1865-10-11 The Love Letter
The Love Letter
Summary: Shortly after Lady Mariel t'Rynelle's humiliation, Darman informs Eva of his findings.
Date: 1865-10-11
Related: None
Players:
Darman  Eva  

It is early autumn in 1865, the tournament of Rovilon had just passed along with the "Battle of the Blade". The humiliation of Lady Mariel t'Rynelle had just come into play a few weeks prior as well. Despite the lingering summer humidity and heat, there is one Songbird, now basking in the ray of the mid-morning sun, whose very body and soul is filled with so much joy and light that she is practically radiant in appearance, the way her cheeks give off that warm glow. This very may be the happiest Lady Eva t'Acuto has ever been in her entire life. It took many years of biding her time and plotting against her enemy that once all the pieces fell together, with Mariel's disgrace, Eva finally could feel the heavy weight of her grudge lift clearly from off of her delicate shoulders. Enjoying this little moment of solitude between breakfast and meeting with the rest of the Songbirds for their lessons, Eva pauses in her steps to admire the royal garden, listening to the trickling from the fountain as she allows it to lull her into a blissful state of peace. Dressed impeccably, as always, in a sapphire hued gown, she cradles a book within her arms, a prop which she rarely ever seems to be without.
___

There comes some mild disturbance to the quiet calm of the garden in the sound of two male voices, laughing as much as speaking, although they are doing that as well. By their boisterousness, their lack of decorum amidst such rarefied surroundings, it might be easy enough to identify them in the general sense almost immediately, and then soon after, as they approach closer, in the particular: two of the Circle, that generally aggravating counterpart to the young woman's own sorority. The younger of the two is no one well known, some new-minted knight or another perhaps just getting in with the group, but the older of the pair is far too familiar. Darman is something of a famous instigator among the group, always pushing others into this bold scheme, prank or lark. Though as Eva herself well knows, he is not above causing trouble himself, and indeed, the very thing which made her so smug with satisfaction seemed to be upon their own tongues, with the young knight pleading and prying the elder courtier for 'details' about this recent and semi-public tryst. In turn, the t'Corbeau in turn plays just cool enough, feigning at honor not to 'kiss and tell'… and then promptly leaning near to whisper some juicy bit of carnal lore that is surely just enough to solidify him as a legend in the young man's eyes, and of course, to whet his appetites for similar adventure.

The pair goes along like this, passing through the verdant space as if on their ways elsewhere, with Darman seemingly making little notice of the young lady as their own pathway crosses hers. The younger man does turn and smile at her as many young men do, and yet when they have gone just a little bit further on, it is Darman who pauses. "Go on, you wouldn't want to miss the lessons," he encourages the youth, no doubt speaking of some bit of sparring practice planned with other members. "I'll catch up soon enough." And so soon the young man is on his way, no doubt certain that his mentor is up to more of the same, and Darman turns back, ambling toward the lady they've just passed. "Lady Eva, what an odd but happy coincidence to see you here," he murmurs as he nears, all smiles as he ever is.
___

It is not a difficult task to discern certain members of a particular social faction within the Rovilon Court, especially when there are more than one of them in the vicinity. Many of the the Brotherhood that makes up The Circle, while noble and gallant young men, tend to behave as anyone would expect restless young men to behave, something which Eva, personally, finds as a failing on their parts as they should be above such silly games and pranks. From her place at the edge of the veranda overlooking the garden, she only half-turns to regard the speakers with what would normally be a passing interest, attempting to place names to faces and the like, in the case of any sort of recognition. However, while she can scarcely say that she knows the younger of the pair, the older man she does know well enough. Not in any sort of personal way, of course, but she has met with the t'Corbeau on several occasions, be it a masq or festival. As would be proper for any courtier and especially a Songbird, Eva had always been cordial enough with Darman, only to find him, much like several of the other Circle members to be terrible flirts. Some minor flirtations Eva can accept, if these men learn to keep their distance, for the most part. But some men take flirtation far beyond that into the realm of seduction and as uptight as the young t'Acuto is, she was having none of that, nor was she having anything to do with Darman if she could help it. That never changed her friendly sort of politeness when in Darman's company and though she would turn up her nose at the conversation at hand being shared between the two men, (though that never meant that she did not eavesdrop when the opportunity arose!), once she realizes that this was regarding Mariel t'Rynelle's ordeal, her attention is all the more piqued. Mariel's fall from grace was all her doing after all, so why not relish in the aftermath, as gossip continued to spread.

So when the two men pass, she returns what very well could be a smile, though as small as it may seem, in a friendly enough manner, to the younger of the pair. And as they continued on their way to whichever lesson was to be taught that day, there is a sense of relief that washes over her. As much as she wished that she could celebrate this victory of hers, there was hardly anyone whom she had ever spoken to regarding the matter of Mariel. So this victory will be celebrated alone and though she may had wanted to be able to add more fuel to the fire, to further add insult to injury to the girl, Darman was not the person Eva would have chosen to share in such a moment. Thus, when he suddenly breaks away from his fellow to sidle up to her with his usual smile and friendly words, the young woman's feathers are a little ruffled, even as she makes her own return in a calm and controlled manner, "Why should it be so odd, Sir Darman? As a courtier of Rovilon, I would hardly think it odd to bump into the same people day after day. Still, it does not change the fact that it is a pleasure, as always, to meet with your company."
___

"Oh, no, I suppose you are right that it is no surprise at all, nor any sort of unusual occurrence for the two of us to cross paths on such familiar, well-tread ground as this," Darman immediately concedes, as if the very notion he first raised was quite totally ridiculous and he is almost embarrassed for having it pointed out. "And yet I do find such coincidence in it." On this he does not elaborate further just then, leaving it to the young lady to divine at his meaning. He is always one for games in conversation, most of them trivial and harmless, and the worst, as she has previously discovered, no worse than the flirtatious banter of any of his comrades. "Actually, truth be told I just wanted to offer my apologies. I am afraid I was so wrapped up in my own head and whatever idle chatter - I do get that way, you know? - that I did not first see you there when we were passing. It seemed so very terribly rude to pass you by like that without proper greeting. For any lady of course it would be a blunder, but I would say doubly so as acquainted as we are in our daily routines. We are, wouldn't you say?" And then, again looking embarrassed, he raises a hand to his neck, forehead slightly down tilted. "And I fear, not noticing you there, my friend and I might have been a little over-enthusiastic in our banter, and spoken… impolitely, given the presence of a lady. I hope we did not overly offend."

Of course, Darman and his kind often do offend, or at least, often seek to 'rustle feathers' in exactly the way she ought to have been rustled now, which makes his contrition perplexing… or, more likely, entirely false, even sarcastic, in a fashion. And at this latter facet the man soon hints as he seemingly lets his thoughts wander, "… Then again, I suppose you are not so genteel a lady as you might always play at, to really be offended by such talk. Mayhap I should have invited you along, to share in the chat we were having?" Now his body language is no longer contrite, but openly amused.
___

While not completely ill at ease in the company of the t'Corbeau, Eva is certainly not entirely comfortable in the man's presence either. Moreso, mainly due to being familiar with his flirtatious banter and some of the teasing that he gives her due to his finding her prudishness rather amusing. Her small hands rest upon the rail, thin fingers gently gripping upon the stone in just the most minute show of agitation, though the rest of the young woman, while rigid in posture, remains perfectly calm, her face a mask of serenity. Then, there is still that glorious glow upon her skin, one that she could never hide if she even wanted. When the man continues to speak, Eva's lips part to quickly dismiss his initial apology, "There is no need to apologize. The hallways are filled with courtiers and knights and merchants alike and I, a mere face in that crowd." She in turn ignores the very mention of what he deems as their own familiarity, for aside from random encounters, they scarcely spoke, if not for the passing flirtation.

However, when Darman brings up the point of his impolite conversation with the other young man, Eva draws her shoulders up higher, if that were even possible, and slowly turns to regard the man with what could be a sympathetic look. "As any young lady would, such conversations are easy to tune out. Though that being said, yours involved a dear friend of mine, which made things all the more difficult to shut out your words." Her face then turns so that she looks forward, eyes facing the garden once more. "Lady Mariel was in such a state when she left the court. Why, I have yet to receive any responses to my messages to her and it would be so kind if you could…" That is when she quiets herself to hear what more Darman has to say, and this time his words do get a silent rise out of her. Eva wonders exactly at what the t'Corbeau is getting at and yet feigns surprise at what she deems an insult, "I beg your pardon, Sir Darman, I may have misheard your words. Why would I not be so offended? The perverse conversations of men are not something that I share an interest in."
___

"If I could be so kind? What have I to do with her?" the man wonders aloud, something that would surely be all the more embarrassing, humiliating, even infuriating to the young lady being discussed, were she in their presence to hear it. Darman then goes on, "But then again, that has been the question of all of this, has it not? The perplexing fact of a young woman who I had paid precious little notice, or at least no more notice than any one of many like her, professing such feelings out of nothingness, confessing such passions, out of the blue. She, I daresay, was as perplexed upon my quitting her company after quitting her bed, as I am now, hearing you task me with consoling her or playing the messenger. You, like she, seem to mistake us for some eternally twined pair, when I must say as matter of fact, that our twining was but a brief occurence. And, frankly, not all as interesting as I made it out to my young friend moments ago." To emphasize this latter insult, he raises a hand as if to cover a yawn.

As the man speaks, he walks, taking a weaving path beneath the veranda, one that would seem aimless if it did not take him to a break in the rail where the steps up are found. "But that is the fabulously strange coincidence of it all. You two seem the only souls with this deep misconception, this conviction in a relationship attested only in her mind. I wonder at how that has come to pass?" The man, as always, plays every word at full force, every moment of faked, feigned confusion as vigorously real as the prior embarrassment or contrition. At least until they stop being real, and he moves fluidly to some newly conjured emotion. This change comes at her protest, whereupon the man holds up a finger as if to silence her, now walking closer on her side of the rail. "Tut tut. Do not lie to me, little bird, not when you do it so poorly." Now he speaks like the real Darman, a man who lies as he breathes. "You are not innocent. Of flesh," he wonders, letting his gaze slither downward from her eyes, the mere look almost palpable on her skin, "perhaps yet. But your mind is surely every bit as debased as mine."
___

Tilting her head gently, Eva gives Darman a scrutinizing gaze, especially when he feigns his own innocence in all of this. And though she, herself, is not innocent of this nor does she truly consider Mariel a friend, as much as she may play that position up, this act which she had performed for the sake of becoming close friends to this girl who she deemed an enemy now comes forth once more. "Are you to say that you had nothing to do with my Poor Mariel's departure from court? Why, Sir Darman, she was in love with you. None of this, her expressions of passion toward you was out of the blue. She harbored such feelings for years." Her shoulders quickly lift as she turns to look away now and off to the side to marvel at the view of the gardens before the chilly wrath of late autumn hits.

When Darman begins to move, wandering to and fro in the vicinity, Eva's eyes carefully follow, even if otherwise, she outwardly shows little interest in the man. So without looking directly at him, she then insists, "She loved you. Mariel loved you and you toyed with her heart. Very much unlike a gentleman, I must say. And while you may not have loved her back, you did not deflect her advances, simply using her for your own whims without a care. I was uncertain as to the details of what went on, but you have made it clear that you merely played with the poor girl, leaving her broken."

And yet, when the t'Corbeau gets to the heart of the matter, perhaps the main reason why he decided to start this conversation in the first place, Eva is appalled by what is said of her. Though she may hide her seething anger as well as she possibly can when such an accusation now comes up, when she does speak, her words come out cold and flat, "Sir Darman, I do not know what sort of woman you think that I am, but I am in no way as… debased, as you say, as yourself. Or anyone else for that matter." She turns to him now, those piercing eyes of hers looking directly into his own gaze, lips pursed tightly.
___

"Oh, was she? Well, that's nice I suppose," Darman comments with damning nonchalance, obviously quite unmoved by the girl's longstanding feelings and at least claiming little idea of their depth, even though he has seemingly admitted to such knowledge mere moments before. Ultimately, the man raises and spreads his hands, a gesture of helplessness. "It is not my fault I did not love her back." Though, immediately after saying this, he tilts his head slightly, as if thoughtful, and then allows a sly smile to emerge, "Although I suppose some of what else I did… to her, that you might lay at my feet. I confess it!" And here he pivots to dramatics, "I am a flawed man, filled with the passions and lusts that rule my kind, a weak and base creature. You have marked me truly."

"But!" As always, there is a turn, a twist from one faked feeling to the next, again from guilt toward something more predatory, marked with a step meant to bring him uncomfortably close. "What does that make you? The girl who sends her friend to be 'broken' by a man. You profess to know not the details, but this again, is the bird singing weakly. One does not hatch a plot like this without knowledge of the details involved, the intimate facts. No… I think you imagined precisely what would happen to her. Shall I tell you about it? Make it real for you?"
___

"Nice?" Eva is suddenly spurred to speak upon hearing how Darman practically dismisses her confession that Mariel was utterly and devastatingly in love with him. "Have you ever been so in love, Sir Darman? She had her betrothal broken, made herself to be the laughing stock of the court for a time and then, had her heart torn into bits. Have you ever felt an emotion so intense? So strong?" In fact, as she says these words, Eva must come to terms with her own feelings, never having felt this passion which Mariel had and despite the t'Rynelle's humiliation, Eva cannot help but envy the girl for having experienced something do deep and powerful. Her own gaze steady, watching Darman from her distance, she then murmurs, "I did not think so."

Then it would seem that Darman would dare to invade her personal space, moving in ever so closely to her now. Though she may pretend to be unruffled, just this close proximity is unnerving enough for the woman, for there was very little that she trusted about the t'Corbeau to begin with. And then more accusations are pointed her way, though this next one merely gets a lift of her brow, "What ever do you speak of? I did not send Mariel to you and I do not know why you would think that. In fact, I tried to warn her about you, though I had hoped that you would be gentle and kind with her as any gentleman would." Her brilliant eyes slowly begin to narrow once Darman brings their conversation into something filthy once more. Turning from him and direction her gaze elsewhere, though he continues to hold her attention from out of the corner of her eyes, Eva outwardly bristles, "Please, do not. Such things are not for me or anyone else to hear."
___

"Mmm… perhaps not," Darman quietly allows, giving Eva her moment to feel superior in the assertion, in pointing out how he trivializes such things. But then again, this has always been the greatest of his lies, the one that people overlook amidst the more obvious and ridiculous. Appearing so very shallow, trite and casually deceptive, no one would ever imagine any depth of emotion in the man, ever sense any internal conflict or doubt. They might even think him the rather harmless second child of a much more dangerous man. So having again held up in hands in surrender to this rejoinder from the young lady, the battle may seem won, the man properly chastised for his callous and careless acts. This apparent weakness emboldens the girl of course, to further audacious denial. It might almost seem she has warded him off, the man not pursuing as she turns from him, in fact himself shifting to lounge against the veranda railing, one elbow resting upon it.

"Ah, well, perhaps I am confused," the man begins innocently, still playing at his game. "It seemed to me you were quite the meddler, and that meddling in such things you might hold… quite some curiosity about them yourself. You see, the strangest thing happened. As I was slinking from her chamber like the woeful, dreadful, horrid cad I am, thoroughly sated but uninterested in morning conversation… I chanced to see something on her nightstand." Darman pauses after this preface, his pacing almost theatric. "A letter. Supposedly my letter, in fact! Signed and everything. Although in a very strange hand. One like mine, but not. I would have first thought it the most amateur forgery, but then I realized…" And here he flexes the upturned palm of that resting hand. "… that it might actually be a quite passable copy of one of just a few things I had put quill to after suffering a nasty sprain sparring with one of my comrades." And here he pauses again, to let the whole thing sink in.
___

Eva did not expect any other answer than the one which she is given after she had chastised the man in such a way. Her thoughts did wander at that very moment, knowing full well that she knew many a man just like Darman who believes that their flirtations were all harmless acts, with little care for those they may hurt. And with that in mind, she does wonder if there will ever be a man for her, the perfect man, one very much like her father in honor and decency. Or will she end up married to one of the various Darmans who occupy space and position here within the Rovilon Court.

The man's harmless act is mostly ignored, though Eva never took the t'Corbeau to be for serious conversation. Yet, he continues to needle at her regarding her part in Mariel's downfall and at the start of these snide finger pointings, the young woman is confident that he has nothing on her. So solemnly she listens to his explanation, about his sneaking off in the morning and then about the letter on the nightstand. Here, the only spark of interest in this is a flash within her eyes once the letter and handwriting are mentioned and especially when he, at first, insults what he calls an amateur forgery of his own writing. How could that be, she had to wonder. She copied ever nuance of his writing so perfectly, every horrible scribble and overly drawn out loop to his letters. And then Darman makes his big revelation, displaying his hand, one which he now explains had been injured for a time and everything becomes clearer to her. Still, why would he assume that she wrote the letter. How many others would have received messages from him during that time. "I'm afraid I still do not understand what you are getting at."
___

When again the young woman simply claims ignorance, Darman seems for once genuinely unsure of how to react. For along moment, he simply stares at her, head on now that she has turned back at him once again… and then, once more with some hint of drama, heaves a dissapointed sigh. "I do not know whether to be impressed with how tightly you cling to a story, or annoyed by the fact that I can see right through you and yet you continue to feed me such obvious falsehoods." He seems to weigh the two options. "I am sure, if one made the effort of reviewing my various correspondences, there would be few others who would have motive for such a bizarre, if admittedly unique little scheme. If any of my friends with whom I generally correspond wanted to put one over on me, the punchline would more likely have seen me waking naked in some alley or beside a smelly fishwife, not bedding some untouched and yet very eager young noblewoman." The man makes a point of letting a particularly lascivious smile accompany those words.

Then somewhat abruptly, and with a casual shrug, Darman pushes from the rail. "But! This is not some official inquisition, so there is no sense in arguing about it. You may continue to deny, and I will continue to know the truth, know that you," and he points a finger at her chest, "for all your propriety, thought up such a sordid, unseemly plot. That you imagined your 'friend' not just embarrassed, but soiled and heartbroken." Lingering on the harshest of those words, he seems to revel in painting her with such language. "You are a wicked creature, to be sure." There, in contrast, he smiles brightly. "Fortunately, though it would be fitting for you to experience her very same fate…. I am too honorable of a man to consider blackmailing my way up your skirts. Or at least, I pretend to be such a man… most of the time."

—-

Though she acts in a demure mannerism, Eva is confident and bold enough to meet and keep Darman's gaze head on when he studies her. Her own mind is working quickly, going over each and every detail which she could recall regarding the whole letter. Surely, she must not have been the only woman the t'Corbeau had written to, but this she does not dare to bring up, less she was one of the few, if not the only one and that would more easily eliminate any other possibilities by narrowing the suspects. So rather than say anything more on the subject, she goes back to the letter. The one which Darman had written her — filled with flirtations and teasing and what she could only sense to be playful threats to her own chastity. If she had taken the time to look at other letters, other things which he may have written and that may have been posted somewhere, she would have known that the handwriting, as terribly messy as it was, was not his true hand. And to this, her own failing, does she find further annoyance in herself.

"I think, Sir Darman, that you may be in need of new friends if those are the sorts of devious deeds they would trick you into." Eva starts, her chin lifted, something which she often does due to her haughty nature and believing it may make her small stature look all the more tall and regal. Then his words become sharper and she cannot help but feel self-conscious when he points a finger at her, as if all of this, everything, would draw unwanted attention from any passerbys. Was she a wicked creature, like he had said? Miserable, perhaps, but does that breed wickedness? "If I were to ever write such a letter, it would be to the benefit of my dear friend and nothing more." Eva finally speaks, though even here, while she raises the possibilities that this is her doing, she keeps from admitting it outright. It is Darman's last words that make her tense visibly, even as she speaks in far lighter tones than the turmoil which now builds up within her, "It could never be a similar fate as that of Mariel, good Sir. For that, you would need to possess my heart, my very being, to begin with." Her blue-green eyes lower to view the man's once injured hand for a final moment, when she says, "I'm afraid that I am running late for my lesson, thus I must cut this pleasant conversation short. I only wish that we did not need to depart with your thinking so poorly of my character, Sir Darman."
___

First, of course, Darman has to laugh. "Oh, I don't know about that. They are all good chaps at heart, and such japes and pranks are meant in good fun. It is a sign of one's good humor, and of one's inner security and resilience, to be able to put up with a bit of nonsense without becoming… bitter, and succumbing to petty vengeance." One cannot help but sense the parallel he draws there. At further protests of innocence from the young woman, a hand is raised in response, and Darman's tone turns mildly patronizing. "Yes, yes, you had only the best intentions I am sure, despite the predictable disaster of the whole thing. As for the rest, I shall consider that a challenge. There's no sense teaching you a lesson if it is not a proper one, no sense in making you suffer your friend's fate if it is not the -whole- of her fate." There is just a moment where he may sound serious in that intention, although as ever his mood soon relaxes into casualness and jest. "Of course, of course, I do not mean to hold you up from anything important with talk of romance and blackmail. And think nothing of it. You may be a wicked girl, but I am sure I shall enjoy your company in the future as ever. Moreso, perhaps." A flourish of a bow, and he steps nimbly aside from the way of the steps. "Do enjoy your lesson."
___

Of course, Darman was right. Eva was nothing close to a good friend, or at least to Lady Mariel. Though how he determined any of this does baffle her somewhat. She had been careful, even with the others in the coterie, she had not let her petty plan be known, though the gossip which followed was certainly a topic that the young women would gladly share amongst themselves. The rest of which Darman says makes her all the more uneasy. While his words may all be spoken in jest, she more than has a sense of his deviousness and all of this talk of blackmail among other unsavory situations makes her incredibly wary of the man. More wary than she has ever been. So with a curtsy to match his bow, Eva doesn't even dare address anything which was just said, except to leave with a quick parting response, before withdrawing from his presence entirely, "Oh, I'm sure that you will," She says of his enjoyment of her company, "Good day to you as well, Sir Darman."

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