(1312-05-08) Nocturnal Violins
Summary: Philoméne hears a violin in the night and follows the sound.
RL Date: (1312-07-05)
Related: None
andrei philomene 

Garden — Maison de la Mouette

The garden looks out over the harbour (which can be accessed, discreetly, from a gate in the far sandstone wall hidden under heavy flowering bushes), procuring a splendid view of the ever-blue Mediterranean. A placid, square pool is occupied by a considerable number of small, colourful carps while paths wind their way around to benches sheltered by rose trellises and tall pines interspersed with leafy palms. This is an island of meditation and tranquility in an otherwise crowded and bustling city. A large loggia of raw sandstone columns provide refuge from any rains while still allowing one to be outdoors in the healthy ocean air.

Comfortable seating arrangements intersect bookcases and racks of scrolls, luring visitors with the possibility of claiming one such seat and losing a day or three to perusing texts from distant lands; all awhile listening to the soft music of windchimes and the occasional noise as a carp breaks the surface of the bright, blue-green pool below. Of decorations proper there are few; a frieze depicting wild flowers of the region runs its course around the loggia walls, and a few large, Grecian urns sit on the lawn near the pool, overflowering with bright red flowers. The garden and loggia design brings to mind visions of La Serinissima as well as distant Ephesos, combining the lazy joye de vivre of both cultures.

The tranquility of the evening is not so much shattered as it is accentuated by the soft, almost whispering voice of a violin being played under the moon. The violinist has no audience and hence, little concern for making his performance aeshetically pleasant. He plays not loudly, not flamboyantly, not romantically — but longingly, in the fashion of someone who pays far too much attention to the darkness and the way the moonlight reflects in the surface of a quiet pond. A tad self-indulgent; a bit smug. Anyone fortunate enough to walk past outside the tall garden wall at this late hour might pause a moment to wonder what would prompt a man of means to employ a musician of such skill, yet make them play not something complex and beautiful, but merely improvise with skill under the moon.

And of course, no one did. Andrei Anghelescu plays for himself, with an audience consisting only of himself and any stray cats in the vicinity. Dressed down to breeches and a shirt, he makes a for a striking picture, silhouetted with his violin against the backdrop of the loggia and the pond, bathed in silver moonlight. Pity that his audience consists, presumably, of stray cats and the occasional bird in the bushes wondering why the hell he has to make noise at this ungodly hour.

<FS3> Andrei rolls Violin: Good Success. (6 7 6 6 8 4 8 2 2 4)

Being the nosy sort of person she is, with little regard for boundaries or the minutiae of things like 'trespass' or 'privacy', Philomene has found the small gate to the harbour not long after the Carpathian moved in, noting it with wry acknowledgement for its variety of handy uses. Today's use, however, is apparently for her to slip in uninvited as the music drifts into the night. She may have been there some time. Certainly long enough to have settled back against one of the tall trees, one leg slightly drawn up behind her, where she can listen. What gives her away is the shine of the moonlight reflecting from a certain hammered copper flask as she closes her eyes and enjoys a little liquid fortification to complement the violin playing.

<FS3> Andrei rolls Alertness: Success. (4 8 3 4)

The man can play. As in, for someone who is not a professional performer, he really can play. Some men dabble at playing an instrument to pass the time, or to win social favour; and other men play with the kind of obsessive passion that might perhaps explain why they are still unwed at the age of thirty; women simply don't compare.

Eventually, though, Anghelescu lets a long, vibrant note drift away on the breeze and, with a small, smug smile, dips a musician's bow towards that tree under which no one should be sitting because he bloody well did not invite anyone. Maybe he's not really all that surprised that of all the people in Marsilikos to appear in places they shouldn't, it'd be the Dowager Vicomtesse. Maybe he's just relieved that at least she used the gate instead of scaling the wall. "Good evening."

Philomène pushes herself more upright from her slouched position, offering a half smile and a raise of the flask in response. Spotted. "Should I throw a ducat or two in your hat?" she asks, unperturbed at having been spied sneaking into the man's garden. "You're not half bad, you know. If the lumber merchant thing doesn't work out for you, you could probably earn your crust fiddling for the nobility for weddings and so forth."

"I think that would require me to bring a hat, wouldn't it?" Anghelescu smirks and lowers the violin. "To what do I owe this pleasure? Did you visit with an agenda in mind, or were you simply lured by the siren song of finding out what kind of asshole keeps his neighbours awake torturing cats at this ungodly hour?"

"You know me, I always have an agenda," Philomene insists deadpan. She screws the lid of her flask back on, slips it away into her pocket and stretches both arms over her head with a wide yawn before she finally pushes herself off the tree trunk and limps over in the man's direction. "Don't tell anyone, but I was actually enjoying it. I was on my way home and I thought I couldn't very well interrupt you, but it's a rare thing to have some music of an evening. And you know, I'm renowned for being a soppy old romantic."

"Myes. Runner-up for Lady Sapheart, eight years and going." Anghelescu laughs softly. "I don't usually play with an audience. I'm glad you enjoyed it all the same. I did feel rather rusty."

He tucks the bow into one boot and turns the instrument around, holding it like a tiny guitar while plucking a little rythm on the strings with his fingertips; a rather unceremonious approach to a fiddle, but it does have a certain foot tapping quality. "Perhaps something you'd hear in an army camp for you, my bleeding heart dear."

The blacksmith loves it as his life,

It makes the tinker bang his wife,

And the butcher seek his knife…

He pauses, and grins slightly. "Be honest with me. I suspect you know most of those songs about girls and beer as well as I do, if not better. Soldiers pass the time in the same way anywhere."

"I haven't been a soldier in thirty years," Philomene reminds him, although there's a grin on her face. "I've forgotten all those wholly inappropriate songs these days, of course. Nothing but opera and concertos for me." A slight pause. "Do you know the maid on the shore? The song, that is. Not any specific maid on the shore. I've always been partial to that one."

Anghelescu cants his head a moment, thinking. Then he plucks a couple of notes. "Mine is not a sea-faring nation — though I should be surprised if we did not have an equivalent maid in the woods somewhere. Hum it for me?"

Philomène hesitates, then shakes her head. "Ah, it's not important. And frankly nobody needs to be subjected to my singing. It's about a crew of sailors who spy a pretty girl on the shore and decide they'll take her with them. She gets them off their faces drunk, robs them of everything they have, then uses the captain's sword as an oar and fucks off into the night. A role model, I feel."

"I like her already. If they're dumb enough to fall for that, then they deserve to be robbed." The Carpathian laughs softly. "I'm sure we have half a dozen similar songs — most of them go into a great of detail on the subject of what exactly this girl has to offer and why she is so irrestible. Moral of the story being, shepherds and soldiers get bored and lonely out there, I suppose. And of course, there's always the fallback to writing songs that mock the enemy."

"And songs of home," Philomene admits a little more quietly. "I've no idea what you were playing earlier, but it sounded like homesickness. Just not for my home. You want a drink?"

"I think I've already drunk enough," Anghelescu says, perhaps a little too forthcoming (and thus betraying that he might be telling the truth about that). "I get nostalgic when I do — not so much for a place but for people I used to know. A life I used to have. One might argue that a battlefield is no home, but we know better, don't we? You make friends. And it doesn't matter very much who your parents were."

"There are people I haven't seen in thirty years," Philomene agrees, folding her hands behind her back, "who if I showed up on their doorstep today would take me in without a thought, and it would be like the years haven't passed. And all because once, many years ago, we rode knee to knee in a valley nobody's ever heard of and nobody remembers. Regardless of birth or status, we slept in the same muddy ditches and shared the same bread. And it's not like the Skaldi stopped to ask who anyone's parents were when they started swinging axes, is it?"

"Exactly." Anghelescu rests the violin against his chin again, but does not touch the strings, nor pluck the bow from his boot. "I found myself remembering men who did not come back and some who did. But the ones who did not I will never see again, and the ones who did — never looked at me the same away again once we came home. Out there, we were shoulder to shoulder, eating the same dirt and dodging the same arrows. Back home? A peasant or woodsman does not rub elbows with a count."

Philomène considers for some moments, pacing her way with that off offkilter gait back and forth. "You really would be happier as a merchant, hm? So why not do it? Send your brother home in your place, and settle in with a new life here, or Caerdicci, or somewhere you won't get called out for it."

"I am not unhappy." Anghelescu shakes his head. "But I'm surprised to hear you of all people saying that. Aren't you usually the one who yells at me about responsibility and obligation to one's family and land, mm?"

He pauses and then hitches a shoulder lightly as if to dismiss the gloom. "I should meet your daughters some day. You care very much for them, and I am more than a bit curious as to what you are like as a mother, rather than a soldier and a drinking buddy."

"I'm not a fucking monster, though," Philomene points out, snorting. "Besides, if Szimfonia goes back in your place and nobody were any the wiser, your responsibility and obligation to your family is covered. He can sire a dozen little Anghelescus and your family continues. It's a valid strategy." She lifts one bony finger to poke him in the shoulder. "And I'm a fucking awful mother, because nobody trains you in that shit. So you do the best you can, and you fuck up, and that's life. I'm proud of all three of them, but I think they managed to turn out well despite of me, not because of me."

"And would they agree with that estimate, I wonder?" The Carpathian grins slightly. "I have several cousins who would happily convince you that I am a selfish, arrogant prat, but they will also tell you that compared to my ancestors I'm a veritable saint. At least I don't have people I dislike impaled for looking at me wrong, mm? Sometimes you learn not by doing as your parents do, but from watching their mistakes and deciding to not repeat them."

Philomène tilts her head. "Huh… tell me more about this impaling, idea, though?"

Anghelescu shrugs. "You stick a sharpened twelve foot pole up someone's backside, then haul it up to point skywards. Gravity does the rest, though it takes people a disturbing amount of time to die. It's a somewhat time honoured method of executing people you really dislike in the Chowat. Personally, I find the practise an excercise in pointless cruelty — just lob their heads off and get on with business."

Philomène winces, shaking her head. "There's nothing about that to shower anyone in glory. If you want them dead, kill them. And if you've an ounce of convinction, you'll do it yourself, too. Skewering them for some sort of sick sport is… it's… well, it's not right, is it. Szimfonia wouldn't stand for it, I assume? He always strikes me as a good lad. Bit quiet, and I don't doubt he's handy with a knife, but I'd trust him to have some kind of sense of honour."

Anghelescu shakes his head. "Szimfonia was raised in La Serinissima, not the Chowat. They have their own perversions there, I'm told — poisons, people disappearing only to turn up floating face down in the canals. I'm not one much for the notion that a population can be controlled through fear alone — but that is the point, is it not? You execute someone in such a fashion, it's not about them. It's the next bloke you want to scare off whatever he's planning."

"If your people are scared of you, how exactly are you supposed to lead them?" Philomene queries, exhaling as she leans up against one of the pillars. "If they're suspicious, or paranoid, or terrified, then they're not your people any more, are they?"

Anghelescu in turn rests his hip against one of those large, Grecian urns full of red flowers, still holding his instrument in one hand. "One might argue that they never were in the first place; at least in Podgrabczyna, the mountain folk tend to mind their own and care very little what we city folks do. Many rulers try to force them into obedience through fear of the consequences of disobedience. Sometimes it works, for a while — and sometimes, fires start or rockslides happen at inopportune moments. I have found, personally, that the best way to deal with them is to leave them alone. They pay their taxes and mind their own largely pagan affairs. And when the Skaldi come calling, the mountain people turn up to die as dutifully as anyone else."

Philomène looks over at him with a slight smile. "I've always found the best way to ensure obedience is to ask them to do what they already wanted to do. It's just that sometimes you need to give them a little nudge to make sure they want to do whatever it is first."

"People want to live in peace, have enough to eat, and not be bothered too much by whoever thinks they're in charge. My country is rich and I'm great at indifferent." The Carpathian chuckles. "I read somewhere that mountains like ours breed a certain kind of men who don't tolerate interference, don't you dare tell them what to do, and if you think that you can, they'll be very happy to help disabuse you of that misconception. You cannot force obedience from people who can simply disappear into the wilds. But you can win their loyalty to some extent by leaving them be. Trade builds more bridges than swords."

"Words like that would be heresy in Camlach," Philomene points out with a wry smile. "If you're not The Greatest Swordsman, you're nothing. Nobody likes it pointed out to them that even the greatest army relies on supply lines. Wheat and pigs win more wars than swords, it turns out."

"Then perhaps it is a good thing that I am not the ruler of Camlach," the foreigner replies with a small grin. "In the Chowat, many would scoff as such words and consider them evidence of weak leadership as well. I'm not a leader of men. I'm a custodian, and a pragmatist. I prefer to do things in the way that works, which is often not the one that inspires songs."

"Will you play some more?" Philomene asks, drawing one foot up a little behind her and nodding towards the violin. "You might not inspire songs, but you sure as hell can play them."

Anghelescu offers a small, wry smile. "She wants but for my music," he murmurs and reaches for the bow in his boot. Touching it to the strings he breaks into something quite different from the longing tune that he was playing earlier; this, conversely, is a fast paced reel, the kind that makes men stamp their feet and clap their hands and go 'hoi!' at the right intervals. Music for sweaty dances, for girls in swirling skirts and bouncing braids, for losing one's breath and falling in love with life. Seems the tall Carpathian is not always gloomy.

And yet apparently this doesn't spark great whoops of joy from his uninvited visitor. Philomene folds her arms and listens, but out comes the flask again for a swig or two rather than clapping along or breaking into dance. It would appear that she's a very picky music critic, and as the last strains fade off into the night air, she lifts her chin, gives a little nod, and gestures back towards the gate. "I'll get away home and let you get some sleep, or more music, or weeping, maudlin, into your porridge or whatever you intend to do with your night. You need anything?"

Anghelescu does not look very surprised. When push comes to shove, neither he nor Philoméne are knee slapping, country maid butt pinching — actually, scratch that, at least on her behalf. He shakes his head. "I'll go empty this bottle that I left sitting inside, and catch some rest. Perhaps I'll see you in town tomorrow? We should attend the ballet again sometime, I enjoyed that more than I thought I would."

"I told you," Philomene notes smugly. "The strength and control those women have is incredible. I'll see if we can wrangle a pair of seats again some time." With that she gives a short nod, lifts a hand in a half wave, and turns to start limping off towards the gate.

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