(1312-04-27) Housewarming of a Sorts
Summary: Philoméne invites herself over to the new neighbours.
RL Date: 1312-04-28
Related: None.
andrei philomene 

Maison de la Mouette — Rue du Port

The first impression one gets of this solar is that it belongs somewhere else; somewhere the winters are cold, the forests are deep, and the game is plenty. A large, open fireplace is central to the room; comfortable arm chairs in dark brown leather form a crest in front of it and the large painting above it, depicting a mountaineous, moonlit woodland very far from Marsilikos. Hunting trophies line the walls but most shelves and side tables seem to be home to books, scrolls, and illuminated manuscripts, most of them displaying detailed watercolour paintings of herbs and flowers of the wild.

This is a gentleman's oasis of solace; a large, beautiful table occupies one end of the room, groaning under the weight of the papers and correspondence of statecraft but moreso under small sample boxes of dried herbs. The man who works here, and indeed seeks refuge from the world here, takes his emmissarial duties seriously, but the identification and study of plants and flowers are his passion.

The evening is yet young and the moon sails like a ghostly galleon (read your damn poetry, people) across the skies, reflecting like a large golden dish (or cheese) in the quiet surface of the pond that dominates the garden of a townhouse on Rue de Port which has stood empty for some time. Now, though, it seems a new household is being established; and as it is in the pricier end of the district, it is like one of at least some wealth; perhaps even some low ranked lordling or ambassador from abroad who wants to be able to do things without every spy at court watching.

The last guess is not entirely off the mark, of course; the new resident is one Andrei Anghelescu, who currently occupies an armchair in front of the fire in his quite comfortable new solar. The atmopshere in here is a strange mix of Marsilikan and Chowati, and as if to add to the cultural hodge-podge, the Count who likes to pretend he's just another merchant is sipping syrupy sweet Ephesian mint tea while reading. Such an exciting home life that man has.

There's a sharp rap on the door with a bony set of knuckles, followed by a short, shrill whistle. "Hoi!" comes an altogether too familiar feminine voice, then another thump to the door which sounds like it came from something more solid than a hand. "I know you're home, you don't have any friends to go out drinking with. Where's my invitation?"

The man who lets Philoméne in says nothing in return; he just smiles that wry little smile which is apparently the only comment Anghelescu's manservant and half-brother has to make about most affairs. He steps aside to let the dowager vicomtesse enter and points across the hall to a door; unsurprisingly, it opens up into the solar. Not a word is spoken; Chowati either have very strange customs or the man is just plain rude. Considering who his master is, either could be the case.

Philomène is entirely the opposite. She's so polite, in fact, that she's got with her a bottle in each hand. Admittedly one is a drinkable but fairly ordinary wine — this is handed off to Sfimzonia with a half smile and quiet confirmation that this one is for him, not for his brother — but the other is a very respectable bottle of something herbal and potent. This she holds out in front of her as she limps through the door indicated. "Here. It's bad luck to have a dry house. I'm here to help wet her head," she explains, paying little attention to Anghelescu even with the bottle thrust in his direction and much more time being thoroughly nosy at the furnishings.

Szimfonia accepts the bottle with a knowing grin before making himself scarce. He's an odd one, but whatever arrangement it is that he and Anghelescu has, it seems to be working (or the quiet man is just very good at pretending).

Anghelescu himself looks up when Philoméne enters and nods his approval at her greeting; no point in wasting pointless words on etiquette when there is wine that needs to be drunk and belongings that need to be snooped around in. He seems to adopt a rather more laid back style in his own home, on his own time; a shirt, the top button open, and neither waistcoat nor frock coat in sight — definitely not appropriately dressed for receiving noble visitors (though decent, certainly). "Good of you to look in," he says amusedly. "I did wonder how long it'd take for word to reach down the street."

"Took me longer to find the rakia, if I'm honest," Philomene admits, finally turning to look him over with an easy smile. "Seemed appropriate for a Chowatti house." She pauses, then admits, "Caroline doesn't let any gossip pass her by, not least a good looking foreign gentleman buying a house down the way. For the record, you're not that good looking. You got glasses somewhere yet?"

"I rented the house mostly furnished, so yes. They'll be in one or other of the cabinets. Snoop around — I haven't hired a maid yet and I am entirely too comfortable to get up." This might be Anghelescu-speak for 'too exhausted', very likely; at least he's pale and the fire really does burn quite warm for an otherwise pleasant evening. "For the record, I never thought I was that good looking either. Funny how pretty one gets when unwed and dying, though."

"I'm not dying and I'm clearly fucking gorgeous," Philomene informs him as she goes furkling through likely looking cupboards, revealing diningware, a couple of spiders, and eventually a shelf of dusty glasses. She sets down the bottle, tucks her hand up into her sleeve and begins polishing out two of the elegant tumblers in turn. "Tell me how damn pretty I am, and I'll let you have some of this extortionately priced foreign slop here."

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? There was one last week with torrential rain, where the basement at the Leaping Fish flooded, and the kitchen maid fell sick after sampling the dish of the day, which was definitely a deciding factor when I considered purchasing this place." The Chowati has not lost his bizarre sense of humour, it seems. "Tell me, who was that blonde girl the other day, near the tournament field? The one with the kitten? She seemed — unusually coherent for someone young, pretty, and female in this city."

"Arsehole," Philomene informs him fondly as she pours a couple of generous measures, then limps back over, bottle under her arm and a glass in each hand, to offer him a drink. She glances around briefly, selecting the chair which shall forever now be 'her chair' and takes a moment to steel her expression into a carefully practiced blankness before she lowers herself down into it. Only once seated does the mask drop and her features become more animated. "Mademoiselle Soleil no Coquelicot. One of the very few courtesans I've met who don't immediately try to find their way into your bed. I like her cat."

"I liked her cat and yes, the fact that she seemed capable of carrying a conversation without advertising or soliciting. But then, I gather that the Coquelicot are perhaps not the most — they're healers, more than pleasure givers, aren't they? Either way, she didn't make me want to excuse myself." Anghelescu smiles slightly. "Coming from me when speaking of a courtesan, that is no small praise — but you knew that. Suzanne what'shername probably hates me with a passion that will burn hotter than hell for her lifetime."

"I don't think it's necessarily a Coquelicot thing," the woman theorises, propping her good leg up on the table in front of her, then grabbing at her breeches to pull the other up with it to cross at the ankles. "I think it's an experience thing. The young ones are incredibly eager to show their sexual worth, forgetting that, in the end, a nice pair of tits is just a nice pair of tits. By the time you reach my age, even your age, you want more than somebody waving them in your face so blatantly. But who exactly is this Suzanne what'shername? I mean if she hates you with a passion yada yada yada then she can't be all that bad, but who is she? Your floral friend you mentioned the other day?"

"Mm-hmm. I made it very clear that all I want from her is for her to hang on my arm if I can't dodge some business dinner or formal function, and otherwise keep quiet and stay out of my way." Anghelescu hitches a shoulder. Philoméne's treatment of the table doesn't seem to bother him in the slightest; and with the robust, man's world furniture of the solar, it's not likely that it is fragile enough to be damaged by boots, either. "But yes. She is young, and I think it rather eats at her pride that I haven't come to realise the error of my ways and come to her bed to find true love. I'm not her only gentleman as far as I am aware; might be the others are even more miserable."

Philomène sips casually from her glass, smirking a little. Masculine as the furnishings may be, she looks oddly at home here. "If you're her only gentleman, she'd definitely be miserable. Just tell her there was a terrible accident with a millstone and you've lost more than just your appetite for sex. Maybe she'll stop asking. But on the subject of terrible accidents, I have genuinely been worried about you," she admits, fixing him with a baleful look. "I thought if you'd died in a ditch somewhere you'd at least have the decency to let me know."

"I suppose I could always haunt your house or something." Anghelescu samples the liquor as well, and then nods at it in approval. "I seem to keep not dying. It's really quite inconvenient for my plans, but there you go. As for Suzanne Whatshername, I suspect she'll request a release from that contract soon enough. I am too old, too boring, and entirely not interested enough. She is very polite, of course. Doing her establishment all the credit. But, I know what a woman looks like when she secretly wishes you'd face plant dead in your soup bowl so she'd at least have a bit of entertainment. My parents looked like that at each other most evenings."

"Waste of good soup." Philomene lifts her glass to admire the clear liquid up to the light. "Look, I'm serious. If you're unwell, send your man to at least let me know. So I can come round and raid your belongings for anything valuable, or make sure you've got good food or whatever. And so I can take Suzanne away to one side and console her, on your tab."

"With friends like mine, who needs enemies?" Anghelescu laughs softly and then shakes his head. "It's all very silly, Philoméne. But for what it's worth, going to visit this girl every once in a while seems to have made me a person of non-interest. And that at least is good. I really don't have much patience for that kind of intrigue."

Philomène eyes him. "You mean you're no longer getting every young unmarried woman in the city looking you over like a side of beef? I worry who they've moved on to. Perhaps I ought to ask Caroline, she seems to know everything else going on in this city. The crown should recruit her as a spy, I swear."

"I think I was last month's flavour. I can't say I mind. People also seem to have stopped assuming that I am some lordling, which is even better — no one at court or at the salons cares about some merchant." Anghelescu sips his glass again. "Of course I might not be able to enjoy that freedom for long, but while it lasts? I will."

"I suppose it's a waste of time asking if you've sent that note to her grace yet, then," Philomene notes drily, rolling her eyes. "You'll note, and thank me, for introducing you as Monsieur, then. Although I don't doubt my cousin is too sharp to be fooled for long with that one. There's very little she doesn't notice, that one. Sharp as a tack. The Rousse… who knows. I could still be swayed to a good opinion about that one. She knows horses, and she'll see to them first and herself second. Immediately puts her a few steps above most of the idle rich here."

"I'm not asking you to lie for me, Phil." That's a familiar adress if there ever was one. "But yes, I do appreciate it. I would be surprised if your duchesse's spy masters do not know about my presence; if they don't, she certainly needs to hire new ones. But if they're worth their salt, then they also know that I'm not here as an ambassador of neither Podgrabczyna nor the Chowat. I don't matter. And I am quite content to keep it that way if it means I don't need to play courtly games."

Philomène grins. "It's not a lie. Your silly foreign titles aren't like real ones, so as far as I'm concerned you're a plain old Monsieur here and that's that. I mean, Pochabska's not a real place, is it? Sounds more like a heavy sneeze."

The foreigner rolls his blue eyes with a small laugh. "And there is that. You know what I don't want to waste my time on? Arguing with d'Angeline nobles about whether I am a real noble or an imposter. Or for that matter, get lectured by some baronet who fancies himself my superior because he has angel blood. Life's too short for those antics — particularly when you do in fact not know how much of it you have left."

"Clearly this is where you and I differ," Philomene points out, topping up her glass and holding out the bottle for him. Not far enough that he can easily reach it, not with her legs propped up so comfortably, but far enough that he could reach if he made an effort. "I could have mere hours left to live, and I'd want to spend them arguing. Or," she admits, "riding."

"Doing something you enjoy, yes." Anghelescu does in fact reach for that bottle to refill his glass. "I don't enjoy being lectured by peacocks. So I don't strive to get the opportunity."

Philomène settles back again once he has the bottle, casually unfastening the buttons of her jacket to let it hang open. The man keeps his rooms too warm. "Well, how do you want to go out, then? How should we find your cold, dead body when you're gone?"

"Ideally? At the age of a hundred of twenty, in a bar brawl over another man's wife. Realistically? I'll burst something while coughing and drown." Anghelescu shrugs. "I don't worry about it. I just don't go looking to spend the time I have in company that I care little for, either. If everything pans out as I intend, only a handful of people will even notice. Szimfonia will take my place, and as far as Podgrabczyna is concerned, I'm still alive."

"I've seen you in precisely one bar brawl," Philomene points out. "And you didn't look like you were enjoying yourself anything like as much as I was. And I don't believe you've any interest in a wife, yours or any other man's. You're a fucking liar, Anghelescu."

Anghelescu laughs. "It's called wishful thinking. You asked how I wanted to go out. That sounds like a good way to go. Not a realistic way, definitely not a way that's going to happen, but that's not the point of wishful thinking, is it now?"

"I like you," Philomene insists, pointing her glass towards him, "but one of these days I'm going to give you a good hiding. Stop telling me what I want to hear. I'm here as a friend, with a bottle of something that plums died in, at great expense. I'm not here to care about most of whatever the fuck you and your fellow get on with doing here, but show me a little fucking courtesy. I appreciate honesty and loyalty more than anything else in the world, Anghelescu. Don't treat me like a fucking sap. If it comes to it, and you know as well as I do that it might, do you really want to go down fighting? Because I can arrange it. Or would you rather something painless, in your sleep?"

"I told you the truth," the other man points out. "That's how I'd like to die. I also told you how I likely will die. What is it you want me to tell you? I'm not trying to be obtuse here, but I do seem to be missing your point."

"If you find me dying," Philomene decides, watching him over the rim of her glass as she drinks, "put my sword in my hand, let me see my Hirondelle, and tell my daughters I was ferocious. Don't ever let me end up dribbling and shitting myself in my own bed."

"Deal. Well, if I knew your daughters anyway. But I don't blame you for wanting to go out while you still have your faculties." Anghelescu nods. "If there's anything I'm genuinely afraid of, that's it — to die, but not die properly. And end up lingering for months in bed, trying to get my act together and get it over with. Bloody well hope someone'll at least be kind enough to give me a little too much opium if it comes to that."

Philomène considers him for a moment longer. "Don't your priests have something to say about that?" she probes, leaning forward and holding out her glass for a top up. "Or does your religion recognise it for what it is?"

"Sure they do. Which is probably why I won't be so lucky, unless your priests are of a more forgiving nature." Anghelescu smiles a little. "Another good reason to stay here, hmm? I try to not think about it too much, in truth. It's too easy to sink into despair, or go do something stupid because it doesn't matter anyhow. It does matter. As far as my home is concerned, I'm going to be fine, as long as I stay here. Far enough away that when I do kick the proverbial bucket, no one back in the Chowat is going to pay any particular attention to the fact that I seemed to have lost a few pounds and recovered my health — though not enough to return, of course. You remember how you chided me for not securing an heir? Well, there you go. I have one. Just, be a dear and don't go tell anyone."

"Not a word," Philomene promises, then flicks a slight grin. "I told you, I prefer your Szimfonia anyway. He's prettier and less of an arsehole."

Angheleschu smirks. "And how he intends to secure his heir in times to come is fortunately not my problem."

"Well, you're both getting on a bit," Philomene points out to the man twenty years her junior. "You should at least attempt to broker a good deal for a wife. Either for you or for him, depending on how long you intend to mope around not actually dying. One of you had better father a handsome little chap to carry the family name."

The Chowati laughs; a heartfelt laugh that he quickly cuts off lest it turns into a coughing fit. After a moment he shakes his head. "Good God. No. I told you my family line is cursed. I have no intention whatsoever of fathering children. As for what Szimfonia wants to do in my name when I am gone? That's up to him."

"Probably dance on your grave," Philomene decides with an easy smirk. "There'll be a queue, of course. You got any olives?"

"I doubt it, to be honest. Everything's still getting settled in. I need to hire a few people to run this place — though I might leave most of that to Szimfonia, indeed. Will be good practise for him, acting the part." Anghelescu takes another good swig from his glass. "Not that he doesn't do it well already, but he wasn't born to command. It shows, sometimes. There's a certain level of arrogance that you need to steep in from birth."

"Duty," Philomene corrects mildly. "I'm not sure it's arrogance so much as a pressing need to ensure your duty is done. Arrogance is assuming you're the most important person in the room. Duty is knowing you have the ability to speak up for the most important people, who otherwise don't have a voice. The world can get by without another lord. Farmers, merchants, tradesmen, soldiers, they do the actual work."

"I'll cede that," Anghelescu agrees. "But sometimes, one needs the ability to act, speak, and look like one does indeed consider Andrei Anghelescu to be the most important person in the room, in the city, and for that matter, in the country. Szimfonia is good, but he still makes mistakes. He was base born, and the sheer entitlement of aristocracy is still something he's learning to emulate."

Philomène shakes her head. "No, arrogance is what the young lords with a name but no responsibility have. The second sons of ducs and comtes. They've grown up only learning what they're entitled to get, not their obligation to lead. If he's going to be you, then he's got responsibilities and arrogance alone isn't going to cut it. He'll stand out more that way. He needs to remember that every time he opens his mouth, he's representing your tenants, not just himself. If he can bear that in mind, it'll come naturally."

"That he can. Szimfonia knows what it's like to be on the floor. Better than I do." Anghelescu shifts in his seat a little. "I'm the entitled one who never lacked for anything except a little peace at my borders."

"And," Philomene points out wryly, "a set of lungs that work."

"And that. But I'm hardly the first person to be crippled in war, and I won't be the last, either." The foreigner shrugs and swirls the liquid in his glass. "I'm not a good person, Phil. You know that. I am trying to be a decent person about my home because the people of Podgrabczyna have done nothing to me. But acting the part of a sovereign ruler? Not difficult for me, I was born to it. I have a conscience, I have ethics, but they are choices I have made — they were not bred into me."

Philomène sips from her drink as he speaks, raising a brow. "I'd like to think, with a certain amount of arrogance of my own, that it's because you're foreign. Not brought up with that sense of duty because it's not your culture. But then I look around Terre d'Ange and maybe things aren't so different here, either. Don't get me wrong, I'm under no illusion that we ought to be a republic or worse. Farmers know farming, sailors know sailing, leaders know leading. The role of the noble is important, but it's part of a greater whole. We are specialists, born and bred to lead. If the wasters are brought up only seeing where they can take, and not where they have to lead, then they're parasites, not nobles. And maybe if the whole establishment ends up rotten through with wasters then…" She trails off, shaking her head. "Well, I just mean that I can understand the resentment some of our tenants can hold when the nobility fail to live up to their duty."

"From what I am seeing, our nobility is not very different." Anghelescu shakes his head. "There are competent nobles. And there are blue blooded assholes. If anything, perhaps we in the Chowat are a little more open about our intentions of stabbing everyone in the back who's in our way. I don't know whether that is better or worse. We keep grudges. But then, so do you."

"My grudges are personal," Philomene argues, pauses, then add wryly, "And generally pretty stupid on the whole, before you say it, yes. But a little bit of righteous anger keeps the blood flowing. Reminds me I'm alive."

Anghelescu nods. "Ours tend to get messy. So we formalise them a little, fight proper wars, duke it out every now and then. It's the same thing, though — any base born farmer or sailor will tell you that when princes meet, it's they who pay the bill and do the suffering. If a lifetime as a soldier and as someone who likes to pretend to be what I am not has taught me anything, it's that no one, regardless of what they have, are ever content with what they have."

"Disapproving of ambition again, Anghelescu?" Philomene queries.

"Disapproving of ambition at the expense of others." Anghelescu nods. "Or at least of the hypocrisy surrounding it. I will stab an enemy in the back. I will gut him. But I don't do so for my pleasure, or because I think God wants me to have his land."

"I'd never stab any enemy in the back," Philomene points out, draining her glass and holding it out again. "If it's not a fair fight, all I'm doing is announcing that I'm the inferior. I," she adds, eyeballing him, "am nobody's inferior."

Anghelescu smiles with a hint of wryness. "I don't recall suggesting that you were. I, on the other hand, don't let morals get in my way. If I decide that someone is a genuine threat to my people and my holdings? I will stab them anywhere I can reach."

Philomène laughs softly. "Which, I suspect, makes you a better landowner than I. I'll always let my pride get in the way of common sense. It's a good thing I have a few friends to take me down a peg or two when I forget. Yes, I'd include you in that statement. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who'll call me on my bullshit, so I really ought to appreciate the service and the rarity."

The other man smirks a bit and nods. "Well, we can be of mutual service that way. People who will indeed call one out are rare. People who will do so without hoping to gain something from it are rarer yet."

"You still hide yourself away, though, friends or not," Philomene points out frankly. "Look, I'm too old and too drunk so I'm going to head home. You know where I am if you need somebody to tell you you're being a shithead. And if you do get bored with that Suzanne, you can tell her where I am, too." She smirks, setting down her empty glass and taking a moment to pull herself, wincing, to her feet. "Goodnight, shithead."

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