(1312-06-26) Not About The Money
Summary: Except that it is — it always is — when you’ve your living to earn, by entertaining the wealthy in places like La Perle Noire…
RL Date: 26/06/2020
Related: None.
alienor alair 

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.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a summer day. The weather is warm and drizzling.

<FS3> Alair rolls Singing: Success. (6 1 2 4 1 2 6 3 2 8)

Dressed in a vivid bright green dress that is edged with a bit of embroidery of white roses, a white rose pinned in her dark locks against a diaphanous and largely transparent veil, Alienor makes her way into the Ephesian establishment with a small smile. She shares a quick word with one of the servers as she heads to find herself a seat near where she can watch the performers, settling in on a divan gracefully. She looks over Alair with interest, studying his form and listening to his song.

The buzz of conversation slowly strengthens as Alair's song gives way to silence. No performer arrives yet to succeed him in his work. He glances across the room at the veiled girl and smiles now that he catches her looking at him.

Alienor blushes suddenly the moment that she realizes that Alair is looking at her, and she drops her gaze with a shy smile, ducking her head a little as if to hide her curiosity. She shifts a little in her seat, then a server distracts her briefly, and then she resumes watching Alair, pretending he won't notice.

Alair is probably supposed to be leaving the establishment right about now, but instead he slides around the margins with a word or two for many of the tables he passes by. His path takes him nearer and nearer to Alienor. When he at last makes it to her table, he says, "Welcome. I hope I didn't offend you." And then he smiles.

This only makes the girl blush again, and she shakes her head. "No, no, monsieur," she says with a little laugh, looking up at him for a moment. "Thank you. I am sorry that I missed the end of your set, though. I do like it when there's pleasant distractions here. Though…" She glances to the divan on which she is perked. "If you'd like some kahve, you could join me."

Alair lifts his eyebrows inquiringly. "Well, I suppose it wouldn't be a crime, seeing as I'm on my own time now, but…would you truly not mind? I'd hate to intrude."

"I wouldn't have invited you if I minded," Alienor replies a little primly, considering for a moment, then looks back to him. "I'm practicing boundaries. I don't know if that makes any sense," she admits, shaking her head slightly. "But I'm trying to be able to invite people in, interact with them, and be able to say 'no' if I become uncomfortable." A pause. "But I'm not right now. Uncomfortable, that is."

"Oh, I see," Alair says, and he helps himself to a seat at the table. "Well, you just tell me if you are. I notice your veil, are you…leaving some kind of order?"

"I was at the Rose Sauvage. I am not sure though, that being a White Rose is for me," Alienor explains with a little shake of her head. "Do you know much about the canons of the Night Court, monsieur? The Night Blooming Flower that is Alyssum?"

"Oh," Alair says, and it's plain from his expression that he has some idea about the Rose Sauvage at least. His voice lowers a shade. "I know a bit," he says. "Except here in Marsilikos everything goes by at least two names. But if you're a veiled one, then…"

"Yes, a White Rose is Alyssum is… what I am or was or something," Alienor replies, and she reaches back to shift her hair off the back of her neck where the top of her intricate marque can be seen descending into her gown. "And the Rose Sauvage is two salons now, with the Rose Blanche splitting off. I think it's almost a pity. It's almost easier to be convincingly innocent when everyone around you is trying so hard to be convincingly degenerate."

"Heavens," Alair says. "I've never heard of such a thing." He cocks his head with interest. "But it isn't that the White Roses are going independent, is it?" he akss. "I've always thought this town could do with a bit more independence and uniqueness."

"It's independent, but the Dowayne of Rose Blanche will be subordinate to the Dowayne of the Rose Sauvage, insofar as I can tell," Alienor replies with a little shrug, wrinkling her nose. "Meanwhile, I'm trying to rediscover myself, because I do not actually enjoy having my petals bruised." She motions over a server to bring them kahve. "I like the idea of adventure and exploration and wonder and trying new things."

"But not independent independent, then. Still official Night Court," Alair argues even though he doesn't actually know the situation. Forgetting himself, he puts his forearms on the table and leans in. "Bruised? I shouldn't wonder. The Night Court system…" He doesn't look like he approves.

"The idea of perpetual virginity, I suppose. The conceit of being too naive to understand what one is agreeing to — which rich men use to excuse bad behavior," Alienor explains lowly, shaking her head slightly. "What should I exclude from a contract? I don't even know! If you get off by having a courtesan stand in mud while you throw rotten fruit, that should be added specifically, not assumed to be acceptable because it wasn't explicitly excluded!" She takes a breath and lets it out slowly, glancing around for the young man with the cups of kahve. He brings two, one for her and one for Alair.

Alair tightens the corners of his mouth. "My sister's a Camellia," he says softly, as if that should explain something. "Personally…" But he doesn't finish the sentence exactly, glancing around. "Well, anyway, I think the whole system could stand a shake-up."

"Perfection, then? Is she a pretty redhead like you? Blue eyes? Graceful carriage?" Alienor wonders curiously, looking him up and down. His second statement, though, has her frowning a bit, and then she shrugs and reaches for her kahve. "How would you do it differently, then? How would you change the system?"

Alair rolls a shoulder at the questions. Maybe it's a sore subject, or he doesn't want to commit to an answer. Or maybe he just doesn't want to discuss his sister's beauty. "Well," he says, reaching for his own cup, "For starters, I wouldn't decide anyone's fate at the age of eight."

"Do you know what eight year olds say when you ask them if they want to grow up to be beautiful servants of angels with access to wealthy nobles, gorgeous and fashionable clothes, and a life of relative leisure? They agree. And then they never see their parents again," Alienor replies, pursing her lips before sipping her bitter brew. "That's it. That's the beginning. And maybe, in a decade, if they so decide, maybe they can seek out their parents again. The parents who gave them away to a salon. Sure, I wanted to be a nigh magical servant of Naamah." She closes her eyes for a moment, then opens them to peer into her kahve cup before setting it down. "And now I'm trying to figure out what I want to do so that I can return to service, because I'm not going to manage to make a living as a painter."

Alair drinks quietly from the coffee. "What makes you so sure you wouldn't?" he asks. "And how do you plan on returning to service if you've left the Night Court? They don't just let you back in, do they?"

"They don't, no, not when you tell off the Dowayne, no," Alienor admits with a little shake of her head, and she looks distant a moment. "So you go independent, and you just privately contract with noblemen who want very much to have their way with you."

Alair laughs softly at the idea of such a small veiled girl telling off an Dowayne. "Independent independent," he says, nodding. "But that costs money, no, to establish a salon of your own. You have a benefactor?"

"I won't even establish a salon," Alienor says with a little shake of her head. "Though it'd be incredible if I could. I'd do it all differently. I wouldn't fret with canons. Debuts are such a lucrative thing, but they're awful. They're awful! People are bidding on love. And there isn't any love in the salon. There's only loneliness. You hug a friend too much, and they're worried that you're going to lose your virginity before it can be properly sold. You make friends with the more provocative ones, and they are certain you're going to be terribly corrupted. Consenting is done by the salon on your behalf, and you might as well consent to whatever they want because you need to make your marque so that you can finally consent on your own."

"Well, they do it all wrong," Alair opines. "They make a religion of it. They want to pretend the money don't touch it. But if every courtesan's taking money, just pure money, and none of that gift nonsense…then everybody does better, don't they?" he asks. "Instead of all those pieties, you can have true artists of personality. If you don't have a house full of babies you're raising in the life, there's more money to go around. Don't you think?" He smiles, all dimples. "Terrible shame if you don't establish a salon," he says. "It's just what the city needs."

"It is religious, though," Alienor says firmly, turning her gaze to Alair somewhat fiercely, frowning at him. "It's not about the money. I mean, it is about the money, to some degree. Companionship to the nobility. And… sort of… anyone who can pay. But mostly to the scions of angels. Right? That's what it's supposed to be. Acting in the very model of Naamah." She huffs slightly. "It's just… no one can make an informed decision as a child. It's a good education, mostly. I could be a proper consort to a nobleman." She sighs softly. "There's just a minority of us who it turns out don't quite fit with expectations, and no one realizes that until it's too late." She sips her kahve. "You don't get to say, 'fuck this White Rose shit; enough with people telling me what to do; I want to tell them what to do; I shall be a Thorn now.' They don't allow crossover at all."

"Not about the money?" Alair asks with a deeply doubtful expression. "What do you eat, grass and rocks? Things are only 'not about the money' for people who have someone else to pay their keep." He smirks. "They should let you do whatever you want."

"I mean, I suppose," Alienor admits with a little sigh. "Someone is paying my keep right now, while I… rediscover myself. Which is very kind. And very appreciated. I feel very much loved." She looks a bit pained as she sips her kahve. "I mean. The money is why I'm willing to go back into service, isn't it? Because what else would I have done, if someone hadn't taken me in? Dragged my broken heart and damaged soul to some soft-hearted noble's door, and paid with my body. The only difference now is that I can heal before…"

"Good for you," Alair says, and he doesn't sound bitter until he adds, "But do you think anybody pays my keep? Or ever did? Do you think Naamah or Elua or any of them come down off their thrones and help the ones who don't get picked by some wrinkly old Dowayne?"

"No," Alienor replies with a little shake of her head, and then frowns at him a bit. "You weren't chosen? But you're so pretty! Were they finicky about some minor imperfection? Something ridiculous and utterly irrelevant?"

Alair shrugs his shoulders, looking aside, and in feigning indifference so intently, it is clear that it bothers him deeply. "How should I know? They don't even explain. Not to the type of people we were. And I was just a child. My sister went and I did not." He drinks the kahve.

"If it weren't a religious thing, you could just get a marquist to draw flowers on your back. And then, when someone asked, you'd just tell them that you made your marque in a salon on the other side of Terre D'Ange," Alienor muses thoughtfully. "So now, what do you do? Make your living as a musician?"

Alair smiles. slyly "I could do it anyway," he says, "But the jig would be up the second it's clear I have no fancy place to flop," Alair replies. "But yes, I get paid to sing here, I tumble on the street, I dance on occasion. I entertain. It is my way."

"Mine's real, and I very nearly didn't have a fancy place to stay," Alienor points out with a little shake of her head. "I have my own room for the first time in my life. My own room!"

"Must be nice," Alair says. "Does your benefactor want to take me in too? I'd be very good at discovering myself."

"Probably not, no," Alienor replies with a measure of amusement, shaking her head slightly. "And I don't think I can discover myself forever. I think I shall have to be productive after a point. And that means the whole 'love as thou wilt'."

Alair shrugs at Alienor. "Well, either way. Enjoy your fresh start. You'll be all right. You seem clever enough."

"You seem bitter. I suppose I understand. I met a nobleman, too, who was bitter that he wasn't a courtesan. He was so excited about making his debut, but oh no! He had to go inherit land, and how awful," Alienor says with a soft sigh. She peers into her cup of kahve. "He paid me quite a lot of money to be his companion and do no more than smile at him prettily and kiss him." She looks to Alair and focuses. "That's how you feel, isn't it?"

Alair blinks at Alienor. "What's how I feel?" he asks, setting his cup down and making eye contact, for once without smiling.

"I'm spoiled, and you hate it. Just the way I hated that nobleman for crying about his misfortune in inheriting a literal fortune! With land!" Alienor replies.

Alair snorts. "You think you're the most spoiled person I've met? I take coppers from noble hands all day. When I'm lucky." He looks Alienor over. "I don't hate it. I just think you should know it if you're lucky. And enjoy it. I would."

"I am lucky," Alienor replies softly, sighing a bit. "I didn't know where I'd end up. I didn't know if I'd have nothing and nowhere to go. I'm enjoying it. I mean, in between the anguish and the crying. And the older men trying to figure out how to get me naked."

"I still think you should consider opening an independent salon one day," Alair says. "You could help people besides yourself. Outside the Night Court or after it, or falling through the cracks." He smiles. "And don't tell people they're bitter; it's rude."

"Sorry. I'm a brat, I guess," Alienor replies with a bit of a blush, looking a bit scolded. "You want to be a courtesan? You'd probably make better money than singing. I mean, you are pretty."

"I can't afford it, my young friend," Alair says. "You need a place, you need fancy clothes. It takes an investment. Like any business."

Alienor considers this wryly. "I know," she admits after a moment. "A noblewoman gave me a dress just… because. Which was a stroke of luck, frankly, because duc's daughters with something to prove are a gift from the Companions." She laughs softly. "I've dyed several of my white gowns and had them tailored a bit so that they'd look new." She looks down at her soft hands wrapped around the kahve cup. "I've carefully budgeted out how much I can spend on kahve and dessert, and how much I can spend on painting supplies and pretty dresses, and how much must go to helpful servants as tips, and I'm saving the rest carefully. For emergencies."

"Good, you sound clever," Alair replies. "I'm sure you'll be fine in the world. I myself shouldn't stay here much longer. Money to be earned while they're still daylight m, after all."

"I'll cover your kahve; I didn't tip you for your music, after all," Alienor admits, and then she laughs suddenly. "I am getting to see the other side of it a bit."

"Kind of you," Alair replies, but it's obvious he expected that from the beginning, since she invited him to sit. "Stay smart. Make the most of your advantages. Good luck out there." He gets up and makes her a little bow.

"I think it's only right. I'm bitter when someone doesn't pay for my time. It's only right that I should pay for yours," Alienor replies seriously to him as he bows. "I hope that I will have the pleasure of your companionship in the future."

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