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This was supposed to be the beginning of Chapter Seven, but it turns out it was the end of Chapter Six all along. (Pleasedon'tkillme.)


CHAPTER 6
(Part Two)

It was not easy to find a cab in Paradiso at ten o’clock the morning after Bacchanal. No doubt the drivers were worried about running over the various merrymakers who had passed out in the street, tangled together in twos and fours, their masks askew and underthings in disarray; some had managed to drag themselves onto the sidewalk but not any further than that. Robert passed a man he recognized from College snoring soundly on the front stoop of a brothel, no doubt after being ejected once it was realized he hadn’t the money to cover his bill. Another time Robert would have peeled him off the steps and bundled him into a cab bound for College Square. Now, however, he was wholly occupied with the single purpose of getting back to the Harlequin as fast as humanly possible. He did spare a moment to spread his cloak over his sleeping classmate and tuck a few copper pieces into his vest pocket. At least the idiot would be able to get home once he had recovered from what was sure to be a monstrous hangover.

Robert caught sight of a cab coming towards him. He hailed it with one hand, digging through his pockets for the fare with the other. The carriage pulled up alongside and the door sprang open.

“The Harlequin, in all haste,” Robert ordered the cabbie. “There’ll be a silver bit for you if you can get me there faster than the crow flies.”

The cabbie grinned, showing a wide gap between his rotting front teeth. “We’ll get there in time, m’lord.”

What an odd thing to say, Robert thought, climbing inside. The moment the door was shut the carriage sprang forward. Robert lost his balance and was forced to sit rather abruptly upon the moth-eaten bench.

“Good morning.”

Robert nearly fell over. Across from him sat a man shrouded in a threadbare scholar’s robe. With his long spindly limbs folded at angles and the hacking cough that rattled hollowly in his chest, the man reminded Robert of nothing so much as a praying mantis in repose.

“Oh, bloody hell, not you,” Robert groaned.

Unperturbed, the man blew his nose into a graying handkerchief. “Where are my pages, Robert?”

“Get Val to do it this week.”

“Monsieur Fourteys is busy with another assignment,” the man informed him, withdrawing the handkerchief into the depths of his cloak. “He can’t be spared.”

“What, and I can?” cried Robert indignantly. “I’ve duties at Court, and as if that weren’t enough I’m knee-deep in end-of-term studies. As you well know,” he added pointedly.

“And yet you have enough time to go cavorting in the Lower District with your disreputable cousin,” the man noted, fixing Robert with a watery blue eye.

“How did you—? Oh, never mind.” Robert huffed crossly. “I suppose I should resign myself to being followed by subversive elements.”

The man shrugged. “Only the ones to whom you are employed.”

It was all that was needed to push Robert from irritated to severely annoyed.

“Employed?” he drawled. “What do you take me for, some tradesman with mud on his trousers? Please, sir. If you must assign me to some low station, at least call me a mercenary. King Eustace, the Exile, it’s all one to me. I only joined your silly Philosophy Club as a favor to Val, and being your quill-for-hire grows more tiresome by the day.”

Robert regretted the words as soon as he’d spoken them, but he’d committed himself to being a bastard now. He met the man’s outraged glare with the blank, polite, and very slightly sarcastic expression he usually saved for the marriageable girls at Court.
The man’s thin, dry lips convulsed into a tight line. “I know that you enjoy playing the bright young ne’er-do-well, Robert,” he said coldly, “but I grow concerned that you act the part too well.”

Robert laughed, a short, sharp bark. “I’m afraid I don’t have time for a critique of my character.”

Ignoring the man’s alarmed protest, Robert grabbed the handle of the carriage door and wrenched it open. They were going very fast; the cobbles were a blur beneath the wheels.

“Tell him to stop the carriage,” Robert shouted over the noise of the horse’s clattering hooves.

The man said something – it might have been damn you – before yanking open his window and shouting to the driver.

Robert jumped out before the carriage had come to a complete halt. His boot caught on the curb and he would have gone sprawling if he hadn’t caught a lamp-post and righted himself.

The man leaned out of the carriage door, shouting between coughs, “I want that paper on the history of rationalism by tomorrow!”

“You gave me an extension until Friday!”

“And now I know how you’re spending the extra time, I’m rescinding it!”

Robert laughed, a true laugh this time. “Fuck you too, professor!” he howled after the carriage, but it had turned the corner by then, and he would never be sure whether Professor Gregory heard him or not.



Jumping from a moving carriage may have been a fine bit of theater, but it had landed Robert on the outskirts of Paradiso. He could see the cragged shoulder of Hornfluer Wharf shadowing narrow avenues of tenements and bunkhouses. Groaning, he scrubbed his hand across his eyes. Fuck. He was even further from the Harlequin than when he’d started.

Fortunately Robert knew Paradiso almost as well as College Square. By keeping his eye on the distant spire of the Consecration, the highest point in Lyonesse, and following the main boulevard, he was able to make his way back to Paradiso’s center without getting mugged, lost, or pushed into the harbor.

Once there, another problem presented itself: he had been far too absorbed in groping Adrian’s ass to pay any attention to what the Harlequin looked like. Robert wandered around feeling cross and stupid until, quite by coincidence, he found himself standing in front of a high walled courtyard that he distinctly remembered urinating against at some point during the evening. After that he suddenly recalled an iron gate that he had stumbled through while chasing after the youth in the cat-mask. The iron gate led him to the doorway where he had mouthed Adrian’s cock through his trousers. Then Francis had appeared, and – yes – dragged them to this tavern, where the landlord was morosely scrubbing vomit from his stoop. Robert prudently kept out of his sight.

From there it was easy enough to retrace the path from tavern through littered streets, past a statue of a long-dead Minister of Finance whose unfortunately positioned hand had been pressed into obscene service the night before, down a narrow lane where sewage clogged with confetti ran between the cobblestones, and finally onto a broad seedy avenue where a palazzo faced in pink marble reared from the filth, its banner patterned a black-and-white harlequin.

Robert picked his way across the street, sidestepping the smashed remains of a sedan chair. The Harlequin’s broad, gold-painted front doors had looked much more impressive the night before. In the wan morning light Robert could see that the paint was peeling away to reveal cheap carved pine beneath. More flakes fell as he rapped on the door. The sound was oddly muffled. Was the door barred? Looking up, Robert noticed that the windows were barred as well.

More aggressive knocking evinced no response from within. Undaunted, Robert determined to locate the tradesman’s entrance. He sidled around the Harlequin’s pink flank, noting as he did the cracks in the eggshell-thin marble, the creeping ivy snaking under. The tradesman’s entrance let out into a dank alley where the brothel chamber-pots were emptied. Robert held his sleeve to his nose and navigated carefully around the reeking waste.

There was no gilt on the tradesman’s door. Robert knocked with one hand, fumbling through his pocket for a posey with the other. He heard the measured footsteps of someone taking their time, then the scrape of bolts being pulled back and clank of a key in a lock. The door was pulled open to reveal a sleep-tousled tough wearing a nightshirt and a surly expression.

“You aren’t the baker,” said the tough accusingly.

Robert blinked. “Did I claim to be the baker?”

“So you’re not the baker?” said the tough.

“I have never been a baker in my life,” Robert replied, patience wearing thread-thin. “I am the sovereign heir to the house of d’Argent, and I demand audience with the proprietor of this establishment immediately.”

This was greeted with an ungracious snort. “Before noon? That’s likely. Anyway,” the tough went on, narrowing his eyes, “how do I know you’re not the baker? You don’t look like a lord to me.”

“Oh, do I not?” Robert said heatedly. “And what, pray, does a lord look like?”

“Well, lords wear masks on Bacchanal, for one thing,” the tough pointed out. “And they don’t have ink on their sleeves.”
Robert went involuntarily to tuck his sleeves into his jacket before remembering that he was a prince of the blood and was not to be made to feel unkempt by a man in a nightshirt. Instead he straightened, smoothed back his hair, and reached into his vest. He pulled out a long chain. Hanging from it was a silver disc stamped with the image of a crowned griffin carrying a beakful of arrows. The griffin’s eye was a single teardrop ruby.

The tough looked as though he would have dearly loved to bite the regalia to see if it was real gold. Instead he sank clumsily to one knee, muttering something that could have been either an obeisance or an obscenity.

“Oh, get up,” said Robert irritably, tucking the regalia back into his shirt. “Look, I need to see your master right away. It really is a matter of the very greatest importance.”

The tough lumbered to his feet, looking rumpled and sour. “Follow me,” he said. “My lord.”



The tough led Robert down a narrow, high-ceilinged passageway that smelled of cheap candles and up a short flight of stairs to what Robert recognized from his time as a boot-boy as the butler’s quarters. The tough pounded on the door with a closed fist, causing a mild rain of plaster from the walls. A few moments later it creaked open.

“What is it now, Sark?” came an irate voice from behind the door. “If the baker’s late again, it isn’t my—”

“Have a visitor,” the tough barreled over him. “Lord d’Argent. Got regalia and everything. I checked. Wants to see the big man. Thought I’d better bring him to you.”

The door was flung open and a eunuch in an embroidered peignoir sprang out. He took one look at Robert and fell to his knees, knocking his forehead against the floor.

“Er…you may rise,” Robert said, trying to remember the customary phrasing and probably getting it wrong.

The eunuch rose in any case, keeping a palm pressed to his brow. “My most gracious and munificent lord,” he gasped, “if I may be so bold as to speak in your presence—” Robert gave him an affirming nod, and the eunuch continued, “I would venture to humbly request my lord allow himself to be taken to a location more suitable for his exalted status while this guard—” here he shot the tough a look of venom—“awakens my noble master.”

The tough opened his mouth to protest, then snapped it shut, scowling. He made heavy weather of stomping off while the bowing eunuch showed Robert along a dank passageway, up a flight of rickety stairs, through much nicer, newer passageways, up a spiral staircase in pink marble that made Robert’s head ache, and through a magnificent set of latticed double doors which opened into a sumptuously decorated parlor. There Robert was enjoined to sit on a thronelike red chair and have a tuffet shoved under his feet. Robert was still sore from the carriage ride and might have insisted on standing had not the abortive, anxious fluttering gestures the eunuch was making not dredged up another memory from last night. He could remember all too well those long elegant fingers stroking a reluctant erection from him. Red-faced and weak with embarrassment, he collapsed onto the chair with an undignified thump.

The eunuch bowed himself out, begging my lord’s patience and promising to send a boy with nectar and hors d'œuvres.

“Coffee,” said Robert plaintively.

He scarcely had time to get comfortable before the doors were thrown open again and a hugely fat man sailed in. There was so much of him that Robert could not take in all of him at once. He had to allow his eyes to adjust in stages, first registering the purple slippers with their turned-up toes, then travelling up to the man’s broad benevolent face, trimmed with a greasy black beard and split in an ingratiating grin. He wore an elaborate silver wig, its stiff curls like wood shavings. His dressing gown was of a violently orange iridescent taffeta that made Robert’s head hurt, trimmed with brass cones which jangled horribly.

“Your grace!” the man breathed, clapping chubby hands together and bowing as low as his stomach allowed. His tones were clipped, cultured, with hint of Irjivi in the rolling vowels. “It is an honor, my lord, an honor. We are not worthy.” He shuffled towards Robert, bowing extravagantly. When he was close enough, pounced forward and grabbed Robert’s hand, which he proceeded to kiss wetly and at length.

“Er, indeed,” said Robert, managing to disentangle himself from the man’s fleshy grasp. “I suppose you are the, er – proprietor?”

“Gregori Boq, at your service, my lord,” said the man, gusting sherry fumes into Robert’s face. “I humble myself before you.”

“Fine, fine. Now, there is an urgent matter—”

He was interrupted by the arrival of a boy carrying a breakfast tray. The boy was half-asleep and tried to offer Robert the plate and curtsy at the same time, with the result that he nearly tipped a platter of eggs and cold salmon into Robert’s lap. The look Gregori Boq shot him made Robert’s blood run cold. His fat, kindly face went hard and cold and full of frigid malice, and his fingers twitched convulsively. The boy turned white, bobbed a curtsy and stammered a near-voiceless apology, stumbling backward from the room.

Gregori Boq turned to Robert, all smooth sycophancy once again. “I apologize for our but meager offerings, my lord. Had we been expecting a guest of my lord’s stature, proper victuals would of course have been arranged.”

Looking down at the thick slices of ginger-seasoned salmon and golden aureole of peppered eggs, Robert could hardly remember a meal so abundant and welcome. He usually dined at College, where the food was the sort of gray stodgy stuff eaten only by prisoners or scholars, or with Grandfather, who believed zealously in bran. Still, eyeing Boq’s girth, Robert could imagine that the man’s palate was rather more demanding than his own. Before he had even picked up his knife and fork, however, the doors were flung open once more, this time to receive an array of yawning boys draped in garish jewelry.

“Ah, wonderful!” said Boq, clapping his hands. “An appetizer.”

One of the boys was carrying a flute; he began to play a high, tootling tune that made Robert’s teeth ache. The other boys began to dance in the slow, undulating way that brothel boys did, with much pouting and suggestive bum-waggling. Robert was far too hung-over to appreciate it.

“Look,” he said, having to speak loudly over the damn flute, “this is all very – hospitable – but I really do have urgent business I must speak with you about.”

Gregori Boq seemed to droop all over. He snapped his fingers at the boys, who stopped dancing and instead struck seductive poses.

“Can I not perhaps persuade my most eminent lord to sample some of the House’s other offerings?” he said hopefully. “I can assure my lord that whatever fault he found with last night’s Ganymene shall be swiftly remedied by their attentions.”

Robert, about to say something else entirely, shut his mouth with a snap. “What are you talking about?”

“No, no, of course my lord is correct,” Boq amended hastily. “The great insult to my lord’s honor cannot be amended by another boy. How about five boys?”

“I don’t—”

“Ten?” Boq seemed to be growing truly desperate. “Ten boys of my lord’s choosing, his for the evening?”

“No amount of boys—”

“No, of course not.” Boq drooped further, like a wilting hothouse flower. “The insult must have been grave indeed. I can but offer my lord the most sincere of apologies, and assure him that the offender will be dealt with most harshly—”

“What?”

“—unless of course my lord wishes to punish the boy himself—”

“No!” Robert said this more forcefully than he intended. Boq’s pouchy eyes bulged. The posing boys took a step back, looking alarmed. Robert took a deep breath and forced his voice to calm. “No, that will not be necessary. There is no reason to punish Luc—to punish the boy. I was pleased with his service. Extremely pleased. In fact, I wish to see him again. Immediately.”



 

Date: 2011-04-19 10:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] portisheart.livejournal.com
ahhh! here comes the knight in shiny armor to the rescue of his beloved. finally. though, i guess this could be trickier as it seems, judging by Boq's disgusting personality. still, Robert is at least in the same house as Luca, and quite clearer in his mind as the night before.. *waves little support flag*

funny how social status plays such a role in being respected no matter what.. even being nobility, after a hardcore drinking and whoring night all across town in quite sordid surroundings, sporting a kingsized hangover - naturally without a bath or a clothes change - m'lord Robert must really look and smell like sh death warmed over. eeewww. XD

thx again for the trip ^^

Date: 2011-05-19 07:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
His armor's a bit tarnished, but he's certainly determined to be a knight. You're quite right about social status -- Robert is disheveled and whiffy, but what matters is his regalia, his rank. Everything else can be disregarded. Things probably aren't too different in our world, either.

The next chapter is posted! Hope you enjoy. XD

Date: 2011-05-19 08:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] portisheart.livejournal.com
Things probably aren't too different in our world, either.

oh yes, i definitively made the parallel ^^
*jumps happy to next chappy*

Date: 2011-04-21 07:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] meganeko-mausuu.livejournal.com
Yaaaaay! Robert's going to see Luca again! Now the hard part comes- waiting to see what it's going to take to get Luca back into Robert's embrace again.

Date: 2011-05-19 07:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Yaaay indeed! The next chapter has been posted, so you'll see what it takes to get Luca into Robert's embrace. XP

Date: 2011-04-28 10:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] apaximander.livejournal.com
Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the original wasn't going to take a lot longer for them to meet again?

Because if they're going to meet in the next chapter...uh, I sort of can't wait for the next chapter :D Which goes without saying, really, but this makes me want to see it NOW, if not sooner.

Date: 2011-05-19 07:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Originally it was going to take MUCH longer, because I had so much worldbuilding stuff that I thought I need to jam as much in as soon as possible. Streamlining it has made everything happen at a much more reasonable pace. Which is why, yes, the reunion happens in the next chapter. Which has been posted. So wait no longer! (Speaking of waiting: next chapter of Frost! When when when?)

Date: 2011-05-06 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lisasanmin.livejournal.com
Augusta! Beloved! Praiseworthy author amongst authors! Another fantastic chapter, apologies for my absence, and I am so, so glad to be back.

It's great to see the plot developing, with Professor Gregory being introduced, which nicely thickens the plot and has me wanting to know more about how that side of Rob's life will tie in with the story. Also liked how you build on Rob's life and Master Boq's personality, reaffirming and developing ideas previously revealed/hinted at (Boq being malicious and self important, Rob's History, etc)

I thought Rob's navigational method was a very nice touch, made me laugh, and also conveyed neatly and effectively just how sloshed he was.

Perhaps Sark could be less obtuse? I'm not sure his behaviour as 'The Tough' follows from his previous interaction with Luca, although it could just be that his portrayal is somewhat coloured by Rob's impatience at that point.

I also liked the use of 'bum waggling', which makes what should be sexy just seem laughable and slightly ridiculous, and really gave me an idea of how completely focused Rob is on Luca right now.

So all in all, a really nice chapter with some very clever description, and I look forward to the next bit!

~Li

Date: 2011-05-19 08:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
I need to start collecting an index of all the lovely things you say so I can review them when I've got writer's block and be motivated. Wonderful to have you back.

Sark as a character is tough (ha) to write because originally I'd conceived of him as the Uber Bastard: totally insane and totally one-dimensional. In the rewrite I've tried to make him more complex, but perhaps those complexities aren't something that can be shown from Robert's perspective? I mean, on the surface Sark IS just 'the tough'. But now that I look at it, you're right, there is a lack of continuity between this chapter and the last in terms of his characterization. It's definitely something I'll be more careful of in the future. Thanks for your feedback! It's always excellent and always welcome. :)

The next bit has been posted!

Date: 2011-05-06 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] myskatinstar.livejournal.com
WOW! What a great start to a story. I was looking for a good slave/fic, and it looks like I found one. I cant wait to see what happens in the next chapter!!!!!

Date: 2011-05-19 08:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Wow, thank you! I'm so glad you're enjoying. The next chapter has been posted!

Date: 2011-05-11 06:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kysk.livejournal.com
This chapter was hilarious and tense at the same time. But mostly hilarious. Too bad Robert was not just a little bit less hungover, maybe he could have gotten a better deal for Luca and himself...

Very tense as to what will happen when they see each other again.

Date: 2011-05-19 08:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
I'm sure that Robert also wishes he was a bit less hungover. Probably a lot of the time.

Spoilers -- they see each other in the next chapter. Which has been posted! Please let me know what you think. :D

Date: 2011-05-14 06:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rubymiene.livejournal.com
Oooo...I hope Robert can make it all better. I can't wait for the next chapter.

Date: 2011-05-19 08:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pierrot-dreams.livejournal.com
Fingers crossed! And wait no longer -- the next chapter has been posted.

Date: 2011-07-30 03:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] idolme922.livejournal.com
I wish I had something witty to say, but I don't. I continue to read and love this. :D
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