(1312-05-23) Imagining Sea Shanties
Summary: Terribly ladylike trade negotiations.
RL Date: 22/05/2020
Related: Sausage Trading.
chimene zephyrine aurore 

Ducal Suite — Rousse Residence

This expansive salon is paneled in soft grey boiseries with dainty and understated details picked out in fresh white, and many mirrors embedded in simple gilded surrounds. Crosshatched parquet underfoot is executed in rare amber and golden hardwoods, and polished to a glorious beeswaxed sheen; overhead, there hangs a large crystal and gilt chandelier surrounded by four smaller satellites, capable of providing a ferocious blaze of light on evenings when the mirrored and gilded candle-stands placed here and there are considered insufficient.

Opposite one another, set in the walls to the left and the right as one enters from the landing, are two sizable fireplaces in blue-veined marble, and above each a painting by a master of two centuries ago: views of Namarre as it was then, of old Courcel castles long since abandoned and gone to seed. Gilded chairs and chaises, covered in white silk embroidered with garlands of spring flowers in pale pinks and blues and greens, and honeybees in sparkling thread-of-gold, form strictly symmetrical arrangements in association with occasional tables. In cool weather these center upon the fireplaces. When it's warmer they migrate toward four pairs of tall casement windows which open upon a broad white marble terrace leading down into the gardens. Drawing closed the white silk drapes reveals an indoor garden as well: flowering vines pick up motifs from the upholstery, in their ascent of a crosshatched trellis picked out in thread-of-gold.

Doors likewise to the left and the right of the salon open into two sets of palatial private chambers, for the use of each half of a married couple.

Though the hour of the afternoon is growing late several callers and petitioners yet remain in the antechamber to the lady Chimène’s favourite salon— merchants come with exotic wares, family functionaries seeking her endorsement or her signature, more than one bookish young man reading as he waits, and even a cousin or two, quickly promoted in the queue administered by her secretary and enforced by the finely-matched Rousse lackeys in their powdered wigs who stand two by two framing each set of paired doors in the enfilade and who sense as if with some psychic power when to open and when to close them, in practiced unison.

The lady herself is half-recumbent upon a chaise-longue placed subtly in shadow, out of the direct sight of those waiting beyond, and in between other doors left open to admit something of the whiteness of her terrace and the summery fragrance of her garden.

She is likewise in white, her gown as plain and exquisite as only one of her station can afford, with her brown hair loose in a perfect sleek fall down her back. Her large white hands bear their usual assortment of costly rings, sapphires and emeralds and diamonds suggestive of Rousse colours as well as Rousse riches— she lifts one hand as the baronne de Filitosa enters with her companion, and offers them both a gesture of languid welcome.

“… Lady Zéphyrine,” she breathes, sounding faintly (and theatrically) relieved by her cousin’s advent; “do come in and tell me something more amusing than that last fellow, who only had bad news.” She makes a moue at Zéphyrine, and then looks to Aurore, her precisely plucked eyebrows lifting in question. “And who, pray tell, have you brought to meet me?”

Zéphyrine is in one of her watered silk dresses in a blue-green. Her jewelry today is mostly pearls with a few small sapphires mixed in. She smiles brightly and gives a small curtsey to her cousin. "This is Aurore nó Bonnel de Chalasse, she's the regent for her son, the heir to the vicomté de Ferrand." She considers. "I'm not sure it's good news precisely. More in the way of a potential business proposition. We'd been discussing trade, but I'll let her explain why she wished to speak with you." And she gracefully steps out of the way, giving her guest the floor.

Aurore is in her most fashionable gown, the one in shades of green with black brocade on the overdress. Her braids are up in a particularly fine matching head dress. Her back is straight, and her expression dignified. She has brought in a basket a selection of wines that Raphael is particularly found of and which she believes to be quite good, along with a selection of her best saucisson and good cheese she knows pairs well with them. All are neatly arrayed and the basket tastefully ribboned. She is trying. Her curtsey is elegant and the exact degree of depth for the situation. "First, a gift." She holds out the basket.

<FS3> Chimène rolls Politics: Success. (2 3 6 3 3 7 4 6 1 1 4 5)
Chimène spends 1 luck points on Rerolling Politics..
<FS3> Chimène rolls Politics: Great Success. (4 4 8 8 1 4 4 2 8 8 6 7)

Needless to say, Chimène’s Dahlia-trained and court-polished eye is measuring the depth of that curtsey and awarding points out of ten for posture and basket management, even as the impecunious minor Rousse currently acting as her lady-in-waiting steps forward to take charge of Aurore’s offered tribute. The basket is conveyed to the chaise and displayed to Chimène; her cool and clear hazel eyes are however slow to lower from Aurore’s face, and perfunctory in their study of the wines and cheeses and sausages, which are in her estimation altogether less singular than the woman who brought them. “How kind of you,” she murmurs to Aurore. “… Perhaps you’ll both sit down,” she suggests airily, glancing again to Zéphyrine, “and take a glass of wine with me whilst you explain this news that may or may not be good.”

The lady-in-waiting conveys the basket to a table, where it is to be displayed prominently throughout this interview; as Chimène speaks she is already pouring wine, not Aurore’s but a Draguignan red already decanted into crystal, for all three of the ladies. (Well. Chimène has made a start, so her seahorse-engraved goblet only requires amending. Red wine with white silk: the privilege of one who has never in her life scrubbed out a stain.)

Zéphyrine settles into her spot and laughs that shimmering, bubbly laugh of hers. Pure delight without even a hint of meanness. "Of course, wine would be lovely. Thank you, cousin." She really is just here to facilitate the meeting.

<FS3> Aurore rolls Composure: Great Success. (2 2 7 6 4 8 8 1 6 8 3 2)

Aurore's expression is as calm and correct as if she were carved that way. "I would be delighted. Thank you." She sits with well trained grace, unconsciously arranging her skirts to best advantage. "I am in Marsilikos, for a number of reasons, among them to see if perhaps the navy might be interested in a particular type of cured meat that my region produces. The saucisson are made of the finest pork and spiced with peppercorns and other things in several combinations. They are excellent for long journeys, but pleasant to eat at any time."

<FS3> Chimène rolls Composure: Amazing Success. (2 5 8 8 8 8 1 8 7 2 7 7 7)

Wine is presented first to Aurore and then to Zéphyrine, before Chimène receives her own replenished goblet; then a short silence falls, in which one carven ivory figure faces the other as if across a chess board, simply waiting for her to state her business.

And then it comes, and it’s sausages. How typical. How very much what this day has already been. Chimène’s early Dahlia training comes in handy again, as well as more recent experience overseeing the affairs of her own son’s vicomté-to-be. In perfect tranquility and with her hands clasped in her white silken lap she affects to give thought to this fine cured pork as well as its purveyor. “… Ye-e-es,” she muses aloud, elongating the vowel, “cured meats of course are invaluable provisions during such long sea voyages as I understand that certain of our naval forces do from time to time undertake. I gather, perhaps,” she goes on slowly, glancing between her visitors, “the baronne de Filitosa has suggested that I might be in a position to advise you upon how to approach the navy with your proposition—?”

Zéphyrine smiles brightly and nods. "That was the thought, yes. You know the Admiral much better than I do and we thought you might know how best to speak to him. Or if we should even speak to him at all or if there was someone else who does the purchasing for the navy to whom this might better be addressed."

Aurore looks amused. She knows herself how silly her request sounds, but she's here and there is nothing to do but face it through especially as nothing much can be got it one doesn't try. "I fear that is the case, yes. I know I should have come with interesting scandal or the like, but I fear I have none that would interest. Only saucisson."

Zéphyrine’s words bring Chimène’s eyebrows back up in two perfect dark arches. “The Admiral,” she echoes, and then gives a silvery chuckle. “No, no, that wouldn’t do at all,” she assures her young cousin in an undertone, before looking again to Aurore.

“What surpluses House Rousse enjoys after equipping its own fleet, we do offer first to the navy, in which so many of our own have the honour to serve,” she explains, “and so I do happen to have one or two acquaintances well-placed to deal upon the navy’s behalf. But you understand what a difficult position you place me in. From the point of view of business it is a matter of perfect indifference to me,” she assures Aurore, without turning a hair, “whether you poisoned your husband and half his family, or whether you didn’t— but you must realise that you possess a certain reputation which precludes me from putting you forward as a provisioner.” A beat. “Imagine the sea shanties that would follow,” she points out drily.

Zéphyrine blinks rather a lot and then looks at Aurore and then back to Chimène. Apparently the stories about potentially poisoning half her in-laws have not reached Corsica. Or if they have, then Zéphyrine hasn't linked the two. She starts to speak, then thinks better of it and just looks questioningly at Aurore instead.

Aurore's lips curl up, and then she is laughing, entirely amused rather than offended, "It would be done in my son's name of course, but if they might be persuaded to take Chalasse bacon as well it could all be shipped via my Chalasse kinswoman's warehouse, I imagine. If that would prevent such difficulties." She turns to Zéphyrine, "I am perfectly aware of what is whispered and sung of me. I did warn you, I am not considered reputable in some quarters. There is also a whole collection of rather more romantic versions of events. Odds are you can pay a jongleur to do the whole set for you. Ask them to sing to you about the Circe of L'Agnace."

“Yes,” and Chimène sips her wine and sets it aside, bestowing a fleeting glance upon Zéphyrine’s confusion before looking back to Aurore, “that is what I was going to suggest— negotiate through your more reputable Chalasse kin and ensure that the barrels don’t say ‘Ferrand’,” she says frankly. “Your son’s name is tarnished by yours, at least till he’s of age. Perhaps,” she shrugs, “after that as well. But it’s in House Chalasse’s interest to see your trade prosper in the long run, for their own solvency’s sake. You’ll know better than I which of your kin would be most willing to yoke their trade in tandem with yours, discreetly. And when they are ready to deal on your joint behalf, your next challenge—” A tranquil smile. “Will be to know whom to approach, and how.” And she waits, to see what she’ll be offered besides a basket of snacks.

Zéphyrine nods slowly, her eyes wide. She's still not saying anything, just watching the other two women negotiate, but she's clearly filed away that bit about there being songs she should go listen to at some point.

<FS3> Aurore rolls Poliics: Good Success. (5 7 8)
<FS3> Aurore rolls Persuasion: Success. (5 7 2 5 2 2 6 1)
Aurore spends 1 luck points on More Persuasion..
<FS3> Aurore rolls Persuasion: Good Success. (6 5 3 5 7 4 7 5)

Aurore smiles, "Oh, I have just the kinswoman in mind. I don't think there will be any trouble in arranging a discreet, tandem venture under the mark of the Gueret branch." She nods, "It is a matter of knowing which ears to whisper in and how."

She studies the other woman, then produces a paper from her sleeve, which she offers negligently in the direction of the lady in waiting, "Of course, this talk of trade is not particularly amusing and rather… well. So I took the liberty of writing up a few morsels that you might have some of your people look over. Things that might make our little venture a tad more interesting to you." The paper suggests a choice of a percentage of any Ferrand navy trade for five years, or a somewhat larger percentage for three. The amount that would actually accrue, would of course depend on the volume of the trade.

<FS3> Chimène rolls Economics: Failure. (1 6 5 3 4 6 2 5 3)
<FS3> Chimène rolls Composure: Good Success. (3 1 2 8 7 3 6 7 4 3 6 4 3)

The lady-in-waiting is alert; Aurore’s paper follows the route of her basket and a step further, too, sojourning for a brief moment between Chimène’s own jeweled fingers before she lays it face-down next to her goblet of wine and picks up the latter. She can’t make head or tail of the proposal, just now. The solution of course is to keep drinking and to swallow her irritation with her wine, as she’s had so much practice in doing over the years. She suggests serenely to Aurore, “Perhaps you’ll send your kinswoman to call upon me, when you’ve had the leisure to consider how you might best go about it, and I, how I might best aid you.”

Zéphyrine looks back and forth between the two older women and takes a sip from her wine. To Aurore she finally says, "Was there anything else you wished to discuss or shall we leave Lady Chimène to the rest of her afternoon?"

Aurore sips her wine, clearly pleased by the vintage. "I would be happy to, of course." Behind her calm façade she is trying to picture how this thoroughly polished creature will respond to her gruff but beloved kinswoman. "It was terribly kind of you to receive me." She flashes the young woman a bright smile, "I'm sure I've taken enough of her time." She rises, "Unless you had things the two of you wished to discuss without me." She curtseys with that perfect posture and carefully judged depth and deference. "Thank you again for your time.”

“You’ve provided a charming and unexpected interlude, Lady Aurore,” Chimène assures her lightly, “amidst the debtors and the tutors and the upholsterers who have been otherwise importuning me today… I shall look forward to meeting your kinswoman.”

With a few more words they take polite leave of one another; but then as her visitors retrace their steps across the parquet she lifts her voice to halt them. “Oh, Lady Zéphyrine, might I have one last word…? A household matter,” she apologises to Aurore with a feline smile.

Zéphyrine rises with Aurore, but then pauses when she's called back. She returns to stand in front of Chimène. "Yes?"

The paired lackeys shut the paired doors behind Aurore, with eminent discretion.

Alone with her young and countrified Corsican cousin, Chimène looks her over with cool hazel eyes. “You’re of age — I won’t tell you where to go or with whom you may or may not associate,” she says quietly. “But I trust you will not make it necessary for me to give orders that the Vicomtesse Regent de Ferrand is not to be admitted again to this house.”

Zéphyrine blinks a little, but then nods. "Of course, cousin. I shall keep your feelings on the matter in mind. Apparently I have some songs I should go hear." Her usual laughter gone. "Was there anything else?"

“I’m sure you’ll find them marvelously instructive,” murmurs Chimène of the dueling song cycles which have in the past decade come out of Ferrand; “there’s one I like that goes…” She tilts her head whimsically and hums a few soft silvery notes. Then her lips meet in another catlike little smile. “Not today. I’m waiting for the answer to a letter— but then, my dear, I think it likely we’ll have something of greater moment to discuss together, you and I.”

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