(1312-06-28) Future Considerations
Summary: In which Raphael takes tea with Perpetua, and the different paths taken in service to Naamah and beyond are considered.
RL Date: Sun Jun 28, 2020
Related: None
raphael perpetua 

Garden - La Rose Blanche

Tall, white-painted casements connect the salon to a terracotta-tiled terrace that spands the width of the building. Small orange trees in pots, lemons and clipped bays are organically organised around groupings of tables and chairs, and these perfume the air whatever the season. A pale sandstone balustrade separates the terrace from the garden, and two wide and shallow steps flanked by urns from which white roses tumble, invite a person to step down and follow the paths that wind between well-tended beds. Here, fan-trained peaches sprawl on south-facing walls, and night-blooming jasmine scrambles so that the senses are sweetly indulged by the ever-changing scents that envelop the soul. The thrill of an intimate meeting can be arranged within any number of the verdantly entwined arbours and hidden away nooks.

Following the natural course of the path further through the gardens, an oasis is unexpectedly discovered. Hidden from view of the house by the flowering hedges and greenery, a mature willow droops its delicate fronds above a tranquil pool of water. Embraced by grass and moss-covered rocks, pale green lily pads spread across its surface, and in the summer months the translucent pink-edged blooms of waxy white that open to the sun are a delight to behold.

It's been a long week of hot and thundery weather, and today is no different. Whilst rain has thus far held off, the threat of a later downpour hangs in the air. The lowering clouds of steel lend a more sombre mood to the usually light atmosphere of the La Rose Blanche gardens, and even the oiled awning that hangs above the terracotta terrace appears to have caught the mood. It flaps sullenly at the ropes that anchor it to the upright posts planted at each corner. It wafts the otherwise still and humid air beneath, and stirs the white lace tablecloth that covers a small table with tea for two set. It also causes the layers of sheer white gauze worn by the person that waits there, to billow.

A note had been received by that person from the Second of Thorns, and a prompt reply had been quickly sent, with instructions to show Raphael directly to the terrace upon his arrival. It's Perpetua, the latest Mont Nuit import that waits so quietly there for him, her fingers laced in her lap and the pot on the table as yet left unpoured.

Perhaps not the most auspicious sky under which to seek a pleasant tea with a new arrival, but while the rain forebears from falling, the opportunity is not ruined. Raphael arrives exactly when expected, dressed as usual in breeches with a lapis-colored shirt worn slightly open at the upper chest. As the novice shows him onto the terrace, he inclines his head to Perpetua. "Good of you to see me," he says.

"It is you that do me the honour, monsieur," Perpetua counters, her hands sliding from her lap as she rises to her feet. She's as quietly spoken as her appearance would suggest she might be, her gown unprepossessing in its simplicity and with all but her eyes veiled from the world by the sheerest of veils. "We are fortunate, I think, that the weather has held for us, for the salon will soon grow busy with the arrival of patrons, and it's easier to talk out here on the terrace than inside." One pale hand gestures to the table where the fragile bone china cups are set ready, along with pot, and the jug of freshly boiled water. "Jasmine tea, I thought, but if you would prefer something different, that's easily fetched. Some pastries and fruits too…" She dips her head with the hang of her words, though doesn't retake her seat once she's finished; nor is it likely she will until told.

"Quite," Raphael agrees, and helps himself to a seat without further delay. "This will do nicely, thank you." He smiles and nods at the chair opposite. "Please," he says. "I won't take an excess of your time. But being that our salons have only just disentangled, and you are newly arrived, I thought it would be best to be sure you are properly welcomed. While I agree that our salons may prosper in separation, I would not like to see it go so far as isolation. I believe we should remain close."

Perpetua's skirts drift neatly into place as she sinks to a sit on her chair. "I will confess to feeling a little like a fish out of water when first I arrived," she admits, a glint of silver sparkling where a bracelet wraps her right wrist as she reaches for the jug of hot water. Her fingers curl about the handle and she lifts it a good twelve inches over the pot whilst a thin stream of steaming water is poured onto the leaves. Her eyes meet briefly with Raphael's. "Apart from the Longest Night, I rarely encountered the courtesans of the other salons on the Mont, so it did feel strange to live as we did here beneath the one roof." She pauses, the amount of water in the pot judged to be the perfect amount is acknowledged with a setting back down of the jug. "When I met with Monsieur Jacques in Elua he was, however most careful to explain what I ought to expect."

"That is to be expected," Raphael replies. "I remember feeling out of place on my return, even though I was born in Marsilikos." He makes a gesture. "But now White Roses have their own roof, unlike most of the salons in Marsilikos. Does that make you feel more at ease?" His eyebrows loft fractionally at the question.

"Do I feel more at ease?" Perpetua asks herself Raphael's own question, and her brows knit together above her eyes. A nod of her head is given. "I believe that I do." Her eyes dip low, and she occupies herself by gathering up a small silver spoon and stirring the pot. "I cannot really say that I was ever in a position to feel any unease, but there have been whispers amongst the adepts and courtesans that there have been occasions when boundaries were crossed." A thin stream of tea is poured into each of the cups. "I am perhaps not the ideal person to ask such a question of however, since I had only had time to settle before the move was made here. I am happy, however, that we are all considered part of the same family despite the separation."

Raphael turns up his palms, perhaps not inclined to comment upon that just now. "I believe we should be," he says to the last. "White Rose and Alyssum are complex canons. Perhaps moreso in Marsilikos even than in Elua. So I think support is essential." He takes up his tea. "That is why I wanted to be sure my face is familiar."

Perpetua is silent as Raphael speaks, her teeth snagging the lower edge of her lip as a quick nod is given. She speaks again, her voice low and hushed so it carries no farther than their boundaries of their table. "It is considerate of you to have thought of my comfort in this way, monsieur, and for that I must thank you." Another pause. "I will admit to having believed you a foreboding presence when seen from afar, but that is due in part to my own naivety and lack of contact with mandrakes up until now."

Raphael sips from the tea and inclines his head. "It is part of my business to seem foreboding," he acknowledges. "But we are on the same side of business and service," he says. "So that is exactly why I want to let you know that I can be trusted to support you and anyone in this house who should need it." He gestures to the garden. "Though that need may never come. This is a beautiful new salon with every advantage."

Perpetua is taken aback, where she'd been about to reach for her cup, her hand is arrested instead in mid-air. "I am unsure what you mean by support, but I think," and she hesitates, a genuine blush (as opposed to her skilled ones of artifice) darkens her complexion, "that Mademoiselle Virginie would be upset, offended even, were I to confide a problem to anyone other than her." A breath is drawn, and despite her sudden discomfort, she does search Raphael's eyes with her own. "Whilst I understand that I am not in Elua now, I have always been used to speaking directly with my mentors, my second or on occasion my dowayne. But a friend, I would welcome."

Raphael makes a gentle gesture to forestall offense. "I've never gone against the structures of our salon," he says. "And I don't mean to upset them now, nor to undermine anyone's power or cause offense. I only think it is unfortunate if the shape of our canons makes a Thorn seem to distant to be a friend." He sips his tea again. "I am not qualified to meddle in White Rose business."

"It is more I that am at fault," Perpetua says. "I have lived a lifetime on the Mont, and have grown up with its rules and restrictions and the purity of its teachings. It is one of the many reasons why Monsieur Jacques wished to engage my services for this salon." Beneath her veil, her mouth starts with the makings of a smile, and she tilts her head a fraction to the left. "As much as we are chosen for our natural inclinations when entering The Bright Lady's service, we can both acknowledge that the innocent whom I portray is nothing but artifice, a carefully constructed illusion to fulfill the fantasies of my patrons. Similarly, I imagine, beneath the layers of a mandrake such as yourself, lies the person you are. I have had neither the need nor the cause to know those of your canon."

Raphael nods several times. "I greatly respect rules," he says. "And roles. And even artifice. Our lives certainly lead us down some paths and not others. There is nothing wrong in that," he judges, drinking a bit more of the tea. "All the same, you must have had some reasons of your own to come to Marsilikos."

A dulcet low laugh stirs Perpetua's veils. She snags the cup before her and draws it into the cradle of her hands so her fingers can lace its circumference. "Unlike the other canons," she says, amusement colouring her tone, "we of House Alyssum have a relatively short career. We rarely attract a long term patron, and as we age the image of what we portray becomes that much harder to sustain." The cup is lifted beneath her veil, and she blows a breath across the rim so the steam filters through the diaphanous gauze. A touch of the tea to wet her lips before she continues. "It was time for me to return to the province of my birth, to reconnect with my family, and to eke out my time in service for another year or two."

Raphael nods once at that explanation. "I'm sure that's very wise," he says. "Every courtesan should give some thought to the end of service." He finishes the tea in his cup.

Perpetua nods in agreement. "And sadly, those of my canon have to think of it sooner than others." She lifts her cup to her lips for another fragrant sip, then sets it back down on the table. "It is different for those of you canon, however," she muses. "Patrons whom savour the darker pleasures must also feel safer in the hands of someone with a wealth of experience to their name. I wonder, monsieur, do you also look ahead to that time when you also might retire?"

"I discovered that this was so," Raphael confirms with a slow nod. "In fact, I left service once before, and later returned. I would like to remain in service to Naamah as long as I might be useful, but I realize that such usefulness will not be eternal."

"Did you return because you missed your service to Her?" Perpetua enquires. "It must have been difficult to fit back into a way of life upon which you had already closed the door." Her eyes are soft and gentle where they settle upon Raphael's once more, a genuine interest for his story showing deep in their doe-eyed darkness. "Did you say you were at La Rose Sauvage before?"

Raphael considers the question briefly, then nods. "In a way, yes. At a crossroads, I realized that I owed the blessings of my life to the Bright Lady and should rededicate myself." He smiles faintly. "There were joys and pains in the return. But yes. I came back to where I started."

"It feels very much as if you are a fixture here at the salon," Perpetua says quietly, her eyes lidding as they drop from Raphael's to the table. "Monsieur Jacques must have been pleased to welcome you back to the fold, there's much to be said for courtesans of experience." The silver at her wrist glints again where it catches the sun as she lifts her hand to trace the tip of one finger 'round the rim of her cup, and she's silent with her thoughts for a moment. "On the other hand," she eventually says, a wryness to her tone, "there will be no return for me once that decision is made. My mother will be beside herself at the thought of yet another of her daughters to find a match for, and my fate will be sealed." A pause. "Have you thought of marriage yourself, monsieur?"

"I was among the first Thorns grown here," Raphael further offers. "I cannot speak for the Dowayne, but I endeavor to be always to the credit of the salon and its enduring service." He smiles lightly at the final matter she brings up. "You have sisters, then," he concludes. "I'm sure your training, however, will make excellent prospects for you. I was married once before. I doubt if I shall be again."

"I cannot imagine a life outside of service," Perpetua says honestly. "It is all I have known." She is, and perhaps surprisingly, an easy conversationalist, a fact that would come as a revelation to those whom have contracted her in the past, and her voice is as expressive as it is gentle when she speaks of her family. "But yes, my parents had a son and three daughters, of which I'm the youngest. They say I was their gift from Naamah, which is one of the reasons I was dedicated to her." A brief pause. "You must have loved your wife deeply if you're unwilling to think of another."

"I did very much," Raphael confirms softly, "But at a certain age, an 'unwillingness' to marry a second time is not so unusual. I am from a common family, so I have no responsibility to titles, lands, or property."

"I'm so sorry for your loss," Perpetua says softly. "Having never loved another myself, I can only imagine what that must feel like." Her cup remains on the table, and she rotates it upon its saucer by the fingers of one hand. "As to titles, lands and property, I think that perhaps you are lucky in that. It allows you your freedom, and sometimes that is all that is needed. I wonder sometimes that my own father hasn't drowned beneath the weight of responsibility that he bears on his shoulders."

"Thank you," Raphael says, with reserve and graciousness in equal capacity. He reaches to refresh his tea. "Every person's lot in life comes with advantages and challenges," he says. "My path has been easier than some, though harder also than a few."

Perpetua should have refreshed Raphael's cup, but so engrossed had she been in their conversation that she'd quite missed her cue. Mortification shows in her eyes when they flick up to his. "Apologies, monsieur. I had not realised…" Her voice tails off.

Raphael shakes his head. "No harm done," he says. "I am no patron. I can pour tea for myself as well as for the many people I have served in my life." He offers a smile, too, and lifts his cup to drink.

Relief is visible in Perpetua's eyes with Raphael's reassurances. Despite her earlier words about him being a man beneath his mandrake mantle, he nevertheless represents a figure of authority in her eyes. Her own cup is abandoned and her hands slide into her lap. "Is our presence at La Rose Sauvage missed in any way, monsieur? It is hard for me to tell having been there so short a time myself. It was never a home to me as it was to other whom had lived their lives there, and I know that one of our novices in particular was sad when the move was announced."

"It is, of course," Raphael says. "Patrons and courtesans alike enjoyed glimpses of White Roses. Some adepts feel as if they have lost friends, however separate the canons." He sets the cup down. "Even so, I think it may be for the best. There were challenges in having all together."

"I heard that Mademoiselle Marielle whom held the position of Second before Mademoiselle Virgine returned, liked to refer to herself as a 'pink rose'," Perpetua says, as a light breeze cools the air beneath the awning. "I found myself wondering over that when first I heard it, but I understand better now what was meant. I imagine that that was also part of the reason why Monsieur Jacques has chosen to impose a more physical degree of separation for the salons."

"It may well be," Raphael allows. "You would know better than I the impact of Marielle's tenure. I have always enforced strict separation for my own novices as regards White Roses."

Perpetua takes a moment to answer, a hint of worry found in her brow. "It is a little early to tell yet, monsieur. I am trying to get to know each of our novices and to become, if you will, a big sister to them. To be someone in whom they might confide or express their concerns, to ease their worries before things need to go higher. I find that I am enjoying this aspect of service, and each day brings with it a fresh challenge of its own. It feels…" And she pauses in self-embarrassment as a hint of that former colour returns to her cheeks. "rather wonderful."

"I hope you will," Raphael says quite sincerely, eyes fixed upon Perpetua's face. "I think, if I may say, that that is extremely needed. Especially in a canon where what you say and what you feel in service may at times be different. I thank you for taking on that responsibility."

"I am not so old that I forget what it feels like to be a novice myself," Perpetua says, meeting Raphael's eyes with her own. "Though we were given to Naamah at a younger age in Elua than here in Marsilikos, whether we be common-born or of noble blood, homesickness is difficult no matter your age. I truly hope to make a difference for whatever time I have left." Her shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath that's taken, and a hand lifts to press a delicate touch to the silver leaves of her headpiece where the edge of her veil is anchored. Her eyes crinkle in thought. "I have been informed that the White Roses are to be instructed in the use of a 'signale'. This isn't something which I have had need of before."

"I'll tell you honestly that that was a suggestion of mine," Raphael says, nodding once. "I believe it is right for Marsilikos, though you may not have had need for it in Elua. Frankly, I think that any canon which might make use of deception, role playing, or dangerous acts should use a signale for absolute clarity in consent, and a way to instantly end an ancounter that has turned against the wishes of either participant." He takes a sip of the tea, then looks up again. "You must remember, in Marsilikos our canons have been tightly intertwined. We share many patrons, whose expectations and behaviors are colored by experiences with other canons. I believe it is wise for safety's sake."

Perpetua nods, and her eyes slide away from Raphael's and focus instead on a point deeper into the gardens. "Of course," she says quietly. "And I can quite see the sense of it since, as you say, the canons have become a muddied over time. You are wise, Monsieur Raphael. When a patron engages with an alyssum courtesan, the line between what is deception and guile or otherwise can be difficult to discern." She blinks heavily. "I shall have to think what my own signale shall be, although I sincerely hope that I shall never have cause to use it."

"You may never," Raphael agrees. "But perhaps you can think of some place or person from your past to use." He sets his cup down. "I'm afraid I'll need to return," he says. "But you were very gracious in receiving me today. I'm sure we'll meet again."

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