Vaniglia e Cannella

Title: Vaniglia e Cannella
Time Period: June 12, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A homesick wayfarer seeks a cure for what ails him from an Italian dove.

The castle gates are closed to them, and the Ross manor has declared them personae non gratae, but it would be an exile past all human decency to block a whole ship of men and women from visiting the Dovetail, especially after such a long trip. Indeed, custom under Madame Edme's roof has seen a swell as sailors from the port of Marsailles, bringing with them a remarkable assortment of exotic wares and exotic tongues.

One can imagine, then, why it is Graziella receives such a boom in her custom - poor English is no issue for men who cannot speak English at all. And even those who have some skill in the language long for a taste of what is closer to home. Still, this time is different - she's informed ahead of time. It's well known that the leaders of the French expedition are arcane practitioners, and so Edme would be derelict not to tell Graziella that her incoming client is not just a man, but a mage.

And indeed, when the dusky-skinned man with his carefully trimmed beard arrives, he has a sharp-eyed squirrel on his shoulder, one that shifts at once into a barn owl which beats its noiseless wings and roosts in the rafters while Edme leads the foreign mage up to the foreign prostitute's room.

The cottage practically buzzes with energy - while business has always been good, it has been exceptional with the flood of visitors. The mix of languages and new faces has put Graziella in an incredibly good, excited mood. Busy nights like this can take a great deal of organization, which is why Edme has worked out pairing girls off with visitors. Mages have never frightened her, though perhaps they should. When Edme informs Graziella of the status of her upcoming client, it instills more curiosity in her than dread.

"Good evening, Signore," her smile is a warm and sincere one when she opens the door to her room. The two women exchange a quick smile, and the older slips away to make more arrangements. Graziella is dressed quite simply, almost innocently so, with her hair tumbling loose down her back. The room, while not extravagantly decorated, is clean and well-lit. The smell of vanilla and cinnamon wafts through the air, likely a product of her own experimentation with fragrances. "Please," she waves him on in, gesturing for the mage to make himself comfortable.

The first thing one tends to notice about this man is his smile. It’s wide and bright and pearly white, and seems entirely guileless. Nothing could please him more in this moment, this smile says, than seeing Graziella with her loose hair and vestal garb. And no reason to disbelieve it. She is quite the vision, and not a vision only. The fragrances that ensconce her excite memory, and not just memory.

He doesn’t seem threatening - indeed he seems quite mannerly, more so than most of the sailors. He picks up from her designator, and her accent, addressing her in Italian.

Bellissima signorina,” he says, making a low bow, “<I was told you speak Italian - I would be much more comfortable,>” he rises from his bow, and now his smile is a touch roguish, “<not to mention more charming, if we could proceed in that most beautiful of tongues.>”

Of course he is not about to neglect her directive. He makes his way to a chair, taking a seat and earning himself a new angle along which he gazes upon Graziella.

Graziella is trusting - far too trusting. She takes smiles at face value, whether they are sincere or not. So she is immediately put at ease, and her guard is down. When he speaks in a language so familiar to her but so rarely heard, her entire face lights up. She falls into speaking in her native language with great ease. "As would I," she admits, briefly catching her lower lip between her teeth in a shy, fleeting smile. "I hope the journey was not too exhausting," she murmurs with an almost sad shake of her head - she remembers her own trip, and the memories are not particularly fond ones.

"What can I do for you?" she wonders with a smile, taking a step toward a cabinet against the wall as he settles into a chair. "Would you like a drink?"

His English is not so bad as he would claim, but his ease with Italian is evident. And her smile - it would be worth the greatest labors of language to earn.

“More comfortable? I believe that! But more charming?” the foreign mage laughs, shaking his head, “but you are right of course- your native beauty flourishes by your native language. Where are you from? Napoli? Near Messina? And how did you end up in Scotland?”

A flurry of questions, and he hasn’t even answered hers. He seems to realize, catching himself. “A drink- yes, that would be wonderful. Bring it to me.” He pats his knee. “I will drink, while you make me terribly homesick.”

"You are too kind," Graziella laughs at that as well, giving him a dimpled little smile as she turns back around with a freshly poured glass of wine in tow. "Sicily," she explains as she takes graceful steps across the room toward the chair. Waiting only a beat, she settles lightly into his lap, and presents the glass of wine with a little flourish of her other hand.

"It's a long story," she says at first. It's not a tale she often likes to tell, because while it is sad and depressing to most it is a happy ending for her. Her lips purse ever so briefly. "To pay off a family debt," she says simply enough. "Ah, but I know a great cure for homesickness too," she teases in a light tone, and leans in to plant a playful kiss on the man's cheek.

“Ah, this is something I always hear,” the mage says, bantering back, “why is it women are drawn to hard, cruel men? I have sometimes tried to pretend, but no one is convinced. My good temper is a sun not easily clouded over.”

He takes the wine, legs shifting a little to accommodate her perch. He takes a sip, savoring the flavor.

The kiss proves a convincing treatment. His free hand rises to settle on her back, high, just beneath the wingtips of her shoulder blades. “For my sickness? I do not doubt it. But what of your own? I am sure many men, in the heat of passion, offer to pay your debt and take you away from this place- but what if one truly meant it?”

He lifts the wine up to her lips, offering to share. “What if you could see Sicily again?”

"There's always a heart in there somewhere," Graziella notes, gently tapping his chest with a fingertip. "Who said I was homesick?" With a tilt of her head, she regards him with a mildly amused smile. "The debt is why I came here, but it's not why I stay. I am free to leave whenever I please," she explains, waving a hand toward the door as if she could just get up and leave immediately. "But it does not please me to leave, so I don't. There are things about Sicily that I miss, but more things that I do not. Some of the other girls may be anxious for a different life, but I am not. I am happy."

“And there is always ore beneath our feet, but it’s no small difference whether it be lead or gold,” the mage counters, thumb running up the bumps of Graziella’s spine. When she makes that gesture at the door, however, his hand splays, pressing closer against her - it rebels against the thought that she might leave.

“I can see that,” he says, his Italian becoming mellifluous - now it’s as if he’s trying to convince her to remain, as if he’s forgotten he’s the one paying, “your happiness. It makes your own golden heart glow.

“But this is so much more trouble,” he realizes, with a chuckle, “for while you may cure my homesickness, when I return home I fear I’ll still find myself pining after your cure.”

The takes another draught of wine.

“What do you miss, from Sicily? Some scent or spice? Tell me.”

"Ah, but while you wander the path thinking of this, you will bump into another opportunity when you least expect it! Our hearts have the oddest timing," Graziella insists, punctuating her thought with bright laughter. "I do miss the smell of rosemary," she admits after a moment of contemplation. Her expression grows wistful. "I miss the nightingale's beautiful song." She does not seem the slightest bit uncomfortable as his hand shifts. The conversation puts her quite at ease, and her expression is a rather dreamy one as memories from home begin to stir.

“I am rarely surprised,” the man admits, his voice rueful rather than proud, “my foresight is all too keen. You are the first true surprise I’ve had in-” he shakes his head, “too long.

“I miss it too, that music” he says, “as a boy growing up in Algiers, there was a single day when a grove near my home would be full of nightingale song. They were only travellers, passing through on their way south- but it was every year, every time, the same day. It taught me to anticipate wonder- to take pleasure in what is both rare and regular.”

One hand reaches down to set the cup of wine on the ground. The other, under cover of conversation, begins to learn the lines, folds and fastenings of her garment. Even the innocent have secrets, if only by virtue of their concealment.

“I have rosemary,” he promises, now-cupless hand rising to caress Graziella’s cheek, “on my ship. I will bring it to you, if you will take another visit from me.”

At first Graziella hums, soft and sweet, and the tune vaguely resembles that of the birds they discuss. It grows more accurate as time goes on, as if their conversation helps her remember the melody and timing of pauses. Her eyelids flutter nearly shut, and a content little smile curves at the corners of her lips as he keeps talking and trailing his fingers across the fabric of her gown. It is clear she takes great pleasure from this moment as fond memories rise to the surface.

When he makes his offer, her eyes widen suddenly, and a grin overtakes her. She swivels in his lap just enough to face him more directly, and when her shoulder tips to the side the thin strap falls off it with ease. "Yes," she agrees a little breathlessly, before leaning in for a gentle kiss this time.

Did he see this coming? He moves with the careful measure that comes with anticipation, catching her lips with his as his hand finds her bare shoulder, fingertips coasting across the breadth of her back to catch the other strap, slipping it free. The wine is forgotten in favor of other, more lively intoxications.

It’s impossible that she could still be singing as they kiss, which the mage holds for some long and longing moments. Yet the melody doesn’t end, but continues almost seamlessly as the soft chime of birdsong drifts in from beyond the door, picking up where Graziella leaves off, preceded only by the faintest flutter of tiny wings.

Graziella certainly did not expect, well, whatever is happening. At first she doesn't notice, assuming the song to be a figment of her imagination. As their lips part and she takes a moment to catch her breath, realization sinks in. Giving him a puzzled look, her gaze shifts from him toward the door as her lips purse in mild confusion. And then she breaks into an awestruck smile, because the Madame's reminder of his identity suddenly returns. "Perfect," she grins at him, almost mischievously so. Is she easy to impress? Perhaps, but it does not make her happiness any less genuine.

From the looks of it, the mage is himself at least a little surprised by this musical embellishment, though his surprise has a knowing quality. He clicks his tongue lightly, and meets her grin with one of his own.

“I could not agree more,” he answers, turning her word back upon her as another flattery. As he does, the sinuous shape of a serpent winds under the door, taking a tempter’s shape only long enough to get past the threshold, before once again assuming the form of a nightingale. It finds a perch on the back of the chair.

“This is Şifr” he says, introducing her to the songbird-at-this-moment, “and I am called Septimus. Please- would you favor me with your own name? I would call you La Bellezza Siciliana but it is a lengthy title, and I feel my breath may be better spent in your presence.”

The arrival of the songbird should not surprise her, but it certainly delights her. Graziella leans to better watch as the bird flutters through the room and lands within reaching distance. "Excuse my horrible manners," the realization she hasn't shared her own name flusters her for a moment, but only for a moment. "Graziella," she introduces herself with a little bow of her head. Reminded of her old aviary from home and the birds she used to care for, she extends a finger toward the bird in an invitation. "It's a pleasure to meet you," she smiles at the bird, then slowly tilts her head toward the man and somehow her smile grows a little less innocent but no less sincere. "Both of you."

Şifr hops onto Graziella’s finger, no more bashful than his mage. Its dark eye peers up at her with animal curiosity, then disappears under its wing, beak tending feathers. Septimus tends to his own perched bird, the young woman on his knee, clasping her waist with a light and mobile touch.

“You are a consummate hostess, la Graziella bella,” Septimus assures her, reflecting a little of that waning innocence. “You are certain, though-” he says, his touch loses all trace of the innocent.

“Two guests are not too many?” His gaze slips over to Şifr, who spreads his wings, ready to make himself scarce.

Delighted would be an understatement in describing Graziella's mood. Her face positively lights up when the bird acquiesces to her silent request. Whistling softly for a beat or two, her head tilts to observe the bird in amusement as it takes to grooming itself. When the time has passed, she lifts her finger in the air so the bird may more easily fly wherever it wishes.

"I do not mind if you don't, signore," she assures him with only the slightest trace of bashfulness underlying her words. Now that her hands are unoccupied, her fingers deftly take to unplucking the fastenings of Septimus' clothing, returning the favor he bestowed upon her. After one more kiss, gentle this time, she pries herself away from his lap to stand and inch backward step by step toward the large bed. Pinching the fabric of her dress at the hips, she slowly peels the garment downward bit by bit until it pools at her feet, leaving her completely bare.

The nightingale takes wing, picking a roost above the bed as if already anticipating Graziella’s intentions. Septimus, for his own part, seems too caught up in the moment to consider the future - as those deft hands begin to undress him, he finds it easy to trust that it will be all he hopes for and more.

He’s on his feet soon after she is, and his own steps follow hers, though each of his treads is twice the length of hers. Enchanted, Septimus is ready to give chase into the shades and sheets of the big bed, while overhead the sound of nightingale song sweetens the air along with the wafting scent of vanilla and cinnamon.