(1312-05-12) Where You Lead
Summary: Naturally Philomène’s courtship takes place on horseback. But her cousin by marriage Aurore doesn’t seem at all to mind.
RL Date: 12/05/1312
Related: None.
aurore philomene 

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.

Aurore is rather excited to try out the fine new horse Philomène won with her prowess. She's noticeably a better rider than she was last autumn, having taken to it on that long trip. These days she rides any chance she can get, particularly in certain company. She's in her best riding habit at the moment and rides astride, having had her skirts designed to allow it and maintain some modesty. Both the dowager and the horse are clearly excited to be off.

And there's little guaranteed more to raise the spirits and a smile in Philomène de Chalasse than the opportunity to get out of the city on her beloved Hirondelle. It's as though the moment she mounts up, nothing bothers her any more, and she's instilled with youth and enthusiasm rather than age, pain and bitterness. Rather than tear up the countryside at speed, though, she and her companion take a more sedate pace today, enjoying the countryside, the warm weather, and the company.

"The thing is," she explains earnestly as they walk their horses out of the city and along the road, "I've never been a very good artist. I just thought it would be nice to have some sort of sketch of the plants for my records. Not a one of my pictures actually looks like the real thing, though," she laughs, shrugging a shoulder.

Aurore looks at Philomène as if she is that woman she was, admiring her in her handsomeness and more optimistic mood. She is soon rosy cheeked from the ride, "I never really learned to make much of anything, except money and simples. I'd like to see your drawings, even if they aren't quite what you'd hoped."

Philomène laughs, shifting the reins to one hand so she can lean and pluck the blossom from a low hanging branch as they pass. This she offers over to Aurore with a fond smile. "My drawings look like a six year old did them," she insists easily. "Better to have the real thing. But if you want, when we get home, I'll show you the one picture I did that's not completely awful. It hangs by the door."

Aurore takes the blossom, pressing nose nd lips to the petals, eyes fixe on Philomène. "Anything touched by your hand has value. I'd very much like to see it." She tucks the stem into her tight wound braids.

"It's horses," Philomène admits sheepishly. As though it would be anything else. "I can do horses. Plants, though… I know what they should look like, but they never come out right. The only way you could describe that as valuable would be for lighting a fire, Aurore. I'm trying to learn, though. I should insist you walk me around the gardens and point out anything local and useful and I'll try sketching those… and then yes, you can laugh." She flicks a quick grin at the other woman, looking her over with obvious approval with the addition of the blossom. "Suits you."

Aurore grins at her, "Horses are what you know best. Plants are what I know best. We'll manage just fine." She ducks her head like the girl she never really was, "This suits me. All of this."

"Hercule, you mean," Philomène deliberately deflects, looking almost as pleased at the black friesian Aurore is riding as she is of the woman herself. "He's a handsome fellow, isn't he? How brave are you feeling? We can take the bottom road to the Cascade if you're not afraid of a few jumps…? Got to take it hard and fast, though, follow exactly what I do. Or we can take it easy and take the long way round?"

Aurore strokes the neck of the prettiest Frisian she's ever seen, "Oh, amoung other things, yes." Then she flashes her kinswoman a grin, 'I've never feared risk. Let's give this beast a proper workout. Where you lead, I'll follow."

Philomène laughs, grin widening as she gives her horse a little subtle encouragement, all it takes to have her suddenly stretch out into a glorious full gallop, hooves thundering on the dusty path. At this sort of pace, it's a good thing Philomène knows the route like the back of her hand by now, as the path suddenly twists away with a drop to the valley beneath, and then she's soaring over a hedgerow into what, to Aurore, can only be unknown countryside. But the blonde seems confident. What could go wrong?

<FS3> Philomène rolls Riding: Good Success. (4 4 5 6 1 1 2 3 3 7 7)
<FS3> Aurore rolls Riding: Success. (3 6 7 6 3 6 5 5 6 4)

Aurore throws her head back and laughs, full throated and wild, and then she's off after her coz, delighted, though not as skilled. Still she manages to keep her seat as she flies over a hedgerow into the unknown.

Women and horses fly along the route, manes and tails and skirts and hair streaming out behind them, the sound of whoops and laughter taking over from the more and more muted sounds of the city behind them, but then beginning to be overtaken themselves with the roar of falling water. Another adrenaline-filled skidding turn, another jump over a long-fallen tree stump and the waterfall comes into view, that being Philomène's cue to pull up the reins and bring her horse to a halt, whickering and more than anything alive. She turns to make sure Aurore is still with her, cheeks pink with the cool and the exertion, and a huge smile on her face. There's a scratch along her jaw which is just beginning to make itself visible with dark blood, and a few spiky thorns still buried in her sleeve and shoulder where she's taken in a little too close to the gorse and brambles.

Aurore pulls up soon enough, twigs in her hair along with the bloom and all laughing delight. She reaches across to touch the wound, "You've scratched yourself." She sucks a drop of blood from her finger and starts picking thorns from her skirts. "We'll never be bored."

Philomène offers her own help, reaching to pluck a twig or two from Aurore's hair as their horses settle in close and begin to take advantage of a patch of clover. "Dead, maybe," she admits with a wry smile, "but never bored." She tilts her chin up, peering downwards as though somehow she might be able to see the injury, then shrugs and touches her finger to her jaw to see just how bad it is. "Ruined my good looks forever?" she suggests drily. "How will I ever entice a new husband now."

Aurore leans into her touch, even if it is only hair. She shrugs, "Everyone dies. Hand me the wine and the dice until then." She laughs, "You are far too handsome to have your looks ruined by a scratch. If you lost an eye, you would only be more attractive, and who cares what men think. We're free now to do as we like."

"We are," Philomène realises, settling back on her horse. "There's nothing stopping us going anywhere, doing anything. And yet I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be right now." She offers a rather embarrassed smile. "If you'd asked me twenty years ago I'd have been off like a shot back to Camlach, trying to relive my ever retreating youth. Today? I like it here. I've made Marsilikos my home, whether I meant to or not. If I'd never come here, I'd never have met you. It's a good city."

Aurore reaches for her hand, "I feel the same. I got everything I wanted and something it never occured to me to want until last autumn." She nods, “It's a good city."

Philomène links her fingers with Aurore's, lifting both hands briefly to her lips. "We deserve it," she decides. "We've dealt with enough shit so far. It's about time we had something for us." She pauses, absently leaving another kiss against a knuckle. "I do wonder, though, if I'm doing the right thing, trying to find a good husband for Laurene and Julie-Claire. I resented my parents for… well, I don't know that I've ever really forgiven them even now. Even though, looking back, I know it was for the best."

Aurore gives her a slow smile, "We do deserve it and this… This is freedom." She considers it, "I think one needs stability before one can really be free. Being a second or third daughter with little chance of her own establishment without a good marriage is not ideal. Would you have wanted to be at the mercy of a sister's patience for decades or would you rather have your own establishment even if… one has to make sacrifices."

"There's a good reason Julie-Claire is visiting my parents right now, and not under Eleanor's feet in Gueret," Philomène admits with a half smile. "One of them would for sure kill the other. Julie-Claire is frighteningly like I was at that age." She exhales, releasing the woman's hand and settles both on her saddle. There's a moment or two where she braces herself, knowing exactly what pain is to follow, then she swings her leg over and dismounts from the horse. Where she was all skill and elegance while mounted, the limp is only more pronounced by contrast as she makes her way around to Aurore's other side to offer her a hand down.

Aurore says, "Fierce as an untamed eagle and stunning?" She keeps her face placid as the other women braces for the pain and limps about. She does take the hand with a smile though and contrives to wrap her arms around the other woman's neck, ostensibly for balance, though she doesn't really need it. Any excuse really.

"I was going to say stubborn as a mule, but close enough," Philomène admits with a smile, leaning back just enough that she can easily see Aurore's face, while sliding her arm around the woman's waist. "Julie-Claire has never seen a fight she didn't want to pick. I wish either one of us had an ounce of your self control, your assuredness."

Aurore tilts her head slightly, the better to look and be looked at, "I love that you’re stubborn and fierce and strong minded. What use have I for an easily biddable woman. Where would be the fun in that?" Her expression turns serious, "My self control was hard won. It's like lessons with the sword, learned early and often with blows."

"The moment I met you I thought 'there's a survivor'," Philomène tells her frankly. "There's a woman who does what it takes. The woman I wish I was. But nobody's born that way, are they? It's like steel, it has to be tempered in fire. Will you tell me one day?"

Aurore nods, "I'm not… used to showing my true self to people, but I want to try with you. What… would you like to know?"

Philomène half smiles, pulling her in close for just a moment before releasing her entirely and limping over to a spot of grass in the sunlight where she can lower herself down, shielding a wince as best she can, and lounge back. "Come on," she encourages, offering a hand down. "I want to know… what made you you. How did you end up in this damn family, for a start?"

Aurore follows, pretending not to notice the limp or the wince. She settles by her, holding her hand. She is studying a patch of wildflowers in the distance, "Rafe and I… are a lot alike. I wanted that life. It was better than the one I was from, but I… do not take well to authority figures, even in a… less… discipline oriented cannon. Some of the training I really took to. The self control. The risk assessment. The math. I was always self assured though, too self assured and self willed to be really good as a novice even in a more… regional city. I ended up making my own way outside of canon. I made myself into myself really. I always knew what I wanted. It took a lot of work and a particular kind of self control to get there. I'm not good at true submission. The best I can manage is a thin veneer."

"I don't understand the canon," Philomène admits, turning where she sits so she can lean back, her head on Aurore's knee to look up at her. "It feels like betraying everything you are, disrespecting yourself for the sake of somebody else's ideal. Backing down," she admits with a half smile, "has never been my forte. But what is it you've always wanted?"

Aurore strokes her hair, "I was Bryony until we parted ways. It's not as… focused on the ideal as some of the others. You can be a little more… quirky than most of the others, but not too much. I was rather too much my own person." She looks down, flashing her a smile, then looking up again, "I picked them on purpose because… they had things to teach I wanted to learn and you can often make much of your marque with your mind instead of on your back." Her hand pauses, "True freedom and the money and power to enjoy it. The kind of free one can have without money and power… didn't look like it was worth much."

"Money and power don't buy happiness," Philomène notes wryly, touching Aurore's hand for a moment. "But it's a lot easier to be happy when you're rich than it is when you're poor. And now? Are you free? Or at least free enough that you can enjoy it?" She grins up at the woman, raising both brows. "And if you are, where do you put all that carefully honed focus now? You've made yourself into yourself, and that means you can't live without a goal. That I do understand."

Aurore smiles crookedly, "Says a person who's never been really hungry." More seriously she says, "They don't buy happiness, no, but they buy comfort and a very particular kind of freedom that gives one time and space to think of what else one might want to make one happy." She studies her then, before saying, "You are the first person I've chosen without necessity or ambition breathing down my next. You are a choice I made for myself simply because I want to be with you for yourself. Right now my goal is to raise my son well and to make you as happy as I possibly can. I'll let next month's goals take care of themselves for now."

"That's an awful lot to live up to," Philomène admits, brows drawing together again. "If I let you down, I want you to know in advance that I'm sorry. If I'm not everything you've made me out to be. I think… well, I think both of us are good at putting on an outward veneer for the masses. If it's that you're looking for then you might be disappointed when you get to know me better."

Aurore shakes her head, "I think you are far more than your veneer. I want… real. Just once in my life I want real."

"Scars and all," Philomène notes with a smile. "So how did you find your way into the family? A deliberate choice, or just an opportunity?"

Aurore grins, "Scars are sexy. What would I want with some green girl when I could have all this?" She considers, "A bit of both. I was looking for an opportunity, and found an excellent one, so I took it. He wasn't bad as husbands go. I could have chosen much worse. He was old and easy to please. I brightened the last few years of his life and really, men are men. I can do what is necessary."

"Some scars are nauseating," Philomène warns, turning to prop herself up on an elbow so she can press a kiss to Aurore's leg. "You made an old man happy. Which is more than I ever could, except by making myself absent so he could have his lovers without worrying too much. But then I suppose I didn't train to it."

Aurore smiles, "If I can change bandages on a pussy wound to add more poultice, I'm pretty sure nothing you show me will chase me away." She bends down to kiss her shoulder, "It's the training. You have a steel spine too, you just apply it to different things."

"Mostly," Philomène admits, catching first Aurore's eye, then her cheek with her hand to redirect her, "in finding pointless battles to fight." She leaves a soft kiss against the corner of her lips. "But then I believe one can never truly change ones nature."

Aurore kisses her back, just as gently. She smiles, "It depends on what we want to do, I think. Neither of us respond well to harness."

Philomène laughs quietly, smoothing back Aurore's hair and finding another twig to dispose of. "You could put a thousand ducats on a table and tell me to help myself, and I wouldn't, just because you've told me I should. Everything has to be my idea. I can't be told. I'm a fucking idiot that way."

Aurore laughs a long with her, "At least we know ourselves." She studies her more seriously, "Is this enough your idea too, or am I… pushing too hard. I've never really done this before. Sex, yes, seduction, yes, but not this."

"I think this is a joint effort," Philomène allows with a half smile, stretching up to leave another kiss on the woman's lips. "You're kind enough to humour my demands. You're kind enough to let me take it at my own pace, more to the point. Frustrating as all hell as I must be." She touches her cheek again. "Honesty is important to me. I need to know that it's not a game, or a transaction, or a throwaway thing. I don't want your body before I've got your mind and your spirit, too."

Aurore dips to kiss her again, slowly and with feeling, "I am enjoying this. It turns out there really is pleasure in anticipation if what one is waiting for is worth it. You are worth it to me. You aren't a game or transaction or a mere dalliance. There is nothing you have I want more than your company in whatever form you choose to grant it."

"Are you sure, though?" Philomène asks with a grin, letting her hand drift down Aurore's neck to settle comfortably at her collar, fingertips stroking lightly. "I mean, nothing more I have? Have you forgotten quite how good our bacon is?"

Aurore she laughs her real laugh, the uninhibited, rather manish once, "Oh, but I could have traded you cured meat for that, for ours is quite as good as your bacon. I am not after you for your pigs, my fierce handsome coz, as fine as they are."

"Well, you're clearly not after me for my body, and I've demonstrated often enough that if I had more brains I'd be dangerous, which leads me to one conclusion," Philomène announces solemnly, before grinning widely and pulling Aurore down with her. "You're clearly fucking nuts. The kind thing would be to find you a carer who can try to heal your mind, but in the absence of one I'm just going to rely on the healing power of kissing you."

Aurore laughs again, and kisses her deeply. "I think that is a fine solution, coz." She experiments with that solution some more. Hands wandering now and then from her hair, but not too far.

"Stay with me tonight?" Philomène requests quietly, looking the woman in the eye. "Once we've bedded the horses down, and I've shown you my godawful sketches of Hirondelle to give you a laugh?"

Aurore grins at her and kisses her again, "On any terms you like. I've nothing that could possibly be more pressing than your sketches.”

"Mm, clearly all you ever wanted in life was to see a sausage with legs," Philomène agrees drily, smiling up at her before finally releasing her hold so she can first drag herself upright, and then, with that moment of awkward blankness of expression, finally up to her feet. There's a slight wobble. "Same way home? Race you?"

Aurore is graceful when left to herself. She stands close in case her arm or shoulder are wanted, but doesn't grab or give any sign of noticing beyond being in the right spot in case of emergency, "That sounds like a fine idea. Is there a forfeit when i inevitably lose?"

"Well, yes, you have to stay the night with me," Philomène insists, then grins, takes a moment, and rather more smoothly than she ever managed to stand or walk, mounts up. "A terrible penalty, I'm sure you'll admit."

Aurore is more awkward getting up. This is a lot of horse. She arranges her skirts so they drape correctly out of habit, then flashing her a grin, takes off in the direction they came from, knowing full well the other woman will pass her soon enough even with her head start.

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