(1312-01-28) Here There Be Dragons
Summary: A chance encounter in The Explorers' Club leads to talk of the wonders of foreign lands.
RL Date: Tue Jan 28, 1312
Related: None
andrei fleur 

Explorers Club - Raziel's Sanctum

Natural light graces the top floor of Raziel's Sanctum through several oriel windows inlaid by jade and celadon slivers. Brass casements lend an antique feel to the wood floors and grandiose height of the peaked ceiling. Thin wood pillars carved in classic Hellene style run the length of the hall, each pair flanking a doorway into an adjacent chamber. Creature comforts abound where upholstered fainting couches are arranged around low square tables, the better to share wine and conversation in stylish comfort. A brass fitted rail sweeps around the sunken living area, such as it is, separated by a flight of stairs from a crescent stage flanked in a lectern and mobile shelves laced by a changing assortment of books or gewgaws. The only serious fixture, a freestanding wunderkabinett, is a gorgeous teak piece covered by lapis lazuli and mother-of-pearl designs likely to be the Argonauts on one side, and a certain famous couple traveling to the far ends of the Earth while flying the Courcel flag on the other. The open doors display dozens of shelves, and the Companions in their bas relief glory. So too the angelic partners of Elua appear on the plaster plaques ringing the upper walls.

The place holds an intimacy despite the hall's long size, inspired considerably by a fireplace used to banish the cold and gorgeous acoustics reflecting whispers and song alike into a bold auditory richness. Off the main hall open six doorsways. Four private bedrooms offer little by way of amenities except a place for weary travelers to rest their heads or prepare for the next adventure, each outfitted in kind by a bed, drawers, and a bookshelf. Two smaller salons support groups no larger than ten, decorated in classic Eisandine style. These treasure boxes feature more seating and books than actual instruments. Maps hang on the wall, woven tapestries of old.

The Explorers' Club is what winter evenings are made for. at least that would be the reply given by the young woman whom is curled within the capacious comfort of a faded velvet couch were she to be asked. The oriel windows that look out on the world are stacked with deep drifts of snow where it's flurried against the sills, and a fire burns low in the hearth of the stone fireplace to chase the chill from the room. Despite the comforts offered by Monsieur Raziel to those that frequent the upper floors of his shop, there are relatively few souls that linger this late. Tea has been served at some point tonight, for the evidence of such lies in the few cups that have been left on top of cabinets and cases, and in the tray of pots that sits even now on one of the tables. Indeed yes. The Explorers' Club has its fans and its members, and it's not hard to see why. The rarest of maps and tomes are housed within these walls, along with artifacts from the farthest reaches of the known world; to inspire, to provoke, to amuse and to horrify. No wonder Fleur finds herself so often amongst its treasures.

Perhaps it is no surprise that such a large collection of experiences should draw a traveller from another country, curious about d'Angeline customs, and indeed, about the d'Angeline view of the world. A tall, blond man in a black coat trimmed with silver fox-fur wanders in, and as no one tells him to wander back out, proceeds to trail along the shelves, carrying a silver-tipped walking stick in one gloved hand and pausing to occasionally touch a book with the other. He's got a certain air of higher middle class merchant about him; well dressed but the cut of his clothes is clearly foreign, and while the monocle does imply a certain level of class — or snootiness, depending on your view — he's unaccompanied by guards or servants, and seems quite content to remain unnoticed by the public at large.

Wandering past the shelves and looking not merely at the books but also at the displayed artefacts and the scenes depicted in paintings and furniture mosaics, the foreigner eventually ends up not too far away from where the lady is seated. He draws closer to the fire and in doing so, nods politely. Cold emanates from his clothes; one could get the impression he has been walking outside in the winter night for some time before entering.

Since there's little to distract her from noting the arrival of the stranger in their midst, Fleur looks up. Two guards attend her tonight, and to the initiated the colours that they wear would mark them as being of House Valais, (or just red and white to the un-). They keep watch of their charge from a few feet distant, present but not overly so. She folds closed the book that she's been reading whilst keeping the tip of one finger slipped within to mark her place should conversation with this newcomer prove short-lived or fruitless.

"Good evening, monsieur." Her smile is a smile that simply begs to be smiled at in return; being open and gracious and reaching to her eyes. Reminiscent of whiskey when set by a fire, those eyes settle warmly open Andrei now, becoming as he has the focus of her attention. "I haven't seen you here before. Are you newly arrived to the city?"

The foreign gentleman returns the lady's smile with one of his own, though his is a tad more reserved; perhaps in acknowledgement that this is indeed a lady of such high standing as to have armed guards nearby, and that at least some ladies of such elevation might have reservations about strangers. "I am indeed, my lady. I have been here but a week — and I suppose I still look horribly like the foreigner that I am. I trust I have not accidentally made a burglar of myself? The doors were open and no one told me to not enter." He speaks with an accent of some northernly origin or other, though at least not as pronounced as to grate at the ear. Clipped, a bit formal, a bit breathy on the s'es.

"Oh you are most welcome to wander at your will here, monsieur," Fleur replies, her words borne on the softest of laughs. "Knowledge isn't just for the few, but for all." A drift of her hand is given the shelves, the cabinets and the hangings dorning the walls. "I lose myself for hours at a time up here, and always there is more to wonder and marvel at. Are you warm enough? Perhaps you could add another log to the fire since it's beginning to burn low." It might be noted that at some point in the course of the evening the young woman must have kicked off her slippers since a silken pair embroidered in threads of silver lie skew-whiff at the foot of the couch where she's curled. Her gown of periwinkle blue spills over the edges of the plush upholstery and she looks set to remain where she is for a while longer yet. "There is tea should you wish it," she further goes on to add, "though it's probably cooled more than a little. A foreigner you say? Your accent is difficult for me to place, though I'd be inclined to guess you are from somewhere in the northern lands, rather than the south."

The outlander seems capable of following instructions; selecting a suitable log he adds it to the fire, and stokes it to re-ignite the dying embers. Then he settles, across from the lady, and shrugs out of his coat, revealing a tailcoat and matching waistcoat in a dark shade of blue underneath; perhaps he wishes to not freeze solid once he decides to step back outside once more. "I am from a small country in the Chowat, my lady, which I am quite certain no one in Marsilikos has even heard of." With a hint of amusement he adds, "Let me assure you, I am no Skaldi. That does seem to be the primary concern of people here, whenever I open my mouth. We do share a border with them so the accent is probably somewhat similar."

"No Skald I have ever seen dresses as finely as you, monsieur," Fleur muses, her eyes following the man as he lowers to a sit. "As for your homeland, I have indeed heard of the Chowat, though never have I met anyone hailing from there. It is an unusual country from what I'm given to understand — though I am only informed by what I have read in journals and books." Sliding the one she'd been reading from her lap to the gap between the her legs and the side of the couch, she props her elbow on the seat's arm, and her chin in the resulting curve of her palm. "I did read that you have no one ruler that rules over you all, but then again I also read that you have dragons and sea monsters, and that surely cannot be true."

The Chowatti gentleman blinks. "I think I can say with some certainty, my lady, that while I have indeed not visited every barony, county and principality in the Chowat, we do not have sea monsters. Mostly because we do not have an ocean. It is of course entirely possible that some local pond sports a perch of unusual size."

Dismissing the mental image of the grass carp from hell, the man smiles lightly. "My name is Andrei Anghelescu, and I am indeed from a small piece of nowhere named Podgrabczyna. You're quite right about our governmental situation; fighting little feuds about succession is a bit of a national pastime, though mostly in the larger principalities where there is indeed more than trees to fight about. We do have dragon legends — though I will cede that I have never seen one of those either, and I suspect that most of those stories were made up in order to keep children from running off into the woods or the mountains on their own and get lost."

Fleur laughs. It's a laugh of melted sunshine and is as warm as the evening is chill. "A large perch! I shall have to tell Monsieur Raziel that when next I see him. And I will confess to using tales of dragons myself on my son when attempting to curb his sense of adventure." She blinks twice, her thoughts perhaps wandering for a moment since she falls quiet and picks at her lower lip with her teeth. A breath is exhaled. A slow return of her smile. "I suppose that mothers are the same the world over," she eventually says, pulling a face in self-deprecation. "But it is good to meet you, Andrei Anghelescu of Podgrabczyna," she says, neither mangling nor faltering in the pronunciation of such foreign-birthed words. "I am Fleur." Just Fleur, apparently. No titles given.

The Carpathian returns Fleur's easy smile with one of his own; she seems to be one of those people whose cheer spreads simply by virtue of existing. "And you, Lady Fleur of Marsilikos, Mistress of Dragons With Whom to Terrify the Young," he returns with a trace of amusement, admitting perhaps in some fashion that he does not recognise the colours of her armed guards. "I get the impression that this is not merely a bookshop? Although I must add, that it is a very fine bookshop — we've certainly got nothing quite as impressive in my home town. Then again, to be fair, the list of things we do not have in my home town is impressive as of itself, and that is indeed one of the reasons I am here instead of there."

"Indeed, it is so much more than a bookshop," Fleur's humour continues. "Of course, it has not a fraction of the knowledge contained in the libraries of Shemhazai's temple, but sometimes a person wants more than just facts. They want the thrill that comes with the turn of a dusty book's page, or the discovery of something that sets a frisson of excitement to the pit of their stomach. Can the Bhodistani mystics really walk on water as some will swear that they can? Is that object on that cabinet over there really a shrunken head from the darkest parts of Carthage?" Her lips twitch with a poorly disguised smile, and she leans forward to lift one of the pots from the tray and pour a slow stream of over-steeped tea into one cup. Her nose wrinkles. "Jasmine tea goes so quickly past its best, but it's likely drinkable should you care for some still." A beat. "// Would// you care for some still?" The pot hovers above another of the cups that's yet to see use, and her eyes lift to his to await his response.

"I should be a cretin to refuse something hot to drink when coming in from the cold outside, indeed," Anghelescu smiles. "And thank you — you are most kind, Lady Fleur. You are — a lover of stories? I can relate somewhat. I grew up listening to tales about the grandeur of Terre d'Ange, your culture, your refinement, your everything simply quite that much better. My mother was from here, and I daresay she was quite homesick at times."

"Oh?" Fleur asks, allowing the tea to aerate somewhat as it spirals its way from the spout to the cup. "Which family is your mother from? I am well-schooled in heraldry, in the succession of families and how the branches of families touch and twine. Marriages in and marriages out." Claiming her own cup from the table, she reclines to her former position, resting the saucer of her cup on the arm of the couch. "It will perhaps come as no surprise to you that many of our nobles have been married into families of rank and worth beyond our borders in the never-ending search of peace and prosperity. Is that what brings you now to Marsilikos, Monsieur Andrei? A search for your roots?"

The foreigner nods good-naturedly. "After a fashion. I came here to seek medical advice, but I do not object to learning more of my mother's family while I am here. I believe that her maiden name was Bonnel — but I'll readily admit that that tells me very little. She never spoke of her parents. As you say, minor nobles marry outside Terre d'Ange, but the idea to do so is perhaps not always their own. What is it you say — Noblesse oblige? I would not mind knowing more of her background but in truth, I think that any ties between my home and hers are of no particular importance. We are not quite… players in the game of politics."

Fleur scrutinises the man before her, the darkness of her lashes making her eyes appear darker. "Bonnel. That would make you part-Kusheline," she notes. Is that a bad thing? A good thing? It'd be difficult to say for certain where her opinion on that might lie, for her smile neither falters nor dims, even if hidden for a second or two behind the lift of her cup to her lips. "I'm not too sure that you're entirely correct in your assumption on politics, however." she says between sips. "You are already half-d'Angeline, and the Chowatti are all but allies in your endeavours to hold a border against the threat of the Skalds. But for medical reasons you say? It must be something quite serious to bring you all the way from your home to our city."

"A health condition is always important to the man who suffers it," the foreigner replies with an easy smile. "I'll admit, though, that so far, I had the impression that foreigners are foreigners to the d'Angeline — it matters less where exactly they hail from. I would not say I have been treated badly because of my accent because I have not. I have, however, been warned often, that I inevitably would be — and on two occasions, told that people were surprised that I was not given the tongue lashing a foreigner should earn simply by breathing. On the whole, I have found the d'Angeline to be quite welcoming."

"It all depends with whom you speak," Fleur gently replies. "Undoubtedly there are those that regard most, if not all, foreigners with suspicion and mistrust, and often with good reason. They dislike the mingling of our blood with the corruption of foreign blood. They seek to keep their own bloodlines pure. But things change, as all things must. Our own queen is not of d'Angeline blood, and here in Marsilikos there are many marriages in and out of our own ducal family." She pauses, slim fingers setting her cup safely back on the table before her legs uncurl from beneath her and are set to the floor. Her slippers to seek. A quick smile. "I do hope that you find the cure for your ill-health that you seek. Our healers here perform near miracles. Just last year a blind man was restored to his sight. But I must return to my own little nest for the night, for the hour is now late. Perhaps our paths will cross again monsieur, if only that I might know if your pilgrimage here finds success."

"Thank you for your kind wishes, Lady Fleur. It is entirely possible that we meet again — this at least seems like a place I might care to return to." The foreigner stands as the lady does, displaying at least some level of decorum, and offers a light bow as she prepares to depart. "It is a blessing to be received so kindly."

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