Goriel and beyond, part 6

As we play, occasionally we'll close a thread and open a new one to keep the size of threads (and relative complexity) down to a dull roar. Here's where we store the closed posts from the history of Errant Road.

Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Graybeard » October 9th, 2012, 12:12 pm

[OOC:
Drusia wrote:Back in our chambers, I clear some space.

There's barely enough room in those little chambers for a dance lesson, but anyway...]

"Your turn."

Therese felt a brief, involuntary flush as Desiree turned her attention to her. "Thank you," she smiled, and took the half elf's hand...

... Just in time for a knock at the door. Feeling equal parts chagrined and embarrassed, she opened it and looked outside, where a decidedly dour-looking nun was squinting at her, her arms folded, a foot tapping (and definitely not in time to the music), her face a mask of disapproval.

"You must not be from around here," this forbidding apparition clucked. "It is now quiet time in the cloister. Time for all believers to meditate on their responsibilities to Luminosita." She glanced archly at Tim. "All serious believers, anyway."

----------

A couple whom Argus hadn't seen before were waiting at the Ordial house when he and Sister Rose arrived, the question of how to handle the encounter with Margot still in Rose's mind. It was replaced by joy, however, as soon as she saw the pair. "Aron! Gretta!" she enthused, and ran to hug first her brother, then her sister-in-law.

The family affinities were clear enough. Aron was tall and spare, with the same light brown-red hair as his sister had, and the characteristic Nuria green eyes. He wore tidy, rimless glasses that Rose knew were mainly to enhance his schoolmaster image; in his case the magical gifts that went with those green eyes manifested themselves as superior sensory magic, and he could surely have dispensed with the glasses if he'd wanted to. His wife was small, blonde and blue-eyed, with a wide, open and perpetually smiling face. Rose's memory of the woman was accurate; she looked like half Lillith, half one of the Millenarian women in Provatiel, and utterly adorable.

Happy introductions were made, and Dorothy Ordial appeared with her maid, the latter bearing a bottle and glasses. "Shall we have a bit of wine before dinner?" she smiled, steering the couples toward the handsome sitting room ...

... And Rose remembered the circumstances of her first meeting with Argus.

<"Are you going to be okay with this?"> she thought, while maintaining the entirely heart-felt smile she'd had since seeing her brother; such an expression could be sincere, yet, until the situation with Argus and alcohol was resolved ... a bit ... cautious.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Alberich » October 9th, 2012, 12:46 pm

Despite his sizable capacity for embarrassment, Tim didn't feel a bit of it this time. The nun's first observation was pretty stupid anyway - of course a male priest and three girls dressed for an afternoon out weren't from this cloister. The prophet speaks! And he had little use for this "cloistered" business - it smacked a bit of the old monastic heresies. The clergy was there to guide and lead the people, not shut itself off from them and meditate on its own virtues. Sti-illl, it was her cloister, and so he asked -

"Well, then, since I've seriously got the duty of entertaining our foreign guests, is there a quiet spot 'round this place where I can do that, without disturbing the Sisters?"

"Ask Father Pincus," she replied, leaving in a huff. Father Pincus' offices were located in a different part of the complex, and he had his own house off-site (as did Tim back in Umbertiel), but he was still in at this hour. After a short visit with Tim, he asked to be introduced to these foreign ladies, and Tim asked them to come along so nicely that they couldn't refuse. (And made no remark on the fact that Desiree, for one, seemed to be a little pinker every time he came back in the room after an absence...but this time it took him so long to return, that Therese had plenty of time to join in this )

They found themselves in the office of a middle-aged priest, thin-bodied and thin-haired, but dark and wrinkly from many days outdoors. His face looked a little elfin, but he was far too short to raise a suspsicion of true elf blood. And when he wasn't smiling, he was getting ready to smile. While Tim had been fetching the girls he'd got hold of a placid-looking, solidly-built young nun from Emerylon - who rarely spoke and never frowned. There were comfortable chairs, and wine and water, for all.

"Good of you to come!" said he, and inquired after their travels, but did not press for details in their rehearsed and noncommital answers. From his talk, he seemed amused and not at all shocked that the young ladies had been interested in dance styles from around the world, but that, alas, the timing had not been right for the Sisters. They talked a little of these things before he turned the conversation around to storytelling - his own village was in one of the colder regions, and in the winter they didn't care to go out for dances, but stayed in and spun old tales. He'd dearly love to hear a story or two from their native countries, if they'd care to tell.

It wasn't hard for Tim to see his strategy. A good story apiece would eat up the time 'til they were ready for sleep, would keep the guests from boredom, and wouldn't make noise to disturb anyone around here. The calm-looking nun would be a witness against any imputations of scandal, and all might be settled with a minimum of fuss.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Drannin » October 9th, 2012, 1:28 pm

<"Don't worry,"> Argus thought back. <"I'm not the bitter, drunken wreck I used to be. And I refuse to allow a simple chemical to have dominion over my mind. I'll just be careful, and watch my intake.">
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Drusia » October 9th, 2012, 2:58 pm

Alberich wrote: (And made no remark on the fact that Desiree, for one, seemed to be a little pinker every time he came back in the room after an absence...but this time it took him so long to return, that Therese had plenty of time to join in this )


OOC: ??? Um... huh? Join in what? No music means no more dance lessons until they get a new space. I imagine they talk... about what I have no idea.

... OR Desiree might sing (softly) and instruct Anfisa and Therese. Hmm. Well, no, probably not - Desiree doesn't want to get in trouble with the church by violating their quiet time.

Anyway... /OOC

"Good of you to come!" said he, and inquired after their travels, but did not press for details in their rehearsed and noncommital answers. A good story apiece would eat up the time 'til they were ready for sleep, would keep the guests from boredom, and wouldn't make noise to disturb anyone around here. The calm-looking nun would be a witness against any imputations of scandal, and all might be settled with a minimum of fuss.

Sharing tales? Not exactly what I wanted to do in my pretty dress. Ugh, fine. He wants a story - he'll get one.

"Oh, can I go first?" I ask brightly. I usually sing rather than tell tales, but there are enough balads that are both that this isn't exactly foreign - ha ha - to me. And anyway, I've always loved reading. My mother has collected books of tales from around the world - and some collected works from Tsuiraku that picked up a few she missed.

Everyone looks to me. I close my eyes, collect my thoughts, and begin.

"In the city of Mont Nuit," I begin, "there are thirteen great houses of pleasure. In one of them - Jasmine House - a girl was born. Her name was Phoebe. She was a pretty thing, like her mother, but she had a flaw that made her unsutable to become a cortessan of the house - a red spec, as of blood, in her left eye. For a time they thought it might heal, but it never did. Thus, rather than a house cortessan, she was to be raised as a servant, to greet guests and serve drinks. Still, Jasmine House had it's pride, so she was give a proper education with the other young girls and boys. During a lesson on the gods, the priest told her of how their great god, Elua, cut his hand to prove to his father that he was human as well as a god.

"Later that day, filled with religious fervor, Phoebe stabbed her own hand with a large pin. It was the first time she'd truly experienced pain and - to her surprise - at that moment the red mote in her eye grew so that all she could see was red ,and the pain in her hand turned to pleasure. She sighed and sat down in the courtyard, surprised and confused. The madamme of the house, however, saw her and began to wonder.

"The next day. Phoebe was called to see the madamme. There, waiting with the old madamme, was a man - a poet and a scholar, as it happened, named Annifel. The madamme had told him of the incident, and wished him to look at Phoebe. He did so - and laughed aloud, quite shocking all present. He quoted an old poem - "the Mighty Kushiel, doth prick the eye of his chosen mortal" - and named Phoebe as Kushiel's Dart, a girl born to accept pain as if it were pleasure. He offered then and there to buy her Marque from the madamme and train her himself. The price the madamme asked was outragious, a high starting offer for the customary bidding, but he paid her without question and escorted Phoebe to his town house. There he hired her the best tutors to school her in language, politics, and the arts of the bedchamber. Beyond these things, he taught her other things as well - how to listen, how to manipulate, and how to detect a lie - the arts of covertcy. She learned along side his other pupil, a beautiful boy with silver hair and a carefree smile named Alucin.

"Years passed. Phoebe blossomed into a beautiful young woman with black curls, rich skin, and a sharp mind. Although she and Alucin both studied the arts of the bedchamber together, Annifel forbade them to practice on one another - or anyone else. This suited Alucin well enough, for he had eyes only for his master Annifel, but Phoebe chaifed at the restriction - she wanted to ply her art, to play the music of the flesh. She was forced to live with her frustration until, finally, her fifteenth birthday arrived. When Annifel told her that there was an offer for her virginity, Phoebe leaped at the chance to serve her master and ply her trade. Annifel warned her that the offer was from one of his bitter enemies, but Phoebe was only more pleased - she liked his anger - and so the arrangement was made.

"She arrived at her in a close-fitting gown with a modest neckline, for she had no Marque to bare yet. She was to eat dinner there, with her master's enemy. She, of course, was for after the meal."

I pause there, observing the reaction of my audience. The next bit gets rather... graphic, and this is only the beginning of the tale.

-- Desiree

Edit: OOC2: Oh, and in case it isn't amazingly obvious, this is a telling of the first few chapters of Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey (with a couple of names and minor plot points altered). This is also the tale of "epic romance and covertcy" that so inspired her in Goriel.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Alberich » October 9th, 2012, 9:07 pm

Tim was boiling angry. He could not believe Desiree was telling this story in innocence. She couldn't possibly be stupid enough to think this tale of whores was apporpriate in Veracia, in front of priests or anywhere else (except maybe in Places Where Tim Did Not Go). Obviously, it was some kind of tease or revenge, an eagerness to offend the customs of the land where she was sojourning. It was just another facet of that "superiority" shown by Drusia and even Eli - the mere humans were just dust or at best "peasants," and their mores, their customs, and their bodies had to be disrespected and trampled on at a whim, to show that elves were supreme. The sooner this half-elf succubus got out of his country and went back to where she came from, never to return, the better!

Father Pincus, to Tim's surprise, kept an even keel and even half a smile. Even more surprisingly, the nun stayed placid - though she wasn't exactly showing pleasure, either. In this she contrasted with Anfisa, who was enjoying every moment, and hanging on Desiree's lips, and quite ignoring the actions of the devout Veracians around her.

There was no anger in Father Pincus' voice as he reacted. "These are elf lands you're talking about, I suppose," he said -- he might not know a half-elf from an elf at sight (or admit it if he did), but Desiree's elven parentage was obvious enough. "Their customs aren't at all like ours. Always interesting to learn about them. I should tell you - we tell all kinds of stories on a long winter's night, but not to excite the passions. With a couple of families that might be snowed in for a few days together, you can appreciate, we don't want them dwelling on the wrong kind of thoughts." His tone invited her to wrap the tale up as she saw fit, but not to increase its erotic content.

Tim breathed a silent prayer of thanks that Father Pincus was not more overtly offended. Nonetheless, Desiree had embarrassed him in front of their hosts. There would be a reckoning for him for asking this favor and he wasn't looking forward to it. It took him moments more to remember that Desiree had saved his life not so long ago, and that that ought to weigh heavily in the scale against any amount of embarrassment. Even so, he was increasingly convinced that not only she, but all elves and half-elves, should leave Veracia and only come on the briefest of missions, as emissaries, say, and leave even faster than they came. There wasn't a one of them that knew a damned thing about being a respectful guest. He hoped Desiree would have the sense to take the hint from Father Pincus' tone, and not use it as an opening to start an argument.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Graybeard » October 9th, 2012, 9:26 pm

[OOC: Therese will be sitting this one out, listening quietly. As for Rose...]

<"Bless you,"> Sister Rose thought at Argus, as the wine was poured. (What she wanted to say was somewhat more -- passionate than that. However, this wasn't the time.) A short time later, she was savoring an outstanding apéritif, a light, dry white wine with a gentle taste that seemed somehow familiar. "This is really excellent," she told her mother. "Where did you get it?"

Dorothy Ordial smiled and chuckled, another one of those things that connected mother to daughter. "I'm surprised you didn't recognize it," she said, "because it comes from Kiyoka, where you're stationed." Her mood changed subtly. "It's from an outfit called Rising Moon Vineyards that was becoming highly regarded in this country, among the few people who follow fine wines from offshore. Unfortunately, there won't be any more of it, according to my understanding. Sort of a sad story, actually. The young proprietress lost her husband to some gang violence in Kiyoka, and moved with her baby back to Farrel where she came from. The vineyard closed earlier this season. There hasn't been a buyer for it yet, I'm told."

A quick glance passed between Rose and Argus before she responded. "Now I remember. We used to use Rising Moon as a supplier for the temple's sacramental wine. Terrible what happened, just terrible." She shuddered at the memory ... just as another thought occurred to her.

I wonder if we could take that vineyard over and run it for the temple, when this madness about the "Convergence" is dealt with. Argus says he's okay with wine now, and I believe him; I trust him implicitly. And I ... I'm not sure I'm good for going back to the simple life of a nun, after ... what has happened. Maybe we could settle down there, get the vineyard back flourishing, live quietly, and ... dare I even think about it ... raise a family of our own. I've still got a few years of fertility left, and he'd make a fantastic father... I think I'll want to talk to him about that when ... if ...

"Honey?" Dorothy Ordial interrupted, an eyebrow raised. "You've just been sitting staring off into space for a couple of minutes now. Is something wrong?"

Chagrined, Rose hemmed and hawed an apology, but her mind was still elsewhere, in that little vineyard on the coast south of Kiyoka.

With Argus.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Drusia » October 9th, 2012, 10:11 pm

Tim looks pissed. Tee hee. Well, no, that's not fair - I was trying to annoy Father Pincus so he'd let us go have our music (the less sinful of the two options). It's not like Tim's flute is very loud. Although - come to think of it - pissing off Tim will probably end him as a source of music. Oh well, I can always play the harp. So - are we done here yet?

"These are elf lands you're talking about, I suppose," he said. "Their customs aren't at all like ours. Always interesting to learn about them. I should tell you - we tell all kinds of stories on a long winter's night, but not to excite the passions. With a couple of families that might be snowed in for a few days together, you can appreciate, we don't want them dwelling on the wrong kind of thoughts."

I blink. "Oh, this isn't an elven story," I say. "The elves didn't have cortessans - well, not as indentured servants." The elves mostly relied on sacred prostitutes like me, but I'm not going to point that out. "Mont Nuit is part of the Northern Confederacy." Or it was - I'm not exactly sure how old the story is. Also, it might actually be a Tsuirakuian story that takes place in a fictional Northern Confederacy city - I can't honestly remember. Again, not a fact to mention when I'm supposed to be from the Northern Confederacy.

"And it isn't meant to be a tale to titilate," I add. "It's a tale of suspense and adventure, and romance. There's sword fighting later, and a great war. But I don't want to get ahead of myself." Of course, that war is years later, when Phoebe is older. The first third of the tale is the politics of Mont Nuit and the conspiracy about how that war came about - and how Phoebe discovered the conspiracy.

"Anyway," I say, continuing the story, "de'Essoms - that's Annifel's enemy, who Phoebe was contracted to - bent Phoebe over the dinner table and whipped her until she begged him to take her. He was shocked to find that she truly did find pain to be pleasurable - he hadn't truly believed before. And he did take her there, on the table, in every way he could. Afterwards, it is said he kept the table cloth, stained by her virgin blood, as a keepsake.

"Phoebe became quite the quiet sensation," I continue, adding a bit of wordplay. "And many more offers were made for her. Phoebe delighted in the attention, the acolades, and the assignations with the nobility of Mont Nuit. However, there was one person that caught her attention above all others - a lady friend of Annifel's named Millicent. It is said that Millicent was the most beautiful woman in all of Mont Nuit - she was tall, with shimmering black hair so dark it reflected blue, deep piercing eyes, and sensual lips. She was said to be of Kushiel's line - for all the nobles of Mont Nuit decended from their founder gods. Kushiel, the punisher, had pricked Phoebe's eye and made her his chosen, but his blood ran in Millicent's veins, and that blood sang in Phoebe's ears, beckoning to her. And yet, Millicent offered no contract and asked for no assignations. Instead, Millicent had taken a prince for her lover.

"The king of Mont Nuit was elderly, his son dead in a war, and his grand daughter to inherit the throne. Many young men sought her hand, and some older men as well. However, she was not the only possible heir - the king's sister had a line as well, a cousin, Prince Baudin - and it is he who Millicent shared her bed with. Well, he and others - they were known to visit the thirteen houses, particularly Valerian house, which has the motto 'we yield' and has long served the scions of Kushiel well. Baudin led a band of knights known as the glory seekers, and they battled Trolls who raided outlying villages and threatened the border of Mont Nuit's holdings.

"All this was known to Phoebe, for Annifel insisted that she study politics as well as bedchamber arts and languages. Phoebe and Alucin often wondered at what game their master played, but he would never answer, for Annifel believed that to do so would put them in danger.

"It is well I bring up Alucin, for although he debuted as a cortessan before Phoebe did, he did not take to it as well. At a fete, Phoebe overheard him bargining with a patron for a piece of information in exchange for an assignation - rather than learning it covertly, as Phoebe did. Alucin asked for a patron gift to make his Marque - the tattoo on a cortessan's back that shows they are no longer an indentured servant. The tattoo began below the small of one's back, and continued upward to flourish at one's shoulders. Phoebe's own Marque was only just above the small of her back, so to hear of Alucin seeking to finish his so quickly made her both jealous and worried. However, she chose to keep Alucin's confidences, though she spoke to him of it, and he admitted to her that he found the life of a cortessan distasteful.

"Alucin got his assignation - and his patron gift - but the man feared what he had told Alucin, so after Alucin left for the evening, he sent assassins to slay him. Alucin was wounded, but escaped, although others did not. Annifel was furious and sought the King's justice, but the man had fled Mont Nuit for Goriel. Annifel was also upset with Alucin, for risking himself so, but Alucin was angry in return - why had he not learned sword play, he demanded, so to better protect himself? Only then did Annifel learn what he had demanded, and that Alucin no longer wished to be a cortessan. Annifel was disappointed in himself, for he never meant to pressure either to that choice. He recinded his claim on Alucin and offered to do the same for Phoebe, but she refused - her dream was to be the greatest cortessan in Mont Nuit, and she couldn't do that by throwing aside her Marque. And besides, like Alucin, she was in love with Annifel, who had rescued her from obscurity as a servant. Above all, she wanted to make him proud.

"And, of course, to try her skills in Millicent's bed. She thought she was to get that wish when, on Prince Baudin's birthday, Millicent contracted for her. Phoebe was to be Millicent's brithday gift to Baudin. To her disappointment, she found that the fires of Kushiel did not truly flow in Baudin's veins, for he only knew what to do with a whip as Millicent coatched him. When he swung the whip at her, he shouted 'Waldimir Skleg!' as a war cry. He did not seem to know the meaning, but Phoebe did - it was the Troll tongue, which was one of the many languages Annifel had insisted she learn, much to her confusion. The words meant 'Waldimir the Blessed' - an odd thing to yell before whipping a cortessan. Still, Phoebe soon found herself distracted from the mystery by the whipping - however inexpert - and the love making that followed. To her disappointment, Millicent did not touch her, although she did touch Baudin, and after not too long Baudin and Millicent turned to their own coupling leaving Phoebe bound and blindfolded. She slept that way, and was given a bath and massage in the morning before her departure. Upon returning home, she reported all she heard and saw, including the mystery of Waldimir the Blessed."

And with such small things does the story begin to take shape. It is a long tale - I am not even through the first third yet, and quite a bit of time has passed. I haven't even mentioned the Cuthine yet, and they play a great role in the story. Nor the King's Poet and her role in events. And not Hyacinth, the Prince of Travelers. So much more to tell... assuming Tim's head doesn't explode.

-- Desiree

OOC: Yeah, I could go on like this for... well, quite a while. I've actually managed to avoid any serious spoilers for the novel, just in case this 'tale' makes anyone interested in actually reading the book.
Oh, and once again: this story is the work of Jacqueline Carey, from her book Kushiel's Dart. Seriously, you should read it.

OOC2: [OOC: Therese will be sitting this one out, listening quietly]
That's probably for the best. So long as she doesn't deny the existence of Mont Nuit in the Northern Confederacy. If it looks like she might, Desiree will try to send her some subtle signals to not say either way - Desiree doesn't want her own credencials as from there to be weakened.
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Alberich » October 10th, 2012, 5:42 pm

Tim might've liked to have his head explode - now she was adding boy whores and unnatural copulations to the tale, though at least she was sparing the details. But just as jilted lovers do not die of broken hearts, even when they long for it, so must the humiliated Tim serve out every agonizing minute of this punishment, and then take the consequences.

Father Pincus asked a couple of cogent questions, though pointedly not about the sexual aspects, which showed he was following the story and the characters quite well. But then, he knew far more than Tim of Church politics and intrigue, and had a knack for keeping characters and factions straight - a talent that would serve him well and perhaps propel him to the College of Cardinals. His questions subtly hinted that these aspects of the story, more than the passions of the characters, were both more interesting and better suited to the audience. Tim fervently hoped that Desiree would see that and swerve the tale accordingly. The nun remained placid.

[OOC: As far as I'm concerned this part of the thread is basically passing time while Drannin and Greybeard finish their scene; and I can certainly move to summaries and timeslips when that is all done.]
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Graybeard » October 10th, 2012, 7:20 pm

[OOC: OK, edging forward at the dinner, then. Incidentally, Therese might have something to say if things get slow with Pincus, but mainly she's content to listen.]

Appetizers arrived, and after a short, rather pro-forma prayer of thanks to Luminosita (I hope that doesn't bother him, thought Sister Rose, but Argus had sat patiently through far more tedious things for her sake), the diners applied themselves to oysters on the half shell, imported from the Southern Continent.

"Marvelous," Aron said with a wide smile. "We don't get to enjoy these very often."

Dorothy Ordial winked. "You could always come work for Donald, you know. His line of work gives us good access to things like delicacies."

Her son smiled wistfully. "Same answer as always, Mom. Tell him we appreciate the offer, but I'd rather have the satisfaction of working with kids. That's worth sacrificing some oysters for." (He hasn't changed a bit, Rose thought, even though she suspected that the financial gap between teaching school and the kind of position Donald Ordial would line up for him would cover quite a bit more than oysters.) "What I really wish is that we could find Margie, and you could make that offer to her instead."

Uh, oh, Rose thought, as her mother shook her head. "Not a word about her," the older woman said, sadness in her voice. "We've been asking around, but she just seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. I just hope and pray that she's still alive and well, and -- Rose, what is it?"

Rose's capacity for Empathy wasn't just magical; it was also rooted in a family that had valued that skill from as far back as she could remember, and she was well aware that her mother was a master of it. Now she felt herself under her mother's probing eye ... and it wasn't an entirely comfortable experience, for her or for the other diners, who'd put down their little oyster forks.

"Well..." she began, but nothing would come out, at least not immediately. A quick word, however, did pass from her mind to Argus'.

<"Help.">
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Re: Goriel and beyond, part 6

Postby Drannin » October 10th, 2012, 8:15 pm

"What Rose is trying to say," Argus said smoothly, "Is that we may have heard something on that front, but would like to investigate a bit more before saying anything."
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