(1312-05-28) This Season Shall Pass
Summary: Calling upon Iphigénie to claim a cup of tea Raphael is met with an unexpected tableau, and a tale of considerable gravity touching upon his salon’s affairs. (Warning: References to sexual assault.)
RL Date: 29/05/2020
Related: Four Curtseys, Purposeful Pain, Tea Among Angels; and then, Uncertainty, Wise Advice, Fatherly Advice. This scene itself follows on from An Owed Apology with a lacuna in the middle for more confidential discussion.
iphigenie alienor raphael 

Garden — Maignard Residence

The garden is girded by a high wall of plain grey stone, lined with trellises which climbing roses and honeysuckle are being trained in the strictest Kusheline style to ascend. It is chiefly laid out as a parterre in which beds of colourful flowers are separated by low, angular, meticulous box hedges and raked pathways of dark gravel, about a bronze fountain celebrating a Maignard ancestor.

The spreading canopy of a mature elm tree provides shade over a small lawn and its own more haphazard growth of bluebells, crocus, borage, and nasturtiums, arisen during years of neglect, kept because of their great interest to the plethora of bees whose buzzing sets the air aquiver as they partake of their floral feast. Their home is a neat stack of wooden hives in the far corner beyond the elm, amongst bushes of lavender and fennel, rosemary and sage.

Spaced along the house's rear façade three sets of heavy dark doors lead into chambers well-lit by mullioned windows of thick, distorted glass.

The creak of a heavy door at the back of the house breaks into their reverie; Iphigénie’s stiff figure contrives to stiffen further and her arms to tighten about Alienor, as her gaze flicks sharply up to the intruder. Even the bee is put to flight, though perhaps for its own reasons.

She knows him the first because she knows him the best. The tension just flows out of her with her next breath as Raphael approaches them, dark-clad and stately, over the lawn.

The elderly Valerian and the little White Rose sit cuddled together on the sofa under the elm tree, at a tea-table eloquent of their afternoon. Among four cups two only have been used, and one of them marked with traces of Iphigénie’s dark red lip paint; a basket of sweets and pastries is almost empty, two plates beside it decorated with crumbs in remembrance; more than two napkins lie bedraggled after hard use with a sodden handkerchief of Iphigénie’s for company, and a couple of silvery hairpins that can’t be hers, and a jar nigh empty of her honey.

Her eyes on Raphael, Iphigénie murmurs into the tousled ringlets and slightly wilting rosebuds of the head just lifting from her shoulder: “Sometimes one feels that Naamah listens very closely indeed.” Then she raises her voice to its normal conversational pitch and offers in greeting: “Monsieur, are you the answer to a prayer I hadn’t yet spoken—? You see I have a new flower in my garden today, though this one’s petals have been drooping a little.”

The creak of the door rouses Alienor a bit, and she shifts against Iphigénie as the older woman stiffens. But then relaxation comes, and it transfers to the girl, and her hurry to see who's approaching diminishes immediately and she lets herself be distracted by the departing bee as it bumbles and buzzes away, off to do bee business elsewhere.

When Iphigénie speaks, Alienor perks up again, her attention back on the stranger who isn't a stranger at all. "Oh, I hope Monsieur isn't mad at me," she whispers to her patron, reaching up to try to smooth her ringlet curls into something more presentable.

Raphael is a rather familiar intruder, at least. To them both, as it happens, though more to one than the other. It is he who is perhaps the more surprised to find an unexpected person in the setting, though he is never one to let on to surprise any more than he has to. He continues to approach, though his gait changes slightly. As he draws nearer, he surely notes postures, napkins, and handkerchiefs. "I see that you have," he answers to Iphigénie's opening. His voice is quiet. He takes a moment to calculate the situation. At last, he says, "Can I be of some help?"

Iphigénie answers Alienor with a reassuring squeeze of her shoulder, and then releases her from what has been a long enough embrace that her own quietly aching limbs are grateful to move into a new posture. She looks up into Raphael’s eyes for a long moment; he knows her well enough to glimpse a measure of pain there, and something unfamiliar that could be mistaken for… anger. Still, her voice is deliberately light as she suggests, “I think perhaps you might, monsieur. Won’t you please sit down? May I give you a cup of tea?” She looks to Alienor beside her and wonders, “My dear, did you bring your sketchbook?”

Alienor sits up straight for a moment, adjusting the poor bruised flowers in her hair that have been crushed against Iphigénie for awhile. Her curls are artfully mussed, and she regards Raphael curiously for a moment, blinking at him. "Oh. Oh, yes, my lady. It's in my pocket, along with a couple of pencils," she replies, stirred back into action by the noblewoman. "Should I draw something for you?"

Raphael takes a seat for himself. In a chair, for once. And he is somewhat stiff about it, although he does some imitation of being at ease on a normal visit, nodding at the offer of tea. "Please," he says, glancing again in Alienor's direction. But he says nothing directly to her for now.

Iphigénie bows her head in a nod to her more customary teatime companion. “Yes, monsieur,” she murmurs, but rather than reaching straight away for her teapot to serve him she looks to Alienor. “That would be lovely, Alienor,” she pronounces. “Why don’t you make your curtsey to Monsieur Raphael,” since that seems to have been forgotten in the moment, “and then go across into the parterre garden, and find the prettiest flower there, and draw it for us—?” Her hand at the small of Alienor’s back gives a subtle but encouraging nudge.

Rising to her feet, Alienor offers a polite curtsey to Raphael with a genuine smile, then nods to Iphigénie, then goes off in the direction in which she was nudged with a little spring in her step. She will draw and the adults will talk. She's already reaching into her deep hidden pockets to fish out her sketchbook and pencil as she goes.

Iphigénie watches Alienor make her light-stepping way across the flower lawn, and then lowers her eyes to the tea-table. There isn’t much left in the pot and she gives it all to Raphael, with the last of the honey from a jar so thoroughly plundered for her little visitor’s comfort.

“I don’t know, monsieur,” she murmurs in an undertone as she performs these rituals, “how long it takes to draw a flower— I had better be brief. I’ve had Alienor’s company for only an hour or so, but what I have heard from her is…” She hesitates and presses her lips together as she deposits Raphael’s spoon in his saucer. Sitting across from one another instead of side by side she can’t put his tea into his hands the way she normally might. She sets it nearer to him on the table, though, the tea unsteadied in its cup by a tremour in her own hands which nearly has it splashing over the rim. She looks up from it into Raphael’s eyes, and slowly withdraws her hands to fold them in the lap of her dark red gown. “I understand you’ve had certain conversations with her, monsieur, and offered her certain counsel. When she told me,” she says simply, “I wanted very much to kiss you for it. But I have a strong impression, monsieur, that you don’t yet know everything that I know about what has happened to her of late.”

Raphael takes the tea and brings it nearer, but otherwise ignores it. "What's happened?" he asks immediately. Although his voice is low and sounds calm, there is yet tension everywhere in evidence to one who knows him.

There is lovely symmetry in the garden, and Alienor is careful to keep to the path, to not get too close to the flowers for fear of trampling them and not too close to the hedges for fear they'll snag at her gown. She keeps her sketchbook in the crook of her arm as she looks for proper subjects to draw.

There are plenty of roses, of course, but there are roses at home in the Rose Sauvage's gardens quite aplenty. She lingers for a moment on a lovely one before rejecting it to continue along the beds to see what other specimens are available. Some plants are rejected as too boring, too leafy and green, without enough color for interest. Finally, she happens upon a flower that's perhaps a little weedier than some of the usual choices for such formal gardens and decides it shall be her target, with its layers of leaves and slender petals.

In the elm tree’s shade Iphigénie is looking over Raphael with the gaze of one who can chart the tension in every line of his face, every muscle beneath his sober dark garments.

“Monsieur, I can only give you my impressions,” she admits, “and they are only of an hour’s standing. I must trust you to understand that in speaking so of your salon’s intimate affairs I am prompted only by my concern for Alienor, and for Naamah’s other children beneath your roof. I have a duty there as surely as you. We all share in that duty who follow her ways.”

She knots her hands together in a different configuration and lets out a breath. "… I believe,” she goes on, speaking no longer as one seeking forgiveness for her speech, but with a crisp fluency and the confidence of her own judgment, “from the gossip I've heard here and there, that the White Roses have been in the charge of several different Seconds in the past handful of years. I don’t know the details, of course,” she admits, “but I find myself wondering whether it is possible that such shifts in authority have had an unfortunate effect upon the training and the preparedness of the White Roses who have debuted in that time. The last year, that is the crucial one. And if, during that time, certain threads are dropped…” Which thought she doesn’t pursue to its conclusion, for Raphael can see to that ably enough himself.

“I wonder too, monsieur, whether in consequence of the union of disparate canons in the same house it is too simple and usual a matter for a patron of the Red Roses to step upstairs to the White without adjusting his expectations and his desires… I don’t use such a word casually, monsieur,” and her gaze drifts to the pale figure presently haunting her parterre before her eyes lock with Raphael’s, alight with green flames. “I believe Alienor was raped.”

Raphael remains neutral, or close to it, in his expression while the matter of White Rose training is discussed. Perhaps even before Iphigénie he prefers not to critique the handling of another canon in his salon. On the subject of rape, he does not look neutral. He wipes a hand over his mouth, sitting back, lips clamped and white, fists resting on his thighs. "You believe this?" he asks. "You've heard an account that makes you feel confident of this, or is this yet a suspicion?"

Completely unaware of the enormity of the conversation that is going on beneath the tree, Alienor stands in the sunshine with her sketchbook and peacefully draws a flowering plant. The slim lines of the petals. The radial symmetry of the leaves. The delicate twists and turns of the structure of the plant. The way the shadows fall from the smaller upper leaves onto the lower leaves below.

In truth, Iphigénie was attempting to offer what excuses could be made on the Rose Sauvage’s behalf, before elucidating her real concern about what has happened beneath its roof.

“Alienor is young for her years, even for a White Rose,” she states quietly, “and I don’t believe she has a true understanding of what happened… I haven’t spoken to her in such terms, I didn’t want to upset her any more than she was already.” She draws another steadying breath. Really, she’s doing a fine impression of sitting nonchalantly at afternoon tea— if one is too far away to see her eyes, or to hear the grating note in a voice usually so honeyed and smooth, as she repeats the few essential points she plucked out of the girl’s meandering tale.

“… Even one of my canon,” she concludes aridly, “would expect such an act to be elucidated in her contract so that she might offer her knowing consent, rather than having it sprung upon her in such a manner that she could not very well utter her refusal.”

Raphael is more sitting near tea than at tea, himself. He nods several times at this explanation. "That is quite clear," he concludes, and murmurs, "I smelled it on the wind. I knew, I believe Naamah herself must have told me, that something was coming." He takes a breath and lets it out, flexes and closes his right hand. "I regret that the burden of this testimony was placed on you. It is for us at the Salon to bear."

“Monsieur,” says Iphigénie more gently, “you know it is not the only dark tale to have come to me in my life. I had far rather she spill it into my lap as she did than keep it even a day longer to herself, without realising that she might share the weight of what she has had to carry.”

She unclasps her hands and lifts her cup, to take a mouthful of her cold tea.

“If you hadn’t come to me I’d have come to you,” she goes on, setting it down, “tonight or tomorrow. It is not for me, of course, to pierce the confidentiality of an assignation. I’ve only done what I could to ease her heart… I found seeds already planted, of her remaining in service, and I must confess I watered them a little in case it should happen that her release is difficult to procure. But could the man who hurt her not be required to pay off her marque?” she suggests, for she has been turning over the matter in the back of her mind all the while she was stroking Alienor’s back and feeding her heart-shaped lemon cakes. “As a condition, perhaps, of the salon’s silence upon the nature of his permanent ban from its premises? … It might not be as satisfying to you and I as seeing him flogged in the Grand Plaza and the offending part of him cut off, as we sometimes do in Kusheth for similar crimes which don’t rise quite to the level of hanging,” she explains parenthetically, “but for Alienor’s future… You will do all you can for her, monsieur, I have faith in you,” and her eyes are suddenly glistening.

"She should've given it over to her Second the day it happened, if I am right in assuming that it was not today," Raphael opines, "So something is amiss that any other path should be taken." He is quiet a long time as specific suggestions from Iphigénie begin to mount. "I have a suspicion of whom the culprit might be," he says slowly, "I don't know whether you have been told or not, or whether you are aware of the further complications that identity poses to the path you suggest.” He sits forward again, settling elbows on his knees. "But you do understand that I am not the Dowayne and I am not in her canon. I will be forced to raise this matter with the Dowayne and the final decisions will not be mine to make."

“It was some days ago, I think, but not very many,” Iphigénie supplies, holding her eyes resolutely open without blinking so that her tears might dry up rather than trickle down over her lightly powdered cheeks, “and at a time when… Monsieur, I gather she had little pleasure from her service even before she was given to a man who caused her such anguish; I have found, moreover, that her understanding of consent is not as complete as one might wish.” She pauses. “I do not know his name. I did not ask it,” she explains carefully. “But that he must be of wealth and power in this city, seems apparent from the circumstance that he believes he may do as he wishes with a vulnerable young adept, regardless of contract. If it were a simple problem— the angels wouldn’t have given it to you and me, would they?” she points out. “I find it’s always so,” she adds, switching subtly to reassuring him, “that tasks such as these arrive in the hands of people who are suited to seeing them through, once they find the right way. Your voice will be a powerful one in Alienor’s interests. And it would not be difficult for me to gain the ear of Naamah’s senior clerics in Eisande, to whom any Dowayne must listen with respect. Shall I make that my task for tomorrow, monsieur? Adding voices to your chorus? I’m a concerned patron of the salon, after all,” she says softly, “as well as a servant of another kind.”

Raphael pushes a hand back over his hair. "I don't think I can prescribe how your conscience dictates to act," he admits with a sigh, "Though I am not certain the Dowayne would especially appreciate news that this matter has spread already to the high ranks of the clergy. But the tale was told directly. The salon cannot control how you respond."

“I understand that Alienor was positively instructed,” Iphigénie points out, “by the Second of White Roses, to seek the counsel of Naamah’s clergy. If she hasn’t already done so, it would have been better for her perhaps if she had. I don’t know why she chose me instead; perhaps just because she knows me a little, whilst being less nervous of me than she might be of someone in formal robes, or someone on the other side of a desk.” She shrugs. “I understand you must care for your salon’s possible embarrassment, it is the nature of your position. But you understand too that that weighs little with me by comparison with a young girl’s soul. In most matters it pleases me to defer to your wishes— but, as you say, not in matters of conscience. You have your rôle here, monsieur, and I have mine. We must both fulfill them.”

She looks up again to where Alienor is diligently sketching. “I was intending to send her home in my carriage after supper,” she remarks. “You might take her now, if you think it best— but I’m inclined to keep her here with me tonight and have another talk with her in the morning. That would leave the way clear, at any rate, for you to find the people you must find and discuss what you must discuss, before facing her tomorrow calmly and with a united front.”

"Iphigénie," Raphael says in a quiet and pointed voice, "Do not mistake me in thinking for a moment I mistake you. If it seems as if the story reached the clergy through the girl herself, it will no doubt fall softer on the Dowayne, but as I just said, I cannot prescribe to you your actions or conscience." He gets up, hand squeezing the back of the chair as though he would like very much to smash it into pieces just now. "Very well. Tell her when she goes back to the salon that she is to go directly to her bed and under no circumstances see any patron until the matter is resolved. She can refer her Second to me if there is any question of that at any point." And he turns to stalk out again.

Noting Raphael's departure as she makes her way back from the formal gardens, Alienor frowns, her sketchpad held carefully so that it does not smudge against the white of her dress. Her expression is a bit worried as she heads back over to Iphigénie, and she sighs a bit. "I would have liked to show him my drawing," she admits, though she does present it to her patron, who may recognize the flower, as it is planted in her garden. "This is for you," she says. "I know that it is only in pencil, but I didn't bring paints with me. I will paint you something for my next visit, I promise."

The least sweet teatime they’ve had together and the coldest parting— such is conscience, sometimes, and such is duty. Watching her lover leave Iphigénie feels every one of her years, and every ache in her bones, and the thirst of so much talk. She’s already ringing the silver bell to summon her maid when Alienor comes padding back to her across the lawn. She puts down the bell and puts on a smile, and an expression of alert interest to match it.

“Monsieur Raphael had to go to another appointment, my dear,” she explains, holding out her hands to receive the drawing. “Oh, this is very pretty,” she praises, more or less meaning it, “and very well done, for the time. You must practice a great deal to have such a quick hand… We spoke about you a little, monsieur and I,” she goes on lightly, “and we agreed that you might stay the night here at my house, and have a little holiday from the salon. Would you like that? Or would you be happier to go home tonight and sleep in your own bed?”

"I would love to stay here with you!" Alienor admits with enthusiasm, quite pleased as she hands over the drawing. "I draw all the time. It is my favorite hobby and I… perhaps doodled my way through far too many lectures. But I would like very much to have the time to make notes on your gardens, too, so that I might render them on canvas or wood." She bites her lip then.

"You told him," she says, sudden tears in her eyes. "And he is angry with me, isn't he? That I couldn't handle the situation. That I couldn't stop it." She wipes the tears away quickly before they can drip onto her dress, and she sighs deeply. "I suppose it's better that way, then. I couldn't say it. I couldn't make the words come out, except with you. I am ashamed." She licks a tear from her lips, staring at some point in space over Iphigénie's shoulder. "I told the priestess at the temple that I was having troubles, and I let her make her assumptions. She comforted me, but… I couldn't… say."

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Persuasion: Failure. (1 3 1 5 4 6 3 2 2 6 4 2 2)
Iphigénie spends 1 luck points on OOPS, REROLL.
<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Persuasion: Great Success. (7 2 3 8 7 1 7 2 2 4 3 4 6)

Iphigénie moves a teacup and a napkin out of the way and sets down the drawing with care, where she hopes it won’t get anything spilled on it — it really is a fine likeness of her special L’Agnacite hemp. And then she turns to Alienor and opens her arms to her again, and speaks to her with a firm and gentle resolution that has something almost Thornish about it.

“Now, come here, my dear… It wasn’t your fault,” she states plainly as she gathers the girl back into her embrace. “You didn’t know what that patron was going to do, and then it was too late. You couldn’t have stopped him. And if that was what he wished of you it ought to have been negotiated as part of the contract, so that you might give your consent or your refusal. So that you might know,” she reiterates, having taken such care today to draw the connexion between knowledge and consent. “Something like that should never, ever be a surprise. Monsieur Raphael knows that too, and he is not angry with you at all,” she promises. She gives Alienor’s back another reassuring rub. “He and I both wish to make sure that nothing like that ever happens to you again, or to any other adept in the salon. If you didn’t feel you could tell your Second, or your priestess— why, you found someone else you could tell. And that was just what you ought to do, my dear, so you may be proud of having done it.”

Alienor is easily gathered, and she snuffles in Iphigénie's arms. "I want to never have to say it again," she admits as she presses her face in close against the older woman's shoulder. "I'm sorry I've ruined your assignation. I'm so sorry. You're never going to want me again, and I just want to be here in the gardens with you and the bees and…" Whatever more is said is terribly muffled. The walls of denial have been crumbled, and people know. And she knows people know.

The maid Nadège comes rather belatedly from another task indoors, to find her mistress holding a sobbing girl and soothing her with a hand stroking over her back in a slow rhythm. “More hot water,” Iphigénie directs quietly over Alienor’s shoulder. “We’ll have supper as I ordered it but the carriage will not be wanted after all — my visitor will be spending the night.”

Nadège bobs a curtsey and withdraws to carry out her instructions, and once she’s out of earshot Iphigénie speaks again to Alienor, in a voice far gentler.

“You’ve spoiled nothing, my dear, by being free with me. I like looking after you,” she admits, “and I’m fond of you, so I’m glad to know that you are being looked after when you stand in need of it. You’ll visit me again, on happier days, and you’ll see the seasons change in my garden… You’ll paint pretty pictures here, too, I feel sure of it. This season shall pass, Alienor, I promise you, and bring others more joyous and more beautiful in its train.”

There's a long moment wherein Alienor takes great comfort in those words, taking a deep breath and letting it out with a sense of relief. Eventually, she pulls away a bit so that she can sit down next to Iphigénie in a more comfortable sort of way, though before she does so, she kisses each of the woman's cheeks in a tender sort of way. "Raimbaut will be a little jealous that I get to spend the night here with you," she murmurs, sniffling a bit. "And next time, next time I will pack my paints and make you something even more beautiful than just a pencil drawing."

Iphigénie accepts these ceremonial kisses with a faint smile, and squeezes Alienor’s hands in her own before she lets go to amend some of her tea-table’s disorder.

“I like my drawing just as it is,” she protests for the record, as she lines up cups and saucers, and puts the infuser of damp leaves back into the pot in advance of fresh hot water. “Do you know, my dear, I think we might have one or two more cakes in our basket… Raimbaut, is that the novice friend you mentioned?” she guesses. And by such means she leads Alienor onward from one happy thought to another, till it’s time to pay a visit to the bees.

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