(1312-02-25) D'Angeline Snark-Off
Summary: Philomène and Andrei decide to enjoy a bath at the Temple of Naamah. Which may be not as romantic as it may sound. They are soon joined in conversation by a grumpy sergeant of the city guard.
RL Date: Feb 21-25 2020
Related: Kraken Murder Plot
andrei philomene jacquet 

Maison aux Herbes — Rue du Port

In contrast to the gaily painted yellow door with its fragrant pots of vibrant green herbs which guard either side, the interior of this house is austere to the point of severe. The whitewashed walls bear little to no decoration, if one precludes the single, almost full length mirror in the main room, and the tiny, framed pencil sketch of a pair of horses beside the door. The front door enters directly into a spartan salon, equipped with a single dark leather sofa and a comfortable chair in front of the fire, where a square section of the rugged brown carpet has been stripped away to facilitate drying out firewood or cleaning out the grate with minimal upkeep.
To one side of the room, an opening leads through to an equally minimalist dining room, containing no more than half a dozen stiff backed wooden chairs and a table that could comfortably fit only four of them, and from there a door leads to the small kitchen and on to simple quarters for a single servant. On the other, a plain staircase leads upwards, the carpet laid in a strip down the centre, with bare, unpolished floorboards visible to either side, to a pair of small bedrooms and a cramped privy. Where furniture has been placed, it is mismatched and looks more as though it's been bought and dumped in the closest available spot than that any sort of thought to interior design has been paid.

The thing about unexpected sleepovers is that you did not get to pack a clean shirt, pajamas or night shirt, or indeed, your manservant. Washing up a little in the morning and using a borrowed razor is better than nothing but nothing is a far step from good. Maybe this is why Andrei makes the suggestion while watching Philomène partake of her breakfast orange. Maybe he's just in a miserable mood and figures that he might as well be more miserable.

"There's a public bath house in this city, isn't there? You mentioned that at some point. I feel like today might be a good day to learn whether you soft and glittery south-westerners know how to run a proper bath. Heaven knows I need one to feel human." The suggestion is accompanied by a cheeky smile, that small one that anyone who knows him — the lady might be counted among these by now — means he's looking for some kind of trouble to insert his asthmatic self into.

He's a little stupid like that. The kind of stupid that makes a ranking noble decide to prance around a foreign town without guards, pretending to be some insignificant merchant. The kind of stupid that runs after an assassin because if anyone's going to stab the big Skaldi it's bloody well going to be him and not some southern peacock.

A little stupid, indeed.

“For a start, I’m an Easterner,” Philomène responds, lifting the sharp, wicked looking knife she’s been using to meticulously peel and separate her orange into segments, and pointing it at her unexpected house guest. “And for second, call me soft again and I’ll have your balls.”

It’s possible that she doesn’t actually mean it, but who knows and is it really worth the risk to find out? But she appears relatively chipper, at least after a cup of tea and half an orange, so perhaps his nether regions are safe for now.

“But if a bath is all it’ll take to make you into a human being, I’m certainly more than game to observe that miraculous transformation,” she continues with a smirk. “Do you shed your skin and grow a new one, like some sort of lizard person hybrid?”

"Yes," Andrei says firmly and helps himself to more tea; he seems to mean the part about not wanting breakfast. "But first I bathe in the blood of new-born d'Angeline children to appease my dark gods, or whatever you'd like to envision. Honestly, though, I just haven't had a proper bath since I got here. We have thermal baths at home — are yours heated artificially, or are they the real deal?"

“If I’m perfectly honest with you,” Philomène allows, popping another segment of orange between her lips which causes her to pause for a moment, “I’ve no idea. I can’t say I’ve ever really thought about it. There are pools. They are warm. That’s as far as I’ve really considered. Probably some sort of… furnace and piping system?” she hazards, shrugging. “You could probably ask. I bet the acolytes would love to tell you all about it. I can’t imagine anyone usually takes an interest. Still, it’ll wash off the baby blood.”

"I might, sometime." Andrei hitches a shoulder; it's clearly not a big deal. "How do you handle the practical part? I'd assume that men and women bathe separately, but then I remind myself where I am, and now I just want to ask if I need to bring a riding crop to get a little privacy."

Philomène eyes him as she finishes up her orange and neatly piles the peel together to be disposed of. “I think if you bring a riding crop you’ll probably get more attention than you ever intended,” she warns with a laugh. “If you’re particularly bothered, I suspect you could bathe in a shirt or a gown or something, but it seems like that would make the act of actually getting clean quite difficult. How the fuck do you bathe in Podgegrabsta? Fully clothed, and with a priest there to check that nobody’s enjoying themselves too much?”

"I just told you," Andrei murmurs patiently. "Men in one bath, women in another. It's not a problem — when in Tiberium, do as the Tiberians do, except with less orgies. I'm fairly certain I've got nothing no one's seen before in some form or shape. I just find the notion of opening myself up to the eyes of complete strangers like that to be — alien. A little uncomfortable, perhaps — I am a somewhat private person. I can assure you that I have plenty countrymen who'd squeal in excitement at the idea of getting to watch naked women bathing. Now say it with me: Pod. Gra. Bczy. Na."

“Take a pool all to yourself for all I care,” Philomène insists, rolling her eyes. “If it’s not too busy. Bit rude, though. That’s saying you don’t care for conversation with anyone else. Anyway, you’re in the water. What exactly are you looking at? Soap suds?”

She exhales, setting down the knife and turning in her seat to face him. “Pod. Gra. Bzhshhhh. Bshi. Bishhzh. Psh. Na. Podgrapshna.” She narrows her eyes, just waiting, challenging him to be told that she’s wrong.

The smirk alone says everything about how wrong she is. And then, he shakes his head. "As I said. Nothing new under the sun. But as a foreigner in a country of strange customers, better to know what to expect. Shall I meet you there? I think I might want to go let my man know that I am alive and in need of a fresh change of clothes for when I've scraped the night off my skin."

“Fresh change of skin,” Philo retorts, her own particular need for privacy showing for a moment as she waits for him to look away before she drags herself to her feet. “Head for the temples. Ask for the baths at Naamah’s, if you haven’t been there before. Try not to look too foreign and shifty, no matter how hard that’ll be for you.”

Andrei Anghelescu can absolutely manage looking not foreign if he wants to. Put on a less conspicuous coat in some flamboyant colour and design, stick your ass out and walk like you're the centre of the world and there you have it — that's half the Marsilikan gentry right there. Any gentry, really, he allows. And decides against giving Philoméne that pleasure; she can bloody well accept him as the curmudgeon she no doubts perceives him to be, or not. Odds are that if the Camaellite genuinely wanted a peacock bootlicker for a friend, she'd go get one who didn't have an accent.

"You are too careless," says Dl Szimfonia as he packs up the items of clothing and toilette that his master will require at the baths. The manservant is not one to talk much, and he tends to get straight to the point.

"I'm a dead man walking," Andrei retorts. "It makes no damn difference." And then he heads towards the baths on foot because he was told to walk, and walk he will, if it kills him — then at least he'll have died doing something that has some kind of purpose. He doesn't want no bloody carriage or guards. The half-brothers have had this argument many times — many, many times.

Temple Baths - Temple of Naamah

A large circular window of colorful stained-glass depicting Naamah is framed by two crescent shaped ones, sitting further up the wall as to allow for generous lighting during the day, with the shades of the glass used in the center painting the interior of the Temple Baths in colorful hues. The light beige tiles of the stone floor are arranged in a pattern, spaces between filled with darker shade mosaic stones. The changing area is divided into two spaces, hidden away behind semi-opaque drapes. Here, visitors can leave their clothing and move over towards the pools that are filled with the warm waters of a hot well, a faint layer of steam lingering occasionally in the air directly above the waterline. A larger pool of white marble is in the center, between two smaller pools that offer room enough for two or three people each. At the edge of the pools, trays are provided at regular intervals, some holding various flagons of bathing oils while others hold bars of flowery soap and other bath implements.

Acolytes of Naamah, clad in the red flowing robes of the temple stand at the ready, to provide towels or robes when needed and make sure a peaceful atmosphere is maintained within the baths.

The best thing about the baths in the morning is that they’re mostly empty. Of people, that is. Not of water. Baths mostly empty of water would not be in even the top ten best things about baths at any time of day. I’d go so far as to say dry baths would rate as possibly the worst baths at all, perhaps only pipped to the post by baths full of hydrochloric acid or lava.

The second best thing about baths in the morning is the fact that they are warm (not as warm as baths of lava, admittedly, but less deadly so lava baths are still somewhere right down the bottom of the list), and the warmth of the water after a chilly walk across the town is more than just pleasant, it’s downright soothing. Especially for the middle aged blonde with that peculiar limp, whose scowl almost disappears as the cold begins to be banished from aching joints and old injuries both, and the ever present pain begins to at least lessen.

Thus by the time Andrei comes to join her, Philomene has settled comfortably into one of the smaller pools, only her head, shoulders and arms visible above the water, and her arms are outstretched almost invitingly along the edge of the bath. The water is doing her good. As, it might be assumed, is the copper flask she’s got in one hand, which occasionally gets brought to her lips for a quick, fortifying swig. Yes. At this time of day. What of it?

Andrei undresses in the men's changing rooms and slips into the water exactly like everyone else. He tests the water at first, remaining submerged to the neck, smelling it and feeling it with his skin.

Heated. Not a natural thermal bath.

He refrains from scoffing too loudly. After all, a country cannot decide for itself whether it wants to have natural hot springs, and smirking at unfortunate Marsilikos for having to rely on pipes and valves would be a tad arrogant. They are making the best they can of having been dealt an unfortunate hand, after all.

Looking around he confirms that yes, indeed, this bath is for all genders and more importantly, no one else pays this any particular notice.

When in Tiberium…

He swims a bit until eventually he spots a familiar blond mop and heads for it. The steam of the water, the suds, and the inaneness of the situation is oddly relaxing. At this point he might actually start to believe that the Marsilikans are as bloody laid back as they keep claiming to be in these matters.

‘Laid back’ is not usually a phrase one associates with Philomene d’Aiglemort de Chalasse, but then there’s nobody actively bothering her at present, she’s warm, comfortable, and slowly partaking in enough of the hair of the dog to maintain a low level, cosy sort of tipsiness to keep the worst of the pain at bay.

“What, no tent to wear while you bathe?” she mocks the foreigner as he approaches. “Not a single sweater, waistcoat, jacket or coat to cover your modesty. Your countrymen would be shocked.”

"They wouldn't let me bring the hair shirt," Andrei notes drily and half swims, half wades towards a seat at the edge of the pool, leaning against the stonework and submerging himself to the chin. It doesn't seem to be as much a matter of modesty as a matter of warm water doing absolutely delightful things to pained bodies, and indeed, hot steam working similar miracles on pained lungs. "Why do you keep assuming I've never seen an ankle before and probably will faint if I do?"

“It does seem to be the usual behaviour of foreigners,” Philomene confesses, sluicing her arm through the water in order to offer over her flask to the man. “Shock and dismay at our decadence and so forth. Coming over here, clutching at their pearls in public while soliciting for sex in private. Ankles are highly provocative things to foreigners, I hear.”

"They are," Andrei says with a mild shrug as he accepts the flask and indeed, samples its contents. "I do find your culture — strange. Shocking in some respects. Decadent, certainly. I haven't got any pearls to clutch, though. Hypocrisy is a trait you'll find anywhere, I suspect. At least Terre d'Ange seems no different to me in that regard than any other nation I've visited. In parts of Ephesos women are required to hide their faces from strangers, but dance for them wearing very little. Modesty is what modesty is, it changes from one culture to another."

“There’s nothing wrong with a body,” Philomene tells him as she rather jealously claims the flask back again. “Everyone has one. There’s nothing wrong with admiring them, even. Modesty is more financial here,” she notes as she takes a swig from her flask. “Money is the thing we don’t like to mention. Unless, of course, you’re a merchant or a servant. I mean that nobles don’t like to mention it. I suspect because not everyone has it, and there’s no right answer. If you have a lot and mention it, then it’s crass. If you have a little, then you’re pitiful. Stare at somebody’s legs all you like, admire them, compliment them. Stare at their wallet or their books and you’ll suddenly lose a lot of friends.”

"Where I was raised, money is nothing you talk about," Andrei says quietly and lets his hand sink back under the water as well after yielding the bottle. "Money is something you have. If you talk about it — ask the price of something, it is understood that you probably cannot afford it."

“So what do you spend long evenings talking about?” Philomene asks, tilting her head a little. “It can’t all be just staring morosely into the wilderness. You don’t discuss money, you don’t discuss love, all that’s left is politics or history. Should I assume every Chowatti is an expert in history?”

"I don't discuss love to any great extent. Doesn't mean others don't." Andrei lets his head fall back, closing his eyes and enjoying the warmth (and also, doing so solves the problem of where to look exactly because for all his calm demeanour and composure, he is in fact not accustomed to being surrounded by naked people). "People are the same everywhere, Philomène. Most people think of little else than how to enrich themselves, get laid, and put one over on Aunt Anastazja. I don't like people. You may have noticed."

“You’re not wrong, people are arseholes,” Philomene agrees, taking another quick sip from her flask. “I should know. I’m a person. Been one for years.”

"I play the violin a fair bit," Andrei murmurs, deciding to answer the question after all. "I'm an avoid reader as well. And I screw people over in finances and politics because again, I don't like people and most of 'em have it bloody coming."

He quirks one eye open a moment, then shuts it again. "Actually, that's not entirely true. Common folks often turn out to be — well, not too bad. It's the highborn I can't stand. Obsessing over borders and familial connections and who wore that jacket better at last month's soiree. Whoever came up with the idea of aristocracy ought to have been strangled at birth."

“Borders and familial connections are important,” Philomene argues with a frown, cupping water in one hand and letting it trickle through her fingers. “It’s all there is when we’re gone. Whatever we made of the family, the lands, the estates and so forth. And whatever we do reflects on our people. We need the nobility to manage things, so it’s the idle aristocracy you can strangle. The ones who seem to think they get all the perks and have to do none of the duties.”

"Much as I want to agree, it's not the idle aristocracy that starts border wars in the Chowat at the drop of a hat. But yes, you're not wrong, either. It doesn't help that by my own definition just now I am one of those idle, useless peacocks myself, sauntering around here entertaining myself instead of sorting out my affairs and getting on with the dying thing already." Andrei shrugs, eyes still closed, relaxed.

"The main reason Podgrabczyna is a quiet little country is me. Not my political talent or great statecraft. Just the fact that everyone with a claim is thinking it's not really worth the bother to start stabbing each other or hiring assassins when I'm probably going to kick the bucket soon anyhow and leave some sort of last will that they need to work around." He chuckles softly. "It's a bit ironic. I am actually doing my country a favour by buggering off somewhere else and leaving my potential inheritors back home to watch each other like the vultures they are."

“But you do have a will,” Philomene presses him as she watches with some curiosity. “I can’t believe for one moment that you’d leave the future entirely to chance, or let some squabbling cousins ruin all your good work?”

"I don't have a will. I don't care. Why would I? It doesn't matter to anyone outside of the manor who sits in the chair at the end of the high table." Andrei's face seems to lose a few years as he soaks up the heat of the water, letting it permeate his body and ease his breathing.

Philomene aims a solid punch for the man’s shoulder, letting out a noise of frustration. “For fuck’s sake, how can you not care? What’s the point of even living if you don’t leave something behind you care about?” She bunches her fist again as though ready to lay into him properly, then simply splashes it down into the water. “If you don’t care, why bother living? Why bother dragging it out? Just to prove that you’re so clever by running off to another country and deliberately leaving your home in the shit? The fuck is wrong with you?”

"My home is fine," Andrei murmurs, quirking his eyes open ever so slightly. "I just don't assume that it needs me to go on being fine. Are you one of those people, then, who believe that we are all appointed to our exact station in life by some higher power, and that no matter how much we screw it up, God or whatever you believe in, intended for that to happen?"

“I believe in training,” Philomene responds hotly, fist still bunched ready in case he needs to be punched in his stupid, argumentative, disloyal face. “We train our children and successors, we don’t rely on God or the companions or some magic fucking unicorn to turn them into good administrators. And we don’t fuck off hundreds of miles around the world and just sort of hope that it all turns out for the best.”

"I don't have children," Andrei points out. "If I did, I suspect that my take might differ considerably. The closest thing to family I have is a dozen or more illegitimate siblings and cousins, most of whom hate me passionately for having been born on the right side of the sheets. I've seen to it that they are taken care of nonetheless — they didn't pick their parents after all."

“You’ve seen to nothing,” Philomene argues scathingly, rather angrily lifting her flask to her lips for a long gulp of the liquid. “You’ve run off in the hope that you’ll die out here and it’s all somebody else’s problem. Your dozen or more bastard siblings will tear each other’s throats out, and drag your whole damn country down with them. Shit, maybe you should read some history some time instead of playing your fucking fiddle and generally being a dick.”

"Well, you're not wrong about the first half," Andrei cedes good-naturedly, in the tone of a man who knows he's meant to feel attacked and insulted but what the other person is using as bait is just fact. "The second half, not so much. Not unless I do decide to be a dick and legitimise them. Then the rest of the vultures will rip them apart, that's for certain. I don't imagine that things are much different in Terre d'Ange — every noble house is so bloody intertwined you have to ask yourself whether every new face you see is your cousin, your uncle, or your nephew."

“And what about your brother?” Philomene presses. “Your Monsieur Simpsonia? Are you really so completely unbothered about what happens to him, even? I’ve seen the pair of you together and you’re thick as thieves. No, I’m not accepting it. If I have to travel out to Podgrabsh..n..a myself, then I fucking will.”

Andrei eyes her speculatively a moment and then chuckles lightly. "You'd probably be healthy for Podgrabczyna. A learning experience."

Then his expression sobers a little. "Szimfonia would rather stab himself in the eye with a dull spoon than accept the family name. He's not an idiot. I am very, very fond of him, but out of he and I, he's the smart one, and he'd rather eat a sword sideways than accept the name of Anghelescu."

“The fuck’s so bad about it?” Philomene can’t help but ask, adding as an afterthought, “Well, obviously apart from the fact that it’s your name. Obviously. Is there some kind of history there? Ancient traitors to the crown or something?”

"Definitely some ancient story, but not one that anyone remembers anymore. I told you at some point we're haunted as all hell. That Podgrabczyna pretty much means 'burial ground'." Andrei closes his eyes again. "Whatever happened, it means I don't have a single predecessor who lived to fifty. Anghelescu men are single-minded fools who inevitably get themselves stabbed in some peasant uprising. Usually because they've been screwing the wrong woman. And I suppose that also answers any questions about why I'm not in town to get laid."

Philomene takes a moment or two to think about this. Not to dispute it, for all her nature, but to consider. Ghosts are no laughing matter, after all. “Put a woman in charge,” she eventually decides, nodding firmly. “If the men die early, put a woman at the top seat of your table. You said you don’t care much for the men who are cousins and bastards and whatever. How about the women?”

"Find me one who could hold the seat and I for one would be fine with that solution." Andrei hitches a shoulder lightly. "How much do you know of the world outside Terre d'Ange, though? There's a reason I tend to think of you simply as another man. Your customs here are very different from ours. A woman can rule in the Chowat, absolutely — if she's got a strong army, a strong lord backing her, or is absolutely bloody formidable. I don't have any candidates at hand."

“I ought to introduce you to my Julie-Claire at some point,” Philomene smirks, then shakes her head. “I disbelieve that in your entire country you’ve not a single person with the balls and the gumption to look after it. And,” she adds, adding another thump to his shoulder, “that’s for thinking of me as a man.”

"You drink harder, fight harder and chase women harder than me. You're a man. Deal with it. Ow." Andrei nonetheless cracks that eye open again. "Who's Julie-Claire?"

“A cheese omelette chases women harder than you do,” Philomene retorts, then considers. “Probably drinks harder and fights harder, too, come to think of it. My youngest,” she adds as an aside to the question. “Imagine me thirty years ago, only more stubborn, more brash, and better with blade and horse both.”

"Sounds like your daughter all right." Andrei chuckles. Then he falls silent a moment before saying, "That's what my father tried to do, you realise. Marry a d'Angeline woman. Break the whole affair up that way. It didn't work — they hated each other, she hated the country, and honestly, the country hated her. Might just have been the wrong woman for the task — but at least I can say, the thought has occurred to someone before. And my father was honestly not even the sharpest sword in the rack."

“Of my daughters, it’s Julie-Claire I feel the most sorry for,” Philomene admits. “Eleanor inherited my husband’s personality. People just like her. Laurene picked up a head for figures. And poor Julie-Claire is just like me, and she’ll fight her way through life because it’s all we know how to do. We need to find you somebody Chowatti with enough gumption to stare down the idiots. How hard can that be?”

"Pity that I like you. Otherwise I'd make an obvious suggestion. Not going to inflict that on the daughter of someone I like though." Andrei leans back — how far back can a man lean?! — and continues his attempts to simply dissolve and melt into the warm water. "Yes, yes. I know. Bloody foreigner."

Philomene shrugs, offering her flask over again. “You might not care for the legacy of your family, but I do. My daughters will marry well. It sets them up for the future.” She exhales, running one hand through her short hair. “Part of our duty to the family, and to the title, and to the Chalasse name, is to make the alliances we need to stay strong. Marrying a merchant or a foreigner, no matter how tempting it might be, weakens the line.”

"And that's where you and I are different. You're trying to secure your lineage. I'm trying to end mine." Andrei nods amicably. "I'm not rejecting the idea out of hand — of designating some woman my heir, assuming I can find one whom I believe can live up to the position. I just can't… cope, to be honest. The idea of parading noblewomen around, trying to pick out the one most likely to be able to fill my chair is… not to my liking. What man wants to put himself in front of a line of women who are taking bets on how soon they can speed him on?"

There’s a moment or two where Philomene just fixes him with a long stare, lips pursed, before she shakes her head and takes a breath. “Off limits,” she eventually states, quietly, civilly. “I’ll fight with you over almost anything, but that particular topic is too soon. Tell me instead about… oh, I don’t know. What about that fuss the other night with the Skaldi and the dead guy?”

It must have been a long night shift, or something of that kind.

And a risky spot to be in, when in a weary state.

But then again… isn’t taking risks part of his duties?

Jacquet has been quiet so far, one of the other few occupying the baths at this late morning hour. Having settled in another smaller pool, leaning against the edge, most of his frame gracefully hidden away in the water, the man looks d’Angeline, but of the definitely scarred sort. He is a man in his forties, and he wears the marks on his face with a certain pride that could be almost Camaeline. His dark eyes are half-closed, and his dark hair looks plastered to his skull from all the humidity. His arms are resting on the edge and keeping his head somewhat safe from slipping below the waterline.

And yet. When he — seemingly having some of their conversation or at least having caught that one single word — barks a lazy but no less inquisitive “Skaldi?” over to their pool, Jacquet raises his voice not overly much. He doesn’t need to, when it already sounds as raspy and gravelly to draw anyone’s attention..

In the other pool, immersed to the chin, the foreign bloke who's having some kind of conversation about some kind of foreign country with Lady Philomène, straightens up a little. The pools are hardly private but from the expression of surprise that flits across his pale features for a moment, one could get the impression that he had forgotten that. Or that he just didn't think that their quiet chat would interest anyone else.

He's obviously wrong on the last account. He speaks with a foreign accent and the formidable Chalasse isn't trying to hold his head under the water until he drowns. That alone might be enough to turn a few heads.

Andrei fixes his blue eyes on the other man and seems to decide that it's his own damn fault for discussing personal business in a public space. "A tavern fight, monsieur. A man was killed. The Skaldi caught the killer and turned her into the guards."

The man in the other pool lifts his head a little, and his eyes narrow before he lets out a low snort.

“Ah, that thing.”

His shoulders move in a hint of a shrug. “Well, that’s pretty much under control. The wench is under arrest. Couldn’t arrest the Skaldi. He’s in employ of House Baphinol.” Something in the way he stresses that latter fact suggests disappointment and regret, but as he keeps his voice low there are no obvious signs of deeper sentiments on the matter.

"In fairness, the Skaldi did catch the assassin," the blond man points out, heaving himself up to get a proper look at the darker fellow. He's a tall, thin type — and from the looks of his upper body, someone who's seen a fair bit of fighting action of his own (or really hasn't caught on to the idea that when someone swings a sword at you, you're supposed to move away from it). "I was the only other person who made it to her in time to help prevent her escape, and I would not have done so if he had not slowed her down and cornered her."

He rests an elbow on the edge of the pool and studies the other man, then hitches a shoulder lightly. "Not fond of Skaldi myself, mind. My country shares a border with Skaldia too."

"If you ask me, the Skaldi probably set the whole thing up," Philomene insists, lifting her head a little to peer over at the other voice. Ah. Yes. Jacquet. "No doubt just another part of some nefarious scheme. If I were a Baphinol I'd hang the damn creature and be done with it." She pressed her lips together. "A viper will always turn and bite eventually, and I'd rather not spend my life watching my back because some soft southerner thinks it's a good idea to keep one as a pet."

“Lady Philomène.” Jacquet inclines his head towards the vicomtesse, a small gesture that expresses respect nonetheless towards a woman that is well known in Marsilikos — particularly to those who had investigated a particular incident last summer. “There has been a witness attesting that the Skaldi broke into the room when the man already got killed.” The statement drifts through the relative silence of the baths, only with an occasional soft splash of water reminding them that there may be some others listening. “The woman had a blade on her, a smaller one, which caused those lethal wounds in the dead man. She’s a foreigner, and he was too.” Again, his shoulders lift in a light shrug. “The Skaldi is a sneaky one, m’lady. He pretends to be of use to the Baphinol, and they believe it. In this case, I have no evidence that speaks against him.” His dark eyes look from Philomène to the foreigner in her company, and his scarred face twists into a very sceptical expression.

“So… Who’s he over there? Is the enemy of our enemy our friend? I don’t mean no disrespect, m’lady, but perhaps you’d better pick your company with more care.”, Jacquet rumbles. The gravelly sound of his voice makes his words sound gruffer than he may intend.

A small, lopsided smile plays on the foreigner's lips. "I did not realise that the dead man was a foreigner as well. That seems to be quite the common denominator in this whole mess, doesn't it? The assassin is Caerdicci, or maybe Illyrian, the bloke running a distraction for her is a Genoan sailor, and the dead man is foreign as well? No wonder sailors and smugglers are talking in the taverns where the gentry does not go."

He shrugs lightly and rests both elbows on the pool's edge, openly studying the darker man with a hint of amusement. "I'm the bloke who made that witness report. Which, I suppose, lands me firmly on the list of highly suspicious foreigners, doesn't it?"

"The fact that you're highly suspicious is less because you're a foreigner and more because you're just highly suspicious," Philomene points out with a smirk, then lifts her chin and fixes Jacquet with her steady gaze. "This one," she explains succinctly, "fought with us and almost died with us. Against the Skaldi. Foreign, yes, but more a brother than many d'Angelines. I speak for him."

“A bloke ran a distraction?” Jacquet raises a brow at that. “This is news to me, Monsieur honorable foreigner. As for the rest… Well, what do I care? The murderer is in custody, she’ll be executed for her crime. That’s all I need to know. Marsilikos will be a lot safer without her roaming the streets. The dead bloke… well, he’s dead. He won’t cause any trouble. As for you…” His dark eyes look from Andrei to Philomène. “I will trust the word of the vicomtesse, that you are an exception to the rule. Even if…” And here his eyes narrow, “It was a seamstress of L’Aiguille who attested that the Skaldi entered the room with the man already dead. Perhaps you are a master of disguise, but you have neither the stature nor the voice, nor the complexion to convince me you are her.”

"Let me assure you that if you were to sample my needlework you would not be more convinced, Monsieur. The seamstress told her story. No need to hound her." The other man's voice remains calm but carries an undertone of steel.

"I imagine that's all most people here care to know. And indeed, why should they care? Everyone knows that foreigners are too stupid to set up a proper conspiracy, the sort of which a single murder might be just the beginning. It's no big deal anyhow — the bloke who died wasn't even a nobleman." He lets himself sink down a little into the warm water before speaking again. "If I was in any position to investigate such matters, I think I'd pay attention to the words of sailors. It's a lot of effort to go to, for a Genoan, coming all this way. Surely there are blades for hire closer by."

"This foreign sailor," Philomene presses, eyes narrowing in thought. "He's in custody too? I mean, he's either involved or he's guilty of something. I don't like it. I don't like the whole thing. There's a feeling down at the Kraken's Den right now and it's not right. Sure, I like a scrap as much as anyone, but now it's not just just a scrap, it's knives, and it's suddenly all very serious."

<FS3> Jacquet rolls Perception: Success. (5 5 6 6 5 1 5 3 7 5)
<FS3> Jacquet rolls Composure: Success. (7 1 6 3 1 1 2)
<FS3> Jacquet rolls Investigation: Good Success. (6 3 7 2 7 1)

“Well. You seem to think yourself awfully clever at least, don’t you.”, Jacquet retorts coolly. “You can spare us from your sarcasm. It is not appropriate. Least of all, coming from someone such as you.” His gaze flits to Philomène, “No offense, but your companion is being insolent, my lady. The sailor bloke he keeps babbling about… probably the one who got into a fight downstairs in the common room. Well. It was an *almost* fight, or so I hear. Upstairs, there was a man in a room. He got surprised by the assassin who killed’im, next thing she jumps out of the window to vanish into the streets. You are meaning to tell me, the sailor bloke was involved? If I’d investigate each and every damn tavern brawl, just because someone may be in league with others… “ He rolls his eyes. “Very well, Monsieur stranger, you can come to the citadel and tell us all you know about this sailor, and we can see what we can find out about him. Just to please m’lady and assure her that we are following every single lead that is being tossed at us.”

He straightens a little in his pool, which will reveal old scars on his upper arms and torso. “Now, with the dead bloke… you are right. He isn’t noble, but some trader or seafarer that arrived a few days before on the Pearl of Alexandria. Could be that your trouble seeking sailor bloke was Genoese, as that ship came in from Genoa, so there you have it.” Maybe the irritating foreigner has managed to tickle more information forth from the old soldier than a polite question could have done.

"Oh, no, I wouldn't want to bother the high and mighty with my awfully clever mouth or my inappropriate foreign ways, Monsieur." The other man slides back down into the water until it reaches his chin. Smug bastard.

"He's being a shit to me, Monsieur Jacquet, not to you," Philomene insists, waving vaguely. "I'll probably punch him for it later, but it's rather pleasant to meet somebody who's prepared to say it as he sees it." She stretches over towards the guard to offer her flask. A peace offering. "If I can do anything to assist, Monsieur, do please ask. And if Monsieur Anghelescu can do anything to assist, let me know that too so I can bribe or threaten him into being some sort of bloody use while he's sponging on the city."

A peace offering? How curious. Jacquet accepts ot from the hand of the vicomtesse. It would be uncivil not to. And on the other hand, this sergeant of the city guard does feel a rare connection to Philomène Chalasse d’Aiglemort (and this is the order of surnames he would certainly find more appropriate).

“Punch him. And punch him hard, m’lady,” he rasps, raising the flask in some kind of toast to her as he manages to spare the smallest of smiles to Andrei. “And you, monsieur, keep your mouth shut. Or someone less civil than me will get mad at you and cut out your bloody tongue.”

"Well, that does place me in an interesting dilemma," Anghelescu murmurs from his comfortable position in the water. "To answer Lady Philomène's question about what I've learned, or indeed, to keep my mouth shut as ordered. Far from me be it to dare disobey the order of some random stranger threatening me in a bath, I shall remain quite quiet."

At that, Philomene does follow instructions, landing a balled fist hard on the foreigner's shoulder. "Now you're being a shit to him, too," she rebukes. "There's no need. Monsieur Jacquet is a gentleman whose good sense keeps the city from descending into cuddles and rainbows, and you can damn well show the man a little courtesy for now, and when you know him and his work better a little respect to go with it."

She thumps the man again for good measure, rolling her eyes. "So quit arsing about before I drown you and Podgrabshyna is properly fucked."

“Yeah. Tell me. If there’s anything to tell, that is.” Jacquet watches with quiet amusement glinting in his dark eyes, as the vicomtesse gives her companion a rough physical reprimand. “Thank you, m’lady.” He reaches out to hand the flask back over to Philomène once she is ready to accept it, his a muscular arm, strong and trained from regular sword practice. More scars are visible here, adding to the map of marks and reminders of previous battles and skirmishes. Attention turns back towards the foreigner, as the city guard considers him with a hard stare and waits for a possible counter and explanation, should one follow.

"Either of you start this conversation over by telling me who is asking the questions, and why they feel entitled to do so. Then, perhaps, we talk. At the moment, I don't particularly feel like being interrogated by any random eavesdropper. So tell me why you aren't." The foreigner rubs his shoulder where Philomène punched him. There's an edge of steel in his voice at that; whoever he is, he's not someone accustomed to being bossed around by random naked men in public bathhouses.

"Monsieur Anghelescu, Monsieur Jacquet," the Chalasse introduces succinctly, pausing with one hand held up while she sips from her flask. Clearly she needs it. It's very rare indeed that she is called on to be the moderating influence on any conflict. "Monsieur Anghelescu is here for reasons of his health, although clearly not his gratitude. Monsieur Jacquet is a respected member of the city guard, and keeps the lady's peace. Despite," and she gives Andrei a hard stare, "provocation. If you've anything of use to the city guard, this is the man to tell. I'm sure there are other, keen, smiling young guardsmen you might rather, but frankly I'd trust Monsieur Jacquet to get to the bottom of any shenanigans before some puppy eyed youngster who tries to keep everyone happy. Now. Shall we start again?"

As Philomène takes care of introductions, Jacquet does not see the need to do so himself; apart from adding a brief explanatory, “Sergeant,” to give his rank. But his brows furrow as he has a brief glance about the baths, shaking his head a little as he observes in his raspy voice, “This isn’t the right place for an interrogation.” He lifts his hand out of the water and rubs his chin, before he climbs out of his tub, grabs a towel of sorts to wrap it about his hips and slowly begins to move over to the other tub that Philomène and Andrei are so comfortably settled in.

“M’lady, I hope you don’t mind,” the man says, in a way of apology or maybe seeking permission. He does not wait though, letting the towel drop unceremoniously, before he slips into the warm water of their pool. Settling in at the opposite side to grant them distance but at least a vis-à-vis constellation, the guard takes a moment to consider his words before he chooses to address the foreigner. “Anghelescu, eh? I’ve seen that name in one of the reports. It was you who was where the fighting took place, and the mademoiselle was the one who was with Monsieur Tancred, when he broke into the room at the Kraken. So. You say there was this sailor downstairs, and he was in league with the assassin? May I ask why?”

His voice is gracefully kept lower now, making it harder for others to overhear them. But to be honest, there is a certain character to his speech, of vocal cords worn out by numerous battle cries, and probably an occasional glass of uisghe as well, that makes it harder for him to manage.

"I was there at the Kraken, yes." Anghelescu steeples his fingers under his chin, watching the other man settle. "A sailor with a foreign accent runs afoul of a local man who's known to have a temper, who is known to be easily provoked, and to feel the same way about foreigners as you do, sergeant — and very conveniently do so at the exact moment that another foreigner is stabbing a man to death upstairs and wants to escape unnoticed. Correlation is not evidence but as far as I am concerned, Hiram the sailor on the Carthaginian ship is very much an accomplice. Odds are that he was hired to create a distraction, and the reason that I have been unable to find him now is that he realised that the distraction was murder. He's holed up somewhere, hoping everyone forgets about him. Pursuing him may be a waste of time, but I want to confirm that he's just that — some hired rat."

"I want to know who hired him. And who the dead man is, for someone to go to the effort of hiring a Genoan assassin to take him out — surely Marsilikos has plenty of blades of its own for hire." The foreigner speaks calmly, in the measured tones of a man who is laying out a puzzle one piece at a time. "It tells me that there is a need for secrecy. That whatever the reason for the murder is, the person behind it does not want idle talk in the Marsilikan underworld. That they can indeed afford to hire an outsider, to prevent that from happening. Whoever hired your assassin is not simply some cuckolded husband with a grudge and a bit of money to spend. But they are somebody who knows that the d'Angeline live in a firm delusion of intellectual superiority, and that hence, they can likely get away with just about anything as long as they can make it all dismissable as just foreigners stabbing each other. I could set this city on fire from within, sergeant, and most of your countrymen would burn rather than admit that someone from abroad might put one over on them."

He glances at Philomène a moment. "I may not be licking the boots of Marsilikos quite intently enough to appear suitably grateful to be allowed to bask in your angelic light. However, while I am here, I will answer every question asked of me by law enforcement, and I will answer to the best of my ability, because I owe the city that much for its hospitality. However, reminding me that I am merely filth who might well end up in the stockades on a charge of bathing while foreign if someone happens to dislike what I say, is not the approach to take if you want me to volunteer information. On that note, I will let the two of you get on with your business.”

"If nothing else, one has to wonder why foreigners are being employed for nefarious purposes and putting good, hardworking d'Angeline murderers out of business, you mean?" Philomene insists with a smirk. "Look, it's not my business, it's the sergeant's. I just think that perhaps, having said I'd speak for you, Monsieur Anghelescu, you might make some fucking effort not to act like a bellend and thus make me look like a bellend." There is no smirk now, just a cool grey-blue gaze at the unfortunate foreigner, her chin lifting a little from the water and her jaw setting. That is an expression that might be familiar to some, and usually acts as a precursor to extreme violence. Or at least a rude word or two. "I do not enjoy being made to look a dickhead," she adds, voice barely more than a murmur so it carries very little distance at all. "Either be civil or you can enjoy my hospitality no longer. And then perhaps you will see how far you get as a foreigner shooting off his mouth. Excuse me, gentlemen," she finishes cordially but with that same steel in her tone, finally rising to pull herself from the baths. Once again the relatively statuesque, worn but well cared for skin is revealed, until that horrific, twisted mess at the top of her left thigh breaks the surface, all wrong angles and odd colours and textures, and she stalks off with that peculiar limp of hers to regather her clothes and dress.

“Hiram, huh?” Jacquet makes a mental note of that name and the other detail, Andrei is so helpful to provide. “Carthaginian. Hmm. Master Gal reported that he took the sailor outside. I fear there is nothing we can charge him for. Except nudging a well-known stablehand out of the way.”

” I could set this city on fire from within, sergeant, and most of your countrymen would burn rather than admit that someone from abroad might put one over on them."

At this, his dark eyes narrow, and he snarls, “Try that, and I will kill you with my own hands, Monsieur.” The way he stresses that word of address, and the dark glance he gives Andrei adds more momentum to this statement.

The sergeant looks towards Philomène as she rises to take her leave, and he lowers his gaze, not really staring but stealing a look or two at her form — even if his focus may be more on her scars than female assets. “M’lady.”, he bids her farewell with the curt respect common to guards of the city.

"Making enemies out of potential allies does seem to be the national sport of Marsilikos," the other man notes drily. "As, it seems, is choosing which part of a statement one wants to hear, and which part to ignore. I am not in the habit of making threats; I act, or I do not. Good day, guardsman."

He too rises to depart, although not in the company of the Vicomtesse. Today was not a good day for diplomacy, it seems.

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