(1312-02-10) A Taste of Fish
Summary: Andrei and Philomene go for a stroll at the port, encounter Zalika and Justine and enjoy some grilled fish whilst musing on temptations and sea travel.
RL Date: Feb 10, 2020
Related: Follows right after this log. References the Winter Delights Ball.
philomene andrei zalika justine 

Port — Marsilikos

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

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

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

It takes Philomene a little longer to stand, although the usual stony expression is replaced with a surprised intake of breath as she sets herself upright. The blanket is discarded, and she limps her way over to the door, directing Andrei as they exit down towards the docks. "The best thing about living here," she decides, finally taking the foreigner's arm, much to the bemusement of any passers by, "is the availability of fresh fish. You wouldn't get that back home."

"Oh, we do — but they are freshwater fish, naturally. If some wind should ever blow you our way, I can certainly recommend our lake trout. They're delicious." Anghelescu matches his pace to hers; perhaps he does a favour to himself in this as well, because walking briskly is not an option for long in such cold weather.

"If my geography is right," Philomene responds shortly, "the only way I'd find myself there is if we overrun the entirety of Skaldia and march right the way through. I do, therefore, live in hope of trying your lake trout one day, monsieur."

"I wonder how that would pan out," Anghelescu murmurs. "Would we become good neighbours, I wonder — or would you declare us barbarians to be trampled under the d'Angeline boot next? I'm sure we could fit in some fly fishing between battles, perhaps."

Philomène limps along with Andrei, hand in arm, moving with slow purpose towards where one of the locals regularly sets up a stall to fry fresh fish daily. "We're not invaders," she corrects him with a Look. "We fight to maintain our freedom, not to dominate others."

The fish fryer is presently busy with a difficult customer. "You really need to learn to use spices properly.", Zalika complains, having taken a bite out of the fish. "This is… lame." "Missy, if I use too much peppers, I'll have people complaining. This is local fare. Get used to it or go home.", the vendor grumps.

Anghelescu's face brightens as he spots a familiar face, even as it is complaining about fish. He and his — lady? is she his lady? eh well, maybe he's just her crutch — head in that direction and he offers a lazy wave with his other hand, the one carrying the inevitable walking stick. "Lady Zalika — teaching the local street kitchen how to cook, are we?"

There is a bitter, sweet haze about Philomene, which might very well explain her sudden predilection for fried fish this afternoon. It certainly explains her too-dark eyes and the faint smile on her face, and might also be a large component of why she's quite prepared to hang onto a foreigner's arm in order to reach the fish sooner. "Lady Zalika, you ought to cook for us all one of these days. Show us this marvellous food you like. Good afternoon," she adds belatedly, either to Zalika, the fish fryer, or more likely to the grinning, dead eyed fish waiting to be selected and fried.

Whatever got Justine out of her pleasant quarters at the Chalasse residence, it most probably was the fine weather. The clear and crisp air on a fair winter day. The lady is clad appropriately, blues and whites visible whenever the fur trimmed cloak allows a glimpse. Upon her head, she wears a warm fur cap, even so, the pale blonde hue of her hair is allowed to slip here and there, thus pronouncing the rosiness of a healthy complexion. "Good day," she greets, seeing the familiar faces of Andrei and Philomene. That they are standing with yet another woman in fine clothes, near a fish fryer, seems to be another detail tempting Justine to approach. Needless to say, there are two guards trailing behind her.

"I would be happy to.", Zalika assures Philomene, once the greetings are out of the way. She looks rather smug that Andrei addressed her as 'Lady' giving the fish vendor something to look sheepish about. "The problem is just to find fresh crocodiles here. Clearly they have the good sense to stay away from these too cold climes." Then there'S another one approaching and she gets a curious look.

"Lady Justine," says the foreigner and inclines his head, forgoing the bow that courtesy might dictate, lest he trip up the lady using him as a crutch at the moment. "I trust you are well and enjoyed your riding trip?"

"Crocodiles? My word," Philomene decides, not really listening as she examines the options for fish on offer and selects an enticing looking sardine to be fried up next. "Lady Justine," she adds, when she finally draws her attention from the potential food to the potential company. She releases Andrei's arm, content to stand unaided from here, and folds her hands behind her back, straightening. "Apparently I'm not the only one with the fine idea to get a bite to eat this afternoon, then."

"Very much so," Justine replies gently to Andrei inquiring about her riding out. "It was a brief one, and one I undertook on my own. I am yet looking forward to a common riding venture with the both of you." Which includes both him and Philomène into that statement, as her sweeping gaze makes clear. Spotting the dark-skinned lady and her curious look, the young blonde lady does not hesitate to introduce herself, "Justine Chalasse de la Courcel." Her manner is warm, paired with a certain confidence, and Justine's accent marks her to hail from the province of Namarre — at least to those with a keen ear. It is Philomène who receives an almost apologetic look, as Justine is about to contradict her assumption. "I did plan to go for a walk at the harbor, and to have a look at all those impressive ships harbouring. But now that you mention it… of there is something to be had that isn't a challenge to keeping my clothes from getting stained… I'd be definitely up for it."

"A pleasure to meet you, Lady Justine.", Zalika greets the newcomer politely. She would offer a hand, but alas she needs both hands to hold the fried fish she just purchased safely. "I'm Lady Zalika de Trevalion. I don't really like to go out in this abysmal weather, but I thought I'd check ships are preparing to sail again soon. I've been told that spring is due to arrive soon?"

"Ah," Anghelescu notes with a small smile and straightens up; he is a tall man, and now Philomène is no longer making use of his arm. "I rather imagined that that young gentleman who went to such effort to convince you to spend a night with him at a country inn would be in haste to make arrangements. He seemed quite taken with you, my lady." And with an amused look at Zalika he adds, "I admire your dodging skills, Lazy Zalika — the peacocks all descended upon Lady Justine when you departed."

"And yet not a one descended on you, Monsieur Anghelescu," Philomene notes, apparently still quite amused by this fact. She squints up into the sky for some time, moistens her fingers between her lips and holds them up, then scans along the horizon. "We'll have cold weather at least until the end of this month, Lady Zalika. Then perhaps a brief week where it looks like spring, then another cold snap. If you're looking to plant anything, don't. Wait. That was don't - wait. Not don't wait. Do wait. Waiting is good. Not waiting bad. Fuck, is that fish cooked yet?" The fish that's been on the grill for no more than about twenty seconds. That fish. "Who was the chap trying to lure you away to the country inns, Lady Justine? I could certainly discourage him on your behalf if you want?"

It may be Anghelescu's remark, that reminds her. And Philomène's too. Justine suddenly remembers, and be it just from the subtle references of where the four of them were crossing paths, at the great hall of the ducal palace. "Lady Zalika. Of course, this is why you looked so familiar! We've already met, at the winter delights ball. Silly me, my mother would scold me for my lapse. I remember, I admired your dress at the ball." Whereas, today, outside in this weather, they are clad differently, to keep warm instead of to impress. "I believe, the gentleman you are referring to, Monsieur Anghelescu, is Lord Arterre de Valais. Unfortunately, his fervor to undertake this daring excursion with me has not prompted him to make arrangements, at least not yet. I haven't heard from him, and I am actually a bit worried that he may have fallen ill. It is a taxing season for our health, is it not?"

"I do not think I managed to convince anyone of my being a young lady of the d'Angeline gentry," the Carpathian murmurs good-naturedly and waits for his fish to be added to the pan; he picked out the smallest. Maybe he thought it was cute, such a teeny tiny little finny. "Perhaps if I have such questionable fortune as to find myself at a function of the court again, I shall actually have a dress commissioned so that I may better look the part. Or perhaps just pray that this little cold spell sends me abed instead." The last, perhaps, a jibe towards the mild Marsilikan weather; the mountains of the Chowat are not quite so forgiving.

"Oh yes, we did.", Zalika remembers Justine now and looks a little sheepish, "I'm sorry, it was my first official engagement in this city and there were just so many people to meet and to be honest I was a little nervous about meeting the Duchesse." She takes another bite out of her fish while listening to the Lady Philomene's tirade. "You get worms if you eat fish that hasn't been thoroughly cooked.", she informs her helpfully, "And I was hoping to find a ship that will sail for the North soon. Otherwise I shall have to consider travelling overland."

Philomène snorts a little unladylike laugh, absently adjusting her cuffs. "Lord Arterre tries it on with anything with breasts, as far as I can gather. No offence to you, of course, Lady Justine. But really, it's about time somebody smacked that little prick into place. You're heading north?" she adds, flicking her head round to suddenly face Zalika. "Why?"

"Oh, I am certain you can look quite lovely in a dress, Monsieur." Justine smiles a little at that, revealing a glimpse of her impeccable white teeth, damn that angelic beauty of those that are scions of the angels. "We would need to have a wig made for you as well…", she adds, with a smirk bordering on the cheeky side. Her countenance shifts a little as she turns to reply to Zalika. "I know. I remember being quite overwhelmed when I attended my first ball at Troyes-le-Mont." A silvery chuckle ripples from her lips at Philomène's statement about Arterre. "Ah… well… one can argue that is the weakness of those of my province of birth, that they are easily led by their instincts and desires. I am not averse to such banter. And while I understand your more Camaeline view of things, my lady… There are other ways to teach an overeager young lord the boundaries that make it all the more delightful."

Anghelescu too glances to Zalika. "North? Not to Skaldia, I hope? I do realise you've got a few tame ones here in Marsilikos, but really, as a nation, they are quite — boisterous. I am not convinced you'd like them." Forgotten are musings about dress making and wigs, and he didn't even get to the corsetry.

"Ah, he sounds like someone I wouldn't mind meeting to teach him a lesson.", Zalika smiles sweetly when they talk about the Lord Arterre, whom she hasn't yet met. "No, no, not Skaldia of course.", she corrects Andrei quickly, "The North of Terre d'Ange. It is my home.", she continues with a look towards Philomene and can't resist a little smirk. "My father left me here for the winter, claiming that the milder climate was easier for me to get used to, but in truth he wanted me to learn courtly manners and to speak all pretty. Now I believe it is time to move on to Beauvais, see the country that is to be mine later."

"And how are those courtly manners coming along?" Philomene can't help but ask, folding her arms over her chest and casting more than one impatient glance towards the cooking fish.

"I've never been to Azzalle," Justine declares. "But I hear, the province is very much worth a visit." She falls silent then, adding her own emphasis to Philomène's question, and be it just by the curious, attentive look she gives the young lady of Trevalion.

"Thank the Lord," murmurs Anghelescu and nods at the darker lazy. Dismissing his concerns about Zalika's safety he turns to glance at his tiny fishy who is slowly turning a delightful shade of golden. "I must say, this was my first time attending a function of a d'Angeline court as well. It was certainly very — wealthy. A beautiful display of riches and the leisure time available in which to spend them. Yours is a country of elegance and refined craftsmanship, this I will cede, my ladies." Did he just call Terre d'Ange decadent? He absolutely did.

It's rather hard displaying courtly manners when stood in the wind-blown port with fried fish in your hands that's slowly crumbling. But Zalika straightens her back and juts her chin a bit in a display of noble hauteur. "I think the ball at court went rather well. I received some compliments. I daresay it will be enough to pay Beauvais a visit." Note she isn't talking of moving in with Daddy.

Philomène laughs again, giving Andrei a solid jab in the ribs with one elbow. "A beautiful display of peacockery, he means, of course. All pretty outfits and shiny toys, and not a one of the boys there with an ounce of sense about them. I think of these balls more like coming to buy a fish. The fellow here lays them all out to best advantage, hides the scars and the scrapes and the grisly parts, and we all pretend they don't exist at all while we coo and gush over the freshest, shiniest ones and choose the one we fancy the most. And then, by the time they're cooked, the looks mean nothing at all and we really ought to have picked the one with the most flavour instead."

"I think I will abstain from being tempted," Justine muses, letting her gaze wander over the fish that are being roasted, even if… that inhale through her nose betrays that she is quite pleased (and perhaps tempted) by the tasty scent. "But I think I will have my cook prepare something involving fish for tonight." There is a soft chuckle. "As for the taste of fish. You can only know if you dared to have that taste. Unfortunately, appearance can be so deceiving, in some regards. Not that I would know much of these things…" Of course not, she is a married woman.

In the fashion of someone who certainly does not proclaim to understand the manners of a d'Angeline court, Anghelescu murmurs to Zalika, "Compliments enable you to visit the north? What a curious economy. If I praise your gentle smile, will you be allowed to stay where you please for longer? I could be convinced to do so as a favour, my lad—ow." Philomène has sharp elbows. It's probably best that way. He might have jested about the taste of fish next.

The rather fishy metaphor has Zalika quirk a brow at Philomene. "Back home they say, you eat with your eyes first. At least it stirs the appetite." She has finished her own fish by now and offers them all a little smile. "Well, it was an enjoyable encounter. I'm afraid I must be on my way now, otherwise I fear I will soon be frozen to the spot. Myladies. Mr Andrei." She does execute a perfectly practised elegant curtsey.

"Lady Zalika." Justine acknowledges that elegant curtsey with a kind smile. "Oh, you are right. And we, more than any others in the world, are spoiled in that regard. Tempted by exquisite looks, baited by a pleasant appearance. The temptation is, to go beyond and to explore and find whether expectations are met, or thwarted. It has been a pleasure renewing our acquaintance."

"Apparently your praise of her gentle smile isn't enough," Philomene notes drily, folding her hands behind her back again as she impatiently waits for her fish to cook. "Lady Zalika, do be well. And as for you, Lady Justine, you're not even a little tempted to risk something straight off the boat, cooked in the fresh air, without even once being trapped in a pantry and cleaned and scrubbed and disguised as perfect white fillets in a perfect white kitchen in a perfect white house? Come, live a little."

"I suppose you do not need my compliments for your travels," Anghelescu murmurs with obvious amusement glittering in blue eyes at Lady Zalika even as she makes to depart.

"I should perhaps… at least try one tiny fish." Philomène's remark has been enough to stir Justine's adventurous side, or so it seems at least. "How do we eat these… when we are not seated at a table and have fork and knife at hand?" She begins to fidget with her gloves, taking one off and then the other.

"He'll serve it in paper," Philomene explains, eyes glinting with hope as the fish gentleman turns her fish for what appears to be the last time, and throws on a heavy further amount of seasoning before transferring it into, as promised, a cone of paper. "Thank you, monsieur," she offers, and actually produces a few coins from somewhere for the man as she accepts the fish and begins to pick at it with finger and thumb, naturally wincing as it's far too hot to do anything with just yet. "You don't get fish like this in l'Agnace."

"If we are to follow Lady Zalika's example, it seems to involve holding on to it with a paper napkin and, well, biting off pieces," Anghelescu observes — and while for a moment it might seem another mockery, it turns out quickly enough that he is in fact every bit as inexperienced with eating fish right off the pan without plate or cutlery.

Justine at least will follow the example of Andrei — in what reflects Zalika's way of eating her fish a moment ago. One can tell that this lady is not used to such informal ways of taking a meal. But it is at least a challenge, and something to gain new experiences from. After waiting a moment for her fish to cool, she dares one tiny bite. And then, another. Finding the fish to be quite to her taste.

Philomène goes digging in her inside pocket for her flask, which she fumbles to unscrew with her thumb alone, her other hand being otherwise occupied with sardine, and finally takes a swig from it, the cap swinging from its chain to clang against the copper sides. Wiping her mouth with the back of her sleeve, she offers the flask over, looking really rather more content than she has in many months. It's probably the fresh air. And the weed. And the booze. And the lack of restraint in this whole idea of just eating fresh fish without anyone to bother them with silliness about dress codes or language or dancing. She even smiles, closing her eyes as a fresh breeze comes in from the sea. "I think all I need right now is my Hirondelle beside me and this would be a perfect afternoon," she decides, despite or perhaps even because of the icy weather that adds a touch of pink to those perfectly sculpted cheekbones. "Perhaps a few old friends with us to share tall stories, but I think I can settle for a couple of new ones."

And thus merchant and lady find themselves both adorably inept with fish eating, no doubt to the amusement of Philomène. "I'll have to admit, the taste is divine," murmurs the Carpathian although nibbling only on bits and pieces of his already very tiny fish. Maybe there is a reason, indeed, that he is a lean man. He holds the paper very carefully, perhaps in order to not ruin those thin silk gloves that he is fond of wearing at all times. "I can pretend to be many things, my lady Philomène, but a horse might be beyond even my ability."

As Justine enjoys her grilled fish — which she manages with a grace that has been ingrained to her that it shows even in new, uncharted ground. Savoring tiny bite after bite, sharing in Philomène's light mood inasmuch as it reflects her appreciation of taste and good spicy food, the blonde lady waits until after she has swallowed, before she agrees, "Tall stories, my lady? Now what would these be? That we would… go on an adventure? And board one of these ships, and sail away, to destinations unknown?" She lifts her free hand in a gesture towards the ships that are moored along the quay. "Spirit of the Sea. Star of the North. Pearl of Alexandria. Mermaid. Tempting names, I daresay."

"Well, there are stories," Philomene allows, picking off pieces of her fish to enjoy, "of ancient artefacts, buried on the islands in the sea south of here. Incredible machines, jewellery, scrolls containing knowledge of the stars and the moon. When I was younger, I served with a young lady from Eisande who insisted that she knew where to find one of these stashes, and when she got home she was going to take a boat and a shovel and come back a rich woman."

"I might wait for her here on the pier to make my introductions," Anghelescu murmurs. "For now, though, I am not setting foot on one of those things. If man was meant to live on the sea, we would have been given gills."

"Neither my husband nor his family would forgive me such a folly, so it will have to remain a daring dream," Justine Chalasse de la Courcel admits, lowering her gaze as she wipes her hands with a handkerchief. "There is one thing, such as the cage of courtly customs, but it will not keep us from flying now and then, at least in our imagination."

"So you're saying that in order to enjoy yourself I would have to kidnap you?" Philomene reasons, munching her way through her fish with admirable determination. "And then the family can hate me instead. Joke's on them, though. I don't much care."

"Don't look at me," Anghelescu murmurs. "Not married, not intending to change that, not getting on a boat, and definitely not kidnapping anyone. Am starting to feel the cold in my chest, though — I may have to leave you ladies to this quite excellent fish and the evening, and seek my chambers for rest. I deeply apologise. Perhaps we can resume our trade negotiations at a more opportune moment." He wanders off with some haste; and indeed, some coughing.

"And what would you have me kidnapped for?" One brow raises, as Justine turns to regard Philomène. "I was not born to be free, I suppose, and to consider such options… well, they are thought-provoking but certainly not wise." The departing Andrei receives a nod of goodbye, and a lingering glance. "Monsieur Anghelescu seems to make friends quite fast. For someone of his background, this is remarkable."

"I think he's mostly not afraid to laugh at himself, and not afraid to apologise if he gets it wrong," Philomene decides, wiping her hands on the paper napkin, then dabbing at her lips. "That always goes a long way towards making friends. For a foreigner, he's not all bad. It's a shame, really. If he were one of us I'd have tilted my Laurene his way."

"That is a luxury only the fewest of us can afford," Justine replies. "I was brought never to be laughed at. And now… look at me." A smile softens the remark, and the comment that follows, "He seems at least to be diverting company."

"I'm not laughing," Philomene points out, offering her flask in Justine's direction. "But yes, he's good company. It's always nice to spend time with a man who isn't trying to get into one's bed, isn't it?"

"Refreshing, yes," Justine allows, accepting the flask after that momentary, so proper moment of hesitation. "It is." Leaving it at that, even as the faint smirk on her features betrays that the blonde lady may have more thoughts on this — and elects to keep them to herself.

Philomène claims her flask back, glances upwards and considers for a moment. "I'm going to get back before the rain sets in. If you want to drop by any time, you know where I live."

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