(1312-01-24) Curious Carpathians and Cheese
Summary: Desarae arrives back in Marsilikos after an extended visit home, and encounters yet another foreigner. Her time away must have mellowed her somewhat however, because Andrei emerges unscathed.
RL Date: Fri Jan 24, 1312
Related: None
andrei desarae 


Fortune laid the foundation for the grand port of Marsilikos; look how the arms of the land spread wide to embrace the setting of the sun, welcoming a bay of still waters rendered all the more peaceful by the presence of a small island to the south, on the flanks of which the waves cut themselves into powerless ripples as they move in from the sea. But whatever Fortune gave the d'Angelines their cunning and craft has improved to a hum of efficiency and culture. The natural bay has had its curved shores sharpened into straight edges bolstered with ridges of heavy stones on which the tides have left long mark when the waters are low, algae and barnacles hung onto the rugged stones. Then stone foundations have been piled out into the harbor to hold up wide wooden pillars and the great treated slats of the piers and boardwalks which extend into the bay, now at wider intervals for massive trading vessels, now at shorter intervals for private fishing and pleasure yachts.

The southern arm of the bay is reserved for the great southern fleet of the d'Angeline Royal Navy, which is headquartered here in Marsilikos, and is ever a hub of activity, the giant slips outfitted to haul the massive warships up into the air for repairs, while further inland on the southern peninsula a forest of masts rises into the air where new ships are being built and old ones repaired in full drydock. Between the naval slips and the drydock rises the stately edifice of the southern naval headquarters, glistening with huge latticed windows on the upper floors. Beyond the headquarters rises the massive fortified promontory of the Citadel, with bleached-white parapets and fluttering banners.

Markets and vendors throng the plaza at the innermost fold of the harbor where civilian and military seamen alike might find a bite to eat, supplies for their next mission, a good drink or a little bit of companionship. Far in the bay, that little isle sports a lofty lighthouse to guide the ships in by night.

The year has turned As settled as January has become with its chill winds and occasional snow storms that even being so far south it manages to endure, today brings a storm of another kind. It blows in from the west rather than from the east, and takes the form of a tall ship that flies the colours of the ducal family of Eisande upon its mast. It navigates its way through the icy waters of the bay and nudges its way towards the harbour where it settles in one of the more prestigious berths. Despite the cold, the day is yet fine, and it takes but a moment for a creature that's gloriously cossetted in inky black furs to appear upon the deck of the ship. She's in the company of several guards dressed in the livery of the Mereliot family, along with another that's conspicuously not in such colours, but rather dressed in the drab grey garb of the Cassiline Brotherhood. The ship's arrival doesn't go unremarked upon; for commoners and nobles alike whisper amongst themselves as they gather to watch the walkway from the ship as it's lowered and secured with lashings and ropes. The young woman traverses it surrounded by her entourage, and those close enough to overhear might catch such admissions as: 'It's good to be back…' and 'I'd forgotten how much I loved the city…' (amongst other things).

A gentleman walks along the piers, pausing every fourth or fifth stride to look at something — whether that something is an exotic-looking sailor flitting about the rigging of a tall ship, a cart of exotic goods rumbling past, or in most cases, a sea bird or the sea itself. He seems quite fascinated by it — and if that doesn't label him a foreigner, or at least a newcomer to a coastal community, then what he's wearing will do the job. The cut of his long black coat trimmed in silver fox fur is not native; the tall boots are too tall; the breeches the wrong shade of dark grey, and the jabot is the wrong shade of blue. It appears somebody made the questionable choice of letting a merchant or foreigner of the upper middle class into Marsilikos again — which probably implies that whoever he is, somebody hoped to do trade with him.

When the crowd stops to turn and stare, so does the foreign gentleman; he's not sure what he's looking at exactly but if everyone else deems it worth ogling, then who is he to want to miss out, indeed. Edging a few steps forward he murmurs a quiet question to an onion seller and receives an equally quiet response; something about the leaping fish on the guards' livery, from the looks of it. He's got bright blue eyes, one obscured somewhat by a monocle, and they fix readily on the young woman, her guards, and her companion — the latter most of all, one could get the impression that he is not entirely certain what to make of the person in that assembly not fitting the mold of high-bred lady and guards.

The lady in question is Desarae Mereliot. She's one of the Duchesse's blood relatives, a niece (the tragic one, though we try not to talk about that to her face) who's spent the last few months away from Marsilikos at the seat of her family's marquisate. Castle Chavaise. Trunks, crates and the paraphenalia which necessarily accompanies a young woman of impeccable standing are already being off-loaded from the ship and into waiting carts for onward travel, though this is apparently of no concern to her. Lackeys and minions will see that it gets to where it ought to be going, and she draws a deep breath as her hands lift to her head to lower the thickly lined hood that swaddles her head. And there she stands once more on Marsilikos soil for all to see. Her dark hair gleams in the pale sun, and there's a somewhat secretive smile that touches to her lips and brightens her face as she looks about herself at once familiar surroundings. Her stamping grounds. "Florent," she addresses her Cassiline. "I have a fancy to walk a little before making my arrival back in Marsilikos known to my aunt. What day is it today? Is it the day when Raoul sells in the market? Remember how we would buy those lemon pastries, still warm, from his stall?" A faint colour touches her cheeks as she speaks, and her eyes fall upon the blond foreigner as she speaks. A cant of her head. A person would be forgiven for thinking that she ought to be accustomed by now to the variety of humanity that passes through this gateway to the Kingdom of Terre d'Ange, but alas, the poor girl's been closeted away from such things for months at this point, and so she stands and she stares, a heavy mantle of quiet descending upon her.

Far from one to stroll up and demand to be introduced to a member of the duchy's ruling family, the foreigner nonetheless remains where he is, watching the proceedings with the curious eyes of someone who is accustomed to entirely different customs, people, coats-of-arms, and on the whole, skies. He makes certain to not get in the way of soldiers and porters, and listens attentively to the onion seller as she launches into a tirade about the poor girl's personal history — though admittedly, some of the details seem rather far fetched, particularly the story about the pirate prince. If any expression flits across his pale face at all, it is one of mild curiosity, looking at the girl like a man might study a very fine young horse, evaluating and appraising.

He finds himself close enough, mostly by chance, to overhear a few words of conversation between the lady and her grey-clad escort, friend, whatever he is; it may be entirely coincidental that the man in the black coat decides to wander in the same direction, silver-tipped walking stick tapping at the cobbles — but it probably isn't. At least no guard worth his salt would take something like that for granted, and maybe that's why the foreigner makes certain to keep his gloved hands visible and his coat open so that one may easily tell that he carries no visible blades.

On they walk; the girl, her Cassiline, and four House Mereliot guards. They cut a swathe through the commoners — though really no cutting is necessary since the crowds seem to naturally part before the entourage like the sea before Moses, and there's a kindness to be found in many a whispered word that trails in her wake. The party halt by a cheese-seller's stall, and slim fingers reach for one of the small round cheeses set out on display. "Goats' milk?" she asks of the vendor, her brow furrowing as she lifts it for closer inspection. But whatever the woman's response might be to that question, that answer is lost. Desarae's attention is drawn by her Cassiline in Andrei's direction as he bends and speaks quietly to his ward. Her eyes, green and sharp, fall upon the foreigner, and she sets the cheese down, as she addresses him directly. "Are you following me, monsieur?"

The tall foreigner pauses in mid-stride and looks at the young woman as she addresses him. Then he offers a small bow, possibly in deference to the fact that her guards sported the coat-of-arms of the ruling family. "I think I shall have to plead guilty to that charge," he replies, acknowledging that he was caught up but not looking particularly guilt ridden about it. He's got an accent that clearly labels him a northerner; not quite Skaldi, but very close. "I hope you'll forgive my curiosity, my lady. I meant no disrespect."

Perhaps it might have been better had Andrei not spoken, for his accent sees an immediate narrowing of the young Mereliot's eyes. "You have no business in following me." Desarae's words are tight and flat, quietly spoken through lips bereft now of smiles. "I am not an object of curiosity, and therefore I do not forgive you for thinking me one. What are you? A Skald?" Her eyes glitter dakly behind lowered lashes, and she takes a step forward, leaning in closer to sniff at the air. "You don't smell like one," she states, mock amusement in her tease. "… nor dress like one either." Her tone lightens, but only a smidge. "Another Flatlander, perhaps..?" Her voice rises a semi-tone at the end of her words, making of them a question rather than a statement, though she does go on to add, "And how //is/ Prince Andre? Have you come to take him home again?"

The foreigner fails to look intimidated nor for that matter offended; he inclines his head lightly, acknowledging that the woman does indeed have the right of the matter. "You are quite right, my lady. You are not, and I apologise for my forwardness. I must admit, though, that I am not familiar with the man of whom you speak. I am from a small country in the Chuwat and, I fear, quite ignorant of who's who in your illustrious city. I was adviced by a lady of the local gentry to bow if I saw fish, and that about exhausts my familiarity with your noble houses, my lady."

"Are you saying I look like a fish?" comes Desarae's immediate retort. She pleats gloved fingers neatly before her, her chin lifting a degree. Perhaps two. Despite her lesser height, she carries herself so that she at least appears taller than she is, and looks Andrei sternly in the eye. Those that know the young woman well, might catch that hint of amusement that colours her words, though she does well to keep it hidden from the ignorant. "Chowat, you say? I cannot say that I have ever met anyone from your country before. It shares borders with Skaldia, I believe?"

"My lady, you have armed guards and I walk with a stick. I think I will save any comparisons to fish, fowl, or anything else until I have at least a head start," the man returns with a small smile. Then he nods and reaches up with a gloved hand to brush a stray lock of blond hair out of his face without disturbing the monocle. "We do indeed; and I must admit that our relationship with the Skaldi is, ah, somewhat strained most of the time. A state of affairs which I gather applies to Terre d'Ange as well, so that at least we have in common if nothing else."

The tip of Desarae's nose scrunches, as if she's smelt something unpleasant. "Strained would not be my immediate thought when describing the relationship between us and the Skalds," Desarae remarks. Teeth worry briefly at her lower lip, and she draws a deep breath before speaking. "I know very little of Chowat," she admits. "I have had very little care for foreigners in my life, though my father was much-travelled. Not to Chowat however. He preferred the south to the north; Ephesium, Illyria, Menekhet and Bhodistan, amongst others." She pauses, and a frown finds her brow. "What business have you here in Marsilikos?"

The foreigner rests his gloved hands on his walking stick, leaning slightly upon it, quite unbothered by the close proximity of the grey-clad bloke next to the noble lady. "I am here primarily to seek advice from your healers, my lady. That said, I should not turn down the chance to make a trade connection or two while I am here, and I am certainly not going to look down on the chance to expand my cultural horizons." One could get the impression that others have subjected him to the same inquiry; in fact, probably every border guard, gate guard, and town guard between here and national border.

He's a cheeky sort himself, though; giving the younger lady another intense look he asks, "It appears that you have been travelling yourself, my lady. Perhaps to those plesant shores? I have heard much of Illyria, perhaps I shall visit it myself some day."

Andrei's enquiry is met by an immediate shake of Desarae's dark head. "I myself have not travelled beyond the borders of Terre d'Ange, monsieur. One day. Perhaps…" Her voice tails off as she snares a strand of hair that flutters about the edges of her face with one curled finger, and she anchors it neatly behind her left ear before giving a gentle shrug of her shoulders. "It was not my destiny to study at the University of Tiberium, neither was it my destiny to endure the adventures of so many of my peers." She ghosts a smile. "But whom envies whom, I would beg to ask." She turns to the cheese vendor. "Two dozen of those, if you please." A gesture to the goats' cheese she'd been taken with. "Individually wrapped and sent to the Chavaise Suite at the ducal palace. Make them pretty? They're to be gifts." And back to Andrei, to whom she speaks without shame. "What is wrong with your eyes that you need just the one lens?"

"I am somewhat far-sighted," the man replies readily enough. "I find it convenient to be able to see in the distance and close at hand at once."

Then, almost as an afterthought, he straightens up from leaning on his walking stick. "I am being very rude, I realise. I know your name but you do not know mine. Andrei Anghelescu out of Podgrabczyna, at your service." The foreigner's tone does by no means imply that he expects the young noblewoman to recognise the name, nor particularly care about it. It's simply a matter of not violating rules of courtesy, even if they may not even apply in this foreign land.

"Ah…" A pause. "You do not know my name, monsieur," Desarae counters, "… since I did not yet give it. Unless you refer to the name of my family, that is." And there it is again, that slight hint of amusement, the mote of a smile that pulls at the corners of her lips. "Lady Desarae Mereliot," she introduces, the emphasis on her forename rather than her last. Her right hand disentangles itself from her left, and lifts between them, gloved knuckles uppermost. "Welcome to our city, Andrei Anghelescu out of Podgrabczyyna. I hope you enjoy your visit; be it brief or more enduring." A tilt of her head to the explanation of his monocle. "Fascinating…"

"You did not, my lady, but the woman selling onions certainly did. Along with quite a few other things, most of which I suspect she made up on the spot and certainly nothing that I will presume to be true. Particularly not the part about the pirate prince." The foreigner bows and brushes his lips across the lady's knuckles as a gentleman should. "Perhaps I may have the pleasure of your company some other time if chance will; I suspect that I move in different social strata, though. I shall endeavour not to stare quite so rudely another time."

"Do so," Desarae replies. Did she mean do endeavour not to stare, or do stare. Who's to know? Who's to care? Andrei is given a quick nod of Desarae's head as her hand is reclaimed. "Florent." she addresses her Cassiline, though says nothing further, simply turning from the cheese stall, and by default Andrei, to meander her way further into the market.

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