(1312-03-14) Smackdown d'Aiglemort Style
Summary: It's a shouting match that has been waiting to happen.
RL Date: 2020-03-14
Related: D'Angeline Snark-Off, Scholars and Coffee, The Philosophical Pond.
andrei philomene 

Jardins d'Eisheth — Marsilikos

Tranquility and beauty of nature is what those coming to the gardens of Eisheth usually seek. There is a playfulness in the arrangement of paths through the greenery, and the way four of them wind to the center, where there is a pond surrounded by a few elm trees, beside an area with wooden benches and tables beneath an arbor, where ivy winds about wooden posts, and a roof of colorfully glazed tiles offers shelter from the sun but also moderate rain.

Bushes are trimmed, and the green is kept short, so that people coming here can enjoy the dramatic view over the coast all the way to the sea, with the harbor and the citadel slightly to the north. Slightly towards the south and close by is the infirmary with the herb garden beside, where a variety of plants used for healing and treating certain illness are grown under the immaculate care of the healers. Towards the east, a path leads towards the temple district, where the dominant structure of the Temple of Eisheth looms, the white marble shimmering almost otherworldly on late afternoons, when it catches the warm, orange light of the setting sun.

It is a winter morning. The weather is cold and fair.

Andrei Anghelescu is developing a sort of fondness for the temple gardens. He does not look back to the adventure of fishing a kitten out of a freezing pond with any particular fondness but barring that particular adventure, his chance encounters here have actually been fairly pleasant. The red-headed Marquise and her daughter, for one — she surprised him. Caught him off guard a little, clearly having deigned to at least look at a map upon speaking with a foreigner while listening to Ephesian music. Anghelescu has to chide himself that he had allowed himself to slip into some false sense of security there; not all d'Angeline nobles are myopic enough to take everything he says at face value just because it saves them the trouble of having to break off admiring themselves for a minute or three.

He takes his stroll around the pond, along the raked paths between the herb and flower beds as prescribed by his proficient, if not particularly gentle healer. This is a new development that warrants due consideration. The Marquise is no threat on her own, but having people in such elevated positions take heed of you is never desirable for someone who wants to operate in secret. He may have to advance his plans to the second phase soon; the one in which he stops trying to pass unnoticed and instead draws the attention away from whatever Szimfonia is doing. Not a pleasant prospect; this month or two of obscurity have been a delightful change of pace.

And thus he is preoccupied in thought as he settles on a bench along the path, not really paying attention to what moves in his immediate surroundings. A man can come to regret such carelessness.

Carriage wheels trundle off in the distance as the city begins to come to life. Hooves clip-clop on the cobbles of the city streets. The occasional shout of a hawker, just beginning to set up and try to make her living from the meagre passers by, and the ringing of ship's bells in the harbour, one seeming to set off another, then another. Even the birds are happily trilling away in the trees, harbingers of a spring to come soon.

The one sound that begins to cut through all these is a rhythmic step and drag of a familiar limp. In a long, pale robe this morning, cut just short enough that the inevitable splatters of mud mostly land on her riding boots and not on its hems, Philomene enters from the temple to the east, the rising sun behind her giving her a glowing aura. If ever there were any question that these are a people descended from angels, surely this vision is enough to satisfy the answer. As she limps her way closer, it's clear that there's a long blade at one hip and a shorter, curved and jewelled blade, a foreign looking thing, just poking out from her robe on the other side. More like an angel of death than of mercy, then.

Anghelescu sighs to himself. Some sort of follow-up to the very much not at all pleasant conversation at the baths is bound to happen at some time or other. The city is only that big, and the odds of never having to deal with the temper that is Philomène the self-proclaimed battle-ax again are nil. Tempting to get up and walk away; there are few things the Carpathian loathe more than screaming women. He suspects that screaming might not be this woman's default mode of expressing her anger, though, and for a moment he actually wonders if he should start making a habit of carrying a blade more prominent than the ones secreted away in his boots and in sheathes along his lower arm, under the coat.

Sartorial decisions later, consequences for bad choices now. His blue gaze follows the woman as she makes her way along the path, nodding in recognition — and greeting of a sorts — as she makes it to his position.

Philomène purses her lips a little as she approaches, not slowing or stopping for a moment. "Walk," she demands curtly, in place of any actual sort of civil greeting, and simply expects him to do so. It's unthinkable to her that he might refuse, and thus it will happen. This is Philomene's world. In Andrei's favour, her hands remain optimistically clear of any weapons, but one can't help but wonder just how long it would take her to draw anyway in a pinch.

Perhaps it's the simple fact that until he did in fact meet Philomène, Anghelescu never had been ordered around like that by anyone not in uniform. Possibly in combination with the fact that Philomène did at some point wear such a uniform and certainly has the authority. Maybe it's just that he finds some strange amusement in humouring her whims. Either way, he stands, silver-tipped walking stick in one hand — not quite a sword, but it might at least parry a blow or two — and falls into stride. "Better than 'die', I suppose."

"If you chose to do that, I can't imagine there would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth," Philomene retorts as she keeps up the same rhythmic pace, making no allowances for Andrei. Not, of course, that it's difficult to keep up with her. She might walk a full mile every day this way, but the limitations of her injury still prevent it from being a particularly fast walk. "You've done a spectacular job of making very few fucking friends here, Domnul Anghelescu, and then spitting on the hospitality that was offered. If you were on fire right now, and I had a glass of water? I'd drink the water and fucking glass you."

Anghelescu quirks an eyebrow. "I must have upset you. You actually learned a Chowati word."

One bony elbow comes up and thrusts back in a single practiced move, expertly angled to put a solid blow into Andrei's abdomen. If he wasn't having trouble breathing before, that can't exactly help.

<FS3> Andrei rolls Dodge: Good Success. (5 3 2 5 8 8 6 7)

<FS3> Philomene rolls Unarmed: Good Success. (7 3 5 6 4 7 4)

Anghelescu must have been expecting at least the possibility of a, shall we say, physical response; at least he twists enough out of the way that the blow impacts but not quite hard enough to floor him coughing for an hour. He does grunt, audibly at that, and takes several carefully controlled breaths before even making the attempt to speak. When he does, his voice is carefully modulated in the manner of someone who knows exactly how much — or little — air he can afford to waste. "You labour under the assumption that I am here to make friends. I do not object to the idea of making friends but after six weeks here, my position is not at all unclear. I offered your soldier a clear warning of a very real threat to your city when I did in fact not have to. He threw it in my face and made no secret of the fact that if Marsilikos burns, any convenient outsider nearby will end up scapegoated. I have no intention of being that scapegoat, nor any particular obligation to offer help where help is not wanted."

Philomène turns on her heel, for once in her life interrupting her own walk so she can instead fix him with a fiery glare. "What you did had nothing to do with being foreign, nothing to do with answering questions, and nothing to do with being a scapegoat," she insists, punctuating each phrase with a jab of her finger to his shoulder, each a little harder than the next as she closes the distance between them. "I couldn't give two shits if you want to help the guard or not, but when I give my word for you and you disrespect that..?" Her hand forms automatically into a fist which hovers back, ready to lay into him but, for now, still held back by some semblance of willpower.

"When you gave you word for me I made the decision to share the information I had, in spite of being spoken to like dirt under the boot of some washed-up old soldier who invaded a private conversation on a pretext of don't you be ogling our women, foreigner." Anghelescu's voice remains quiet but it does carry an undertone of steel; not in the fashion of a man looking to fuel an argument but one who will be pushed only so far before he considers the whole argument a waste of his time. "I do not consider myself to be an unreasonable man. I respect that I am a visitor to a foreign country. However, when someone spits in my face, I do not wipe it off and politely ask if they'd like to do it again, sir."

"You respect nothing!" Philomene insists, close enough that the scent of her early morning orange is detectable on her breath. The hand unbunches and aims a ringing slap for the side of his head. It's not a knockout punch, but neither is it a friendly tap. "You come here, you give nothing, you honour nothing, and you have the gall to pretend superiority over a working man. You're no better than the peacocks you so often call out. But worse than any of that, you do so under my name." She balls another fist and draws it back. "I couldn't give two flying fucks if you want to piss off the whole city, but you do not do it when I've laid my reputation on the line for you. How dare you!"

"From what I observed, the only part of your reputation that was on the line was being seen speaking with someone like me," Anghelescu says dryly and rubs his cheek. That probably stung a bit. "Now tell me what I am supposed to give and indeed honour, and do include the part where the city's response is not to scoff and tell me to stop sullying it with my false belief that I am in fact worthy of breathing."

Philomène's hand shoots to grip him by the collar, twisting and lifting. It's not enough to lift him off the ground. She might be tall for a woman, and she's clearly got a lot of strength from years of training, but this is real life and people don't just lift like that. What actually happens is the fabric bunches up and tightens about his neck. Not as impressive, but possibly more effective. "You go too far. The moment I spoke for you, everything you do reflects on me. Whining that you're foreign and nobody will go out of their way for you, when this entire fucking city has done nothing but treat you with unfounded courtesy? And what have you brought to the city, but a cough, a sneering, superior attitude and a litany of lies that you're threatened at every turn?"

Surprisingly, Anghelescu tolerates this treatment as well, though his jaw sets. "I have been threatened only once. By your soldier. Scream at me if you must but do not put words in my mouth."

"Keep your fucking mouth shut," Philomene demands, eyes flashing with anger. "Unless you're about to issue an apology or a challenge. I don't give two shits if Sergeant Jacquet shat in your coffee, while you're under my protection, you show some bloody respect."

Anghelescu hitches a shoulder and does indeed keep his mouth shut. Although he does reach up with one gloved hand to attempt to free his collar of her grip.

Philomène releases him and shoves him back with the flat of her palm to his chest. "I've spoken for you," she reminds him, hackles beginning to lower. "Act like a d'Aiglemort. Show me, this city and this country a little fucking respect."

"I am not a d'Aiglemort. If you want an obedient servant who asks your permission to hold an opinion, hire one." The Carpathian rectifies his collar situation, restoring his cravat to a semblance of normal. "I am abrasive, manipulative, cynical, and honest. I will not lie to you. I will not kiss your backside. And I will not stab you in the back unless you prove yourself my enemy first."

"You're dishonest and selfish," Philomene argues, eyes narrowing. "There was no threat, save what you inflated off your own back, to justify continuing to act like a whining brat. And no self-respecting d'Aiglemort would ever be afraid to hold an opinion and express it. We are no obedient, meek little servants. I do you the honour of speaking for you, of bringing you into the fold as an honourary member of my family. Do me the favour of living up to that. Asshole."

"You are instructing me presently on how to think, speak and act," the other man points out. "I cannot hold my opinion and express it while not holding it and not expressing it."

"You can express your opinion like a d'Aiglemort," Philomene snarls back, fist bunching again as the anger resurges. "Not like one of those puffed up, self-absorbed, entitled little whiny peacocks you're so keen to point out. I've shared my wine with you, hell I've even shared my bed with you. Show me a little fucking courtesy."

"And how, pray tell, does a d'Aiglemort express their opinion? From what I am learning at the moment it involves punching people and swearing at them." Strangely, Anghelescu's tone does not sound half as much intended as bait as his actual words. "I am finding it surprisingly easy to speak with the common people of Marsilikos. And surprisingly difficult to speak with the gentry, because as of to date, I have met two members of it who did not seem to obsess about status and pleasure, and nothing else."

"Then punch and swear!" Philomene insists, throwing an admittedly far gentler punch for his shoulder to make her point. "If that's the alternative to smug, entitled bitching. And if I obsess about status, it's because I respect my family. When I'm gone I need to know I've done my part to improve their lot. I won't abandon mine."

"You were one of the two, as a matter of fact. Your dynastic concerns are legitimate and reasonable. I do not share your views upon their importance, but I respect your stance and commitment. I have developed a deep and profound respect for the working people of this city as well. Its gentry has not impressed me, and I will not pretend otherwise." Nor will the Carpathian punch and swear, apparently. Boring sod.

Philomène can't really argue that. As far as feudal societies go, she's very much in favour of the common working man. It's no secret that she'd challenge any idle noble who dared disparage any hardworking soldier or farmer, but it's infuriating to have that turned against you in an argument. Thus she falls back on the most witty and eloquent of well thought out and erudite responses. "Fuck you," she forces out, the argument clearly beginning to sputter and burn itself out like the end of a candle. Doesn't mean she can't still scowl and posture. Would it really be Philomene d'Aiglemort de Chalasse if she didn't?

"I'm not your type." Anghelescu continues to walk, unabashed by postures and scowls; one might apply a number of unflattering epiteths to the man, but it would be a lie, at least, to say that he is not composed. Perhaps one needs to learn to be, when the urge to shout could prove fatal? Perhaps it's just the Chowati way. "But for what it is worth, my little game of allowing people to assume what they want about me is probably up soon. Your counterpart bothered to check a map."

Philomène turns, takes a breath, and recommences her walk in the same direction, scowling all the more because now it looks like she's following the man. "You'll get two reactions," she tells him drily. "Either they will continue to not care, because they're too self-absorbed to give a shit about anything but where they're putting their penis tonight, or they'll treat you like royalty because they don't understand that king of a dungheap is still in a dungheap."

The other man actually sighs. "Yes. That's part of why I stayed quiet, as a matter of fact. I am the sovereign ruler of a nation, and there are some who will try to use such a fancy title to elevate their own standing. But that nation is still three towns and a lot of trees, and I have better things to do with my time than pretending political importance."

"You'll need to present yourself to Her Grace," Philomene muses. "Are you going to be a little shit to her, too?"

"If I must. I am not here in an official capacity. If she is content to ignore me, I am quite content to return the favour. I don't matter to anyone outside the Chowat, and I am not at all unhappy about this." The Carpathian shakes his head. "But since you ask — no, I do not intend to say anything but what courtesy dictates to your Duchesse. Why would I? If she wants to be fawned on she's got an entire court of peacocks trained for the purpose. If she wants to not be, I'm quite convinced she has relatives and courtiers whom she trusts."

"Send her a letter, then," Philomene suggests practically. "A quick card to thank her for her hospitality. And then try not to piss off any more hard working guards."

"That is a good suggestion. I may do that." Anghelescu nods. "As for your hard working guards — I'll let you know if I meet one. But if what you need to hear is that I don't intend to go looking for the man in order to repair my pride, you need not worry. I remain firmly convinced that the law enforcement and gentry of this city is so blind to the notions that not all foreigners are identical and some of them actually have agendas of their own that it would take one outsider with a box of matches one week to turn Marsilikos into a funeral pyre. But I am not that one outsider, and your guard might as well save his breath to posture at somebody else."

"Get unconvinced," Philomene states bluntly. "Not all foreigners are identical, but we're well aware of the trouble they can cause." She rests a hand briefly on the right hand side of her chest, lifting her breast a little out of the way. "I've got a scar here to remind me the trouble they can cause, and that guard you're so scornful of was one of the ones who made sure that particular foreigner was brought to justice."

"Then you have reason to trust his ability and competence. Nothing in his actions or words gave me reason for either. If this murder is symptomatic of a conspiracy and your guard carries out on his threat of having my head for it, I will give you fair warning right now: I do not stand down and bend my neck for anyone just because they've got a big sword and think you need to be rescued from my bad influence. You've got a big sword, and you're more than capable of rescuing yourself." Anghelescu shrugs. "If being seen with me is that detrimental to a lady's reputation there is also one obvious solution to that problem."

"It's only detrimental when you're being an arsehole," Philomene points out tartly, turning down between two hedges onto a smaller path without even thinking about it, so imbued is this particularly walk in her psyche. "I don't much mind if you want to be a tit anywhere else, but… do you know how disloyal, how traitorous it feels when I've just that moment spoken up in your favour? I think I'd rather take a knife to the chest again."

"Then I do in fact apologise for disappointing you. I do not regret not allowing myself to be insulted and bullied by some jackass with no manners. But I do regret instilling a feeling of betrayal in someone who extended her trust." Anghelescu nods. "I am not accustomed to considering such a gesture."

Philomène inclines her head. "And I'll apologise for slapping you," she relents, reaching into her deep robe pocket to pull out her flask. This she unscrews, and in a rare moment of courtesy offers to him first. "And we'll have a drink, and that's the end of it. And," she adds with a half smile, "if I were ever to visit Podgrashnya, I'd show you the same courtesy. Even if you do treat your women like cattle."

Perhaps the importance of that gesture is not lost on Anghelescu; at least he accepts the peace offering and returns the flask after sampling it. "I like to think that we don't. But from a d'Angeline point of view, yes, I'm sure that it must look that way to you — particularly if I am the only Chowati you've met. I have no patience for or interest in the affairs that we traditionally consider to be the female domain, and I am not accustomed to dealing with them."

"You don't let your women fight," Philomene points out, pausing to take a good swig from her flask, then deftly replacing the cap and sliding it back out of sight. "What are female affairs, then? Squirting out babies and fawning over men?"

A sparkle of amusement claims Anghelescu's eyes for a moment. "How am I supposed to know? I'm not a woman. From what I've seen, it involves a lot of gossip, keeping track of who was wearing what, and how to throw a finer social event than the one you were invited to last month. But I am biased — I don't like women, or social affairs, or for that matter, people."

"I will remind you, as once again you seem to have forgotten," Philomene notes drily, "that I am a woman. And, for that matter, a person."

"And I will remind you, once again, that as far as I am concerned, you are for all intents and purposes a man. Even if the anatomy under your dress is of a female disposition." The Carpathian shrugs. "If it helps I told Azalaïs de l'Envers the same thing. She asked me a few questions about the role of women in our society as well."

Philomène laughs. "L'Envers? Well, there's a family who chase pleasure over sense every time. Azalais… remind me? Any sons?"

"I believe so from what she said, though the child that accompanied her was a daughter." Anghelescu shifts the walking stick to his other hand. "I know nothing about her house. But she is the first noble here to actually note the name of my country and go look it up on a map. She chose to not call me out, but it was very evident from our conversation that she knew where I am from, and what my name means."

"I'd lay good money she can't bloody pronounce it either, though," Philomene insists, turning down another path and swerving to avoid a muddy patch. "Pod. Grab. And then it all goes to shit from there."

Anghelescu smirks. "Maybe. I was simply pleased to meet another educated person with two smidgens of intellect. Which reminds me to ask about the house of Rocaille. Tell me about it?"

Philomène eyes him for a moment. "In what context? I couldn't say I'd be able to spot one in the street, but if you're talking about the family as a whole? Politically, they're cunning. I'm not sure I'd trust one as far as I could throw one if I wasn't absolutely certain what they stood to gain from a deal. If you're trying to trade with them, think four or five steps ahead."

"Curious. I was introduced to a young lord of that house recently. A timid little thing with a passion for books. Innocent. Gave me the feeling that he wears a mask and not very well at that — and your words confirm that suspicion." Anghelescu rubs his cheek absentmindedly where, moments before, he absolutely did not get slapped in the face because no lady would ever do such a thing as far as he is concerned. "No matter — just a fleeting curiosity. I do not often meet men who proclaim themselves scholars."

"A scholar of what, though?" Philomene asks, raising a brow. "You'll find a lot of the Siovalese claim they're scholars. It's a badge of honour, rather like every Camaeline will claim to be a soldier. But if every Camaeline were a soldier, who would feed us? Who'd make the tools, or the armour, or see to the horses? And so in Siovale I'd take it with a pinch of salt. Every nobleman will pick up a book and claim to be a scholar. Ask for more detail and you'll see how much depth that really has."

Anghelescu chuckles. "And that, at least, is just like home. We're all warrior poets. And no one tills the fields or shovels shit."

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