(1312-06-08) Strawberry Cakes
Summary: Soleil and her grandmother call upon Azalaïs for an afternoon of tea and song, bearing as a gift a particularly thrilling tidbit of family news…
RL Date: 04/06/2020 - 12/06/2020
Related: I Used To Sing.
azalais soleil 

Crimson Salon — L’Envers Residence

The private salon of the dowager marquise d'Auxerre is a four-square chamber paneled in a vivid and cheerful shade of crimson, with the fireplace and doorframes and other such fixtures painted a light, clear teal-green.

Tall double bookcases spaced about the walls hold volumes of poetry and prose and folios of sheet music, bound in colourful leather with the L'Envers sigil embossed in gold upon every spine. Otherwise, the chamber is decorated with curios from the markets of Marsilikos that have never seen the inside of a Namarrese palace. Paintings of faraway lands, bronze bowls and gilded masks and patterned plates, trinket boxes carved from scented wood, Chi'in vases riotous with flowers, wafer-thin blue and green and golden Serenissiman glass, exotic musical instruments with their strings slackened by disuse, and anything else weird or wondrous that has caught the marquise's magpie eye. A single large Bokhara carpet covers most of the polished wooden floor. A harp stands in one corner, gilded and painted with sweet alyssum. A sofa is upholstered in crimson and golden brocade. The furniture is predominantly in dark walnut but no two pieces are from a matching set, for each has been discovered and gathered in as a unique treasure.

Opposite the entrance another door leads into chambers still more intimate. Two pairs of recessed windows, curtained in crimson velvet over golden silk, overlook a headily scented inner courtyard where bougainvillea to match the boiseries is flowering brilliantly— and threatening to climb right inside.

"What if she's not in?" comes a slightly too loud and distinctly elderly voice from outside the door. There's a murmured response, right before the knock, and then, again, the voice, "What if she forgot?"

When the door is answered, there stands Soleil with her grandmother the baronne de Vezelay, the younger woman dressed in gold with little blue accents and the elder dressed in vibrant masquerade purple, both with the same blue-violet eyes, and both quite petite. Soleil holds her lute in one hand and her grandmother's hand in the other.

She didn’t forget, though, and when Azalaïs’s maid opens the door of her salon to these two ladies who enter by right almost any other chamber in the house, they find not only the dowager marquise d’Auxerre but an afternoon tea laid out lavishly to receive them.

Their hostess is standing in front of the cold hearth with her hands clasped at her waist, and a girlish air of expectancy which suits her flowing garments of pale green and gold. “Please come in,” she says earnestly. Then, “My lady Pervenche — mademoiselle,” as she turns from one to the other to Soleil’s lute, which receives an even deeper smile of welcome. Coming forward to meet them she glances up again to their faces. “How lovely to see you both… Won’t you sit down? I hope you like strawberry cakes,” she ventures; “I found a bakery in the market promenade which makes the best I think I’ve ever tasted — Malet’s.”

"Oh, that sounds delightful, dear," says Grandmother, who totters over rather stably without the use of a cane, spry but still quite fragile looking. She beams at Azalaïs with panache. "I love cake!"

Meanwhile, Soleil has carefully handed off her lute to a servant so that she may also indulge in cakes before music begins. "I promised I'd bring my lute with me, so I did. It's a very nice instrument, and I'm not nearly so good as the lute is nice," she warns with a laugh, smiling at their hostess with warmth. "It's so good to see you! Thank you for having us."

“It’s a pleasure to have such pretty company,” and as she speaks Azalaïs’s smile is for both women, and for the L’Envers heritage so evident in the elder as well as the younger.

She beckons the other ladies with her toward the table set between her windows; meanwhile the maid sets down Soleil’s lute safely on a sofa and draws out a chair for the baronne de Vezelay, having been instructed to show her a particular solicitude. The tea has already steeped and Azalaïs pours it herself, a delicate and floral golden Chi’in brew brought in freshly this spring by the Rousse fleet. The taste of it is beautifully complemented by the scent of the flowering vines just outside, so characteristic of the Eisandine summertime.

“I’m glad you brought it. I suppose I’m my own instrument,” she muses, offering a cup to Pervenche and then one to Soleil, “so I can’t say mine is reliable… it tries its best,” and she laughs softly. “We’ll just have to be very forgiving with one another, as cousins.”

“I shall need quite a bit more honey in my tea, if you don’t mind, my dear,” the elderly baronne informs Azalaïs with a perky smile. She sits down in the chair drawn for you, and she looks rather enchanted by everything. “Are there snacks? I do love snacks. The weather is finally behaving itself and I can sit out in the sunshine and have a drink. All that rain. So dreary. But my arthritis is behaving itself.”

“Yes, Granny, there are snacks,” Soleil replies with a patient smile to the old lady. “Remember? Lady Azalaïs said she’d gotten strawberry cakes from a bakery in the market promenade. I’m sure they’ll be delicious.” She seats herself so that she can easily communicate with both hostess and grandmother, and she looks rather content.

“We shall try,” she agrees to her cousin. “We shall try, and hopefully we shall succeed at a few of the things that we attempt. And it will be lovely or it will be awful, but we shall enjoy ourselves either way.”

“Oh, of course,” says Azalaïs to the baronne, and she reclaims the elderly lady’s cup to sweeten her tea still further, till the spoon could practically stand up in it.

The maid meanwhile is serving the vaunted strawberry cakes, dainty little confections each with a fresh berry perched on top, and helping each of the ladies in turn to her own choice from amongst the other pastries and sandwiches arrayed before them.

Azalaïs returns the cup with a smile for Pervenche, then remarks to Soleil, “And if we find that we both need a great deal more practice, at least we’ll have made a start upon it… I like that necklace so much,” and she grazes her fingertips across her own throat as if imagining it there. Her rings are plentiful, fanciful, but with no stone more precious than a topaz or a little bit of jade. “You’re brave to wear it! My daughter-in-law has the Auxerre jewels now,” she confides, “and she’s welcome to them… I was always so afraid that a clasp would break, and I’d be blamed for losing my lord’s great-grandmother’s favourite bracelet, or the like.”

“Oh, that’s so much better, yes,” Granny says as she drinks what is largely honey with a little bit of tea in it, relishing the overly sweet flavor with delight. She proudly looks over at her granddaughter for a moment, then to her hostess. “Her vicomte gave it to her,” she notes proudly. “I’m so happy for her.”

Soleil blushes surprisingly deeply for someone who has worked so long as a courtesan, and she reaches up to touch the sapphires at her throat. “What she means is that the vicomte de Rouen gave it to me as a courting gift, and now he has asked me to wed him,” she explains with a small smile, a little thrown off her usual flawless charm. “It’s not really publicly known as yet. But I have accepted, and if everything goes well, we will be married.” She takes a deep breath, then turns to Pervenche. “Look, Granny,” she says. “Here are the strawberry cakes!”

<FS3> Azalaïs rolls Politics: Good Success. (3 8 8 3 2 5 5 3 3)
<FS3> Azalaïs rolls Singing: Great Success. (8 6 8 6 7 7 4 2 4 1 2 6)

The best courtesans are always deeply susceptible to genuine feeling, mask it though sometimes they might; and nor does Azalaïs, a decade a marquise since she took off her veils, appear unaffected by such family tidings. Her palm presses flat at the base of her throat and she draws in a gasp, her eyes lighting with pleasure— she’s silent a moment, her wonderment plain, whilst Soleil goes on in her attempt to return the subject to strawberry cakes.

“… But, Soleil!” she exclaims then, stretching out both her hands over the table to clasp the younger woman’s. Her sleeve doesn’t quite trail through the cakes; she wouldn’t notice if it did. “This is such wonderful news! The vicomte de Rouen? He’s a Trevalion, no? A son of the marquis d’Évreux? And isn’t he— the one in the song, about the nine duels?” In the same breath, impetuously, she sings the first line of the chorus, pianissimo and in perfect tune.

“Yes! Yes, he is,” Soleil replies warmly, leaving Pervenche to her strawberry cake, and really, Granny is going to start without the two younger women, who are too busy being happy about matches and weddings and such to eat cake. And Soleil is definitely happy, her face lighting up with the warm radiance of love as she listens to the song. “Yes, nine perfect duels. The first night we met, I asked him to tell me stories of them. We really have excellent chemistry together. So he asked me to marry him. And now it’s just the families agreeing and such. You know, all the formalities of getting married as a member of the nobility. Which I really haven’t been for so long. And now I’m going to be the vicomtesse de Rouen!”

The elderly woman takes a contented sip of her tea. She’s caused a bit of chaos and she’s got cake. She’s happy.

<FS3> Azalaïs rolls Empathy: Good Success. (4 3 1 4 6 8 5 7 4 2 5)

“Oh, they’ll surely be able to agree soon enough,” Azalaïs maintains confidently; “a match eligible on both sides, and with love thrown in… I can see you’re quite in love with him already,” she teases, squeezing Soleil’s hands again before releasing her at last to the cakes. “It can only be pleasing to the grandparents,” a nod to Pervenche, chewing, “and to the angels too.”

Then as she curls her own hands round her cup of tea a thought strikes her. “But won’t Le Coquelicot be very sorry to lose you?” she inquires, with a note of hesitance in her lyrical voice. “It seems only yesterday I was congratulating you in quite a different matter…”

“They will, and I feel bad about leaving so soon after accepting the Secondship,” Soleil replies with a smile that suggests that her guilt is heavily outweighed by her joy. “I have been really doing well there, but you know, this is the opportunity to be with someone I love. Augustin needs heirs, and he really cannot put it off too much longer. He’s older than we are.” She shakes her head slightly, and glances to her grandmother.

“Great-grandchildren,” Pervenche says with relish. “These cakes are delicious, my dear. Strawberry, hmm? Very fresh and sweet.”

How sweet too to be included in a youth as resplendent as Soleil’s. Azalaïs smiles into her cup of tea and drinks half of it down in obedience to a sudden thirst, before agreeing that, “Of course you mustn’t turn away from such a heaven-sent opportunity — Naamah herself would never expect it of you,” she points out solemnly. “After all, she has no lack of servants, but you have only one love to follow.” Perhaps she hasn’t heard much tell of the second son of the duc de Toluard; or perhaps she is leaving him out of the narrative for reasons of diplomacy.

Turning to Pervenche and her own present infatuation, her smile remains luminous and warm. “I’m glad you find the cakes so agreeable,” she adds to the somewhat sticky baronne; “if we’ve any left over, shall I have them sent across to the Vézelay suite for your dessert—?”

“I said I wasn’t going to rush things, and then… I did,” Soleil admits with a little laugh, blushing prettily in spite of herself. Or perhaps as a good show. “The vicomte put up a fairly good argument for my joining him in marriage, and it seemed like a delightful opportunity, indeed.” Perhaps she realizes that she’s moved rather quickly in this matter.

Pervenche looks pleased with the offer of cake. “That would be delightful, my dear. It’s so good to see you. You must come visit me sometimes. You are always welcome, and I love company for tea,” she declares brightly.

“Did you want to play a bit? Or I suppose, sing while I play?” Soleil wonders of Azalaïs brightly, now that it seems that the initial round of cakes has been destroyed. “You do have such a lovely voice. I’ll be easily outmatched.”

“Do let’s try,” Azalaïs agrees, Soleil’s eagerness sparking her own. “My voice— comes and goes,” she confides more softly, as her hands unclasp so that one of them might rise and describe a wobbly motion in the air over the tea table. “I hope it will be here for you today,” and she turns hopeful, sea-coloured eyes from one guest to the other as her smile blooms again, “so that perhaps I might teach you some traditional Eisandine wedding songs!”

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