(1312-04-25) On the Philosophy of Red Rascals and Choices
Summary: Nothing brings people together like red kittens and not having to breathe dust.
RL Date: 1312-04-25
Related: Takes place concurrently with the melee.
andrei philomene soleil 

Countryside — Eisande

The road that leads from the city winds its way through lush countryside. Drenched by the sun in summer months, it provides a fertile ground for fruits and crops, with well-tended vineyards that produce some of the finest grapes for summer wines. To the south, a rocky coastline slopes down to the silver sands of beaches, and where coves and inlets are littered with fishing boats that plumb the depths of the sea for the fish and seafood that makes up the traditional Eisandine diet. Small stone buildings crouch in the fields to provide shelter from the sun for those that work the land during the heat of the summer months, and there's an open-fronted wooden stall set back from the road where produce such as melons, peaches and a variety of other fruits might be bought when in season.

Trees line the banks of a river where it cuts along dividing fields towards the end of its journey that started somewhere in the Camaeline mountains. Swallowed by a rocky gorge to the south it disappears from view, though a well-trodden path that follows alongside allows a person to track its course towards the ocean.

With the spring tournament has come a wide variety of merchants to try their luck, some setting up in the town itself, and some more enterprising sorts finding space to put up a stall in or near the entrance to the tournament field itself. While some are selling the usual sort of tat, knitted yogurt, baskets woven underwater, small eerily accurate dolls of some of the competitors (pins cost extra), there are a number of stalls making the most of the chance to cook and sell food. Somebody's set up a large grill, on which are frying fresh fish, exotic fruits and skewers of meat, and an upturned cart nearby provides a perfect spot to perch, nibble on whatever snack has been purchased, and watch the world go by. Philomene has found this spot, and a sausage on a stick, and appears to be cheerfully munching away on it (the sausage, not the cart) as she eyes the slowly gathering crowds with a mixture of amusement and disdain.

Without an invitation, a ginger kitten springs up on the cart that Philomene perches on, a fine gold and sapphire collar fitted to his feline throat with a little tinkling bell to warn of his arrival, as if his interest in the sausage on a stick were not enough. He sniffs intently at the woman, pretending that he is too dignified to beg, and moments later, the radiantly golden Soleil appears looking for her pet. "Forgive Le Chat Roux," she says gently, reaching for the animal. "He is very interested in your sausage."

It's been a couple of rough weeks for Andrei Anghelescu. His health is being less than cooperative of late, and he has had to leave a fair number of his affairs to his look-alike brother. Needless to say, being confined to quarters at the Leaping Fish is not the Chowati gentleman's idea of fun; and when he finally feels up to standing up and indeed, getting dressed, he intends to make the most of it.

Even if that 'most' is just a stroll around town. He's keenly aware that he should be grateful to even be alive; and that if he had not subjected himself to the tender ministrations of the Coquelicot he likely would not be. Still, his pride smarts.

This is why a tall, blond gentleman dressed in a foot-long black coat trimmed with silver fox-fur ends up wandering along the river where it is quiet; he has no care for the festivitas, the noise, the crowd, and the dust whirled up by feet and hoves when so many people are coming together to watch their nobles try to castrate each other with sharp implements. He comes to a halt upon recognising one tall woman at a cart further down the road, speaking with another. For a moment he contemplates just quietly turning around and heading back; then defiance, pride, and plain stubbornness wins out and he approaches, silver-tipped walking stick in one hand.

Philomène never gave away anything in her life and she's not about to start with a sausage now. Her snack is held up out of reach as she eyeballs the cat. "Le Chat Roux can get his own damn sausage," she insists flatly, although Soleil does get a brief half smile of acknowledgement. "You here to batter the shit out of some unsuspecting noble brat today, or just here to enjoy the weather and the sausages?"

"Ah, just because he has an interest does not mean that he deserves a sausage," Soleil counters as she carefully picks up the cat and guides him into his basket, which he almost immediately jumps out of so that he can mill about at her feet impishly. "I am not the battering type, my lady, I am afraid. I shall just enjoy the weather and the sausages. See and be seen. Enjoy the day and all that."

And thus the little red rascal ends up at the feet of a tall, pale gentleman whom at least one lady present recognises. Anghelescu bends down and picks up the little wanderer, also returning him to her mistress. "I believe you dropped this, my lady. Or it escaped. Either way, it is probably wise to keep him or her out of reach of Lady Philoméne, lest she eats him."

Philomène flicks a particularly rude gesture at the man, nonetheless deliberately shuffling over a little where she sits on the cart to give him space. "Fatten him up a bit first, I think. Barely a mouthful on him. Or," she adds, looking Andrei over critically but with some concern, "on you. Sit. You've been hiding from us, Monsieur Anghelescu. I'm assuming it's so I don't nag you about that letter which I'd lay good money still hasn't been sent, hm?"

"Indeed. It drops itself, for it is quite ill-behaved if much loved," Soleil agrees with a gracious nod as she once again returns the cat to the basket where he is disinclined to stay. "I should think that with how much the novices feed his greedy gut that he'd be bigger, but no. He just gets longer and taller. I shall have to get him a harness and a leash soon, for he risks outgrowing the basket." She turns her gaze thoughtfully to the tall gentleman, nodding politely. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Soleil L'Envers no Coquelicot. I don't think we've met as yet."

The tall man returns the smaller blonde's nod courteously. "Andrei Anghelescu, at your service, my lady." He has an accent that clearly marks him as much as a foreigner, as does his getting the address of a courtesan wrong. "For some reason I have yet to manage to explain, cats seem to like me. It has been theorised that they simply recognise a fellow stray who tends to go to places he shouldn't, annoy people greatly, and take off before anyone can hold him responsible."

With a small smile on thin lips he turns to Philoméne and says, "I've been a little preoccupied with staying alive. Also, I am finding that if I had indeed written the thing, I might have had to attend the games today — and if boredom did not do me in there, the dust surely would. In other words, don't waste your money."

"Mm, but I actually like cats," Philomene points out drily. "Sit, then. Sit, both of you. You can keep me company while the youngsters pretend to kill one another. How are your lungs, Monsieur?" she adds quietly, with what may even be a touch of concern. "Mademoiselle Soleil, are you one of the Coquelicot's healers? I forget. Do try to keep this old bastard alive, if you can. I rather like him. He's miserable and catty and about as fun as a shit in a sack. Makes me look good."

"In a sense. I am Gentian, and so I help people cope with their dreams and anxieties. I help them with relaxation. I help them to sleep," Soleil replies with a lovely smile, a bit dreamy. She turns her gaze then to the gentleman in question, even as the cat slips out of her basket again to go prowl about his feet, little sapphire collar jingling. He is a very well-dressed kitten. "Do your dreams trouble you? I am skilled at oneiromancy. I can offer you insight into your own mind."

Anghelescu's thin lips twitch into a smile at that, even as he lets Philoméne bully him into taking a seat. "I fear that my dreams are very mundane, my lady. I mostly dream of trees and past battles, and there is little mystery to explore."

Old bastard that he is labelled, the man is about thirty years of age, and handsome enough in a somewhat troubling way; a pale look, the sort that some courtesans strive for, but which any physician will tell you bodes rather poorly for the idea of retiring in his old adage. "My lungs are being melodramatic little bitches," he says bluntly in response to Philoméne's inquiry. "But they are still inside of me, which is more than I dared hope for. You are of the Coquelicot, my lady? I subject myself regularly to the ministrations of one of your collegues. Whatever it is she does, it seems to keep me breathing."

"I don't dream," Philomene insists, taking a bite from her sausage, which steams in the cool air. "It saves a lot of trouble, I find. How about you, my Chowatti friend? You dream? Of what do foreign gentlemen dream?"

"Trees and past battles, he said. Could be anything. But one suspects that he is not plagued by insomnia, though I would be cautious in treatment, I think. Some sleep aids can suppress breathing, you know," Soleil observes thoughtfully, then glances to Philomene. "You don't dream? But do you sleep? I know you told me once that you had trouble getting rest, particularly when it is cold and damp. How are your joints now?"

Anghelescu rests his cane across his knees and reaches down to pick up the red roaming rascal that was investigating his boot. "You are one investigative little wanderer, aren't you," he murmurs to it. There is no real scolding in the man's tone; he may not like people much, but apparently he likes cats. Then he shakes his head. "Insomnia doesn't bother me. When I can breathe well enough to sleep, I sleep like the dead. My manservant likes to tell me that I rehearse so well that for all intents and purposes I might as well be dead. Pray tell, are you ladies headed for the stands to watch the battles, then?"

"I sleep hanging from the rafters by my toes, if you believe the stories," Philomene notes drily, "Having drained a dozen babies of blood for my supper." She absently holds out one sausage-greased finger for the cat to investigate. "The cold still bothers me, but the spring is here and it does ease the pain. It'll likely be October before I come begging, cap in hand, for a little of your poppy to help me sleep again. Until then the schnapps does the job." She glances towards the stands, sets her jaw and shakes her head. "Not for me, no. Nothing but a bunch of youngsters who wouldn't know a battle if one fell into their soup. If they fought with live blades and ambush terrain maybe they wouldn't be so bloody blase about it, hm?"

"Whatever makes you happy, my lady," Soleil replies, her smile easy and copacetic. She throws a glance at the tournament grounds for a moment, then looks back to Andrei as he holds her cat. "I suppose it might be diverting, but… not diverting enough to have to deal with the crowds and the mess and the hubbub."

The foreigner smiles wryly. "And as for me — if I want to see overdressed nobles cut each other to ribbons, there's usually one or two wars going on in the Chowat that I could probably get a good seat for. I have never been one much for these occasions, and much less here where the only noble I'd root for is sitting right next to me, eating a sausage instead."

"I'm touched," Philomene notes with a smirk. "I assumed you'd lay money against an old cripple, not cheer her on. What does it take to get you to cheer for the opposition? I'm well aware that a pretty face won't do the trick. This," she adds for Soleil's benefit, "is perhaps the only man to arrive in Terre d'Ange and deliberately aim to keep his pants on. He's a rare and precious beast."

"Not everything about love requires the loss of pants," Soleil replies with a charmed laugh, shaking her head slightly. And then, almost absently, she twists her wrist to make her little belled bracelet jingle. It matches the cat's collar, gold and sapphire with tiny little tinkling bells.

"It seems I am mistaken about d'Angeline politics, then. I thought a willingness to leave pants everywhere was a prerequisite to entering society." Anghelescu chuckles lightly. "Anyhow, the lady is buttering me up for some nefarious purpose of her own. I do entertain a young lady every so often. One of those … flowers. I don't remember which. She isn't the sharpest conversationalist I've had the pleasure of meeting."

Philomène leans back a little, biting off a piece of her sausage and eyeballing Andrei. "Well, I take it back, then. Not such a rare or precious beast. Although apparently it's not been good for your lungs. I've told you, you're no bloody use to me dead. I want your lumber."

"Oh, we're pretty much all flowers, but some of us are just meant to be pretty," Soleil notes with a measure of amusement, shaking her head slightly. "But if you enjoy her, what matters it if her conversation is not up to par?"

Anghelescu leans back on the bench, resting one arm over its back. "Her presence has caused Marsilikos to find something else to talk about than whether I am wooing Lady Philoméne or anyone else. She does what I pay her to do — hang on my arm if required, don't disturb my reading otherwise. I enjoy my privacy." He seems to have decided against picking up the obvious jibe about the older woman wanting his wood. Maybe at least one of them has some sense of decor.

"Does that mean you're not wooing me?" Philomene asks, pulling a face and finally deigning to offer the last bite of her sausage to a rather thrilled little ginger kitten. "My goodness, I shall have to cry myself to sleep at night. Perhaps I will need to come and see you, Mademoiselle, after all."

The kitten is indeed thrilled and eats the bit of sausage like no one has ever fed him anything ever before in his life. Soleil laughs softly, shaking her head slightly. "I'm sure you're very woo-able," she assures Philomene lightly.

"Provided that one doing the wooing is a lady in a ballet skirt." Anghelescu's blue eyes glitter with amusement. "A criterion which I am quite certain that I do not meet." He shifts in his seat slightly, accomodating the tiny cat that's currently getting sausage slobber on his coat. "Pray tell, this festival — it will end with some sort of communal gathering, will it not? It seems to me that I have timed my illness well — I shan't be expected to attend. If I was ever appointed a diplomat, our countries would be at war within the week."

"I happen to appreciate the… grace and form of good dancers," Philomene sniffs, allowing the kitten to lick her fingertips. "It's art. Culture. I wouldn't expect you to understand." She eyes Andrei haughtily, then breaks into a good natured grin. "Besides, have you seen their arses? Look, if I have to go to the damn end of festival party — and I suspect I will have to, given that I've to stand and be counted a winner for the horse racing — then you can stand beside me and look pretty."

"I suppose if you don't go, they'll just give your prize to someone else, hmm? I didn't know you were a champion horse racer, though," Soleil considers, pressing her lips together for a moment as she regards Philomene. She glances to Andrei, then. "I'm afraid I'm not much of a dancer, though I can play a lute reasonably well."

"Shouldn't it be your bloody horse standing next to you, looking pretty?" the foreigner quips to Philoméne. Then he nods slightly. "Congratulations on your win, though. I'm sure it was well earned — that is a beautiful horse that you have."

Anghelescu smiles lightly"You'll have to forgive our banter, Lady Soleil. Lady Philoméne and I began our relationship over a decanter of cheap wine on the docks. It progressed to her sending me to a whorehouse, and then to festivities at the ducal court, all for her amusement. I have come to assume that if one wishes to navigate Marsilikos safely, one should work on the premise that everything the lady suggests is either illegal, morally corrupt, or highly entertaining. Two out of three is usually the case. Nothing would please her more than to somehow strong-arm me into the kind of society that she herself tries to avoid." Somehow, this notion seems to amuse the tall blond.

Her words about playing the lute sparks interest, though. Anghelescu quirks an eyebrow. "Indeed? I play the violin a little myself, though largely for my own pleasure. I imagine that being able to entertain musically is a required skill for a courtesan — though I have not dared ask mine if she plays. She probably tortures geese in a rythmic fashion."

"I do have a marvellous horse," Philomene admits with a slight smile. "She's been with me some years. We understand each other. Which is clearly more than Monsieur Anghelescu and I do. Honestly, for a start it was not a whorehouse, the wine was not in a decanter, and… well, yes, all right, I did send you along to the ball because I thought it would be funny." She tilts her head at this last, raising a brow. "Torturing geese? Well, that seems… niche."

"It's always lovely when two people have such a nice flirtation," Soleil assures Philomene with a little wink, and then the petite blonde turns to the taller one thoughtfully. "Ah, the violin. How lovely. And it's not necessarily required, but it is a pleasant diversion and a comfortable hobby. There was a time when I thought perhaps I'd be quite the lutist, before my talent for dreams was discovered. I've always had very vibrant dreams." She narrows her eyes slightly. "You know, geese are quite mean. Torturing them is probably not immoral."

"And eating them is doing the world a favour, at least if you ask any thief or burglar who's ever tried to slip past them at night." Anghelescu smirks lightly; he doesn't look like somebody who would have to bypass farmstead security to raid the kitchen, but who knows? "However, that is a curious talent you have, Lady Soleil. Is it useful to you? As more than a curious game to play with your patrons, I mean. What sort of information can you glean from a man's dreams, I wonder?"

"And I'd imagine there's more call for people who can interpret dreams than pluck a bit of catgut," Philomene muses, leaning back on her hands and letting her legs swing a little to stop them seizing up. "Without naming names, you've got to have heard some good ones, hm?"

"Often when patrons seek me, it is because they are uncertain of the path ahead. They want to know themselves better so that they can make wise life choices. The unconscious mind often reveals things that a person does not yet realize about themselves, and spending time discussing how… I don't know, horses relate to their fear of commitment can be very enlightening for some," Soleil explains, spreading her hands delicately, her bracelets chiming lightly as she moves. "I do not consider my work a game at all, though some of my patrons might initially. But when they discover the underlying anxieties that are interfering with their sleep, their business, their marriage, their lives, they often have great appreciation for my counsel."

Anghelescu listens carefully, though from his expression it is plain to see that he does not at all understand what Soleil means. That to him, fear is something you turn around and deal with. Or maybe that he is one of those men who think they already have. "Pray tell, what fears keep the average nobleman of Marsilikos awake? I want to ask if it might be the terror of breaking a fingernail, but let me ask this question quite sincerely for once, my lady. Yours is a city of calm and tranquility. What threats does a man face here, that was not created by his own ambition?"

"As far as I can gather, they're mostly terrified of being married to one of my daughters," Philomene notes drily, reaching into her jacket pocket for her flask. She unscrews the lid, then offers it over to the foreigner.

"Why are threats created by ambition so much lesser than external ones?" Soleil wonders curiously, tilting her head slightly as she regards the foreigner with interest. "Why should a man not fret over the best way to improve his house and holdings? Why should a woman not worry over her children and their prospects? Fear doesn't have to be monsters in the dark, after all."

"Because at least to some extent, a man has the choice to walk away from these fears," Anghelescu says with a small smile. "A man wishes to protect his own. But many men wish to better their standing and wealth at the expense of others, and when they do so, they create the situation in which they have reason to fear. Ambition is good, but unbridled ambition condemns a man, my lady. In all things, there is a choice — and a point at which one should say, enough is enough."

"I think I'd argue the opposite," Philomene muses, absently running her hand down her left thigh to ease the muscles there. "It's easier to have a choice when there's a Skaldi in front of you. That's something you can face, or back away from. Seeing your family secure in their future is much more nebulous, much more uncertain, and more of a threat to one's sanity if not one's body."

"Frequently, I find, to have a healthy body it is important to have a healthy mind. Of course, a healthy mind will not lead to a healthy body, and loss of physical health often takes a toll on the psyche, but there are few who are not sane but of sound body," Soleil points out thoughtfully. "External threats rarely require much thought. The Skaldi. The bear. Rushing rapids which must be forded. They are dangerous to the body, but there are no politics to them."

"But the Skaldi and the bear gives a man no choice. Neither does watching his family starve, or his house burn. These are times when a man must act, whether he wants to or not. But once he is safe, his children are fed, his future secure — deciding that he wants to climb the social ladder is a choice that he is not forced to make. For that reason, I sympathise with a man who dreams of bears, but less so with a man who fears a loss of face at the next grand ball." Anghelescu hitches a shoulder. "I do not condemn ambition. I simply argue that it is a choice that one can choose to walk away from — unlike Skaldi and bears."

"Thus speaks a man with no children," Philomene points out, reaching to claim her flask back. Well, he doesn't deserve it. "Are you suggesting I ought to step away from my daughters, Monsieur Anghelescu, and broker no favourable deals for them? Leave them with no power and no standing just because I can't be arsed with it?"

"For many people, climbing the social ladder and playing at politics is the only way to secure their futures and those of their families," Soleil agrees, nodding to Philomene as she watches Anghelescu intently. "For some, it is the only way to keep fed. If the deals do not go through, a textile merchant cannot eat cloth."

Anghelescu nods at them both. "I differentiate between the need to act, and the choice. Would I attempt to broker the best possible marriage for my daughters, if I had them? Certainly. And when another man, hoping for that same match, turned into an enemy, that would have been a consequence of my choice. I could have settled for a good marriage, rather than the best. Personally? I have played the political game, and I dare say I was not bad at it. I have made enemies, and I have reasons to fear them. But I accept that doing so was a choice that I made. Defending my country against Skaldi invaders was not — that was a necessity."

Philomène takes a swig from her flask, the scowl only really kept from her face by the fact that the kitten at least seems to be enjoying himself, chasing motes of dust in circles. "Letting a Skaldi kill me, on the other hand, only affects me, and let's face it, I've likely not got thirty years left in me. Failing to procure a good match for my daughters affects all three of them, and for more than thirty years. Priorities change, monsieur. You know how I feel about defending my homeland, but if it were a reasoned choice between my pride and their future, for once my pride would have to take second place."

"You have no more need to act to protect your homeland than you do anything else. The difference is that you prioritize it. If you were starving, you might make every effort to avoid the invaders so that you could get and hide food from them. If you were starving, you might not have had the choice to defend your country," Soleil opines thoughtfully. She largely ignores the kitten's antics, which are frequently punctuated by the little chime of his bells. "Here, we have the privilege of worrying about different needs than food and shelter. We may worry about politics. But for many, that becomes the means by which they obtain or maintain food and shelter."

Anghelescu shakes his head good-naturedly. "I think we are arguing over semantics, ladies. I advocate only that one sometimes steps into situations by choice rather than by necessity. What each of us perceives as choice will obviously vary; I cannot think like a parent or for that matter, like a mother with starving children; I am neither. I can only maintain that some of the people and situations that I personally fear — result from choices that I have made."

"And one day you're going to tell me all about your stupid choices," Philomene insists, exhaling as she eases her way down from the cart on which she sits. "Been too long, Podchabska. You know where my house is. Bring a bottle one evening this week and I'll feed you up, get some meat on your bones."

"Some people are more troubled by their stupid choices than others," Soleil declares as she moves to catch her cat, to load him back in his basket to his mild chagrin. "And that is where I come it. It has been lovely meeting you, Monsieur, and seeing you again, my lady, and I hope to see you both again soon." She nods politely, then.

The foreigner stands and offers a light bow to both ladies. "Perhaps I'll have the pleasure again, Lady Soleil. It has been an unexpected pleasure." There's something in there which goes unsaid; why he'd expect such a meeting not to be, maybe. He turns to Philoméne and says, with a small smile, "I may end up doing so, my lady. If my health permits. I seem to recall that I had to keep to my bed for a day or two the last time we got started on solving world politics and alcohol."

He starts back towards the city, resting his weight a little more on that walking stick than a man of thirty years of age should. But at least he returns the little red rover first. Andrei Anghelescu may be a scoundrel, but a kitten thief he is not.

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