(1312-01-30) Different Customs
Summary: Andrei finds himself educated further on d'Angeline customs, religion, the local salons and the fierce pride of Camaelines.
RL Date: 30/01/2020
Related: Other adventures of Andrei, the horse race from the Great Exhibition.
farah andrei odette philomene 

Leaping Fish Inn — Market Promenade

The Main Room of the Leaping Fish is tidy and well-kept - and warmed by a fire in the hearth to one side on colder days and evenings. An old tapestry depicting a pair of two leaping fish is adorning the opposite wall - a reference to both the ruling House of Mereliot and the name of the inn. The common room has five tables of sturdy oak with chairs and benches, between which two serving maids move to take orders or bring food and beverages. The air is filled with tasty smells of freshly cooked meals, and murmurs of conversation - and occasionally even melodies rippling through the room, when a lute player is around to provide entertainment. The fare is of good quality that even would not disappoint noble tastes.

There are stairs leading upstairs towards a number of comfortable and well kept rooms the inn has to offer.

It is already late morning, moving towards early noon, when the door to the inn opens and a woman, clad in fine clothes of a lady enters. A guard in Mereliot blue and yellow follows in her wake. Contrary to his d'Angeline complexion, the lady in his charge has a slightly duskier tone of skin, which marks her a foreigner. Even if there are traces of d'Angeline heritage visible in the fine, delicate nature of her features. Dismissing her handmaiden with a nod at the door, Farah seems to only intend a moment of respite, singling out a table in the corner which she approaches. "Please, can I get a pot of jasmine tea, and some cheese and bread, to go along with it?", she inquires in passing of the serving maid. Her d'Angeline sounds soft, and it shows of a hint of a foreign accent.

Not long after, a gentleman descends the stairs from above, speaking briefly with another man in quiet, hushed tones; the language is decidedly foreign, and from the pronounced s and z sounds, probably northern. They are a curious pair, both tall, blond, and blue-eyed — in their late twenties or early thirties. One is dressed like a merchant, perhaps, from some foreign nation, in shades of dark blue and a conservative cut. The other man wears black and might easily be assumed to be somebody's manservant. But the most curious thing about them is that they look quite alike; brothers, possibly — blood kin, definitely.

After a few moments and the fellow in blue doing most of the talking, his counterpart in black nods and heads for the door, disappearing out into the street. The other man looks about for a place to sit, making a request from the maid as well, in an accented voice. "I don't suppose I might impose for a pot of tea and perhaps a few bits of fruit?"

Another lady arrives soon after Farah. She has a guard as well but he's wearing Lis d'Or guard armour. Her long cloak covers most of her expensive pale blue dress which covers her from under her chin to the floor and down her arms to her palms with delicate lace. She keeps the cloak around her tightly while her hair gives extra protection. The delicate waves held back out of her face but her hair hangs down to the middle of her back. Upon seeing Mereliot colors she walks towards the woman and bows her head to her. "Might I also join you, milady?"

<FS3> Farah rolls Composure: Success. (5 8 4 4 5 6 6 2)

Farah looks up from the table she has settled herself at. Following the exchange of the two blonde yet so foreign men, she cannot help but stare a little. Dark eyes linger and observe as one of the two leaves, and she straightens a little in her seat. Looking after the one leaving, her gaze lands on the young woman who enters, and the guard that accompanies the beauty. What Farah may not have expected, is that the young woman approaches her table, and others might note this form the way her eyes widen, and she pauses for a moment, considering the woman. "Please feel free," she finally allows with a smile, gesturing towards one of the vacant seats. "Mademoiselle. Please. I would be delighted." Her head turns and she looks towards the remaining foreigner, curious as she is where he will pick his seat. At their table, there are two more vacant chairs. And such a look alone might be taken as silent invitation to join them.

<FS3> Andrei rolls High Society: Success. (3 4 7 5 3 2)

Whoever the foreigner may be he does seem to pick up on the non-spoken cue and indeed, evaluates it briefly. He may have reason to consider his choice; a foreigner, unguarded and unimportant, approaching the table where sits a member of the ruling family might be a foreigner headed for more trouble than walking into a harbourside cathouse carrying a full pocket of coin and a sign around his neck reading 'I Like It Rough'.

He makes his decision shortly and wanders towards the table nonetheless. Inclining his head politely to both ladies he says softly, "It seems that there is a shortage of empty tables. Might I impose on you ladies for a moment while I take my tea?"

The young woman bows her head. "Thank you. Your grace and kindness is well accepted." She takes a seat closer to Farah as her guard stands behind her. He has the look of a man who's seen too much and annoyed by everything though the look he gives to Farah is a head bow and a small grin of thanks but that leaves his face quickly. She keeps her hands together and the guard lightly touches her arm as he heads over to get her something to eat, leaving her in the other woman's care. When Andrei approaches, she lifts her eyes up and then glances over to Farah, perhaps this woman has the answer to everything and life. Those eyes surely show such hope.

"Please." Farah inclines her head towards the foreign man. "Even if I don't know you, Monsieur." The look she gives him is friendly but also a little wary. But it had been her who had stared at him, so here they are. "But that can be changed, I suppose? I am Farah Shamabarsin de Mereliot," she introduces herself. Her dark gaze flicks to Odette and she smiles. "I remember you, Mademoiselle. I think I saw you at the horse race, during the Great Exhibition. Lis d'Or seem to have a good eye for beauty and grace. Forgive me. I can't seem to remember your name."

The foreign gentleman inclines his head again in thanks before sitting. "I am Andrei Anghelescu, at your service, my lady — and my lady." Whoever he is, at least he's got some basic semblance of manners. "The honour is surely mine."

Odette bows her head, blushing softly at the compliment. "I am Odette no Lis d'Or." She introduces herself to the table. "I do apologize for my lack of manners not introducing myself earlier. When the man introduces himself she bows her head a little and takes a small breath sliding closer to Farah. "Well met, milord." She looks over to her guard, who meanders back over and puts a platter of meats and cheeses in front of the group. "Lovely. Thank you." A cup of tea is put in front of her and she thanks the man. "Please everyone enjoy."

"Monsieur." Farah nods towards Andrei, accepting his introduction. "What is your profession, if I may ask? You look like you hail from far away." Her own pot of tea arrives and is poured into a cup before her, and the foreign looking Mereliot cannot help but smile. "I didn't think it lack of manners, Mademoiselle Odette, but calculation. Aren't you Lis d'Ors trained to be the most graceful and versed in courtly things? I must admit, I haven't visited your salon yet. But now that I have you sitting at this table, I must ask… are you particularly skilled in singing or playing an instrument?"

"I fancy myself a soldier turned merchant," the foreigner replies politely, smiling at the serving maid as she brings him a small plate of sliced fruit; certainly not a man to indulge on sweetmeats, that one. He glances curiously at the supposed courtesan; a curious look which she may have observed before, in other travellers from the world outside Terre d'Ange — a world where the term 'courtesan' means something else entirely, and that something is not nearly as flattering nor as highly revered.

The young woman grins slowly as she listens to Farah. "I do play. I would also sing for you but alas, I wish you to still respect Lis d'Or." She grins and lifts her chin. "I have been trained in piano but I have been also learning the violin which I hope might eventually bring me to the Cello." She speaks softly to the woman. She looks up and meets eyes with Andrei. She gives him a kind smile before she turns her light blue eyes to Farah. "You should visit. I am sure any instrument you wish to be played or song to be song can be done at Lis d'Or."

<FS3> Farah rolls Perception: Great Success. (8 5 7 6 1 1 8 4 7 3)

"So you are here for purposes of trade?", Farah asks Andrei. That gaze of his, threatening to become a stare, has the Mereliot lady's eyes narrow a little. She seems about to say something, but then Odette gives a reply to her question. "Ah… I see. I would like to hear you play, Mademoiselle Odette. But I am afraid, I don't know any d'Angeline songs or melodies." Her smile warms a little, looking a touch less wary. "I need to broaden my horizon, on so many things. D'Angeline art and music, especially."

Anghelescu raises an eyebrow at the courtesan. "You play the violin, my lady? I do not think I have ever before met a woman who did — how fascinating. Do you enjoy it?"

Definitely not a local man.

Realising perhaps that he is studying the women a little too intently, the foreigner lowers his blue gaze to his plate and seeks out a strip of apple with gloved fingers. "For trade, and for my health, indeed. I am told that the healers of Marsilikos are unmatched elsewhere. I hope to benefit from their expertise."

Odette nods her head to Farah. "I will play for you, milady." She speaks softly. "Any tune you wish. Perhaps a comfort from home?" The woman turns her eyes to Andrei and looks confused for a few moment. "Milord, I've been playing the piano and the violin since I could walk. They are my creative outlet and if I could do nothing else but play I would." She frowns when he speaks on his health. "May Eisheth heal you."

"Your health." Farah looks up and studies Andrei for a moment. "The healers here are famed for their skill," she remarks then. "I am curious though, Monsieur. You look foreign and have a foreign accent, but I have not been able to place you. From where do you hail?" Her hands reach for the cup before her. "It's so chilly outside. And yet… I would doubt that you know any tunes from Khebbel-im-Akkad," she tilts her head a little, regarding Odette with a smile. "I play a bit on the lute. Or so I have, back when I was younger."

"I meant no disrespect," the foreigner murmurs softly whilst nibbling on his slice of apple; he is apparently a slow eater. "In my homeland, the violin is considered a man's instrument. Given that one does in fact not play the instrument with one's gender, I do not disapprove — nor would my disapproval be any concern of yours if it did indeed exist. Your customs are very different from ours, my lady, I am still learning them." He glances up at the Mereliot lady a moment and adds, "I am from a small country in the Chowat, my lady. A tad colder than there too, I fear."

Odette blinks a few times. "If one does play instruments with their genders that would be quite a sight to see." She teases lightly before her eyes look to Farah. "I can learn one or two and we can play together. You the lute and myself with piano or violin." She takes a small sip of tea before taking a deep breath and looking over to Andrei. "The lute must be a woman's instrument in your culture?"

"Then I am unlikely to ever visit it," Farah states towards Andrei with a smile that looks almost apologetic. "Your home country. If it is indeed colder than here." She sips from her tea, holding the cup in one of her hands. It is Odette's question though that makes Farah's olive skin turn a touch rosy on her cheeks. Maybe it is the memory of her own home. "It is. But still, I was one of few who… wished to learn to play it. Music… is something commoners play, it is not considered art, but entertainment."

"I believe that the lute is played by men and women alike in Podgrabczyna, though I do not play it myself," the foreigner replies quietly, perhaps perceptive after all of the unspoken reproach of his ignorance — and deciding to not pursue the issue. He is, after all, the one who invited himself to the ladies' table.

Odette grins slowly. "It's interesting to hear of how others view music." She speaks softly. "To me sitting silent in a room is more deafening than a choir." She speaks softly. "I need music in my life and it's just under the beat of my heart in terms of importance to me." She grins at Farah. "I am sure you play the lute beautifully." Then her eyes to Andrei, "Do you play anything?"

"I am certain you must play beautifully," Farah remarks towards Odette. "After what I heard, much emphasis is put in your salon on a thorough education on an instrument — at least for some of you. My skill can only be called mediocre in comparison. I should try to practice again my lute playing. It might be quite the pleasant surprise." It is Odette's question towards Andrei that has her focus return on the foreigner.

"I have practised the violin a little," Anghelescu admits, carefully selecting a thin strip of pear; he is obviously a very picky eater. "I do not think I would wish to try my luck at performing before an audience."

Odette blinks a little at Farah. "You play beautifully. As long as there is passion behind what you play, it's amazing." She bows her head to the woman. "Yes do practice again and we can play together." When the man states he plays the violin. "Perhaps a duet between us as well. I will play the piano and you the violin or perhaps violin to violin." She brings some cheese to her lips and takes the smallest bite of it.

"The violin?", Farah repeats, looking a tad surprised. "How interesting." Odette's suggestion of them playing together has her smile in a rare moment of modesty. "I would like that… Perhaps, but it will take time until I muster enough courage, Mademoiselle Odette." After that she falls silent, as a plate with cheese and bread is brought for her, and the Mereliot lady by marriage enjoys her meal, content for now to leave the other two to their conversation.

"It is kind of you to suggest, my lady," the foreigner replies noncommittally. Something goes unsaid there, but it is not quite evident what; some foreign notion, perhaps. "I think I find myself a little too unaccustomed to your ways to brave the Salons, however. It is my understanding that one should be d'Angeline gentry to be welcome in such a place. Am I mistaken?"

Odette tilts her head to Farah and grins. "Set a time, milady, and I will accommodate it." Then her eyes turn to Andrei. "The salons welcome all who follow the rules of the salon. We are not a brothel so taking whatever you want is frowned on and will usually garner swift removal. You can come into the salon Lis d'Or, sit and enjoy the music and wine and then leave without requesting assignation. One does not have to be d'Angeline to come into the Salons. One must only be able to afford an assignation and be approved to have one. Salon visits are free. I am not."

"I did not mean to imply that you were, my lady. I find myself unclear on your customs and think it safer to ask than to make assumptions." Anghelescu adds a few grains of sugar to his tea; certainly not a man to allow himself a full teaspoon, it seems. "I am most certainly not in the habit of going where I am not wanted either, in either meaning of the term."

Odette grins. "You implied nothing, milord." She points out to him. "You would definitely be welcome at all the salons. Each salon has it's own gifts. Lis d'Or is music and art and perfection. The others… have their own gifts. Visit all of them to enjoy all the tastes Terre D'Ange offers. Highly recommended." She grins kindly to the man.

"I am of a mind to visit the Salon that specialises in the use of herbs," the foreigner agrees. "Coc—something? I was strongly advised to ask their expertise beyond that of the chirurgeons of Marsilikos. Beyond that, I will admit that it is not something I have given much consideration to, my lady. I am told that your service is in some fashion a religious service?"

Odette nods her head. "Coquelicot." She helps him. "Coquelicot's motto is Feel with the Mind, See with the Heart. Lis d'Or's is shine and inspire. Glycine's is joy and pleasure. Lastly, Rose Sauvage, be you hunter or prey." She speaks softly. A nod his given. "When you take assignation, you praise Naamah. When Elua was imprisoned in Persis, Naamah offered herself to the King in exchange for his freedom. Each house of the Night Court has a different interpretation of why she did this, and the thirteen canons are based on these reasons. If you lay with any in Terre d'Ange you bless Naamah as her gifts are of a physical sense."

Anghelescu pays close attention to the younger woman's explanation, listening without interrupting and sipping his tea. Only when she falls quiet does he nod his understanding. "I see. You'll have to forgive my ignorance — we follow a different faith in the Chowat and I fear that beyond the knowledge that the d'Angeline consider themselves descended from angels, I know very little about your beliefs. I am delighted to be educated, however — it is one of the joys of travelling."

Odette grins slowly. "All will have their faiths. Of course it's not just a faith that we've descended from angels. I have seen a healer of Eisheth fully heal a man. What gift like that is possible if we do not have blood of the angels?" She asks quietly. "I remember stories of the men and women of Camlach being giants in battle. They have a gift beyond all reason. Each angel and their children have gifts. Some in Terre D'Ange do not have gifts."

"Indeed — my mother was d'Angeline and she never mentioned possessing any… talents," the foreigner agrees. "She never spoke of her faith either — my father would not have it. It is in part due to wanting to know more of her country that I am here, though the main draw is indeed your highly skilled physicians. It is a curious thing to know so little of one's mother's country of origin, is it not?"

Odette keeps the grin over her lips. "Those in Terre D'Ange with talents are rare. Those without are still beloved." She nods her head. "It is good to know where you come from. Talk to the temple priests. They are kind. Well… all of them except Kushiel ones. Those are about forgiveness through pain." She points out quietly. "Small warning." Then her eyes look down to her tea. "My mother left me at the salon when I was four and I have not seen her since. I do not know my father."

There is sympathy in the older man's voice as he says, "Perhaps sometimes it is better to be raised by kind strangers. My mother's marriage was not a happy one. She regretted leaving Terre d'Ange every day of her life, I believe. The Chowat is a cold and unforgiving place for a woman who fancies herself the daughter of an angel."

Odette nods her head. "I can only imagine. I've only been to Elua from here. I have not traveled this vast land and even sometimes I'm quite cold here." She chuckles a little as she's still wrapped in her giant cloak. "Tell me about Chowat?"

"It is a country of deep woods and tall mountains," the Carpathian replies. "Of old traditions, and indeed, of very different customs. I think we are perhaps a little more… conservative in some ways, than the d'Angeline. A little more prone to keep some things private. Whether it is a good thing I cannot judge. I have had the pleasure of having conversations with ladies here that I would not have had at home, and some of them have been both entertaining and educational. For one, women here can be soldiers."

Odette grins and chuckles. "Oh yes they can. Some are very amazing soldiers too." She watches him. "Conservative? Well then I will test those limits, milord. Have you yet kissed another man? Have you made love to one? Have you taken a woman to your bed? As long as there is consent and legal consent so over the age of sixteen, your wildest desires can come true."

<FS3> Andrei rolls Composure: Great Success. (8 2 7 6 8 7 2 1 3)

The Carpathian looks up from his teacup with eyes that glitter blue amusement. Watching her he thinks her words over before musing, "I have not — kissed another man, not to mention made love to one. I have taken a woman to my bed — and even kissed one as well. I fear that my wildest desires are quite — modest, though. I mostly desire to be rid of my cough; which seems only appropriate as it is indeed not sixteen years old, and I certainly did not give it legal consent."

Odette chuckles a little and nods her head. "We will rid you of this cough, milord." She says confidently. "As for desires, what are they?" She speaks softly. "I will tell you mine if you tell me yours?" She takes a piece of cheese and nibbles away at it before she takes a sip of tea. "Oh this is lovely." She sips more of the tea happily while waiting on him.

"I fear you might find my desires disappointing," Anghelescu replies in a serious enough tone. "I should like to be healthy. To ride a fast horse across the fields or go for a swim in a mountain lake without having to fear losing my breath and faint from a cough that I am told will one day be the death of me. Perhaps to some day meet a woman worth caring for — I am certain that many exist, but I should rather prefer for her to care for me as well, and that narrows down the field somewhat." He chuckles softly. "But if you are speaking of desires of the bedroom, my lady, I will say that in my country, one does not insult a woman by speaking of such matters. And that indeed, my desires there generally revolve around eight hours of undisturbed sleep."

Odette smiles brightly. "All amazing desires." She speaks softly. "For your cough, go to the Balms. They will help. The temple of Eisheth has an infirmary which will also care for you." She takes another sip. "As for a woman, it does not take a wise man to know that to get the care of a woman takes understanding and care yourself. Getting to know her more for who she is not her looks. Likes and dislikes. You will find a woman I am sure of it. Or man if you wish." She chuckles. "As for me, I want to make my house proud and one day have a child of my own." She sighs quietly. "Or perhaps have someone love me so much they make me a consort."

"And what, pray tell, is the difference, then — between a courtesan, a consort, and a wife?" He seems genuinely curious. "I know the terms but I am starting to suspect that they mean something else in my language than they do in yours."

Odette looks at him and grins. "A wife is married to her husband. There might not be love there, their might be. A consort is one that is love. A consort is a choice between two. They love each other dearly. So a wife can have her husband whom she respects and stands by but a consort she loves. A courtesan is a man or woman of Naamah. There are not attachments and we are free to give our bodies to any we approve of yet there is little love except in the act.

Anghelescu nods, taking mental notes. "To me, a wife is indeed a business contract. An arrangement between families, if you will. A trade, an alliance, as the case may be. A consort, then, is a kept woman, one that a gentleman provides for in return for certain services. I do not think love is generally a concern in these matters, although of course some men are fortunate enough to be in a position to marry for love. And, I should add, common men do not keep consorts — most men cannot afford to keep more than one woman in his house, or indeed, to keep a second house for a second woman."

Odette grins. "Consorts here can take care of themselves and yet they love their partner but do not have to be with only them." She points out. "A courtesan, fully marked, is similar to a consort but their hearts do not belong to one." She shrugs her shoulders. "I just want someone to love me I believe is my desire. Even if I must create that person."

"It is not an unreasonable desire, my lady." The foreigner sips his tea again. "I think it is a dream that most of us share, though I fear that most of us perhaps do not get what we desire. I think the courtesan is perhaps the most foreign concept to me. We have… ladies whose affection can indeed be rented, so to speak, but not in any fashion like the ones of Terre d'Ange. Here, 'courtesan' seems to be not at all an undesirable label."

Odette tilts her head. "We have brothels which are less expensive men and women. I can't even say less talented because I do not know. That being said a courtesan is someone trained their whole life to make someone else happy." She speaks softly. "Whether through music, dance, healing, pain, or sex." She points out to him. "Affection is not rented with a courtesan, either she likes you or doesn't. If you are liked and wish assignation, mutually you will enjoy time together and that is not abandoned when the money stops. She will still have affection for you after."

Anghelescu nods. "The meaning of the term is indeed very different. I suspect that courtesans here are… happier, on the average. In my country, the term would imply a well paid brothel worker. Affection is indeed not an issue."

Farah had been quiet for a while, occupied with her meal, as she had listened and watched the foreign merchant and the Lis d'Or engage in a conversation about some d'Angeline customs and beliefs. With a soft cough she brings herself back to their attention. "You should visit the Night Court, perhaps," she repeats Odette's advice from earlier. "But make sure you understand the customs before you plan to contract a Servant of Naamah, Monsieur." There may be a hint of rosiness to her cheeks, but her tone is calm and confident.

Odette grins slowly and nods her head. "Oh yes. It's all consent based." She speaks. "I will tell you a story. A young girl was training in the salons. She was preparing for her debut or when she turned sixteen and would take her first assignation. A woman approached her and touched her aggressively. Tried to correct how she stood or how she played. The guards protected the young woman and the aggressive woman? Well she is not welcome at any of the houses. She was attempting to help and yet it was not consented too." She looks to Farah and sees the cheeks color. "I am sure milady is quite occupied with her husband though."

The foreign man looks up from his second slice of pear. "Good. I may not share your faith or your customs, my lady, but I am a quite firm believer in consent. The rights of women are not quite as clear in my country. They should be." There is no hesitation in his voice as he speaks. Then he glances back to the noble lady who had been quiet for some time and murmurs, "I must admit, I was not making such plans, my lady. It seems to be the assumption that I am here to do so, so I dare presume that most foreigners come here with that intent?"

"I have visited the Night Court of this city," Farah remarks towards Odette with a faint smile. "As I wished to find answers. One thing I have learned is that even at Rose Sauvage where there are harsher pleasures to be found, it is vital that the point of comfort must not be crossed. I found that remarkable and quite telling of d'Angeline views and sentiments. Anyone not respecting that line of comfort will have to face punishment." It is Andrei's counter that has Farah's dark eyes lift to look towards him. "I assume nothing of you, Monsieur. You said you are here for the sake of trade and seeking to have your health restored. I believe you. Why should I not?"

Odette grins at him. "Rights of all, milord. Men and women. A woman grabbing a man without consent is just as frowned on as a man grabbing a woman. Or woman grabbing a woman or a man grabbing a man." She shakes her head. "Consent is very important." She nods her head. "Any come to enjoy the salons. Though you wish to be healed which is at the temples and the salons." She looks at Andrei. "There are no assumptions." She grins slowly. "Though I do wish you to branch out to find out what's best for you."

"Perhaps I do not understand what you are suggesting, my lady." The blond man studies both ladies with interested blue eyes; the kind of gaze that evaluates the value of her words and bearing rather than dwell on her appearance or attire. "Would I be looking for a physician at this Night Court? The Salons are in the Night Court or elsewhere? I am quite open to the possibility that I simply misunderstand."

"I think, Mademoiselle Odette means to imply that healing can occur on many layers," Farah states. "There is the temple of Eisheth, where those that have faith in Her can find their ailments alleviated, and the infirmary for those seeking healers. At the Night Court, there are courtesans that can make you feel better, using techniques of massage and others of easing the mind. These may be go along with sexual acts," stating which, she blushes a little, "and you must agree with me, Monsieur, that it is in moments when we feel Naamah's blessing, that the soul and the body and the mind find likewise fulfillment."

Odette nods her head and grins a little between the two. "The Salons are the individual skills or lines one studies within their particular House. So I am within the House Eglantine of the Salon Lis d'Or which resides within the Night Court." She explains. "In the night court, there are salons of each house which can help you. Balm is one trait you should look for." She speaks softly. "The Temples house temples for each of the angels. Eisheth is the healing angel. Go to that temple to speak with the healers and priests."

"I think perhaps I am missing the religious aspect," Anghelescu cedes. "I am raised in a faith where such efforts are meant to be made only to carry on the family line, though I'll grant very few people actually meet such strict standards of life. It does sound like I should speak with these ladies who master the arts of healing — they certainly do no worse than my own physician who promises me nothing but an early grave."

He listens quite intently to the courtesan's explanation and nods when she reaches her conclusion. "And would I indeed be welcome in that temple, a man of a foreign faith? I fear that the reverse would probably not be the case in my homeland."

"It may not so much be the question of whether you are welcome… I personally have found the priests to be kind and friendly towards foreigners such as myself. You should visit the temples, and if only to get an insight into d'Angeline religion," Farah opines gently. "I have visited all of them." Tilting her head to the side in an affirmative way, when Odette speaks of Eisheth, and again, there is a subtle heat rising in the Mereliot lady's cheeks.

Odette nods her head. "Of course you would be welcome." Then a small smile lifts her lips. "Milord, you keep saying ladies. It is male and female that fill the Night Courts ranks. It is not just women and you might find a man gives a better massage than a woman just due to their strength. The Night Court doesn't need to be sexual if men do not interest you but you can take assignation with a man and not have it lead to sex as long as that is clear." She states. "Do not be ashamed of experimenting either. I am sure all in Terre D'Ange wouldn't mind a kiss of those lips." She teases lightly. Then she turns and looks at Farah. "Why do you flush, milady?"

<FS3> Andrei rolls Composure: Good Success. (8 3 2 4 2 2 1 7 4)

The Carpathian hesitates for an instant, just long enough to hint that perhaps the courtesan's bold words caused him to search for an answer, or tempted him to blush; he seems possessed, at least, of some semblance of discipline, allowing him to pretend otherwise. "I may not find myself quite so free with my affections."

<FS3> Farah rolls Composure: Good Success. (7 4 7 4 4 5 1 4)

It may be that the flush in her cheeks is caused by the general, rather candid nature of the conversation. Farah de Mereliot smiles even so towards Odette as the young adept poses this question. "It must be the heat," the lady explains, "the fire burns quite hotly in that hearth over there."

The young woman watches Andrei for his expression and she lifts a brow up. "Then find someone who is discrete and explore your desires. Others do not need to know what you are doing. Push that conservative stance." She grins slowly at Farah and nods her head. "Yes. The heat." She sits back and holds her tea closer to her. "Milord you are in Marsilikos. Relax and enjoy yourself. Get healed and explore."

Anghelescu studies the younger of the two women a moment and then asks, mildly, "…But why? Healing, certainly."

When the door opens it alleviates the alleged heat of the fire, regardless, flurries of snow swirling in and catching the light. Light which is blocked in the doorway by an ominous figure dressed all in black, black breeches, black boots, black cravat and black jacket, with only the glinting reflection of the spurs affixed to her heels, the occasional shine of what is elaborate and exquisite embroidery (also in black, so as not to stand out, you see where the theme of the outfit is going), and the way the light makes her blonde hair glow behind her like some sort of misguided halo. The temperature, literal and figurative, drops, as the woman moves into the inn with an all too familiar limp.

With her fingers wrapped about the hot cup of tea, refilled and even hotter because of this, Farah has grown quiet again. A woman of d'Angeline beauty, even if marred by some foreign heritage, she sits there, in a fine dress that underlines her noble station, dark hair tamed into a do of courtly fashion, and a Mereliot guard not far watching over her safety. She is seated with a young woman and a blonde man of foreign looks at a table in the common room of the inn. When the new arrival enters, Farah looks up and regards the older woman, who in so many aspects appears to be the exact opposite of herself.

Odette grins slowly at Andrei. "And why not?" She speaks softly. "What other time in your life will you experience such things?" She asks softly. Her own guard and her look up at the same time and the small woman grins warmly at the new lady arriving. She doesn't speak though as she has this fear in her gut. She does turn back to her tea and takes a long drink of it.

The foreigner, on the other hand, looks up as the woman in black walks in; he clearly knows who she is. Standing up as one might expect from a member of the merchant class addressing a dowager vicomtesse, he tells her politely, "My lady, you appear to have misplaced your horse. Does she not find her preferred brand of oats in here?"

Maybe he'd rather argue with the lady famous for eating foreigners alive than answer the courtesan's question. It's possible he's just suicidal.

Philomène pauses on her way to the bar as she's addressed, narrows her eyes a little before she recognises exactly whose foreign tones those were, then simply lifts her magnificent chin in acknowledgement and greeting. "Monsieur Anghelescu," she drawls as she pulls up a seat and, steeling her face to careful neutrality, parks herself in it. "I've misplaced money before, forgotten my children, and have only recently lost my husband, but I assure you I would never misplace my horse. Are you bothering these ladies?"

Farah, for her part, recognizes the unmistakable features of one of the competitors at the horse race event from the Great Exhibition. "Lady Philomène de Chalasse," she intones, a tad relieved perhaps that names fall in place after she has been drilled to remember and memorize them. "How lovely, that you would join us."

Reclaiming his seat as the Dowager Vicomtesse takes hers, Anghelescu offers a small, crooked smile. "I believe that I am indeed bothering them, yes. Asking all the questions, being, well, me. How are you today?" They seem to be on familiar terms.

"Well, I was enjoying myself," Philomene lies smoothly, although there's something of tired relief when a drink is placed in front of her by the bartender without her actually having to ask. "Lady Mereliot, how do you do. You have my full permission and encouragement to smack Monsieur Anghelescu if he's being obtuse. It's the only way these people learn." The harsh words are softened, at least a little, by the sardonic smile which tugs at her lips, and the rather more respectful way she inclines her head, taking in all three of them, as she raises her glass in their direction in a mute toast.

Farah lowers her gaze, but in a way that shows more gratification than modesty, when Philomène places her correctly. The words of the Chalasse lady have those dark eyes lift at once though. "I am not sure he would enjoy that," she remarks, with an appropriate mixture of astonishment and tease in her tone. "Lady Philomène, I am not sure you are acquainted with…" She glances towards the adept that seems quite at ease in these surroundings. "Mademoiselle Odette nó Lis d'Or."

Anghelescu nonchalantly returns the toast with a slice of apple; the man clearly is not possessed of manners. "I think I might prefer a gentle scolding," he murmurs blithely. "I have just been told of how at last one Salon considers punishment to be pleasure, and I am not quite certain I'm ready for those levels of confusion."

If we're honest, the Chalasse completely fails to place Farah, but she can and does place the guards in their fish livery, which helps prompt at least a little of her memory. "Whereas you and I more consider pleasure to be punishment, one must presume," Philomene notes drily towards the foreign man, pausing for a good swig from her glass. No ladylike sipping for her. "Mademoiselle, how do you do," she adds towards Odette, eyeing her briefly then dismissing her without further thought for now.

Whether placed correctly in all detail or not, Farah notes how the older lady focuses her attention on Andrei, the obvious foreigner. Having finished her meal, she gestures for the guard to deal with offering payment (such a thoughtless action it had been to dismiss the handmaiden earlier; handmaidens can be so handy at times). "I fear, I need to leave you now, as some business awaits me," Farah announces towards those present as she moves to stand. "Thank you for the enlightening conversation." At which she offers a smile to each one seated at the table. A last glance is given to Andrei, before Farah moves to depart with her guard in tow.

"I am inclined to think, perhaps, that some might consider my pleasure to be punishment," the foreigner says, in the same inane tone. It's obvious that there is some kind of mutual good-natured jabbing going on between him and Lady Philomène. He stands and offers a bow to the Mereliot lady as she departs, demonstrating that he has at least some decorum. "Good day, my lady, may it be pleasant."

"Oh no, completely the opposite," Philomene insists, absently swirling the drink in her glass before taking another gulp of it. "I'd definitely take pleasure in your punishment, monsieur. Ah, good evening, my lady," she adds somewhat casually towards Farah's retreating back. The lack of a Mereliot thereafter for the afternoon can only be a good thing - it means she can get well and truly drunk without having to worry about niceties like, y'know, not punching out leading members of the duchy's ruling family.

Anghelescu laughs softly. "Please do not take that riding crop to my back, my lady. I have just reassured the young lady here that I am in fact in the city to seek the aid of healers and physicians. She will think me a complete liar if I allow you such indulgence next."

Odette clears her throat. "A riding crop in the correct hand will not make you seek the aid of healers." She points out. "A knife or a whip. How one uses it will dictate how you feel after." The young woman points out bowing her head to Philo and sipping her tea.

"I'm afraid my expertise with a crop stops at horses," Philomene admits candidly, rubbing a hand through her hair. "Have you yet been to see any of the healers I've recommended to you, monsieur? You can't continue to use the 'I'm here for my health' excuse to disguise your spying unless you at least make the effort to see somebody."

"And what, pray tell, would I be spying on, my lady?" The Carpathian looks quite amused at the idea. "Ah, of course. I shall write a long letter to my liege lord, telling him the finesses of your fine fleet. Information which will be exceedingly useful to him, with the Chowat being landlocked on all sides." Then he sobers slightly and says in a more serious tone, "I have not gone yet. I still find the whole Night Court quite confusing. The young lady here has been educating me somewhat on its structure."

Odette grins. "My lady there is no time but the present to practice a crop on a willing back." She gestures to Andrei. Though another shake of her head. "See the healers in Eisheths temple and the Balm. Together they will heal with ails you and you will see the power of the angels." She takes another sip of her tea and then picks a piece of meat off of the table before her.

Philomène sets down her glass so she can count off on her fingers. "Glycine for steak sauce, Rose Sauvage for riding crops, Lis d'Or for somebody you'd take out in public, and Coquelicot for pain relief." She shrugs. "There are nuances, of course, but that's about the gist of it. You'll note how none of them include things like 'happy to join you on a gallop' or 'good for sparring training', which is why you'll rarely find me in the Salons. My idea of the perfect evening involves an evenly matched punch up, plenty to drink, a long, hard ride out of the city, and then bed."

Anghelescu murmurs with some amusement, "Coquelicot, indeed. No offence to the other Salons, my ladies. It is simply that at least at this time, I feel little need — not for exotic dining, and not for riding crops. The music of Rose Sauvage I might find attractive, perhaps — I have always enjoyed a good performance as much as the next man. What I spend my time on here, though, is mostly speaking with merchants and sea traders."

Odette lifts a brow slowly and tilts her head. "Rose Sauvage, milord? The music there. The sound of begging and whips?" She grins slowly. "I think you meant Lis d'Or but you want Rose Sauvage." She grins happily and then looks to Philomene. "I could try to spar you, milady but even with my incredible muscles I fear you'd best me." Points out the waif of a woman.

"I think they might argue that there's a little more to their canon than whips and begging," Philomene notes. This from the woman who just dismissed all four salons with a pithy epithet not two minutes before. "And as kind as your offer is, I don't want a fight where there aren't even chances of coming out on top. I'm not in it to win, I'm in it to challenge myself."

The Carpathian backtracks in his mind for a moment, and then slowly nods. "… Yes. I think you are quite right. I meant your Salon, my lady — where ladies play the violin. That would certainly be one thing that I might care to see before I make up my mind whether to go to my grave or not. Whereas the sounds of whips and beggings sounds somewhat less inspiring, I must admit." He glances at Philomène speculatively for a moment, then very obviously dismisses the idea of challenging her himself. Perhaps he does not imagine himself much more of a challenge than the younger lady, either.

Odette sighs. "Men and women play all instruments in my salon." She points out to the man again. She shakes her head. "It's a pleasured beg. They have far more talents then I am aware of." She points out to the man. "Lady Philomene, are you saying I am not a challenge?" She puts her hands on her hips. She takes a moment to look upset before she just sighs and gives up, sipping her tea.

Philomène turns to look Odette over again fully, tilting her head back a little to look down the length of her nose at the smaller woman. She takes up her glass, drinking from it without breaking eye contact over the rim, letting the moments drag out until finally she responds drily, "Your training is not in killing, mademoiselle, but pleasure. I would not dream of trying to bring pleasure to anyone at all. It's not in my nature. Yours is not to fight. Neither of us would enjoy that."

"Yes, I gathered this," Anghelescu murmurs. "That is why I want to actually see it, and moreover, I want to hear it. To know that something is so dramatically, fundamentally different from what I am accustomed to makes me a very curious man, Lady Odette. I will go home, having seen a woman play a violin proficiently, and I will consider it a fond memory indeed. And who knows? Perhaps I may mention having had this experience to somebody whose opinion actually matters in the Chowat, and thus pave the way for the idea to spread. Who knows? Perhaps some day, a woman might even take up a sword in my homeland as the Lady Philomène, and indeed, fight along our borders as a man would. At this time, that is certainly unthinkable."

Odette lifts a finger. "Yet if your pleasure is in fight, should it not be in my nature to offer you such pleasure?" She counters the Lady. "I would enjoy offering you the pleasure of a fight." She sighs quietly and bows her head. "It might be short but by the Companions it'd be valiant!" She smiles brightly. Then her eyes shift over to Andrei. "I'd offer you that today if I had my violin but I do not." She points out quietly. "I left it in my room." She shakes her head. "No. Fight as a man would? No. A person will defend their home as they should. Gender doesn't matter."

Philomène flexes her fingers, then sets her hand down flat and deliberate on the bar. "Mademoiselle," she insists, something steely behind her tone now. "I think you misunderstand me. It's not the fight that interests me, it's the challenge. Any idiot can throw a punch. I've no time at all for anyone who starts a fight with somebody smaller or weaker than them because that's not a challenge, it's either showing off or at worst it's bullying." She lifts her chin, setting her jaw, and fixes her piercing blue-grey gaze on Andrei. "And I'd hope no woman would fight 'as a man would'. I'd hope she'd fight to her strengths as an individual. What's unthinkable is the idea that a woman can't fight unless she emulates a man. As though men have some mystical fighting power that we mere women can't possibly comprehend." She snorts, then knocks back her drink and holds out her glass for another. "Let them fight along the border not as a man would, but as I would, or as Lady Adeline would, or as Geraldine Valliers, or Hyacinthe D'Aiglemort, or any one of the women I've been privileged enough to learn from and fight beside."

"Let me assure you, my lady, that outside Terre d'Ange, gender matters. And quite a bit, at that." Anghelescu glances to the older woman; as someone who has fought along the Skaldi border, she might just be able to confirm this statement. He listens to her little speech, and eventually nods. "That is a valid point. I did not mean that women should try to become men. I meant that women might some day fight as men do — in whatever fashion they are best capable, to defend their land. You and I, for instance, fought in very different fashions, but that makes you no less of a soldier than I."

Odette lifts her hand and points at Philomene. She nods and returns her hand to her tea. "Yes! She spoke much better than I." Then her eyes go to Andrei. "Then the rest of the world seems backwards. I know Skaldic even allow women to fight." She points out. "In your culture, what right does a man have to defend his lands more than a woman? Did women not bring all life into existence and should we not have the companions, or gods given right to defend our children, our homes, our lands?" She asks him simply.

"Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," Anghelescu says softly, and from his tone it is obvious that he is quoting some text or other, quite likely a religious one. He shakes his head lightly. "In my faith, a man defends his women, my lady. You may find, though, that I am not a very religious man, and while I am in many ways puzzled by your ways, the notion that women should help defend the realm rather than add to the burden of requiring defense seems quite sensible to me. I am certainly not going to tell you that your ways are wrong. Only that they are different from what I am accustomed to."

Philomène presses her lips together, plucking a piece of nonexistent lint from the front of her jacket. "Monsieur, you are not endearing yourself to me with your implication that I am considered any less a soldier than you," she notes, tone deceptively quiet. "I'll take your apology."

Odette blinks a few times and goes over the words again. "So… in your culture, your women are controlled baby makers." She nods her head. "Very demeaning." She points out to him. "I … I don't want a man to rule over me. I want him to be beside me. You might appreciate White Roses. You can rule over them." She points out to the man.

"I am stating a fact. In the Chowat, you would not be a soldier. The idea that you would pretend otherwise would be ridiculous." The foreigner sips what remains of his tea, long ignored and possibly quite cold by now. "My personal opinion was not on the table. I have no reason to assume that you are less of a soldier than I, or anyone. How would I have? I have not seen you fight." He glances at the younger woman and says, with a hint of patience, "I am not here to convince you to adopt our ways, my lady. I am here to learn of yours."

Philomène sets her jaw and pulls herself to her feet. "I will take your apology, monsieur," she insists more firmly, rolling her shoulders and tucking one hand into her pocket. "And then we will have a drink and I will explain at length just why I find your words so offensive. Or you will not apologise, and we will fail to have that drink, and I'll see you first thing in the morning, bring a second."

Odette looks at him carefully and shakes her head. When Philomene stands and then demands a duel her eyes widen and she bows her head. It's not her place to request anything right now. She stands up as well. "Lady Philomene, perhaps I could play you a song at Lis d'Or?" Her voice breaks a little as she requests this, holding her cloak closer to her body.

"There is no shame in acknowledging that the Chowatti way seems offensive to a d'Angeline ear," Anghelescu says, quite seriously. "And if I have offended you in speaking of them, then I do indeed apologise. As I said — it is not for me to judge, or indeed, attempt to convert. I am here to learn of your ways, and that is what I intend to do. Please tell me indeed, why my words are so offensive; how am I to learn the error of my ways if you do not?"

Philomène stands and glares a moment longer, before giving a very small nod and removing her hand from her pocket. "Beers all round," she requests quietly of the bartender, who had quite sensibly backed away but returns when it looks like blood might not yet be spilt today. Well, she did promise, and for all her many and varied faults, she does at least keep her promises. "I am not offended by your culture as a whole. Not everyone has the privilege to be born d'Angeline. I am offended by the backhanded way you imply that women can only fight 'in a fashion', as though we might be dismissed because, Companions save us all, clearly one cannot handle a sword unless one has a penis. You call me 'no less' than you, as though this were fine praise indeed, merely to be thought of as not some lesser being after all. As though the very pinnacle of a woman's career should be to be considered almost as good as a man. Do you understand my objection now?"

Odette keeps quiet and takes a seat as if she too were being scolded. She bows her head and drinks her tea quietly. The young man picks at a piece of meat slowly and nibbles it. She does not want to get involved.

"I understand that my mastery of your language is not what I thought it was," the foreigner agrees. "I thought I was saying that as far as I am aware, you may be as capable as I, or indeed, quite a lot more capable. How would I know, without having seen you fight? The women of my country do not fight. The women of yours do. It seems to me that you are quite content with this situation and hence, it's not my place to tell you that things should be different." He steeples his gloved fingers under his chin and looks from one woman to the other quite thoughtfully before murmuring, "I am tempted to ask why a d'Angeline would indeed care what a foreigner thinks of these matters in the first place."

"What was it you said before? You don't go into somebody's house and shit on the carpet," Philomene responds simply. "Drink up."

Odette shakes her head. "It's not what you think on the matter. It's a matter of honor." She speaks softly. "She was willing to prove to you how well she fights. In fact, I could show you how well I play the violin, your male instrument. You will find all women in his country are accomplished at something and no man is going to speak otherwise. We respect each other and love our differences. That is the beauty of Terre D'Ange."

"I generally try not to, indeed. However, when I am asked how something is viewed or done in my homeland, I will answer the question," Anghelescu replies and raises his glass. "Even when an honest answer is not what will curry the most favour in the moment."

The foreigner turns his blue gaze on the younger lady and nods. "I am inclined to agree. This is a point that speaks in your favour. As I believe I was saying earlier — I might learn a few things, and indeed, take them home with me. Whether such seeds would take root — that is not for me to say."

Philomène rubs at her temple with one hand, shaking her head at Odette. "Even after all I said, you're conflating skill with honour. I was willing to prove not how well I fight, that is entirely beside the point, but my willingness to put my own body in harm's way to stand up for what I believe in. It's not about winning. It's never about winning. It's about standing up and backing your words. If it had come to it and I'd met the man at dawn with swords, I'd have called myself satisfied the moment he looked me in the eye with blade drawn, ready to back his words with his life. It doesn't matter who's a better swordsman, especially not in some artificial one on one setting that bears no resemblance whatsoever to a battlefield. It's not about the fight. It's about the challenge, and that particular challenge is all about nerves of steel, not blades."

Odette shakes her head to Philo and shrugs. "I am not a fighter and as an artist I have little to prove other than my skill which is between myself and my instrument." She speaks softly. Her eyes look at Andrei and she nods. "If all you take back is respect between genders than that is all one can ask." She then turns to Philo. "My body is not much but I'd put it up to defend those I care about. If I had any I cared about." She grumbles the last bit.

"The question of who is the better swordsman is easily settled," the Carpathian observes to his glass. "The lady can hold a sword and not lose her breath in a matter of minutes. I cannot. Very short duel, that."

"And therefore," Philomene continues smoothly from Andrei's statement, "had he accepted, he would have shown far greater courage. If you are prepared to fight for your words, even knowing you are at a disadvantage, that is honour. It is a demonstration that you'd rather die with your words than take them back, and it draws a line under the whole affair. Honour satisfied. You'll note that at no point does it matter who pokes the other with their damn blade."

Odette shakes her head. "I am sure there have been fighters who are disadvantaged who still fight. Fighting is skill and luck from what I've been told." She speaks and then looks over to Philo. "She would know better." She stands up and looks between everyone. "I think I should go though. It's getting quite late."

"I will take up a sword and meet you in the field when I feel that I have something to defend," Anghelescu points out. "I am not going to stand on a field of honour to defend my right to consider your gender inferior when I do in fact not. Your customs are different to ours. Whether they are better — that is part of what I am here to find out. Ask me again in a year — then, perhaps, we may have to meet at dawn. Or not, as the case may be." He stands at Lady Odette's words, gracing her with the same courtesy he showed to the lady from the ducal family. "It was an honour to meet you, my lady. I hope, perhaps, that I may remedy the poor impression I seem to have made, some day."

Philomène exhales upwards, blowing a lock of hair from her forehead. "Ahh, my apologies, mademoiselle. I've soured the atmosphere when you were enjoying yourselves. I have been known" she admits, glancing to Andrei as though to dare him to agree. Or disagree. Or something. "to hold Opinions on these things." The capital O is audible. "Please, do stay if you'd like. I'll promise not to lecture any more on honour and courage, and you can flirt with our foreign guest and we'll all have a beer."

Odette grins slowly. "My lady, I have to return. Do you see this face?" She gestures to her guard who has the old man grumpy face. "I think he wants to go home." She points out. Her eyes turn to Andrei. "You did not give a poor impression at all." She points out to the foreigner. "My lady he wouldn't understand flirting. He just wants to breathe clearly. All my flirting goes to deaf ears." She smiles and bows to them both before moving away from the table.

"I suspect that when it comes to flirting, the lady is quite able to pick targets more receptive to her charms." The foreigner calmly picks out another slice of apple. "They are considerable, but as I have mentioned once or twice, I did not come to Marsilikos to find a lover, or a wife. Learning about the Night Court has been interesting, I'll readily grant."

"Neither did you come to Marsilikos to meet an old cripple with a penchant for picking fights, but here we are," Philomene points out, taking her beer for a sip then wiping her lip. "You must be blessed indeed."

"That is true. However, I am not quite regretting that part." Anghelescu seems quite genuine as he says that. "I do regret that I seem to have come across as trying to lecture you on the Chowatti way. That was not my intention. I only tried to answer questions."

"For a foreigner," Philomene admits, cracking a half smile, "I rather like you. But here's the thing. I was brought up to fight. Every part of me was trained to hold a sword, to ride, to go where the enemy didn't expect, to scout, skirmish, drive and advance as needed. To be a d'Aiglemort is to be a soldier, not just any soldier, but one of the very best. And then at twenty three I was sidelined off to l'Agnace and forcibly retired from fighting. The one thing I was born to do, and I'd never do it again on a battlefield. I am," she adds wryly, "perhaps a little sensitive when it comes to discussions of my ability as a soldier, and just lately perhaps a little sensitive, too, when mention is made of a husband. Drink your damn beer, will you?"

Anghelescu does so, perhaps out of respect for the woman's explanation. "I can relate," he then offers. "At least to the challenge of living up to expectations. To be good at something, only to find oneself cut off from it, chained down by unforeseen circumstances. To feel useless."

Philomène raises her glass towards him. "Well, here's to feeling useless. And to taking the rage that comes with it, and turning it into drive. And a massive 'up yours' to any healer who sucks their teeth and says you've only months to live if that, or you'll never walk or ride again. Sheer stubborn will, monsieur, will get us through."

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