(1312-03-08) A Great Saving On Laundry
Summary: And other good news, philosophical observations, and artistic criticism, which Philomène and Raphael exchange over an early-morning uisghe at the Rose Sauvage.
RL Date: 08/03/2020
Related: Previous scenes with these characters; notably, Hellebore.
raphael philomene 

La Rose Sauvage — Night Court

A huge hearth of black marble, with gargoyles of stone adorning the mantlepiece, governs the foyer of the Salon de la Rose Sauvage, which emanates a certain dark air, the interior design of the more heavy sort, that could easily be encountered in a gentleman's club, especially with the dark cherry wood wainscoting used on the walls. Dark leather upholstery is predominant in the furniture of chaise longues, couches and long-backed chairs that are arranged in a half-circle, leaving space in the center for courtesans (or patrons) to kneel for an inspection. Three tall windows with circular stained-glass insets are framed by dark red curtains of heavy brocade, a few golden threads worked into the fabric catching occasionally the light of flickering oil lamps at the walls. The lamps light a pair of portrait paintings, of the two founders of the salon, Edouard Shahrizai and his cousin Annabelle no Mandrake, resplendent in their dark Kusheline appeal; and a cabinet in a corner, holding a number of quality wines and a flagon of uisghe.

The foyer has a high ceiling, and a gallery beyond a balustrade of dark teak wood, carved in the shapes of gargoyles. Sometimes a few veiled creatures can be spotted up there, stealing glances at what is going on below; from the gallery, which can be reached by ascending some winding stairs at the back of the foyer. Beside the stairs leading up is a hallway on ground level, leading further into the building to where the offices of the leader of the salon and his two Seconds can be found, along with the two wings of private quarters for roses of Mandrake and Valerian canon.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a winter morning. The weather is cold and snowing.


It's been some time since the fortunate denizens of the Rose Sauvage have had to put up with everyone's least favourite Chalasse coming to abuse their hospitality and tramp her way through their gardens. They might have thought they were entirely free from the curse, but alas, this Sunday morning the door is darkened by an all too familiar tall blonde in an all too familiar worn brown riding jacket, walking with an all too familiar limp.

Several adepts find somewhere better to be, while one or two novices, not yet schooled to know any better, offer openly admiring looks as the upright figure strides in like she owns the place. The looks would probably be even more admiring if she had in her hand a riding crop, but any such things must have been left outside with her horse (and by the faint horsey scent, surely she must have ridden here) and instead she carries a canvas satchel casually over one shoulder.

"Raphael around?" she asks succinctly to the closest staring novice, eyeing him with cool disinterest.

The novice promises to fetch the Second of Thorns and bows quickly, dashing off. Perhaps he moves so quickly to spare himself the question of whether he should be so bold as to ask to take her bag. In no time at all, the man himself emerges. Raphael comes through the hallway to meet Philomène. "Do you want someplace to put that bag?" he asks instead of greeting, knowing Philomène would prefer the practicality to wasting time on pleasantry. He looks a little tired across the eyes, perhaps, but otherwise well.

Philomène looks the man over with a critical eye, pursing her lips for a moment. "If I've woken you, I apologise. I thought I'd leave it a little later in the day so you might have got some sleep already, but apparently not." She shakes her head, heaving the satchel off her shoulder and holding it out to him. Despite the weight of it, her arm doesn't waver. Either somebody's been working out, or she's just showing off. "Payment in kind for the pies you brought me when I wasn't myself earlier in the year. Couple of pastries, a rag and a book," she explains, shrugging her off shoulder.

"No, not at all," Raphael replies, and gestures to one of the seating arrangements. "Let's sit down," he says. "Unless you prefer my chamber? Will you have tea? Tisane? Wine? It's good to see you back again."

Philomène hesitates for a moment, then slides the bag back onto her shoulder and nods. "Actually, your chamber is a good call," she decides, flicking a rather annoyed glance to one of the hovering novices before catching herself, taking a breath and replacing the irritated look with a faintly indulgent smile. She's practiced that one. There's no way it comes naturally. "And I've brought whisky, if you'd rather crack into that instead of emptying this place's wine cellar?"

"As you like," Raphael agrees, and turns to lead Philomène back down the hall he came from, toward his chambers. Opening the door, he admits Philomène, and then closes it behind them, throwing a small bolt and going to a drawer to extract two cups, which he keeps in readiness for those occasions on which he would rather not be bothered by novices. Setting those aside, he picks up the room's two plain wooden chairs in succession and sets them at a comfortable conversational distance.


Raphael’s Chambers — La Rose Sauvage

The chamber of a Thorn requires several things. One is ample space, the other is a sturdy bedframe. This room is provided with both. Upon entering, one is first greeted with a mingled scent of leather, the hint of uisghe, and shavings of cedar wood. The furniture, as elsewhere in the salon, is dark wood, including a chest of drawers against one wall, and two cane-seated walnut chairs that are turned somewhat more delicately than the rest of the furniture. The bed, in particular, is imposing: a four-poster where the posts are uncommonly sturdy, and clad in places with collars of iron to which are fixed black iron rings. A slatted headboard has also been affixed between the two head posts, no doubt to provide a great many possibilities. There are slats and rings, too, at the foot of the frame, and along the sides of the frame if one looks closely. The sheets of dark silk promise a soft surface underneath to contrast with all that is hard in the room.

Mounted to one wall is a rack on which many tools of the trade, some dark and some gleaming, are displayed and ready for use. Longer items, such as canes, crops, quirts, and cat-o-nine-tails, are ordered by size along the outsides. A row of gleaming knives takes center stage in the top row, and also present are sets of clamps, coiled whips and wound-up ropes, and other tools more wicked and obscure in appearance. Under this display is a narrow set of drawers which undoubtedly hosts other small implements of use in the canon of the thorny rose.

The room is otherwise relatively spartan: no visible décor beyond the carving of the wooden furniture. Sometimes a round rug woven in the motif of a scarlet rose ringed geometrically with big, green thorns is present, sometimes it is removed to leave only the hard, bare floor beneath.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a winter morning. The weather is cold and fair.


Philomène slides the bag down to the floor as she follows, claiming one of the chairs practically from his hand, because God forbid she should ever let anyone do anything for her. "I've been an absolute cunt of a friend," she states flatly, easing her way down to sit, wincing as she does without any attempt to put on her usual blank expression to hide the pain. "Once again I've done nothing but take from you, without any sort of attempt to redress the balance. How've you been?"

"I don't think of it that way," Raphael replies. "Accounts of friendship are not accounts in ledger books, and they are not settled so frequently, either." He puts the cups in her hands if she'll take them. "I would say I have been well. Life is as complicated as ever, but on the whole it is…good. But how have you been?"

"Vastly and undeservedly improved," Philomène admits with a little laugh, switching both cups expertly to one hand so she can retrieve her flask with the other, unscrew it with her thumb, and pour generous measures of good whisky into both. "Eleanor's got a firm hand on the books, and I've been able to arrange a few favourable trade deals out to the East. It's really rather astounding how you can get away with a lot more sympathy for merchants trying to gouge you when you can throw up your hands and explain that while you would love to agree that price, sadly you have to answer to the Vicomtesse and she's told you in no uncertain terms that you can't agree to less than whatever. When it's somebody else apparently calling the shots, making a deal is a hundred times easier. I should have claimed it was all Louis-Claude's call while he was alive."

Raphael takes the cup back from Philomène and sits down with it, watching her as she relates her latest fortunes. "A wise negotiating position, but I wonder if your pride would have permitted it then," Raphael replies frankly. "It sounds as if your daughter is weathering the storm well, then."

Philomène raises both brows in mock offence. "Pride? Me?" She gives the man a half smile, acknowledging the point with a nod as she replaces the cap on her flask but rather than put it away, leaves it on top of the bag between them. "She was always going to. She takes after her father rather than me, thank goodness. She just gets on with people. They like her. But she's not quite a soft enough touch to let anyone walk all over her. It'll be good for the family, for sure."

Raphael drinks from the cup, nodding over the quality of the uisghe he's been given. "Those are great strengths for her," Raphael replies. "You must be proud to see her step into them fully."

"That pride, at least, isn't unfounded," Philomène agrees, leaning back in her seat and folding her hands around her cup. "Are you telling me that your chest doesn't swell at least a little when one of your baby courtesans grows his wings and does well for himself here?"

Raphael smiles and shakes his head. "If you think I look down on pride, then you misunderstand the nature of my canon," he says. "Pride can go too far, but on the whole it is an excellent thing when properly placed." He opens a hand. "People come to see me specifically to experience my own sense of pride."

"I come to you," Philomène points out drily, "because you're one of the few people in this city who'll tell me when I'm being a little shit." She takes a long draught from her cup, then leans forward to unbuckle the satchel and flip it open. "Book," she states, withdrawing a somewhat battered looking thing with a paper protective cover over it and thrusting it out to him. "I recall you had a fondness for the hellebore, so I thought of you when I came across it. Some of it might not be of interest, but there's a big section about hybridisation and how to encourage growth in various conditions. If nothing else, it's got some beautiful coloured plates you can tear out and put on your wall."

Raphael is perhaps surprised. His face makes no big show of it, but he lifts his chin a little. "You remembered that," he comments, reaching to take the book. "That's very kind of you. I've no talent in gardening, but it's possible to learn. With spring coming on." His chamber has acquired a few new paintings, in fact, since Philomène has last been in: an austere landscape of cliffs, a painting of lavender, and a painting of thorny rose. Raphael sips from the cup again, then removes the cover from the book to take a look inside.

It's clearly a well-loved book, not new, and the occasional muddy thumb print, larger than Philo's so probably not hers, smudges one or two pages where it's clearly been put to good use. "Well, don't let on but occasionally I do actually listen," she admits with a wry smile, reaching once again into the bag but this time not announcing what it is she's brought. Well, the sweet, almondy smell is enough to give it away as out comes a small paper bag which she tears open to reveal a couple of glistening pastries. "Anyway, if you did want a hand with growing some, I can see what I can do."

"Yes, I do," Raphael agrees to that offer. "I'll have to get the Dowayne's permission, naturally, to grow anything besides roses out there." He nods to the window with a tilted smile of his own. "Thank you," he says. He reaches for the pastry. "Have you gone after your woman?"

Philomène would make an awful poker player. The question itself is enough to prompt a wide, genuine smile as she settles back and sips from her whisky without a word.

"Another explanation of the improvement of your fortunes," Raphael concludes. He has a bite of the pastry, letting the satisfied silence stretch for a while. "You don't wish to talk of it?"

Philomène lets out a laugh. "Raphael, I would sing of it, if I didn't think that would be frankly painful to anyone listening. Of course she has her duties to see to much of the time, but when we're both in the city… well, it certainly saves on laundering two sets of sheets. Really. It's a matter of cost efficiency." She grins, not bothering to claim a pastry for herself, but instead enjoying her whisky. "It's a practical consideration."

"An economical happiness," Raphael replies with an expression of amused doubt. "But however much it saves, there are only certain people it is tolerable to sleep the whole night with, don't you agree?"

"I've slept the night with hundreds of people at my side," Philomène deliberately misconstrues him, finally leaning to claim if not a whole pastry then at least a curl that's broken away already. "I was a soldier. What I think you mean is there are only certain people it's tolerable to spend the night with without sleep. You know me, Raphael. I'm a poor follower of Naamah. I love far too sparingly."

Raphael calmly eats more of the pastry. "Somehow I doubt you'd have your whole company into those sheets you're laundering half as often." He shrugs one shoulder. "We all have times when we are more available or less available to love, perhaps. But do you find your store of love too poor now?"

"I woke up the other day with a foreigner in my bed," Philomène notes with amusement. "I think Caroline didn't know what to do with him and rather assumed. Long night. Too much schnapps. You know how these things go."

Raphael laughs faintly. "Was this with you in the bed or did you come home to this situation?" Raphael wonders. "And what foreigner is this? I didn't think it was typically your way to invite many foreigners to drink your schnapps."

Philomène shakes her head, licking crumbs from her fingers. An extraordinary demonstration of appetite rarely seen in her. "Oh no, no, I was put to bed as well. Fellow from the Chowat I've been dealing with, from some place called Poshgrabbya or something. Deals in lumber. But he speaks the language passably well, and he suffers from an old injury from fighting the Skaldi on their own borders. When he's not being an utter arsehole, you might like him. You can see why we get on."

Raphael finishes off his pastry as well. "Chowat," he repeats, nodding, surely thinking through who they've seen at the Rose Sauvage and coming up with no clear image. "I don't know him, but it certainly sounds like an interesting friendship. And is he aware of what he can and cannot expect in your bed, even if your maid is not?"

"He's as little interest in women as I have in men," Philomène notes cheerfully. "Although I don't think he's any interest in men either, for the record. I'll introduce you some time. He'll probably be a little shit and make you want to stab him, or he'll be a laugh and you'll get on. I don't think there is any in between. Can I ask how your own romantic overtures are going?"

"Very good," Raphael says, nodding and drinking from the whiskey. "Though people of that persuasion often find people like me particularly objectionable. Still, he must be interesting." Raphael smiles and leans back in his chair. "I've been fortunate, I think. We've gotten to stay the night through, lately. Rare for me."

Philomène breaks the remains of the other pastry in half, offering one part to Raphael and holding on to the other. "You don't stay the night with many of your patrons? Is that a canon thing or a you thing?"

"Possibly both," Raphael admits, accepting the half pastry. "I find it hard to separate the one from the other in most cases." He eats a little, nodding to himself. "My canon is quite different from Heliotrope," he points out. "I think it is wrong, and in some cases dangerous, to encourage overly emotional love as a part of it. For certain patrons, particularly dangerous. The heights of achievement in my canon also benefit from mystery and unpredictability, making some distance increase the efficacy of other pleasures. In many cases."

"They don't go to you for an emotional attachment," Philomène points out, breaking off a piece of her pastry to nibble. "Whereas, and I'll admit it, I'd rather hold out for a genuine attraction, rare as it might be, than spend my evenings in superficial pleasure. I'm rather cautious about the whole thing. I don't love often, but I make up for it by going all in when I do. It's burnt me once or twice." She shrugs a shoulder, taking another sip from her cup. "But your mystery and unpredictability… not so much with your ladyfriend?"

"Sometimes they do," Raphael says, "But that is not always a good thing. In my canon we already hold a great deal of power." At the question about his lady friend, he smiles over the rim of his cup. "I find her…inspiring. So I do not want for creativity when we are together. We are both frequently surprised, I think. And she is also well-versed enough in our ways that she plays the game as an expert. I have no worries about misleading her, and my feelings for her are genuine."

"Are you happy?" Philomène asks bluntly, breaking off another piece of pastry, then putting the rest back on top of the bag. Maybe he'll finish it. I mean, this is clearly more than he's seen her eat in one sitting for months. "Politics is a game. Trade is a game. Love is the one thing in life that shouldn't be. Love should just make you happy."

"There are complications," Raphael is honest enough to say, "But yes, I feel that it's worth it. I experience great heights together with her whether we're chatting or making love." Whatever love may look like when made by someone of the Thorn canon. "It is certainly not a game in any sense. Although we do occasionally indulge in little games."

"Well, if I can help smooth out any of those complications, you'll let me know?" Philomène offers, raising a brow at him. "Or if you can tell me what flowers she likes, I can turn my hand to growing some for you to give her. I can at least give practical help."

Raphael nods his head at that. "Well," he says. "Can you grow lavender?" That's a start, anyway. He finishes off the pastry and puts his cup aside to dust off his hands. "I think I should make her a gift before long. Any insight on what I should choose?"

"Any idiot can grow lavender," Philomène laughs, nodding. "Even you could grow lavender. It's stopping it growing that's the problem. Sure." She considers for a moment, then goes to reach once more into her rapidly emptying satchel of goodies. "I did mention I brought you a rag, too. Maybe something like that?" she offers, producing a small folded piece of black cloth. On first glance it's some sort of textured material, a deep black with darker shadows and shiny highlights, but on closer inspection it is apparently a square of good silk handkerchief, onto which has been painstakingly embroidered an abundance of flowers, leaves and stems in aesthetically pleasing if impractical swirls and spirals in fine black thread. "I get a needle out when I can't sleep. Seemed a shame to waste it."

"It's true that I could make something," Raphael acknowledges, nodding slowly as he looks over the embroidered handkerchief. "This is very nice work. She's amenable to botanical themes." But he doesn't seem to consider the matter solved.

"How about bacon, then? Everyone likes bacon," Philomène suggests, apparently blind to the very concept that sometimes bacon is not actually the perfect gift for every situation.

"I admit," Raphael says, looking frankly amused with himself and the situation, "I ended up bringing some beef with me. It is her custom to eat beef when we've been together. Blood out, blood in, is a wise practice."

"I don't keep cattle, though," Philomène points out practically. "Are you sure I can't tempt you to try a little pork instead?"

"Not in this case," Raphael says, smiling fondly at his friend for her self-serving suggestion. "I happened to source it from my brother, ultimately."

"How about honey, then?" Philomène suggests, staying on a culinary theme. "I've a friend who keeps bees. It's sort of a botanical theme, then, with the added bonus that she can put it in her tea or on her bread. Or," she adds with a grin, "with some mustard on some delicious pork chops?"

Raphael laughs faintly. "Not honey, in this case," he says. "I think it must also be a particularly fine gift."

Philomène wrinkles her nose, claiming the flask to top up her cup and then Raphael's. Just because normal people don't drink quantities of good whisky at this time of day, it doesn't seem to have even registered with her that he might not want to join her. "Well, what about a book, then?" She pauses, eyeing the satchel, then exhales. "Not, I hasten to add, that I'm trying to court you by bringing you books and pastries. I just thought you might like them. I don't know. What does she like, then?"

"A book is certainly within the realm of possibility," Raphael allows, bobbing his head, though he leaves the liquor untouched for now. "She appreciates flowers. She is, like me, religious by nature. She likes things that are beautiful and cleverly made. She likes rules."

"You do woodwork, don't you?" Philomène suggests, knocking back a good swig from her refreshed whisky. "Could you carve her something? Bookends? A little box for jewellery? Something like that?"

"I do," says Raphael, glancing over his shoulders at the drawers where some of his supplies must be tucked away. "A jewellry box is a particularly good thought."

"If she has jewellery, of course. She does sound to be my complete opposite in every way, though, so I don't doubt she's got piles of the stuff," Philomène notes with a smile. "No wonder my bacon suggestion isn't gaining any traction."

Raphael is not hesitant to confirm, "She does wear jewelry." He looks amused. "Please don't think I fail to understand the benefits of bacon. It's just not the ideal item in this case."

"Obviously you're wrong," Philomène insists, grinning openly now, "but I suppose you ought to know her better than I." Again, that wide open smile. Yes, this is a far more content Philo than has been seen for a long time. Perhaps everyone ought to murder their husbands?

Raphael laughs at Philomène's certainty. "It is good to see you in such spirits," he says. "I'm glad your woman is helping you drive down those laundry bills."

Philomène lifts her cup. "You just want to see me with good spirits," she counters. "Save your wine stock from a swift and ignominious demise."

"That too is appreciated," Raphael returns warmly. "It seems to be a season where everything is in thaw. I consider that to be good. When can I meet your woman, anyway?"

"She's away at Cerdagne at the moment," Philomène admits, pulling a face, "but perhaps when she returns we could all have dinner or something? I can finally meet your woman. And," she adds smugly, "we'll have bacon and prove once and for all that it's the universal language."

"I'll ask her permission," Raphael says. "If she doesn't wish to be known, of course I have to respect that. But I think it could be great fun, what you propose." And this is not a man to use the word 'fun' lightly.

"Well, don't tell her it's me," comes the suggestion as Philomène drains her cup and eyes the flask speculatively. "If you tell her it's me, of course she'll decline if she has any sense. Tell her it's with the Vicomtesse de Cerdagne and her companion instead. She's less likely to run, screaming, then."

Raphael laughs and shakes his head. "I don't think dishonesty is especially wise," he says. "She'll know you one way or another. And I don't have any desire to anger her. Take risks with deceiving your own bedmate."

"Are you kidding?" Philomène insists indignantly. "She's got a bloody great mace, and I'm a fucking cripple!"

"Oh yes, completely helpless, you are," Raphael replies sarcastically. "Shaking in your boots."

Philomène laughs easily, inclining her head to concede the point. "Fair enough, fair enough. And when have I ever turned down the chance to fight about something? Look, I only really dropped in to apologise and give you that book. Hirondelle's outside and she'll be wondering where I've got to. I'm pleased, though. I'm really pleased to see you're happy. Complications or not."

"I'll let you go," Raphael says, getting to his feet and putting out an empty palm for her in case she wants the hand up. "But it's been lovely to see you in good spirits, truly. Congratulations on your bedsheet efficiency."

Philomène doesn't claim the hand immediately. No, she struggles up under her own steam (of course she does), but does then clasp it once she's upright in a gesture of friendship. "And who says Thorns lack for romantic turns of phrase," she teases, then gathers her now empty satchel to sling onto her shoulder. A couple of limping paces towards the door and she pauses, nodding to the pictures on the wall. "And tell your artist that the rose is good, fairly accurate, but if they try putting the lavender like that in real life it'd all fall apart. Four out of ten. Needs more practice."

Raphael clasps Philomène's hand in return, his own palm warm despite the chill outside. "Thank you for the critique," he says with amusement. "I'm sure I'll pass it on."

"It'd hardly be a morning with me if I didn't try to pick a fight about something," Philomène points out amiably. "Thanks, Raphael. And do drop by any time you're not busy. Otherwise I'll spend my life being an arsehole and who'll tell me?"

"Very well, I'll come and see you when I sense you need taking down a peg," Raphael promises, and goes to unbolt the door, holding it open for Philomène. "Be well, don't catch cold with the change of the season."

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