(121-07-29) Charms of the Countryside
Charms of the Countryside
Summary: Thadeus enjoys the hospitality of his cousin Joyeuse at her manse by the Whispering Sound. Act IV in the Bullfish's pursuit of the merry widow.
Date: August 5th-6th 2014 (Date of RP)
Related: Wine and Cherries

The seaside residence old Lord Hastwyck built for his wicked and frivolous young bride is a jewel-box of a manse: neither large nor small, perfectly proportioned, not a true castle yet boasting strong walls and set high upon an inaccessible clifftop overlooking the Whispering Sound. It's surprisingly accessible from Oldtown, and on the way there the widow and her Tully cousin and their combined retinue (her people, of course, well outnumbered by his) pass by a number of prosperous farms the tithes from which contribute to her support. Their journey is delayed when she insists upon stopping to enquire after certain of the smallfolk she knows; she receives no fewer than three simple, hastily-gathered posies of flowers from women and children, and is delighted anew by each one.

After crossing the threshold of the manse the principal travellers part: Lady Hastwyck clasps her Ser Thadeus's hands for a long moment and murmurs something about resting after the journey; and her steward conducts him to the principal guest apartment, wherein a light repast is already awaiting him (fresh fish, as promised) — and a hot bath afloat with flower-petals. A maid with lowered eyes comes in twice to tip pails of steaming water into the beaten copper bathtub, to keep it hot for him whilst, attended by his own servants, he eats if that is his pleasure, drinks good Arbor gold if that is, and makes whatever preparations may seem to him advisable before his much-anticipated reunion with his hostess.

The Tully heir is alone in his bath, soaking pleasantly, when a door opens behind him; no doubt one of his attendants looking in to see that all is well, or even the maid, come with another pail of hot water or some such.

Thadeus had helped himself to a bit of the food, smirking even a little whilst eating some of the fish that had been so generously prepared for him, whereas his servants had mostly earned slightly annoyed glares for the usual preparations to make these quarters his own. The Arbor gold was then swiftly poured to him, maybe as a means of subduing the Tully heir's impatience, which he had taken a sip of, occasionally, as he watched his clothes and other possessions being brought in. After all, even a short trip to a nearby manse cannot be undertaken without the required means of changing - being the Tully heir and all.

The chainmail he had worn on the trip, a rather martial outfit that seemed appropriate given he was officially escorting his lady cousin and seeing to her safety, has already found it's way onto an armor stand, the padding now being removed by a timid looking servant, as the Bull Fish seems eager to slip into something more comfortable, after a bath. Finally the Tully heir has been stripped of his travelling attire and has slipped into the tub, the glas of Arbor gold conveniently placed onto a nearby table that can be easily reached from within the tub, along with the flagon should he choose to have a refill sooner or later. After that he has sent the servants away, and leaning back in the tub, Thadeus does enjoy both the sudden tranquility and the relaxing effect of the hot water. The sound of a door opening makes him turn his head, whilst a slightly annoyed question comes over his lips. "Just, what is it now?" As he, of course assumes that one of the servants has returned to bother him, despite his orders.

Alas for Thadeus, he has turned his head the wrong way: the intruder is just slightly beyond the easy range of his vision, a ruby-red blur moving the other way. "I only wondered," purrs the low voice of Joyeuse Hastwyck, "whether my guest was being taken care of suitably."

If he should turn his head the other way — and he will, won't he? How could he resist? — he'll see the merry widow prowling about his lavishly-appointed, sweet-smelling bedchamber, her long fingers reaching out to twitch at the curtains and make sure they're quite properly closed. A thin red silk robe flows over her amply curved figure and trails across the floor about her feet; all her thick, chaotic dark red curls are loose and flowing halfway down her back. She turns too — to smirk at him. "Ought I to leave you in peace, cousin…?"

The intruder will not be able to see the slightly irritated look upon the Tully's face, as he notices movement from the corner of his eye but cannot really get a look at the person. That expression will soften however, when the purr is recognized, and indeed, Thadeus turns his head the other way. His grey-blue eyes widen when they glimpse the merry widow in that red silk robe, and he watches her with hardly-hidden fascination as she checks the curtains, taking in what is concealed beneath the thin fabric until his gaze finds that of Joyeuse again - and he cannot help but return the smirk.

"Pray don't, fair cousin," the Bull Fish replies softly. "Maybe you'd like to join me, for a moment?" Winking at her in fake innocence, as he makes a lazy come-hither gesture with his hand. "I trust you've instructed your servants not to disturb us, Joyeuse?"

"Oh, I'm not at all certain there'd be room," the lady protests, "in your bath." Which might lead him to speculate upon the nature of other ablutionary facilities which might exist in a manse built for Joyeuse Hastwyck's pleasure; or, then again, he might be too busy eyeing the shape of her legs beneath that thin robe as she takes a step nearer to the bathtub, and then another. She reaches out casually for his goblet of wine and sips from it, holding it still with her fingers curved about the stem. "My maid knows not to come to me unless I call; the others… are loyal." Her gaze, which has thus far lingered interestedly upon his face, flicks down to the bathwater: she is close enough, now, to have a fine view of the fish soaking therein. She looks till she's certain he'll have noticed her looking, and lifts her eyes again; she adds, "Can you answer for your own attendants, Thadeus? If you disappear from your chamber this evening, and aren't seen till the morrow, shall they be terribly worried…?"

"No?", is the rather brief reply to Joyeuse's assumption she might not fit with him into the bath tub. The lack of eloquence mayhaps indeed a consequence of the Bull Fish's intense study of what he may glimpse of those shapely legs and what his wild imagination can guess beneath that rather thin red veil of her gown. Her claiming of /his/ glass is noted with raised brows, but who is he to deny it to her, as she is his host?

The information about the lady's maid and her discretion elicits a pleased smile, whereas the pointed glance of the lady towards what is barely hidden beneath the water line will turn that smile into a wry grin. The Tully heir willl be shaking his head in amused acknowledgement of her forwardness, not ashamed by it in the least - as he probably cannot imagine her to be disappointed with what she may have glimpsed. He will not comment on it though, and rather choose to answer her question.

"The servants I took with me I picked because their discretion, and I dare say they will tolerate a night of absence from my chamber without asking questions or being as bold as to voice any conclusions," he muses after a moment. "Can I take this as an invitation to keep you company in your chambers this eve?" The glance he shoots her showing a certain confidence as well as an obvious hint of anticipation, as his right arm is extended, dripping as it is from the hot water of the bath, to accept the glass of Arbor gold - should Lady Joyeuse feel inclined to hand it to him.

From time to time Lady Joy makes some light, reasonable remark hinting that her reputation isn't purely founded in fact, and that a fellow ought perhaps to rein in his wild surmises about the sort of woman she is — but her comfort in the presence of a naked man she hardly knows, the easy familiarity with which on the one hand she sips his wine, and on the other hand trails her other hand across his bare shoulders as she wanders behind the bathtub and finds a chair on the other side, tells a tale all its own. She's admitted only to two husbands and a paramour — but the unofficial count surely includes more than this one cosy evening assignation with a man who caught her eye. 

One more sip of wine; and she places the goblet in the hand which has now been obliged to reach quite the other way to find her. "Well, why else would I have brought you here, Thadeus, save so that we might become acquainted at our leisure…?" she inquires, shaking her head a little at having to say something so obvious. "With no rushing away to attend to other obligations, and no boys in the street noting how many hours the Tully heir passes up a certain staircase, and no friends of mine dropping in for a cup of wine… The door," she explains simply, lifting her hand to indicate its whereabouts, "was set into that wall by a master cabinet-maker; it opens only from my side." 

And if Thadeus looks straight behind him, to where she came in, he'll see now standing ajar a door which wasn't there, open or closed, when first he looked about his bedchamber and perhaps even admired the exquisite wood paneling on the inner wall. … Then again he may not look away from his cousin, given that with every movement she makes, small or large, that thin red silk robe takes the liberty of moulding itself against her body in a different way.

The easy familiarity is a thing the Tully heir becomes aware of as well, when he feels the widow's comparatively cool touch to his shoulders, that smile on his handsome face maybe growing a bit pensive at the gesture, when he accepts the glas from behind him to take a good sip from it. "It is what I assumed," he clarifies then with a soft chuckle. "But I have learned that my assumptions may be wrong now and then, when dealing with you. I remember you scolded me not too long ago for being too rash, too much in a hurry. So thank you, for your clarification, it is most welcome and relieving." His head turns when the door behind him is indicated, and his grey-blue eyes will widen a tad. "So I take it you will open this door, as soon as you are agreeable for me to pay you that private call later?", Thadeus inquires with a light smirk, that will grow in intensity when he adds: "I believe this door wasn't made for me, but has existed for many years?" A subtle hint that he does indeed believe Joyeuse has been involved with more than the three 'officially' known men - her two husbands and that infamous paramour. His gaze will shift from the door to his charming hostess, and for a long moment remain engaged with contemplating that red silk gown and the curves beneath of it.

"Oh, well, you see," the lady answers, conversationally, without a trace of shame, "I do always believe in planning for my future, in anticipating any requirements I might one day have… I had my manse built with all sorts of little improvements, to ensure I'd always be quite comfortable here, even without my husband's care, Seven keep him. These rooms," her grey-green eyes cast about her, and she beams with proprietary pleasure at the sight of the elegant and comfortable appointments arranged for her favourites, "have so often been occupied by guests who hadn't the least notion of my hidden door; but then, when I wished to meet you discreetly… how convenient." One shoulder lifts; Thadeus, in his eternal optimism, may entertain an instant's hope of seeing red silk slip away from it, but her garment remains infuriatingly clingy. "I shall leave it open for you now, cousin — and when you've enjoyed your bath, and — " she leans forward, a riveting sight, and runs a fingertip along the line of his jaw " — summoned your man to give you a good, close shave… You may come looking for this whenever you please." And her hand retreats, just as far as her ample bosom; her thumb and forefinger dart down inside her red robe, and extract from goodness knows where (or perhaps, to be fair, badness would have a better idea) a familiar white handkerchief.

For a moment it seems Thadeus might interject, that he suspects other 'guests before him may have been so fortunate as to enjoy the advantages of said hidden door. But then, in a rare moment of wisdom, he chooses to hold his tongue on the matter, focusing his attention instead on those shoulders as they give that elegant shrug, and indeed stay covered by the thin red fabric. A slight hint of disappointment enters those grey-blue eyes momentarily, before they shift to meet Joyeuse's gaze, and she leans forward, offering an even more enticing view. It is her eyes though, that require his attention next, and her finger that runs down his jawline. "If that is your wish, Joyeuse," the Tully finally concedes, scratching the stubble on his chin with a sheepish smile. "I will certainly see to get shaved for this most anticipated visit to your chambers. but wouldn't that require to have the door closed, so my man cannot see the hidden passage?"

The lady's eyes widen. "… I forgot about that," she sighs; her upright figure, perched upon the edge of the chair, deflates to a degree (which of course brings about another shifting of red silk). Then she straightens, giggling softly at herself. "You see, I'm not nearly as prepared for my future as I'd like to think," she adds. This isn't strictly true: it was only Thadeus's own lack of foresight in failing to shave the moment he arrived which, when she noticed it, spoiled her cunningly-laid plans for the evening. "Perhaps I'd better steal away from you now, and go and see whether there's anything else I've forgotten. If I come and find you in, oh, an hour's time, shall that be long enough, do you suppose, for you to attend to everything you must…?"

Oh yes, how inconsiderate of the Bull Fish, not to shave, which would mean giving up his look of elegant negligence. It is indeed a sacrifice she asks of him there, but one he is willing to give. Which becomes apparent in the nod he will offer Joyeuse next. "An hour should suffice," Thadeus concedes with a smile, his half-closed eyes briefly flitting towards her attire that once again shifts as she moves, and that smile will turn into a smirk. "I will most eagerly wait for that door to open again, fair cousin. And by the Seven, I will enter your chamber clean, and with a chin as smooth as a baby's cheek."

"I should hope so," Joyeuse purrs, "for it's your kisses and not your bristles I'd like to feel upon my skin tonight." She rises from the edge of the chair; one hand lifts her skirts just far enough to free her feet from any folds of fabric which might have gathered about them, then reaches out to caress the Bull Fish's unshaven cheek in the long moment during which she steps behind him on her way to the door. She echoes, once more, "One hour," leans down to touch her lips to the hair on his head in a fleeting kiss, and lets go.

… But before the door is quite shut her hand pops out again, flourishing his handkerchief at him by way of a reminder and a tease.

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