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Isabela

Prominent member
Canon Character
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
74
#1
[[30th Bloomingtide, 9:24 Dragon, Antiva City, morning]] Celeste Monroe

“Signora...Signora? It’s time for you to wake.”

Naishe groaned, reached aside and firmly pulled a pillow across her face, successfully blocking out the sunlight that had spilled across her when the curtains had been opened. Only seconds later it was whisked from beneath her arm - it was hard to keep a good grip on silk - and a silhouette loomed over her. Madame Alfonsi was an imposing woman, broad armed and with a chest that could probably serve as a battering ram if needed, and consequently always looked a bit ridiculous in the formal dress and frilly cap of the serving staff. But she did a good job of running the house, and was equally good at her unofficial second job of herding Naishe around like a recaltrient goat.

“The master will have guests later this morning. He’s requested that you be bathed and ready to greet them.”

He’d mentioned something about that the previous night, but the details had been lost under the fug the wine had left behind in her head. Luis had wine far better than anything she’d had before coming to the city, but it was stronger than she was used to - which served her purposes admirably. It meant she was more able to tolerate him bucking around on top of her of an evening, or whatever particular thing he’d requested for that evening. Her husband’s education of her had gone beyond stuffing her in a library and memorising all the fancy dances, and some of it might actually be useful if he cared about her pleasure at all.

Consequently, as the enjoyment of warm baths, nice dresses and jewellery had given way to spectacular boredom, she was starting to chafe at the limitations placed on her movements. Luis wanted her pretty, smart enough to make conversation without actually challenging anybody, and importantly never, ever left to her own devices. He’d known she was a thief when he bought her, and had told her she’d never need to steal again. When she’d done it once for fun, he’d chuckled indulgently over his young bride’s ways, and she’d enjoyed the brief taste of freedom. The second time his fury had been incandesent, and Madame Alfonsi had followed her almost everywhere ever since.

“Five more minutes.” It was an increasing source of pleasure to cause minor irritations for Luis, even if it was just being a little late. Madame Alfonsi was having none of it this time; she whisked the sheets away.

“Nonsense. Up and ready. He’s picked out a nice dress for you, and your jewellery. All you have to do is bathe and then sit in front of the vanity.”

Luis’ fun little way of establishing control lately was choosing what she’d wear each day. Mostly it wasn’t really a bother, but once or twice recently she’d been given something that bore more flesh than seemed necessary, then been left with his leering friends. Nothing had come of it apart from the odd sidelong look - Antivan husbands supposedly guarded their wives jealously - but she had a nasty feeling about it. At least so far there had been servants in the room, preventing any attempt at handsiness.

Hopefully today wasn’t one of these days. Now chilled by having the blankets ripped off, Naishe sighed and sat up as other servants brought in the tub. The next hour she simply went through the motions, letting herself be scrubbed down, her hair arranged, and then laced into her dress, making an effort to keep her internal screaming at the idea of sitting in the parlour making polite conversation again off her face. At the final stage there was a knock at the door, then everybody jumped to attention as Luis strode in.

“There she is. I trust you’ll be on good behaviour today?”

Naishe smiled at him while envisioning driving one of her hairpins through his neck. “Would I disappoint you, husband?”

“Would you?” There was something ugly in his smile today. The air between them crackled like breaking ice; she didn’t know what she’d done to offend him but he was clearly on edge. “They’re not particularly important as far as titles go, but they’re rather...astute...traders, and I value their services. You are not to say or do anything to upset either of them.”

“I’ll try not to.”

Luis waved away the servant holding up a necklace, and drew another, much more ornate one from his pocket. “Good girl.” He drew the jewellery around her neck; it was heavy, and gold, with large gaudy purple stones. It felt like he was fastening a collar on her. When he was done, he smiled at her reflection in the mirror, keeping his hands on her shoulders. “What an exotic beauty. They’re sure to like you, if you keep a civil tongue.” He caught her chin, pulling her just a little too hard to face him. “Now. They’re rather free spirits by reputation, these two. They want more food, they get more food. They want more wine, they get it. You are to comply with their requests to the utmost, do you understand me?”

Bite his hand.

She came that close to it, too. But his beady black eyes were on her, and she forced herself to meet his gaze, her own as guileless as she could make them. After all, if she pretended not to realise a pass had been made at her, how could she comply with that? She nodded. “Of course, husband.”

“There we go. Now, they’re expected any moment. Get down to the hall.”

He held out a hand to her and she took it, allowing him to assist her in rising - in fact, putting a little extra weight in the seat, so he had to pull a touch harder than normal. His eyes narrowed at her, but she was already glancing ahead, sweeping out of the room to head down the stairs.

Once in the hallway she straightened her dress, wincing a little as the elaborate curled hairstyle tugged at the hairs at the nape of her neck. She would be expected to greet the pair, and then guide them to Luis’ study, where he would pretend he had been very busy getting on with other things. It was a farce, and once he was safe behind the heavy door, she made a rude raspberrying noise with her mouth.
 

Celeste Monroe

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295
#2
Celeste stood before the open doors of the wardrobe that had been built into the wall of the captain’s cabin, considering her options. She had some dresses that would accentuate her curves and display daring amounts of cleavage, and she didn’t mind showing off, but from all accounts, Luis was a pig who would be undressing her with his eyes if she was clad in an old potato sack, so she was leaning toward ‘comfortable’ instead.

She glanced back at Daniel as he buttoned up a black silk shirt, then tucked it into the black leather pants that showed off his ass quite nicely … not that Luis would be appreciating the view. “What’s his wife like?” she wanted to know. The merchant’s invitation had specifically included Celeste and made mention of the missus.

“No idea,” Daniel admitted, peering into the mirror and running the fingers of one hand through his dark hair, leaving it charmingly mussed and contrasting with the neatly trimmed beard, “but from what I’ve heard, he likes his women pretty and biddable.”

“And as dumb as a load of ballast stones, no doubt.” Celeste made a rude noise, and Daniel chuckled as she turned back to the wardrobe. If she was going to have to suffer through several hours of insipid conversation on the weather and current fashion, she was definitely going to be comfortable. She selected a pair of brown leather trews, white linen shirt with bloused sleeves and a leather vest with three brightly dyed parrots tooled on the back. Slipping into her chosen garb, she gave her own hair the same quick fingercomb treatment before snagging a narrow headband of braided leather from its hook on the wardrobe door. Three parrot feathers - red, green and blue - dangled from the headband on a strip of leather, falling beside her left ear when she put it on. “How do I look?” she asked, whirling back to Daniel with her hands on her hips.

“Like a sailor’s dream,” he told her, sinking into his armchair with that slow grin that could loosen the thighs of a grand cleric, “and your father’s worst nightmare.”

“Ha!” She straddled his lap, tangling her fingers in his hair and kissing him thoroughly.

“Keep kissin’ me like that, lass,” he breathed when they parted, “and we’ll no’ be leavin’ this cabin.”

“Keep purring at me in that Starkhaven brogue, and I’ll take you up on that,” she countered, kissing him again. It was a pleasant thought, but this meeting was a fairly important one, so after a bit more mussing and a mutual agreement to continue when they returned, they straightened out the worst of the mussing and headed topside.

“Have fun,” Gideon smirked at them from his seat atop the fo’c’sle. He was on watch; the rest of the crew was sleeping off the indulgences of Antiva City’s night life in preparation for the next night’s carousing. Any other time, Celeste would have been doing the same; an extended stay in a friendly port with no real work to be done was not to be wasted, but being the captain’s lady meant more than having a marvelously creative bedmate, and the trust implicit in her inclusion in this meeting was something she was only now beginning to earn back.

It had been less than two months since her refusal to heed Daniel’s warnings on restraint had ended with the crew of the Wicked Grace having to save her ass from slavers and Gideon nearly getting killed. The Tal Vashoth held no grudges, but Daniel had come very close to ending things and taking her back to her father. It had been a brutal lesson in consequences for one who had been largely spared them for most of her life, and she was determined to make amends. If that meant a few hours of inane chitchat with a feather-brained bedwarmer while Daniel negotiated a deal with Luis Lombardo, she’d do it.

“His wine’s supposed to be good, anyway,” Daniel said as they headed down the gangplank. Once on the docks, she slipped her arm into his and they strolled toward the part of the city where the wealthier merchants lived. The first few times they had returned to Antiva City, Celeste had kept a wary eye out for his father, until it had become apparent that he had no interest in finding her. Now she was free to enjoy one of her favorite cities: the balmy climate; the flowers that bloomed in riotous color about every villa and in every public space; the street performers ranging from jugglers to musicians to mimes to trained animals that turned every street into an outdoor theater; the food vendors whose carts and stalls filled the air with a melange of savory aromas. Antiva City was a feast for the senses, and Celeste delighted in each new course that presented itself.

“What does he want with us?” Celeste asked Daniel as they walked.

“Luis is an odd one,” her lover replied, a whimsical smile playing about his lips. “For all his trading, he only owns one ship: the Siren’s Call, and he only puts her to sea if he’s aboard. He hires out the rest of his shipping, but he’s lost a fair amount to pirates the last few months, and even more to customs.”

Scratch the surface of nearly any merchant who traded across borders and you’d find a smuggler, looking to get past the duties that most nations placed on imported goods. Those who succeeded could undercut the competition and still turn a tidy profit. The Wicked Grace wasn’t the biggest ship to sail the seas of Thedas, but she was one of the fastest, and the reputation of her crew was formidable enough that few raiders cared to go to the trouble of trying to chase her down. And avoiding customs inspections was one of the things that they did best. Daniel knew every isolated cove within easy reach of every major port, where larger cargo could be offloaded and brought the remaining distance overland under the guise of domestic trade, and the smuggler’s holes secreted here and there aboard the Wicked Grace had concealed all manner of smaller items while legitimate cargo was being unloaded and loaded until it could be sneaked off under cover of night.

The Lombardo estate was far from the largest - those belonged to the merchant princes - but like all of the others, it was meticulously landscaped and scrupulously maintained. Appearances were everything, and a merchant with any ambition would place the appearance of his abode over food in his belly, were a choice required. Ascending the steps to the elaborately carved mahogany door, Daniel grasped the bronze knocker cast in the shape of a leaping fish and knocked smartly.
 

Isabela

Prominent member
Canon Character
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
74
#3
Naishe almost swallowed her tongue when her rude sound was drowned out by the door knocker. One of the servants, his mouth twitching slightly around the edges, went to answer it; Naisha didn’t much care if he reported her to Luis. What was he going to do, get mad because she’d made a noise?

Actually, she wouldn’t put that past him. He’d not raised a hand to her as such, perhaps realising that to do so would cause open war between them, but he’d definitely been more curt with her than he’d been at the beginning. Frankly Naishe found the current state of affairs preferable. She might be bored out of her mind but she didn’t have to put up with him slobbering all over her the entire time.

Maker, what she wouldn’t give to raise a bit of mischief, though. She was always accompanied on her trips to market and her purse carefully watched; she’d not lost her sleight of hand, though, and found an outlet in pilfering small things when she could. But it wasn’t enough. Even her latest project of practicing her lockpicking on the wine cellar only afforded her a thrill through the risk of discovery for a few moments at a time. If she made off with a bottle, it’d be noticed almost right away.

It certainly didn’t seem like the tedium would be relieved today. Luis’ preferred method of conducting business meetings was to whisk the day’s merchant into his study and leave Naishe to entertain any wives or mistresses that had accompanied them. She’d never dreamed that people could while away so much of their lives on gossip, and really boring gossip at that. Whats-her-names cousin got engaged to whosits child by Lord Fartarse’s second marriage, but supposedly he wasn’t as rich as he’d made out and it was all done for a swap of dowry for prestige, and on it went until Naishe seriously considered setting fire to a few overburdened petticoats.

With a not entirely convincing smile in place, she nodded for the servant to open the door.

She’d been expecting another Antivan merchant prince and his wife in more layers and ruffles that made sense. Instead, a handsome man dressed in a smarter version of a sailor’s garb stood on the doorstep, and beside him a woman with wild blonde hair and wicked green eyes who was attired in about the same fashion.

Naishe had been raised too canny by her mother to let her surprise show, beyond a slow, approving raise of one eyebrow and a more genuine inflection to her smile. “Buonasera, Captain Monroe. Signora Monroe.” Forward as Luis had taught her, catching the hands of the lady first and pressing a kiss to both cheeks, before doing the same to the man, with far less distaste than usual. “I’m Naishe Lombardo. Welcome. My husband will be along in a moment.”

He’d be sitting in his study, listening, and she could imagine him cursing now as he realised he would have to come out to them rather than wait for them to presented as though he was some sort of monarch. “Wine, perhaps? Luis keeps a fine cellar.”

She poured the drinks herself - another ‘misstep’ - and had only just placed them in the couples’ hands when Luis appeared, his teeth a little too gritted to make his smile sincere. “Ah, Captain Monroe. Welcome.” The only indication he gave that he realised the woman was there was to afford her a brief nod. “I hope my wife has been hospitable?” He cast what could have passed for a fond glance in her direction. “She’s young, and her manners yet require polishing, but she is trying.”

In the irritating sense of the word, presumably. Naishe affected her most innocent look until he turned away, then extremely discreetly rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry to press, but if we can retire to the study to discuss matters, Captain Monroe - Naishe can entertain your wife, in the meantime.”

That promised to be somewhat more interesting of a prospect than usual.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#4
A neatly attired valet opened the door and ushered them in. At first glance, the woman who greeted them was pretty much what Celeste had been expecting: fancy dress, the cut perhaps a bit more revealing than current Antivan fashions; hair in an elaborate upsweep with a few curls free at the ears and neck; an ostentatious gold and amethyst necklace that drew the eye to the view offered by the daringly cut neckline. Unusual for an Antivan husband to put his wife on display in such a manner, but she was undeniably a beauty, with rich brown skin, nearly black hair and striking, hazel-gold eyes. Even more unusual was the undeniable gleam of intelligence in those eyes, the slightest appraising arch of one eyebrow before her face smoothed back into a mien of pleasant hospitality.

“Buonasera, Captain Monroe. Signora Monroe.” Her Antivan was flawless, but touched with an unmistakable Rivaini accent. Stepping forward, she offered the traditional kiss to first one cheek, then the other, her hands warm in Celeste’s, their eyes meeting briefly before she turned to greet Daniel in the same manner, sending a pleasant frisson dancing along Celeste’s spine. No ballast stones here; this visit might not be such a chore after all. “I’m Naishe Lombardo. Welcome. My husband will be along in a moment.”

“Buonasera, Signora Lombardo.” Daniel took the lead, as was expected, smiling warmly at their hostess, though not so warmly as to be inappropriate. “Daniel Monroe, and my wife, Celeste.”

“A pleasure, Signora,” Celeste offered in turn, not needing to feign her own congeniality. “Your house is lovely.” Perhaps Luis would be a similarly pleasant surprise.

“Wine, perhaps?” Naishe suggested, gesturing toward a small table with a crystal decanter and several long-stemmed glasses. “Luis keeps a fine cellar.”

“Please,” Daniel responded politely. Celeste accepted the glass of claret when it was offered and sipped appreciatively. Good wines were something she had begun cultivating a taste for since coming aboard the Wicked Grace.

“Very good,” she murmured. “Rialto?” her questioning glance to Daniel was met with an approving nod.

“Nineteen Dragon, I think,” he commented, looking to Naishe for confirmation.

The lord of the manor made his entrance, clad in a doublet of russet leather over a scarlet silk shirt, his smile looking a trifle strained. “Ah, Captain Monroe. Welcome.” His eyes slipped dismissively past Celeste, and she decided to help him along, letting her expression slip into bovine placidity. “I hope my wife has been hospitable?” One could almost miss the edge in his voice as he regarded Naishe with what was undoubtedly meant to be an indulgent smile. “She’s young, and her manners yet require polishing, but she is trying.”

Celeste’s prig flags were fully unfurled by now; Luis was older than his wife by a good two decades by her estimation, and he didn’t wear his years nearly as well as Daniel did. He wasn’t fat, but he had a soft look to him … all except for his eyes, which were as hard and flat as those of a shark underneath the gleam of bonhomie that he presented. The glance that he bestowed upon Naishe defined their relationship as clearly as if he had shouted it: she was a trophy wife, as much an ornament as the heavy gold rings that adorned his fingers. And he didn’t have her nearly as under control as he wanted.

“She has made us most welcome,” Daniel assured him. “The Rilto is exquisite.” Mention of the wine turned Luis’ attention to the other man; as soon as his gaze shifted, Naishe rolled her eyes. Celeste kept her vapid expression in place, turning her mind to ruses that might get them out of what was likely to be a tedious and lengthy session. Luis had the manner of a man enamored of the sound of his own voice.

Luck was with her, it seemed. “I’m sorry to press,” Luis intoned with an air of importance, “but if we can retire to the study to discuss matters, Captain Monroe - Naishe can entertain your wife, in the meantime.”

“That sounds lovely!” Celeste chirped enthusiastically, keeping her featherbrain facade in place and hoping that her instincts were right. If they weren’t, she might have been better off listening to Luis and Daniel talk business.
 

Isabela

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#5
The pair praised the wine, and placed it accurately down to the year. It was a favourite game amongst Luis’ friends, and more than once Naishe had been tripped up by a sneering little waif who expressed her surprise that a proper Antivan wife didn’t know all the vintages off by heart. Not that Luis hadn’t tried, and Naishe did enjoy wine, but in the end, booze was booze. Who cared how fancy it was so long as it got you drunk enough to get through the day? But the Monroes didn’t appear to be doing it to show off their knowledge. They just knew.

Then Luis swept in with a pointed jab or two, and from the flicker of the other woman’s eyelids, his barbs hadn’t passed unnoticed. Fortunately Captain Daniel drew his attention away, while Naishe tried to read his wife’s face. Celeste’s expression had settled into a placidity that ran counter to what Naishe had noticed before, and remained unchanged as Luis suggested that the women talk separately from the men.

“That sounds lovely!”

Naishe hoped it was an act. If so, it was a very convincing one. Celeste wore exactly the sort of vapid smile Naishe knew Luis wished she’d perfect. But she was still not far enough under his thumb that his guests hadn’t occasionally caught her pulling expressions her husband would rather she didn’t.

Luis was quick about it, at least. When he was entertaining, he could blather on until Naishe considered ripping her own ears off - or even better, pulling the tongue from his head. But he had business in mind, and that meant money, and the promise of that spurred along his usual niceties. When they gathered to eat later there would be no escaping it, but they’d been granted a reprieve. He herded Daniel towards the study and with a sunny smile for the servants, Naishe linked her arm in Celeste’s. “Please, join me in the parlour. I’d be delighted to get to know you better.”

That, and the door to the parlour was quite thick. Closed, hopefully anybody lurking outside wouldn’t overhear any untoward conversation that might occur. Naishe was certain that her movements and anything she said went reported back to Luis if they didn’t come up to his standards, and she desperately wanted to talk freely for a change.

Some snacks and tea had been laid out for them in a prissy set of crockery that was more Orlesian than Antivan. Once the door was closed, Naishe released Celeste’s arm, and eyed the other woman as she ignored the tea altogether and poured out more of the wine that she’d just happened to bring into the room with them.

Sod being cautious. She grinned at the other woman. “You’re a bit different than most of the other wives I get introduced to. How did you end up getting dragged into this?”
 
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