(1312-05-23) Scabby Queen
Summary: As Hugo confides to Symon, he’d rather be sailing the south seas; but at least La Perle Noire provides some sort of foreign treats.
RL Date: 23/05/2020
Related: Embarrassing Enough.
hugo symon 

La Perle Noire — Grand Plaza

The face this establishment shows to the Grand Plaza is a window display of coffee beans in a fantastic blown-glass vase, against figured silk which changes with the seasons; and a pair of heavy oaken doors guarded by a swarthy, bearded, well-muscled man in Ephesian costume, who bows patrons out of Terre d'Ange and into a foreign land redolent of fine coffee and cinnamon and tobacco, lit by countless candles suspended each in a gleaming glass lantern from a ceiling that billows with ruby-red silk and cloth of gold. Layered carpets of many colours, intricately woven and warmed in winter by a hypocaust, soften the music of pipes and drums and mandolins that filters through this sanctuary of civilised pleasures. Here a friendship might be forged or renewed, a deal struck, or a day simply whiled away in Eastern opulence and ease, amidst the red and the gold and the smoke.

In the middle of the main lounge is a raised circular stage upon which an horologist's glass marks the lapse of two hours between performances by Ephesian dancing girls, or minstrels singing joyously in the tongue of that land, or even a local d'Angeline bard telling tall tales. Low tables of dark wood radiate therefrom, surrounded by lounging cushions and richly-upholstered divans; the outermost are set in alcoves which may for privacy's sake be screened by shimmering silken curtains. If one desires amusement, one may summon at any hour alluring dancers whose brass finger-cymbals chime to accent the undulations of their hips. If one wishes to smoke, one may command a water pipe. But the true business of the house is the coffee. Perfumed young men in loose trousers and embroidered tunics move to and fro like angels dispensing this liquid mercy: strong, fragrant, frothing kahve, brewed cup by cup from the fine-ground black pearls of Ephesium, served in elaborate copper vessels beside tall glasses of pure spring water and plates of esoteric and delectable foreign sweetmeats.

Several sets of doors at the rear of the lounge lead away to the kitchens; to a stairway ascending toward smaller chambers which may be reserved for private parties; and outside into a courtyard, open in fair weather.


Symon has been turning up at the Black Pearl a bit more than usual. And almost certainly more than he needs, when one thinks of the stimulant effect of the brew. But in any case, he's here at a table alone with a pot and a cup and a plate of sugar-coated sweets.

Hugo manages to slip in the door with a reduced retinue today, but he's greeted with the usual warmth he's come to expect from this little caffeinated retreat. Immediately taking up the offer of the sweets and coffee, he practically flings himself down on a bunch of cushions, much to the disdain of his rather more uptight valet. And having made himself comfortable, he spies Symon and offers a wave and an easy smile, flashing the dimples.

Symon lifts his hand. "Hugo!" he says enthusiastically. "How good to see you again! Are you w…well? W…would you like to join?"

"I come here for the sweets, the cushions and the coffee, in that order," Hugo admits, grinning, "but please do come and join me here and tell me how you've been? I'm about sick to death of my own company right now. You play cards?"

"As you w…wish," Symon answers, rising from his spot and going over to join Hugo, simply trusting that one of the establishment's people will bring over all the things he just abandoned. "Of course I p-play cards," he says, sounding as if he thinks cards are a capital idea.

Hugo looks up to his valet with a bright, hopeful smile. "You can find us a deck, right, Frederic? Thanks a lot, old chap." To which the valet first glares at his charge, then offers a too-deep bow, and in best servant form with a sheen of politeness, flounces off to see what he can find. His absence is enough to make Hugo settle back further in his nest of cushions, flinging one arm up behind him and exhaling in relief. "Sweet Elua and all his companions, I hate having a babysitter. You have this? Your family foisting some old fossil on you to keep you out of trouble?"

"No," Symon says, "I b-broke away w…when I came down here and found m…my own m-man, b-but good servants are always p-priggish. Comes from having to know all the rules."

Hugo lifts a finger. "I had my own man. I liked my own man. And now I've got Frederic, and he wouldn't know a backstay from a barnacle. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my family very much, but maybe they could stop dictating every single part of my life all of a sudden, eh?"

"That sounds awfully p-painful," Symon says. "If you had one you really liked and now have to start over with a rather stiff one. M…my m-man in Siovale declined to accompany m-me all the w…way here. I suppose he had a w-wife or something." Symon shrugs, and someone brings over his coffee and sweets, so he sips from the cup.

Hugo reaches to claim one of Symon's sweets, hand hovering over them for a moment as he raises a brow in question. Well, his will arrive soon enough, and then he can return the favour, but he's a growing lad in need of sustenance. "I'm sure he's very good at his job," he allows, fortunately enough as the valet in question has somehow, miraculously reappeared as if from nowhere, "but I liked Dupont." He wrinkles his nose. "Am I just being petulant?"

Symon smiles and nods his permission freely. He shrugs at the question of petulance. "Oh, m…my friend, I'm not the one to ask, b-believe me. B-but it is such a hard thing. One forms a relationship, doesn't one. And it is no trivial thing."

"Dupont and I went to the New World together when I was just a sprog," Hugo explains eagerly enough, glancing up as Frederic looms overhead and produces, apparently faster than the coffee and sweets, a deck of cards. He really is an excellent servant. The littlest Trevalion gives an apologetic smile and nods his thanks as he takes the cards and begins to shuffle, just as his own coffee and a small dish of the delicious powdered Ephesian delight sweets arrives. "Do you know Scabby Queen?"

Symon looks curiously at the cards. "No, you'll have to explain as w…we go." The idea of a new game he doesn't know doesn't seem to trouble him in the least. "B-but m…my word, the New W-World, how can you have gone there as a child?"

Hugo laughs, beginning to deal out cards. Frederic is included, no matter how much sniffing he does, to make it a three handed game. "No, no, when I was a sprog. A snottie. A midshipman. When I was still learning my trade. Might as well have been a child, though. I was fourteen and let me tell you a warship's a whole lot different to a nice comfortable estate in Azzalle."

Symon has no idea about the nautical terminology, but he looks fascinated. "Fourteen is rather young," he says. "For a w…warship all the w-way in the New W-World! I can't imagine. W-what did you see??"

"It's the perfect age to learn, though," Hugo argues, taking up his coffee for a quick sip before settling back and fanning out his cards. "Pick out any pairs that match colour, like two red twos, for example," he explains, pulling that pair from his hand and laying it down. "But oh… what did I see. You wouldn't believe me if I told you! From ice and snow and storms in the north, with huge white bears and these… giant… deer things," he puts his free hand up to his head to indicate antlers. "And trees bigger than you've seen in your life, filled with all kinds of weird birds, and then to the tropical islands further south, and parrots and monkeys and turtles and brightly coloured fish. Everything is huge and brightly coloured and noisy!"

"I had a frog from the New World once," Symon offers, blithely picking out a matching pair and laying it down without even waiting to hear further rules. "The b-birds m…must b-be incredible. Do they sound different?"

"How in the world did you get a frog?" Hugo asks, continuing to pull out pairs and lay them down. "The birds are very screechy. They've got seagulls, though, too, so it felt a little bit like home at least. When you've no pairs left, you hold out your cards like this, and the next person has to take one. Any pairs go on the table, and the loser is whoever's left with the scabby queen once every other card is down," he explains, fanning out his cards for Frederic to pick one. "But seriously, though, how did you get a frog from the New World? You can't tell me it swam."

"Off a sailor," Symon answers. "Or, off someone who had it off a sailor." He tilts his head thoughtfully while chewing some Ephesian delight. "At least there are some creatures that exist everywhere. W-we p…put the frog in a glass b-box, b-but in the end it was p…poison." He puts down a pair when it's his turn.

"I knew a sailor who's been to the south seas," Hugo muses, nodding to Frederic's splayed out hand of cards. "He said that he saw spiders and snakes and lizards and every single one of them would kill you. Didn't stop a single man wanting to bring one home as a souvenir, though."

"W…which ones are the South Seas?" Symon asks, not having much sense of geography. "You just go south from here until…?" He smiles. "Not that you m…make it sound terribly enticing to do so!"

"Well, I could point out that he also told a lot of stories about women who didn't wear many clothes, which sounds to me like an excellent reason to explore the south seas further," Hugo points out with a grin, sneaking a sip of his coffee before selecting one of Symon's cards and laying down another pair. "But it's about seeing new things, isn't it? Isn't that why we go to sea in the first place?"

"Oh, I see," Symon replies, leaning forward with some interest. He moves his cards around after Hugo's selection, then plays again on his turn, absently. "W-well I don't go to sea."

"Not everyone can be that fortunate," Hugo agrees, his hand steadily dwindling as the game continues. "But I have to admit I'm dreading being stuck ashore. I don't want to be sat at a table while everyone and their dog come and ask for things. I want to go and see new lands! I want a ship of my own!" He pauses, fanning out his cards. "And yes, I know I'm just being selfish now. What do you do with your time, Symon? When you're not dealing with everyone wanting something, anyway?"

"You should tell someone all those stories of things you saw w…when you w-went to the New W-World and have them write it down," Symon suggests. "Even draw p-pictures." His eyebrows shoot up at the question, and he takes a card. "Oh, b-but I'm doing it right now, aren't I?"

"Coffee and cards, fair enough," Hugo admits, taking up his coffee for another sip, until there's barely anything but a few grounds in the bottom of his cup. Without a word, this is automatically topped up. "And maybe I will! Do you know a good scribe who could take my ramblings and make them into something worth reading, then?"

"Oh, I can find you someone, I'm sure," Symon asks. "I'll ask a friend of m-mine who knows all about b-book and literature things. I'd find it fascinating, I can tell you." He drinks coffee. "And so w-would any number of young ladies, I'm sure."

As Hugo chats, so a Trevalion liveried young woman finds her way in and bends the ear of the stony faced Frederic. He, having dismissed her, clears his throat pointedly when Hugo next goes to take a sip from his coffee, then leans in to impart whatever news it is in soft tones that cannot be easily overheard. The diminutive lord's face falls and he tosses down his cards in disgust. "I'm so sorry… Symon, we'll have to catch up another day. Let me know about this book person, though. And you can write about your frog, too," he allows selflessly, before rolling his eyes at Frederic and pulling himself in a single, smooth movement to his feet. "I can't tell you how much I'd rather be sailing the south seas right now."

Symon lifts a hand in a farewell after he returns the cards. "Can't b-be helped," he says, "B-but we'll m…meet again, I've no doubt."

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