(1312-05-24) Uncertainty
Summary: In which a Thorn finds a White Rose who isn't so certain about the courtesan business.
RL Date: Sun May 24, 1312
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
alienor raphael 


The gardens of La Rose Sauvage offer a different ambience and atmosphere than that of the more oppressive and richly ornate salon. Tall casement windows spill out onto a paved area which gives way to neatly arranged flowerbeds, where a predominance of roses pay homage to the canons encompassed by this salon. The paths are of a dark granite grey which have softened over the years by the encroachment of mosses and lichens, with smaller paths winding off through the beds. It's here along these secluded paths that arboreal areas and private nooks might be found, and where privacy is granted to those that seek it through flowering hedges and curtained awnings.

A fountain plays at the centre of the garden, the copper figures of two nude women, long since mellowed to a soft verdigris, spill water from shells into a pool at its base. The main pathway through the garden leads to a terracotta tiled courtyard that sits towards the farthest end, the walls here flanked by creeping ivy which cloak the walls in scarlet and orange during the autumn months. An oiled silk awning hangs over the courtyard to give shelter from both sun and rain, and oil lamps light the area when evening falls.

It is a slightly chilly spring day due to the overcast weather that threatens to rain at any given point but never actually delivers on that promise. Spread out on one of the benches, her voluminous bright white skirts arranged to take up as much space as possible, Alienor sits with a little bound sketchbook and a pencil, thoughtfully sketching passersby when she thinks they do not notice her peering at them. A closer look at her work suggests that she is more interested in the clothing, both male and female, than the actual people who wander by, and her sketches indicate an evolving study of the human form.

The salon gardens are of course more frequently traversed in spring than in winter, but few patrons seek out the sharpest pleasures under an overcast daytime sky. Which makes the gardens a safe enough neutral ground for multiple canons to mix. Raphael moves through the garden with two older Thorn novices in tow. "Take the posts in, check them for cracks and splinters, and give them a polish. We'll assume it may have started raining by then, so I want you to condition all the whips next. We'll have a training session for them tomorrow if there's clear weather. Remember that they are one of the easiest tools to grow overconfident and complacent with, so come prepared. I will not look lightly on sloppy work tomorrow. Understand?" The novices nod. "Good, go off." And they do, going to get the whipping posts that sometimes furnish the courtyard, taking them in for conditioning and to keep them out of a possible rain.

Alienor glances up at the sky again, which still threatens, and she sniffs the air to see if perhaps the rain is coming, but while the air hangs heavily moist, it never seems to coalesce into precipitation. Her green-gray gaze catches on Raphael, though, and she surreptitious begins to sketch the lines of his figure with interest. The way he walks, the way he carries himself, the way he wears his clothes. And though she's clad in bright white, she keeps a low profile.

Raphael watches to make sure the novices at least begin their tasks with the appropriate pace and energy, but once they are indoors, he turns back, and in turning spots Alienor. White Roses are never much for stealth in their conspicuous coloring, though they do much better in the garden than in the parlor. Raphael takes steps in her direction. "You're the one I chased up last night, aren't you. Remind me of your name." No pleasantries expended before that.

"Yes, sir. It's Alienor, sir," the girl replies, snapping shut the notebook quite quickly and tucking it away with her hands underneath her voluminous skirts. The way she fusses for a moment, she might even have some pockets hidden there for concealing things. She drops her gaze away from him and shifts her head to better conceal her face with her veil.

"Alienor," Raphael repeats, pronunciation unhurried. "And you are an adept, correct?" He is certain of the details of the Thorns, but naturally sees the least of the White Roses. Even as she seeks to conceal herself further, his gaze remains steady, with its sharp blue edge.

"Yes, sir," Alienor replies with a little nod, and she gets a bit bolder and lifts her face a bit so that she can look at him curiously. "Yes, I am an adept. For six months now, I think, yes. I am still quite young." She smooths her skirts absently with one hand, and whatever she was holding has conveniently disappeared into the depths of her petticoats.

"That's right, I remember," Raphael agrees at that, nodding once. "That being the case, I'll be sure to work in your name the next time. It would be too bad if a patron had the privilege of glimpsing you, yet had no clear way of asking for you should they be interested in calling upon you in the Solarium."

"Thank you, sir. I appreciate… being able to finish my marque someday," Alienor admits without a great deal of enthusiasm, shifting slightly as she regards the Thorn. "I know that I am not supposed to be glimpsed much, but sometimes the Solar is dreary and I like to get out to the gardens. When they're peaceful."

The edges of Raphael's eyes close in just a bit at this tone, but he doesn't address it just yet. "This is certainly the season for the gardens," he says, "With the roses at last in bloom. Is it the blossoms you come to see?"

"I like to draw the roses," Alienor replies after a little pause, nodding slightly, and her tone is far more neutral now. She smiles, glancing around. "The air is perfumed and I like to see the blooms. The actual flowers, I mean. I've drawn a lot of still life."

"Is your drawing a skill you share with your patrons, or one you reserve just for yourself?" Raphael inquires, tucking his hands behind his back, spine straight, gaze wandering off to another part of the garden.

"It started out as my own amusement, my own hobby, but patrons often take interest in it and want to see what I draw," Alienor admits with a little smile, gaining a measure of confidence. "Though I spent a lot of time painting flowers and fruits, I have expanded my studies of shape to fashion. There are quite a lot of floral lines in many of the clothes that we wear. In the way garments fall and such."

"I'm not surprised," Raphael agrees, nodding once. "Still life seems an appropriate place for White Roses to start, though I'm sure expanding from there is worthwhile. Many courtesans and patrons alike here wear rather inventive fashions."

"I admit that I'm only now starting to be able to take an interest in fashion," Alienor admits softly, watching Raphael with far more interest now. "But I am nervous about wearing anything but the most conservative dresses. I am not particularly comfortable with showing off. Certainly not the way I have seen some!"

"That is only appropriate to a White Rose," Raphael replies. "At least to the appropriate degree. But in Marsilikos, of course, a White Rose is in close proximity to the Red and Thorns and she is bound to see things beyond her own world."

"Don't the Red Roses get cold?" Alienor inquires in a loud whisper, leaning forward a little, the question brimming with honest curiosity.

Raphael lifts an eyebrow as he looks back to Alienor, somewhat amused. "I suppose that would be a question for a Red Rose," he says. "But of course Red Roses are champion at overcoming discomfort. Or enjoying it."

"Yes, I suppose that's true. I have a tendency to avoid Red Roses, if I may be honest, sir," Alienor admits, sounding faintly sheepish. "They tend to be more careless, and that gets me in trouble. I feel safer with the Thorns. They tend to be more, 'Do not touch my White Rose. Must protect until White Rose is safe.'"

"You're right in that a Thorn has a greater responsibility to protect you," Raphael says, with a gaze that has a hint of avuncular warmth despite an overall sternness. "Because we have the greater power."

"Greater power? In what way?" Alienor wonders, as if she'd never really thought about the matter in these sorts of terms before. She studies Raphael with interest now. "Although I feel that sometimes both the Thorns and the Red Roses will try to make me cry, the Thorns never would permit anyone else from doing so."

Raphael regards Alienor a moment. "It is the nature of our canons," he says. "The Red Rose must yield. Therefore the Thorn must be the leader in demanding yielding. It is more the Thorn's role to direct the behavior of others," Raphael further explains. "The truth is that power is something crafted by all, in the space between. But the flow of power moves in a particular direction. And we all must be conscious that really it is the patrons who should be trying to make an adept White Rose cry."

"It's mean, but it hasn't happened in quite awhile, at the very least," Alienor admits with almost a sad sigh. "Most of the guilty parties have since moved on to other things, I suspect. As courtesans are wont to do."

"Mm," Raphael rumbles faintly. "Then we'll say no more about it," he concludes. "But if you feel you are being unfairly used, you must go to your Second. She can come to me if it should transpire that any Thorns are the cause."

"I've largely kept to myself lately. I suppose I should be working harder, but… Well, I keep reminding myself that I am in service to Namaah," Alienor replies almost meekly, looking down at where her feet would be were they not covered by her fluffy white dress.

"Are you dissatisfied in some way?" Raphael asks softly. And there is no underlying threat in his voice, except the imposing nature that comes from his canon and position in the salon.

"I suppose that I had different expectations as a Novice of what I might enjoy, and now that I have some measure of experience as an Adept, I find that my expectations do not match reality," Alienor replies slowly, as if saying the words is difficult, and she shifts a bit awkwardly, like a child being grilled by the principal, even one who is not guilty of anything.

"Hm," Raphael responds. He looks up at the sky to see if it looks any more likely to rain than it did before. "Would you like something to drink?" he offers. Which might signal that a Long Talk is being considered.

"I don't know. I suppose it would be nice, if you please, sir," Alienor replies with a little nod, though now she looks quite nervous and like she might like to shrink down to nothing at this point.

Raphael goes up the path a bit towards the house and indicates to the novice there that he'd like tea brought out. And then he comes back to Alienor. "What is it that you anticipated?" he asks, "And how has the experience been different?"

Alienor perks up a bit at the idea of tea, sitting up a bit straighter, but she deflates slightly when Raphael returns. "I just… well. I'd read some …novels, you know, fiction, about innocent girls in romantic relationships, and I'd hoped… Well, I'd hoped that being a courtesan would be more like that. And while I understand completely that patrons are not terribly romantic, I didn't think I'd find them so… painful."

"You'd thought that being a courtesan would be innocent and romantic," Raphael summarizes. He pauses, walks up the path, fetches a stool that people move from place to place in the garden, and sets it down opposite Alienor so that they can speak on the same level. "But you are not enjoying your time with patrons? What is it that you find painful about them?" His voice is quite soft now.

"They make me cry. When they don't want to make me cry, they just want to take my clothes off, and… I don't enjoy being unclothed. I don't like being looked at. Not like that. And they touch me, and I let them, because that's what Namaah did. She let him touch her, and she did it lovingly, and I'm struggling," Alienor admits, and she hides her face in her hands under her veil.

Raphael leans forward with his elbows on his knees, but he doesn't invade Alienor's space. "Have you discussed this with your Second?" he asks. "She would truly be the best to see you through this. But if you will allow me, with respect for her, I would like to say one or two things." The tea arrives, and a small table is placed between them by one novice while the other serves the tea. They both depart at a nod from Raphael and he continues. "This salon is not a prison. It is a place of willing religious service. When people discover that they are not right for that service, it is generally best for all parties to release those people. An unhappy courtesan is rarely the best possible courtesan. And to push through a deep unhappiness with one's service can be injurious to oneself. And not in the best interest of Naamah herself. Do you understand what I am saying?" He reaches for a tea cup, but keeps his eyes on Alienor.

"No, not yet. I don't know what to say. That I feel shameful? That I'm not strong enough? I don't want to leave my marque unfinished. My parents wanted me to have a future, and I don't know what I'll do with myself if I fail at this," Alienor murmurs, though her words are entirely muffled by her hands. "I felt like a prisoner before my debut, but I was sure if I were an adult, everything would be better."

"It is not a matter of shame," Raphael says. "Is it a matter of shame that a wolf cannot breathe water, or a fish the air? No, it is how they are made." Raphael sips his tea. "There are futures aplenty in this world. Do you know that I once left this salon? That I was away from it for over twenty years?" he asks gently, looking to her expression.

"I didn't know that, no," Alienor replies, looking up now to peer at him. She has been crying, for her lashes are wet, and she looks a bit exhausted. "I don't know what to do. I feel like I agreed to this whole courtesan thing when I was far too young to know what I was agreeing to." She sniffles a bit, and then remembers the tea and brightens a bit.

"That's quite correct," Raphael says. "Which is why you are not condemned to see it through. Tell me about your family. Noble or common?" he asks. "I was born a butcher's son," he says, perhaps taking the strategy that personal disclosure will help this feel less like an interrogation. He sips the tea.

"Common. My father is a merchant, though my mother aspires to dress like nobility. I have four older brothers," Alienor explains after a moment, taking a deep breath. "My mother liked the idea of me being a courtesan, being treated well, being pretty and nicely dressed. And I really loved spending time in Namaah's temple. I thought she was the most beautiful thing." She sighs faintly. "I thought there'd be something to the idea of new experiences, you know? But everyone expects me to be shy and quiet, and I feel constrained. It also turns out that I don't really enjoy some of those new experiences as much as I anticipated."

"We can love Naamah without being directly in her service," Raphael says. "Your life now belongs to you and not your mother. Do you know that there are many livelihoods for a girl who is trained with all the manners and know-how of a courtesan? If wearing fine clothes is important to you, you might for instance be a clerk or dress model in one of the finest dressmaker's shops." He leans over his knees. "Would you like me to tell you a confidence? What do you suppose I, a Thorn, did as a profession for a score of years after leaving this salon?"

Alienor perks a bit at that, looking a bit hopeful. "I don't know," she admits. "Did you go into business with your father? Mine specializes in textiles. Fabrics and such." She twists a bit to touch her back in just the way that one really cannot. "But what about my marque?"

"I did not," Raphael says, "Though you might. In fact I went to Elua with my beloved wife and I was a clerk in her shop…selling children's toys." His eyes are soft as he relates this. "So you see you might find a calling very far from this." He sits up again and sips his tea. "I don't believe your life should be sold for your marque. Do you think Naamah would want your misery on her altar? Or would she rather you find joy and love in the way that is right for you?"

"How can I be myself as a White Rose, though? I think that is the worst of it," Alienor admits with a little sniffle. "I don't want to be shy. I want to be friendly and social and stuff. The only good thing about veils is that they keep the bugs off in the summer." She looks at Raphael a moment. "Were you happy selling toys? Were you happy with your wife?"

"Alienor," Raphael says, his tone quiet and sincere, "I was tremendously, tremendously happy with my wife. And I believe that to go with her was the only correct path for me, and that it was as right in serving Naamah as my life is now." He sips tea again. "I cannot tell you how to be a White Rose because I have never been a White Rose. I think it is essential that you talk to your own Second about that. Your motto is 'With eyes averted.' How or whether you can make that suit your true self is a matter that your Second can best help with."

"I don't think I'm very good at being a White Rose," Alienor admits with a heavy sigh. "I find it terribly boring. But I don't want to flirt and fawn like the Red Roses do, either. That doesn't appeal to me. I don't even know what I'd be good at. I feel young and stupid, like all the things I was so sure of before my debut were just hubris." She manages to sip her tea under her veil in a dainty sort of way.

"There are other things to be in this world besides a White Rose," Raphael says, sipping his tea. "To work in a shop, even partner in or own one someday, is a solid way of living. To join in your father's business is another. To marry someone you find congenial, yet a third. It is impossible, at your age, to be a failure. You have not lived long enough for that."

"That is true," Alienor concedes after a moment, looking to Raphael thoughtfully. "I cannot fathom getting married. All of the boys I know treat me like a pet." She looks down at her teacup a bit sadly. "I'm afraid to not be a courtesan, too, because I worry they'll treat me with disdain and it'll be worse and I won't have any friends at all."

"Who do you mean by 'they?'" Raphael questions softly. "Friends, I believe, can be made anywhere and in any situation. When I returned here from Elua, I had no one to return to. But months passed and I formed meaningful friendships. Not just by virtue of being a courtesan. In fact, one of my closest friends fundamentally disagrees with the courtesan system itself."

"My friends…? No, they're not really my friends. They're just people I know," Alienor admits with a little sigh. "What I've got for friends is extremely limited. A White Rose novice who never talks." She sighs again, more heavily, and then bursts into tears.

Raphael draws out a handkerchief to offer, though of course White Roses can hardly be without spare fabric. "Talk to your Second," he says. "You have my word that she will listen to you, and will not eat you up on this occasion."

Alienor snuffles in the way that girls often do when they're upset, and she dabs at her eyes and looks dazed. She nods mutely to Raphael, then remembers her manners and murmurs, "Thank you for the handkerchief. Although I have one."

Raphael nods, unsurprised. "I'm sure you have," he says. "Don't let your tea go cold."

"Right," Alienor agrees, and she sips her tea in a hurried gulp. "Does this happen often?" she wonders, looking up to Raphael, sadness still written on her face, obvious through the veil. "People being terrible mismatches?"

Raphael also has a tip of his tea. "We try to be careful in our selections, but it is impossible to have a perfect rate when, as you say, we take our novices so early. "People leave at all stages, and there are some who leave at your stage as well, though your stage comes with unique challenges." He reaches to refresh her cup with warm tea.

"I feel almost that I have spent so long with my eyes averted that I cannot stand to look upon things that aren't properly curated for me," Alienor says with a bit of a frown, sipping from her tea again. She seems a bit calmer now. "I also feel like everyone else around me is much more interested in nudity than I am."

"We are servants of Naamah," Raphael says softly. "It is natural for us to enjoy nudity and sexual congress, each in our own ways." He fills his own cup as well. "To leave this life is an adjustment," he says. "It does not feel at all normal at first. But it is possible, and for some it is most advisable."

"I feel broken," Alienor admits, looking down at her cup sadly. "Like something that works for everyone else is not right about me. I don't understand it. I just… I am grateful that beds have covers, so that I can hide between them. The boys — the patrons — they stare at me. They make me feel self-conscious, and I do avert my eyes, because it's not even playing at that point. I thought it was going to be about pretending."

"Not everyone," Raphael points out softly. "Very few people become courtesans, compared with the general population. Far more become farmers, butchers, coopers, masons, bakers, fletchers, merchants, sailors, and so very many other things. You think of everyone being a courtesan because it is the world you have grown up in. But there are many other worlds."

"I guess that's true," Alienor admits with a little sigh, sounding a bit troubled. "I was supposed to be special. Something like that." She sniffles. "I should go," she notes with a measure of resignation. "I will need to wash my face and curl my hair. Well, the weather is curling it for me, but I mean tame it into proper cute girlish curls."

"You can be special outside this salon, too," Raphael says quietly. "Go and wash your face, breathe deeply, and make an appointment to speak to your Second tomorrow morning."

"Thank you, sir," Alienor says softly, nodding to this, and she moves to rise to her feet, to set aside her teacup. She is very careful about getting dusty, and her movements are very precise and cautious of the plants. "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me."

Raphael also sets down his cup and stands. "I am glad if I can help. I am devoted to this salon. I believe it is best served by people who are joyous and sure in the calling. However…I also know first-hand that there is a world and a life beyond the salon. So I know it is right to discuss it with you from both perspectives. Be well."

"I feel adrift. However sheltered this harbor may be, I feel very much adrift," Alienor admits as she arranges her skirts. "I am hopeful I can find a reasonable resolution to my issues."

"I'm glad you are," Raphael says. "At your age especially, there is every reason for hope." With a parting nod, he turns back to the salon and returns inside.

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