|Meandering Conversation in Dappled Shade|
|Summary:||Upon first meeting in the Maidenday Gardens, Emmeline and Camillo have a long conversation.|
|Date:||October 19, 2016|
|Related:||This scene mentions an incident in Local Lap Sitting Customs.|
Maidenday Gardens, Starry Street
The Maidenday Gardens are perhaps the loveliest of Oldtown's public gardens. The gracious footpaths are paved in white stone and lined with with flowering trees and rosebushes bearing pink and white blossoms. The beds alongside them are thickly planted with narcissus, lily-of-the-valley, trilliums and wood anemones. An occasional arbor arches over the path, supporting a clematis or wisteria, a virgin's bower or a honeysuckle. Most of the flowers are pale or blushing, but splashes of bright yellows, purples, and blues are not uncommon. True red is all that is absent. In the evenings little lamps hang from slim iron posts to light the paths.
There are benches here and there, and pavilions enshrouded with flowering vines. There are also shrines to The Maiden throughout the garden. They feature statues of stone or wood, some painted, some plain, some large, some small, some dressed in real clothing. All are beautiful and all have a little altar before them. While this is a public garden the rest of the year, on Maiden's Day it is closed to all but maidens. Those girls who feel the ritual at the Sept is not enough to express their piety may, under the watchful eyes of the Septas who maintain this place, light candles at these altars and sing more of their songs of innocence.
The bright summer sunlight filters through the leaves of an oak, dappling the girl sitting in its shade. Emmeline gazes off into the distance, taking in the whole of the Maidenday Gardens though looking at nothing in particular. A breeze stirs whispers through the tree above her, catching wisps of her golden tresses. Her eyes drift shut to savor it.
Camillo becomes visible as he rounds a curve in the path. He is holding what appear to be a few skinny weeds in his left hand, soil still clinging to the plants' root. Though the gardens are generally well maintained, the fight against weeds is a constant battle. Spotting another plant out of place, Camillo moves forward to pluck it.
Emmeline rubs sleepiness from her eyes as the peaceful breeze fades. Peeking over her closed fists, she catches Camillo plucking a weed from amidst the pure white trilliums lining the path. She gazes at him, staring as if transfixed at the care he shows the beauty around them.
Camillo looks over his shoulder to find someone gazing at him. He looks a little embarrased to have been caught. He holds the weed up so that Emmeline can see it. "I'm only pulling it because it doesn't belong."
Emmeline's gaze flits to the weed in Camillo's hand, but then lingers upon his features. Nodding with a soft smile, she says "Giving them room to breathe. S'good. I dinnae see them." She pauses, biting her lower lip with a hint of shyness. "S'it something you do always? Seems we all should… we should all tend a bit. Each a bit."
"If I notice them," Camillo says, transferring the weed to join the bunch in his left hand. "I serve at the Hightower, and often check on the gardens there, though I'm not the only one who tends them."
Emmeline nods. "I just started at the Quill and Tankard. No gardens for me to tend, but… well, I try and help as I can. Even if s'not my table, I try to help catch the empty tankards. Just to help." She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. "You serve at the Hightower?" she asks with tentative curiosity.
Camillo nods his understanding of Emmeline's conscientiousness. "Do they pay you fairly there?" he asks. To the question of whether he works at the Hightower, he bobs his head. "That's right," he confirms. "For…" He pauses to try to calculate, but then realizes he has no idea of the exact dates. "…some time, now."
Emmeline nods yet again with a bright little smile. "S'a good place to work. I like it well. The pay is better, but more important, s'a better place than where I served when I first came here." She bites her lower lip. "Though- though the first place took me in, with no real references. Just let me work. So, I don't mean to speak bad. Was just… um… I weren't so suited to it, I think."
Camillo doesn't tend to let his eyes rest on Emmeline's face for very long. His gaze seems pulled to one side or the other, or downward, as he converses. "Where do you come from?"
Emmeline's gaze lingers on Camillo's features, not quite a stare, but little else in the garden holds her interest so well. But as he asks after her origins, she averts her gaze. Shrugging, she says, "Just a village, on a crossroads like many others. Left long ago and travelled far." She peeks back at him. "Are you from here?"
"Not from Oldtown," Camillo says. "From the Reach, but farther north." He glances up at Emmeline. "Left without your family?" he asks, though somewhat hesitant lest he offend.
Emmeline drops her gaze and lifts her shoulders with a hint of tension as Camillo's question pierces the heart of her evasive response. Glancing off at a splash of lilies, she nods. "Mhm. Found a new family to wander with. It was better." She peeks back over at Camillo. She smiles despite the haunted hint of pain in her eyes. "And I'm sure I'll find another. S'how it works… orphans band together somehow. It will be better again."
Camillo looks up to Emmeline's face. "I don't mean to pry," he says in an apologetic tone. "Just…that you seemed young. To wander is difficult when you are young."
Emmeline's smile brightens, and she shakes her head, as if to reassure him that he did not offend. "Mm. I'm not so young as I look. But I had a good family. Kept me safe and sound. Never had to be scared, even when I shoulda been, maybe." She pauses, studying Camillo for a moment before offering him a bit more in a soft tone, only for him. "I was a mummer… All were. Not just acting, but fire-breathing, music. Even we were acrobats."
"Ah," Camillo says, bobbing his head once. "I see. But…you don't wish to do that kind of work any more?" he wants to know, squinting slightly.
Emmeline smiles broader still, even as her eyes shine with pain. "Mmm… no. Not yet. Don't have the heart for it yet." She glances off, trying to clear her glistening eyes. She laughs. "I also know how to tend tables. S'good work. Hard work. Busy, busy. Keeps the mind clear. And I can be helping. I like it." She looks to Camillo. "Would be good to serve at Hightower too. S'it busy?"
"There is a theater in Oldtown called the Whimsy," Camillo mentions, before moving on to other matters rather than expect Emmeline to respond to that now. He approaches a few steps nearer, though still he allows Emmeline plenty of space to herself. "Service can be a more steady occupation than performing," he says. "But yes, the Hightower is very busy. I would think it takes in more visitors than any noble house in Oldtown, and hosts events as well."
Emmeline nods. "Sounds like good work. Mm. But work not for a stranger. Needs to be for trusted ones, I had imagined." She pauses, watching the man. "Um. I'm Emmeline." She glances to the grass beside her before peeking back over. "S'nice in the shade. Would… you like to sit with me?"
"There are different…degrees," Camillo says. "To be a servant who cleans a lady's chamber or who waits upon her person, you must be the most trusted woman she can find. But…to do the fires in the morning, to scrub floors early in the morning…you need only be trust/worthy/, and have no past as a thief or…anything a house would not want to be associated with." He hesitates on this offer of sitting together, but in the end follows the young woman's lead and joins her on the grass. The sleeve of his green shirt looks as if it may have been mended, from up close. But mended well. "My name is Camillo," he supplies.
Emmeline shifts upon the grass as Camillo sits beside her. She tucks her folded legs against her side and folds her arms across her lap. Gazing up at him, she murmurs, "S'good to meet you, Camillo. And… yes I knew that much. But, if /I'd/ tried to tug open that door, I'd have been turned away, I think. No way I can prove I weren't a thief before. No one knows me here yet. Can't be a stranger."
Camillo looks thoughtfully at the grass for a moment, loosening his hold on the weeds for now. "I proved my loyalty by shedding blood," he says. "It is harder for a young woman."
"Blood. Were… you a soldier?" asks Emmeline, as tentative in her questions as Camillo has been before. Her eyes shine curious yet shy as she watches him.
Camillo shakes his head quickly, looking to Emmeline. "No, never," he says. "But…in the time of the plague, maybe…two years back, there were dangerous people in the city and a shortage of well men to fight them. I only filled in."
"A chance to prove your good heart." Emmeline smiles. "Might be harder for me, yes. Would take time, both for someone to trust, and for me to be trustworthy. A servant… seems she must be loyal… must love those she serves, to be loyal. I've performed for nobles. But never known one. Never got so close."
"You must be loyal," Camillo confirms. "It's no place for someone with split allegiances. And if you do not love the family, you will find the work unbearably tedious."
"In a tavern, it can be like that too. If you have no love for it? More tedious than anything. Hard, dull work, fetching heavy things. Got to have a sort of love for everyone who comes through the door. If you don't take delight in their smiles and satisfaction, the work will grind you down." Emmeline pauses, glancing off, thoughtful. "Might be why I dinnae like it so much at the other place. The smiles dinnae mean good things." She bites her lower lip.
Camillo frowns just slightly, drawing one knee up. "The Quill is more respectable," he says. "But you should still watch the customers. They won't all be good." He glances to Emmeline. "It's safer work for a plain girl," he says, "Though she would see fewer tips."
Emmeline's brow furrows with a hint of uncertainty. "I… Well, I did get pulled onto a lap. But, he dinnae mean any harm. Dinnae seem to be thinking. He let me go and- and seemed embarrassed." She tilts her head. "Am I plain?" She grins with a hint of impishness. "Weren't when I was a mummer. But… I don't see many tips yet." She pauses before adding, "'Cept when I sang that once, I suppose."
"No," Camillo answers quite honestly. "That is why I give you warnings. Though plain girls have their troubles, too. Life is difficult on young women."
A hint of pink warms Emmeline's cheeks. Dropping her gaze, she tucks a loose, golden tress behind her ear. "Thank you. I've been fortunate though. The other barmaids before looked out for me. And here too. Iris, so fast she was coming to help when I got pulled onto a leg. Life has been good to me." She smiles, peeking up at Camillo through her lashes. "I'll be alright, I'm sure. I think I've got more luck than most."
"Keep the girls you trust around you, then," Camillo counsels gravely. "Bad men are boldest when there aren't many around to see. But if you mean to find other work, or a husband, you must keep your reputation good."
Emmeline's folded arms press over her belly as Camillo's warning stirs a flicker of unease. "I can be careful," she murmurs, a bit hushed. She gazes in silence down at the light dappling the grass before them. "I don't want to be scared all the time though. Or to assume the worst of everyone." She peeks up at him. "Wouldn't have met you if I were so careful as that. Even some men that could do bad things, there is also good inside 'em. And if that's what you see, sometimes it makes 'em more likely to do good things."
Camillo heaves a quiet sigh as he takes time to think all that over, looking at the grass. "Maybe that's true," he admits after some time passes. Then he looks to Emmeline. "I don't want to frighten you."
"S'alright. Plenty things scare me so much I can't breathe. But I need to breathe, so I have to focus on other things. So I come to this garden. I work hard till I'm dead tired." Emmeline smiles a bit up at him. "Works well. But… s'also good to be reminded. Shouldn't forget to breathe, but I shouldn't forget to be careful either."
"It's a good garden," Camillo agrees. "I'm glad there's a fine garden that the ordinary people can come to, especially in honor of the maiden." He seems sincere in that statement, even if it does help distract from what might make the woman anxious.
Emmeline gazes off across the blushing flowers and splashes of color with a soft smile. "I went to gaze in at it three times before I came inside. I've seen beautiful places, sunrises over mountains that dazzle. But this garden, I'd never seen anything like it. At least, not where I would be allowed to wander. I'd like to learn to catch the weeds, like you do. I'd like to do a bit, at least a bit, to help take care of it."
"In time you will know it so well that a weed in the beds or a dead leaf on the path will stand out to you. You'll clean it up without thinking," Camillo predicts. "It is a kind of devotion to the Maiden."
"I'd like that. Very much." Emmeline sits in silence for a time before sharing rather softly, "I've whispered prayers to each of the Seven. But… I've always felt like the Maiden listens closest." Having spoken, her a subtle warmth colors Emmeline's cheeks once more. She doesn't look up, but watches Camillo out of the corner of her eye.
"Once," Camillo says softly, turning slightly in Emmeline's direction, "The Lady Marsei found a white dove right at the feet of the Maiden statue. She took it in and nursed it to health." He relates this as one relating having witnessed a sign of the Seven.
Emmeline lifts her gaze, looking to Camillo. She smiles and murmurs, "To me, She whispers back her answers. A breeze comes and the trees seem to hush me. Once, an apple blossom fluttered into my open hands. Not so great a sign as a white dove, but then, my prayers are small ones. The Maiden is kind and gentle." Her smile turns a bit sheepish. "I always feel like the Crone is exasperation with such a foolish child. S'hard to ask for wisdom."
"Someone once said to me that a sign is a sign because you can see it," Camillo says. "So if you saw it, then is must have been a sign. And that is important whether it is big or small. Don't you think?"
Emmeline nods. "Mhm. S'enough for me. More than I deserved. The Maiden is so kind." She watches Camillo for a moment with a soft smile. "When I last told someone I thought the breeze was a soothing hushed, they laughed. Foolish child. But… you perceive signs too. Might just be our wishful thinking. A thousand things happen at every moment, but we noticed just that one. Our attention, s'called to it. The meaning, the understanding stirs in our heart like a gift."
Camillo tilts his head a little, doubtful. "I don't know if I perceive signs," he says. "But I believe in them. And I believe they are very important."
Emmeline shifts, unfolding her legs to stretch them out before her. She leans forward to make sure her dress continues to cover her legs. She folds forward quite easily. Gazing up at Camillo, she tilts her head. "Important how? How do you mean?"
"If there are signs, that means it is the Seven trying to speak to us, doesn't it?" Camillo asks, brow furrowing a little. "And if the Seven are trying to speak with us then it must be very important."
"Mm. Might be for someone like Lady Marsei. But for me? I don't know if the sign was important. Not to anyone but me. To me, it was very important. I held it close." Emmeline glances off and blinks, realizing how the daylight has changed. "I need to go." She peeks back up at Camillo, not wanting to leave. Not yet. She crosses her ankles. "I liked meeting you. Camillo. It was good to meet you."
"Walk with the Maiden, Miss Emmeline," Camillo bids. "All young women are important to Her." He bobs his head, picking up his weeds. "I should be going, too."
Emmeline rises with fluid grace and steps back. "The Maiden is kind. So kind," she murmurs. Smiling at Camillo with a hint of shyness, hands clasped behind her back. "Thank you. May you be blessed in your endeavors." The young barmaid bobs in a little curtsy, then taking a step back, she turns and hurries off down the path. Just before she truly vanishes around the corner, she breaks into a dash.