(1312-06-17) The Luxury of Time
Summary: Alienor runs into an acquaintance whilst taking her first cup of kahve as an independent courtesan, free to do as she wishes.
RL Date: 17/06/2020
Related: The Last Few Coins.
alienor zabien 

La Perle Noire — Grand Plaza

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.

Sitting most elagantly, Zabien is posed almost like he was sitting for a painting. He casually sips at the bitter elixer. The young man, if one can call him that. Zabien is more boy of flesh, but man by mind. Though he sits mostly still, his midnight blue eyes flicker back and forth as he watches the people in the caffe, like a fisherbird watches little fish swimming around near the surface. Today seems to be a day of reflection for the young Shahrizai.

Still clad in white but no longer officially a White Rose, Alienor slips in quietly today, and she looks completely exhausted. Her veil is pinned so that it's more of a half-veil, a suggestion of a veil, a little something to hide her eyes and give her some distance, and her gown is loose and soft, billowing particularly in the back. She walks with very proper posture, and she comes without a chaperone this time. She pauses to look around for somewhere to sit.

Like usual, La Perle Noire is fairly busy. One of the disadvantages for visiting a place of a fad. The young noble that Alienor had a somewhat pleasant conversation is sitting by himself. The rest of his table is empty. He does not look like he is particularly waiting for anyone, as he sits there alone.

Slipping closer, Alienor offers Zabien a polite curtsey and a shy smile, flicking her gaze demurely at him for a moment. "Would my lord appreciate a companion today?" she inquires softly and carefully, certainly not pushy enough to just sit down.

Zabien looks up. Setting his cup down on the serving saucer, he smiles. "Well, hello again." He cocks his head, "Perhaps, but let's just start out with you joining me for coffee." He gestures for a server to come over to the table. He gestures to the chair, "Please, sit with me." His eyes flickers over the half veil. "That is an interesting look you have going there. Either you are being more daring or your service to your house has been extinguished."

"Oh! I meant… a companion for coffee," Alienor admits, blushing bright red and looking down and away. It's a moment before she's ready to sit in the chair, and sit carefully she does. "Yes, my lord. My marque is finished. I daresay my chaperone was tired of me, and I am glad to have a bit of freedom once more." She reaches up to touch her veil lightly. "It is easier to dine without a full-face veil, I admit."

Zabien chuckles as she blushes. "I knew what you meant, Alienor. Please join me." As the server comes over. "I could do with another cup, and whatever the lady wants." His eyes flickers to the courtesan, then looks over to the server, "on me." His turns to Alienor, "I insist."

"Another cup?" Alienor says, a bit impressed as she smooths her skirt over her lap and looks to the server. "A cup for me, if you will," she tells him with a smile, and a little hesitantly adds, "And I'd love it if you'd spin the tray. Oh! And an order of kunefe, please! Thank you so much." She looks to Zabien all pleased and perhaps a little nervous. "Thank you, my lord. You're so generous."

"I can be." Zabien says it metter-of-factly, not with a boisting tone to the statement. "So how does it feel to be free. I have truly wondered if a bird raised in a cage would know how to fly free should the cage door ever be left open." His fact very serious, before it is replaced with a mask of humor and a sly grin, leaving one to wonder which mask is the real Zabien.

"Well, I appreciate your kindness," Alienor replies serenely, folding her hands demurely in her lap as she sits beside him. She watches him with her soft green-gray eyes through the filter of her lashes, behind her veil. "It feels… exhausting, really. I ache a bit, but I went to the Temple of Naamah this morning and I said a prayer of thanks to her."

Zabien finishes off the last dregs of his cup as he waits for the new one. He cants his head to the side. "So by the veil, I assume that it means that you are planning on continuing in her service, or is it a fashion taste that you are yet ready to give up?" He ponders, "I suppose I could understand hiding behind it after not being able to go without it for the majority of your life."

"I am uncertain if that is the path I will take, but if Our Bright Lady desires me in Her service, I think She will guide my heart that way," Alienor replies with a soft little smile, reaching up to run a finger along the bottom edge of it. "I'm so used to it that it's a bit strange to think I could go out without it. I have otherwise been doing a lot of painting." She smiles in anticipation as the server comes, with two cups of kahve on his tray and a plate of kunefe in his hand. He sets down the dessert first, then winks at Alienor playfully when he fulfills her request to spin the tray, whipping it a full three hundred sixty degrees without spilling a drop of kahve or even upsetting the cups. Then, having shown off, he bows to the girl and the nobleman, and puts down the cups before them.

Zabien rolls his eyes at the display, but smiles and nods to the server none-the-less. "The cage door is left open, and you are still looking out of it wondering what to do." He puzzles for a second, then smiles. "So you are free to explore all on your own." He cocks his head, "So what is it that you want to do?"

"I love it when they spin the trays," Alienor admits with a shy smile as she gets a fork to sample the kunefe, which is sweet, flaky, warm, and cheesy, topped with some chopped pistachios. She closes her eyes to savor a bite, looking like she feels quite indulged at the moment. "Mmm, that is the best," she murmurs, then turns her gaze to her noble companion curiously. "Yes, free to explore. To have my own little adventures. And I don't know yet what I want to do. I do know that I have time. I have time to figure it out. I just gained freedom."

Zabien taps his finger on the edge of his cup. "Hmm… for the way you spoke before, it sounded as if you were prepared to be …. /free/. I would have thought that you would have been dreaming of what you were going to do once your marque was made." He pauses, "But, we all have that problem … to have freedom dangled in front of you… you yearn for it that it alone becomes the prize." He speaks as if it is more personal than sheer observation.

"It is an interesting thing, to be free. On one hand, I am quite glad to be rid of my chaperone. To be able to wander the city without worrying if I'll say the wrong thing or get yelled at or displease someone important. To be able to trust my own sense of propriety," Alienor explains as she reaches for her kahve and sips it, relishing the fact that she does not have to lift this particular veil out of her way. "What do you yearn for, then? Do you feel you are not free?"

Zabien laughs. "Oh dear little bird… no nobleman is ever free. There is always somemone more important and further up the food chain than you… and even if there weren't, then there are responsibilities that keep you from being free. No lady, I know that I am not free." He shakes his head, "Trust me, you might learn what it is to be free in ways that I shall never."

"I am not sure that I would not trade that for this. I was sold to the Night Court because I was seventh of ten, and the pretty pious one, smitten with the statue in the Temple of Naamah," Alienor points out softly as she moves to take a sip of her kahve. "I made my marque, and now I am on my own, with a handful of coin and the generosity of a beloved friend. I have been gifted the luxury of time to try to establish myself, but this is a fragile freedom at best. I will labor my entire life, whether as a courtesan, a painter, or some other trade, whether I marry a rich merchant or join with a nobleman as his consort, and I shall always be the one who stands when his wife enters the room."

Zabien shrugs, "Each has their burdens. You have the chance to marry who you choose… or be the consort of someone that you choose… My wife will be thrust upon me. A consort can be a vunerability that I won't be allowed to have. But I can see where my place would be more appealling to you." He takes a sip of the dark liquid, relishing the rich, bitter flavor. "So, painting… this is what you wish to do?"

"Why wouldn't you be allowed a consort?" Alienor wonders, licking her lips curiously. "And perhaps you will come to enjoy whomever is chosen as your wife. Or perhaps you will meet someone proper and recommend them to your family. But even if you are not fond of your wife, isn't that what a consort is for? Someone to love. I think I'd enjoy being in love." She considers as she takes another bite or two of kunefe. "Perhaps. I love to paint, but I am not certain I can support myself as an artist. It may continue to be a hobby while I continue in the role I was trained for."

Zabien shrugs, "The Shahrizai are not fond of outsiders… a wife or husband is tied by bonds of marriage… chosen because it is right for the family…. a consort, on the other hand, is a wild card." He merely says before sipping his coffee. "I do not feel that my father would allow it." He chuckles. "Love is a thing of novelist and playwrites."

"Is it? I wouldn't know. I'm still very young and have never been in love," Alienor replies with a little shake of her head, smiling slightly. "And a consort is hardly a wildcard. It's a committed long-term relationship. It's a serious thing. Besides. Plenty of Sharizai have had consorts. I cannot imagine that you'd be any different. And why would your father get a say in such a relationship?" She quirks a dark brow at him, studying him more seriously now with her green-gray eyes.

Zabien chuckles. "I think you are older than I am…. " He takes a sip of the coffee, as he gazes at the young courtesan. "Because he is the duc and head of the family. He has a say in everything I do." He cocks his head slightly, before he says, "And family comes first…. always."

"Sixteen. I am sixteen," Alienor replies seriously to Zabien, gazing back at him thoughtfully. "It must be nice to have a family that will support you like that. I must rely on my friends, I fear. But perhaps that is to my benefit in some ways. I think it gives me less security than you, perhaps."

Zabien nods. "Same age then… forgive me… had to judge when I can't really see your face." He smiles slightly. "I love my family. I would do anything for them, but it can be rather daunting at times." He shrugs, "It does mean that I never know privacy… there are always eyes upon me… except when I slink off in the shadows, from time to time."

"I'm sure, under the right circumstances, I might be comfortable removing my veil so that you could see my face," Alienor replies with a small smile, ducking her head and dropping her gaze demurely. "Perhaps you'll get your own room, now that you're sixteen. My friend offered me one, and it is the greatest luxury I have ever known. I don't have to share with siblings or a dormitory full of novices and adepts. Just the servants, and they are so polite."

Zabien shakes his house. "I am staying at the Sharhizai estate here in the city. I am allowed to come and go as I will. It is the closest thing to freedom that I am allowed. I will not push it beyond that. I am fortunate enough that I am not called home and forced to stay there without any relief. It can be so tedious." He finishes up the last of his cup and sits back. "And what exactly might be the right circumstances?"

For a moment, Alienor studies her kunefe, taking a bite and then another. "I'm sure there's plenty of time to arrange the right circumstances," she says softly, not looking at him. "The marquist only finished yesterday, after all." She purses her lips for a moment, then glances to him briefly before dropping her gaze again.

Zabien sits back, "Ah yes, plenty of time… unless I get called back before then.. but there is no point worrying about what might be. And you need to heal up after the linnier's work." He sighs slightly, "Enjoy your treats, Alienor, but I believe that my time here is up." His eyes move to a man dressed in black and gold that has just entered the shop and is standing patiently beside the door.

"Thank you so much for your indulgence, my lord," Alienor replies with a pretty smile, meeting his gaze for just a moment before dropping it deferentially. "It was a pleasure." She rises when he does to curtsey to him as he departs, and then she resumes sipping her kahve and nibbling her kunefe.

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