(1312-03-28) Martial Sports With the Cripples
Summary: Two broken veterans decide that actually, this whole fighting stance crap requires effort.
RL Date: 1312-03-28
Related: None
philomene andrei 

**Jardins d'Eisheth **

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 spring morning. The weather is warm and drizzling.


It's a grey morning, still ominous and dark in the half hour or so before the sun rises, made more oppressive by low, rolling clouds which let out a constant fine drizzle so even in the east where the glow of dawn is doing its best to break through it's still nothing but a gradually lightening shade of murky.

And yet, no matter the weather, the stubborn old Dowager Vicomtesse de Gueret can be found on a daily walk in the gardens by the temple. Only today she's either finished her walk or not yet started it, and is engaged instead on a patch of thin, muddy grass away from the main paths, slowly alternating between what might be attitudes for some sort of elaborate ballet. If, of course, ballerinas routinely held a sword in one hand, a dagger in the other, and were subject to certain limitations of the left leg which render some of these otherwise distinctive old and out of favour Camaeline martial drills rather unique to Philomene.

Who's going to interrupt a woman carrying a sword and a dagger doing … something … dance-y … on a garden path? Not a certain Carpathian at least. He just settles on a bench nearby, quite stealthily, watching with a smile that grows slightly wider upon realising that there is in fact some kind of system or purpose to what the Vicomtesse seems to be doing. Resting his walking stick across one knee as seems to be his habit, the foreigner dons his customary black coat, although for a change of pace, the coat and waistcoat beneath are a light shade of dove grey and his cravat crimson. Only when Philomène's glance by happenstance drifts his way does he nod a silent greeting; one that very obviously says, 'don't me interrupt you'.

And of course, on noticing that she has an audience, what had been a rather relaxing progression through the recognised stances (and one or two rarer ones on the end for anyone otherwise familiar with the Camaeline style), Philomene sets that magnificent jaw, shifts to something far closer to the recognised stances, left leg be damned, and speeds up, slowly working up a sweat even in the cool misty rain that brings a touch of colour to her cheeks, the only colour on her otherwise black, white or slate grey appearance. When she reaches the end of one more cycle, sword high and pointed directly towards Andrei, with the dagger in a lower, outstretched guard, she holds that position a moment or two longer before finally turning both blades and efficiently sliding them home in their respective sheaths. "Did you bring breakfast?" she demands, as though this is a perfectly ordinary greeting when coming across an acquaintance before it's even fully light.

"I did not. If I had known I'd find an Amazon out of legend practising her blade play in the gardens, I might have. Or I might have found somewhere else to walk as to not disturb you." Anghelescu stretches his leg and taps the walking stick against one black boot. "Do you do this often? Bloody hell, woman, you could have told me. I might bring a blade of my own. I have lost my touch to a point where I feel I'm all but a defenceless cripple."

Philomène arches one disbelieving brow, leaving one hand resting on her dagger's hilt while the other draws the sword, reverses it and offers it, pommel first with the blade resting along her forearm, towards the foreigner. "Nothing stopping you joining me," she decides, eyeing him. "We used to do these exercises three times a day. I'm an old woman now. I limit it to once, just so I can still remember what a blade looks like. Come, let us be defenceless cripples together."

<FS3> Andrei rolls Blades: Good Success. (6 2 7 7 5 6)

Anghelescu stands up and accepts the offered blade. He weighs it in his hand, feeling its balance and nodding slightly; it is no clumsy beginner's iron rod slightly sharpened on on the edges. "I can feel it, you realise. How I've lost my touch. How I'd tire out in a matter of minutes."

His posture at least is that of a man who has indeed wielded a blade before; not the dance-like posture of a duellist but the more practical approach of someone who's been sent out to hack off body parts in a rather pragmatic fashion every so often knows how to get a job done. "I lose my breath in a matter of moments. It is quite frustrating. Humbling, but not in the fashion that makes you a spiritual and giving person. More in the way of turning me into a bitter, silently seething ball of rage."

Philomène actually grins widely at that, pushing her damp hair back from her face. "Definitely an honorary d'Aiglemort, then. You know your way around a sword. You know the sixteen forms, too, or did that particular bit of training pass you by?"

"I might, though not by that name. My training is not very formal. I live in a country that regularly fends off invasions — we learn by fighting people who aren't our people." Anghelescu tests the blade in the air a few times. "Not very graceful, not very suited for a competition. Ends with a lot of people dead."

Andrei has partially disconnected.

"Competitions are for showmen, not fighters," Philomene insists scornfully. "Any idiot can fight a single opponent they can see coming, when they're fresh, well fed, warm and dry." She draws her dagger, without any sort of flourish or salute, and keeps her hand low. "We teach our children these forms. Eight guards, eight strikes. Anything you do in a fight is just a combination of them, so you learn to see them coming and learn what the counter is for each. By the time it's automatic, you might survive on the front. First position," she adds, shifting her weight to her back foot and bringing the blade upwards. "Not," she adds conversationally, "that either of us is going back to the front any time soon, but it's good discipline."

"Well, that's one of the few things I ever agreed with my father upon right there," Anghelescu observes. "War is not a show. War is about making the other man do the dying." He shifts his blade easily into the counter-position, mirroring Philomène's motions in the fashion of someone quite prepared to deflect. "It bothers me how I can feel the weight of this blade. My wrist is already telling me that ten minutes of this and I will not be writing any letters tonight."

Philomène shrugs once, tosses her much smaller blade to the opposite hand and takes a pace back onto her bad leg to hold the weight there instead. She doesn't speak. Her expression barely even changes, until one looks closely and the tension in her jaw, the narrowing of her eyes, and the very slight wobble overall shows exactly how much strain this puts her deformed left leg under. It's only after holding that position for two or three seconds that she lunges forward to the next form, still in mirrored, left-handed form, and manages the breath to suggest, "Swap hands, then. You'll need your right hand, I'm sure. Long winter nights, and you without a woman to warm your bed. Have you been to see our healers yet?"

Anghelescu matches the Vicomtesse's movements although to say that he does so without effort would be a lie. His are the movements of a man who once did this effortlessly but has spent too many months in bed or recuperating since then. "What, you are not ambidextrous? I am disappointed." The foreigner nods slightly at the last question, though. "I have regular appointments with a rather skilled herbalist at the Coquelicot. Apart from that? A pretty blond thing at nineteen — one of those flowers? Don't remember which. I visit her once or twice a week for a few hours, read a book, try not to notice just how boring she thinks I am. Certainly won't be needing my hands for that."

Philomène transitions smoothly to the next position, every movement drilled into her so she no longer even needs to think about it, but there's that telltale clench of the jaw and flicker of pain in her eyes every time the demands of the position put strain on her left leg. "That's an expensive way to stop people asking questions," she remarks quietly, reaching to adjust his blade position, shoulders or feet every now and then when she's not entirely satisfied.

The Carpathian doesn't seem to mind the Vicomtesse's corrections; it is obvious soon enough that while the fundamentals are the same, the two have had very different instructors. Anghelescu's with more focus on brute strength — which is a tad ironic considering the man's slender frame. "Wouldn't have expected you to gripe at the idea of Chowati money ending up in Marsilikan coffers," he observes with a small grin. "If that's the price I need to pay for peace and quiet, then so be it."

"I'd rather your filthy foreign money ended up in my coffers," Philomene admits with a wry smile as she observes Andrei's style. "February and March are lean times for houses who rely on farming. Monsieur Anghelescu, you're fighting, not threshing wheat," she scolds as he moves, then settles back to watch some more. "We need to get you a lighter blade, I think. That one will kill you before you get a chance to put it in the enemy. I have one," she admits more softly yet, "that I had forged when I was recovering. My daughters used it when they were young. I've little use for it now, if you want it."

"I might wish to borrow it, perhaps. I did not bring a blade of my own here — after all, what's the point when you do not expect to live to see spring?" Anghelescu nods. "I must also say, I've always been better with a dagger than a sword. Something about a short blade speaks to me."

"Not much use from a horse," Philomene points out, nonetheless turning her dagger now to offer that to the man, too. Because nothing says trust like handing over all your keenly edged weapons to a strange foreigner in the greying dawn. "I use the dagger as a secondary, but unless you're aiming to murder people in alleys it's not a primary weapon for a soldier. And, much as you'll hear rumours to the contrary, I'm not out to murder anyone."

Anghelescu turns the longer blade around and offers it back hilt first in response. "You'd be surprised what you can do with a pair of good daggers when fighting on foot. Mine is a country of hills and crags and mountains — horsemen there quickly regret their life choices. And then, when they stand around in their boots and weapons unsuited for the terrain, they realise why we rely on shorter weapons and moving unseen through the woods."

Philomène nods her thanks, sliding the longer blade home in its sheath then setting her hands on her hips and rolling them from side to side to ease out the strain of the morning's work. "Ghosts," she notes without a trace of humour in her tone. "Only you're the living ones."

The Carpathian returns her dagger as well. Then he flicks his wrists slightly, revealing the sheaths concealed in his sleeves. "It's kept the Skaldi out so far. Only a fool meets a Skaldi fighting force on the plains when you can lure him into the mountains and tire him out. They have the numbers and the brute force, but we have the terrain."

The glimpse of those sheaths raises a smile. "When you've a powerful cavalry force like ours, though," Philomene counters, ever the horsewoman, "you learn to take advantage of the plains where you can. Hit them hard and hit them fast. Be where they don't expect. And," she adds with a rueful laugh, "the most important and least glorious way we keep them at bay, stop their supplies. You never see a tournament where the idea is to sneak around behind your opponent and set their wagons on fire, though, do you?"

Anghelescu nods his agreement. "You have a powerful cavalry because your land is flat. You can send an army against the enemy and trample him into the mud. We do not win tournaments but we do cut off their supply lines." He pauses. "Well, that's not actually true. The Chowat has every bit as many ridiculous competitions and festivals as any other country, but the fighting done there has very little to do with actual warfare. I imagine that that is no different here."

Philomène laughs. "See who wins the spring competitions this year, and tell me if you think they'd last a week on the lines," she points out archly. "But look, if you want to join me to go through the drills of a morning, you know where to find me. Bring your brother, if you want. Nobody'll bother you at this time." She pauses, correcting herself, "Well, I've only ever been bothered by wheezing old Chowati gentlemen, and once or twice by a chirurgeon heading home after a long night."

Anghelescu raises an eyebrow. "Szimfonia would kick your arse," he says bluntly. "He doesn't fight fair. He was not trained to look pretty. And he will absolutely spit in your eye, then stab you in the back when you turn around to yell at him."

"That'd make a pleasant change from people declining to fight at all because I'm just some mad old cripple," Philomene notes tartly. "And the Skaldi never fought fair either, but I put enough of those little scrotes in the ground. I'm not dead yet, Domnul Anghelescu."

The other man holds up his hands, palms out. "He'd turn me into minced meat in a matter of breaths. You needn't prove anything to me. I'm a dead man walking and I haven't used a blade for its intended purpose in three years. All I'm saying is, Szimfonia was not trained to fight as a noble because he isn't one. He gets down and dirty."

"Set a limit of no lasting injuries and I'd be glad to learn from him," Philomene decides. "Nobody learns anything from winning. Look, I'm going to poke my head in and say my bit to the Companions, but if you want to grab a cup of tea or something afterwards? You can tell me all about how Her Grace responded to your letter."

Anghelescu winces. "Myes. Tea sounds good. You can help me write the damned letter, actually." Is that a sheepish expression? That is very much a sheepish expression.

Philomène draws herself unconsciously to her full height, tilting her head back to look down the length of her nose at the man. She's not angry, she's just disappointed. And angry. Okay, so it's Philo and she's never entirely free of anger, but in this case it is mostly disappointment. "Maybe you ought to come and lay some of your own faults at Kushiel's shrine, then, hm?"

"Maybe I need to be able to breathe. I have spent the week in bed, miserable." Anghelescu doesn't look particularly intimidated. "For a while there, I'll admit that politics were not my primary concern. What's the point of introducing myself to your Duchesse if I don't live to meet her anyhow?"

"I thought you were just hiding from me," Philomene admits, pursing her lips. "You should have sent word. I'd have sent you wine and a note telling you to pull yourself together. Look, either write or I'll arrange an appointment and drag you in to see her myself."

"Is that a threat or a promise?" Anghelescu smirks. "I am like a cat. I hide away on my own rather than showing the world that I am weak. I have a nagging suspicion that of all the people in this city, you might understand exactly how that feels. One needs not put one's every moment of frustration and fear on display."

"I wouldn't know, I've never been weak," Philomene lies, although the somewhat sardonic smile indicates more of a shared joke than a deliberate attempt to maintain the deceit. "If you end up dead in an inn, too, it'll start to look like we do nothing but kill foreigners here, and that'll be bad for trade. Think of my cash flow, Monsieur Anghelescu. Remain alive."

Anghelescu continues to smirk at that. "Your cash flow is fine. You do trade with the house of Anghelescu, and given the benefits of that trade, I find it very unlikely that it would be interrupted by something as insubstantial as my demise. Very well. Help me write the letter later, or drag me to meet your Duchesse. I might even dress up for the occasion. If I have to."

"This I must see," Philomene mocks with goodnatured amusement. "I might burn any letter just so I get to see it."

And thus that gets settled, buying a certain foreign dignitary — all right, let's just go with guest — at least another few days of not having to write highly formal requests to the ruler of the city. Anghelescu sighs dramatically. "I hope you realise that I absolutely loathe formal occasions and having to obey the calls of etiquette. I am a soldier, Phil. Not a courtier. Please tell me that I will at least not be expected to bring my personal blond airhead arm decoration for such an occasion."

Philomène's grin widens. "Oh, no, you'll be expected to bring her with you," she insists, and is that glint in her eye because she relishes seeing it, or because she takes such pleasure in playing jokes on people she likes?

<FS3> Opposed Roll — Philomene=Persuasion Vs Andrei=Psychology
< Philomene: Success (4 1 4 6 7 6 4 4) Andrei: Good Success (3 1 5 6 8 7 2 7)
< Net Result: Andrei wins - Solid Victory

The look she gets for that is simple. Its contents are simple. Its narrative is simple. It is a universal truth from pale blue eyes. Screw you, it says. Just, not in the fun way. More in the I know what you're up to and I haven't forgotten how you sent me to a brothel and for that matter, to a noble gathering. I'm onto you.

"Worth a try," Philomene allows, when he's clearly not buying it. The grin remains a moment longer and she shrugs. "Are you still at the Leaping Fish? I'll meet you there when I've said my piece to the Lords and Ladies upstairs. Unless you've come round to our way of thinking instead of your heathen ways, and wanted to throw a few prayers to the Companions yourself?"

"I'll stay pagan if it's the same to you. But yes — I am still there, though I am looking into perhaps acquiring somewhere more private. Something with a back door and not quite as many people actually noticing how much alike my brother and I are?" Anghelescu nods. "There are advantages to being thought the same man. For one, that man can fight if necessary. Because he isn't me."

Philomène gives an amiable nod, checking both blades are properly seated as she moves away off the grass. "You can't be that much alike," she notes easily. "Your brother is way better looking than you for a start."

"Suckup." Anghelescu settles back on the bench, clearly deciding to rest for a while after even that small bit of exercise. "Very well. I will see you tonight. Try to not break anyone's face in there, or if you do, at least do it in an amusing fashion."

Philomène gestures vaguely upwards. "Don't sit out in the rain too long. I'd be pretty miffed if you were dead before I got to see your best outfit." With that she flicks a quick smile, lifts her chin to him, then turns to limp off along the path towards the temples.

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