A heated conversation...
A heated conversation…
Location: The Forge at House Chantris Manor
Date: June 16th, 14 (OOC Year 2017)
Summary: Summoned by Roni, Iolion comes to the forge where she is working on a sword blade and they talk.
Characters: Iolion and Veronica
NPCs: none

The sun is setting over Amber and Veronica is working in the forge at House Chantris. She is dressed for the heat wearing a wrapped loincloth of cloth (called a subligaculum or "little binding underneath") and a band of cloth to support her breasts with a thick leather apron in front and matching gloves and work boots. She has tongs in her left hand and a hammer in her right while a billet of steel is heating in the forge. Standing there, she is waiting for Iolion to respond to a note she sent him that read: "I'd like to discuss somethings with you. If you come to the House Alfred can bring you to me. V"

Strangely, Alfred doesn't give any notice of Iolion's arrival. There really is none. While Veronica's busy at the forge, Iolion's silently vaulting in through an open window, landing with unusual grace and surprising silence, then moving catlike over the back of the forge until he gets over towards the door. He checks the path he just came from to ensure there's no hint of his actual entrance, then begins to walk in a normal fashion over towards Veronica — this time, his bootsteps making noise on the stone flooring. "Veronia," he greets her as she approaches. "It was a pleasure to receive your note. I came as quickly as I could."

Veronica doesn't show any surprise as she is approached from behind and uses the tongs to pull the glowing, red-hot billet from the forge before turning halfway towards Iolion, also to the anvil, and says, "Thanks, Iolion," as she sets the heated metal upon the larger block of metal. Once it is in place she turns her attention towards her great-uncle and says, "Like the note said I'm looking to get some information that I think you could help with." She then asks, "I hope you don't mind my working while we talk?"

"This would not be the first time I've seen you naked and sweating," he answers with droll good humor, his wit used to lubricate the social machinery rather than to cut someone down. "I imagine if I could tolerate it last time, I can tolerate it this time. Please; how may I help you? You know you need only ask."

Veronica smiles and turns her focus back to the still red steel on the anvil. *clang clang* She begins hammering the metal, moving it from its rectangular shape into the beginning of a hint of that of a blade. "Well, you saw the ring I was wearing when I was at the palace, right?" she asks.

"I was thinking it hadn't been there before, and I was wondering who it was that had put it on you. As well as its precise meaning. Has some young buck or sprightly lass convinced you to walk the straight and narrow? Or not straight at all if it's a lass, but I digress. Have you been sworn to some noble calling? I didn't get a good look at it, I'm afraid."
"Alright, you didn't recognize it then," Veronica observes before striking the metal again. *clang clang* "Its Flora's, years ago she hired me to be her social secretary." *clang clang* "Made me part of the Sun Court." *clang clang* "Only visited Dee a few times before the library swallowed me up," she explains before returning the now partially reshaped billet to the forge. "So, I don't know what your mother thinks of this… nor what I do really," she adds.

"All right. Then let's trade answers. It's fairly simple, fairly straightforward." He keeps his voice reasonable: there's no hint of an ambush coming due. "When I wasn't encountering you regularly, this wasn't important. But now that I am… I'm aware of some facets of you which, perhaps, you advertise publicly. Or perhaps you keep it closely guarded and revealed to few. I'd prefer to know if your orientation is a matter of public knowledge, so that if it is I may respect that secret. Tell me that, and I'll cheerfully work with you to figure out your obligations to your great-grandmother and your patron."

Veronica rotates the billet in the forge and reaches up to grab a chain so she can pull on it to pump the large bellows. "I am oriented facing roughly to the northwest right now, Iolion," she says with a smirk as she is obviously metaphorically pulling his chain at the same time. Then, quite seriously, she asks, "Trying to find a box that I belong in?"

He gives his head a shake, then comes a bit nearer to her. He leans back against an anvil, but doesn't cross his arms — trust the actor to be keenly aware of body language and the importance of remaining open.

"No." His tone is different now — serious in a way that she likely has never heard from him before. "I put on a good show of all the world's a stage, and I think I do good work at making my life a performance. But a performer needs to also respect the work of his troupe. I'm not asking for your reality, Veronica. I'm asking for your facade, for the role you're presenting to the world; that I might respect it and help you present your preferred face to the audience. That's all. And if you tell me the best way to respect your facade is to drop this line of inquiry … that, too, is an answer I'll respect."

Veronica frowns and shakes her head. It is initially unclear if this is regarding the metal or the conversation but she quickly pulls the metal from the forge and begins working it again. *clang clang* "I'm actually not pretending too terribly much, Iolion." *clang* "I'm an artist…" *clang* "… working in cloth, leather and steel…" *clang* "… on paper or canvas…" *clang* "… in visuals or words." She rotates the blade form, already too large to be a dagger, and continues to work it. "I'm also, as you know, a warrior." *clang* "And… perhaps you meant sexual orientation…" *clang* "… in which case I'd say that I'm flexible."

"Everyone's pretending, Veronica. To walk out without a mask is psychological suicide; we're all vastly simplifying our complexities and contradictions. But." Iolion gives a polite nod, as if to acknowledge that he's received a sincere answer to a sincere question. "I shall feign ignorance, then, and should it be necessary to enlighten me I'll feign little surprise. Thank you; I know this must have been …" He lets the sentence trail off then, searching for the right word. Finally, he comes with, "… annoying. I hope you can believe that I'm trying to treat you with respect and honor, though."

And then there's a subtle shift of his stance, a change in body language, and his amiable, personable, jesting mask settles in place. "So. The Sun Court and the Moon Court. Have you considered the possibility that Aunt Flora might be your salvation? If she's comfortable with her hated rival's great-granddaughter being her social secretary, then all we have to do is ensure Deirdre doesn't object — which will be easier than you think. But if she's not and you're cashiered … a regrettable outcome, but an honorable one; and it would free you to align with Mom."

"What's with the rivalry between the two of them," Veronica asks as she continues to work the metal, hammering it towards the curved shape of a heavy saber. "I'm an outsider still in many ways and don't know that history of the courts."

"They're sisters. I have no doubt they love each other, but they also have a thousand years of petty slights to nurse. I've seen Mother get annoyed at minor transgressions that happened centuries ago, which have been enlarged by time and grudges into full-blown mortal insults. I think the root of it is at one time they each deeply wanted the other's admiration, didn't receive it, and for that pain thought they'd repay with scorn. But given how poorly I know each of them, really, I might be entirely off in the weeds."

"Is there any reason…" *clang clank* "… that a person couldn't participate in both courts?" *clang* "A bridge between the courts perhaps?"

"Yes: because regardless of whether Deirdre and Flora will permit it, the rank-and-fil won't. You'll find that members of both Courts will be reluctant to involve you in things, perhaps for fear of angering the Queen of the Court, perhaps for fear their secrets will be leaked to the other side. An ambassador is a bridge — but an ambassador does not claim to be a citizen of two countries. Now, you may be able to keep positive relations with one Court Queen while belonging to the other — it's what I'm attempting to do with Flora — but … you ought not count on being able to serve both Queens."

Iolion looks over at her for a moment, then picks up a (relatively) clean shop-rag and underhands it to her. "You look as if sweat's about to roll all over your eyes."

Veronica, who's hands were full, had to set down the hammer quickly to make one free so that she can catch the rag and mops the sweat from her brow. "Which court do you think I belong in, Iolion?" she asks as she hangs the rag over her apron strap. She then steps back and holds the half-formed blade up in the tongs and examines it on either side by rotating her wrist.

A ghost of a smile appears on his face. "This is the moment in the tale where I refuse to answer that question and tell you whichever you choose I'll support you. But this is not a tale. You did ask. I think, Veronica, that you've inherited Deirdre's love for wantonness — but fortunately, you are not defined by it. Nor am I, for that matter. Much of the Moon Court sets my teeth on edge, to be honest; I often think they confuse what is permitted with what is good. But for all that, it's a place where so much is permitted — a freedom that's really quite beautiful, even if it is rough-edged and scary. The Sun Court … in their insistence on the highly-cultured life, the artful, the aesthetic, they've created a beautiful and refined cage. For me, Veronica, as an actor and performer? I go for the Moon Court for many reasons, but one of them being the members of the Sun Court — the ones worth knowing, at least — will accept you for your art. Their love for artists is greater than their hatred of the Moon Court."

And then, after a half-heartbeat of pause: "Oh, and I forgot, the I'll-support-you-anyway bit." And then he breaks into song, singing an operatic aria in a fine tenor:

"I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls
"With vassals and serfs by my side
"And of all who assembled within those walls
"I was the hope and the pride.
"I had riches all too great to count,
"And a high ancestral name;
"I also dreamt which pleased me most
"Was that you loved me still the same
"That you loved me, you loved me, still the same
"That you loved me, you loved me still the same."1

Veronica nods and lays the partially formed blade on the anvil to cool slowly as she hasn't finished the work but is finished for now. She steps back from the anvil and closes up the forge so that it will starve itself of oxygen and go into a 'slow simmer' mode. "Good advice," she says as she stretches and then unties the apron. "I appreciate your coming and giving me advice on this, Iolion."

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