(1866-09-21) A Lesson in Subtlety
A Lesson in Subtlety
Summary: Gastogne learns first hand the importance of subterfuge at the hands of Talia. Philippe is granted the power to ensure that the lesson has been well taught, in one way or another.
Date: 09-21-1866
Related: Related Logs - A Very Tracano Party
Gastogne  Talia  Philippe  

Pacitta - t'Corbeau Manse
In Scene Set
21st of Septembre, 1866

Talia had sent word that Philippe ought to arrive first. The t'Corbeau noblewoman, and head of the Syndicate Familia had been waiting in the greeting room for him, attired in plain black riding leathers, corset, and gloves. The leathers have that shine to them that suggest they've recently been oiled. Cleaned. But these are no leathers that Philippe had ever seen Talia actually -ride- in. Yet there is the crinkle and telltale signs in them that these leathers are far, far from new. And she has a look about herself, that Philippe has seen. Once. A look he shan't soon, if ever, forget. A night he had to make a choice. "Dear Philippe," she greets. "Come. Gastogne shall be joining us, shortly." She turns, and begins walking down the hall. Walking, down a corridor. Down a set of stairs. A familiar hallway, room. A room that, perhaps, Dominic himself remained yet unaware of. To a room that Philippe had been in. Once. And the chair? The chair is empty, as the two enter the room.

Gastogne had received a message to arrive a short time after. And it is -not- Sophia that greets Gastogne. Talia's favored servant, and near right-hand. No. It is a short man of limbersome, wirey muscle. Thin. But dangerous, like that of a weasel, or a fox. The wirey red hair does little to dissuade from this analogy one's mind might associate. And the man with him? Tall. Huge. No less than 6'6" tall, with dark hair. Dead, grey eyes.

It's the shorter man that speaks, "Welcome, salutations, and -greetings-, my friend," he says in an oily, too rich voice. "It is a veritable honor to receive you on this auspicious evening of your arrival, my dear comrade, friend, and compatriot. Our Lady awaits. It is my and my associate’s -pleasure-," he says, showing his teeth - yellowed things in the manner befit the commoner man - like he might snap on Gastogne like a predator, "To take you to her, forthwith. She does -not- like to be kept waiting."

The very, very big man that is sent to meet him gives Gastogne a fading hope over as to what sort of a meeting that it will be. Otherwise then as he meets the man, he lets out a whimper as he quickly comes in, and his mind is over on full 'scamper and hide in the hole' style of things then. Oh yes, if he is lucky his head will spend the remainder of the day attached. If not..

He does not go loquacious. He does not go begging. He merely goes along then as he should then, a quick nod then and a silent whimper. "Yes Sir. I do not want to keep our lady waiting." His shoulders are not square. They are slumped. He just moves over at a fast walk then, as if expecting each bounce to end with him having an arrow over in the back of his skull then. Inwardly he is completely terrified then and knowing that he might not come out of things, and that there is no point denying it even if he is not quite sure the great extent of his mistake as he is led on in then as the other man circles him like a Predator.

The word was received….and responded to accordingly. Philippe had made certain to arrive early, at Talia's behest. The lute, a constant with him, nestled upon his back. There is a pleasantness about him….a pleasantness that, in proof of his bardic training, does not dissipate when meeting Talia in her black riding leathers. However, the look that she has…yes…Phil has seen that before. And yet, he remains cordial. "Good evening, Madame Talia. Always a pleasure…" There is a nod at the request to follow.

And….follow he does. Down a familiar hall…into a familiar room. One does not need a photographic memory to remember exactly the room that Philippe finds himself in. Still, Philippe does have a near-perfect recollection of every moment he had spent there. Once was certainly enough. He enters, as requested, and stands at the ready for his patron.

Talia seats herself in the opposing chair to the more - unfriendly one. Hers is a chair of luxury. Plush. Exquisite. Much as Talia sees herself (and, admittedly, how many other people may see her too). The rest of the room? The rest of the room -is- a medieval torture room. Manacles. Spikes. Gougers. Knives. Things to twist. Things to break. Implements of pain from the mundane to the exotic. Each has a spot on a wall, or set on a nearby plain cabinet. Smoothly, Talia crosses her legs, and reaches over to the cabinet to pour herself a glass of wine that had been left there for her. There is only one glass. "Our guest," Talia tells Philippe, "Shall be arriving momentarily. I trust you've been well, Phillipe? You played quite well at the party." She seems pleased at this, and not surprised. "I trust you shall win the competition on the morrow?" Striking up general conversation with the man aside her in a tone that suggests Phil is not the source of her agitation. And this is not, like the last, a measure of a test.

Indeed, Peter - the 'foxy' one, and Angelo the 'wolf' arrive, "M'Lady," bows Peter, "Your guest as promised. He has arrived, you will note, in the most satisfactory of conditions despite my associate’s predilections to pull his arms out of their sockets and feed him his own liver."

Angelo then turns to Gastogne, and says with nearly the opposite lack of emphasis on words that Peter seems to so effortlessly display, his tone dull and nearly lifeless, "We're disappointed." Somehow, though, the lack of tone suggests that Angelo actually means what he's stating. Like a child, deprived of time with their toy.

Talia smiles graciously, then. "Gastogne. Do come in. Sit." The only seat being that of the torture chair, with clasps on the arms, and feet that are undone, loose, with thick leather straps that are -very- well used. She nods to Angelo, Peter. "Thank you, boys. You may wait outside, until we're done here. Do close the door."

The chair. He has heard of the chair. He is going in the chair. Gastogne would have otherwise probably had it easier having his head be taken off. He shivers. He looks and almost thinks of running. The two men behind him, Philippe over in front of him then cut off any chance. He thinks of begging. But he quickly decides that as Talia has -that- look over on her face that he would not be getting anywhere with it.

He quivers, just looking in all at those knives. Those things. Those bits and pieces put further up then in ways that even he cannot fathom. He quivers, his every move reduced to jelly as Gastogne goes over towards the chair.

He moves to take a slow, whimpering step then as he can barely move, having to hang on with his hands over to put them up in it as he goes in a quivering display of obedience to put himself up and in it then, almost blubbering as he staggers over to his offered seating.

"Ah…yes. I am pleased to know you thought as such, Madame." Conversational. It is a cue to Philippe and, yes, he feels rather comfortable with the exchange. "I have been rather well. I have been preparing for the competition. I intend on performing a segment of my version of the ballad of Lyonal and Sinesse." There is only a glance to Gastogne as he comes in, then the attention returns to Talia. "The full version is much too long to perform all in one sitting…but the introduction and the saving from the brigands….that should be adequate to showcase my particular talents. I only hope that I do you proud, your Excellency."

"Excellent. I do look forward to hearing it." Slowly, smoothly, Talia crosses one leg over the other. It is not for comfort's value. Not in this enclosed space. Each move, now, she makes, is calculated. Purposeful. She is not putting on any airs. "Phillipe, my dear. Secure Gastogne to the chair, if you please." No further instruction is given. Yet. She takes a slow, indulgent sip from her glass of wine.

"Do you know why you're here, Gastogne?" Talia asks, directly. The smile is gone from her features. And now, she is intense. Focused. And, her expression one of an unhappy Viscountess. An unhappy Syndicate Head.

There is wideness in his eyes then as he is put over in the chair then, and Gastogne tries to stall, "I have done something to.. Upset you, to make you look bad." There is only one event as of late. He quickly decides that saying 'it was not his fault' is not going to win him any points. "I was careless and ran into the Lord Aidric and spilt a drink upon him while serving at a party. I was a humiliation." That's the only thing he can think of. And he prays that it -is- the only thing as he can just imagine what happens should those vices tighten.

The bard responds with a nod. "As you wish." Then, in much of the same way as he did, oh so long ago, Philippe steps over…and begins to strap Gastogne to the chair. Cuffs are tightened. Restraints applied. Extremities secured. Even the explanation of the individual upon the hot seat (almost literally) is disregarded. After all…he has heard similar before. There is only a moment of connection…as the sharp blue eyes focus upon Gastogne's own…and barely a shake of the head. Perhaps it is in disbelief to the revelation given…or perhaps it is a sign. Do not struggle or offer explanation. Just take what is possibly coming.

“Philippe. Do -you- know why Gastogne is here?" Talia asks, simply, directly. She brushes an imaginary piece of dust off the curve of her upper thigh, accented by the tightness of the leather, constricted by the manner in which her legs are crossed.

The tightening straps are matched over by Gastogne just nearly falling forwards, in a state of somewhat mental and cerebral overload. He shifts - not to try and escape, but in almost desperate denial then. The look from Philippe is just grasped as 'accept it'. There is no escape for him then. Only hope that he takes his punishment and learns his abject lesson as Gastogne whimpers then, the imagined agony perhaps matching what is even to come?

The voice replying is somehow…flat. Not the same as the minstrel used but a moment ago. The response is emotionless, with no hint of questioning. "Gastogne drew attention to himself." There is a pause, before Philippe continues. "There was no subtlety. He was noticed. Not just by the Rivanan lord…but by the Rivanan princess, the prince, the steward of the manse. Everyone there was able to see…and identify him. Hardly a benefit for one in our line of work."

Talia sighs. It's an exquisite sort of sigh, as if someone had just brushed their lips across her neck and she responded in kind with the desire for them to continue. Her eyes lid, briefly, and she turns her head to view Philippe. "Always so perceptive, my lovely bard. But one of the many reasons sparing your life was one of the best decisions I've made in recent years."

She sets the wine glass down, and draws a patch of black velvet cloth towards her that lay upon the cabinet top. Several vials are lain carefully, methodically, across this cloth. She picks one up, careful, between index finger and thumb. She holds it to the minimal torchlight that keeps the room lit. The liquid is a vile sort of yellowish green. "A tasteless concoction. But readily identifiable as the cause of death by the bloating it induces in one. The swelling around the throat and lungs." She blinks, thoughtfully, and asks Gastogne, "Have you ever seen a man drown? Watch a man who had this little devil with the right dosage placed into his wine, or simply forced onto his tongue, and you will see the next best thing. Unable to breathe, your own organs close. Suffocate you. And you can do nothing about it."

Her smile is unkind. Venomous. Serpentine. "That is for those enemies I respect. Gastogne?" She leans forward, almost as if she might kiss the man so restrained. Her gloved hand moves to his cheek, "I do not respect you." She then draws her fingers back, seductive, across that cheek of his, before slapping him, hard, brutally so. She leans back, exhaling, as if that slap relieved some of her own tension. And she picks up another vial. This one also yellowish-green, but a little darker, as if a bit of bile brown were flecked in it as well. "This one, a bit more unkind."

Gastogne can only watch, wide eyed then over then and taking a few, deep and terrified breaths then over. His mind races - or rather sputters might be the word, on from one deniability unvoiced to another. All thoughts brushed aside over in a stutter of wide eyed fear then as his eyes go wide as saucers then, hi sskin paling in the light almost to give him a jaundiced edge then as Gastogne is exposed to the terrors that the Dark Lady has to be put over for someone in the chair.

Gastogne can only just nod dumbly at the question 'has he seen a man drown' then, even as his mind relieves the circumstances of such events as Talia so casually speaks of what the things, the drugs in the vials do then. He tries to speak, but he cannot. For Gastogne those few moments are but trying desperately to force breath down his lungs, to make his swollen tongue and his dry throat be able to crack out a response then.

At the 'I do not respect you' his head snaps around to the side at that twist and slap and finally he almost snaps in a way. The loud groan building up of raw fear and a shriek then going over the edge as he finds his voice. And he shudders. "I will make it up to you! I will please you, My Mistress!" The words managing to find a barely-burbled coherency over raw terror.

There is another shake of the head. This time, it is specifically to the breakdown of the man within the chair. Philippe has been there. He has sat in that very same chair. And…he did not break. Not like Gastogne just did. The bard says nothing, but his actions speak loudly. He steps to the side, positioning himself closer to Talia…but behind her. Facing the man in the chair, which is different from the previous occasion. Philippe has moved further along the path. He is not afraid to face the terrors that come with the chair.

There is no emotion from the performer. No horror…no glee. Just a straight face. After all, this is business. It is as simple as that.

As if Gastogne had not spoken, Talia continues, "Now -this- poison? Is rather diabolical in its construct. A blend of a few certain plants that just, by coincidence, happen to grow in abundance in the wilds here." There is a thin smile that suggests it is quite the opposite. But, shows just how cunning Talia is. Such grows in the wilds, not in her gardens. "When distilled and cultivated properly, and in the correct proportions, creates a topical poison that is quite - shall we say, devious. For it need not apply in liquid form. It can be applied to, perhaps, the outer surface of a cup. A pillow. The collar of a shirt. The lining of one's shoes. A towel one might dry themselves off with. Bedsheets. Or, even the bare wood or carpet that makes up one's floor." Talia is educating, now. Almost lecturing.

"At first, the itching begins. A minor thing. A slight rash, one might think. Nothing more. But as one scratches, it begins to spread. It burrows under the skin. And begins to eat away at you from the outside. It leaves boils in its wake. But once it enters your bloodstream, there is no saving you. That same itching, burning sensation will be within you. Men have been known to claw their own chests apart, trying to relieve the maddening pressure."

She pauses, then holds the vial out to her side. "Philippe. Take this, please."

Gastogne has recognized at this point it is not his place nor show to speak, and that begging, pleading, and the like will just get him nowhere. So, all he can do is sit in the chair, whimpering quietly then as he makes a move as if he might have bitten his tongue off then as his teeth lightly chatter then as Talia so casually explains away the potence of her personal poisons. As he sees her hand over one to Philippe, all the terrified man at worst can wonder then if that particular bit is meant to be put in his sometime? Just someday if he ever goes over and talks a little too loud? But, more than likely at this point tonight he is assuming the show with him is for the Bard's gain - and that his head will not be on his shoulders comes the end of it. And he can only let out a terrified but completely silent whimper then as that one she hands over to Philippe is described, almost beyond the ability to breathe now as his terrified eyes swell and his cheeks almost turn blue.

A hand reaches down, to take the vial from Talia's hand. There was only the briefest of glances from Philippe, those sharp eyes of his looking over the vial before it is placed into his hand. Again, no hesitation. Even if there was a thought…a stray consideration that the vial itself might be tainted, it is quickly tossed to the side. The plant extract is taken, cupped within the palm of Philippe's hand in an old habit betraying his sleight-of-hand technique. "Of course, Madame."

The eyes don't leave Gastogne. Every action is noted….the muted whimper. The uneasy shifting. Certainly, it is a test for the man in the chair, of course. But…it is also a test for the man standing behind his patron. How would Gastogne learn if he does not have an example to follow?

"You beg for clemency, Gastogne. I will tell you this. I leave your life in Philippe's hands. You have one month to prove to him your worth to me. If he finds you still lacking, and still a - threat - to exposure to me, and my family, and himself, he will use that poison to end you." Her voice is calm. Concise. Confident. "He need not use it himself. He has, after all, a woman. A woman who has contacts. Many contacts. This lovely woman -I- gave to him, and he chose - instead of marrying her, freeing her, which he could have done, to use her as a tool for his - and my benefit. You will not know from whence it comes. But you will know when it does."

There is a quiet pause, and she taps her fingernail against the wooden top of the cabinet, twice. "And Philippe knows he has reasons to be - well, shall we say, very particular, and very discerning about what he chooses to call success. Because," she picks a second vial of the same color, "I brewed a second dosage as well." A thin smile towards Gastogne. "Philippe is loyal, Gastogne. But, well. I wouldn't want emotions to sway his judgement. Now. You'll spend the night in here, I think. To reflect on your actions. I suggest you begin thinking about how you're going to work on your dexterity and balance. Not to mention other skills of subtlety."

Slowly, Talia rises. "And, Gastogne? You only sit in that chair once, and live. Your second visit will be longer than a single evening. But you won't make it out." She looks to Phillipe, then back to her 'victim'.

"But, there is reward to be had. If you -do- prove yourself. Ask Phillipe. He's a woman of his own. A business. The most successful and skilled bard in our country. And he lives well. You two should - talk." She nods. And then moves to the door. "We're done," she calls out to the two minding the door.

What this was to Gastogne was confirmation of one thing that was perhaps just as terrifying in its own way as to him as the Dark Lady of the Syndicate was. That the Bard was just as scary as she was in his own way. And that Talia approved of such things and such behaviors. There was a half whimper - not meant as a steadying breath, just likely the only sort of sound he could maintain now on it.

His life, his existence, was in a way over in Philippe's hands of a sort then. Begging would not suit him now nor later. He could not run, could not hide, could merely accept and do better. Large form quivering over in terror then as he went to just numbly nod over at Talia's words then, and over at Philippe, "Yes.. My Liege." Having to breathe heavily and focus on enunciating each word properly, to not have his teeth chattering over during it, trying to force air down his lungs as he took a heaving but not quite gulp of air. "I shall.. Not disappoint you again." Nodding over at Phillippe and not quite slumping over, "Either of you. I shall serve you both well." Each word coming out carefully pronounced, not quite stumbling off then in it's fall then as some air in his lungs went to help him breathe again. He might not ever sleep again for the rest of his life. Short or long. He did not natter on about how he would 'prove himself'. Because, as he was grasping, results mattered. Babbling did not.

He went to nod over then as he took a few moments to compose himself, and then went to incline his head at Talia, "And I shall be working on my balance, as you said, My Lady." An immediate set of things to work on then for him in the future until he was told to do other things, at least. And a minder to himself to listen over to Philippe.

The Bard…just as scary? It isn't that at all. Compared to Talia, Philippe is harmless. Or…rather….was harmless. The vial, containing the burden of failure for Gastogne, has disappeared….tucked away unseen in a moment of distraction. Philippe does not regard the other vial. There is no sense to. As if to confirm, he speaks softly, directly to Gastogne. "It will always be as such. I was given one chance and I took it. I did not look back…not for one second. You need to make your choice as well."

As Talia steps to the door, Philippe steps to Gastogne. Still with that smooth, but cool demeanor, the bard offers one final piece of information. "Do not assume that I allow you to sway me. I am fond of the gift Madame Talia gave me….and I did not free her, though she tried sorely to gain such. I am quite fond of her. However…I am not as fond of you. I will not hesitate to do what needs to be done, for the good of the Family…and for myself."

With the words still lingering in the air, Philippe steps away, leaving Gastogne within the chair…restrained. "I will free you in the morning." As he steps out, his demeanor shifts once more…back to the performer that is so familiar to one and all. "If you wish, Madame, I would be honored to give you a sneak preview of the performance piece for tomorrow's contest…"

As the door closes, leaving Gastogne within with just his thoughts, the conversation falls to silence.

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