at that age, but he really out to have more practice ahorse and I fear Ii’ve been rather neglecting that part of his education. Lessons from a rider of your skill would be wonderful, Philomene, and I suspect he’d find you very interesting. He takes his future responsibilities seriously, but he is still a young boy and I think your martial experience will make you a figure out of story to him a bit until you are more acquainted. I never knew his father in his prime, of course, but I think my son got my brains and his father’s love of sword, horse, and the mountains of his home.” Whatever else might be said of her, her deep love and pride at her son’s accomplishments is absolutely genuine. Her voice takes on an uncharacteristic warmth when she speaks of him.

She eyes Philomene and says firmly, “No one who knows you would call you that, Coz, and not just because you’d not take insult lightly. You were a good steward for land and fortune and they were all lucky to have you hand on the reins where needed. A fool doesn’t protect a House’s reputation and build its health up the way you have. That? That’s a particular intelligence, energy, and skill. We all have talents nature gave us and those who are clever hone and nurture the talents they have into something more. I have… had occasion to wish I had better means of defending myself, though my talents lie elsewhere. I am not fond of having to rely on others where I am best used to relying on myself. Still, we all manage each in our own way.”

“Certainly, I did not mean that,” Justine contradicts, amiably and with that touch of astonishment in her tone that gives away she is indeed baffled at Philomène’s response. “I am just speaking for myself, that I wouldn’t dare to…” Words trail off as the topic shifts, and it becomes clear that the blonde lady feels more comfortable with the course of the conversation, even if the reality of a child must be something she cannot have much experience with.

“I am quite sure, that seeing your son acquire all these skills must be quite exciting,” Justine remarks, tilting her head a little to the side as she looks towards Aurore. “As for my personal defense… I feel you are right. We have guards to deal with those challenges.”

Philomene holds up a hand, sinking back in her seat to cradle her drink in the other. “I jest, of course. I understand that each of us three has grown up under strikingly different circumstances, and with a very different culture. Defending oneself and one’s lands is drilled into us from birth, but we lack a little when it comes to… more courtly pursuits?”

She lifts her glass and one elegant brow. “I hope, Lady Justine, that despite our differences, or perhaps because of them, I might learn from you while you’re here.”

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