(1312-05-08) Wallowing In Grief
Summary: On the evening of the day his elder sister Reina breathed her last, the new heir to the sovereign duchy of Azzalle tries to make sense of it all over a decent meal.
RL Date: 08/05/2020 - 10/05/2020
Related: Nothing in particular.
soleil hugo chimene 

The Golden Harbour — Noble District

Situated close to the Opera and upon the famous wine cellars below, the Golden Harbour Restaurant offers the same refinement it expects in turn from its clientele. The name has influenced the choice of interior, where walls have been painted in sea green with golden ornaments, and one wall features the outline of this city's harbor in gilded painting that will catch the warm light of candles and oil lamps. Candelabras made of brass show the likenesses of mermaids and seasnakes. Tables and seating are of dark mahogany, cushions and upholstery done in dark green velvet, heavy drapes of similar color set into the ceiling that can be drawn to allow a certain privacy when such is wished for. Staff is attentive and discreet, and up to the standards of high nobility in their quality of service. They are clad in the unique livery of the place, sea green gowns, chemises and trousers, always tidy and well kept.

Meals served here are mostly local seafood dishes prepared from sophisticated recipes with inspired seasoning. Finest wines are available, both red and white, a supply never ceasing as they have the wine cellars below, to acquire even the most exquisite and costly vintages if requested. High windows offer a view over the city, especially where it slopes down to the harbor, with masts and sails of ships moored there visible in the distance.

What does one do when faced with bad news? The answer, at least according to the new pair of guards who have suddenly been assigned to Hugo, along with a new valet who has rather put out of joint the nose of the rather rougher seaman who had previously been acting in the capacity, is to eat. And so, swept along on a tide of well meaning and sympathetic servants, Hugo de Trevalion, unexpectedly somewhat elevated in position, has found his way to the Golden Harbor, led along like a stunned puppy, and has been sat down at a table overlooking his beloved ships, with wine that never stops flowing, and more and more elaborate and bewildering dishes. One might almost think that the proprietor here is making a play to ensure the patronage of the young man for future, by pulling out all the stops.

"My lord," Soleil offers as she approaches, looking mildly awkward as she curtsies to the young man not long after she entered the establishment and was stopped by a couple of the very well-meaning servants. "The proprietor suggested that you might like company for a bit. May I join you? It's Lord Hugo, isn't it? I am Soleil L'Envers nó Coquelicot; we met at the coffee house some time back."

Hugo pauses with a mouthful of something white, tender and incredibly expensive half way to his lips. "Mademoiselle Soleil… uh… yes. Yes, of course." He sets down the fork and moves to stand to get the woman's seat, but is beaten to it by a far more experienced servant. "I'll… oh, right. Or Frederic can, yes. Sorry. Um." He rather hesitantly resumes his seat, looking to the valet first as though for permission. "Would you like some wine? Or some of… I'm not sure what fish this is, I think it's skate? With… these little pickled things..?" Frederic leans in to supply the appropriate knowledge to the young lord, and Hugo offers a weak smile and repeats it. "Capers."

Promptly seating herself in the chair that the valet has drawn for her, Soleil puts on a pretty smile, nodding reassuringly to Hugo in a gentle and kind manner. "I'd love some wine, my lord. It's very kind of you to offer. I know that you've suffered a grave loss, and you have my deepest sympathies," she offers softly and graciously. "If I'm intruding, please, do not hesitate to let me know."

Once again, the option to pour the wine is taken literally from Hugo's hands by the ever capable Frederic. "Oh, no. No, you're not intruding. Not at all," the young man insists, setting down his fork rather than continuing to stuff his face when he has company. "And thank you… uh… did you know her?" he asks, looking to the courtesan speculatively.

"Ah, no. I'm afraid not, no," Soleil replies as she smoothly accepts the wine comfortably. "We never had the pleasure. I believe I arrived to town after she had begun to have issues with her health, unfortunately." She smiles at a servant who sets down a plate in front of her so that Hugo can eat without feeling rude to his impromptu guest.

Hugo nods slowly as he muses this, taking up his fork again to continue picking at the fish. "Ah, well. She didn't much like cats, so perhaps it's for the best," he decides, wrinkling his nose for a moment, then suddenly blurting out, "Look, I don't mean to be rude, but if you're looking for an assignation, I'm… well, not now. Sorry. It's not you, it's me. Perhaps another time. And if you're not looking for an assignation and you're just being polite, then I think I've just put my foot in it," he continues, without even pausing for breath. "Sorry."

"The proprietor just offered to pay my meal if I came here and sat and talked to you, so I figured, maybe you'd like some company," Soleil replies kindly, smiling at Hugo as if she's not at all concerned about his awkwardness. "You should relax. I have no expectations of you. You're mourning. I'm usually pretty good as a sympathetic ear." She shrugs slightly. "And if you desire an assignation in the future, that's something we'll handle in the future. But there are no expectations." She smiles at him gently, then prompts him softly, "Breathe."

Hugo lets out a relieved breath and allows himself a small smile, the dimples just beginning to show. "Sorry," he repeats himself, that apparently being the chorus to the Hugo melody today. "I didn't want to assume, but I didn't want you to waste your time when I know it's precious to you." And, one might note, usually expensive. "I'm not really myself. I promise I'm normally much more suave." Lies. "It's all been a bit sudden, you know how it is."

"Yes. Yes, I do. I've lost people who were close to me," Soleil replies to Hugo, taking some pleasure in the fact that he's managed a smile for her. "And I know that you're usually quite the charming fellow. But there's no need for that. You must grieve, naturally."

"I'm sorry for your loss," Hugo responds automatically, then takes comfort in his wine. Once he's had a sip, he asks earnestly, "Will you think I'm a bad person if I admit that my first thought when I heard the news was how it's going to affect my career? That's not very… well, it's not exactly mourning, is it? More than a bit selfish, really."

"I think it's fairly natural for our thoughts to think about how a shocking loss is going to affect us immediately," Soleil replies with a wry smile. "You are mourning. You're mourning opportunity. Because you're too shocked to think about the actual loss. 'What will happen to me?' is a natural question to ask."

"Naturally selfish," Hugo admits with a tiny smile. "Look, how's your fish? Have you ever had anything like it? Honestly, I think it's the best meal I've ever had. I was going to box up a little for a friend's cats but I'm not sure I can bear to part with a single mouthful. I suppose you eat like this all the time, though, do you? And your rather lovely cat must be spoilt rotten."

"He's so spoiled that he gets patron gifts, too," Soleil notes with a soft laugh, shaking her head slightly. She motions to the fish with her fork. "This is very good, though. Very fresh. But indulge yourself. Your friend's cats will not mind if they get a bit of lesser fish." She shrugs slightly, fixing him with a kind smile. "We tend to be selfish because we are humans and that is how we survive."

"One hand for the ship, but always one hand for you," Hugo notes wryly. "I get it. Still, it feels a little disloyal. Here, will you drink with me to her memory?" he suggests, raising his wine. "To Reina. The most irritating, smug, loyal, wonderful big sister a boy could have."

"To Reina. Your little brother misses you, my lady," Soleil says as she lifts her glass to toast with him, watching him with soft eyes. "And you do miss her, even if you fret about the repercussions in your own life."

Hugo takes a sip from his glass, wrinkling his nose as he admits. "I will miss her. I mean, we lost my eldest brother too, but I was, like, five or something and I didn't know what was going on. Besides, it didn't make a difference to anything I was doing. You know. Eating sand and poking spiders up my nose, the sorts of things all five year old boys do."

"I understand how that's different," Soleil replies with a nod, studying him over her wine glass for a moment. "But your older sister is someone you've known your entire life now, and you lost her rather suddenly. You had plans for other things. And now you must change your plans. So you're grieving not only someone you loved but also a life you loved."

"I'm a naval officer," Hugo explains earnestly, then gestures with one hand towards the guards and valet. "And now I'm stuck ashore and can't go to sea. Too dangerous. I'll never get my own ship." He takes another drink from his glass, then sets it down, leaning forward in his seat and interlacing his fingers. "What kind of naval officer doesn't go to sea?"

"The kind of officer who's ended up a ducal heir by poor luck," Soleil replies gently, reaching out to lay a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You must work on dealing with this career change, though. It's very difficult, I know. And you don't have to work on it now. It's something for the future."

Hugo reaches up to lay his hand over hers. "Well, true enough. Right now I need to look appropriately solemn, and commanding, and self assured, and incline my head politely to every man or woman with a title in the closest three hundred miles, most of whom never met her or me in their lives, who comes to tell me how sorry they are for my loss." He stops, running his tongue over his teeth. "Sorry, that was unkind, wasn't it? I know they mean well. Or they want to make sure their house is remembered in years to come, when they want a favour."

"It is unfortunate that you must grieve publicly," Soleil agrees gently, leaning a little closer to him, watching him with her soft blue eyes. "They do mean well. And it's just politics. It's the world that you were born into and tried to escape by going to sea."

"It's just not bloody fair," Hugo exclaims, the facade of the worldly twenty year old cracking to show the teenager still hiding within. "It wasn't supposed to be this way."

"No, it's not fair. I'm sorry," Soleil replies, reaching for her wine to take another sip. "You've every right to be angry. And hurt."

Hugo offers her a crooked smile, dimples showing again. "I don't think I do, though. I mean, you ask any man in the street if he'd like to inherit an entire duchy one day and I'm pretty sure you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who'd say no. It's a bit bigger than a ship."

Soleil rolls her eyes at that. "Oh, but you're not any man," she points out. "You wanted a ship, not a duchy."

"Maybe these chaps will let me out to sneak off onto a ship every now and then," Hugo suggests in a stage whisper, jerking his thumb towards his guards. "As long as I don't tell them where I'm going, eh?"

"I won't tell if you don't," Soleil replies with a little laugh. "And I'll stand on the dock and ruffle your hair if you need to breathe the salt and feel the wind in your hair."

"I might be allowed to float little ships in the bath," Hugo suggests, smile widening a touch. "But if that's insufficient I'll take you up on that."

Sitting at a table with Hugo, Soleil laughs softly as she lifts a glass of wine to her lips. Hugo's new entourage stands nearby them, and they're getting excellent service from the staff of the restaurant. "If you have a big enough bath and a number of little ships, you could even have tiny naval battles," she suggests.

An entourage of a different kind surrounds Chimène Rousse de la Courcel — friends and frenemies; a poor relation of her husband’s who acts as lady-in-waiting; an impeccable pair of footmen-cum-guards in Rousse livery and powdered wigs, matched in height and colouring and general burliness and air of menace — as she descends the stair from the private dining-rooms, replete with an excellent fish supper. She is dressed as plainly as only a woman of her consequence can afford, in mazarine-blue silk. Her dark brown hair is smoothed and sleeked back into a simple chignon. Her only jewels are on her hands, a wealth of diamonds and sapphires and emeralds proclaiming Rousse colours as well as Rousse riches. She walks in the middle of the others, her feet slightly turned out in flat blue slippers dyed to match her gown, listening to their chatter but taking no part in it— she’s scanning the restaurant’s main chamber, to see who might have come and gone while she and her party were at table above.

Then she puts a hand upon someone’s arm, and speaks a word to someone else, and by such means dispatches the others ahead to La Glycine while she alone glides between the tables, trailed by her lackeys and by a few interested whispers, bearing down upon the new heir to the sovereign duchy of Azzalle. Oh, and his little blonde friend, whomever she is.

Her cool hazel eyes meet the lucky young man’s gaze as soon as he may happen to look up. “… Lord Hugo, no words could suffice,” she says simply, her soprano voice carrying the educated accent of the City of Elua rather than any mere Eisandine drawl. “Simone has been so worried about you, as have we all — she feels as if she too has lost a sister today.”

The presence of Chimène is enough to straighten little Lord Hugo's back and turn his expression once more to that of pained solemnity. As is expected of him. Of course, the moment he straightens, that is taken as the signal for a servant to swoop in and claim what's left of his fish and for another to deposit in its place something delicate, pale and creamy, on its own elegant little dish. One must assume that unless Hugo says otherwise, or Frederic steps in to pause the flow of dishes, they will keep feeding him until he explodes.

"Lady Chimène," he dutifully greets, rising to his feet on her approach. "My condolences, then, to Lady Simone. I didn't even know they'd met."

The petite blonde turns her blue gaze upon Chimène and bows her head deeply, offering her a subdued smile as she murmurs, "My lady," in a suitably respectful manner that does not interject into the conversation with Hugo at all. Soleil just sits daintily, practically ornamental, a fine accoutrement to the meal.

Somewhat taller than Hugo even in her flat slippers Chimène stands facing him and offers a bejeweled hand, and a regal inclination of her head which includes Soleil. “Why, naturally they knew one another,” she says smoothly, “living in the same province and being united by their tender interest in you, Lord Hugo, and by the knowledge that we shall all be family to one another soon enough… Though I believe they saw less of one another after your dear sister’s troubles began to afflict her.” Again she dips her chin in homage to Hugo’s loss; she presses his fingertips sympathetically with her own and then withdraws her hand.

“I’ll convey your kind words to Simone, and I don’t think I go beyond the bounds by offering her personal condolences to you, as well as House Rousse’s to House Trevalion — and our true regret that we who look forward to celebrating together, find ourselves grieving together first.” Yes, they’re all getting a lot of grieving done, in Marsilikos’s best restaurant.

Hugo finds himself grieving particularly that they took the skate wing away when he wasn't done with it, and so as soon as is polite to release the offered hand and resume his seat, he hooks a hand protectively around the latest dish to come his way. Definitely some sort of dairy product, on a crumb of something or other. Cheese or sweet, though, who knows. Well, Hugo will know shortly, as he's not about to let this one be snaffled away before he's at least sampled it. He's a growing lad. Still, he's got to go through the motions, say the appropriate platitudes before he's allowed to settle in to eat. "House Trevalion, and I in particular, appreciate your kind words, Lady Chimène. I'm sure my father will extend invitations to your house to a celebration of her life."

Somehow someone is producing a third chair and holding it out to seat Chimène at the table, between Hugo on one hand and Soleil on the other. And scarcely has she settled herself upon it with a sigh of blue silk than someone else places a crystal goblet within her reach and commences to pour a vintage she is known to favour. Trevalion heirs are not the only persons beloved of the Harbour’s staff — Rousse heirs are wealthy too, and local to boot.

The two lackeys stand to attention behind her as she accepts these attentions.

“Oh, just a glass, perhaps…” she murmurs airily, glancing at the goblet rather than its bearer. “I know you have one or two Trevalion cousins in the city at present,” she goes on to Hugo, “but I hope you’ll feel you may come to us for anything you might require in the coming days… I’m sure you’ve hardly had time to comprehend it yet, or to make your arrangements, but when you do. Simone and I would both like to be a real support to you, if we can.” She pauses. “Perhaps you might introduce me to your lovely friend—?” she suggests.

"Soleil L'Envers nó Coquelicot," the petite blonde offers politely to Chimène softly, but with a pleasant grace and her City of Elua Night Court elocution. "I am trained Gentian, and I thought I might offer Lord Hugo some soothing friendship in light of his recent loss. It's a pleasure to see you again, my lady. You are, as always, utterly unforgettable."

Hugo briefly catches Soleil’s eye as this manoeuvring commences, both the physical and the political, but then turns his smile on the Rousse. “You’re very kind, of course,” he allows, that being the code word for ‘suddenly very interested in sniffing around now there’s a ducal title up for grabs’. “And while you’re not family yet, I do appreciate the sentiment.”

But then, the offer is right there, and he might as well take advantage of it. He’s spent his life having everyone assume he’s taking advantage of his name, so just for once maybe it can work in his favour. “Lady Chimène, there is a little something. I’m not sure if I can ask, or if it’s even something you’re able to influence with the Duc. I’m attached to the Swallow at the moment, and she’s in refit for the next few years. Perhaps you might be able to put in a good word with him for a new ship? My career in the Royal Navy is, as you can imagine, very important to me.” He gives her a slow nod, eyes fixed on her face to be certain she’s quite sure of what he’s asking.

It happens often, of course, that people remember Chimène — Courcel born and Night Court bred, with a dancer’s grace, and one of the realm’s tolerably few duchesses-in-waiting — more vividly than she them. And it never fails to vex her when some casual acquaintance of rank lower than her own, who ought to accept her version of events and submit to being introduced as if for the first time, corrects her in front of a third party. Quelle rude.

Soleil’s compliment applies a mild salve, however. As Chimène sets down her glass and offers the Gentian cool white fingertips to press, she murmurs with only a slightly crystalline edge to her own Mont Nuit soprano: “Am I? How sweet you are, my dear… How do you do?”

Without lingering for an answer her wide hazel eyes return to Hugo, and her jeweled paw to the stem of her glass. She taps a manicured fingernail thoughtfully against it, eliciting a clear note, as she affects to consider his request. “… We-e-ell,” she murmurs, drawing out the vowel and with it the suspense, “I’m not certain my lords and masters would consider it suitable for a woman of the house to interfere in naval appointments,” she lies smoothly, “but perhaps an opportunity might arise — if it should, Lord Hugo, of course I’ll speak a word on your behalf. But when you and Simone are married you’ll be able to speak to His Grace the Admiral as his son,” she assures him, her smile warming at the thought, “and who knows what might not be managed for your career, then—? Besides,” she points out kindly, “you may find it more comfortable at present not to be torn two ways at once by the call of duty.”

"A woman of your charm and grace has but to smile, and your lords fall all over themselves to do your whim, I'm certain," Soleil counters as lightly and as pleasantly as possible, shaking her head slightly as she largely focuses on her wine. "Really, it's a delight to be in your company."

"It would hardly be appropriate to set a date on a wedding now, though," Hugo points out reasonably. "We wouldn't want the city to think you insensitive, would we?" He offers a small, sympathetic smile, finding himself the one thing on which he will push back. "Whereas the opportunity to do my duty serves both to occupy my mind and body in these trying times. To be left ashore with little to do but wallow in grief is a grim prospect. Besides," he adds, glancing briefly to Soleil as though she might provide him with the backup and nerve required to ask, before settling his most earnest expression on Chimène, "I'm sure Lady Simone would be reassured to know she's to marry a man of action rather than inaction."

“… I, my lord?” Chimène inquires of Hugo with widening eyes and a double-bat of her long dark lashes, gazing at him as if she can’t quite fathom what he might be getting at and finds the puzzle of his words curious rather than in any way offensive. (Mmmhmm.)

“The date of your wedding is hardly mine to decide, is it? But I trust you’ll understand, and perhaps you’ll even forgive,” she murmurs, tilting her smooth dark head nearer to his as her eyes grow soulful, “that on so sad a day my inclination is to look forward to our better times yet to come… when Simone is of an age to wed, and when you’ve settled into the new family duties which have fallen so unexpectedly upon your shoulders. I wager you’ll have much to do in your new rôle, once the news reaches His Grace your father,” she suggests, and casts an absent glance about the Golden Harbour and all the rich and beautiful and happy people toasting one another and tucking into good dinners therein— then back to Hugo’s face, “and once you’ve emerged from your period of mourning. After all, not all actions take place on the deck of a ship — one may do a great deal of good for the realm in other ways, if one is so called. Perhaps you’ll find comfort in such occupations, as well as in the companionship of so charming a lady as,” and she turns to the courtesan at her other side, “Mademoiselle Soleil. Really, you do me too much honour,” she insists, favouring the younger woman with a radiant smile, “when all I can offer you in return is my pledge not to keep Lord Hugo from you much longer.”

"Oh, it is best to look to the future with hope in your heart, knowing that grief is not forever though it will always touch us deep inside," Soleil agrees lightly, taking a sip from her wine. Her gaze lingers on Chimène and her smile, and she returns it with a far more copacetic one of her own. "I was just counseling my lord that it is acceptable to grieve both his beloved sister and the loss of opportunity to pursue more personal goals as he transitions into his new role, while assuring him that he will make the change in occupation naturally, out of a deep seated need to do what is right for his family."

"I'll take some comfort in knowing that you'll speak with His Grace the Admiral if the opportunity arises," Hugo decides to just optimistically misunderstand rather than continue to press his case. "And once again I offer my thanks for your kind words. I'm most fortunate to be able to count you as an ally, Lady Chimène."

“You’re quite right, mademoiselle,” Chimène murmurs to Soleil, agreeing agreeably with her agreement, “and as Lord Hugo’s friend I thank you for giving him your wise and gentle counsel… He is blessed indeed to have such a companion beside him tonight.”

She looks back to Hugo and agrees with him too. “Allies today,” she confirms, with a slight smile, “and in the fullness of time, siblings. Take courage, Lord Hugo. Elua and his angels never send us burdens too heavy for us to bear.” On which note she takes up her glass and more or less drains what’s left of the wine in it. “But I shall intrude no longer upon your grief,” she decides, and one of her eavesdropping lackeys steps forward to draw out her chair, that she may rise as smoothly as she sat down, and in a similar waft of expensive scent.

“Good evening, my lord. Mademoiselle.” A regal nod to Soleil. And to Hugo again: “I’m sure Simone will wish to call upon you — tomorrow afternoon, if you’d find it convenient…?” she suggests, smoothly disposing of her sister-in-law’s time as well as Hugo’s own. Some sign from him seems to satisfy her, even if it’s more in her mind’s eye; and with another cool and courteous murmur she withdraws, leaving Hugo’s amour propre to Soleil to soothe.

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