(1312-01-22) What Women Want (Is To Not Be A Wilting Lily)
Summary: Andrei Anghelescu thinks he's going to look at healing herbs but find himself surrounded by a couple of ladies who may be ladies but they are certainly not ladies.
RL Date: 22-01-2020
Related: The Lady With The Split Lip.
andrei philomene zalika 

Jardins d'Eisheth — Marsilikos

Tranquility and beauty of nature is what those coming to the gardens of Eisheth usually seek. There is a playfulness in the arrangement of paths through the greenery, and the way four of them wind to the center, where there is a pond surrounded by a few elm trees, beside an area with wooden benches and tables beneath an arbor, where ivy winds about wooden posts, and a roof of colorfully glazed tiles offers shelter from the sun but also moderate rain.

Bushes are trimmed, and the green is kept short, so that people coming here can enjoy the dramatic view over the coast all the way to the sea, with the harbor and the citadel slightly to the north. Slightly towards the south and close by is the infirmary with the herb garden beside, where a variety of plants used for healing and treating certain illness are grown under the immaculate care of the healers. Towards the east, a path leads towards the temple district, where the dominant structure of the Temple of Eisheth looms, the white marble shimmering almost otherworldly on late afternoons, when it catches the warm, orange light of the setting sun.

In a place of such obvious order and tranquility as the temple gardens one might expect visitors to walk in quiet serenity along the carefully raked pathways, admiring those rare flowers that grow and prosper even in winter. One might expect newcomers to the city of Marsilikos to look suitably impressed as well, and indeed, a tall man in a long black coat trimmed in silver fox fur does look slightly lost as he strolls along one such pathway, leaning on a silver-tipped walking stick. From the cut of his clothes to the way he pauses to look at everything he is very obviously not a local — a merchant of the higher middle class, perhaps, or someone who works for one; pale and fair, quite likely of northern ancestry (though the absence of, say, a small army might indicate him to not actually be Skaldi).

Among the few braving the winterly cold is the heiress of the Vicomte de Beauvais, whose appearance was the talk of the town not long ago. But Marsilikos was quick to move on to other things and Zalika is now left alone, as she walks with a thin blonde girl on her side, who's probably a servant, judging by her plain clothes. Zalika meanwhile wears a large brown fur cloak over her dress, face half-hidden inside the hood. When she spots the stranger in her path nearby, she leans in to murmur something to the blonde, who offers a shrug in response.

The foreigner, whatever nationality he might be, fails to notice that he has become the target of attention; he walks along a bed of winter-blooming herbs looking at them before dipping a black-gloved hand into one pocket and taking out a monocle which goes on his face before he leans down to look closer at the growths. He touches one leaf very lightly, rubbing it between his fingers, with the air of someone who is genuinely interested in — flowers. As far as gentlemanly hobbies go it's a little on the effeminate side, innit? At least he seems unaware that he's being observed acting a bit silly.

With no information forthcoming from the servant, Zalika heads straight for the stranger to position herself near him. "You may want to be careful what you touch here, people get their knckers in a twist over less.", she warns. Her own D'Angeline is fluent, but accentuated. Clearly not a local herself.

The man looks up, revealing himself to be possessed of quite ordinary looks but for a longish nose and unusually pale, blue eyes. He offers a small and somewhat sheepish smile at the lady's words, taking in her and her maidservant. "Ah. I did not realise," he says at length. "Then I think it quite appropriate to thank you for the warning, mademoiselle. I am curious, but I am indeed not a thief."

His accent is pronounced but not to the point of rendering him hard to understand; certainly a fellow foreigner, and one who is not quite used to the sing-song tone of the d'Angeline language.

Zalika understands him well enough to offer him a mild glare. "Mylady.", she corrects, a fact that she is rather proud of. "The greenery here is rather disappointing in winter anyway. Though I've been told it gets better in spring, when everything is in bloom. One might hope.", she adds dryly.

The man in black straightens up; he's a tall one, though not to the point of drawing the eye of everyone nearby. He inclines his head politely and replies, "My lady, it shall be. My apologies, I am quite unfamiliar with local customs, and horrifically ignorant of names and places in Marsilikos. I was adviced yesterday to bow if I saw coats-of-arms sporting fish — and I believe I had the pleasure of being adressed by a local noble on the harbour. I certainly meant no offence."

He studies the two women for a moment; though to be fair, it's the dark-skinned one that draws his eye in the fashion of someone who is quite unaccustomed to even the idea of people who aren't pasty white. Someone who knows, theoretically, that yes, dark-skinned people obviously exist — and so do killer whales, elephants and kings, and he's never seen any of those either.

"Fish." It's a single word, but the disdainful tone speaks volumes. Zalika lets it go though. "You're new here? Fresh off the boat?", she asks, "Come for the winter ball?" She stands ramrod straight, hands hidden within the voluminous folds of her cloak, her dark eyes taking in the man in front of her.

"I'm told that fish are the chosen crest of the ruling family, my lady," the man says, and then nods. "Make it a carriage rather than a boat, and you're not wrong — though I would know nothing of winter balls. I take it that is a social occasion of some sort?" His tone implies, at least to some extent, that social occasions tend to be, perhaps, for the upper crust or at least by invitation only.

"And I believe," he adds as an afterthought, "that I am being unbelievably rude. Allow me to introduce myself, my lady. I am Andrei Anghelescu, and I am indeed a traveller from a small place in the Chowat that I don't expect anyone to have heard of."

"So you are… just a tourist here, come for a gawk, Andrei Anghelescu?", Zalika asks, "You chose the wrong season, although there are indeed some social occasions to keep the local nobility from dying of boredom." There might be a hint of snark in her voice. "I am Lady Zalika Trevalion from Beauvais." She extends a hand, covered in a long glove made of soft black leather, clearly expecting him to know his geography.

Anghelescu at least knows his manners well enough to bow and brush the kiss required by etiquette at the air a few centimetres above the lady's extended hand in the fashion of someone who is being polite but indeed not making assumptions of friendship. "I suppose one could say that, my lady. I struggle with poor health, and I am told that Marsilikos is the place to go for a man who hopes for a miracle. Is bored gentry a regular occurence here, then?" The last is said with a small smile, much in the fashion of how one might talk of incessant rain or an annoying amount of mice in the granary.

"I see. Well, don't go dying on the locals, they will only chuck you into the sea to feed the fish, I predict.", Zalika deadpans and shrugs to the last question. "It depends on your idea of entertainment, I suppose. You could screw yourself raw in the salons all winter or spend hours every day trying new ridiculous hairstyles and never be bored all winter. I would not expect the latter to be to your taste and the former may not be conductive to your health."

Anghelescu blinks in the fashion of someone who is very obviously not accustomed to such candour, and perhaps most of all not from a woman. He even glances at the maidservant as if to try to subtly pick up on whether this is normal. Then he nods. "I, ah, can't say that either notion appeals to me in particular, my lady. Perhaps it is a good thing that I am not a guest at the ducal palace, I am not quite certain I should not be climbing out windows in the night to escape such entertainment."

The blonde servant seems to be struggling to keep a straight face, but she is clearly not shocked or even surprised. Zalika meanwhile seems amused by the man's response. "You find the notion of love-making unappealing? Terre d'Ange might not be the right place for you then. They have quite a fancy for it here." The pair is standing at the edge of the path, near one of the plants still green in mid-winter. They're talking about sex. As you do.

The pale foreigner chuckles. "I realise that customs differ, my lady. Where I come from, these are matters discussed between married couples, in private — if at all. I shan't pretend, though, that I have not had my ears filled with tales of d'Angeline decadence and debauchery by every gossip and man-at-arms on way here, though. I almost expected to see people coupling in the street, but perhaps the season lends itself poorly to such exercises." He too can keep a straight face, almost as well as the poor maid.

"Yes, you might not want to get your appendage out in these temperatures, it may lead to the wrong kind of stiffness you'd hope for.", Zalika replies, her tone still completely dry, her face straight, "Decadence and debauchery can be found in the salons mostly, should you wish to find proof of those tales."

Anghelescu's blue eyes sparkle with amusement. "And this is indeed the d'Angeline way, for a noble lady to strike up a conversation with a stranger about intimate matters? I'll have to say, I learn something new every day. Yesterday I nearly did find myself walking into one of those salons — in the belief that I was about to visit a restaurant. You are not the only lady I've had the pleasure of meeting who likes to play a jest on a foreigner, my lady."

It's not that the birds stop twittering, the clouds come in, thunder rolls and ominous cello music plays when Philomene shows her face, and yet there's a certain edge to the odd drag-scrape of her distinctive limp that tends to make people find better places to be when they hear it. The cellos are purely optional. This morning, as her hair catches a sunbeam cutting through one of the wintry clouds, it's not an angel that tends to come to mind, even in this land and with her lineage.

Clomp-scrape. Clomp-scrape. It's a steady, unflinching beat as the woman bears her way along the path, head held high and with apparently no intention to let anyone get in her way. Really, it's how she lives her life.

"Oh, rest assured that I am not jesting.", Zalika replies, "I have not been here for long myself and I am still learning about the locals' peculiarities myself. I just meant to offer help and advice." She turns her head slightly when she sees or hears (or both) the Lady Philomene approach. For some reason she seems to stiffen slightly until the lady is near enough for her to sink into a deep curtsey with perfectly practised grace. "Mylady."

Anghelescu bows as well, fluidly like a man who may not be quite unaccustomed to proper manners. "My lady d'Aiglemort," he says politely. "Speaking of the devil and all. I trust you are well?"

Philomène dips her head briefly to the pair. "Lady Zalika. Monsieur… you'll forgive me, but I cannot recall your name. Certainly not the first time I've been referred to as the devil, though," she adds, any further dialogue cut short by the fact that she does not appear to be slowing, certainly not stopping, and she'll have walked past the pair in very little time at all.

Zalika wisely keeps her mouth shut on the suggestion that the Lady Philomene may be referred to as the devil. Nor does she try to engage in further small talk as the lady seems to be passing by at full speed and any attempt to stop her might result in a derailment.

"Anghelescu," says the Chowatti in a blithe tone, clearly the one person present who has no idea that the older woman appears to be of the sort that locals probably refer to as the Dragon when she's not listening. "I er, thank you for the recommendation last night," he murmurs in the general direction of her back as she walks past. "I rather thought that restaurant looked — unusual."

Dragon being only one of a choice selection of words reserved for the Chalasse noblewoman. Were it not that her face is fixed in that carefully neutral expression that implies years of training, that little spark in her eye might be taken as amusement. Or it might be indigestion, of course, who can tell. With a glance back over her shoulder, she takes in the pair and makes a rapid decision. "Walk with me. Both of you. I'm assuming by that you mean the Wine Cellar, monsieur, although I'm intrigued that it's unusual compared with what you're used to. Come," she insists rather impatiently, tone not demanding so much as absolutely self assured that her request will be met. "We talk, we walk." Because the other alternative is shouting across the gardens and that would be absurd.

Zalika is taken by surprise, but curiosity gets the better of her. She murmurs a few things to her blonde maidservant, who nods obediently and wanders off on her own, clearly tasked with some errands. "Where are we going, Mylady?", she asks as she catches up with the striding Philomene and the stranger, "Somewhere warm, I hope?"

Anghelescu falls into stride as well, looking not at all troubled by being marched off like this. "I did mean the Glycine, my lady. I was of the impression you adviced me on where to take my lunch. I was rather surprised at where the carriage man dropped me off, and I will admit that I decided to simply wander off in this direction instead."

Philomène snorts a quiet laugh. "I admit I had made the comment rather flippantly. Something about steak sauce, wasn't it?" she notes, picking her way along the path quite confidently. "To be honest I should really have informed you, as a foreigner, that in all but the rarest of cases, our courtesans will only accept patrons of nobility, but I'm sure you could get away with it with enough balls. Your steak sauce is yet safe. Right!" she adds, that last apparently a command as she rather abruptly wheels onto a slightly smaller path, heading out towards the sea and that marvellous view. Clomp-drag. Clomp-drag. "We," she informs Zalika simply, "are walking. One mile. 16 laps. At least I am. If you can't keep up, that sounds like a you problem not a me problem."

"You sent him to the Glycine?" Zalika can't resist a little chuckle. "Well, chalk it up to local cultural experience then.", she tells Andrei before turning to Philomeme. "He just told me he was not interested in the national pastime of shagging each other silly." Which seems only marginally more interesting to her as suddenly doing laps around the Gardens. "Wouldn't it be more fun to go for a long walk along the shore?", she muses.

"I did chose to wander on instead," the Chowatti says, amused. "And indeed, as I understand it, courtesans are for nobles, yes? It's not something I have paid a lot of attention to in advance, I'll admit — while I find your customs interesting, my agenda in coming to Marsilikos was indeed not to expand my erotic horizons."

"The ground isn't reliable by the shore," Philomene explains, briefly pursing her lips. "But no, our Chowatti friend here is in Marsilikos for his health, not, to the shock of all, to get his penis wet, because we're a debauched and decadent society who can barely function for needing to spend every hour or every day on our backs, fronts, or position of choice."

"He had not yet told me what exactly brought him here, when you arrived, Mylady.", Zalika points out, "There are plenty other places one could visit for health reasons, no? So clearly Terre d'Ange itself has been a draw… or its reputation.", she muses to no one in particular, "Perhaps we could think of other entertainment for this stranger, Mylady?"

"Far be it from me to judge in what positions and what company the natives wish to spend their time, my lady," Anghelescu observes with a small smile; he seems to be a fairly easy-going sort, though clearly from a culture in which such matters are not discussed quite so openly, or at least not quite so openly in the company of ladies. "But indeed, the country does have that reputation abroad, I'm sorry to say. Pray tell, what do you Marsilikan gentry do to pass the time, when indeed not living up to those rather colourful tales?"

Philomène glances to him as she limps on. "I walk. I ride. I occasionally pass the time with a refreshing beverage or two and enjoy the colourful local culture of the Kraken's Den. But mostly I establish, support and maintain trade routes for Gueret goods. If you carry a title, you have a duty to your tenants first and foremost to see to the prosperity and security of your lands. I told you, I've little time for the idle gentry."

"I am not idle either.", Zalika hastens to assure both of them, "I spent the last weeks since my arrival learning how to be dainty and how to speak proper. My family thinks I can be safely let loose on the winter ball." She considers, then shrugs. "I have had little time for anything else. I like to cook though. Meals from home."

"Ah, you are a foreigner as well, my lady?" Anghelescu glances at the dark-skinned girl and for a moment it's quite clear in his blue gaze that yes, that explains a lot as far as he is concerned. "One is tempted to ask, of course, how a lady sounds when she is not dainty and speaking proper, but perhaps one is better off not knowing."

The foreigner acknowledges the older woman's words with a nod as well; "You did say as much, my lady. The definition of 'idle' varies, naturally — in my home, I suspect that most traders and merchants should prefer for their lord to keep his nose out of their affairs, largely because our noble house has a long history of dramatic antics, pointless duels, and financial incompetence."

Philomène allows herself a half smile. "I imagine many traders and merchants would rather I kept my nose out of their affairs, too, but I'd like to think it's because I keep them honest. You did mention pointless duelling before, though, monsieur. It's a common complaint where you're from? You don't have enough real wars to fight, so you'd rather squabble among yourselves? Or is it a complaint chiefly to the south and east of your country, away from any real outside threat. That," she notes drily, "would certainly be a familiar issue."

Zalika doesn't offer comment on how she might sound otherwise. But the stranger's words peak her interest. "Pointless duel? Dramatic Antics? YOu sound like you might have an interesting tale or two to tell. Although I daresay, Marsilikos has seen its share of pointless duels too." Is it coincidence that her eyes flicker briefly to Philomene?

"Oh, we let ourselves get drafted into protecting the Skaldian border often enough," Anghelescu replies good-naturedly, leaning slightly on his silver-tipped walking stick as he strolls along. "We just happen to have a strong local tradition of fighting over women; one might almost say that the occasional peasant hero trying to poke a hole in some member of the gentry with a sharp implement is traditional. There is usually a lady involved. It's all very silly."

"The tradition here is far more to fight with women, not over them," Philomene notes, turning once again to bring their direction of travel parallel to the sea view and in direct opposition to the initial path. "Some women, anyway."

"Some women. Indeed." Zalika's mouth twitches slightly. "I must admit it sounds rather romantic to have men fight over me, but what if the wrong one won? Better to take matters into my own hands. Poke a hole in the less desirable suitor myself."

"It is all very silly indeed," Anghelescu agrees, still smiling. "And I do believe that on a few occasions, the lady in question has indeed opted for that solution, my lady. I'll readily admit, though, I have never seen a woman fight a duel of honour, but I suppose there is a first for everything." With an amused glance at the older lady present he adds, "At least I have seen a d'Angeline woman carry a memento of violence, after a fashion."

There's a silence just long enough and chilly enough to be uncomfortable. Clomp-drag. Clomp-drag. The beginnings of a smile that had begun to etch their way into Philomene's otherwise stony face are completely gone in an instant. "Better to carry a scar than live as a damn coward," she insists, glaring her way at the path ahead for daring to exist.

Zalika glances at Philomene again, noting the change of tone. "I would agree, Mylady.", she says softly, "I would always rather take the fight than the coward's way out." She suddenly chuckles. "Ah, let's not scare Mister Anghelescu. He must think we all hide daggers and swords in our cloaks."

"I meant the blood stain on your lip when we spoke last night, my lady," the tall man says gently. "You'd clearly punched somebody in the face before I entered, and they had returned the favour." He glances at Zalika and chuckles softly before adding, "My dear lady, unless I some day find it in my interest to explore what you keep under your cloak I shall endeavour to not consider it any of my business what sort of weapons you might prefer to lug around."

Philomène purses her lips a moment longer before very slowly allowing the tension to leave her shoulders and her fists to subtly unclench. "Ah. I see." She clears her throat, lifting her chin. "Well, I'm not as young as I was. On occasion the slippery little bastards can still get a punch in."

This clearly gets Zalika excited. "You punched someone!" Clearly Philo is her new heroine. "What did he do? Did he-" Here she briefly sideglances at Andrei, "Find it in his interest to explore where he has no business whatsover to explore?"

"I'll admit I did wonder the same thing, my lady." Anghelescu mostly looks amused; not so much in a patronising fashion as in the way of a man who knows just how much of a laughing stock another man would be back home, if word ever came out that a woman had floored him with a fist.

"I don't actually recall," Philomene admits with a wry half smile, tugging up her collar against the cold as she limps on along her set path. "Fists were raised and it seemed rude not to join in. You think I go there for the beer?"

"Oh." Zalika looks disappointed, but not for long. "Well, dear stranger, now you know what the local nobility does in their free time when they aren't in the salons. I wonder, do you have baths in your home country? I mean, hot communal baths, where people congregate? I must they I've found them the most pleasant surprise here in Terre d'Ange."

The Chowatti quirks an eyebrow over his monocle a moment as if the idea of not having communal baths had literally not registered. Then he nods. "We are a region of mountains and hot springs, my lady. One might say, that while we export lumber, thermal springs are the one thing that attracts anyone to visit Podgrabczyna unless they literally want to be bored to death. We do get a fair number of travellers who come to Bad Hainbuche — that would be our, hah, capital — in the hope of restoring their health at the baths."

"But you've travelled here to give your health a gamble on the d'Angeline wheel?" Philomene notes wryly. "You don't trust the Chowatti baths, or they're less effective than an actul trained chirurgeon?"

Zalika blinks a bit when the incomprehensible foreign towns are named, though she got the same annoying reaction from locals when she mentioned -her- home, so she tries not to show confusion. "I believe it is to do with the gentler airs of the south, Mylady.", she suggests, "And perhaps the fresh sea air? From what I've learned, the Chowat is very much landlocked and full of forests. Which sounds a little dull to me, truth be told."

"My home country is very intriguing if one is of a disposition to find endless entertainment in the study of trees," Anghelescu says, evidently not bothered in the slightest by the idea that someone might not find the Carpathians to be the most exciting promise of a field trip ever. "Let us say that I have been seeing the same physician for three years, and I have yet to recover — in fact, I've only taken a turn for the worse. There comes a point in a man's life where he either resigns to his fate or starts looking for more desperate options, my lady."

"Marsilikos could benefit from more mountains and more trees," Philomene opines, shoving her hands deep into her pockets now as the cold begins to bother her more. Probably the change in direction with the cool wind now into their faces. "I could recommend a chirurgeon, although I'm not sure if she's taking on any patients. She's a fucking bitch, but she knows what she's doing. I'd trust her with my life. Have done more than once."

"May I ask what precisely ails you?", Zaliaka asks Andrei curiously, "If the chirurgeon is too busy, I might have a few home remedies for you. My mother was a highly respected woman back home and knew her way around medicine and enchantments."

"I somewhat left my health in a Skaldian ditch," Anghelescu says and for a moment there's a hint of nothing in his voice, as if that particular ditch is a memory he does not care to dwell on. "It was wet and cold, and I stayed in it long enough to contract some kind of ailment that, while long gone, left me hard of breathing and prone to the kind of coughing fits that my physician tells me will eventually be the death of me." He chuckles lightly and tacks on, "The good doctor also told me that there will be nothing anyone here can do for me that he has not done already, but I should not be sorry to see him proven wrong, my ladies."

"Skaldian ditches do tend to have a detrimental effect on the health," Philomene agrees after a moment, flicking Andrei a brief look of… something. Well, if it weren't Philo it might be sympathy. Or empathy. Or some sort of -thy. As it is, it might be solidarity or something similar. "Not the ideal holiday destination. Would not recommend to friends."

Having had no experience wih Skaldian ditches, Zalika remains silent for the moment. "I think I know the ailment you describe. I will see what I can do.", she promises Andrei. Who may be better off with the chirurgeon if not straightaway then certainly after. "Lady Philomene, I think we have reached our last lap, have we not?", she asks hopefully.

"I'll readily admit that the Lady d'Aiglemort seems to be in better shape than I," Anghelescu concurs. "Do tell a foreigner, would it be rude to offer a pair of noble ladies a cup or glass of whatever their preference might be, and if not, where nearby would one go to commit such a faux pas?"

Philomène snorts once. "You carry on," she allows the pair. "Lady Zalika, take him for a good glass of wine or something. I'll finish my mile. Monsieur, thank you for your kind offer."

"Very well, Mylady." Zalika sweeps into another graceful curtsey, which the fast-walking lady may not even notice. Then she gives Andrei an apologetic look. "Another time, perhaps? I sent the maid to do the shopping alone, but I may not miss my appointment with the seamstress for my ball robe. You are welcome to call upon me some time."

"I am prone to wandering for the sake of keeping myself from turning into one of those bedridden vegetables that people with this kind of injury tend to become," the foreigner says. "I think it is a very safe bet that we shall meet again if you too are prone to taking walks in the city, my lady. And indeed, perhaps we might share that glass of wine eventually — but let me not detain either of you further. It's been a pleasure."

"You're a very kind liar," Philomene insists tartly, although she does grant the man a nod of respect, then another, smaller nod for the young woman. And then she's off, never breaking her stride as she continues on her one woman journey to wear a hole in the paths.

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