(1312-06-24) Discourse in the Stacks
Summary: The one in which fidelity is discussed, the world isn't put to rights, and Perpetua is held captive by a marmalade cat.
RL Date: Wed Jun 24, 1312
Related: Lavender has Soothing Properties
alienor andrei perpetua 

Raziel's Sanctum

Pedestrian traffic flows past the tall, multistorey temple to knowledge without ever daring to glimpse within. Their loss proves the academic community of Marsilikos' gain. Watery light passing through greenish tinted windows throws a distinctly sylvan enchantment over the narrow ground floor. Awash in jade shadows, the built-in bookcases heave with the treasures of the deep and wide world. Volumes mass-produced by printing press in d'Angeline dominate the front shelves, a wild assortment of topics contained within some obscure system of sorting known only to the regulars. Herbalism and gardening stand abreast of architectural sketches from the City of Elua and Kusheline manuals on horse breeds.

A journey up the twisting stairs past the bric-a-brac acquired by years of travelers trading in their goods leads into the true heartland of wisdom. Candles set before stained glass throw rapturous kaleidoscopes of painted colour over a long hall. The open central aisle hosts low couches set back to back on woven Bhodistani rugs. The most treasured volumes — and hence, the most costly — occupy the floor-to-ceiling shelves overseen by the grumpiest of caretakers, an ill-tempered marmalade cat with his own stuffed chair that no one sits in.

The third floor holds a repository of maps and scrolls, aged texts too fragile to hold, and a bookbinding and mending service at a cost.

Kusheline manuals on horse breeds. Just the thing you'd expect a gentleman merchant from some nowhere country far away from anything that matters to go shopping for. They probably ride dogs in his homeland — or mountain monkeys, who knows? And who indeed cares? Not the shop assistants at least, a fact for which Andrei Anghelescu is somewhat grateful. He's in the mood to wander the stacks and see if anything interesting falls out of one — and carrying a manual on the history of strawberry roans in Kushelite horse racing seems to deter most attention from people who might otherwise try to sell him something. Nobody wants to argue with a geek.

Dressed in his usual black coat with silver fox-fur trim, the foreigner does look like a member of the higher middle class, i.e. somebody who might want to fill a house with the prestigious objects that books are. Somebody with a little something to prove, somebody who might want to impress his peers and betters — but the air about the man clearly says 'oh bugger off' whenever a shop assistant does drift near, and they do seem to respect it. Perhaps he's enough of a regular to be recognised as somebody who is more likely to make a purchase when left in peace.

Down one of the stacks, and perched midway up a set of wheeled steps, sits Perpetua. Her skirts spills in a silken waterfall over the edges of her lofty perch, the hems of which have been gloriously adorned with handpainted flowers of apricot and sage green. A book lies open across the angle of her knees and her head is bent in studioius concentration of its contents. She might have been there a while, for a large (and grumpy) marmalade cat has also taken installed himself upon the steps, and occupies the lowest as if to either holds her captive there, or alternatively to protect her from would be assailants. An orange paw lazily stretches, claws sheathed for now to bat at the nearest swathe of silk. It would have the potential to be a pastoral scene were it re-imagined in a flower-filled meadow at the foot of a tree, and no within the dusty confines of the bookshop, but alas, it is what it is. Footsteps break the moment, imposing on the tableaux just enough that Perpetua's head lifts and her eyes have cause to fall upon Andrei. A lift of her hand from her book in that age old greeting of a wave.

Surprisingly — at least to the shop assistant — the young woman is granted a smile in return, and the foreigner wanders in the direction of where she and the cat are reclining (it might be that she's not trying to sell him a book in easy-to-read local language for beginners). "My dear cat, you seem to have acquired a charming servant," he says, with obvious amusement, to the cat. A cat does, after all, outrank even the noblest of ladies — any king will tell you so.

"I believe you have the measure of him, monsieur," comes Perpetua's warm reply, and after an amused pause, her voice lowers to that of a conspiratorial whisper as she leans from the waist. "I do believe that he considers me his prisoner, but I confess that if that is the case, I'm a willing one." A pause. "Ah but do not tell him that, I am honing my skill of deception today." An expert flick of her fingers drifts the silks across the cat's nose, seductress that she is.

Anghelescu rests his hands on his silver-tipped walking stick, an accessory which he is very rarely encountered without. "I think that I might endure such a captivity myself. He does seem a very forgiving master. How are you today, mademoiselle? Recovered yet from the — ah, unique brand of diplomacy that we had the experience of witnessing? I contemplated hitting the prince with a bar of lavender soap, not going to pretend otherwise."

"You did?" Silence reigns in that second, and Perpetua's eyes slide from Andrei's to focus down upon her book once more. She turns a page with the tip of her finger and settles it carefully — almost reverently — upon the side of those she's now read. The slow cadence of her breathing stirs her veil as she gathers her thoughts before she eventually speaks, but haltingly. "Why? Has His Excellency offended you in some manner? He has been nothing but amenable and charming to me."

Anghelescu shakes his head. "Not at all. That was my first encounter with the man — I do not move in circles where one is prone to encountering royalty. It was obvious to me, though, that he enjoys needling the vicomtesse — and this brings to mind the proverb that he who plays in fire should expect to get burned. The lady has a strong temper and strong grievances. Perhaps sometimes one should not poke the sleeping bear just because one is possessed of a sharp stick."

"I confess," Perpetua notes wryly, "that I have no insight into what grievances are held between them, so speak only from what I've observed." The gauze of her veil billows beneath the weight of a sigh. "It is unfortunate that their mutual disagreeability was spilled in so public place. It reflects poorly on them." So many words come from the usually quiet young courtesan, but nevertheless it is with a renewal of that earlier amusement that she further goes on to add, "Then again, I will confess, that it is quite fun in occasion to watch a bear being poked with a stick. I just hope that that stick remains long, long enough perhaps to be applied from The Flatlands rather than close quarters."

Anghelescu glances about before deciding to settle on a convenient crate of books yet to be unpacked and stacked; a tired man finds a way. He nods lightly. "One finds it difficult to imagine that even the pride of a prince is easily enough bruised to go to war over words. That said, it has happened so your fear is certainly not unwarranted. But it is worth noting that the Flatlands are not d'Angeline — the words of an angry old woman carry little weight there, I imagine. Which is good insofar that I doubt His Highness genuinely cares what the dowager vicomtesse thinks of him — but also regrettable insofar that the lady does sometimes make very fair points."

Perpetua nods. "No doubt His Excellency holds the same view, monsieur," she replies, "that he also makes fair points." A slippered foot emerges from beneath the hem of her gown, and the tips of her toes dare to rub a spot midway between the marmalade cat's ears. A fleeting look is given Andrei where he now sits, and the smallest of blushes warms her otherwise pale cheeks as she ventures further, "It takes a degree of self-belief and righteousness to even hold an argument, don't you think?" Beneath her veils her lip is bitten, and she folds her book over, though keeps her finger trapped between its leaves to mark her place. "A dull place this world would be if everyone were agreeable."

"I should be surprised if the prince does not feel entitled to his opinions," Anghelescu returns with a small smile. "I have yet to meet a man who doesn't, gentle or base born. I do not know what the cause of their argument is. Lady Philomène blames him for the attempt upon her life. Whether she has reason to do so — I try to stay out of the affairs of princes. My homeland has a long tradition for blood feuds and wars of succession, and most Chowatti will agree that the best place to be when princes meet is anywhere else."

"Well then. I do see the reason for Lady Philomene's antipathy," Perpetua replies, her voice soft and low. Regretful even. Her eyes flit to the upper reaches of the bookshelves they're tucked beside, and she's quiet for a moment. "I should like to know more of Chowat, princes and blood feuds. More of your religion too, for I never did quite grasp that when last we spoke." Her eyes descend back down to his, honest and open as her head cants to an angle. "And also why you must fight for succession. Surely nobody would wish to hold title if a blood bath ensues…"

The Carpathian cants his head a little as if perhaps considering the extent to which the courtesan's inquiry is based on actual interest or simply the art of making conversation. "The Chowat consists of a considerable number of smaller nations, mademoiselle. Ruling families are intertwined — the count or baron ruling one citystate may well have a legitimate claim to three others, as does maybe a handful of other men. Every so often, one such lord decides to attempt to unite the land into one powerful state — and every other lord decides that if there is to be a king, it should be them. We are not a united nation. We likely never will be."

Perpetua nods. "That must be difficult." A delicate frown mars an unblemished forehead, and a pair of fine brows beetle above Perpetua's eyes. "It could be likened to having your limbs all wishing to do their own thing, all the while opposing one another when really they should work together in harmony for the whole. But with no head to rule them…" Her finger slides from where it marks the place in her book, and she lifts both hands, palms uppermost, in a gesture of helplessness. "And you…" her focus returns and settles on Andrei. "Where do you fit into this? What kind of a person are you, when in Chowat?"

"For most of my life there I was a soldier," Anghelescu replies, smiling a little though there is nothing comical about the question posed to him. "Sometimes a politician, sometimes an ruler, but most of all — I was somewhere else, fighting the Skaldi. My home country borders land that they claim; we see incursions regularly. And the other way — a successful foray into enemy territory, a few miles conquered and villages burned; our border is very fluid."

He rests the walking stick over his knees. "Would you believe that you are one among few here to ask?"

Perpetua smiles beneath her veils. "Yes, but also no." A shake of her head is given, and she further qualifies her answer with, "We d'Angelines are strongly xenophobic, as I'm sure you will have noticed. For most, there is a deeply-ingrained mistrust of foreigners and all things foreign. It is better here in the south where we are the gateway to the world, if you will. But further north, in Camlach especially, we are far less tolerant. Even in Elua…" She breaks off, her voice turning not exactly whistful, but close to. She draws a deep breath and continues. "It is a lack of interest and possible even the fear or the unknown that prevents people from knowing who or what you are on a deeper level I'd guess monsieur, but, given what you have told me, should I even be calling you that?" Intelligent eyes peer briefly into Andrei's, and she holds his gaze for longer than she might usually dare.

"I make a point out of telling people my name and letting them decide for themselves what they want to call me," Anghelescu returns with an amused look. "What title I may hold somewhere else matters very little in Marsilikos, does it not? Here, I am a merchant. I do not wield political influence; I sell lumber."

"I see…" Perpetua's smile is evident in her tone. "A merchant of lumber. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less." Delighted with Andrei's response, another touch of her toes is bestowed upon the cat's head. "But I do applaud you, monsieur. There are many that prefer to use their name and their title in the course of plying their trade, to easier open doors that might otherwise be closed." Remarkably there comes with those words the softest laugh, a sound that's not often heard from the usually reticent woman, (and rarely in public). A shake of her head is given, and a wisping light brown curl of hair shows itself at her temple where her veils briefly part. She tucks it away and considers him with another fleeting flick of her eyes. "You must like us very much indeed, monsieur, to bring your trade all the way to the south of Terre d'Ange from Chowat."

"I like your climate," the Carpathian returns quite plainly. "I came here because of its mildness, and the reputed skill of your healers. As I am still alive, it seems Marsilikos welcomes me, and I would be a fool to leave. And as I am here, establishing trade connections for my homeland seems a reasonable way to spend my time. I am not skilled at sitting idle, and the leisures of life at court never appealed to me much. There are doors here that a title will open, no doubt, but I have no reason to seek admittance through them."

"You mentioned that before," Perpetua recalls, "the sickness in your lungs." She lifts the book that's been nestled so long in her lap; a slim volume bound in faded red leather, gold lettering on its spine. Her fingers brush over it lightly, almost covetously, but she returns it to the shelves, pressing it carefully into the spot whence she'd claimed it. "It might surprise you, or perhaps it would not, at just how many d'Angelines delight in the life of the idle. It is something I find difficult to understand myself since there are so many things I would like to do myself, but so little time in which to do them. I do hope that you are finding more of that yourself, and that our healers are helping you. At the very least, you look no worse than when we first met."

"For a man who should be dead five months ago I seem to be doing quite well," the Carpathian agrees. "Pray tell, mademoiselle — if you had the means and the opportunity to do as you please, what would you be doing? What life would you wish to lead but the one that you are leading?"

Perpetua laughs again. It's a warm laugh, a redolent laugh, and it spills from her softly to occupy the space between herself and Andrei. "Oh Companions, monsieur," that laughter filling the gaps in her words. There is nothing that forces me to remain in Naamah's service. I am free to leave whenever I will it. I simply choose not to, for now. I was talking more of things I wish I had time to do now; of hobbies and pastimes if you like. My desire expressed in the stable to learn to ride, for instance. Or perhaps to experience the thrill of flying a hawk, or shooting an arrow. If I left, I would be constrained within new bindings, but bindings nevertheless, of my new life. My family would seek a match for me of political gain, and perhaps there are times when the frying pan is more palatable than fire, would you say?"

"I sometimes consider myself quite fortunate in the respect that from a d'Angeline point of view? I am about as suited for such a marriage alliance as this cat." Anghelescu glances at said cat; it looks quite content. "I should probably be more concerned if your people did not hold foreigners in disregard. Spending my last months or years dodging hopeful parents with blushing virgin daughters is not my idea of retirement."

"Blushing virgin brides…" There's a wry amusement to be found in Perpetua's tone once again. Even if Andrei doesn't find the irony in what he'd said, she certainly does. She's made a career of being exactly that, and a good one it's been too. "That," she wonders, "would be your adherence to catholicism, would it not? The requirement for your women to be virgins in the marriage bed." One hand lifts and a scratch is given her nose through her veil. "I find terribly odd that you have one rule for women, and another for men. Forgive me if I say it seems wrong, but it's something that would be laughed at here in Terre d'Ange." A breath, and she lowers her voice to the levels of a faux stage whisper. "They will seek you out, you know. Those hordes of virgin brides."

"Virgin brides," Anghelescu chuckles. "Yes. Well, personally, I can't say I am particularly keen on the idea of having some fifteen year old in my bed who has no idea what's supposed to happen there. But that is a matter of bloodlines and succession — not of desire or comfort. The rule is the same for men and women, mademoiselle. It is simply that men are not expected to actually uphold it."

Perpetua pulls a face. It's possible to tell that she does, for her eyes crinkle, her brows draw low and her nose twitches beneath its shadowy covering of gauze. "It is perhaps fortunate that I am not a catholic monsieur," she says with all sincerity, "for I would forever be at the temple of your God, prostrating myself before a priest so that I might be flogged and punished whilst begging forgiveness for my sins."

The Carpathian chuckles lightly and shakes his head. "I am not a very devout man. I find that I have defended the faith with sword and bow; I'll leave the prayers to somebody else. Am I a sinner? No doubt. I'll have that argument with the Devil when the day comes, mademoiselle."

Perpetua smooths her silks over her legs, flicking them carefully into place before slipping her hands beneath her backside, palms pressed down. "Does that not scare you?" she wonders of Andrei. "That you leave your eternal soul to the very last day to be judged?" A faint blush finds its way to her face at her question, and her eyes dip down to her lap. Nevertheless, she does press on. "In Terre d'Ange, should a sin weigh heavy on our shoulders, we visit the Temple of Kushiel. We make our confession to a Kusheline priest, and he exacts Kushiel's judgement with his whip. They, the priests, wear masks of bronze to keep anonymity, and I am told that through the pain there's euphoria as Kushiel Himself takes you by the hand and leads you to redemption." Her shoulders hunch up towards her ears as she tells of the Kusheline priests, her voice near reverent.

"It does a little," Anghelescu admits and toys with the handle of his walking stick. "But so does walking onto a battlefield knowing that half of the men who do will not be walking anywhere when the day is over. As does knowing that one day when a coughing fit takes hold of me, I will stop breathing. Fear is a waste of time. One must pass through it and accept that it leads nowhere. Actions have consequences. I have done things in my life for which I will face judgement. I have few regrets. Do you?"

Perpetua considers the question Andrei asks of her, her head tilted 'just so' as her temple finds the handrail of the steps. "We all do things we desperately wish we could undo. Those regrets just become part of who we are, along with everything else. To spend time trying to change that, well, it would be a little like chasing clouds." She draws a breath, and the curve to the line of her lips where her veil rests lightly against them, is suggestive of a smile. "On the eve of my debut, a letter was delivered me of my mother. She enclosed a gift for the occasion, but it was her words that touched me more. She told me that one of the greatest regrets in life is to be what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself. That is one regret I have yet to make. Would you say the same of yourself?"

"That is… good life advice," the tall foreigner says after a moment. "Not always possible to carry out, but good advice nonetheless. I have not always been in a position to keep to that tenet. Sometimes, we do what we must, and accept that choices have consequences, mademoiselle. One should be true to one's self, but one should not do so at any cost."

When Alienor enters this shrine to literacy, she takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, savoring the scent of new books and old. She wears a simple gown of brilliant green, fairly conservatively cut though it is tailored to her figure, and there are yellow daisies artfully arranged in her dark hair, as well as a diaphanous veil. She looks around with curious wide eyes, but then her gaze falls on Perpetua and she regards her with interest, half hiding next to a bookshelf.

<FS3> Perpetua rolls Perception: Good Success. (8 6 3 1 8 2 5 1 2 2 3)

"From what you told me earlier," Perpetua contemplates quietly, "I am of the opinion that my life is vastly simpler to yours. Therefore it is easier to be merely myself." Her fingers flex beneath her against the step on which she sits, a twitch of her foot setting those silks of hers a-flutter against the marmalade's nose. His interest in the game appears to have waned, and the tease provokes only a disinterested flick of one ear. "I think my captor and guardian has fallen asleep on his watch," she notes, her eyes lifting briefly to Andrei's before the brightness of something yellow draws her attention away. Her gaze falls on Alienor, and recognizing the former white rose from the brief time in which they'd shared communal space in Rose Sauvage, she pulls one hand from where it's been trapped, lifts it and waves. "Alienor. Hello."

The tall man sitting across the aisle from the white rose looks up and nods politely at the new arrival; he quirks an eyebrow slightly at the obviously foiled attempt to remain unseen but decides against commenting on it, replying instead: "I think your captor and guardian expects you to guard him for a while yet. Would that all our masters were as kind and indeed, as soft as that one, would you not say?" His tone is light, and he speaks with a pronounced, if perfectly understandable accent that is certainly not d'Angeline.

Alienor was not being particularly stealthy; she seems to have merely not wanted to tread on the existing conversation. She emerges, though, offering a bobbing curtsey to the pair with a cute little smile. "Mademoiselle Perpetua," she says politely to the courtesan, then nods politely to her friend. "May I pet the kitty in your lap?" she inquires, immediately focusing on the important things.

"Monsieur, it is my pleasure to introduce to you mademoiselle Alienor no Rose Sauvage." Perpetua speaks softly from her lofty perch whilst Alienor curtsies. It's best to get formalities out of the way. "Alienor, this is monsieur Anghelescu, a merchant of Chowat." The question has been asked of her about the cat however, and she's quick to give a nod to Alienor's request. "Of course you may. Perhaps you may distract him enough that he will prefer you over me, so that I might escape." She nudges the cat with the toe of her slipper, encouraging it to wake from its soporific slumber. "You may even take him if you like, but be warned! He will not tolerate you sitting in his chair. That one up there." She directs their eyes to the floor above them. "You'll know the one when you see it. It's overstuffed, faded and covered in marmalade hair."

The foreigner stands and offers a light bow as one might expect from a member of the merchant class to one of the servants of the angels. "The honour is surely mine, mademoiselle." He settles right back down, though, perhaps a little rudely, resting his walking stick across his knees. "I think it might take more than petting to wake His Majesty, though. Perhaps the promise of a luxurious dinner might accomplish such a feat."

Alienor crouches to pet the cat, looking entirely pleased with him, though she does not attempt to move him just yet. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Monsieur," she offers pleasantly to the merchant of Chowat. She is not dressed like a White Rose, for she wears cheerful colors, but she is veiled like one. She glances between the two. "I did not mean to interrupt your conversation. I came for a book but promptly forgot my errand."

Content, Perpetua pulls her other hand free from where it's trapped beneath her, and presses both elbows to her knees, her chin brought to rest on folded knuckles. "His Majesty. How apt. I like it." Her eyes flit down to Alienor, and she watches her for a moment as attention is lavished upon the rather large cat. "I think he'd like it too." A pause. "You are looking well, Alienor. I failed to speak with you at the opening of la Rose Blanche, and for that I am sorry. I hope you'll forgive me?" Her eyes fall back on Andrei, and there's a quiet chime of a laugh as she adds, "I am certain a luxurious dinner might well do the trick. But do you think it wise when he is already so… fat?"

"They do say we all need to find an excuse to die. Perhaps over-eating can be his." The foreigner's thin lips twitch with amusement even as he looks towards Alienor. "You are not interrupting us, mademoiselle. We were talking about foreign customs and the difference between our faiths. Nothing that cannot bear interruption or a third party if such matters capture your interest as well. Pray tell, you are a white rose as well?"

"I was a White Rose. But my marque is completed and I have separated from La Rose Sauvage," Alienor explains to the foreigner a bit shyly, as if she is not entirely certain what her status is, and she gives him a demure little smile. She turns her gray-green gaze upon Perpetua, and the gown she wears does make it seem more green, but she shakes her head slightly. "I would have liked to have seen you there, but it was quite busy. I did get to see Monsieur Aimeric, who I'd not seen in some time, though, which was quite lovely."

"Mm yes, it was busy that night," Perpetua confirms. "I understand that they have performed wonders with the new salon, and I hope you had time to enjoy it. From what I understand it was heavily decorated in lavender and green before the renovation." Her chin presses harder to her knuckles, drawing the veils a closer to the planes and angles of her face. Lost to the quietness of her own thoughts, she belatedly registers something said by Andrei, and her eyes slide in his direction. "Do you truly believe that? That we all need to find an excuse to die? I wonder what mine own will be."

The foreigner shakes his head. "It is merely a saying of my country, mademoiselle. But if you were to ask your furry friend there? I am positive he would agree that there are worse ways to go than being, say, buried in fish." He chuckles and then says, with a trace of inquisitiveness, "It fascinates me to see how much your people invest in the salons; how extravagant they are. It seems curious to a foreign eye, until one learns of the religious context."

"When I was a young girl —" by which Alienor means quite a bit younger than she is now — "I thought that it would be a very glamorous life. Serve Naamah. Dress in beautiful clothing. Always be innocent, and fresh, and curious. There would be many fewer siblings, and I'd be special. It is more complex than that." She presses her lips together in a smirk as she gently and patiently pets the cat in a rhythmic fashion. "I have spent most of the last month going nearly daily to the Temple of Naamah, to learn and study and find peace and pray."

There's concern to be found in the look that Perpetua gives Alienor. "You were… you are special Alienor." she says quietly. She quite looks as if she wants to reach out to the younger girl where she's crouched at the foot of the ladder, but ultimately she doesn't, and her fingers flex beneath her chin before she curls them into tight little fists. A slow release of breath stirs the weight of her veils, and when next she speaks it's to Andrei. "Buried in fish?" Companions be blessed. Colour paints its way across her cheeks and finds the very tips of her ears before it's done toying with her. Eyes drop to her lap. Goodness only knows why that imagery has affected her so.

"Not a bad fate, if one is a cat. Personally, I'd prefer to die from being stabbed by a jealous husband, in his wife's bed, at the age of a hundred and twenty." Anghelescu offers a small smile. "But then, I am an irreverent man, and not one possessed of much religious understanding."

"It seems like you'd be better off not dealing with jealous people at all," Alienor replies to the foreigner with a measure of confusion, trying to puzzle out the stabbing. "Wouldn't it be better to just pass quietly in your sleep, next to your lover, at the age of a hundred and twenty?" She looks to Perpetua for confirmation here. She resumes petting the cat, and if she happens to pat the courtesan lightly on the foot as a means of making contact, there it is.

Perpetua nudges her toes back against the tips of Alienor's fingers. An acknowledgement of her touch. "Ah, but Alienor. How much more romantic to die in the throes of passion with a lover, than to pass quietly of old age in your sleep." Humourous eyes seek Andrei's as she paints a picture for him, adding. "Slack jawed, with drool on the chin." Laughter is close, and a singular finger uncurls from her beneath her chin to stretch the length of her jaw. "We are fortunate here in Terre d'Ange. Elua's precept means that there is rarely cause for jealousy."

"And does it work?" The man's question seems genuine enough. "I realise that your laws do not prohibit such affairs — but do people genuinely accept them? Does a wife not feel abandoned when her husband sleeps somewhere else, or a husband slighted when his wife parades her young, handsome lover about town?"

"But if she's his wife, doesn't that mean he's likely to come home again?" Alienor wonders, trying to puzzle out how this works herself, except perhaps from a different perspective. "I mean, they're married. I know the nobility frequently marry for dynastic reasons, no feelings involved at all. They coordinate reproduction and seek their love and romance elsewhere. Why force a relationship that has no chemistry?" She looks to Perpetua, to see what her perspective is. "Isn't that what consorts and courtesans help to aid?"

"To not accept a partner's need to explore their desires with another, goes against His precept," Perpetua says gently, perhaps slightly embarrassed as she catches her lip beneath the cover of her veil. "Which is not to say," she continues, "that it cannot happen, but more that it shouldn't. I have heard that there are those couples that decide upon monogamy between themselves, but that is rare. Certainly I've come across none myself." Her head inclines in a tilt towards what Alienor says. "Exactly so. And why should love be restricted to just one person anyway, especially if a marriage is for political reasons and for naught more than that. The freedom to seek love where we wish is one of the reasons why more spouses are not stabbed in the beds."

"I shan't argue that your way is better or worse than the one which I am accustomed to," Anghelescu cedes. "I shall only say that I do not understand it, and that I do not think I could find myself at ease with the idea of any possible spouse of mine taking her pleasures in somebody else's bed. It is certainly not up to me to judge the actions and agreements of others, though."

"Could you find yourself at ease with yourself taking your pleasures in someone else's bed?" Alienor inquires openly and with a curious innocence, watching Anghelescu with interest as she passively pets the cat. "Would you find yourself uncomfortable with sharing time with a courtesan?" She tilts her head to one side, rather like a puppy. "Are you uncomfortable comparing yourself to this theoretical spouse's lovers? We all offer different things, and I don't mean as courtesans. I mean as humans. As friends. As humans, though, we all offer different things to one another."

"Your customs and religious ideals fascinate me," Perpetua admits sincerely to Andrei. "Mademoiselle Alienor makes very valid points, but perhaps this is why you don't commit to marrying one of those many virgin brides whom you mentioned before. Your views would commit you to a lifetime of purgatory should your wife be unable to please you in bed, or worse yet turn into a harridan that berates your very existence." A sigh of sympathy that's entirely for Andrei billows the edge of her veil. "It is an argument," she opines, "that could go 'round and around in circles forever, and I would hate to bore you with such." Her eyes fall on the cane across his knees as she speaks, and she hesitantly adds, "We should talk of something else, perhaps. Like why your need for a cane."

Blue eyes sparkle with laughter; at least the man has some self awareness as he replies to Alienor's inquiries. "I should not wish to commit adultery. Spending time with a courtesan? I do so regularly — she plays a quite skilled game of chess, and I rather enjoy our conversations. As for comparing myself — I imagine that if I were to spend my time in a lady's bed, she would be the one to decide whether my skill is such that she would wish to invite me again. Pray tell, are you saying that men's fear of being judged incapable is what drives them to the salons? That would — surprise me. If I felt inadequate, I'd perhaps prefer to keep the secret."

He glances to Perpetua and shakes his head. "I am not in any way offended by being asked questions, mademoiselle. I ask many of my own. My reasons for deciding not to wed are — personal. A family matter, if you will. My walking stick, on the other hand, is simply to aid me if I find myself fatigued — something which unfortunately happens quite often, particularly when the air is humid and difficult to breathe."

Beat. "Were I to wed, though, I think I might prefer to settle for a widow of wealth and experience, I think I might find her company more exciting."

"Monsieur, I am a very young courtesan. I have had a lot of very young patrons, who are my age or but a smidge older than I am. Their interactions with me are quite confidential, which, trust me, works well in their favor, for I cannot speak of any inadequacies they may or may not have, and in fact, am discouraged from acknowledging that I might realize that they may or may not be inadequate," Alienor notes to the foreign gentleman with a rather sincere and slightly amused look on her face, her gray eyes wide.

Another faint blush manifests in Perpetua's cheeks at something that's been said, and her eyes lid heavily. "It is grows late," she says softly, "and I fear that I have already spent more time here than first intended." She pushes to her feet, her arms briefly stretching over her head to remove the kinks that have settled in her spine. "Excuse me your highness, but I fear it is time that for your captive to effect her escape." She's looking at Alienor and the marmalade cat as she speaks, though clearly it's the cat to whom she addresses herself, given that her slippered foot nudges its corpulent side. "Alienor, could you possibly drag him away from the steps?"

"Mademoiselle Alienor, I should be very disappointed on the behalf of the very young man I once was, if you were to discuss the, ah, ability of your patrons with a stranger just met." Anghelescu seems mostly amused by the idea, though; it is probably as far fetched as to not be an issue of genuine concern. "One dares assume, though, that telling a patron that he is not quite up to par would be a bad business disposition."

The foreigner stands, perhaps in deference to the young lady preparing to leave. "It has been a pleasure, mademoiselle. If this banter amuses you, I am ever at your disposal when we chance upon one another in stores and cafés."

"Confidential, I assure you, sir," Alienor replies with a soft laugh as she goes to pick up the fat orange cat in her arms, gently scooping him up in a tender embrace. She looks to Perpetua, then, and offers, "Perhaps I will stop by with some yellow daisies for you later."

"I love daisies," Perpetua says to Alienor, the smile in her voice, echoed in her eyes. "Thank you. And thank you also monsieur. I confess that I quite enjoy our conversations, and look forward to the next. Whenever that might be." And gathering her skirts so that they might be held a fraction or so aloft from the floor and its resident dust, she dips a small curtsey to the Chowatti, then disappears around the end of the shelves.

"As any personal consultation should be, whether of this nature or another, and certainly in a religious context." The foreigner reclaims his seat; he must be in no particular rush to actually go pay for the book on horse breeding that he seems to have decided to pick up. "I do find your customs curious, and in some ways, appealing. You do save yourselves a lot of headaches, at least."

"Do we? Will you tell me a bit about where you're from?" Alienor wonders, and she is just plain sitting on the floor now, a bit carelessly, with the large fat marmalade cat making a cozy bed in her voluminous skirts. "She called you 'your highness'; are you quite important where it is that you are from, monsieur?"

The foreigner laughs softly. "No, no, mademoiselle. She called the cat Your Highness. I am certainly not royalty. I am a visitor from the Chowat, come here for the sake of your skilled healers — no more, no less." He smiles down at the cat. It is indeed a very comfortable cat. Regal, maybe not so much. Unless by regal one means ruling the room in which case it is honesty doing just fine. "My country is Roman Catholic. Hence, Mademoiselle Perpetua and I have found ourselves comparing our faiths on a couple of occasions."

"Oh! That makes more sense," Alienor admits, peering down at the animal which is now using her lap as a throne. "It is good that you have found healers, then. Do you see them regularly? Has your health stabilized since coming to Marsilikos? Do you play a lot of chess? I admit that I have never learned how. It seems a very patient game to me."

"I have regular appointments with a lady of the Coquelicot who administers herbal remedies — and given that I am still alive and walking, they must be working." Anghelescu looks at the cat. It is a very comfortable cat. "I am honestly not that great a player, no. I find it to be a good game for a conversation — after half an hour, everyone is bored enough to be desperate to talk about anything else."

He studies the former white rose momentarily and then inquires, "How does one — what did you say, finish your marque? Is there a set number of years that you are in service, perhaps?"

"When I was indentured to the salon, to the Rose Sauvage, the fee for my time went to the house, and patrons would provide me a gift with which to pay for my marque progress," Alienor explains slowly, taking a deep breath. "Some were very generous. Some gave what they might afford. A little progress here and there. I was fairly popular, so I might have finished in a year and a half. Some take two or three years. Some take five. It largely depends on canon and how complex one's service is. There's more call for some than for others."

And then there's a pause, and she shifts a hand to the nape of her neck, where the skin is still a bit sensitive from the marque. "I have finished very early," she explains cautiously. "Because there was a bit of a miscommunication, you see. But I forgave this miscommunication, and out of gratitude, my patron paid off my marque for me." She bites her lower lip and keeps her gaze largely on the cat in her lap.

Some of those references clearly elude the foreigner. "You are speaking of a kind of indentured service, then. It is a strange concept to me, I will not deny it." He studies her face a little, noting perhaps the gesture and the soreness that it might imply. Perhaps he decides to not inquire; doing so might perhaps be held as a breach of privacy.

Alienor nods to this seriously. "Yes. I owed the salon for my education and such. I was not free to leave until my marque was made," she explains softly. "If I had desired to cease being a courtesan before it was finished, I might have had to work as a servant or the like."

Anghelescu nods. "The idea sits poorly with me but I am not blind to the fact that such institutions and concepts are not unusual, and not in my country either. The conditions under which you worked do seem to be substantially preferable to those of the ladies who work on the harbour, and they do not have the benefit of serving the faith at the same time, either."

Though her veil conceals somewhat, Alienor has a distant look in her eyes. "Sometimes it is very difficult, when one struggles with one's canon. There is no where to go, no way to explore. One must only serve," she says very quietly, then leans over the cat in her lap to snuggle it a bit. "My grateful patron has bought me freedom to seek my own path, and while I intend to continue in my service of Naamah, there are far fewer restrictions now."

Anghelescu nods; not quite understanding, but accepting that sometimes, things are more complicated than they seem. "There must be other forms of service, surely?"

"There are expectations," Alienor replies somewhat vaguely, wrinkling her nose. "And I do not know if I have it within my heart to forgive again."

"One should never seek a calling that requires one to forgive more than one is willing to endure," the foreigner says quietly. "I do not know what happened to you, mademoiselle, but from your pain and your voice, it was not pleasant. Perhaps you simply did not enjoy your calling or your canon; it is no business of mine and I will not ask. I trust that there will be a way to serve your faith that does not require you to suffer."

"I will put in checks so that mistakes and miscommunications are far less likely to occur," Alienor explains, relaxing suddenly and sitting up straighter to look to the foreigner. "The very fact that I do not have a marque to make is freeing. Although I am currently reliant on the kindness of a friend for room and board, I know that I am loved, and that itself makes everything so much easier. I am loved! And while I shall want to contribute to the cost of my livelihood, I know that there is no time limit except that which I place on myself."

The tall man smiles lightly. "To be loved is very important, mademoiselle. If I have one regret in life? It may be that I never had the time or the opportunity. Perhaps I have found it here in Marsilikos, where there are people who call me friend."

"Yes, monsieur. You should not overlook the love of friends. I have the freedom to actually hug my friends now, without anyone fretting that it might be inappropriate or taken the wrong way or sexualized," the young courtesan explains. "Non-sexual touch is wonderful."

A pause. "I mean, sexual touch is wonderful, but in different and perhaps more obvious ways."

Anghelescu laughs softly. "I do understand what you meant, mademoiselle. I am not an affectionate man. But I do enjoy that there are people in this city who seem to enjoy my company. I spent most of my life as a soldier; one develops a camaraderie with one's brothers in arms — which leaves a strange emptiness that is not easily filled upon returning to civilisation. Many old soldiers complain of this; that the war seemed somehow friendlier to them than peace."

"Because of shared experiences? Shared fears? Shared anxieties? I imagine a soldier has a company of people who are also going through things that they are going through," Alienor muses, absently petting the cat again.

"And the absolute need for trust," the foreigner agrees. "In the trenches and on the battlefields, it does not matter who your parents were or how many times you've had to patch your shirt rather than buy a new one. The only thing that matters is that you can trust your comrades and they can trust you. It is — difficult to return to a life where station matters more than what a man actually does."

"I understand that entirely. All too well," Alienor admits wryly, and she reaches a hand back to feel the skin at the nape of her neck where her marque finishes so gracefully, and there's that echo of pain in her eyes.

"For what it's worth, mademoiselle, I am sorry that you have suffered." The Carpathian nods, making at least an attempt at a sympathetic smile. "One learns also, perhaps, from war that being high born never prevented anyone from being an arse."

"I appreciate your empathy," Alienor replies, looking to the foreigner with a rather honest smile, and there is a sense of sincerity from her rather than the coy games that White Roses tend to play. "I am not high born, myself. My parents are merchants who wanted a better life for me. I have a lot of siblings."

"I have come to find that a shoemaker and a count bleeds the same colour," Anghelescu replies. "I find that remembering that helps me deal with men of all stations on a more equal basis. God may place a man on a high horse, but sometimes, perhaps He does so in order that it's easier for the rest of us to point at him and laugh."

Alienor giggles a bit at this, grinning impishly. "We D'Angelines are not good about our xenophobia," she admits, amused. "Even though some of us are far more dilute when it comes to angelic blood than others. We are a very pretty and a very proud people, but here, being pretty is not really something to be terribly proud of, because practically everyone is. It's often not very interesting, either."

The other man chuckling. "It is true, you are not. And because you admit it, I shall tell you something I rarely do mention because the hypocrisy amuses me. I am d'Angeline on my mother's side, so while I am hardly a scion, I am no different from many other men in these streets."

"Well, there are some young noblemen who would be wounded to the core if I reminded them that basically my entire social circle is wealthy, beautiful, and well-connected," the young courtesan admits with an almost mischievous giggle.

"Mademoiselle, young noblemen will be wounded the core every time a young woman does exist with the sole purpose of fawning on them and succumbing to their flattery," Anghelescu says with some amusement. "Believe me, I have known a few in my time."

He pauses and then adds, with a trace of mischief, "Perhaps that is why I know so so few of them now. One does tire of watching the peacocks prance."

Alienor considers this for a moment, smiling with a measure of amusement. "I mean, I'd be perfectly happy to fawn on you, monsieur, and do my utmost to convince you that I am absolutely succumbing to your flattery. Absolutely," she informs him, then gives him a doe-eyed look of innocence and a coy smile before dropping her gaze a bit flirtatiously.

Anghelescu's thin lips twitch with amusement. "I am positive that you are very good at what you do, mademoiselle. You sell a dream, and for one who needs one — I am certain that what you sell is worth the price you ask. But I am not a dreamer, and I do not require my ego propped up thus. Allow me to compliment you on the execution."

"What do you desire in a lover?" Alienor wonders, dropping the pretense promptly, and it seems like this is a serious question. "Like, if you were going to engage a courtesan, what would you want for her or him to do for you?" There's a pause, and she adds, "I am trying to figure myself out, and I find that it is most useful to better understand what others want, so that I might compare my thoughts and feelings to theirs and consider whether my goals are similar or compatible to theirs." She strokes the fat fuzzball in her lap quietly for a moment, and then muses, "It was suggested to me, at one point, that what might be best for my growth would be to seek out older patrons who had nothing to prove. Who were confident in themselves, as adults and sexual beings, and thus did not have that distraction."

"In a lover? Nothing. I have no need for one." Anghelescu replies to the question in the spirit that it was asked; seriously, and without pretence. "My family carries a curse which I do not wish to propagate, and my pleasure does not run to men. For a companion? I enjoy the company of Mademoiselle Émilie Perigeux nó Lis d'Or. She is a skilled conversationist and chess player. Furthermore, accompanying her on occasion put an end to speculation in some circles as to what strange desires a foreigner might have that he had yet to set foot in the salons."

"A curse?" Alienor wonders, perking up nosily at this, tilting her head like a puppy once more. "What sort of curse?"

The foreigner glances away a moment as if perhaps regretting touching upon such a subject; and perhaps reaching the verdict that if one teases with such an opening, then one must also tell the punchline. "The men of my line do not grow old," he explains. "There is more to it than that — stories of abuse and privilege, which I have no desire to perpetuate. Superstition runs rampant in my country, and it is believed that we are punished for the actions of a distant ancestor who struggled to understand the word 'no'. My father attempted to break the curse by marrying a woman of angel blood. But as he died before his fiftieth year as well, one might think him not succesful. Myself? I am not likely to see fifty either, but at least I will not have passed this burden on."

"Ah," Alienor replies, looking pensive about this for a moment, though she nods thoughtfully. "It is a grave sin to fail to understand the word 'no'," she says softly. "But…" She closes her eyes for a moment. "To wish a curse on such a man and his line is the opposite of forgiveness."

"I doubt that forgiveness was the intention." The Carpathian smiles lightly. "What is, is. If I were to seek a lover — to return to your question — I imagine that I would seek a woman who could entertain me both in out of bed. I enjoy a good conversation, and I enjoy being challenged. Does that help you? I suspect, however, that you will find a different answer from every gentleman that you ask; depending on his experiences, and what he wishes to admit to."

"Well, sometimes, I struggle with forgiveness," Alienor explains with a small smile. She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Thank you for telling me these things. It has been a pleasure conversing with you, and I hope that I have the opportunity to do so again soon."

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