(1312-04-13) Sugared Almonds
Summary: Philomène goes slumming again. Well, anything for one's mount.
RL Date: 13/04/2020
Related: Sweet Treats and Sourness and Fun With Fondue.
philomene audrialla 

Bakery — Market Promenade

L'Agnacites hold with the truism the expression of art through food is a holy calling, and such a shrine pays homage to the creative spark. Gourmands worship at a marble altar groaning under a sinful array of glistening pastries and thin cakes. Offerings stacked in neat rows behind glass gleam bright as a raj's jewels: ripe cranberries and pomegranate seeds under clear glaze, clouds of pearly cream, ruby strawberries and pale jade grapes. Pale gold custard tarts and honey-drenched buns sit next to delicate finger-cakes dusted in cocoa and curls of shaved chocolate. Fruits of the season laboriously contrived into visual illusions transform humble apples into ladies' purses with aid of crepes, or create the famed dome of Marsilikos from apricots and oranges.

Senses besieged from every direction find no relief. Colourful cream-filled macarons whet the visual appetite as the scent of fresh-baked breads stir out from the ovens from the pre-dawn hours until mid-afternoon. Seating is sparse, merely a few wooden benches to the front. The long, narrow shop is dominated by display cases and the odd bottle of fruit wine and sherry mounted upon a shelf for an afternoon aperitif. Plain white walls graced by sconces overflowing in seasonal flowers hardly detract from the baked goods for sale, and the narrow shopfront windows allow light to pour in.


A lovely spring morning, and the bakery smells of freshly made baguettes. They line the walls in the more mundane section of the store where other Malets work. Audri sweeps the floor in the patisserie, humming an enjoyable tune as she works.

The bell at the door gives a quiet warning ding as Philomène limps her way in: tall, blonde, straight-backed and with the gleam of a pair of blades at her waist that show altogether far too much wear on the hilts to be purely decorative. She doesn't immediately say anything, get in the way or make outrageous demands. No, she settles against the back wall of the shop, idly drawing one foot up behind her to place the built-up sole of her tall, polished riding boot flat, toe downwards. One hand sneaks into the inside pocket of her jacket, producing from it a battered old copper flask, the cap of which is already being unscrewed the moment it comes out, while her attention remains solidly on the young baker.

Instantly the baker's demeanor changes. The jaunty tune stops and she clutches her broom tightly as if it's a ward against evil spirits. Or angry nobles. "My lady," she says, curtsying with a weak smile. "Welcome again. I hope you found some enjoyment in the party?"

That's Philo's secret. She's always angry. Gaze settled on Audrialla, she takes a long swig from her flask, screwing the cap back on and sliding it back away into her pocket before she responds. The silence draws out uncomfortably, until finally, "Mademoiselle Malet." Deceptively quiet. Calm. Composed. "I have to admit that I find myself somewhat disappointed. I had thought that we had an understanding, no?"

Audrialla continues her death-grip on her broom as her green eyes flutter. "He sent it, I didn't ask. Nor did I sell him anything. I couldn't reject the gift, that could have caused an incident." She's not mentioning the incident that DID happen. "He's a prince and ambassador. I really couldn't refuse without being terribly rude and I'm in no place to be able to say no. I haven't sold him anything, though," she reiterates in her weak defense.

Philomène considers this for a moment or two, then nods, letting her foot drop down to the floor again. "I understand you were put in a difficult position, Mademoiselle. Still, we were most fortunate to have such a wide and excellent selection of d'Angeline cheeses to make up for the foreign one accidentally spilt. My balance does occasionally falter, sad to say. Another gift from a foreigner, although mine came bearing an axe rather than a wheel of cheese. I trust that your business has not been affected by the mishap?"

"Accidents happen, my lady," she agrees readily, glad of the way out. "And though I import many goods for my wares I prefer to use good d'Angeline bounty. When possible. Business hasn't been too badly affected. I doubt I will host another dipping party anytime soon, though a few marshmallows have been requested for private consumption."

<FS3> Philomène rolls Economics: Great Success. (3 4 1 6 6 8 8 8 7 1 7 6 2)

"Spin it to your advantage," Philomène suggests pragmatically, limping a pace or two closer to ostensibly look at the selection of goods available. "Word will get out. People will invariably be nosy enough to want to know what happened. Sell them your cheese pastries and cheese scones, pointing out the limited stock available. Artificially lower the supply, increase the demand, and you should draw in both a healthy profit and new customers. Do you sell sugared almonds?" she adds, apparently as a non sequitur.

" I use them for baking but not by themselves," Audri says of the candies almonds. "Would you be interested in a batch? They aren't hard to make." The idea of spinning the "incident" appeals to her and she grins. "I do have a few people asking what the fuss was about. I've been sending many to my cheesemaker friends as well, since they wanted to try some of the dip for themselves."

"My Hirondelle adores them," Philomène admits, flicking the baker a half smile. "If you have some now, I'll take a bag for her." She straightens, producing her flask again and uncaps it, offering the drink and a raised eyebrow towards Audrialla. "Let us be under no misunderstanding here, Mademoiselle. I have nothing but the utmost respect for our artisans and tradesmen. I'm aware of the sort of struggles facing my own tenants — excuse me, my former tenants — and I am firmly of the belief that it is the duty of the nobility to support you, not to make your life more difficult due to political or personal squabbles. Should you find your business adversely affected by my request to deny that boy his sweet little treats, I hope that you'd see fit to contact me. It would not be a fair fight, after all.”

<FS3> Audrialla rolls Economics: Failure. (1 4 3 2 5)

Audrialla says, "I surely cannot do both, my lady. He's a prince and an ambassador. But you are a supplier. It's a hard position to be settled in, but you are also D'Angeline which takes the superior side."

"A foreign prince," Philomène points out archly. "A title they give away like bouquets of flowers in spring. Of the population of the Flatlands, I think approximately one in every ten is a 'prince'. Like weeds, growing on every corner."

Audrialla agrees with a curtesy. "A foreign prince," she echoes with a nod. "Should he inquire, I will just have to tread carefully in my rejection."

"Tell him I bought the lot," Philomène suggests with a smirk, taking another swig from her flask before sliding it away again. "In the meantime, almonds for Hirondelle, Mademoiselle?"

Audrialla had entirely forgotten. "Oh yes," she replies with a smile. "Of course. Let me fetch them from the back, yes?"

Philomène calls after her, "And if you could set aside a bag every week for me, I'd be much obliged, Mademoiselle." Because while she spends very little on feeding herself frivolous treats, there's not a single thing she wouldn't do to spoil her horse.

Audrialla waves her hand out the door as an affirmative. A few minutes later she returns with a small cloth bag of the sweet nuts. "I will be happy to have them delivered to your manor along with your household's breads. I can have my nephew Claudius bring them around with his delivery."

"I have a small house of my own," Philomène tells her simply, shrugging a shoulder. Which would probably explain why the Chalasse residence in the city hasn't yet burned down. "If it's not too much trouble, I'll drop in to collect them first thing in the morning on my walk."

Audrialla says, "As you wish. Whatever pleases you. I'll make sure they're fresh each morning, then."

Philomène takes the bag of nuts, easing up the flap of an outside pocket so she can simply pour the contents in, then offers the bag back to the woman. "Once a week should be plenty, I think. Much as she would dearly love to get through all of this in a day, it wouldn't be good for her. And we both need to be in shape for the spring tournament, hm?"

Audrialla's confusion shows. "How old is she, if I may inquire?"

Philomène gives a genuine smile at that, features softening. "Almost sixteen now, although she still dances about like a two year old. We're both getting on a bit, but you wouldn't think it to see her."

Audrialla says, "Oh how delightful!" Still assuming it's a daughter. She asks, "What will she be entering in? I may enter the performance with one of my finest cakes. If cake is considered art."

"Food is most definitely a form of art," Philomène approves, patting her pocket twice as though that will seal the almonds in there. "And I believe there is only one race this year, so we shall be riding in that, as long as she's up to it. Perhaps I ought to suggest some mounted skill at arms beyond merely racing, too. Tentpegging, targeting and so forth. Show some of these youngsters what a real horsewoman can do, hm?"

Audrialla says, "Oh la. I hope to make it. I love to watch the contests but I have no skill in anything other than what you see. I am sure you two will both places well. I hope your daughter does not mind the competition?"

"I can't imagine any one of my daughters will be here to compete," Philomène notes, pursing her lips. "My eldest, the new Vicomtesse, is kept rather busy with the estate, my middle daughter has more interest in your cakes than horses, and the youngest is visiting family in Camlach at the moment. If Julie-Claire were here, though, I can't imagine for one moment she'd be afraid to run me down in order to win." She gives an amused smirk. "She does rather take after me, that one."

Audrialla goes 'oh' in confusion. She just smiles a little and nods. "Then I wish you luck. I am sure you ride well, my lady. I'd fall off a horse if I tried, not that I have tried."

"Then I pity you, Mademoiselle," the older woman insists, brows drawing together. "There is absolutely no greater pleasure in the world than to race through fields and over hedges at a full gallop, with a beautiful creature beneath you who understands you as well as you understand yourself. You ought to ride. If you find yourself with a free moment, let me know and I'll take you out with me."

Audrialla says, "Truly?" She seems a bit hesitant to accept, raising her brow. "That sounds quite exciting. I assume one wears trousers, yes? I shall have to buy a pair them. I do not have any in my wardrobe. I doubt I would be ready for a full gallop, as a student of the sport."

"You'll find it easier in trousers or breeches," Philomène agrees, looking the woman over for a moment, then shrugging. "I don't think anything I have would fit you. If a frock is all you have, we can teach you in a frock. And bring some of those sugared almonds with you, too, if you want to rapidly make friends with your mount."

"Alas," the baker replies. "A frock is all I have. And is that who the almonds are for? How delightful! I shall bring a basket full if it will help with their temper net. I am told horses can be either kind and accommodating or a handful depending on mood."

"And temperament," Philomène agrees, grinning quite happily now she's talking about horses. "Rather like people. Some horses are rather more d'Aiglemort in temperament, and they'll hurl themselves at anything and everything at top speed, and some are much more Mereliot and circumspect. I'll speak to Guillaume and see if we can borrow a forgiving older gelding for you."

Audrialla says, "Excellent!" Her smile goes wide at that, a gentle steed for her to ride. "It sounds like a lovely day. Sunshine, spring air, a ride in the country. I've rarely left the city, myself."

"Marvellous," Philomène enthuses, nodding twice. "I look forward to it. In the meantime, though, I'm afraid I'm rather taking up too much of your time when you have better things to do with yourself. Do think about what I said about the cheese, though. There's no reason you shouldn't take advantage and turn a tidy profit. And if you must serve that Flatlander bastard, make sure you charge him through the nose for it."

Audrialla giggles a little. "I'm sure I can charm some extra coin out of him. If I must," she echoes. "I shall let your household know when I have a day free to plan our escape, my lady."

"Just let Caroline know," Philomène insists easily, touching a hand to her chin and cracking her neck. "When she's by to pick up the bread. And thank you, Mademoiselle Audrialla. You have a pleasant day now, hm?"

"You as well. Enjoy the day," she says, starting to sweep her floors once more.

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