11921103 The Seventh Stair

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The Seventh Stair
Date: the 3rd of November, 1192
Location: The common room at the Saracen Heads, and then a private chamber upstairs
Participants: Tristan de Fontaineaux, a mysterious young person
Related Logs: The Lion's Leavings, Lord, Lead Him into Temptation
Content Warnings
In politics and in love, it's all too easy to lose one's footing.
Room Description
See text, sort of.

The common room of the Saracen Heads sees few Knights of the Hospital, though it is not far from their precincts as the dedicated drinker crawls. Their Poulain sensibilities, perhaps, are offended by its sign's gory association, or, more likely, the old Acre hands in their ranks pass along to trusted recruits the secret of where to get cheaper drink and cleaner women. But tonight there's a man in the white and black seated at one of the long tables in the middle of the room: absent any air of celebration, absent any of his fellows to bear him company, absent anything at all but a cup of wine which isn't worth what he hasn't paid.

The serving wench who brought him, twenty minutes past, this unenviable libation, returns to his side -- and that isn't a treat either, for she is genuinely a serving wench and no more, chosen for her beady eyes and lop-sided visage, that the proprietor might rely on at least one of his servants not to go off moonlighting at his busiest time of day. This has put her in a permanently bad mood and she doesn't see why anyone else should be allowed a better one.

"Well," she says crossly to the Hospitaller, "why ain't you going up? You're doing nowt but take up space down 'ere, and the room at least's paid for proper."

The lighting in this very place does lack as usual, the flickering light of the scarcely placed torches reluctantly reaching Tristan's scarred features that once must have appeared very handsome. The cup keeps returning to his lips in rather short intervals, until he puts it down onto the table before him - empty and almost as hollow as the gaze in his grey-blue eyes resting on something he holds in his other hand - something black or dark, a ribbon of some sort perhaps, it is almost impossible to discern in this poor light. When he finds himself addressed by the rather plain serving whench his hand closes around whatever it is he holds, while he raises his gaze to meet hers, lingering not too overly long on the less than appealing features. "The room's paid for?" he echoes, arching a brow in puzzlement. A short moment of hesitation follows, as he seems to ponder whether it is /this/ exquisite beauty's attentions he will be about to experience. Yet... a certain curiosity finally makes him rise and utter the question in a casual tone that shows he is well acquainted with the customs of this place. "Which one?" he asks, leaving it open to interpretation whether he inquires about the room or about the girl that will wait for him there.

"Second on the left, and mind the seventh stair if you don't want to fall on your--" The final noun is lost in a sudden uproar of inebriated mirth from the next table. The wench sniffs and moves along to see what's making them so cheery and put a stop to it if at all possible.

"I will heed your... advice." Tristan mutters in reply, offering the wench a half-hearted nod before she moves on, and takes on the challenge of the stairs. Pausing before the seventh stair, he makes sure to avoid stepping on it, and arrives safely in the hallway that leads to the several chambers of the Saracen Heads. A smirk appears on the Hospitaller's face at some of the noises that reach his ears through the closed doors of some of the chambers, yet he does not tarry and seeks the door the wench has pointed out to him. He knocks rather gently, before he enters, not waiting for a reply.

Behind the second door on the left is a plain but not uncomfortable chamber, furnished with a wide bed the sheets upon which at least *appear* fresh, a row of pegs for the hanging of garments and weapons, the necessary articles of pottery, and two chairs which don't quite match one another or the table against which they are drawn up. And, leaning across that table, at an angle which by sheer fortuitous coincidence (?) pulls the blue linen of her bodice tightly over the rounded flesh it was already having a job of work to contain: a beauty familiar yet achingly unknown.

She is lighting candles. Three, four little flames cast their shuddering glow upon her dusky skin, her fathomless brown eyes, the cheeky smile with which she looks up to greet Tristan's appearance in the doorway. Then her lips form into a perfect pout and puff out the taper.

"There, now," she declares, pleased. "I think you'll find this," she gestures to two cups of wine, set close together, "softer upon your palate than the swill they serve downstairs, sir knight."

The smirk on Tristan's face shifts a little in its expression as he beholds the fair dusky maiden he has been so eager to find more out about these past weeks. Closing the door softly behind him he takes two steps into the room, in the lady's direction, to pause for a moment of contemplation - of those fine curves that might hide beneath that dress of innocent blue. His gaze drops after a stare that was longer than would be deemed appropriate. "My lady," the Hospitaller finally addresses her, "I will gladly accept what you have to offer..." And moving over to the cups he casts her another gaze. "What may I call you, fair beauty of the sandy wastes? Even one such as you must have a name..."

It being against her principles to offer complete satisfaction, in a matter however small, until she has got what *she* wants, the dusky beauty forbears to give her name.

"You're Tristan de Fontaineaux," she continues, coming out from behind the table and walking, indeed, straight towards him. Her silhouette against the candlelight left behind her couldn't be drawn better by the hand of a master. "Where is Fontaineaux? Are there green mountains in your home, or fields of golden wheat? I have never seen such a place, but I like hearing tales of such fine colours... Ah, let me take it," she is reaching for his sword-belt, and he, with a knight's reflexes, has kept it beyond her grasp. "You're safe here, you have my word. And how are we to drink wine together like old friends if you won't believe me?"

Arching his brow as he hears she knows his name, yet not seeming too troubled by her keeping her own a mystery, Tristan's mien grows a little pensive as she mentions his home. "Tis far far away, in Burgundy. Near Dijon. Vinyards stretching over the steep mountains. And yes, fields of wheat." He states with a little smile. And takes an instinctive step backwards as she reaches for his sword belt. "Forgive me, an old bad habit I've acquired through my recent years." he says with an amused chuckle, but for a short moment his eyes dart over to her with a wary glance. And unfastening the belt buckle with his own hands - the ribbon or whatever he had held before having vanished somewhere, he deposits it with the sword and a dagger into the far corner of the chamber. "Who am I to distrust a lady's word."

"Burgundy... perhaps I ought to have brought you a taste of your home, instead of a vintage so redolent of mine. Or is Outremer your home too now?" She smiles more deeply, turns away, is ready with a cup in each hand by the time he has stowed his martial accoutrements. "The toast is to old friends, and new." Whichever he is, she tilts her cup against the one she has just placed in his hand, and drinks deeply: she is even better at drinking than she is at wearing tight dresses...

The cup of wine is readily accepted and emptied at once. Tristan eyes the woman with a mixture of curiosity and admiration for her so adequately presented assets - and some caution as well, popping up at her toast. "To friends, old and new," he echoes, looking for a flagon to refill their cups. "But tell me, why are you so eager on becoming my friend, of all? Flattering as it is, I am a scarred Hospitaller knight, without influence and money. What would make a fair lady like you, who probably lives at the Royal Palace, want to become acquainted with one such as me?" The playful tone and the wink he gives her might strive to give the impression that he is quite at ease, his grey-blue eyes however look alert and wide awake as they study her for a moment.

The confiding angle of her head, the hand lifted to her bosom, the flash of good white teeth betokening a sweet taste within -- all this, and the melody of her indeterminately Eastern accent, might befuddle a man more than the wine, and it's not at all bad wine. Still merry, still somehow delighted, she reaches out to relieve him of his empty cup, casually touching his hand with fingertips which have known no harder labour than they are at present engaged upon.

Bringing her own cup once more to her lips suffices for its emptying, and then she repairs to the far end of the table, beyond the ambit of the candlelight, where she left a wineskin still heavy with promise.

"What you have to offer, is for me to judge," she explains. "I like you, Tristan de Fontaineaux, so I shall speak as truly to you as you just spoke to me: I have been commissioned to befriend you," she raises a playfully-stern finger to forestall the natural protests of a man of, well, some honour at least, "by a lady whom God has gifted with birth, fortune, and... particular tastes."

The slightly watchful expression in his eyes remains, but the maiden's giggle makes him smile in turn and the accidental touch of his hand is noted, but before he can grasp her hand she is already moving away to refill those cups. "Commissioned to befriend me?" he repeats shaking his head before he follows her to the other end of the table. "I am curious, I have to admit, at what all of this is striving at, fair Lady Mystery." He hesitates before he leans towards her to add with a smirk. "And if you are indeed to /judge/ what I have to offer - pray feel encouraged to undertake a thorough inspection. I am at your service, my lady." Another wink and he offers her a courteous bow, exercised long ago in far Burgundy.

The close study Tristan is undoubtedly making of his companion will have revealed, by now, that she preens herself ever-so-slightly whenever she is addressed as 'my lady': ample evidence that she's no lady at all, and that offering her such courtesy is a sound scheme for a man who aspires to receive much more in return. She has set their cups, brimming again with wine, on the corner of the table, with one hand next to them and the other upon a tilted hip. He can't expect her to keep bringing things to him, her stance intimates: anything else he might like, he had better come and fetch for himself.

"It is very simple. If I give a good report of you--" She pauses, and the corner of her mouth quirks upward. "You may be called to serve, with all your knightly prowess, one far greater than I."

Unable to keep his grey-blue eyes from studying this maiden's appearance Tristan leans forward again, his face suddenly in a dangerous proximity to hers. A grin crosses his face as she begins to speak. "I do not doubt you will." he chuckles softly, as he eyes his prey, his hand reaching out to take hers that is resting on the table. But then - that last sentence of hers sobers him at once, at least it destroys the slight tension that had been almost palpable.

"One greater than you?" he inquires, arching an eyebrow. "I serve the Order of the Hospital, and my service can't be called upon save by the Grand Master Garnier de Nablus himself." Taking a step backwards he moves to reclaim his belt and weapons. "Fair maiden, it will take more than pretty words and a little teasing to gain my loyalty. I'll leave you now to ponder that, and you may even tell your mysterious powerful mistress if you feel so inclined. You may come back and present other, more convincing arguments. As for now..." He sighs as his gaze wanders over her curves. "I'd rather not be a little piece in political games. I might be a fool, but not foolish enough." And then he moves out of the chamber in a haste that suprises even himself, hurries down the steps, almost falls as he puts his foot on the seventh stair but manages to catch himself just in time.

Only outside does he pause a moment. A Hospitaller knight shaking his head with a wild stare, his hands clenched to fists and shouting a loud curse through the Holy Streets of Acre is a sight only few ever get to see. Some have had the chance, here beneath the sparse torches of Lower Garrison Street, on this very midnight.

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