(1312-06-04) Three Shades of Rose
Summary: What IS the difference between the Roses of the Salon?
RL Date: 1312-06-04
Related: None
andrei perpetua 

La Perle Noire

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.

La Perle Noire. Exotic music, exotic beverages, exotic patrons. Granted, most of the exotic here runs towards the Ephesian — bringing to mind images and sensations of the Black Sea, of dark men in turbans, of veiled women, of olive groves and old columns and the ruins of cities devastated for the sake of a beautiful face a thousand years or more ago.

Heaven only knows why the place draws somebody who's neither dark or veiled — nor for that matter a woman — as the pale-haired fellow seated in one corner, nursing a small cup of sticky sweet mint tea. He's a foreigner too — the cut of his long black coat, trimmed in silver fox fur clearly labels him well dressed, but following fashions that originate from somewhere outside of Terre d'Ange. A silvertipped walking stick rests across one leg as he watches a performer keen and snake her way through a performance involving cymbals and gleaming navel jewels. He's alone in a crowded room. Maybe he wants it that way. Maybe it's the elaborate ivory and ebony game of chess laid out on the table that frightens others away lest they get drafted into playing.

A mystery then it would be as to why a woman, albeit a veiled one, would venture into such a place as this. Perhaps she's lost, one might think. But then surely the guard that shadows her every moment would have informed her of that, or led her quickly away. She must stand at a height of five foot five, her slender frame neatly shielded from the casual eye by diaphanous silks of white that cling modestly to her figure. Watered down shades of peach and apricot have been lightly applied to the edges of the fabric, and the veil that she wears is caught artfully within the delicate embrace of a silvered headpiece that spans her head from ear to ear. Such is the creature that halts alongside Andrei's oasis of independence, and there's a murmured exchange between her and her guard before her eyes flit away to stare, one assumes, at the dancers. "My lady wishes to know whether there might be an objection should she wish to join you," the guard inquires of Andrei. "There are few enough places at tables, and she requires to be seated."

The blond man, a sharp-featured fellow in his early thirties, looks up at being addressed. He nods politely at the guard, his thoughts clearly returning from somewhere decidedly not here, and adds, "Your lady is very welcome to do so, monsieur. I may not even insist that she play."

Raising one gloved hand to catch the attention of a member of the wait staff — seriously, is everyone here some slender boy in harem pants? — he requests, simply, "The lady will be joining me. See to it that she and her man at arms are provided with something cool to wash the dust out of their throats. The heat is quite intolerable today."

The foreigner's accent is pronounced, though not unintelligible. He looks back to the guard and beyond him. "Andrei Anghelescu, at your service, my lady. The pleasure is surely mine."

"Perpetua Rousse nó Rose Sauvage," comes the quiet reply from the lady in white. The sheer veils that cover her face stir a little beneath the weight of her words, and her eyes dart up to the guard at her side, a nod of her head given and, as if by magic, a nod is given in return. He steps away a few paces, finding for himself a place between the columns and walls where he might be out of the way, per se, yet retain a clear line of sight on his charge. Apparently he won't be joining them for kahve. "And thank you." Those last words are spoken as she settles herself into the banquette opposite to Andrei, her eyes not meeting with his but settling instead upon the game of chess between them. Black on his side, white on hers. How apt. Cautiously her right hand lifts, the tips of her fingers sneaking from beneath the cuff of her dress to pinch the knight's pawn by the tip of its hat and advance it forward one square. "Could I have milk with my Kahve?" she enquires of the server that hovers.

The foreigner smiles slightly. "You are of the Night Court, mademoiselle? You'll have to forgive me if I do not quite know the proper protocol, I hope. I have three ladies of the Court with whom I am acquainted. One hates me, one is my physician, and one intends to school me in the game of chess. We have no such institutions in my homeland."

"I am," Perpetua cedes, releasing the pawn and drawing her hand back to her lap. Her head lifts a touch, and her eyes meet briefly with Andrei's. Soft brown and doe-like, they yet show a glimmer of humour as she further goes on to add. "You do well to recognise such as me, for a foreigner, that is." What could she mean by that? Perhaps just the obvious. It's so difficult to read a person's intent when the majority of their expression, those nuances of their facial muscles that could paint a thousand words, are hidden from inspection. "I am yet a beginner of chess myself, monsieur. Perhaps we will simply muddle through this together…"

Anghelescu offers a wry little smile as he glances at the chess board; it seems untested and new, and probably quite valuable — enough that you wouldn't want to toss a piece away at random, but not enough that you'd need to sell your grandmother to replace it. "I am indeed not a very skilled player. I have been in the city for… five months now? Enough to learn some of your customs, far from all. During my first months here, my — not making the rounds of the salons drew a lot of attention. I cannot tell you why. Apparently those are what usually draw foreign merchants to Marsilikos? I am here for your excellent healers and the sea port, though."

A fractional nod of Perpetua's head meets Andrei's reply — and she falls quiet for a moment. The moment is blessedly filled with the arrival of one of the servers with an urn of steaming kahve, a dribble of which is poured into a cup and left to one side with the milk. Oh the damnable shyness of those of her canon, though with a short intake of breath, she does eventually add, "The Night Court is not for all, monsieur. The cost is prohibitive to most. I am newly arrived to the city myself, having recently travelled from Elua." Another moment of contact as her eyes lift back to his. "Your move."

The foreigner contemplates the board for a bit before moving the bishop's pawn; he's either an inexperienced player, or someone who does not assume that his opponent is. "Sometimes, a man cannot afford not to pay the price asked, mademoiselle. A lady of the Coquelicot keeps me alive. I value my life enough that I will pay what she asks. One finds one-self amenable to such expenses when the alternative seems to be never having to worry about expenses again, at all."

Having completed that timid counter-maneuver he leans back a little to study the veiled woman (what little he can see, at least). "Pray tell, why Marsilikos? I am told that the Night Court of Elua is rather grander. Are the future prospects there not more favourable?"

Perpetua's head dips as she watches Andrei's move with quiet contemplation. Interesting. "You have an ongoing ailment, monsieur?" she surmises, her words more a statement than a question despite the rising inflection of her tone. A flash of silver shows upon her wrist, a tiny heart upon a fine filigree chain sliding down her wrist as if it would escape her hand as she stretches her fingers out towards her own bishop's pawn. "I am originally from Eisande," she offers as she ponders whether her move would be intelligent or not. "And the Rose Sauvage made me an offer which coincided with my desire to be closer once more to my family." Fingers that had hovered over her pawn seem undecided, and the film of her veil is caught in the crease of her lips with the next intake of her breath. She moves it, not one square but two. Bold, to be sure.

Anghelescu considers his move carefully. He does seem to be the sort of opponent who will make no assumptions of incompetence or inexperience — he's probably not much fun at poker games either, blank-faced and patient. "I struggle to breathe," he confirms. "I fell ill on the battlefield and never quite recovered. My physician at home gave me three weeks if I was fool enough to try to make the journey here. But that was five months ago, so at the moment, I am quite content to lay my money with the Coquelicot and keep walking."

He moves his runner's pawn next; two paces. Intending to do the switch of rook and king, no doubt. It's a classic, and very safe move.

Perpetua's talents lie not within the intricate carvings of a chess game's pieces, but very much elsewhere instead. Andrei's move, whilst noted, isn't one that alarms her, nor does it affect the move that she settles on next. She may well start every game the same way. Her queen's pawn comes out to play, and exposes itself as it does to a possible capture by Andrei's black bishop. "Monsieur is a soldier then," she surmises. She reaches for her cup, her other hand easing the covering of her mouth aside enough that she can draw the kahve close to her mouth and breathe lightly upon its surface. Steam curls through her veil and the smallest sip is taken before she adds, "Your physician at home could perhaps learn a little were he to come and study here with our healers, monsieur. It is something to give consideration to, perhaps?"

"Monsieur was a soldier," the slender man corrects with mild amusement that seems directed not so much at the lady as at himself; a man who cannot breathe has expired his usefulness on a battlefield. He makes the roquade as expected — and like his opponent, watches the person across the table more than the game board. "The university and healers of Marsilikos are famed through-out Europe. Perhaps in time, I will manage to convince my countrymen of this, and perhaps inspire them to send their sons here to learn the trade. Perhaps I will do so by living long enough to annoy them about it."

He leans back and sips his mint syr—tea before asking, "Pray tell, what is the specialty of a Rose? I met one gentleman, briefly, who called himself the thorn of a rose. He seemed to be quite obsessed with the idea of inflicting pain and being paid to do so."

The gentlest wash of colour creeps above the edges of Perpetua's veil. It's not the correction that Andrei makes of her assumption that paints her complexion so prettily, but rather the sudden scrutiny to which she's subjected. Her eyes flit down as she sets her cup back neatly on its saucer. "Does monsieur mean to enquire what particular flavour of rose I am?" Her question is quietly asked, her breath barely conveying the words across the expanse of the table to him.

Anghelescu shakes his head mildly. "I do not. I am interested in general terms. It is all very confusing to a foreigner's eye, and finding answers is difficult — I am trying to understand your culture and finding, perhaps, that while many d'Angeline are willing to scoff at a foreigner for being unfamiliar, not many will take the time to explain. I am curious as to the general nature of your salon — not your personal services. If I came across inappropriate or too personal, I do apologise."

"Thank you. I wasn't too sure what the question was," Perpetua admits, and shoulders that had started to creep towards her shoulders, now lower. She still can't quite maintain eye-to-eye contact with him however, so she feigns interest upon the chess pieces instead. "In Elua, we have thirteen houses upon The Mont that train in the various aspects shown by Naamah when submitting herself to King Persis. Here in Marsilikos, those canons are condensed into four salons instead, since the city is neither as big nor as grand as Elua. La Rose Sauvage caters to patrons that indulge in the darker pleasures; in the giving and recieving of pain, and in the corruption of innocence. Other salons in the city embrace the arts, or glory in beauty and refinement, and the healing of body and soul…" Her voice trails off, as if she's unused to speaking for so long, or with quite so many words gathered within her breath. Her lids lower, her lashes lying dark against her cheeks. "Does that help you, monsieur?"

"I am fascinated with the idea that 'corruption of innocence' is a legitimate pastime," Anghelescu admits, blue eyes betraying his bemusement. "But I suppose it is better to keep such needs between those who consent to play the game than to inflict them on, well, actual innocents. I am not one to take pleasure in pain myself, but I have certainly known men who do. And men who would argue that a good general is one who enjoys suffering enough that the enemy knows it, and knows to run rather than risk getting taken alive."

"Fascinated?" Perpetua asks of Andrei, the game between them forgotten for the moment. Her enquiry doesn't come without another blush to paint her cheeks, though this would only be discerned as a slight darkening of her complexion through the haze of her veil.

"I am one to watch people, to try to understand what motivates them," the foreigner says, glancing towards the room in general. "To gain the upper hand on another man, you must know what he wants. But what he wants is often something very different than what he will tell you. I suspect that to the ladies of the Night Court, this a very poorly kept secret, at that. When I hear of such an indulgence, I try to understand what sort of mind might be drawn to finding pleasure in inflicting pain, so that I might be better equipped to deal with such a person if need arises."

"And men," Perpetua gently corrects. It seems to almost pain her however to do so, to correct in that way, but Andrei had expressed a desire to learn. Hadn't he? Her fingers pleat together in her lap, and her brows knot briefly on her brow. "Monsieur is astute. Few of any intellect would openly admit to what they truly desire, for it exposes their weakness. And who would wish that?" Slowly her eyes find his, her pupils dark and dilated in the much reduced light. Her voice scarce a whisper. "I find it difficult to comprehend how enjoyment can be found in pain. The notion of it evades me completely, though I try my best to understand. In Elua my path was rarely crossed by such." A pause. "Have your travels taken you there?"

"They have not. I came here specifically for the university, and I am finding no particular desire in myself to go see the rest of Terre d'Ange simply to see it. Marsilikos — will probably be where I stay, at least for some time ahead." Anghelescu sips his tea, smiling lightly as he is corrected. He seems to take no offence; quite the contrary, even, enjoying the rarity of speaking to somebody who will correct him. "But if you find no pleasure in pain, why would you take employment with a canon that makes pain its specialty? Or am I assuming wrong, and pain is simply one of many so-called darker desires that the Salon of the Roses offers to the indulgent?"

"I…" Perpetua's veil flutters as her mouth opens and closes, the intake of her breath causing the filmy gauze to mould and press to her lips. Her eyes widen perceptibly, still caught as they are within Andrei's, and that widening is followed by a sudden, quick blink. "I was perhaps at fault in my explanation to you of the canons beneath the roof of La Rose Sauvage," she eventually says. "They number three. The thorns, the red roses and the whites. The former two of those are the ones that take pleasure in pain, whilst I am alyssum trained, and am what is known within this city as a white rose." A puff of her breath flutters the edges of her veil, and allows a glimpse of one corner of her mouth . "Patrons of the whites are not interested in causing pain to their quarry, monsieur, they are captivated by the chaste and the pure, and it is that which attracts them. I myself have never been ill-used or abused."

Anghelescu's pale eyes light up in understanding. "Yes. That makes sense. I can see how some men would be drawn like bees to honey. I am a Catholic; we based an entire religion on the concept of virgin purity. I trust that you are indeed well protected and cared for, mademoiselle. It is my understanding that one would need to be quite suicidal to lay an unwanted hand on a courtesan. You are, after all, the direct servants of your angels."

Perpetua's head droops, her eyes returning for lack of somewhere better, to the chess pieces and their placement. "And now you show me up, monsieur, for I have no knowledge or understanding of your religion." Her confession is humbly given, her sincerity absolute. "But yes. I am well protected indeed, and trust that I will continue to be so here. Our dedication to Naamah is a holy thing, and much respected. But this I am sure you are already well aware of, knowing three such courtesans already." A beat. "Your accent though, I cannot place. Does your country, your religion that is based upon virginity mean that you yourself are still of that state?"

"I am from a small country in the Chowat," Anghelescu replies, toying momentarily with his queen piece, as if maybe that represents the Holy Virgin. "We follow the same faith that you do — to an extent. Your angels rebelled, is my understanding, and chose to reside with men. I am not very familiar with your faith either, I admit."

Was he dodging the question? Not for long. The foreigner chuckles. "I am not a virgin, no. But I am unwed and not intending to change that, and perhaps not quite of good enough health to spend my time pursuing amorous affairs to any great extent."

"You have broken the tenants of Catholicism?" Perpetua asks, clearly a little confused. She does eye Andrei's queen when it looks like he might move her. The cup of kahve that's now rapidly cooling is reached for, being neatly sipped under her veil for the briefest of sips.

A slight smile flits across Anghelescu's thin lips. "Mademoiselle, I think that if you were to travel abroad you would find that very men have not, at some point, whether before they wed or continuing to do so after. Humans are flawed beings. We sin, and we ask for forgiveness. Show me someone who claims he has never strayed from the path of virtue, and I will remind him that pride, too, is a sin."

"How very different," Perpetua muses, "are our religions." She could wax lyrical on the differences for quite some time, but her natural demeanour and nature dictate she should not, and so instead remarks, "But at least I have made you smile, monsieur. Perhaps you would be generous enough to excuse me, however, for my time away from the salon is over, and I must return."

The foreigner inclines his head with another little smile. "It's been an unexpected pleasure, mademoiselle. Perhaps we might resume this conversation at another time. I find — I find that as a foreigner here, it is rare to find a genuinely pleasant conversation. I am a threat to some and a nuisance to others, but rarely simply another face in the crowd. I wish you a pleasant evening."

"As I do wish you, monsieur." Perpetua replies, uncurling to her feet in a whisper of silks. Her guard steps forward, and with the briefest of nods and the veiled hint of a smile, she turns and makes her way to the doors.

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