(1312-01-21) The Lady With the Split Lip
Summary: A new arrival to Marsilikos goes to take a look at the city's seedier parts and finds someone to introduce him to how stuff works.
RL Date: January 21, 2020
Related: None
philomene andrei 

The Kraken's Den

A tall-tottering inn with a variety of rooms to let on the upper floors, from three fine suites just above the main floor to a collection of ramshackle one-cot rooms that sway with the harder gusts of wind in off of the sea in the upper levels. It has seen its share of fires and renovations, and every time it falls in ashes it seems to rise higher in the aftermath. Outside, proudly burnt-carved signage displays a huge black-tentacled kraken winding its limbs about in repetitive knotwork patterns. It hangs from a post on four links of bronze chain, and creaks when the wind hits it.

The main floor is part restaurant, part lobby, with a warm hearth next to a counter at which guests in the rooms above can pay their bills or ask after vacancies, many fine chairs and some a little less fine to fill out the number. Small tables amid all the seating provide room just enough to have a tea or a beverage and maybe play a game of cards with your mates. A low bannister-fence separates off the dining area from the lobby, to keep some semblance of order among the diners and to keep out the riff-raff.

Riff-raff, of course, is welcome to make its way downstairs, or else to descend into the alleyway behind the tavern and find the rear entrance into the half-basement, where a bar slings some of the hardest-scorching liquor known in Port Marsilikos, and attracts some of the roughest elements of society. It's dimly lit, with rough stonework walls and flooring and sturdy oaken furniture which must have been built in order to best resist any effort to shatter said furniture over someone's head. Fights are the nightly norm here, black eyes and sopping intoxication, and for those without the coin to attract the contract of a proper courtesan, some affable ladies are usually present in the evenings in case any gentleman wants to buy one a drink.

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

By the time the evening comes round in this part of town, most of the customers who one might consider to be 'respectable' or 'upstanding' or 'financially solvent' or 'sane' have elected quite wisely to choose to be elsewhere. Of course it's debatable whether one would consider Philomene de Chalasse to be any of the above, but she still stands out like a sore thumb among the sailors and other rabble who are still milling about, through the quality of her understated clothing, the set of her magnificent jaw, and the fact that where there are a dozen black eyes to be seen, tables upended and the other ephemera to indicate a recent fight, she's sporting only a minor split lip and is rather casually observing the wreckage from an upright table to one side and sipping from a short glass of something mostly transparent.

The door to the taproom opens every so often to admit one or more people looking for seedy entertainment, reasonably priced affection, cheap booze, or a combination thereof; and on one occasion, a tall, fair-haired man who stands out from the rest mostly because he's obviously not a local. A fellow in his late twenties, early thirties, the cut of his upper middle class attire screams -foreigner- (or possibly, 'I mugged a foreigner'); his coat is a deep midnight blue but while he's not poorly dressed at all for a merchant or merchant's clerk, he's very obviously not from around here.

He looks around himself with an interested expression, ignoring the glares of a few sailors at a table just inside the door, taking in the room and the people inhabiting it. Then he sidesteps a wet spot on the floor, makes his way to the counter to pick up a glass of house red (brave fellow!) and looks around for somewhere to sit that isn't likely to explode in a cornucupia of fists and violence any moment. The foreigner eventually ends up wandering towards the woman with the split lip; possibly an error of judgement on his behalf.

It might not be the worst judgement in the world, to be fair. The woman takes her time to eye him up and down, for all the world like a drill sergeant on a parade square, ready to pick fault at the most minor of details, then takes up her glass for another sip. One tall-booted foot comes up from the floor, shoving out the chair opposite her - also miraculously upright - and she lifts her chin to the foreigner. "Lost, monsieur?" Philomene queries after a moment, raising one eyebrow in what might be amusement.

"Lost would imply I know where I ought to be going," the man replies with a small smile and an accent that's definitely not from around here. It's not pronounced enough to be annoying but he is very obviously not a native speaker. He settles on the chair and places his glass on the table. "I think 'taking in the sights' might be a more accurate description — and I'll be glad to join you here, madame. This place certainly seems… colourful."

"Where most of those colours are sanguine or vomit," Philomene agrees cordially, rocking back on two legs of her chair. "Let me guess, it's your first time visiting Marsilikos and you fell into the nearest pub from your… ship? I'm going to say ship, I don't think you came out here by carriage, and by the accent I'm going to say… Illyria?" She pauses for another sip from her drink, thumb absently tapping the rim as she lowers it and fixes him with a frank blue-grey gaze. "And you're clearly no sailor, which means you're here to sell something. Yours or somebody else's. What is it? Cheese? Olives? That foul liquor that turns cloudy with water?"

The fair-haired man offers a small, crooked smile at the analysis, seemingly amused by it. "You're quite right, madame — at least about this being my first visit. I did arrive by carriage, though, from the Chowat. So, not too far off, I'd say." He sips his wine and winces slightly at the taste; it's clearly not what he had hoped for. "I'll keep an eye out for trade opportunities if I run across them but my true purpose in coming to Marsilikos is actually of a somewhat more personal nature: I am told that this city is home to quite skilled healers, and I was somewhat hoping to acquaint myself with their services." He inclines his head politely. "Andrei Anghelescu, at your service. May I have the honour of knowing with whom I am speaking?"

Philomène half smiles. "This city is home to very skilled healers," she corrects him absently. "You might follow this trail of drunken idiots to the Temple of Eisheth when they all fall out of here to have their bones and bleeds seen to. I can't imagine you'll be lost much longer with that trail to follow." She sets down her drink and extends her hand, not exactly for a shake, nor palm downwards as one might expect of a lady, but what is the traditional soldier's grip, clasping wrists and forearms. "Philomene d'Aiglemort de Chalasse. The old bat with the fighting problem."

Anghelescu's grip in turn is firm and, in spite of his dressing like a merchant or a merchant's clerk, he returns it properly as a soldier would, belying his soft appearance. "And is that the kind of fighting problem that comes with starting fights at random, or with losing them?" he inquires, offering another small, amused smile. "I'll admit that I am not familiar with your religious beliefs at all — but this temple is open even to heathens, then?"

Philomène's smile widens a little in what might even be approval, unlikely as that seems. "The kind of problem that comes with not enough fights to get into any more, much as these fine gentlemen do tend to oblige me when I drop in here." She thumps forward on her chair, settling all four legs back on what is to all intents and purposes solid, if vomit and sawdust strewn, ground. "Are you here for a priest or a healer, though? Both work from that temple, or at least the infirmary there. Priests… well, they'll drone on whatever their flavour of the day is and denounce you wholly for being a dirty heathen, I'm sure, all the while trying to convince you to the d'Angeline way. The healers are more practical. Fix the body first, the soul can wait its turn."

"I'm fairly certain I left my soul under a rock in Skaldia somewhere," Anghelescu observes. "I should probably speak with a healer about the body rather than ask some priest to go off and look for it." He studies the older woman with interested blue eyes; the split lip is obvious but her posture and the way she sits and speaks speak of confidence and a willingness to face opposition head on; qualities which he is not accustomed to in women. "In truth, I'm not even certain what the d'Angeline way -is-. Something something you're all descended from the gods something courtesans? We don't really get much information where I'm from on such matters — barring the obvious, we obviously get stories about your debauchery and decadence, but that goes for -anywhere-, I suspect."

"Any rock in particular?" Philomene queries, tilting her head a little so the flickering lamplight highlights the exquisite bone structure of her cheeks. And, naturally, that hint of dried blood on her lower lip. "Although I imagine you'd have been there well after my time. I'd have been admiring fields of wheat when you were on fields of battle." She leans forward on an elbow, casually taking up her glass to finish whatever potent drink was in it, and lifting it almost without thinking to tacitly order another. "You'd be better talking to a priest if you want the official line on it. Short version, when Elua got kicked out of everywhere else, he settled here with his angelic companions. Children were had, we are the result. And Elua's got one golden rule. Even before 'don't be a dick', which strikes me as an oversight, but that's religion for you. And that rule is 'love as thou wilt'. Simple. No rules beyond willingness. You want to get your rocks off by hanging naked in a bowl of custard while midgets thrash you with feather dusters, cool, you crack on, sunshine." She shrugs. "We just have an entire profession dedicated to fulfilling that concept. Love as thou wilt."

"I tend to prefer steak sauce to custard, but good to know, indeed." Anghelescu keeps a perfectly straight face. Then he sips his wine before noting, "I'm generally not in the habit of forcing women — or for that matter, men, boys, or piglets. Don't imagine I'll burn my hands on that one. I'm not really a religous man to any great extent either, but I imagine I can sit through a lecture if that's considered the norm for getting to speak with healers. When in Marsilikos do as the Marsili—Marsilikans? Anyhow, no — no rock in particular. Fought in a pretty messy little war some years back, ruined my health and probably lost most of my faith in humanity while I was there."

"Can't say I blame you," Philomene admits frankly. "Most of humanity can shrivel away in a ditch and the world wouldn't be a worse place for it. Too many soft bastards who smile prettily, and dance, and show off their beautiful gowns, and fuck, and do shit all else. Fuck, I'm maudlin today. You want a real drink, or are you going to keep drinking that all night?"

"Will a so-called real drink require me to convince somebody to let me sleep under a table, or will I be able to walk home in an at least somewhat upright fashion after? If the latter is the case, I'll take it — I was not quite certain what to order, and house wine always seems like a safe, if boring bet." Anghelescu grins slighty; for a soft looking, monocle wearing merchant he's at least not wearing a beautiful gown (although with some good corsetry, he's slender enough that trying one on might not even be a complete disaster) and he's certainly not dancing. "Not an admirer of the upper crust, I take it?"

"Not an admirer of the idle," Philomene corrects, eyes briefly flickering with amusement. "And as to whether you can walk home… that would definitely depend on where you're staying. The wine here is shit. If you want good wine, there's a place further into town called the Wine Cellar. Good selection. Much better clientele. Dull as ditchwater."

"Better clientele may not prove very interesting clientele indeed," Anghelescu notes, steepling slender, gloved fingers under his chin. "I want to get to know this city while I am here. I'm not convinced that one gets the best look at the true nature of things by studying the people who lack little; it's usually the have-nots who are more, shall we say, open about the true nature of matters? I've taken a room at somewhere called the… Dancing Dolphin? Leaping Fish? Something, just up the road."

I think we can probably roll you home, then," Philomene decides, turning to the solidly built server who weaves her way through the remains of the earlier fight to deliver another glass of schnapps to the older Camaeline. A few quick words, and the server disappears to fetch another. It might be noted that money does not change hands. "Look, it's a good city, on the whole. It's run fairly, the trade is good, the people generally mean well, and there's enough excitement of whichever variety floats your boat. Steak sauce… well, probably try the Glycine, but I'm sure it's available if you want it. Take your time to enjoy places like this, but this isn't your natural home, is it? Check out the markets, show up to whatever dances and bullshit are offered and make up your mind about the place then. If you're not invited, say you're with me, that'll put the shits up them."

"Well, my natural home is a backwater county in a country most people probably haven't heard of," Anghelescu observes. "Would you believe me if I said excitement in Podgrabczyna comes down to betting on which girl the lord of the manor is going to get into a duel over next?"

He studies the woman in front of him for a moment. "I take it that you are in fact somebody around here, then, though not somebody idle."

"I'm hardly somebody around here," Philomene demurs with a short laugh. "I'm barely somebody back home these days. But then you're foreign and the names are probably as alien to you as Pobgrachia is to me." Of course she butchers the name. It's foreign and they're not consonants found in the d'Angeline language. "If you learn nothing else, learn the name 'Mereliot' here. In this province, they're the ducal house. If you see fish, drop a bow. If you were in Camlach, the name to look out for would be d'Aiglemort, and if you were in l'Agnace, the name would be Chalasse."

"Duly noted, and thank you." The fair-haired man raises his glass. "Here's to Mereliot, lords of fish, long may they swim. Always good to know who's residing in the castle, so to speak — and if the city is as fairly run as you say, then they're pretty decent fish. Certainly have visited places where the local count or lord's name tended to get uttered only along with a heartfelt curse."

"The Lady of Marsilikos is a good sort," Philomene tells him, raising her glass in kind before knocking back a good swig of the schnapps. "I'd step in front of a sword for her, even if she can be a bit kind hearted for my own principles at times. But, as I'm frequently told, I shouldn't be permitted opinions on matters of the heart when I clearly had mine removed and turned to stone at a young age." This with a sardonic smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "There's good reason that the d'Aiglemort colours are black and white. It's what we tend to see the world in."

"Ah," Anghelescu notes with a smile. "So you are somebody who's somebody, but in Camlach." He did pay attention, it seems. "I think by that logic, though, I should have somebody draw me up a coat-of-arms in sable on black." They're the same thing, of course.

"I left Camlach a long time ago when I married into l'Agnace," Philomene corrects him, "but my husband passed away recently," Apparently the black clothing is not just for the sake of d'Aiglemort colours, or to hide the blood or worse, "which leaves me now as a somebody who's nobody, so I think you were probably right first time. Are you going to drink that or tickle it?"

"I have a feeling that it's not going to kiss me no matter how long I fondle it, so I might as well send it on its way." The foreigner chuckles and knocks back the glass; as it turns out, Chowatti — or at least this specimen — can indeed handle strong spirits without choking or growing teary-eyed. "Are you a regular patron in these parts, then? I might look you up with questions about the city if you are; I appreciate your candour." Something in his tone seems to suggest that he's not used to it, though whether it's people in general or women who tend to be more reserved is not obvious.

Philomène nods quiet approval at the demonstration of stomach, lips curved up in amusement. "Well, I'm here more often than I should be and less often than I'd like. If you desperately need advice, and I assume that if you're asking me then you really must be desperate, find your way to the temple gardens first thing in the morning, or the stables late afternoon." She knocks back her own drink easily and sets down the glass. "I wish you every joy for your visit, monsieur," she insists, then, taking a moment to steel her face into a carefully practice mask of neutrality, pulls herself to her feet.

Of course, it's only when she stands that the curiously odd angle of one of her legs can be seen, and the fact that one boot has a built up sole to compensate for the shorter length of it. She gives the man a cordial nod and, just expecting people to move out of the way - they do, incidentally, not being wholly suicidal - she begins a distinctive swinging limp to the door.

Anghelescu watches her go, and smiles to himself. Well, then. Apparently I speak the language well enough to not embarrass myself though I clearly can't help sounding like an aristocrat still. Something to work on.

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