(1312-01-18) Some Period of Punishment
Summary: Philomène returns from L’Agnace carrying another ghost on her shoulder. Who else to talk over her worries with but an expert in punishment—?
RL Date: 18/01/2020
Related: Previous scenes with these characters; also, How To Get Away With Murder. And possibly Awaiting Eternal Grace.
raphael philomene 

La Rose Sauvage — Night Court

A huge hearth of black marble, with gargoyles of stone adorning the mantlepiece, governs the foyer of the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, which emanates a certain dark air, the interior design of the more heavy sort, that could easily be encountered in a gentleman's club, especially with the dark cherry wood wainscoting used on the walls. Dark leather upholstery is predominant in the furniture of chaise longues, couches and long-backed chairs that are arranged in a half-circle, leaving space in the center for courtesans (or patrons) to kneel for an inspection. Three tall windows with circular stained-glass insets are framed by dark red curtains of heavy brocade, a few golden threads worked into the fabric catching occasionally the light of flickering oil lamps at the walls. The lamps light a pair of portrait paintings, of the two founders of the salon, Edouard Shahrizai and his cousin Annabelle no Mandrake, resplendent in their dark Kusheline appeal; and a cabinet in a corner, holding a number of quality wines and a flagon of uisghe.

The foyer has a high ceiling, and a gallery beyond a balustrade of dark teak wood, carved in the shapes of gargoyles. Sometimes a few veiled creatures can be spotted up there, stealing glances at what is going on below; from the gallery, which can be reached by ascending some winding stairs at the back of the foyer. Beside the stairs leading up is a hallway on ground level, leading further into the building to where the offices of the leader of the salon and his two Seconds can be found, along with the two wings of private quarters for roses of Mandrake and Valerian canon.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a winter morning. The weather is cold and snowing.

The nights are long…but not as long as they recently were. The sun is up, though it has not been for very long. A thin, grave-looking nobleman is just slipping out of the salon, the pink mark of a farewell slap still fading on his cheek. Raphael is not asleep, but it is unclear whether he is up early, or still up. He happens to be standing in the parlor, coiling a long rope around palm and elbow.

Philomène has the presence of mind to hold the door for the exiting nobleman, but he is then completely forgotten as she limps into the salon, glittering eyes taking in the surroundings as though getting back in touch with an old friend. Dressed head to toe in formal black, only the hint of white at her collar where her shirt creeps out from a black cravat, she's somehow more subdued than her usual comfortable riding jacket and bold assumptions about, well, everything. The matte material reflects intricate embroidery in a shiny black thread when the light catches it - all thistles, and leaves, and vines, and a broad d'Aiglemort eagle across the shoulderblades with wings outstretched. It's beautiful, delicate work but not even the spectacle of her best duds is enough to disguise how thin the Chalasse looks. Not just physically, but the usual life and belligerence even seems to be missing, and without that who even is she?

Raphael looks up to see the Vicomtesse, on whom he has not laid eyes for some time. His eyebrows lift, and his eyes do linger on her. Though his expression remains neutral, he is taking in every detail of her appearance. "Vicomtesse," he says. "I see you have returned to us. Welcome back to Marsilikos."

"Your joy is unending, yes," Philomène intones drily as she limps further in and moves towards the fire rather than immediately heading on through to the gardens as has been her previous habit. "And I'm fairly certain I'm not a Vicomtesse any longer. Are you just heading off, or could you stand to walk with me this morning, Raphael? I'm out of touch. What news is there?"

"Is joy what you've come here for?" Raphael asks rhetorically. He hands off the coiled rope to a novice who runs off to hang it wherever it belongs. Raphael meanwhile walks toward the fire with Philomène. His shirt is open at the front, so perhaps he will not mind being warmed by the flames. "I would be glad to walk with you."

Philomène extends her hands, ungloved despite the formality of the rest of her clothes, towards the fireplace, rubbing the fingers together to encourage some sort of warmth. "Only the joy," she responds tiredly, "of catching up with a friend whose company I've missed. I thought perhaps we might walk, you can tell me about your ladyfriend and how your campaign goes, I can say something guaranteed to enrage you and we can sling insults at each other until eventually one or other of us backs down and mumbles some kind of apology. Or we storm off until next time. Either way."

"That sounds like an invigorating start to the day," Raphael replies dryly. "I accept your invitation. Do you want a cup of tea to warm you before we step out? Or do you prefer to go directly?"

"I'd kill for a cup of tea," Philomène admits, exhaling in a long breath and running her hand through her hair. The hand pauses for a split second, then her jaw sets and she straightens. "How's things? Business good? Good Longest Night? Novices not giving you too much grief?"

"Very good," Raphael replies, a two-fingered gesture sending another novice off to the kitchen. Since she is going to have tea, he sits down in an armchair near the seat she's selected. "The novices are particularly troublesome on Longest Night, but things are rather calm now. It is a slower season than most, this time of year, but picking up again already."

Philomène waits for the novice to disappear before she eases herself, wincing, into her chosen seat. Yet another sign that she's not herself. "You'll allow me to make a small donation, then," she insists rather than asks. "As continued thanks for being permitted to use your gardens. Although I'm tempted to insist on a full assignation from one of your people," she adds with a smirk. "If only for company and a cup of tea on demand."

"Yes," Raphael accepts without demurring. "Of course, you may take out a contract if you wish. A White Rose might serve you well with company and tea." Before long, the novice emerges with a tray and two cups of tea. She serves kneeling, with eyes downcast. Raphael sees the tray placed onto a table and dismisses the novice.

Philomène claims a cup of tea for herself without thinking or offering to pour for Raphael. It's not an active snub, just that she's not really paying attention beyond going through the motions. "I think," she eventually decides, glancing up at him, "that would probably be unsatisfactory all round. I'll stick to making a donation. You know they unsettle me."

Raphael does not seem offended. Even a Thorn is still a courtesan, and must from time to time serve as well as be served. He pours his own tea. "I do know," he says. "But if you ever were to change your mind, I would make arrangements for you." He probably things that's polite. He sits back with his tea. "But for the morning you shall have my own company."

"And you'll throw things at me if I'm being a tit, and might not be wholly offended when I call you out for the same," Philomène allows, the first ghost of a smile just briefly touching her lips before she lifts the tea to them for a sip and to mask any further expression. "You were going to tell me how you were getting on with your lady friend?"

"We've grown a great deal closer," Raphael replies, without keeping her in suspense. "I believe it was after I last talked to you that her consort and I had a discussion. We have all decided to consent to a bit of sharing."

That at least prompts a real smile, as well as a friendly punch to the arm. "About fucking time," Philomène insists smugly. "I couldn't be more pleased for you, I really couldn't. It's enough to give a cynical old woman some sort of hope for the future of humanity, at least."

Raphael looks for just a moment as though he might say something to complicate this celebratory response, but then he smiles and sips his tea. "We have been able to spend a good deal of time together," he says.

"And she's still not sick of you?" Philomène quips, then lifts her tea for a long slurp of it, leaning back in her seat. "Whatever you're doing must be right."

"She has the benefit of her consort when I am tiresome," Raphael returns with a smile, drinking another mouthful of tea. "But yes, we are…compatible in many ways. She sparks a great deal of creativity in me."

"I'd say that explains why I haven't seen you around, but I think that's my fault rather than yours," Philomène admits more quietly. "I've left Guillaume looking after Hirondelle, so at least I know she's getting out and about and getting some attention. I'm hoping that as the days get longer so I'll have more incentive to get out and about."

Raphael drinks from his tea to give Philomène space to speak as much as she wishes to about that subject. "I'm sure that will be true," he says softly. "And should I ask how you feel, or would you rather I didn't?"

Philomène shoots Raphael a wary look. "You know as well as I do that I had all my feelings shot off in the war," she insists, thumb absently tapping on the rim of her teacup. "The only ones left are anger and contempt." She exhales, shaking her head. "No, that's not fair. But… no, I don't think so. Don't ask. Not yet, anyway. Because frankly I don't know. Anger would be a lot better, I think. I should find somebody being a prat and get into a fight."

Raphael nods once at this, as if the answer did not particularly surprise him. How could it? He calmly sips his tea. "I suppose bandits are tremendously lucky they did not accost you on your travel back."

"It's not like it was just Aurore and me, riding alone down a dangerous track in the deepest darkest forest," Philomène points out drily. "We were on main roads, with a full detachment of Chalasse guards. I know bandits are stupid, but are they that stupid? Perhaps I should go and loiter on a quieter road tonight, maybe shouting about how I can't move very fast because of the huge bags of money I'm carrying, and I'm old and feeble anyway. You think it'd work?"

"I wouldn't recommend it," Raphael returns. "But I have never known you to be excessively concerned about the judgments of others, either." He drinks from his tea again. "You look thin," he says bluntly. "I'm going to send you something good to eat."

"You wouldn't recommend it because it might work or because it might not?" Philomène queries, then lifts her tea to her lips to sip. She taps it twice with the back of one fingernail. "I have tea, and I have wine and beer at home. I've little appetite at the moment, not even for your woman's amazing pies." There's a pause, then she lowers her voice even further. For a woman who doesn't want to talk about it, she does seem to be talking a lot. "I keep seeing his face, as he was at the end. Not how he used to be. I can't force the old him to show in my memory… I try and it turns into that stare. Accusing. I don't much care for it."

"Because neither way will be exactly what you want, I think," Raphael answers, shrugging. Questions of food are silenced when she chooses to share more of her feelings. He clenches his jaw to listen to it, but nods. "I understand," he says. "The mind is…frustratingly unruly in moments like this."

"Either way is better than nothing," Philomène argues, setting her tea down and instead tapping her own chest. "Right now there is just nothing there. I ought to be grieving, wailing, gnashing my teeth and so forth. But all I've got is a big bunch of nothing, and this stubborn old bastard glaring back at me when I close my eyes."

"That doesn't sound exactly like nothing," Raphael points out. "Are you feeling any guilt?" His tone is neutral and doesn't imply he thinks she should or should not be.

"I did everything right," Philomène shoots back, a sudden flash of the old fury showing in her eyes. "I've no reason, no damn reason at all to feel guilty. Not doing it would be a reason to feel guilty."

"Yes," Raphael agrees softly, briefly dropping his gaze. "But the feeling of guilt is not always so reasonable as that. In my experience. Which is admittedly a different case from your own." He sips his tea.

Sensible move, Raphael. Don't meet the gaze of the predatory raging Philo in case she sees it as a threat and attacks. "This is why I don't have feelings," she snarls back at him, before taking a breath, exhaling, and glancing around the salon. "Come on, this is hardly the place. Are we going to walk or what?" Apparently she is, as she pulls herself to her feet with that odd mask of expressionlessness. "I need to check on your plants, anyway."

"Certainly," Raphael says, setting down his cup and standing. The novices will surely clear it away the moment they exit. He crosses to the garden door and opens it, gesturing through. He looks down to close the front of his shirt, as it is cold this winter morning.

Cold enough that Philomène tugs the collar of her jacket up around her ears and shrugs down into it as she trudges in that odd step-swing limp along what has become her customary path to walk. She just expects Raphael to follow, not glancing back until they're a fair way along the path. "What do you think happens when you die?" she finally asks, all the fire gone from her voice now. "Not what the priests argue among themselves. What do you really think?"

Raphael makes a last gesture to the novice, then steps out with Philomène. He's quiet awhile after she asks the question, looking to the plants and the path. At last he says, "I believe it depends upon how you lived your life, and perhaps which Companions' example you most followed," he says. "But I hope it means being reunited with those you loved, in some sense if not in the typical human sense." He looks Philomène's way. "What do you believe?"

Philomène considers the question as she stoops to check on the cloths wrapped around her botanical gift to the salon to keep off the frost. "I believe," she responds ponderously, "that every one of us is imperfect, and when we die we will be judged and found wanting. Every one of us is damned to some extent, and we'll all get ours in turn. There's no escaping it. But to die for a reason, for a cause, in defence of your family or your country means that Camael will come and show you the way out to Terre d'Ange above sooner rather than later. To die loving another, then Naamah will find you. And so on. Who'll come for Louis-Claude?"

A novice comes up the path to deliver a cloak to Raphael. He takes the cloak and sends the novice back with a gesture, then takes the time to put it on before he answers. "What makes you believe in so much damnation?" Raphael asks Philomène at last. "What makes you believe we are called to be perfect if none of us can be?"

"There are consequences to every action," Philomène decides, lips pursing and her breath steaming in the cold. "For every time we screw up, and you can be sure we screw up a whole lot. If there weren't consequences, we might as well waste our lives in indolence or cruelty or worse. If we're not called on to be better people, why do we even live at all?"

"So you see all consequences as negative?" Raphael wants to know. "And punishment is the only way to call people to good?" He looks off across the withered garden. "I'm not sure I can agree. I think perhaps we could be called on to be good without being perfect. If all ends in damnation, it is easy to imagine people giving up altogether. Why try if you are going to fall short no matter what?" he returns for her question.

"Damnation is not eternal," Philomène is quick to correct, brows drawing. "It's… a holding tank, if you like. You're there until the companions see fit to come and get you. You believe there's no judgement? That everyone, no matter how much of an arsehole they were when they were alive, gets to hang out with the people they loved, free from worry and pain and stupid bloody bodies?"

"I frankly don't know," Raphael replies. "Revenge is not a concept I have found great appeal in, but I have never been a soldier. I have only been a courtesan and a shop keeper. I think a soldier is more likely to directly encounter those acts that make us wish for the possibility of divine punishment."

Philomène smirks. "I'd argue with a priest, but their idea of a debate is to continually repeat whatever they were told and tell you thinking for yourself is heresy. I thought, though, that with your canon at least you'd understand divine punishment as necessary."

Raphael looks amused at that last comment. "I cannot imagine that you would want your version of the afterlife to look like the type of punishment I dispense. I think it would please the victims far too much for your tastes."

"For my tastes? Raphael, I don't for one moment believe that damnation to be the same for everyone," Philomène actually laughs. "A tailored service. Whips and so forth are hardly a punishment to your patrons, no, but then there are some people that would find the idea of spending all day fighting to be the worst thing they can imagine. Maybe," she reasons, "the companions lead us to the particular form of damnation most pleasing to us?"

"You've given a great deal of thought to this," Raphael observes. "But surely you would not want damnation to be pleasing?" He looks curiously at Philomène. "I suppose, as a servant of Naamah, I believe in love sitting at the center of Elua's teachings." He shrugs his shoulders under the cloak. "Perhaps there is some period of punishment, as you say. But even you believe it is not permanent. If no one else will come for your Louis-Claude, then surely Elua will."

Philomène nods slowly to this, having come to much the same conclusion even before she went away. "Maybe instead of coming by with a pie for me, then, you might take it to Elua's temple and offer it and a little prayer for Louis-Claude on my behalf? Another voice for him might just help remind Elua that he's there, waiting, and he doesn't deserve to be there forever."

Raphael nods immediately at that request. "I'll make an offering," he says solemnly. "And I'll raise a prayer. He won't be forgotten. And Elua will have love to give. Assuredly."

"And then maybe he'll stop looking at me like that," Philomène adds, pressing her lips together. "It was necessary. Louis-Claude might understand that when Elua has him."

Raphael nods again, more gently. "If it helps at all," he says, and then pauses to acknowledge, "And I know that when people start sentences that way, what they say next is often tremendously unhelpful, but… I felt a tremendous amount of guilt myself, making the opposite choice. It is…perhaps, just a part of it."

Philomène glances cautiously around the gardens in case of casual observers, then insinuates one arm beneath Raphael's cloak, pulling him into an awkward but thankfully brief side-hug before releasing him. "Thank you," she mumbles, clearly embarrassed, annoyed and touched in equal measure.

Raphael is warm, and he smells of leather and sawdust. He returns the brief hug without holding Philomène any longer than she seems to want. "You will… I believe you will feel the tide go out, in time. When it comes to the feelings you have now."

"I don't have feelings," Philomène denies again, although there's a wry smile somewhere tugging at her lips. "Had them all shot off in the war, remember? I'm going to go and replace them with a beer or two, then take Hirondelle out for a long overdue gallop. And you should probably get some sleep, and stop letting maudlin old women keep you up."

"I remember," Raphael replies. "But truly. You're welcome to come here and not have feelings near me anytime you'd like, so long as I am not otherwise occupied at my work. I…didn't have people close enough to me when I had my toughest time."

"I'll come by and check on the plants at least," Philomène allows, meeting his eye for a moment. "They can be delicate in a winter like this.

"I hope you will," Raphael says, returning that gaze. "We'll need your expertise."

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