(1312-05-24) Choosing Terrain
Summary: The new baronne de Filitosa takes some advance from an old Camaeline campaigner.
RL Date: 24/05/2020
Related: Sights Worth Seeing and Sausage Trading.
philomene zephyrine 

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.

What's a girl to do when she needs to think about a number of things and ponder her options? Well, if you're Zéphyrine, the answer seems to be go riding, even if it is a little late for it. And it's drizzling. But it's been drizzling most of the week and the horses need to be ridden. So… riding through the rain is good for being appropriately pensive. In accordance with the weather, though, she does have on her oiled wool cloak in a rich, dark green. Her guardsman, too, because there's always a guardsman, now, trails along behind her on his own horse, likewise wearing a cloak.

Not far ahead, heading back along the river path towards the city, a high spirited dun mare picks up her hooves with a sort of arrogant disdain for mud and rain. This horse is a common sight on the roads outside the city, as is her tall, blonde, angular rider, no matter the weather.

In deference to the continuing drizzle, though, Philomène's bundled up in her own oilskins — any idiot can be uncomfortable, as she's always willing to tell people — but remains without a hat or hood, presumably as it would fly off at the sort of speeds she tends to ride, meaning her hair is rain-darkened and slicked back, which only emphasises the strong, proud lines of her cheek and jaw.

Zéphyrine slows her ride down to more of a walk as she watches the other rider approach. Once close enough she raises a hand. "Well met, Lady Philomène. How is the road this evening? And hazards I should know of?"

Philomène likewise slows, running a hand through her hair before giving the woman a slight nod. She looks over the horse first, her gaze drifting automatically to check the animal's shape, legs, flanks and neck before dragging her attention reluctantly back to the rider. "Evening, Lady Zéphyrine. Bit slippery down towards the coast, but nothing to shout about. You're out late this evening, hm? If you're looking for excitement, try the north road instead. Wait until it's dark and try to look helpless, and with a bit of luck you'll get somebody come out and try to rob you."

Zéphyrine glances back at her guard. "I'm afraid Jacques would highly disapprove of that. and with my older brother killed by pirates and no clear succession until I marry… I don't think I'll be allowed until I have at least a few children." Her horse is a very nice and clearly well taken care of chestnut mare with a blaze on her chest. "I was more looking for a good place to think. So quiet seems better. I just… needed to get out of the house. I'll keep the slippery in mind, though."

"Ah, well, I've squeezed out my children and outlived my husband," Philomène points out wryly. "I'm expendable. The Cascade is a good ride," she suggests, nodding back the way she came. "And not too many idiots out in the rain. Best time to ride."

Zéphyrine laughs. "Knot needed the excercize, even if it is raining. And I think so much better on horseback or at the prow of a ship. Something about the motion helps, I think." She tilts her head a little, stdying the older woman. "I'm sure many people would consider you not expendable. But I also think anyone deciding to face you in battle is making a poor choice with their life."

"I'm sure many people would put me at the very top of their expendable list," the woman challenges with a hint of amusement, then laughs. "Lady Zéphyrine, I'm about thirty years older than my best in battle, and I'm not sure I'd launch my Hirondelle in with quite the same enthusiasm these days. I've mellowed in my old age." Yes. This is mellow.

Zéphyrine studies her a little more. "Well, no, perhaps not. But you'd probably find some trick, anyway. I was always told that old warriors were the most dangerous because they knew how to survive." Still she smiles. "Well, I do not think I consider you expendable. But then, my taste has been questioned, lately."

Philomène runs her hand through her hair and flicks a little more rain from it. "Old warriors are the most dangerous because we no longer think of battle as a glorified sport, you mean. And who's questioning your taste?" She snorts. "People who feel the need to poke their noses into other people's business. At the end of the day, you like what you like, and anyone who tries to stop you is either jealous, petty or both. If it doesn't affect them directly, what the fuck do you care what other people have to say?"

Zéphyrine hmms. "Lady Chimène, and… arguably it does affect her directly. At least if I invite people to the house. Because, of course, it's her house as well." She nods a little. "I was never afforded the luxury of thinking of battle as a kind of glorified sport, I suppose. My brother's death rather saw to that. All my training is very much focussed on keeping me alive should anyone attack."

"The best form of defence," Philomène notes, "is not to be there at all. Win the battle before you begin. Pick your own terms and your own battlefield, and make the enemy have to respond to you, not the other way round. If you're best at sea, make the decisive battle naval. If you're a cavalrywoman, take a hill with a wide open valley below. If you're a politician, make your battle at court." She absently reaches inside her oilskins, withdrawing a battered old copper flask and beginning to unscrew the lid. "If the terrain isn't to your liking, withdraw and choose your own battlefield rather than fighting on and losing. If Lady Chimène has the upper hand in your house, take your business somewhere on your own terms."

Zéphyrine laughs. "Well, yes. I shall keep that in mind. And she did allow as how, with my being of age and entitled, there was a limit to what she could restrict outside the house. Still, I wanted to think on what concessions I wished to make. She could do rather a lot to help or injure me socially. So, it seemed wise to think about it a bit."

Philomène points the flask towards Zéphyrine, then lifts it and takes a swig. "Don't let her intimidate you. Know your own worth and what you bring to her. And if it's nothing, then it's not your fight and not your battlefield. Move on and find better terrain."

Zéphyrine nods. "I'll try. Sometimes, it's hard to shift terrain, though." She reaches forward to pet the neck of her horse. "I should have had years more to study and learn and know my worth before I had quite so much depending on my decisions."

"I'll give you the same advice I gave my daughter when she inherited," Philomène offers, putting away her flask and instead withdrawing a sugared almond from her pocket which she offers over to the younger woman. "Use the wisdom of your tenants. You don't have to know everything. Combine their knowledge to get a better picture for yourself. You're not better than they are because you're a noble, you're just better placed to bring all that knowledge and experience together and lead them."

Zéphyrine takes the almond and smiles. "Oh, I know better than to contradict my captains or their quartermasters or even their botswains. the same for my vintners. I may ask them questions to make them think when I've learned of a new technique, but I know who makes my lands and my ships proffitable and I know that I am still learning it all. But… they can't handle the politics for me. And that's where I worry that I may be falling down."

Philomène pulls another almond from her pocket, leaning forward to feed the treat to her mare, whose ears perked up immediately on spying it. "The same applies in politics as anywhere. Don't pick a fight where the enemy is strong. Hit them in their weakest part. If you don't have good odds to win, withdraw and find a new battleground that suits you better. I'm not saying you always have a choice, mind. But don't be blinded into thinking this is the only battle and the only option just because it's the one in front of you."

Zéphyrine nods, more serious than is her usual wont. "Thank you. That does help. I still need to consider somethings, but it does help." She sighs. "I also need to learn more. Part of the problem is simply that this is all unfamiliar or barely familiar terrain. I've learned some from books, but… I don't know it the way I need to, I think."

"So reframe it into your terrain," Philomène suggests mildly. "If you're a cavalryman, don't try to fight at sea. If you know the mountains, don't be forced to fight in a city."

Zéphyrine hmmms. "Easier said than done." She sighs and looks up at the rain, letting it fall on her face. "Mostly, I would rather not fight at all. I like people. I enjoy their company. I realize that sounds like madness to you, but… there are very few, if any people, that I actually dislike. Oh, I'll dicker with people over trade deals, but that's part of the fun of them. And I may argue philosophical points, sometimes, but again… that's part of the fun of philosophy. But generally, I am not good at being… cruel or mean or cutting people off. It's not in my nature. I'd much rather learn from them."

"What you call 'cruel and mean', I call forthright," Philomène notes drily. "There are times when we can't all be sweetness and light, and it's to the benefit of us all to be able to make the hard decisions. There are people even here who claim that we shouldn't fight at all. If it weren't for Camaelines on the border fighting for us all, there would be no Terre d'Ange left. A good shepherd kills the wolf that would destroy her flock, no?"

Zéphyrine frowns. "If I meant forthright, I would have said forthright. I wasn't referring to you. And I am well aware that not all is or can be sweetness and light. There are times when fighting is needed, though I think we are better off if we try diplomacy first. I didn't say we should never fight. Or guard our borders. Merely that I generally wish to avoid it. I am a trader at heart, not a fighter. I can afford to be, living on an island. We don't have wolves. Wild boar, yes. But no wolves."

"So you already know your strengths," Philomène points out, raising an eyebrow. "Choose your fights on those grounds. Trade. Be indispensable through knowledge of finance, and the politicians can fall into line. Your power can as easily lie in your funding as in any sort of rhetoric from a politician. Economic stimulus is a tool in your arsenal as much as political acumen. Use it."

Zéphyrine nods and glances first back towards the city and then towards the road away from it again. "Perhaps. And what does one do when one is simply outmatched?" She's back to petting her horse's neck again.

"Withdraw, regroup, choose the next battlefield on your own terms," Philomène suggests with a shrug, glancing briefly upwards to judge the break in the clouds. "Or decide it's not worth your time and energy, and live life on your own terms. That one," she admits with a half smile, "is a lot harder to do when you're young and still believe you can change the world."

Zéphyrine laughs ruefully. "I don't know that I can change the world, but I do hope to have at least some influence over my little corner of it. I'm probably fooling myself about even that, though the title helps, I suppose." She sighs. "I suppose withdraw, regroup, and learn the terrain better for next time is probably the answer, though I don't like it."

"If you keep fighting the same fight, on the same terms, the result will never change," Philomène points out, leaning to stroke her horse's name. "Doesn't matter how much I learn about the sea, a sailor will always have the advantage over me. Get that sailor on a horse, though, and I'll run rings around them. Don't just learn their terrain, work out how to get them to yours."

Zéphyrine laughs. "And what if I like both and sea and horses? But yes, I do see your point. I more meant I needed to know what terrain was around me. Not so much learn theirs as… learn what my options are. And know enough to see when I'm walking into a trap." she glances back towards the city again. "I think the political terrain around here is filled with hidden reefs. You may not see them on the surface, but they will tear the bottom from your ship if you cross them in the wrong spot."

"Might be that you don't actually need to cross them," Philomène reminds her with a half smile. "If you're happy at sea, stay at sea. Let them come to you. Decide now what's worth going out to risk the reefs for and what isn't, hm? And there's a lesson I've still to learn, myself, but in my defence I'm a d'Aiglemort. If there isn't a fight to find, we'll make one."

Zéphyrine laughs a little more brightly. "Perhaps, but I'm a Rousse… if there's a place to sail, a new territory to find, then we'll go. If this is more metaphorical here… well, it's still in our nature."

"If all else fails, just think to yourself 'what would Philo do' and then do the complete opposite," Philomène suggests, grinning. "It'll keep you alive. Aurore says I'm like an untamed eagle, but I disagree. Eagles pick their targets wisely. I'm more like a terrier, too damn stubborn to let go once I've sunk my teeth in."

Zéphyrine grins, eyes twinkling. "Sadly, I think stubborness may be one of the things we have in common. Still, I shall try to keep that in mind. But, of course, I shall also have to get to know you better to know what you'd do that I should avoid."

"I ride most days," Philomène informs her. She settles back in her saddle, nodding back over her shoulder. "Usually out to the Cascade and back of an afternoon. If you want to get away from the wolves in the city for a while, you're always welcome to join us. As long as you can keep up."

Zéphyrine's grin grows even brighter. "Well, I may certainly come and try some day soon, at least. I won't know if I can or not until then."

Philomène gives a nod and an amiable smile. "Then I look forward to it. Either you'll enjoy the day with us, or at least we'd have the good graces to deliver you to the infirmary. But then since when was life worth living without a bit of risk, hm?" She lifts a hand, nudging her horse forward again towards the city. "Look after yourself, Lady Zéphyrine. Good luck choosing your battlegrounds."

Zéphyrine raises a hand in a wave. "I look forward to it. And thank you." And she's still setting off along the road at a fast walk. Jacques looks less than thrilled by the prospect of attempting to keep up with lady Philomène… or of delivering his mistress to the infirmary, but he's a good enough servant to not argue about it, instead just following after her.

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