(1312-02-16) Mint Tea and Scholarly Girls
Summary: Strangers meet briefly; perhaps not for the last time.
RL Date: (1312-02-16)
Related: None
andrei antoinette 

La Perle Noire — Grand Plaza

The face this establishment shows to the Grand Plaza is a window display of coffee beans in a fantastic blown-glass vase, against figured silk which changes with the seasons; and a pair of heavy oaken doors guarded by a swarthy, bearded, well-muscled man in Ephesian costume, who bows patrons out of Terre d'Ange and into a foreign land redolent of fine coffee and cinnamon and tobacco, lit by countless candles suspended each in a gleaming glass lantern from a ceiling that billows with ruby-red silk and cloth of gold. Layered carpets of many colours, intricately woven and warmed in winter by a hypocaust, soften the music of pipes and drums and mandolins that filters through this sanctuary of civilised pleasures. Here a friendship might be forged or renewed, a deal struck, or a day simply whiled away in Eastern opulence and ease, amidst the red and the gold and the smoke.

In the middle of the main lounge is a raised circular stage upon which an horologist's glass marks the lapse of two hours between performances by Ephesian dancing girls, or minstrels singing joyously in the tongue of that land, or even a local d'Angeline bard telling tall tales. Low tables of dark wood radiate therefrom, surrounded by lounging cushions and richly-upholstered divans; the outermost are set in alcoves which may for privacy's sake be screened by shimmering silken curtains. If one desires amusement, one may summon at any hour alluring dancers whose brass finger-cymbals chime to accent the undulations of their hips. If one wishes to smoke, one may command a water pipe. But the true business of the house is the coffee. Perfumed young men in loose trousers and embroidered tunics move to and fro like angels dispensing this liquid mercy: strong, fragrant, frothing kahve, brewed cup by cup from the fine-ground black pearls of Ephesium, served in elaborate copper vessels beside tall glasses of pure spring water and plates of esoteric and delectable foreign sweetmeats.

Several sets of doors at the rear of the lounge lead away to the kitchens; to a stairway ascending toward smaller chambers which may be reserved for private parties; and outside into a courtyard, open in fair weather.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a winter night. The weather is cool and flurrying.

The Perle Noire breathes luxury and promises of exotic tales in a fashion that surely draws travellers to Marsilikos like hornets to a glass of lemonade on a summer's day. It would be no surprise to anyone who knows him that inevitably, Andrei Anghelescu makes his way here as well, on one of those walks of his that takes him around the city. A tall, blond man in a long, black coat trimmed with silver fox-fur he is clearly a man of some means; a merchant perhaps, or some lord's trusted retainer — and he's got that politely confused expression of somebody who is entering a building for the first time and not quite certain what he should expect to find in there. Leaning on a silver-tipped walking stick he looks around, trying to take in his surroundings and perhaps navigate to somewhere he will not be in the way of everyone coming and going while he watches.

Sitting at one of the low tables, Antoinette is holding a cup of that hot, dark, bitter brew the locale is so known for serving, between two hands. "Now, see, you /think/ you are going to surprise me," she tells the server bringing a plate of honied short breads, "But you won't. Where was it you said you were born again? And the time?" She starts flipping through a much too large tome, and marking out symbols around a circle sketched on a sheet of paper. Holding it up, she gestures to one of twelve sections, "You see, the location of your Mars would indicate that you want to fight me on this. But I can tell you more about yourself than even you know, if you give me the time to calculate the fine tuned adjustements on your position in relation…" Giving up, apparently stymied with some argument with her, the server wanders off, looking frustrated beyond words. She tucks her dark hair behind one ear as she looks up, spotting Andrei and tilting her head to offer a soundlessly mouthed 'Hi' when violet eyes meet his blue ones. Her eyes sparkle with mischief, even as the cursing server disappears into the kitchen.

Of the greetings Anghelescu has had in Marsilikos so far, this one ranks in the top ten of unusual. His blue eyes glitter with amusement, one obscured by a monocle, and he draws closer, obviously fascinated. "That looks… very scientific. Pray tell, is this a library or observatory of some fashion?" The accent is obvious; wherever he's from, it's not Terre d'Ange — north, maybe, or east, quite a bit.

Blinking and flashing a grin, Antoinette straightens the papers carefully, before tucking them into the front cover of what is, on closer proximity, some form of an ephemeris tome. She lifts a palm as she smiles up at Andrei, gesturing to the table, "Please, feel free to join me? It's something of a pet project. The Menekhetan people have charted the effects of the stars' passage on the people here on the ground for aeons, and even used to mark it out in old tombs of lost kings. Obviously it requires a measure of adapting due to the geographical differences. And now I'm rambling." She offers a hand (gloved with fingerless black lace gloves) which match a similarly dark but relentlessly clinging silk gown trimmed in ochre red fox fur, "Antoinette, or Lady Antoinette Verreuil, if we must stand on formality."

The tall man offers the slight bow that one might expect from a merchant or wealthy commoner towards a member of the aristocracy, brushing thin lips across her gloved knuckles; at least the foreigner has some semblance of manners — and he too wears gloves indoors, made from thin black silk. "Andrei Anghelescu," he says by means of introduction. "I am certain the honour is indeed mine, my lady. You must forgive me if I am unfamiliar with your name — I am still learning my way around the streets here, nevermind the city's noble houses." The offer of a chair, however, is accepted, and he settles on it, resting the walking stick across one knee.

"That is more than fair, and at that, my family's title derives from another province altogether, in Siovale," Antoinette says, her smile a mischievous thing. She leans in to give Andrei a very /shrewd/ look and tilts her head a touch. "Tell me, good sir… your monocle… is it purely decorative, or have you need of improving your eye sight in just the one eye?" From the look on her face, it is genuinely difficult to guess if she is jesting or 150 percent serious. "I fancied getting a set of spectacles for a while, though I did not need them, purely for the ability to fuss with them." There's that flicker of mirth, but she sounds totally serious. "Have you come for a drink? During my travels when younger, I came to adore the bitter taste of this over tea," she says, gesturing with her cup. Younger? She doesn't look that old, so maybe not /much/ younger.

"I let myself be drawn in by foreign looks of some of the other patrons," the tall man murmurs, settling. "Quite curious to discover what kind of place this is — some sort of tea house, it seems?" He glances at the tome on the table and then leans in for a closer look; the way he cants his head to see accentuates his reply to the younger woman's inquiry as well: "I fear I'm quite far sighted, my lady. I find it easier this way — that I might see near and far at once, just not in the same eye."

With a delighted laugh, Antoinette nods at Andrei, and says, "That's fair. I mean, I don't see how you don't feel hopelessly lopsided, like wearing two stockings to different heights, but then, it's not unusual for people to project, and that's mostly just how I would feel." She asks, "Is near sighted the one where you only see near stuff? I always get near sighted and far sighted confused, as to which sees which better."

"Quite so," Anghelescu replies with mild amusement. "I'll have you know my vision is perfectly fine. I can read this — " he taps the tome " — just perfectly without the monocle. If you'll just be as kind as to pick it up and run a hundred meters of the road, then hold it up for me." He gestures at one of those perfumed pretty boys, catching his attention long enough to request a cup of sweet, strong mint tea — the kind which travellers to Ephesus learn to appreciate, or go thirsty a lot because it's served with every other dinner. "And you are — a student of the sciences?"

"Like all of the sciences, or, well." Antoinette laughs softly and lifts a palm as she tells Andrei, "Siovale is basically associated with very bookish and scientifically minded people, and I'm from one of the more renowned houses in the Province. So expectations of that are rather high for me, though psychology is my focus of study, because people are a puzzle I will /one day/ unravel." She taps the tome, and adds, "And astrology is only one way to map them." She laughs at the monocle comment and shakes her head, before asking for some honey and cream and a refille of her kahve. The cool weather only seems to redouble the appeal of a hot and strong drink.

"Siovale? Ah, yes. I met a young lord from Siovale who said the same thing — that the Siovalese are renowned for their wisdom. Although he did append that personally, he thinks about very little if anything at all." Anghelescu accepts the small glass from the boy, returning quickly enough as no doubt, a pot of steaming, strong mint tea is brewing at all times and all the lad needs to do is add a bit of water and a heck of a lot of sugar to a glass, then pour strong mint tea in. "Thank you," he murmurs to the boy before returning his gaze to the young woman. "I will admit to knowing very little about that science, my lady — astrology, that is. But the study of people and the motivations of people is indeed one that I have dedicated some pursuit to myself, as time has allowed."

"Indeed?" Antoinette asks, her dark brows climbing at odds with the immediate smile which reclaims her features. She nods deeply as she says, "Sounds like we may well have some good common ground to speak of. Though I am currently taking off some time from my formal studies at the university." She gives Andrei a measuring, curious look as she lifts her cup to draw a long sip from it. "General study of people, or does this include their psychology as well? The mind can be such a fascinating place."

"The university?" The foreigner quirks an eyebrow over the monocle, and then chuckles to himself and sips the minty brew. "Yes, of course. Terre d'Ange — of course ladies attend the university here if they so please. Forgive my surprise. I have spent some time trying to learn to read men — I find that there is a certain advantage to knowing what makes the man across from you at a negotiating table tick."

"For my own uses? I basically abuse the power of the insight it grants," Antoinette admits freely, with a deeply amused look. "Anything that helps you win people over is a good thing. And any insights it grants, quite welcome. I used to blunder my way through attempts at charming people when I wanted or needed their help, but approaching it, too, as a science, has been incredibly helpful." Draining the last of her cup and moving to rise before the asked for refill can be brought, she gives Andrei a wink, then, and says, "Which means now is the perfect time to leave - just before everything that wants to be said, can be." She grins toward the door, and retrieves three or four times the cup of coffee's price to leave for when the server returns.

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