Introductions at Breakfast

Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Duquesne » Tue Oct 22, 2019 6:53 am

The light of another day painted itself first on the points of Darkenhold’s graceful spires. A warm glow of dawn, ruddy with the low haze of smoke and harvest clinging to miles of landscape, it plied itself down those tapering pyramidal structures and threw color across the carved blocks of all their many angles.

And as the sun rose further, this light eased down the turrets on which those spires stood and ignited the colored glass in the tracery of lancet-arch windows decorating the keep’s highest levels. Their stained glass and geometry furnished the place a rich element of color to offset the black striated stone from which it was built.

If looking from a distance, the elegant and imposing shadow of the place might seem to rise itself from the gloom of morning haze and mist, as if it physically ascended from the earth to catch the sun. An illusion, not at all coincidental — the man responsible understood the importance of a structure’s role in the emotional and spiritual realm of the living. Darkenhold, from its inception, was always to be more than the measure of its defenses, more than its measure of safety — it was meant to be beautiful, to lift minds and souls from trouble and the mundane; it was meant to inspire and calm.

Even before the sun crested the horizon, that same man was awake and into the day’s schedule. It was late when he and Gloria finally arrived here on the road from Aithne where they had been reunited in the gloom of that crumbling farmhouse. Syl Duquesne could have slept the day away, such was his fatigue, but he had sent word ahead of his arrival and there were matters to attend to before taking the morning’s meal with Gloria and his daughter.

“It is enough beeswax for the winter, yes, but I want our stores increased.”

Morning light has not yet reached the keep’s lower levels and the clerestory windows designed to supply as much natural light as possible. Thus, sconces and chandeliers remain burning to light the common rooms and corridors of the first floor. It is in the main corridor beneath one of these chandeliers the man stands, by its light reviewing a rather large ledger balanced on his palm and forearm. Both Aithne, his private estate, and Darkenhold, a trust, had been left in capable hands while he was gone, but he wanted to personally address the present state of both to ensure their continued efficiency. Especially now.

“There should not be less than a three-year supply of any of these wares at a given time,” he says, studying the ledger’s entries. “Create an independent supply of all materials used daily to conserve emergency stores. The latter must never be touched for common use, yes?”

“Very good, my lord,” so says the gentleman who stands with him, Ros Pyne, the steward he left to attend the two estates, and who makes notes on the smooth paper of his writing tablet. Mister Pyne here employs a form of shorthand, because long experience of Duquesne’s procedural manner demanded efficiency itself. The sheets of paper he has already filled are evidence of this, detailed notes taken from the equally detailed examination of Darkenhold’s subterranean store rooms, for it is from that place the two men have lately emerged. What his employer had requested was equal to a fortune, but the expense of it all is not mentioned once — the keep was maintained by an independent fund, replenished actively by its own productivity and backed by the fruits of wise investment. “Regarding the window glass, do you prefer sheets or should the panes be cut prior to shipment?”

The architect closes the ledger and positions it under his right arm, observing Pyne’s quick, methodical writing style. His gaze stirs down the main corridor they stand in, taking note of the first light of morning as it finally approaches the clerestories and begins to lessen the effectiveness of candlelight. “Have them cut before, as it will make for quick installation in any event. I am interested in having sheet glass available,“ the man lifts his hand to stay Pyne’s quill a moment, “but make some inquiries into continental sources first; Jernoah, perhaps, with all its sands. I am uncomfortable that our importation of this has come from such distance; it is far too costly in time and coin also. When you inquire, ask for recipes — I’d like to know the composition used before we commit. If you can manage it, arrange for samples from each source to be delivered to me.”

“And if no quality sources are found, lord?” Mister Pyne has paused, looking up.

The question inspires a smile, an expression more readily seen on the architect’s face these days. “Then we produce it ourselves. Inquire after this also — what is needed to both build and supply a glass mill, and a list of capable glassmakers also.”

Once Mister Pyne has concluded his notes and the two men have parted ways, the architect walks the corridor toward his study, greeting members of the keep’s staff in the process of lowering the chandeliers and extinguishing their lamps for the day. With the sun risen and light streaming in the windows, it was a waste of wax to keep them lit — what’s more, a distraction from the appearance of the corridor’s underpitch vaults arching serenely above; daylight gathers among their ribs and across the surface of their webs, all stone and all white in contrast to the striated black stone of the walls and the borders of the flooring underfoot.

Outside his study’s imposing door, the man pauses to observe the corridor and its light and the people moving sometimes through it. He had underestimated the degrees of his longing for this place, how much he had missed being here. And as he turns to open the door beside him, crossing the threshold into his study — where breakfast would be served and where Gloria would meet his daughter for the first time — the man feels a sense of relief and no small measure of anticipation for the prospect of an open and malleable future.
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Rance » Wed Oct 23, 2019 2:31 am

To those uninitiated, Darkenhold was a talisman of a foreign world. A beauty of architecture both imposing and illuminating, as dangerous on the horizon as the tip of a black sword. Even at night, underneath the eye of the moon, it gleamed like a sharpened point. This was his creation, a testament to one man's genius and resolve. Upon their approach, Gloria Wynsee fell quiet. A subtle pulse of shame beat in her ribs. How long had it been since she'd been here? Its arms had always been open to her, had always embraced her.

Long, hazy, too-hot mornings in the courtyards, stumbling her way through a brief fascination with the quarterstaff.

Afternoons in the library, traversing foreign words, discussing, learning.

You were a child, then. You had not done so many cruel things.

Trimming sandrose, her gift to the estate, and explaining to the groundskeeper, yes, it assumes the appearance of a plant, but the seed is nothing but: rather, it is an egg, as your people call it, planted in the womb of this pot of sand. Do not water it, for fear it should drown! Its tail will reach up to drink in the Glass Sun, and in this sleep it will live its life until we pluck free the flakes of its petal-like scales and make a tea of them, or put them beneath our tongue, and...

You tricked her with it. Intent does not dismiss impact.

"I shall sleep, for but a few hours," she told Sylvius, and pressed her temple against his shoulder in brief affection, and drifted off to an old haunt.

* * * *

The bed was smaller than she remembered. For a smaller girl. A child's bed, repurposed as her own. She'd always been too large for it, tossed and turned in it, but refused to diminish the courtesy of the gift: a sanctuary given to her, with a cloistered window, a woolen blanket, a bureau for her studies and practices of letters. A worn-down bedknob, turned pale from its original mahogany at the touch of tarsweat fingers, where a girl's bonnet was nightly perched. A headboard blackened by the sweat of her scalp. Stacked in still-life, the evidence of her last visit years ago, as if patiently awaiting her return, inhabiting the bureau: a copy of Herbs of a Curiouse Kinde seated atop Testimonies in Great Civil Debates resting on Creatures of Mythe: That Which Breathes in Fictions. Papers tucked within, bearing a patterned repetition: aA, bB, cC, dD, eE, fF, and on.

Doodles from a bygone era. Hers. Criminalities afflicted upon more boring pages. A clumsily-drawn cat sitting on an illuminated G, its tail the serif. Squiggles and concentric circles drawn around words of note that eventually became words of nothing. Upon one page, an old fascination crossed out: an ornate Tennant, eliminated by a younger self with great fervor. And on another page, a fancy Edmund treated similarly.

That taper had not been lit in years. She lit it. Old comforts drained into her. She smoked a pipe, and as she busied herself with Hh, Ii, Jj, Kk, tried desperately to keep her lone hand steady.

* * * *

Did he know she stood behind him, the next morning, just outside his study?

"This was my favorite room," she said behind him as he opened the door, her voice woolly from sleep. "I felt special, being in it. Like I was afforded some great privilege. Sometimes that also meant I felt a bit like an imposter — like I'd no right to be surrounded by such knowledge. I know you'd not want me to feel so, but that Gloria, she'd hardly any patience for reason. She was astonished that anyone wanted her around at all."

A smile, showing no teeth. Just closed lips. A morning greeting to him as, like an attentive student, she stood behind, to his side, and clutched powerfully to the hip of her skirt. They were old clothes she donned — her own, stashed away at the bottom of a trunk, underneath a poque bag of talc and bdellium, to keep away the moths. A dull dress of olive-green, patterned with a thousand small sprigs, nearing too small for her with how its hem dared to barely cover the knees of her boots. Across her waist, a belt-sash. At her neck dangled a relatively new charm: a finger-smoothed anvil, properly polished. She'd tended her missing limb with an understanding of courtesy, slinging it in loose shawl against her bosom that its edge might not offend or discomfit.

She stood patiently on the threshold to the study, her boot-tips nudging the raised border. An old practice. She always awaited her invitation into this space. His space.

"Did you sleep?" she asked him, as if from another country altogether. Her eyes, meanwhile, flitted and danced, looking all around, as if she might simply materialize, or be borne from the air.

The question of his rest was altogether different than the one he might have sensed in her voice: Is she here? she seemed to inquire, while her left boot tremulously bounced underneath her.
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Duquesne » Thu Oct 24, 2019 8:19 am

The man has paused at the edge of the open door, hand resting still on its latch. Gloria’s voice does not appear to have surprised him, evident in the way he has calmly and partially turned to look at her, his smile already present. A quiet gaze for her; a studious, gentle gaze as she speaks. Eyes are not drawn to the tremulous bounce of her boot, but the action is observed by another sense all the same.

His hand gives the door a further push and he makes an open gesture to the room, a gentleman’s effort, and invites her inside. “And now?” he asks, once she has entered the study. “What does the Gloria of the present think of this room after a long absence?”

The door left open for those who were yet to arrive, the architect shifts the ledger into his hands from where it had been pressed under his right arm and walks the length of the room toward his desk.

Syl Duquesne's study is a large space, its furnishings arranged in a longitudinal plan and governed by the rule of thirds. One’s view from the doorway, to the right of it, will show the first of these divisions is dedicated to leisure and conversation, equipped with couches and chairs oriented in relation to a magnificent hearth already brightly burning; nearby, a long sideboard against the corridor wall, to the right of the door, dedicates itself to the service of drink and food and the essentials to match, along with a rack for the management of coats and hats — his own hang there, familiarly regal and dark.

The second of these divisions is dedicated to study, with a lacquered table and chairs — when they were not about their lessons in the Library of Lords, they were here, books and pages spread out across its surface. And finally the third and furthest division from the door belongs to the man alone, dedicated to his diverse modes of work, research, and personal study. A large and elegant desk dominates the center of this space, flanked to the one side by a genuinely massive keyed apothecary that houses far more than tinctures, and on the other side an equally large drafting table currently locked at a pitch of thirty-five degrees. It features massive sheets of vellum and architectural plans already in the making, but left unfinished. Three tall windows shed morning light on this area, and extend their reach into the rest of the space to the door.

Shelving runs nearly the entire length of the left side of the room, no taller than the reach of one’s arm extended above one’s head, and every inch of that real estate is equipped with books of varying sizes and colors; some in the common tongue, others not, and all organized according the man’s own system. The walls are hung with paintings and framed wax rubbings of unusual reliefs taken from ancient monuments, oddities collected from around the globe, and ancient weaponry. Resting on top of the shelves, there are sculptures, stacks of books, bronze-strapped lock boxes, exotic things for which there are no names, gadgets and peculiar inventions of scientific nature, and enough room between to ensure the space is not given a cramped appearance.

It seems every single item in this space exists with purpose — not one is out of place; not one thing given room that it ought not occupy. And yet far from being unwelcoming, far from the stuffiness generally attributed to studies of this caliber, the room invites curiosity and calm.

And no Adeline for Gloria’s sweeping look, not yet. The architect places the ledger on his desk and offers a quick glance to bundles of letters he has yet to address; those will keep until later. Perhaps much later. He simply had no interest in knowing their contents just yet.

“I slept well,” a sound in the throat for this, as he arrives near the hearth to stand here a while and warm himself, "but not nearly long enough.” And suspecting the nature of her search, he adds, “Adeline should be here momentarily. She sometimes struggles to wake in the mornings — late nights reading by candlelight when she ought to be sleeping.” An amused grin for this, because was he not the same at her age?

“And you? Your room is not equipped for a woman grown, I suspect.” The man takes time to fold back the cuffs of his fine sleeves to mid forearm, performing this methodically and exposing only a portion of the black clutch of ink beginning low on the back of his hand and climbing until it vanishes under steel gray fabric; she’ll recall it from older days, a relic of identity courtesy of the man’s ancient desert heritage on his mother’s side. “I will address the matter of changes today. It is important to me you are comfortable."
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Rance » Fri Oct 25, 2019 3:17 am

"She is still fascinated. She is still—" A gasp, not hedged in histrionics, but rather a simple lack of words, which she abruptly found, "—intrigued. I've not found myself in possession of too many collections, Proctor. Yours speak of travels, curiosities, and — and engagements beyond these borders. To the girl I was before, this place was sublime. I could look upon the wonders of the world, captured and contained as they are here, and feel safe in their presence."

Had not known she'd drifted in, on remarkably silent feet, to stand before a bronze astrolabe perched, like a free-standing teardrop of metal and measurements, upon a dais. Had not recognized, in a moment of childish fascination, that her dark thumb coursed along the hashmarks of meters and miles on one of its orbiting rings.

"But it was not the things which made me feel safe. It was you. And Ariane. And ritual, and quietude, and containment. If a single room could house knowledge of the stars and the seas and the sands, then — then it wouldn't much mind an odd young woman, either. There's a saying: Jernos are a hard and ugly people," proclaimed Gloria, with a new baritone to her voice, "full of spit and shit. Live under the shadow of a definition long enough, you wonder if you're actually as different as you want to be.

"I forget about that here."

Underneath the vast glass and light of the room, she felt tiny. Yet, she was a massive woman, as if with every year she'd become wider, taller, louder. In Duquesne's presence, hers was a complementing, agreeable size: as tall as he was, fit and firm as a spring reed, she needn't ever feel so cumbersome or mountainous. Even after Duquesne's confirmation that Adeline was not yet present, Gloria seemed to toss her eyes to every shadow and edge, as if expecting the child, like a beloved goblin, to materialize out from nothing. Finally, she found herself beside Duquesne's bureau, running a finger along its carved edge. As her hip jabbed against it, paper crinkled in her self-stitched skirt-pocket.

She withdrew a meticulously folded sample of paper. Held it up like a precious jewel in the light. So he could see it.

Then she pressed it to his desk.

"I slept less than I wish. The room is quite to my liking. It brings back comforting memories, and in those, I am wonderfully comfortable. I — I don't often sleep well. I think of mistakes. A woman's disease." This, she spoke with near enough disdain that she could have formed a dagger of it. "But if it afforded me any blessing, it was that last night, I wrote for you. Read it when time allows, and in your own company. It's for you alone, my friend." Hot of skin, a furnace forever in her bones, she did not need the fire except for its light, and came to stand across from him. But in that light, she saw the calamity of her old dress: its pilling fabric, its sprung stitches, the darkness of permanent grime upon the knees, a split seam where her shift stuck out like a tongue at her waist. "Paugh. She'll think me a sore sight. You've — you've told her of me, haven't you? That she can expect—"

Her palm smeared consciously across the front of her skirt, wiping away an unseen blemish.

"She can expect a woman who looks different than others. Yes?"
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Duquesne » Fri Oct 25, 2019 7:41 am

She drew near that familiar bureau — how many hours had they spent here? Side by side in their chairs, distracted from the program of her studies and his teachings by objects and subjects no less informative, no less interesting, no less applicable to life than book-work or letters or philosophy. In some ways, he had explained, these everyday matters were more valuable an education than the scholarly result they pursued each morning. It could not be enough knowing how to read or write or speak well if one had no practical understanding or appreciation for the way simple things worked. For these reasons, part of her schooling was to assist him in mixing mortars and repairing masonry for tenant dwellings at Aithne, or finishing thatch roofs, or mixing the putty for window glaze. During Darkenhold harvests two seasons in a row, they discussed agriculture and agronomy while threshing wheat and digging potatoes until they were both caked with the rich, dark soils of Myrken Wood.

And it was here at the man’s bureau, beneath bright morning sun piercing the windows' lovely mouchettes, that, on a tangent, he had showed her the inner-workings of locks, dismantling different types for her to see — two common to Myrken doors and lock boxes, some common to Lanessian gates and windows, and the rest common to far distant places. The most ancient were rope-knots — one under glass that they dared not touch for fear of disintegration. There were padlocks and warded locks — these excavated from a site across the globe were among the oldest examples of mechanical locks in the world, he explained, being forerunners of the more secure Lanessian pin tumbler — and wafer locks and cylinder lock prototypes and lever locks and more. He had everything he needed to show her how to spring them, too, but it would have to wait for another time. A moral, he told her, should be in place in her mind before she learned the skill. It was not merely devices she would be unlocking, but others’ most precious secrets and things and spaces. Privacy and security, he added, were very much a moral concern. Crossing into that realm without perspective reduced one to mere criminality.

Ritual, quietude, containment — safety. The architect has been observing her in her wandering, listening to the way she composes her thoughts in approach of his desk. Eyes stir fractions to watch light scatter itself through the paper she lifts and continues watching as that letter is placed onto the luminous polish of the bureau’s dark wood.

I forget about that here, she had said of shadows a moment before, and she cannot know what sort of a prize those words are for him. He remains silent, observing also her approach of his position from the back of the room. Hands had sunk into the low off-seam pockets of his pants, a resting posture for a man drawn to the corridors of a meditative mind. A letter for him to read, a letter she wrote in the deep-dark hours of night. The edges of his mouth have moved for a smile for this, and the smile remains when she joins him where he stands.

The architect, a man who commands legions elsewhere, watches her and does not see the pill of fabric or the rend of seams or the shadows upon her knees. Quietly, he chuckles and loosens hands from pockets just to grip her capable shoulders. “I have told her of you, of who you are. Do not worry.

“As for this ‘woman’s disease,’ as you put it, that is among the most preposterous attributions I’ve heard. To lose sleep over mistakes, whether the mightiest or the least, is universal to humankind — and is likely not limited to our species alone.” This misguided concept is banished with a single shake of his head and he gently squeezes her shoulders, lowering his hands after. "And you are neither hard nor ugly, nor are you the sum of all the spit and shit in Jernoah. You are yourself, not some generality applied to your people. Yes?" The latter word is like a demand, delivered from a quiet grin.

“It pleases me you felt safe here then. I hope you feel safe here now. That is — what this place is. Safety and acceptance. Freedom to think and explore, to Be and Do without judgment, yes?” A bastion for the troubled and content alike in a sea of external uncertainty.

Pausing to muse, he studies the anvil pendant she wears; green eyes perceive the weathering it carries, the polishing effect touch has had upon its surface. He prepares to ask her of its meaning and origin when —

“Good morning,” this, cheerfully from the open door. A glance reveals a young woman from the kitchens bearing a large platter of covered dishes. “Mister Duquesne, I am sorry for the wait — “ she has noticed Gloria and flashes a bright smile as she settles the tray on the table. “Good morning to you, miss!”

“No, no, you are perfectly on time. It is my daughter who is grievously late. Gloria, this young lady is called Bloom — “

“Because no one can pronounce my real name,” Bloom explains, oblivious to her interruption of Aithne’s lord and master; it matters not at all, why the man only grins in response. Bloom wipes her hands on her apron and steps forward to shake hands with Gloria. “I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Gloria. We are in such a state in the kitchens, I must go. I did not think it possible we could be swimming in harvest fruits, but we are!” All of this, as she hastens for the door, calling back as she goes, “I shall look in on you shortly!”

In the wake of this flurry, the man draws a breath. But in the middle of his exhale, the sound of running feet echo in the hall, pattering through the open entry. A young girl peels around the door, catching its jamb to both slow herself down and carry her body’s momentum right into the room.

“You’re home!” she cries, skipping straight for the pair of them. Launching off a boot right into the man, a twelve-year-old storm of arms and sleeves and limbs — too much haste, too much motion to get a good look at her face. But Gloria will find this is a tall and strong girl for her age, hair piled high in an already disheveled knot on her head. No skirts for her, but loose pants tucked hastily into the uppers of her laced boots, and a blouse dotted with tiny flowers, reminiscent of the sprig pattern on Gloria’s own fabric.

Her father is hard-pressed to catch her in time and catch himself on a backward-sliding boot-sole to balance the collision. The man blows her black hair out of his face just to catch a breath, gathering her weight into the circle of his arms; his laughter is joyful and genuine. “I am home. We are home — Gloria is here at last, Adeline.”
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Rance » Sat Oct 26, 2019 3:26 am

I have told her of you, of who you are. Do not worry...

...Yes?

Her acknowledgment came not by word, but by touch. An agreeable drape of her lone hand upon the back of his knuckles, where he held her shoulders as if framing her with his strength. She gripped his hand — I will try, I will, I shall — in gratitude for the reminders. Sometimes, she wondered if it was the sand in him that made him so trustworthy. As if the desert in his blood somehow attuned itself to the Sun in hers. He always effortlessly, unquestionably trusted in her. Believed in her. And even in times, however brief, of disagreement or disputation, saw her. Like those eyes of his were scrying-gems, designed to discover wonder of their world, both within and without. Of matters of safety, she was near to saying something, lips parted, eyes shooting wide, wanting nothing more than to shatter every suggestion that she had, for whatever reason, never felt safety here, and then—

A whirling blur of business, the woman named Bloom came forward, all tray and bustle and breath. And before Gloria knew it, she'd shaken the spice-dusted hand with the awkward vigor of a gentleman-in-learning, squeezing firmly, up-down, up-down, before hoarsely answering, "Good morning to you, Menna Bloom. A pleasure to—" ...such a state in the kitchens, I must go. I did not think it possible we could be swimming in harvest fruits, but— "A pleasure to — to fruit you as well, and—"

There was an attempt at a courtesy, of back foot tucked behind the front and the low-dipping sweep of skirts, but too late, too late.

Then she came.

Gloria Wynsee found herself wholly speechless, and for a moment, altogether breathless. And she wondered, perhaps, heartbeat-less. For what she saw was a rift in the very way time ought to flow: Sylvius Duquesne was here, but also, he was there, across the room, bounding in with all the energy of unbreakable youth, light of feet and tall as too-stretched taffies, like a ball of unbridled presence cinched into britches and boot-laces. Remarkable, how time in moments such as those could fold upon itself and crash like a wave. Crash, crash, right down upon its own head, for Sylvius nearly teetered back with his shadow toppling him over. A girl's voice shattered the reverie, and their laughter, his and his dopplegänger's, tugged an involuntary gasp from Gloria that almost doubled her over. Stinging in her eyes, like a brisk wind had struck her.

Gloria Wynsee loved beautiful things, and sometimes loathed them, too. Perfect verse and wondrous art, they were the products of talented hands and monumental vision, two simultaneous gifts she could never see within herself. But this reflection before her was beyond that: it had been formed by no hands, nor sparked by some artist's grand foresight. No children were. They were, like storms and snow and sand, beautiful in being and a force of nature so extraordinary that humankind could not help but make millions upon millions of them, and grant the world love.

How long did she stand there, stiff as weathered wood, mouth hinged open, like some half-chiseled statue?

I am home. We are home — Gloria is here at last, Adeline.

Her mouth dry, and eyes daring never even to blink, her hand swam with frantic discovery into her pocket. Fingers found something there. A tiny gift, a little offering, made years ago. Years ago. For today.

Almost stupidly, she said just one word:

"Hello."
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Duquesne » Sat Oct 26, 2019 6:07 am

Had he seen it? that moment her eyes shot wide with something — something — But was it protest, disagreement there haunting parted lips? A series of words, of experience with no opportunity for voice.

What would this man say in response, had she that opportunity.

After Adeline has veritably smashed a kiss onto her father’s cheek, after she has nearly stalled the breath in his very throat with the might of her narrow arms and her unbridled adoration, she suddenly lets go and sags in his embrace until the man leans to return her boots to the floor.

Because — Gloria is here. Gloria, like a myth become suddenly real.

The moment her feet are under her, perhaps even before, she is turning about-face like a junior cadet on parade at a military academy — but the motion is far too sloppy. If she had been at such an institution in her short life, she has not taken those rules to heart, at least in this.

A hand with long fingers shoves at thick, slightly curling hair fallen loose from the hasty knot on the very top of her head. Features so much like her father’s and yet feminine, yet different with the influence of her mother’s own lineage — high cheekbones tapering to the chin; large eyes shaped like almonds and green, yes, but flecked with hazel in the way his are not; a mouth capable of being very loud and very thoughtful in turn; ears pierced with tiny garnet stones; skin paler than his but still touched with the bronze of desert bloodlines.

She seems to remember herself, that there is company here, that there are modes of etiquette to be observed — that it is time to access her manners, so the governess likes to say. And for a moment she draws herself up into a straighter posture, boots positioned close together like a young lady ought. But no, this does not suit and it all melts away.

“Gloria,” her accent is fluid, undiluted, and she speaks the name as if someone has shown her a never-before-seen wonder. And so they have. Hesitation occurs for seconds only until the girl succumbs to her energies and steps forward and throws her arms around Gloria’s neck, embracing her as if they had always been friends, already long known to one another. “Hello. I thought you might not be real, but — daddy always tells the truth, so I know you are, but here you are.” Loosening her arms, she settles back onto her heels and steps backward only once, gazing up at the tall woman before her with searching eyes; curious, wonderful eyes.

Behind her, the architect has recovered himself adequately, offering his black and silver brocade waistcoat a tug at each hip; a similar action applied to each rolled sleeve. And afterward, perhaps in an effort to both contain and conceal his smile, a thing rapidly becoming unmanageable, the man withdraws to the table in the center of the room to address the arrangement of their breakfast.

Adeline hooks a glance over her shoulder at him, eyes lingering a moment before she steps close to Gloria again, clutching her arm and whispering as if he cannot hear, “Sometimes I think he isn’t real either. You know?” So says the child who had been raised by others for too many years. “Gloria — Gloria Wynsee,” no longer whispering, “I am very happy you are here and very glad to meet you and there is so much to talk about!”
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Rance » Sat Oct 26, 2019 8:17 am

An unexpected embrace. Had it been a knife, it would have slit her in two. No amount of preparation could have readied her.

Gloria was earth and soil. She was hard, fruitful labor, the damp smell of old leaves, a pinch of sweat and cinnamon. The odor of dust and long days and muddy roads. Certainly not unpleasant — the hard-dying habits of Jernoah had still perished, and she understood the necessity of the occasional bath — but certainly far from elegant. The hug, however, did not go long unanswered: with her single arm, she wrapped Adeline in a greeting embrace, that kind that both pulled close and dared almost to lift. "Menna Adeline," said she, on the shelf of a breath. "I am here. Flesh and — and blood and very happy to be, now that I can put to mind a picture of your face. Let me look at you. Let me put Adeline in my mind—" Extended at the length of an arm, offered a playfully-investigating squint. Then Gloria trilled, "There she is," with her voice rising to plant itself at the apex of the throat in a surge of excitement.

Weight poured off Gloria Wynsee's shoulders, like moss being washed away by rain. Here, as Adeline looked up at her, her slouch vanished and the stone-hard line of her lips became something like a natural smile. A lone dimple pressed in the pockmarked plane of her left cheek. As this energetic girl latched onto her arm and took possession of her, Gloria dared a surreptitious glance toward Duquesne.

A contract unspoken, but altogether translatable between beings like them. Between parents. She is everything I imagined she would be. Everything, and so very much more.

"He is real, because you are. If you've any mirror-glass, he's there if you look close enough," Gloria whispered, tightening her bicep as if to filter a presence of warmth to the girl. "Chances are, he's searching for you every time he sees himself, too." Now, more loudly: "Adeline. Do I say it correctly? Correct me if I don't; my tongue is a clumsy fool."

And since there was so much to talk about, Gloria does not hesitate in ushering the girl over toward the dressed table, the way one might glide a kite upon an easy wind. Few things were more solid than Gloria Wynsee, so untransmutable, so firm, but in proper application, a stone knew the grace of its own softness, too.

"I'll hear everything you have to tell me. Leave nothing out," she said, Jernoah hanging like a veil on her voice. "I've heard some rumors, but you know fathers and mothers: they speak the truths they see, don't they? And here, here." Her own excitement hummed palpably beneath her skin, as if a girlish cheer bubbled just below the surface, held at bay by the proprieties of womanhood. "I've brought you something. I hope it's to your liking; I struggled a bit, which tells me I am terribly out of practice."

Into Adeline's cool, pale palm, she squeezed a minute bag, like the kind that might hold smokeroot or errant buttons. The gift inside was as pliable as its container.

Finally, Gloria glanced at Duquesne one more time, eyebrows asking along the unique channel they shared, Am I doing well?
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Duquesne » Wed Oct 30, 2019 1:05 am

Beneath Gloria’s inspection, the child gazes up with the earnestness of one who has known her share of struggle but whose acquaintance with the rigorous trials of adulthood has not quite advanced. An almost complete unawareness of how those troubles can complicate a life, the very sort that have drawn lines into the faces of the new friend standing before her, into the features of her own father nearby, is here absent in her gaze.

The structure of her delighted expression is a condition of innocence — such a brief interval for her before the cares set in; too short is childhood’s carefree nature. Far too short when compared to the decades to come.

As weight pours from off Gloria’s shoulders, a change an architect observes even as it occurs, Adeline finally claps a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle of unfettered joy at being seen by this woman, at being impressed thus into her mind.

Having paused in his arrangement of their breakfast — places have been set, dishes of still-hot food arrayed, a pot of tea bundled in a coat of wool to guard its heat — the man is available to meet Gloria’s glance. And that unspoken thing, that presence of thought transfers clearly, a spark of current across the atmosphere between them. Long the master of subtle expression, the architect’s features will betray his appreciation of Gloria’s own look; a thing like relief affects the contour of his smile — But had he even one moment of concern for this introduction? Was there any other possible outcome than this?

Adeline seems to take great heart in the woman’s assertion that her father exists even in her own reflection and that he himself searches for her in his. It serves to quiet her for the moment, the clutch of her hands on Gloria’s arm softening in degrees. But she giggles. “That is how you say it. My name. I don’t like it as much as my other name.” A hasty glance at the architect because she had never said it aloud in his presence. “But I like how you say it. It sounds — it sounds lovely.”

As they approach the table, the girl still holds onto Gloria’s arm in some discreet effort to insulate herself from her father’s potential upset over the business of her name. But she finds his expression calm and gentle as it ever is, perhaps even a bit amused. She was still learning him. Though they had spent a great deal of time together already, he remained somewhat like a phantom in her mind, as much a mystery to her as Gloria has been. She smiles a bit shyly at him then, yet Gloria has apprehended her attention. “What kind of rumors? What kind of truths do fathers and mothers see?” Her own mother had been gone years now, committed to the ground when she was still learning to walk. Portraits she had seen and stories she had heard, but the woman was intangible to her still, one half of an equation that had yet to make sense. “Are you a mother?” she asks, thoughtfully lifting her face to Gloria.

But yet again, her attention is caught, this time by the promise of a gift and she receives the tiny bag as if it were a baby bird, cupped in her palm. “Ohh, a present?” she breathes in wonder, glancing up at Gloria’s face with surprise and gratitude, “Thank you, Miss Gloria.” Wordless, gripped by curiosity, she slides herself into a chair she’d have been better off pulling away from the table first, as she is veritably pinched between its simply carved back and the rim of the tabletop before her. And placing the bag lightly down beside her plate, she loosens its strings to peek inside, bending her head to do this so that the shadowy contents become like their own universe for a vivid imagination such as hers. A savoring moment before slim fingertips dip inside.

The architect observes this lull between the girl’s energetic storms and his attention stirs toward Gloria. A quiet grin forms as he surveys her expression and he bows his head in confirmation, reaching here to grip a chair’s back, drawing this seat out for her that she might sit down. And once she has, he draws out his own chair and sits as well, grateful to do so. The last month of travel and business has left him with a lingering fatigue, making him feel rather older than he is.

“There is no standing on ceremony this morning, ladies,” he says, breathing deeply and exhaling some of that weariness loose, then gestures to the food. “Please, help yourselves. Adeline, are your hands washed?” Parental minutiae.

“Ie, tad,” the girl murmurs, still invested in an exploration of Gloria’s gift.

“Use the Common, please.”

“Yes, daddy.”

“Why don’t you tell Gloria what your latest interest is?”

“Oh!” Adeline sits up straight of a sudden, clinging to her gift; the action jolts her chair inches backward, relieving the crush of table against her chest, and offers her messy bun a similar jolt. Thus the exuberance of her tone returns, as does the volume. “I’ve been learning how to fix people! I mean, help them when they get hurt. Ghamby cut himself in the stables and I stitched the cut and treated it and it looks much better now! I learned about silver, too, from a book and how it helps burns and I made a cream for Bloom.” She reaches for a pear-filled pastry and is about to take a large bite when she remembers she ought not talk with food in her mouth, opting to finish her thought first.

“Bloom burned herself, you see, in the kitchen. They were making cakes. She burned her arm on the pans and it looked — “ she shudders, making a face; it quickly dissolves into pride, “but now they keep a jar of what I made because it works!” Pausing, she glances at her father's face, smiling widely when she sees pride there, the same feeling she has. Turning to her new friend, "If you get hurt, Miss Gloria, I will help you too." The girl takes a bite of pastry, then issues a hurried qualifier around her mouthful, forgetting her manners. "I hope you don't get hurt though. That would be sad. But if you do — " smiling and chewing, she points to herself with a thumb.
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Rance » Wed Oct 30, 2019 2:16 am

No standing on ceremony. No need for the procession of unnecessary proprieties. She deflated like a high-pressured canteen at Duquesne's insistence to sit. It eased her. It ought to all be easy; it ought to all be natural.

Her muted smile was all his as, without gathering her skirts, she took the chair at Adeline's side. When the child wasn't looking, Gloria's mouthed a silent message to her teacher: I adore her.. As if there would have been any doubt. The fruit of Duquesne's being could have only been a breath of freshness in an otherwise stagnant world.

It was no wonder she'd not yet, in these years, had this opportunity. Adeline was an eclipse, a rare diamond, and a vintage wine all at once. A treasure.

Flashes in her mind's eye. Of Cherny. Of Cat. Littler beings, then. And of her own Soodsy, hardly anything more than a blur of tiny arms and stubby legs—

"If ever there's a time where I need the attention of a wellsmith," she said, without a breath of patronization, "I'll know who to come to. Fixing people is good work, and — and I think the most important work. And grueling work, from what I've seen. And very unpleasant work, too. But I doubt any other profession — passion — yields such rewards. Ghamby and Bloom ought to count their blessings they've got you. Silver treats burns?" Her dark brows lance high, legitimately intrigued. "They gave me silver as a girl, infused in rat-tea and sand, to keep me from polluting the bed—" Here, she gave an animated splay of her fingers, as if playfully mimicking a splash of water, "—and it tasted awful, awful, awful, and turned me the most heinous shade of blue. So you'll have to convince me on the goodness of silver. I want to know all about it; your expertise is my opportunity to learn, and—"

Inside the bag, the keepsake that greeted Adeline's curious fingers was more fiber than thread: a bracelet, to be exact, not overtly clogged with beads or glass, but far more plain. A tiny pair of bone hooks would keep it affixed.

There were so many questions. She regretted that she willingly ignored a whole half of them. Of motherhood, of truths, of maternity. For those were complex matters, and in this study, simplicity behooved them. To leave the ugliness of the world beyond those Darkenhold doors — ugliness that she, in her impulse, had furthered — proved essential.

"I'll need a lock of your hair, if you'd be willing. To embroider your name into it. The name in your heart," Gloria clarified, her voice a foreign softness, all low dips and high arches. "The name that seats itself in your mind and soul. Would — would you tell me it, that other name?"

The secret of the hour: another conversation, silent and surreptitious nature, occurred underneath the coverage of the table. Clumsy and heavy in all its attempts for expression, the toe of Gloria Wynsee's boot pressed down into Duquesne's, a gentle and quickly-retreating pressure. To undermine his authority, his influence, his power and voice in his own manor would be the height of arrogance and insult. That tap, it begged for a thousand gifts from him all at once, and simultaneously asked for permission. To ask such things of the girl. To establish this trust.

Gloria reached over the dish of pastries, then, toward a steaming stoneware tureen of light, flaked fish. She spooned it, tap-tap, onto a platter before Adeline.

A compromise. For after the pastry.
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Duquesne » Wed Oct 30, 2019 6:39 am

“Rat tea?” the girl exclaims, finally remembering to pull her napkin into her lap, but only because she observes her father doing just this. “They make tea from rats where you come from? Where do you come from?”

“Jernoah,” interjects the father, to spare poor Gloria another battery of questions. “Remember, I showed you on the library’s maps?”

Adeline’s head bobs then in remembrance, her bun swaying precariously; so many thoughts, so many ideas in motion in her young mind, like great schools of fish glimmering and changing course with constancy. “I read about this, about silver making people turn blue.” Ordinarily, this might make her laugh aloud at the prospect, but in this moment she is processing the information as it relates to the body — a physical property of a healing agent. What does make her laugh, however, is this word Gloria uses: expertise. The result is a moment of bashful expression, wherein she more slowly chews the much smaller nibble of pastry she’s taken. “I’m still learning, but I will tell you what I know.” A thought. “We’ll both be learning then.

“Gloria, will you please put this on? I can’t — ” because she had been attempting to fasten the ends of the bracelet onto her left wrist and struggles still. Left-hand dominant like her father, she’s fumbled with the clasps with right-hand fingers and simply cannot make this work. But when Gloria asks for a lock of hair to embroider her other name onto the gift she had given, Adeline stares at her with widened almond eyes and a wash of complete intrigue and delight overcomes her features. “Oh, yes! You can have all my hair if that’s what you need!”

But her eyes shoot toward the man seated across from her, wondering if he would approve. And the man in question is pouring tea into three cups seated in their saucers; simple china glazed in an almost matte, bronze-tinted dark gray and decorated with white and black slip painted into incised foliate patterns. As both women reach for his attention, one with her eyes, the other with her boot-toe, he disciplines the smile forming on his mouth until he can return the teapot to its seat.

“It is your name, is it not?” he says, placing a cup and saucer near each of their plates. The tea is fragrant and tempting with its foreign spice — a product of the coastline of their own desert far distant from here. He had not known she preferred the desert name over her Lanessian first-name and the pride that rises in his chest is unique and memorable. “It is your own and yours to share with whomsoever you choose, yes?” Permission for both of them to do as they pleased on the topic. Neither had needed to ask, both but had. It offers him a particular feeling, an unusual feeling of being needed — not by governments, but by family; a very, very different experience altogether.

The man clears his throat quietly, perhaps to interrupt a stir of private emotion, and serves himself a soft-boiled egg balanced in an egg cup. And as he takes up a spoon to crack the brown shell, he glances at Gloria with a smile emerging on his noble features. Adeline harkens to, straightening her body in its seated position and half-turning to face her new friend.

“My other name is Anumahket,” she says proudly, but much more softly; her voice is reverent. “Adeline Qas Anumahket Duquesne. That is my whole name. ‘Anumahket’ is my great-grandmother’s name. Daddy’s mama’s mama.” She watches as Gloria serves her a portion of flaked fish, observing the wafts of steam rising from off the pale pieces, and then looks up at Gloria. That she would serve her something more nutritious than bread and sugared fruit meant something. She knows in her heart it is a sign of caring and suddenly she feels warm.

A smile for her father now, but a smile that quiets just a little when she realizes, upon looking at him, that he’d been looking at her first and with such a gaze of approval and tenderness that her little heart jumps and a blush surfaces on her cheeks. Then she confesses, seeing it is alright to speak her sentiment aloud. “I like Adeline because… well, because mama named me, but it sounds like a little girl’s name. 'Anumahket' sounds like… it sounds like a — like a warrioress or an exotic princess!”

In the midst of a drink of tea, the architect nearly chokes — and recovers himself admirably while returning his cup to its saucer and returning both to the upper corner of his plate with a gentleman’s ease. His daughter’s aim is closer to the mark than she knows.
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Rance » Thu Oct 31, 2019 4:04 am

I can't—

There was a power in those two tiny words. A staggering, silencing strength. I can't. Her chin jerked down, to the side, as if being struck by a powerful wind. Her dull, gray eyes were all for Adeline in that moment. Dedicated to her. Seeing something else in the vast hope of her soft face. I can't. Not an admission of inadequacy, but an unblemished acknowledgment of need. I can't.

"Here," said Gloria, softly, her cheeks warming, her voice lowering almost to a whisper. "It can be — difficult. I've got you. Look, now—" Time and strife had shaped Gloria's body, and the tale spoken by her form was a violent one. Yet, her remaining four fingers worked deftly at the tiny clasp, steadying it with the thumb, pinching it with the index, applying pressure to the twist with the middlemost finger until the hooks joined and— "There. Lovely," said she, "and powerful. Not one or the other, Anumakhet, but both. Warrioress and princess.

"There's no necessity of choice. I'd unsheathe my blade under your generalship, and — and I would fain find myself in the presence of your court. A girl, a woman, she is not bound to be but one. You see? Be both. Adeline and Anumakhet. For both are you, and the world of our mind is — is far wide enough to be both."

Was it even answer or suggestion that she would have obeyed? She considered this as, mirroring Duquesne's own subtle, restrained smiles, she looked down at her own smiling face, dark as blackberry ink, in the reflection of her tea. Could they capture moments such as these, bottle them up, immortalize them? Would this all vanish like smoke soon enough, and she'd be left to dream of it, recapturing it like smoke in the night...

So she touched her elbow against Adeline's, very gently, as if they were one. "My par'dak, he called me another name. Eya," said she, as if stage-calling her name from another floor, in mimicry of an absent man's summons. "Only he called me that name. It felt girlish and immature. But it was my name, too. And when I miss him, or — or when I'm lonesome, I close my eyes and reach out for that name, Eya, like a song from his voice, and I imagine him there—"

A breath caught in her throat. Stopped her. Smiling, though, smiling, ear-to-ear, single-dimpled, bad-toothed, a thousand miles away, a hundred-thousand, her fingers touching the back of Adeline's knuckles, as if anchoring herself to this beautiful place.

"A'm par'dak was — is — beyond any doubt, a good and fair man, Menna Anumakhet. Perhaps the most patient, humble, and servile creature I had ever known. He gave me eyes and ears and measures to know the good men from the bad, and I have been favored in my time with the company of men that may be his equal."

A sip from her tea. The coastal leaves bittered her tongue. A glance up, in adventurous curiosity, toward Syl. For just a moment.

"Or even his greater," she said.

She busied her plate with crisped fronds, and upon them, spooned a tumble of boiled potatoes and slender sliver of cheese.

"Dance like a princess, and fight with a warrioress's passion. Qas is a word that requires dynamism, after all. Would you agree, Proctor?"
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Duquesne » Sat Nov 02, 2019 7:37 am

The girl leans to observe how Gloria unites the bone clasps with the four fingers of her hand; in her focus, the tip of her tongue emerges between thought-tightened lips. It is in these moments of study that Adeline realizes her friend is missing a finger — and not only this, but her other arm has not once been seen or used. She has presence enough not to blurt out her questions, further helped by the fact that Gloria has suggested she be both. Lovely and powerful — Adeline and Anumahket — warrioress and princess, even if only in spirit; being yet ignorant of the special texture of her heritage, the girl only imagines herself to be those latter two.

She tests the bracelet with a small shake of her wrist, liking already its softness and its look, and knew she would not be taking it off; it would simply wear off her before she did, and then she would bring it directly back to Gloria for repair. No necessity of choice, she said, and the words ignite fires in this young mind. Adeline gazes at this woman’s gray eyes for long moments, not even distracted by the way her father cracks the shell of his egg, or the way his hands look when the man serves himself a heap of vegetables and fish. Lately she had become fascinated by peoples’ hands and still Gloria’s tug at her thoughts. “I can be both?” she asks, because the idea is powerful and different.

“At my uncle’s — I used to live with Auntie Mwyn and Uncle Archie — I mean, Uncle Archides.” She remembers her uncle hated the shortening of his name, the reason his wife continuously insisted on using it. “Uncle Archides and my cousins wanted me to be… they wanted me to be just the one. Just Adeline, just a Lady, just — just a Duquesne lady.” A pause. “Daddy says they are ‘traditional.’”

At the mention of his eldest brother, the architect’s eyes lift these degrees from his food to observe the girl. Were it not for the Lady Mwyn Duquesne, he would not have left her in their care when the war erupted and for the tumultuous years that followed. Having the advantage of being outside the capital city at their ancestral estate, his family was not there when Provincta was sacked and fled to the coast before the conflict reached them. Still, his brother had some characteristics inherited from the father, a man considerably prone to harshness and temper, and not a day passed during those years that the architect did not deeply worry for the wellbeing of his child. If not for Mwyn’s reassurances —

Adeline looks at him now, searching his face, and the man returns her gaze, a gleaming fork poised among his fingers. There in his look she discovers a sense of freedom — freedom to choose what she wanted to be. The girl straightens just a little, aware again that her father had a peculiar ability to convey his thoughts, when he chose to, without speaking them directly; it was all there in the subtleties of his expression. Gently, he looks at her plate and then again at her, a mere motion of eyes but a clear recommendation nonetheless. She smiles suddenly and picks up her fork, addressing first her fish because she wanted Gloria to see that she was being good.

“Par’dak.” An echo to test the foreign word; she thinks it sounds like a thing from her father's desert. And while she eats, she swings a booted foot back and forth under her chair, listening to Gloria’s voice and finding a sense of security in the texture of her accent and the handling of her words. Then, “Eya,” because the name is too tempting not to repeat aloud. Her fork pauses above her plate when Gloria explains she too felt the name was girlish, immature, but that it has value even now for what it helps her remember, for what it represents. Adeline stares at the woman’s face while it seems she’s gone elsewhere for a time and she wonders where she goes and what it looks like there in that distant landscape of memory. She likes the sound of this man, her new friend’s papa; a good and gentle man. "I wish I could meet your papa, your par'dak. What is his name? I think he loves you a lot to give you so much wisdom." Another bite of fish, perhaps too large a bite for her, but she manages somehow to chew — but it is chewing that slows a little with Gloria’s latter words. While she wraps her thoughts around their meaning, having perceptively caught the woman’s glance at her father, she watches those fronds and the potatoes and the bit of cheese decorate Gloria’s plate; still, her leg swings back and forth under the table like a barometer for the pace of her thoughts.

The architect, fork and knife together dividing a piece of steamed yellow squash for another bite, gradually slows this effort and looks at his student — his former student now, perhaps; most certainly his friend. And his study of her is direct and increasingly, quietly humbled if the subtle knit on his brow and the texture of his gaze is any evidence. Waiting to respond until he has composed his thoughts, or his voice, or his expression — or all of these together — the man occupies himself with the division of this bright vegetable on his plate, but pauses with the sliced piece speared upon the tines of his fork.

“I do agree,” the voice is meditative; his expression is as well. “It invokes seas and sands and miles of sky, none of which remain the same day to day. Ever in motion, ever changing, ever mighty, and — at least in our mortal experience — constant. As your name, it joins you to its landscape and represents the motion and change and might that is also in you.” He looks up once more, first at Gloria for moments of close study and then to his daughter who is presently pushing the last pieces of fish onto her fork with fingertips, having corralled them at the extreme edge of her plate. But he says nothing of those manners, knowing that when she needed to, she would exhibit perfect etiquette — knowing this because he had seen her do it time and again. Had he not said they shouldn’t stand on ceremony this morning?

He lowers his fork and knife to their appropriate places and lifts his napkin to his mouth a moment before returning it to his lap, then he leans back in his chair studying the girl. “Speaking of fighting, Gloria and I were talking last night about you. She thought you ought to learn and so do I.” His child grows still in her chair, leg ceasing its action. “Would you like to learn from either of us?”

Adeline starts to laugh, but slaps a hand over her full mouth of a sudden, worried she might spit loose some fish — and that would be very, very embarrassing to her, especially in front of Gloria. Swallowing prematurely, her bite struggles to descend, pushing down like a hard knot into her chest; a sensation that conflicts with the exhilaration that rises in the opposite direction. Her fork clatters onto her plate. “Yes!” she exclaims, half out of her chair now; again, the volume has returned. “Can I please, please learn? From both of you? I want to know all the things you know how to do! Will it be part of my morning lessons? Can we start today?”
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Re: Introductions at Breakfast

Postby Rance » Sun Nov 03, 2019 6:56 am

"Morning lessons," Gloria said, choosing softness in the face of the girl's avid excitement. "Afternoon lessons. Evening lessons. Lessons when you are ill, when you are exhausted, when you are freshly rested. Fighting is not a vanity, Menna Amunakhet. It is a necessity, however, and I greatly despise it — but it would excite me to no end to help teach you. If your father would allow me." A deference, in that moment, to the royalty of his paternity: a tilt downward of her chin. For in all the time he'd spent to teach her the quarterstaff (lessons which had fallen absent since the loss of her hand), he'd likely discovered that the foundation of Gloria's physicality was not one of discipline or composure.

She had never been formally schooled, never been given the guidance of a teacher or a mentor in her ways. Gloria preferred her fists. Her fist. The hardness of a Jerno upbringing. Finding power and resolve in desperate, breathless moments of survival.

Their lessons would be quite different. Rooted in the same principles, but disparate in their paths.

She knocked a knuckle against the young girl's plate. "How's a girl to practice if — if she forgets, in her zeal, to eat her food?"

She found herself, suddenly, thrust into this new position: a warm and yet simultaneously unsure place, hovering not just as the once-teenaged student of Sylvius Duquesne, but now, faced with the destinationless highroad of this beautiful being's development. What she wanted more than anything, as she too-long ignored her own food in the frightful wonder of this young woman's excitement, was to never consider such means. To let this multi-named child with her bold pants and bombastic demeanor go long without the scars left by an unpleasant world.

Up to Sylvius, she lifted her gray eyes, watched him from afar. Tightened her lips, bottom beneath the top, until the divots in her chin pruned the skin and she looked quite ready to burst. But a smile prevailed, twitching at the corner of her lip, drawing up just enough that the cork-colored teeth offered their genuine cheer.

They would need to talk. They would talk. About this. About what must be done.

"I do not believe," Gloria said, dabbing at her own lips with her sleeve, "that comfort is essential in our learning. When I was — was Eya, I scrapped with plenty of girls when they demanded satisfaction in the moment. I woke with elbows on my throat, or was pulled by my hair off the chamber-pot, even battered during prayer. Girls in Jernoah administer a cruel hierarchy, and..." She opted for a lone potato, chewing it in a momentary fit of silence. "I was not always my kindest to others. What I am trying to express, Amunakhet—"

Went for her tea. Lifted it. A proper grasp of the cup. A quiet consideration of its foreign patterns, of its craftsmanship. "When we fight, we will always be caught in our worst moments. We will never be at our ideal. We will never fight surrounded by preference." She drank. The tea burned. It shocked her tongue and throat with heat, like a punishment for acts not yet committed.

"Will you gift me with trust, to see you at your worst, my new friend? It's a harsh demand; I would never disrespect you or judge you if you said not yet."

Until then, there was more tea. Her ears — one round and prominent, pert and whole, the other folded and blemished with an old tear and bulbous tissue — flushed as one as, very properly, very properly, she filled the girl's tea, then Duquesne's, then her own.
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