(1312-01-27) Andrei's Angels
Summary: A foreign merchant (?) encounters three d'Angeline ladies at the stables.
RL Date: Mon Jan 27, 2020
Related: Some
andrei desarae philomene justine 

Stables — Marsilikos

Grand and spacious are the stables of Marsilikos, a flat building built and rebuilt over the years, with windows located further up the walls allowing the rays of the sun to enter during warm summer days. When shutters are drawn in the colder months or when it is too dark outside, a number of oil lamps will shed a cozy and comparatively safe light in the stables. A thick wall runs through the building and divides it into two separate parts, only connected through a portal of double doors that are open during the day and barred at night — and watched by Mereliot palace guards at all times.

The part facing the Rue du Palace has public boxes to use for visiting nobles or merchants, whereas the other part within the walls of the palace is where members of the Mereliot family will keep their horses, with a few boxes spared for visitors lodging in the guest tower.

The ground is covered with straw that is changed out regularly. Buckets of water are provided and refilled by the stable hands, as well as generous sacks of hay and grain, offering appropriate nourishment for even the most excellent and spoiled breeds of horses.

Grand and spacious are the stables of Marsilikos indeed, and this is probably why the tall foreigner in the black coat looks a little lost. It's not that he's not been in a barn before; he's just not been in this barn before, and as far as livery stables go, it's immense. Wandering around and taking in the sights he stays out of the way of anyone who looks like they might be in enough of a position of authority to tell him to leave; looking enough like he's got business here to get left alone by the guards, but not native enough to get the attention of the grooms. One could get the impression that the blond man is mentally mapping the place, though he pauses at the box of a beautiful dun mare, patting her nose and feeding her a carrot. The sign on the box door identifies the horse as belonging to one Lady Philomene Aiglemort de Chalasse; apparently the mare is of gentler temper than its owner.

"I'm not absolutely convinced that it'd be in his best interests…" A voice, one which Andrei might perhaps recognise, floats from a stall not terribly far-removed from the one in which dun mare resides. "It isn't as if a decision has to be taken immediately, is it?" A glance down the row of stalls would afford the blond Carpathian a view of Desarae's neatly clad figure as she emerges from the one in which she's been occupied, a gloved finger and thumb removing a stalk of hay from one sleeve. She's followed a heartbeat later by a man of middling years, his attire suggesting that he's one of the groomsmen employed by the stables, if not the head of it, and he nods in agreement at the young woman's words. "We can delay the decision for as long as you wish, my lady, though it's a decision that, needs must, ought be made sooner rather than later." Accompanied as ever by her soberly dressed Cassiline, she affords a quick smile to the groom, along with a nod, and with her business with him to all intents and purposes concluded, she turns to leave. But leaving means her path takes her in the direction in which Andrei is to be found, and her step slows on her approach. "I see that you are still gracing the city with your presence monsieur. We have not chased you away as yet?"

The Carpathian turns around (and his short ponytail at the base of his skull promptly becomes dun mare property to nibble on). Catching sight of the lady he offers a light bow the sort which is quite appropriate for a man of lower station to a member of the ducal family. "I fear not, my lady. I trust you are not too disappointed?"

The tall Cassiline nets a speculative look but no comment; the man seems not like someone who wishes to strike up a conversation or exchange courtesies — he sees only his mistress, and anything that might prove a threat to her. As Anghelescu is indeed not the latter, unarmed and alone, he is of no interest whatsoever.

"Disappointed? Ought I be?" Desarae's answer is forthright and to the point. She considers Andrei a moment, then digs into the pocket of her riding skirt and pulls a few oats from within. "The Dowager Vicomtesse would probably run you out herself however if you give her horse colic from eating your hair, she's been known to do worse." Closing the distance between herself, the horse and Andrei, she offers up her hand, her fingers uncurled so that the mare might whiffle a few of the flakes from her palm. Surely an infinitely better meal than blond hair and leather thongs. Ribbons? Her tone remains conversational. "Are you riding out today? Or have you perhaps just returned…"

"I am considering the option, perhaps, of purchasing a horse, or coming to an arrangement about one," the foreigner agrees and half-turns again to attempt to convince the dun mare to stop chewing on his hair — a task made considerably easier by the lady offering far better fare; alas, equine love, thy memory is short.

"Would I be correct in presuming that the Dowager Vicomtesse in question is Lady Philomene? If I am, then I have had the pleasure of riding with her once — but I rather imagine that while she invited me to do so again, she'd prefer to not share her horse next time." The man's blue eyes glitter with amusement; if he's telling the truth that must have been quite the sight. "Thus it seems to me that I should consider looking into making more convenient arrangements. Unfortunately, I know very little about horses beyond the idea that I go in the saddle and the saddle goes on the horse."

Andrei's reply is met by the lifting of one of Desarae's brows to her hairline. "Yes. The Lady Philomene." she eventually replies. "That must have been quite the thing to see,"Her lips purse as if in thought. "The Dowager Vicomtesse is not best known for being the most amenable of souls." Whether Andrei was seated to the front or the back she doesn't ask, though one can only imagine the scenarios that must be presenting themselves for her eyes only as that pursing of her lips melts into a smile. Tsk. "But a shame it is that you are but a novice in the matter of horses. I assume that it's a mare or a gelding or age and experience that you'll be hoping to acquire? A myself have a horse that I'm considering selling, though he's not for a rider as inexperienced as you yourself confess to be." The oats now gone she rubs her hand up the side of the mare's cheek and under her jaw, dipping her head to blow a breath lightly over her nose. A greeting. "They do have quiet horses for hire here however, which is probably what you want if you're intending on leaving us soon."

"In truth I do not know how long I will be staying," Anghelescu replies, rubbing the dun mare's nose as she inspects his pockets — fruitlessly, as it is indeed not he who carries equine bribes around in the form of oats. "But yes — I think that while I do know how to ride, I am not what you'd call a born equestrian, and a gentle horse might be my first choice."

The young lady's words about the Dowager Vicomtesse prompt raised eyebrows over the monocle and blue eyes though. "How curious, though, that you should say so, my lady. I found the Lady Philomene quite pleasant company myself. Though I'll cede that the dressing-down she offered another man who failed to impress her was quite impressive, and I did vow to do my best to not disappoint lest I receive one similar. I thought such was to be expected, though, in a country where women fight and fence like men."

"Not all d'Angeline women are martially inclined," Desarae remarks, the smallest of frowns etching her brow. Her head turns, and green eyes meet with his. "I will admit that our Camaeline cousins take more naturally to it than others, however. Swordsmanship is unusual for the women of Chowat?" There's genuine interest shown in her question, and giving the neck of the dun mare a final pat, she wraps her arms about her middle. It's a middle that's already embraced by an exquisitely fitted riding habit of peacock-blue that shows hints of a raspberry silk lining at its collar and cuffs, the cravat at her neck held in place by means of two golden fish stabbed through e knot on a pin. "It's interesting though that you got along well with her," she refer back to Philomene, "she's not best known for her tolerance of foreigners." Oh dear. Pot. Kettle. Black. But Andrei's not to know that.

"I think our ladies are less inclined towards masculine pursuits indeed," Anghelescu agrees and resigns himself to the fact that the Dowager Vicomtesse's horse thinks he's a chew toy. "But that is indeed part of the excitement of travelling, I am finding — that customs and beliefs differ. The Lady Philomene has been nothing but forthcoming with me, though one does get the impression that her patience may run short on some matters. I think we managed to bond somewhat in our mutual lack of fondness for Skaldi, seeing as that we have indeed both fought against them in the past. Brothers in arms — well, brothers and sisters in arms, I suppose."

Philomene has arrived.

"My understanding is that she was quite formidable on the battle field," Desarae replies. "It is likely that she enjoyed speaking with someone whom shared similar experiences as she herself. I imagine such opportunies for that are rarer here than in the north." She draws a breath, her shoulders rising and falling a little in the silence that follows her words, "I myself," she eventually continues, "do not fight." She speaks candidly. "My duties lay in another direction. Lately I've found myself indulging in different pursuits however, with hawking and hunting being amongst them."

Anghelescu nods good-naturedly. "Hawking I've done once or twice but I find myself more popular with birds as a target of aggression than a handler. To each their own talent and so on. Besides, what would be the point for a soldier to take up arms if he had nothing at home to defend, my lady? War is not romantic, but alas, we do indeed share a border with the Skaldi and thus are often called upon to defend it."

Desarae's head tilts, a little like a bird's. A raptor eyeing its prey. No, no. A harmless sparrow. "Indeed? That's sad. Perhaps I should invite you to come hunting with me at some point. You'll find my birds to be immaculately trained and terribly well-mannered, monsieur. And no," she adds quietly. "War is not romantic. My father told me once that the true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." She ghosts a smile and fishes for more oats in her pocket. Alas, they've run out.

"I'll have to second that statement," the Carpathian nods and for a moment his blue eyes seem more serious than in his usual wont. "I do not know that I would call myself a true soldier. That might be aiming too high, perhaps. I did do military service but a career officer I am not. My constitution is not quite up for it, I learned — the hard way, which is indeed why I am in Marsilikos now."

Desarae's eyes drift to her Cassiline when Andrei speaks of true soldiers, and her glance is met by a pair of blue eyes and a smile. "Indeed," she replies, addressing both Florent and Andrei with that one word, before her eyes flick back to the latter. "Ah. I understand. You have come seeking the warmer weather of Terre d'Ange's southern climes, famed as it is for helping those of ill-health and weakened disposition. I imagine that you will be seeking to speak with our healers also, for they are much used to dealing with such as yourself." A beat. "There is an infirmary in the Temple District where they offer such services, but perhaps you've already been made aware of that."

"Yes, indeed," the foreigner nods, pretending not to notice the tall grey-clad man; probably at least in part because Florent is pretending to not notice him, and really, this is getting a little socially awkward. "My physician at home gives me a month or two at best. Though to be fair, he's done so for three years so my confidence in his judgement is perhaps a little… wavering. I was recommended to travel here, more so as I speak the language, at least passably. I am given to notice that I seem to have a considerable accent, more so than I thought. But you must be a native of Marsilikos yourself, my lady?" Of course she must; at least if that double fish cravat pin, nevermind the livery on her guards, have her family name right.

"A month or two?" Desarae queries. "I believe that even I would seek a second opinion on that since you do not appear to be knocking on the door of the True Terre d'Ange, and cannot blame you for seeking advice here in Marsilikos where our skill in the art of healing is reknown." Her smile which has until now been fairly restrained, blossoms, warming her expression to something near amenable. "I was not born in Marsilikos, no. I was born in Chavaise, the holdings of my family. It was from there that I was returning when we met in the market. I did grow up in the city, however. I was sent here shortly after my sixth natality, which is why I failed to venture forth into the world and see the things which we spoke of before."

"Hoy! What's your game!" comes a somewhat familiar, sharp voice, followed up by a somewhat familiar clomp-drag of a somewhat familiar limp. Catching sight of an unexpected small gathering of people beside her Hirondelle, Philomene's tone implies that she's immediately assumed the worst. "Lay a hand on that horse and I will personally split you in half!"

It's only once she's rounded the corner fully that her brain catches up with her mouth, the terrifying rage apparent on her face eases away and she looks, at least momentarily, apologetic. "Lady Desarae… my apologies. Stand down," she dismisses the Cassiline, merely expecting to be obeyed now. "And Monsieur Anghelescu. I know the Chowatti envy our horses, but I wouldn't hesitate to gut you if you tried to take my Hirondelle, you know," she adds, although this is said with a certain dry humour and a polite nod.

"Mine is a small country, my lady. We do not attract the brilliant scientific minds that Marsilikos seems to gather," Anghelescu murmurs. "I did indeed grow tired of waiting to die. But perhaps I should ask in turn — if Chowatti women do not fight, do d'Angeline women not travel? Or would it be more correct to assume that ladies of a certain elevated breeding do indeed not travel?"

He may have been about to say more, but suddenly there is an outburst from a lady possessed of a voice that can cut through ice. The Carpathian turns around and in doing so reveals that it is not he who has claimed the horse — it is her, rather, who seems to be still going through his pockets. "I assure you, my lady, that if I were to take a horse here, I should find one less prone to establish herself as the master of our relationship right away."

"Good morning, Lady Philomene." Desarae greets. Her voice is quiet, modulated, amused? The last vestiges of the oats she'd fed to Hirondelle get rubbed from her gloves, and her eyes cut to Florent, a smile lurking there. He and Philomene are quite well-acquainted, what with all the Gotlandish business of the year before in which she and his ward were involved, and his response to the dowager vicomtesse is merely a perfunctory 'my lady'. "But of course they travel, monsieur" Desarae replies to an earlier asked question. "It is merely a question of whether they wish to, or are able. Some have duties which are binding and inescapable. Did you not know that we have many fine scholars and explorers that have travelled to the farthest corners of the known world?" She pulls a face, her hands knotting as she draws them to the small of her back. "Lady Philomene," she goes on to add after a mere moment's pause, "Monsieur Anghelescu was considering the purchase of a horse, though is not the most skilled of horsemen. Have you anything docile which might suit him? Or do you not have stock with you here in the city."

Philomène extends one proprietary hand to fuss with her mare's long nose and stroke her cheeks, just enough to make it absolutely clear whose horse this is, even if Hirondelle herself seems to be easily swayed with thoughts of oats, carrots or unknown contents of pockets. "I'm not a breeder," she admits, reaching into her own pocket for a sugared almond to help sway the beautiful dun horse further towards the correct person for adoration. "But I can make a few recommendations if you like, for some of the boys and girls for sale or hire here?"

Anghelescu looks a tad amused. "Perhaps that might be for the best, unless you do indeed wish for me to ride behind you a second time, my lady. I did acquire a suitable pair of riding breeches, at least — though for some reason the tailor's very helpful young lady seemed quite convinced that I would be requiring attire suited for a young nobleman hoping to be introduced to all the young ladies at court. I think I managed to convince her otherwise eventually, though. If not earlier, then at least when she realised that I am indeed taking rooms at the Leaping Fish rather than the palace."

"Breeches are so much more comfortable than skirts," Desarae notes to them both, despite the fact that she's standing there in the latter. Her hands brush over said skirts. "I have letters to attend to, so I shall leave the monsieur in your very capable hands, my lady." Such fun, the passing of bucks, especially when handled so simply. A dip of her head is given to Philomene, and the mention of the suggestion that the foreigner ought be wearing breeches of quality appears to be missed (or ignored), for she turns from the pair with that and heads towards the arching doors and the promise of a cold, cold day beyond them.

"I'm sure we could introduce you to all the ladies at court," Philomene insists, half smiling now that her horse is snuffling about her for more sugared almonds. "Some of them are even worth conversation, although it's a tough job to try to dig them out from the rest of the simpering idiots. What experience do you actually have with riding? We'll find you a gentle old girl who's quite forgiving, shall we?"

"I can ride. I'm just not good at it. To me, a horse is a means to get from one place to another. So, something capable of carrying me but not something that needs to have an argument about who's in charge." Anghelescu pats the mare's nose again. Then he half-smiles and looks in the direction the young lady and her guard disappeared and shakes his head. "While I generally do not object to being introduced to people capable of upholding a decent discussion, you do realise that I did not come here to find a wife either, my lady? I all but ended up measured for a gala outfit for this Winter's Ball you have coming up."

"If you were a d'Angeline, my lord," Philomene announces, amused, "I'd have already extolled the virtues of my middle or youngest daughter to you. Although," she adds, brows drawing, "perhaps not while they're still in mourning for their father. Still, if you want to sit in the corner for the ball and generally be foul to the little shits who want to preen and flutter and generally annoy the crap out of everyone with me, I'll gladly extend my invitation your way. The wine'll be good, and we'd get all sort of odd looks, which might make it worth giving up an evening after all."

The foreigner appears to actually consider the idea. "I'll admit that I had not considered trying to weasel my way in… But that actually does sound amusing. I am not usually one for formal affairs, and in that regard, honestly not quite sorry that I have so far escaped the notice of the Palace. I could see the amusement, though, in letting rumours go what way they will, about the Dowager Comtesse and that strange foreign merchant she seems to be leading around by the nose." Then his expression sobers a little and he gives the lady a less mischievous look. "For what little it is worth, my condolences. I did not realise that you were in mourning, my lady."

Philomène flicks a hand vaguely, lips pressing into a line. "It is what it is. All lives end. I'm merely fortunate that I had returned to Gueret in time this winter to see him one last time before he was passed to Elua's care. If anything it's given me a fine excuse to tell people where to stick it when they start being obsequious." She shrugs, then gives a small nod. "It's settled, then. Wear your scruffiest outfit, we'll make a statement."

"My lady, you know not what you ask. I spent most of the journey here pretending to be my own manservant. Much to the consternation of my actual manservant who had to pretend to be me." Anghelescu looks amused. "I could turn up in full foreign regalia, of course. And speak with an accent so thick that none could understand me. Whatever your preference, as long as it is indeed understood between us that I am there for your amusement, my lady — not to impress the Marsilikan gentry. I am quite certain that the Marsilikan gentry cares not a single fig about their Chowatti counterparts."

"Full foreign rig and accent, and," Philomene suggests with a devilish grin, "how do you feel about being a prince for the day? Or do you have an idea of a suitably foreign title we can claim? Nobody will know any better - I doubt most of them could pick the country out on a map. Set some tongues wagging. I'll inform Lady Armandine, of course, of the little joke as it only seems fair, though. Fun's one thing, but it's a matter of security to bring strange men into her home, and I won't try to deceive her. Would that be a problem for you?"

"You could always tell her the truth," Anghelescu says blithely. "I am not here to pull wool over your duchess' eyes; I just enjoy my privacy, and the lack of courtly noise and theatrics associated with being, indeed, a commoner. If you please, keep it between her and us that it is indeed the truth. If you would, though, I rather prefer for people to assume me a presumptious merchant foreigner — even if I am one, indeed, who would declare himself a Count for a day."

Philomène nods once. "I can understand that. Perhaps we might get a quiet audience before the ball, then, for the sake of politeness. Besides, what fun is a joke if nobody else is in on it? She'll probably have a laugh, too."

"If your duchess is possessed of a wit similar to yours I think I might enjoy that," the other man agrees. "As I said — I am not here to deceive. I just… I'm not here to play foreign dignitary either, nor was I invited to come here in the capacity of one. I do want to get to know my mother's people but I suspect that I will learn more about them by being one than I ever would, fluttering about court like a peacock in a gilt cage. I seem to have convinced at least the young Lady Desarae that I am but an upstart traveller, though I am indeed not convinced that her man at arms buys it."

"Florent is a sharp eyed man," Philomene allows, flicking a half smile as her horse nudges her again in the back for attention, and turning to lavish it appropriately. "In general, those people who carry a sword and choose not to draw it get my approval. Rule of thumb for Marsilikos, I think. Are you joining me out today, monsieur? We'll find you a suitable old girl to hire, maybe take a staid walk down along the shore and up the river? You can enjoy some of that fine fresh air you're here to sample."

"Why not? I have nothing else I need to be doing today, life of the idle and all." Anghelescu winks, clearly remembering the lady's disparaging comments about the idle rich on earlier occasions. "At some point my poor manservant may stab me in my sleep for dragging him here and not going to the healers and chirurgeons yet, but on the other hand — the longer I take in getting around to it, the longer he gets to enjoy Marsilikan wine and music. Everyone wins."

Philomène arches a brow. "You've been to none of them? Monsieur, much as I'm clearly not the one to talk, if you're here for expert advice, go and see the damn experts. Perhaps I ought to stop them selling you a horse until I have some sort of assurance that you've sought a healer?" Because clearly that's the worst sanction she can think of. "Do I need to drag you down to the infirmary now?"

"If you do, please not by the ear like a naughty schoolboy," Anghelescu murmurs, recognising that tone of voice. Any man who ever had a mother would. "Tell me instead how a poncy foreign dignitary would be expected to carry himself at court, maybe? Do I need to dust off a sword to wear in spite of my perfumed hands obviously never having gripped a hilt in my soft, eventless life?"

Philomène snorts a laugh, adjusting her jacket to reveal her own blade at her side and, oddly, set a little further back and therefore usually covered by the skirts, a clearly foreign, heavily bejewelled, curved knife. "I could always loan you this?" she suggests. "As clearly you, my lord Count, don't know one end of a proper blade from the other?"

"I have always preferred a good, solid knife," he admits with a laugh. "But I can wear a sword for appearances' sake. And indeed pretend that I'm not certain how to draw it, should need arise." He glances down at his boot where, indeed, a discreet sheath contains a blade that, at least to the knowledgeable, seems to be the sort one might throw, rather than attempt to fence with. "I can probably manage to embarrass you entirely if I put my heart to it. Do you want me to?"

"I think you'll have a hard time embarrassing me entirely," Philomene insists drily, absently stroking Hirondelle's nose. "But it sounds like an excellent challenge to try. See if you can make up a 'traditional Chowatti' dance, and see who'll dance it with you, maybe?"

"The perk of actually being from a quite far away country, my dear lady, is that I probably do not need to invent much." Anghelescu chuckles. "Do you think anyone will mind terribly if I attempt to make the claim that the traditional Chowatti wedding dance involves beating a Skaldi to death with a baton? A coming of age ritual in which a young boy proves his ability to act as a man by killing his foes and smearing his face in the still-warm blood of his heart?" Skaldi stories apparently don't get any less colourful just because they originate from a country closer to Skaldia. Then again, perhaps the Chowatti do indeed have plenty reason to loathe their boisterous neighbours, and pretending that Skaldian stories are Chowatti stories would perhaps not be so hard.

Philomène grins broadly. "Sounds a little bit too useful for the persona we're putting forward, doesn't it? Are we trying to have them believe you've killed your foes, or that you're a useless puffed up set of clothes with what passes for a man hiding in them?"

"Ah. Yes. You are right. I'd have to be possessed of some level of essential competence to do so — and we are indeed establishing that foreign Counts possess no such talents." Anghelescu nods solemnly, blue eyes glittering; he does seem to find the mental picture they are painting more than a little amusing. "I shall have to ask my man to find the most horrific flowery perfume available, too. Just to give everyone the pleasure of directing me to that salon where they might sell me something more appropriate. Pray tell, remind me again, we are making certain that I will be remembered entirely as that Carpathian peacock, and hence, be quite able to walk unbothered in the streets as a common man afterwards, as long as I simply pretend to be my own man at arms, yes?"

"Put on enough of a show and not one of them will remember you again for your face," Philomene agrees solidly. "Do you have a suitably long and impressive name that nobody will have a hope of remembering or pronouncing? So the little shits trying to make a good impression on this no doubt rich, influential count can panic themselves silly over not making a tit of themselves, and still fail?" She holds up a hand, grinning more widely yet. "Better still, change the pronunciation every time. And correct them by repeating back exactly what they just said, with no change."

The Carpathian gives a mock flourish, although a small one as to not draw every groom's attention. "Andrei Mihaeil Grigore Anghelescu, at your service, my lady. Insert half a dozen familial titles, and I can make up half a dozen more without blinking. We have very little to do in the Chowat in the long winter nights but try to impress each other with our ancestry. Moreover, we consist of a dozen or more small, more or less independent nations all trying to convince each other to not invade, whether by sword or marriage. It's probably one of the reasons I am enjoying being an absolute nobody here quite as much as I am."

"Well, then, bonus marks if you can slip in some Chowatti curse words," Philomene decides, snapping open the catches to her mare's stall so she can actually get inside and begin grooming the horse, that being her general aim for being here, one must assume. "Andrei Michaele Gregoire Cuntyballs Bumhole Anghelscu." She nods solemnly.

"I suspect that if I just say the words quickly I'll go on record as AndwhatthehellIgiveupgoawayyoubloodyforeigner and that will do nicely," the man agrees and leans against the box wall while continuing to scritch the treacherous mare's nose. "I have to admit, my lady, you make my stay entertaining. I had not expected to find someone possessed of a sense of humour similar to mine, and certainly not among the gentry."

"I'm old enough to have nothing to lose," Philomene points out candidly, giving a nod of approval as he helps keep her horse occupied so she can begin working on her hooves. "What are they going to do, strip me of title? Too bloody late. Everything I have right now is off my own back. My house, my trade deals, my horse. They can't take those away from me for not toeing the family line. And," she adds with the ghost of a smile, "I'm old enough to be 'eccentric' now rather than insane. And with a… mostly unfounded… reputation for being able and willing to slice in half any idiot who gets on my wrong side." She pauses, briefly touching her leg. "They seem to conveniently forget this at that point, and that I couldn't chase them down to murder them even if I wanted to."

"You do seem to have that reputation. I have at least been watching exclamations of surprise that you have not yet murdered me in my sleep simply on basis of my being a foreigner. I am still deciding if it's worthwhile to point out that while yes, I am indeed, I am not a Skaldi, and I rather think you can tell one who is from one who is not." Anghelescu nods and leans against the box wall still, quite content to let the horse lip over his waistcoat in the hope of finding a sugary treat (there aren't any). "And yes… I can relate. I just don't… care, personally. No one's in a position to strip me of anything. I am responsible to no one. And indeed, no one cares."

Philomène looks up from the hoof she's working on. "I'm so sorry, I should at least have offered. Would you like to be murdered in your sleep? And if so, do you mind taking a nap in the daytime for me - I've not been getting as much sleep as I'd like, myself, lately, so staying up just for a spot of murder is going to play havoc with what little I'm getting."

"I could at the very least lend you my room key, I suppose. Tell my man to let you in if you knock twice, something. Pray tell, do you usually eat foreigners alive?" The foreign Count does seem interested, in a sort of offhanded way — not so much investigating her as seeming to feel that between them, the two people share a joke. "I like the Lady Desarae," he observes then, glancing in the direction she left earlier. "She seems to me to be equally sharp of tongue. I find that somewhat refreshing — too many ladies will say what they think you want to hear."

"She's a good one," Philomene agrees as she lowers one hoof and moves to take up the next, Hirondelle ever patient with her. "She won't sugarcoat it if you need to be told. I'd say I'm surprised to see you getting on, as she's little patience for foreigners, but then so do I and I rather like you." She glances up at him, eyeing him critically. "Probably because at least your mother was d'Angeline. You're half a real person, anyway, even with your funny accent and your odd clothes."

Anghelescu's lip twitches. "I don't think you'd have gotten along, I must say. My mother was… Let's just say that she was very impressed to marry a titled man, and considerably less impressed with his country. Were she alive and with me here, she would be employing half the city's tailors to own the most beautiful dress — and looking to employ half the city's hired killers to deal with anyone who beat her to them."

"My own mother," Philomene decides drily, "would probably have got along with her, then. I'm led to believe it was primarily her decision that I should be sent to l'Agnace to marry Louis-Claude, and thus she could show off at least one respectable daughter with a title and not just scars." She shakes her head, shrugging. "We can still arrange for you to wear the city's most beautiful dress, though, if you really want? Not sure you've got the figure for it, but we've skilled tailors who can probably make the most of a bad job."

"I've worn a dress before. I did not enjoy it, particularly not the corsetry." Is he joking? Maybe; Anghelescu keeps a straight face, anyhow. "I make a better accountant or coachman than wallflower, though. The urge to punch someone in the face when they stare at my decolletage tends to win out."

"With your lungs?" Philomene queries, raising a brow. "Better to pay somebody to do your punching for you, at least until you've seen a damn healer. What was it? Something land on you and fuck them up for good?"

If the Dowager Vicomtesse's colourful language bothers the Carpathian in the slightest he does not let it show. "Nothing so colourful or dramatic. Trenches," he says instead, shaking his head. "Too many weeks spent in cold water up to my knees, sleeping in the mud, living in the damn mud. Caught a cold that turned into something more, and while I lived through it, I never quite recovered. I am quite bothered if the weather is cold or damp, or I have to exert myself enough to lose my breath."

Philomène shivers without really realising she's doing it, enough to prompt a little snuffle from Hirondelle, who is promptly soothed with a murmur and a gentle stroke of her flank. "I was cavalry," she explains softly, then smirks. "You probably guessed that much. I mean, we had our share of rough places to be, but we never got stuck in trenches for months on end. What to the Chowatti healers recommend? Warm weather and don't do anything fun, I suppose?"

"And mustard plasters, bloodlettings and herbal tonics, yes. I am a dead man walking, according to my physician." Anghelescu shrugs. "I'm not quite so pessimistic myself, but I do realise that I need to look elsewhere for better advice. And I will — I think on some level I'm gathering my courage, though. In the unlikely case that I do indeed get told to go home and die — I'm not quite ready to hear that yet." He looks over at the older woman, evaluating her a moment and then adds, "I don't think we have lady cavalry, I'll admit."

Philomène smirks, going to find a stiff brush now to begin working her way along Hirondelle's coat, dust and dirt beginning to cloud into the small stall. Which can only help the poor man's lungs, of course. "I think I've lost count of the number of times healers have expressed astonishment that I'm still alive. You strike me as a similarly stubborn sort. Besides, how embarrassing would it be for you to die in a foreign country, and in front of a lady."

"A lady armed with a brush of all things, indeed. I could at the very least expire in the bedroom of the beautiful young wife of somebody important so there'd be a story tell back home." The Carpathian does indeed position himself on the upwinds side of the horse, almost as an afterthought. "I guess that between us, we're a good argument for trying to find a diplomatic solution before going to war."

"I shall have to see if I can find you the beautiful young wife of somebody important, then," Philomene decides as she sets to work in earnest to see her horse clean, groomed and shining. "Any preferences, or are we pretty much leaving the field open for 'beautiful', however subjective that might be?"

The foreigner snorts. "By that logic, my dear lady, the only asset that matters is that the gentleman in question is capable of dispatching me in a fashion not too painful. I should hate to linger on for days before dying from a botched stomach wound. I might end up monologuing on the unfairness of life, or something along those lines, and believe me, if it's the last bloody thing I do, I'll make certain that you are there to hear it."

There is a bit of ruckus before the stables, after which a white mare is led in by a young lady of d'Angeline beauty. She may be a wife of someone, but who will know apart from those of her acquaintance? Blonde hair has been gathered in the lovely fashion that manages to look expensive at the same time - a hairnet with a few pearls worked in. She wears a riding dress, dark blue, slitted at the front as to allow in a normal saddle. Leggings are worn beneath, to ensure propriety. A delighted smile plays across the young woman's features. She exchanges a few words with the stablehand that walks beside her. A stablehand who points out a vacant box to her. "There, M'lady. You can have that one over there." A few retainers trail after the lady. A few guards with an interesting crest, showing a bull on a field of white and green, and a handmaiden of sorts.

Spotting Philomène, Justine pauses and greets the older woman. "Lady Philomène? Is that you?" She is delighted with the coincidence, if one can tell from the tone of her voice.

"If you're going to monologue on the unfairness of life," Philomene grouches, "then I'll bloody run you through myself." She grins easily as she works, quite content to pass the time of day in this amiable manner. Conversation, but most of all, HORSE. On hearing her name, though, in a familiar voice she can't quite place to begin with, the grin shifts to something altogether more formidable and more wary. Shoulders shift back a little and that magnificently sculpted jaw sets in place. And yet, somehow, for some unknown reason, this voice seems pleased to see her. It's altogether worrying and alarming, until she's able to see past her horse and spies the owner of the voice. "My dear Lady Justine," she greets, this time with a smaller smile. "You've got your Flocon after all?"

The tall, fair-haired man leaning casually against the box stall door straightens up a little and steps aside so that the two ladies may indeed see each other, around the horse. He's clearly a foreigner from the looks of him, if the accent had not already given him away; the cut of his long black coat is wrong, the cravat is the wrong shade of blue for the season, the boots are a foreign make — and the silver-tipped walking stick certainly identifies him as some kind of wealthy merchant, perhaps, definitely a ponce. He's in his late twenties, early thirties, and if one goes solely by his colours, some kind of northerner.

"I did." The blonde lady smiles and lifts her hand to clap the white mare's side. "My husband was so thoughtful as to anticipate my wish. Before my letter could reach him, he had already sent Flocon on her way. How very thoughtful, is it not?" She leads the horse into the box and then waves for a servant to take care of the mare. "And this here? This is Hirondelle? She looks lovely." Lacing her fingers before her, the blonde lady considers both horse and its owner; and it will be only after this that she lets her gaze sweep towards the stranger. "Well met, Monsieur. Are you a friend of Lady Philomène? I am Justine. Justine Chalasse de la Courcel," the same offers tilting her head as she eyes him curiously. "I don't think we have met before?"

"She's a beauty," Philomene notes with appreciation, one hand still on her own horse's flank as though to stave off any envy on the part of her Hirondelle while she praises this newcomer. Justine, of course, does everything right - sending for servants to care for her horse. Philomene wouldn't even dream of it. "This is Monsieur Anghelescu, from Chowat," she introduces casually, then nods towards Justine, explaining even more succinctly, "My cousin, Lady Justine."

"I am not certain that I have earned the title of 'friend' quite yet, but I believe I qualify for 'acquaintance allowed to live to see another day', my lady." The foreigner bows lightly to the younger lady, as well a commoner should before a lady of the gentry. Whoever he is, he is obviously aware of Lady Philomene's reputation for eating foreigners alive. "The honour is mine, surely."

"Ah… From Chowat," the young blonde lady repeats, giving the words a somewhat ominous air. But it seems she is intrigued. "Monsieur Anghelescu." At which she extends her gloved hand for him to take if he so wishes. "An acquaintance, and alive at that. Congratulations, Monsieur. You must either be very charming or very lucky, I suppose?" A quick glance is cast towards her white horse, as Justine observes her servant for a moment, making sure, everything is done right, and her horse tended to properly. "You don't ride, do you, Monsieur?", she shoots the next question at Andrei, shifting just minimally in her stance. "And… did you come all the way from Chowat on horseback?"

"Let's assume lucky," Philomene notes drily. "I don't famously have a lot of patience for 'charming' men." She pauses, then adds as she continues to brush her animal down. "Monsieur Anghelescu may be foreign, but he shares our opinion of the Skaldi, which makes him an ally."

"I am no cavalry man but I do know how to cling to the back of a horse if I must," the Carpathian says with a small, amused smile, brushing his thin lips over the air just above Lady Justine's knuckles in the fashion of a man who is addressing a lady far above his own station and perhaps feeling a little honoured to find himself doing so. "I travelled here primarily by carriage, as disappointing as it must be to the ears of an equestrian — and one of the first people I had the pleasure of meeting was indeed the good Lady Philomène who did me the kindness of introducing me to your local brand of burnwine."

He's definitely got an accent though at least it is not so pronounced as to grate. "And indeed, I have had the questionable honour of fighting against the Skaldi. As likely a premise for friendship as many, I find."

"Oh, he does?" Justine entrusts her hand to Monsieur Anghelescu, and a vague smile playing on her features suggests that she appreciates his courtesy — in the manner of someone expecting it and reacting with astonishment were it not given. "I travelled her by carriage as well, Monsieur. But it was not that far, from the city of Elua. When I recently met Lady Philomène I mourned the fact that my horse was not sent along — but here it is. And I am glad." Her gaze drifts to the white mare that is still being tended to by the servant, and she continues. "Her name is Flocon de Neige, snowflake, and she was gifted to me on the day of my wedding, by the Comte de Brioude himself."

Philomène clears her throat quietly, wiping what is probably horsehair from her mouth with the back of her sleep. "Lady Justine," she informs Andrei, "will prove to you a far better example of our nobility here. She's far more familiar with the court, with the appropriate etiquette and marks of respect and so forth than I. If you're looking to know who gets the deepest bows, she'll be able to help more than I ever would. I tend to bow to the ones with the finest bit of horseflesh, which isn't necessarily accurate."

"She is a beautiful animal," Anghelescu cedes, looking at the white mare with the expression of a man to whom a horse is a biological device that gets you from point A to point B, hopefully without too much fussing on the way. Still, at least he tries. Looking back to the Lady Philomène he nods slightly, and then smiles again at the younger woman. "I do not think I will be finding myself calling upon the nobility often but if I may, I will remember that you are the person of whom to inquire, Lady Justine. I hope you'll forgive my ignorance when I confess that I am not familiar with the Comte de Brioude — I mean no disrespect."

Justine lowers her gaze with a somewhat calculated display of modesty, when Philomène calls her a better example of nobility than herself. "Is Monsieur Anghelescu interested in etiquette, then?", she asks. "Are you," and she turns her blue-grey eyes towards Andrei, "intending to pay a visit to the ducal court?" After his explanation, she smiles. "Ah, forgive me, Monsieur. He is my father-in-law, and I doubt he will come here in the next months." With that settled, the young lady fidgets a little with the jacket worn above her riding dress. "Lady Philomène… Now that Flocon is safely here, perhaps I could persuade you to ride out with me, one of these days?"

"In a heartbeat, Lady Justine," Philomene responds assuredly, turning to look Justine over with a critical eye. It's not unkind, merely… perceptive. Taking in every inch of the woman and any clues to her hardiness, ability or experience. Judging. "I was just telling Monsieur Anghelescu here that he should hire a horse and I'll show him some of the prettier paths out towards the forest, along the shore or upriver to the waterfall. Perhaps tomorrow or the day after? Your Flocon looks quite settled here now and it would be a shame to drag her back out when she's clearly ready for a rest."

"Lady Philomène suggested that I might perhaps attend the Winter Ball — and the tailor whom I called upon to purchase a pair of proper riding breeches certainly thought I would. While the idea entertains me, though, I am not quite certain that I have any business there," Anghelescu murmurs. "It seems to me that those who should attend a duchess' festivities should be those whom the duchess took an interest in meeting, and I am quite certain that I am not a man of interest to the court." He smiles lightly, perhaps in appreciation of the importance of Lady Justine's family, and falls a bit quiet to let the ladies converse about such things that actually matters: Horses.

There is confidence and pride in Justine's bearing and posture, not that she appears unkind, as she remains soft spoken, and her smile often surpasses the usual boundaries of mere courtesy. "A splendid idea," she tells Philomène. "I would like to join you. The ride could prove quite interesting, not only for the sights you mention but for the company to be had." For one moment she considers, before she nods to the older lady's suggestion. "Tomorrow or the day after. Depending on the weather." Her gaze flicks to Andrei and she smiles, now, in amused surprise. "I cannot tell, whom Her Grace would like to see at her ball. Do you dance, Monsieur?"

Philomène pulls another sweet treat from her pocket to offer her horse, stroking her neck and giving her a last pat down as she finishes up, then with the mare crunching happily away goes to put away her selection of brushes and combs, picks and rags. "If you do, monsieur, dance on out for now?" she suggests, leaning up against the stall door. "I'm about to muck out, so I'd take Lady Justine outside if you don't want to get covered in shit and straw."

"Only when I must," Anghelescu replies softly. "I tire easily, and I am not fond of touching strangers. A ride along the shore or upriver seems more to my liking. I would be honoured to participate, although I would not wish to intrude."

He glances to the younger woman. "Er. Yes. I will let the lady decide where she wishes to be?" He does take a step backwards though; perhaps the fox fur trim on his coat is not horse piss resistant.

"Very well." Another glance is given to the servant, before the younger blonde lady indeed decides where she wishes to be. A quick assessing look to her own attire, which for now is free of stains of any kind. "I have to return to the Chalasse residence. Now that I know, Flocon has found a good spot to stay; and with the wonderful prospect of riding out soon… My lady. Monsieur. I think I can return to my duties." Whatever these may be.

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