(1312-03-30) The Storm and the Calm
Summary: A fuming Philomène arrives at the palace to discuss a certain concern with the Duchesse of Eisande.
RL Date: 30/03/2020 - 01/04/2020
Related: The Incident at the Palace plot; and Sweet Treats and Sourness.
armandine philomene 

Solar — Ducal Palace

Spacious enough to provide a meeting place of more familiar atmosphere to the residents of the Ducal Palace, the solar is of rectangular shape and generously lit during the day through a number of arched windows in the south wall. The opposite side is governed by a huge stone hearth, a fire crackling there during colder weather conditions. Above the hearth hangs a shield with the coat of arms of House Mereliot, flanked by a pair of exquisitely woven tapestries depicting naval scenes of ships on the sea, one in calm and tranquil weather conditions, the other one in a storm with heavy rain.

All furniture is made of oak, be it the long table in the middle of the room, or the number of high backed chairs arranged about it, flat cushions of blue brocade adding to the comfort of seating. The ceiling is a sophisticated rib vault, constructed of wood, the ribs painted in yellow. Depictions of a variety of sea animals have been added onto the light blue ceiling as well by an unknown artist. Several kinds of mediterranean fish adorn the spaces in between ribs, such as combers, groupers and flounders but also starfish and octopusses.

A door leads out onto a rooftop garden, and an archway opens into the upper hallway.

It’s a pretty miserable afternoon on the whole. There’s a steady drizzle falling from low, grey clouds that really ought to be soaking anyone through who’s out in it, and yet when Philomene d’Aiglemort de Chalasse arrives at the palace gates it’s as though even the rain daren’t go near her. One look at her expression, a scowl that only deepens as she is obliged to hand over sword and dagger, is enough for the sensible to find other places to be.

And being elsewhere makes perfect sense. The Duchesse is not holding court today, not for general entreaties, complaints or judgements, nor any particular council of advisers. It is a rare moment for the poor woman to have some time to herself — a lady or two, her Cassiline and guards notwithstanding.

The clomp, drag step of the dowager Vicomtesse’s peculiar and distinctive limp is the first inkling given that Armandine’s brief afternoon’s peace in the salon is about to be shattered, and one can’t fault the Camaeline’s sense of the dramatic as she flings open the door and looms there, glowering, the light behind her giving her short blonde hair an ethereal glow. The avenging angel, come to have her reckoning.

In contrast to the somber weather outside is the warm beaming smile that adorns Armandine de Mereliot's features as she currently seems to be in conversation with one of her ladies— a younger one, and probably a very recent addition to her court. "Listen, Lydia," the duchesse tells the brunette maiden in her company. "There are times for duty, and times for leisure, such as right now."

There are guards at the door, and such brisk manner of opening it will certainly draw attention, both Mereliot watchmen straightening at once, and even the Cassiline shooting a sharp probing glance in the direction from whence the disturbance is about to break in on them all, as he instinctively moves between the Lady of Marsilikos and whomever it may be that is arriving.

Armandine's brows wrinkle just a touch— for a moment, that is, until she recognizes the face of Philomène. Her features blossom into a smile. "Excuse me," she offers to the young lady in her company, "and allow me to introduce to you Lady Philomène d'Aiglemort de Chalasse, the Dowager Vicomtesse de Gueret." She turns her attention towards the new arrival. "I didn't expect to see you here at this hour, Lady Philomène, but that doesn't mean I won't welcome the distraction. I believe you haven't met Lydia Delaunay yet, she has joined my ladies just last week." Her hand comes up in an inviting gesture. "Would you like to join us for a moment? I am certain there is wine and refreshment, should you wish it. And an open ear of course, if that is what you are seeking…" Which she somehow highly suspects to be the case.

While she may be an infrequent visitor to the courtly battlefield, Philomene has studied the terrain and tactics long enough to recognise that very subtle setting of herself into her place. She limps forward, head held high but a certain tension at her jaw when it is she who is introduced to the younger woman, not the other way round. Yes, that’s going to rankle, but she’d better get used to it, having no title of her own now but a courtesy.

She shoots a look at the Cassiline — not so much a challenge as a shared note of mutual respect. Even this crusty old warrior knows better than to pick an actual fight here.

“Your Grace,” she replies quickly and automatically as she’s greeted so kindly, adding the requisite, “Lady Lydia,” at the introduction, but — to nobody's surprise — she declines to relax and join the ladies. Instead she remains upright, back straight and shoulders back, subconsciously using her height to impose on them both. “The Flatlanders have sent that poisonous little boy as their ambassador. It’s an insult.”

Her nostrils flare and she stares down at the Duchesse, her question clear in the angry silence. What exactly is she going to do about it?

Lydia moves to rise and offer the older lady a curtsey, eyes downcast and then raised and widening, just a fraction, at the expression perceived.

"It is fine, Gaulthier," Armandine tells the Cassiline, gently insisting, and so he steps out of the way, so that he doesn't bar her view upon Lady Philomène. Especially, when she elects to remain standing, despite the gentle invitation of Her Grace. The look of those grey-blue eyes remains friendly, even if her smile dims a little; and the duchesse folds her hands in her lap, expectant of some sort of explanation. When it comes, in the form of a complaint, she lifts her brows.

"I am not sure I understand?", Armandine replies after a moment. "Are you referring to the Prince of Brabant? Why should he be an ill choice of ambassador? He has already been at this court and is familiar with some of our nobility."

The older woman leans forward a little, setting her hands down flat on the table and fixing her glare on the Lady of Marsilikos. “That boy,” she hisses, eyes narrowing, “hired the treacherous little viper that did her level best to kill me, I’ll remind you. Sending him here is a clear thumb to the nose from the Flatlanders to me, my family and my country.”

"In that case…" Armandine keeps her gaze on Philomène even as she tilts her head a little to the side. "If the Prince de Brabant was sent here as an insult to you and your family… Why send him here to Marsilikos, when the capital would be so much closer to your home province?" Her voice is gentle but her eyes are keen and attentive as they study Philomène. "Honestly, I fail to recall that he was found to be the instigator of that incident… he was, on the contrary, a concerned but somewhat helpless spectator to the fight between yourself and this Kalisha woman. She was banished from our shores — but Prince André van Westerlo… he remained at our court for a time.”

Lydia resumes her seat from before, her hands folding in her lap as if to follow Armandine's example. The young lady cannot be much older than seventeen, which might explain why she chooses to remain as quiet as a mouse, watching the dowager vicomtesse with slightly astonished curiosity.

"Have you lately encountered the prince, and has he given you offence?", Armandine de Mereliot adds in question towards Philomène. "Or did he give your House any offence in those days, but for the unfortunate circumstance of his wishing to help that woman who was eventually tried by my justice?"

Philomene bristles visibly, her hand sweeping off to one side as though brushing away any foolish, logical counterargument to her righteous rage. Were she at home, no doubt there would have been shards of pepperpot or — let’s face it, this is more likely — a shattered whisky tumbler for her maid Caroline to have cleared away by now.

“Any offence,” she echoes sharply, “other than hiring Skaldi vermin to threaten the city and me in particular? You have been kind enough to allow me to make my home here. Sending that arrogant little princeling here is an insult aimed as squarely at me as a spear. That foreign little shit defended his pet Skaldi assassin, and what more offence do you need me to prove? And now, here, as ambassador under your protection, exactly what am I supposed to do when he hires another?”

“Please, Lady Philomène… I can tell you are upset,” Armandine observes gently. “And once again, I want to ask you to join us here at the table, so we can discuss the matter in a less heated manner.”

Gaulthier, the Cassiline, stands at her side, and his attention is, like that of his charge, lingering on the vicomtesse, but how different is the expression in his eyes, assessing her as potential danger to the Lady of Marsilikos.

“You present the story in a far different light than I recall…” Armandine continues, in that same friendly voice, that now is coloured with a bit of concern as well. “Firstly, the woman… She was found to be a Gotlander, and the suspicion of her to be Skaldi was relieved. Secondly, you are inferring that Prince André has hired her with the purpose of assassinating you, and that he may do so again… A notion that I cannot share at all. Because there is no reason for him to antagonize you, as far as I can tell. Until proven otherwise, I have to assume that he was sent here for the reasons I already pointed out before.”

There is a soft inhale from Lady Lydia as she looks from the duchesse to Philomène.

“I can, however, provide you with additional guards for awhile, should you find yourself short of protection,” Armandine offers after another moment.

“I do not need protection!” Philomene shoots back, eyes flashing at the implication that she might not in fact be the paragon of earthly martial ability, but a middle aged cripple with anger management issues. “The day I need a guard to look out for me… you might as well just drown me then. That woman is not Philomene d’Aiglemort.”

Her fists, automatically having clenched at the slight, slowly relax. And it’s a good thing, too. Gaulthier after all would have little hesitation in removing any threat to the Duchesse, and he’s paying very close attention to every movement the Camaeline makes.

“To send a man, as ambassador, to a city in which he hired, wittingly or not, a Skaldi,” and she holds up her hand, shaking her head. “Who you claim to be Gotlander on the sole word of a foreigner who had her own reasons for claiming the creature, but it’s less important than the fact that the animal was a threat to the people of this city. To send this man back here, when he defended that creature’s attempt to kill me, where he argued that her actions were acceptable, when he lied to your face and mine, and insulted my honour. That is the insult, Your Grace!”

She straightens, taking a breath. No, she still doesn’t take the offered seat, but then she’s just been reminded that she’s an old woman who can’t take care of herself and she’ll be damned if she’s about to show any kind of weakness now. She’ll remain standing if it kills her. One of these days it probably will.

“Refuse him. He has shown that he has neither tact nor judgement. Demand from the Flatlanders an ambassador who has never employed and defended a filthy foreign murderer. The only reason to send one who is responsible for damn near killing a respected l’Agnacite Vicomtesse and back to the very same city he did it is to flaunt that fact. What next, he’ll hire a dozen more foreign thugs to parade past my own home or yours? A reminder that he can get away with threatening your peace and nobody can touch him because he’s a damn ambassador?”

"You forget yourself." It is a reprimand, brought forth in a sharper tone that sounds friendly only in part, as Armandine regards Philomène with growing concern. "You're bringing up accusations in regards to the Prince that have so far been unheard at this court. You accuse him of lying, of 'hiring' a supposed Skaldi, but you must be aware that such is no crime at all here in Marsilikos. On the contrary, some foreigners have found their way into service of some of our local noble families, House Baphinol being only one of them. It is not forbidden. Nor is it a reason for me to refuse a visitor, especially an ambassador the civility that my court is known for."

While Philomène continues to stand, Armandine de Mereliot keeps her seat at least for another moment and shifts only minimally into a slightly more upright posture. Her chin lifts. "Very well. You accuse Prince André of betrayal, of threatening my peace — a notion I at this point cannot share, not from what I observed of him during the trial. What you are holding against him is that he dared to speak in the accused's defence. Him now returning in an official function does not appear nearly as awful to me like it obviously does to you. But…" And here, the Lady of Marsilikos moves to stand, skirts rustling softly as they rearrange themselves about her slender frame.

"But. Should the prince commit a crime or knowingly instigate one, his position and current duty as ambassador won't save him from facing authorities and meeting justice. Of that I can assure you, Lady Philomène." Armandine lowers her gaze for a moment and her smile dims completely as she regards the Camaeline lady once again. "Will you do me and yourself a favor now, and remember dignity and decorum. We are scions of the Angels. We should act that way."

A few seconds pass before Philomene finally unclenches her jaw, purses her lips, and dips her head into a deep inclination. “You have my apologies, Your Grace,” comes the quiet response. She folds her hands behind her back and takes a half pace backward, making up for the difference in height between them so she no longer looms physically at least.

“Please know that everything I do, everything I have ever done, is in the knowledge of my duty to defend my country and my family, and now my adopted city. If on occasion I forget myself, be assured it is due to no more than my love of Terre d’Ange and my unwillingness to see her brought low by foreign invaders, and not a personal slight.”

She meets the other woman’s eyes, gaze proud as ever but sincere. “I shall endeavour to cause you no trouble, Your Grace. And should there come a time when I am proven right, I will step forward in a heartbeat to defend you.”

Philomène's reaction manages to bring about a change in Armandine's demeanor, her gaze is warming and so is that faint smile that reappears on the duchesse's features. To the apology, the Lady of Marsilikos inclines her head.

"Yes, I know that," Armandine assures the Camaeline lady gently. "And our beloved Terre d'Ange is blessed to have your loyalty. She has mine as well." Again, the duchesse inclines her head. "I owe it to my people and to our king and queen, to be calm and considerate. A worthy leader, and Eisande has been more blessed with peace and tranquility than your home province of Camlach. I appreciate your words, and your offer. And I shall be most grateful for your help should I ever find myself in need of it."

Lydia had risen to her feet as well, a vague shadow in presence to that of Her Grace, and now she just stands there and listens, observing the unusual exchange between the two ladies who may be of similar age, and yet so contrary disposition.

"I shall have an eye on Prince André and endeavour to seek insight into his motivations," Armandine assures Philomène. "But so far, I cannot see a slight, not even a shadow of one, nor any deliberate attempt at harming either of us."

“He’s your guest,” Philomene allows, glancing briefly to Lydia with a brow raised in challenge before fixing her attention back on Armandine. “I’ve made my opinion known, and that’s that. I won’t go out of my way to see him suffer, but rest assured if I come across him on fire, and I’ve got a glass of water, I’m drinking that water and settling in to watch him burn.”

"He is my guest, indeed. And being the hospitable host that I am, due to Eisheth's blood that is flowing in my veins, I shall rely on you being a guest deserving of that same hospitability," Armandine de Mereliot replies, mildly amused but not really off guard in the way she considers Philomène for a moment. "No… I trust in your common sense not to start a fire that will be hard to dowse. With that said… I thank you for sharing your concerns, I'll have an eye on things, even if I hope that your suspicions will remain unfounded. Who knows? In a few weeks from now, we may share a glass of wine and reminisce on our conversation from today in amused relief."

“Make it schnapps and you’re on,” Philomene responds with a half smile. She dips her head, pressing a hand to her chest. “Thank you for your time, Your Grace. And your apparently inexhaustible reserves of patience.”

Again she takes a half pace back, then straightens her cuffs, turns, and with a brief nod to the Cassiline, limps her way to the doors.

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